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D.

Rights of the Accused

1. People vs. Paloma, GR No. 178544, 23 February 2011

DECISION

ABAD, J.:

This case is about the need in cases of illegal sale of prohibited drugs for the prosecution to prove the details of the
transaction through someone who saw the sale take place.

The Facts and the Case

The public prosecutor charged the accused Manuel Paloma (Paloma) before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Quezon City in Criminal Case Q-03-116898 with violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act (R.A.) 9165 or the
Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

At the trial, PO2 Bernard Amigo testified that at about 1:00 p.m. on April 23, 2003 the Batasan Police Station got a tip
from an informant that accused Paloma was selling illegal drugs at Pacomara Street in Commonwealth, Quezon City. The
station chief directed PO2 Amigo and PO1 Arnold Pealosa to conduct a buy-bust operation involving Paloma. The police
officers went to Pacomara Street with the informant and brought with them a P100.00 bill marked with the initials AP.

When the buy-bust team arrived at Pacomara Street at around 3:15 p.m., they saw Paloma standing beside a man and a
woman. PO1 Pealosa and the informant approached them; PO2 Amigo, the witness, stood as back-up some 15 meters
away. From where he stood, he saw PO1 Pealosa talking to Paloma. Momentarily, PO1 Pealosa waved his hand,
signifying that he had made the purchase. On seeing the pre-arranged signal, PO2 Amigo approached and arrested
Paloma; PO1 Pealosa for his part arrested Palomas companions, later on identified as Noriel Bamba (Bamba) and Angie
Grotel (Grotel). PO2 Amigo recovered from Palomas pants pocket a plastic sachet with a white crystalline substance and
the marked P100.00 bill.

After the police officers informed Paloma, Bamba, and Grotel of their rights during custodial investigation, they brought
them to the police station and turned them over to the desk officer. The arresting officers also turned over the three sachets
of suspected shabu that they seized. According to PO2 Amigo, two of these sachets were those that PO1 Pealosa bought
from Paloma. The police eventually let Bamba and Grotel go for the reason that the police officers found no illegal drugs
in their possession.

In his defense, Paloma denied that such a buy-bust operation took place. He claimed that at the time of the alleged buy-
bust, he was with his 80-year-old mother at their house on Pacomara Street, taking a nap. Suddenly, five armed men in
civilian clothes barged into the house and woke him up. Two of them held him by the arms while the others searched the
house. Although the men found nothing, they handcuffed him and brought him to the police station.

On June 10, 2005 the RTC found Paloma guilty beyond reasonable doubt in Criminal Case Q-03-116898 of the crime
charged and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P500,000.00.

On February 13, 2007 the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. HC CR 01289 affirmed the RTCs ruling in toto.

The Issue Presented

The sole issue in this case is whether or not the CA erred in finding that the prosecution succeeded in proving beyond
reasonable doubt that Paloma sold prohibited drugs to PO1 Pealosa.

The Ruling of the Court


To prove the crime of illegal sale of drugs under Section 5, Article II of R.A. 9165, the prosecution is required to prove (a)
the identity of the buyer and the seller as well as the object and consideration of the sale; and (b) the delivery of the thing
sold and the payment given for the same. Further, the prosecution must present in court evidence of corpus delicti.[1]

Here, the proof of the sale of illegal drugs is wanting.

One. Under the objective test set by the Court in People v. Doria,[2] the prosecution must clearly and adequately show the
details of the purported sale, namely, the initial contact between the poseur-buyer and the pusher, the offer to purchase, the
promise or payment of the consideration, and, finally, the accuseds delivery of the illegal drug to the buyer, whether the
latter be the informant alone or the police officer. This proof is essential to ensure that law-abiding citizens are not
unlawfully induced to commit the offense.[3]

Here, PO2 Amigos testimony miserably failed to establish the required details of the supposed illegal drug sale. He
testified on direct examination:

Q: When you, [P]olice [O]fficer Pealosa and the confidential informant arrived at around 3:15 at
Pacomara Street, what happened there?
A: Upon arrival of that said place Pacomara Street we saw Paloma and one female companion talking
with each other.[4]

xxxx

Q: Now when Police Officer Pealosa and the asset approached Paloma where were you at that time?
A: I was in a hiding place, in a viewing distance.

Q: Can you see them talking with each other from where you were stationed?
A: Yes, sir.

Q: You said earlier Mr. Witness that there were other person[s] other than Paloma, female and male when
Police Officer Pealosa and the confidential informant approached him, where were these two
persons?
A: They were beside each other.
Q: What were they doing, these two persons at that time when they approached by your companion?
A: They were just standing.

Q: When these Pealosa and confidential informant approached the subject, what happened
next? What transpired next at that time?
A: While they were talking Pealosa made the pre-arrange[d] signal.

Q: What was that signal that Pealosa did?


A: By waving his hand.
Q: Meaning to say?
A: The buy-bust has already consummated.

Q: When Pealosa made that signal what did you do if any?


A: We rushed up to the area where they were standing.

Q: When you arrived in that area what happened there?


A: I grabbed Paloma and made the search.[5] (Emphasis supplied)

All that PO2 Amigo could say was that PO1 Pealosa and the informant approached Paloma, talked to him, and then PO1
Pealosa made the pre-arranged signal that the sale had been consummated. Since he was standing at a great distance
during the purported buy-bust, PO2 Amigo could not provide the details of the offer to buy the drug and the acceptance of
that offer. Indeed, he did not see Paloma take money from PO1 Pealosa nor Pealosa take delivery of the prohibited
substance from Paloma.
The cross-examination of PO2 Amigo does not help. He testified:

Q: As a back up Mr. Witness you will agree with me that you cannot hear what was the
conversation between the informant, Mr. Pealosa and Mr. Paloma?
A: Yes, maam.

Q: So you merely acted upon their gesture?


A: Yes, maam.
Q: So Mr. Witness when you rushed-in to the place where the buy-bust operation was being conducted,
you just rushed-in not because you were called upon, but because of the gesture that the same was
consummated?
A: Yes maam only the pre-arranged signal.[6] (Emphasis supplied)

While law enforcers enjoy the presumption of regularity in the performance of their duties, this presumption is disputable
by contrary proof and cannot prevail over the constitutional right of the accused to be presumed innocent. [7] The totality of
the evidence presented in this case does not support Palomas conviction for violation of Section 5, Article II of R.A. 9165,
since the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt all the elements of the offense. [8]

WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petition, SETS ASIDE the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. HC CR
01289 dated February 13, 2007 as well as the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 103, in
Criminal Case Q-03-116898, and ACQUITS the accused-appellant Manuel Paloma y Espinosa of the crime of which he is
charged on the ground of reasonable doubt. The Court orders his immediate RELEASE from custody unless he is being
held for some other lawful cause.

The Court further ORDERS the Director of the Bureau of Corrections to implement this Decision forthwith and to inform
this Court, within five (5) days from receipt hereof, of the date appellant was actually released from
confinement. Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.
2. Macayan Jr. vs. People, GR No. 175842, 18 March 2015

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

This resolves a Petition for Review on Certiorari praying that the assailed Decision 1 dated June 31, 2006 of the Court of
Appeals be reversed and set aside and that a new one be rendered acquitting petitioner Nilo Macayan, Jr.

The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals affirmed with modification (by increasing the duration of the penalty) the
Decision2 dated November 15, 2002 of the Regional Trial Court, Quezon City, which found Nilo Macayan, Jr. (Macayan)
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of robbery.

In the Information dated February 20, 2001, Macayan was charged with robbery as follows:

That on or about the 16th day of February 2001, in Quezon City, Philippines, the said accused, with intent to gain and by
means of force and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously rob / divest one ANNIE UY JAO
of the amount of P4,000.00 in cash in the manner as follows: on the date and in the place afore-mentioned, said accused
threatened complainant that he would destroy her and her entire family and that he will have her and members of her
family kidnapped unless she gives to him the amount of P200,000.00, Philippine Currency and thereafter negotiated with
said Annie Uy Jao at McDonald’s located at Quezon Avenue, this City, thus creating fear in the mind of said complainant
who was compelled to give as in fact she gave and delivered to the accused the amount of P4,000.00, Philippine Currency,
to the damage and prejudice of said Annie Uy Jao in the amount aforementioned.

CONTRARY TO LAW.3

The case was docketed as Criminal Case No. Q-01-98670 and raffled to Branch 101 of the Regional Trial Court, Quezon
City.4

During trial, the prosecution presented as it witnesses: Annie Uy Jao, the private complainant; Rodrigo Mapoy, team
leader of the NBI operatives who conducted the supposed entrapment operation that led to Macayan’s arrest; and
Resurreccion R. Bajado, a forensic chemist. Macayan was the sole witness for the defense. 5

Annie Uy Jao (Jao) is the owner of Lanero Garments Ext (Lanero). In 1995, she hired Macayan as a sample cutter and to
undertake materials purchasing for her garments business. 6

In her testimony, Jao acknowledged that in 2000, when her business was doing poorly, she allowed her employees to
accept engagements elsewhere to augment their income, provided they prioritize their work at Lanero. It came to her
attention that Macayan and his wife (also an employee at Lanero) accepted work for a rival company. Thus, Jao
confronted Macayan to impress upon him the need to prioritize work at Lanero. Macayan still took his work at Lanero for
granted, so Jao confronted him again. In this confrontation, Macayan allegedly responded, "Kung gusto mo, bayaran mo
na lang ako at aalis ako." Macayan then stopped reporting for work. 7

Following this, Jao was surprised to find out that Macayan had filed a Complaint for illegal dismissal against her
(docketed as NLRC-NCR Case No. 00-09-05057-00). Several conferences were set for this illegal dismissal case.
Immediately after the postponement of the conference on February 12, 2001, Macayan allegedly threatened Jao that her
family would be harmed and/or kidnapped if she did not give him 200,000.00. Marjorie Angel (Angel), Jao’s secretary,
was supposedly present when she was threatened. The following day, Macayan allegedly called Jao to reiterate his threat
and to specify the time and place — February 16, 2001, sometime between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. at McDonald’s Banawe
Branch — in which the 200,000.00 should be handed to him. Jao claimed that she was sure it was Macayan speaking to
her, as the person on the phone addressed her as "Madam," which was how he customarily called her. 8
Fearing for her family’s safety, Jao sought assistance from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). She asked that an
entrapment operation be set up. The NBI operatives asked her to prepare bills totalling 4,000.00 to be marked and used in
the operation.9

On February 16, 2001, Jao, Angel, and the NBI operatives arrived at McDonald’s Banawe. They stayed there for about 30
minutes before Macayan called Angel and told her that they were to meet at McDonald’s Quezon Avenue instead. They
arrived there at about 7:30 p.m. Macayan called Angel again and told her that he was moving the venue to McDonald’s
EDSA. They then proceeded to McDonald’s EDSA and waited for Macayan, while the NBI operatives waited outside.
Macayan arrived and proceeded to where Jao and Angel were seated. Jao handed him an envelope containing the marked
bills. Macayan pulled the bills halfway out of the envelope, and the NBI operatives accosted him. 10

Prosecution witness Rodrigo Mapoy, team leader of the NBI operatives who arrested Macayan, testified to the
circumstances before and the conduct of the entrapment operation. The testimony of forensic chemist Resurreccion R.
Bajado regarding the marked bills handed to Macayan was subject of a joint stipulation by the prosecution and the
defense.11

Macayan, testifying for himself, emphasized that he enjoyed a relatively trouble-free employment with Lanero. However,
sometime in 1999, after his wife gave birth to their first child, he discovered that Jao had not been remitting required
premiums to the Social Security System.12

On August 18, 2000, as his child was confined in a hospital, Macayan inquired with Jao regarding his Medicare benefits.
This displeased Jao. The following day, she prevented him from performing his tasks at work. Construing this as
harassment, he stopped reporting for work.13

Thereafter, Macayan filed a Complaint for illegal dismissal against Jao. In the course of the proceedings for this illegal
dismissal case, no less than 11 conferences/hearings were set. As evidenced by these conferences’ minutes or constancias,
at no instance did Jao ever attend, as it was either her legal counsel or Angel who did so. Macayan recalled that in one of
these conferences, he expressed to Angel his willingness to settle the case for 40,000.00. 14

On February 16, 2001, at about 9:00 a.m., Angel called Macayan. She told him that Jao was ready to settle the illegal
dismissal case. She added that Jao wanted to pay him already, as Jao was leaving for Hong Kong. Angel set a rendezvous
later in the day at McDonald’s Banawe. At about 11:00 a.m., Angel called him again, resetting the rendezvous to
McDonald’s EDSA. She even reasoned that this venue was more convenient for her since she was going home to
Zambales.15

Macayan arrived at the agreed venue at about 9:00 p.m. He saw Angel standing outside McDonald’s. He approached
Angel, who then accompanied him inside and led him to a four-seat corner table. He was surprised to see Jao present. Jao
then brought out of her bag a piece of paper indicating that Macayan received the settlement amount for the illegal
dismissal case. Macayan signed this as he was of the understanding that this was necessary to the settlement. Jao then
pulled out a white envelope, handed it to Macayan, and told him to count its contents. While counting the contents, a flash
bulb went on somewhere to his right. Then, a man who claimed to be an NBI operative struck a blow on the right side of
Macayan’s face and told him, "Tatanga-tanga ka. Pupunta ka rito ng walang kasama, ikaw ngayon ang me [sic] kaso." 16

Handcuffed, he was taken aboard a minivan and physically abused. He was taken to several police stations in the hope that
an inquest fiscal was available. It was only at 10:00 a.m. of the following day that an inquest fiscal, Prosecutor Hilda
Ibuyan, became available.17

The Information charging him with robbery dated February 20, 2001 was then prepared, and the criminal case (docketed
as Criminal Case No. Q-01-98670) was filed and raffled to Branch 101 of the Regional Trial Court, Quezon City.

In the meantime, on October 31, 2001, the illegal dismissal case was decided in Macayan’s favor by Labor Arbiter Daisy
G. Cauton-Barcelona. A total of 186,632.00 was awarded to him. 18 On appeal, the National Labor Relations Commission
would find that Macayan was entitled to unpaid benefits though he was legally dismissed. The Decision of the National
Labor Relations Commission was subsequently affirmed by the Court of Appeals with modification as to the applicable
rate of interest.19
After trial, the Regional Trial Court, Quezon City rendered the Decision 20 convicting Macayan of robbery. The trial court
found the prosecution’s version of events "from the time of the telephone overtures of the Accused which is consistent
with the elements of intimidation and/or extortion, up to complainant Annie Uy Jao’s reporting the matter to the NBI, to
the time of the NBI entrapment" as "ring[ing] a loud bell of truth and consistency, not to say credibility." 21 It accorded the
presumption of regularity to the entrapment operation and held that the forensic findings connecting the marked money to
Macayan militated against his defense.22

The dispositive portion of the trial court’s Decision reads:

PREMISES CONSIDERED, this Court, therefore, finds the Accused GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT of the
crime of robbery and hereby sentences him to suffer the indeterminate penalty (there being no mitigating/aggravating
circumstance) of FOUR (4) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY of ARRESTO MAYOR as minimum to FOUR (4) YEARS,
TWO (2) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY of PRISION CORRECCIONAL as maximum.

Lastly the P4,000.00 marked money exhibit, which has been claimed to be owned by the private complainant, is
ORDERED RELEASED to her after the finality of this Decision.

SO ORDERED.23 (Emphasis and underscoring in the original)

Macayan then appealed to the Court of Appeals. He filed his Appellant’s Brief 24 on August 25, 2004.

The Office of the Solicitor General, representing the People of the Philippines at the appellate stage, did not file an
appellee’s brief. Instead, it filed a Manifestation and Motion in Lieu of Appellee’s Brief 25 recommending that Macayan be
acquitted. It asserted that his guilt was not established beyond reasonable doubt.

Noting that Jao was never present in any of the conferences for the illegal dismissal case and that the sole witness who
could confirm if she was indeed threatened or intimidated on or immediately after such an occasion (i.e., Angel) was
never presented, the Office of the Solicitor General asserted that the fourth requisite of the offense of robbery (i.e.,
violence against or intimidation of a person) could not have been made by Macayan on the occasion of a conference for
the illegal dismissal case. It added that the other occasion when Macayan was supposed to have threatened Jao was
equally dubious since Jao’s sole reason for claiming that it was Macayan speaking to her (i.e., her having been addressed
as "Madam") was insufficient to ascertain that person’s identity. 26

On July 31, 2006, the Court of Appeals Tenth Division rendered the assailed Decision 27 affirming Macayan’s conviction
and increasing the duration of the penalty imposed. It reasoned that Jao’s sole, uncorroborated testimony was nevertheless
positive and credible. As regards Jao’s having been threatened after the postponement of the February 12, 2001 conference
in the illegal dismissal case, the Court of Appeals reasoned that constancias are "not the best evidence of attendance" 28 and
that, in any case, Jao was threatened after and not during the conference.

The dispositive portion of this Decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 101, in Criminal
Case No. Q-01- 98670 is hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the accused-appellant is hereby sentenced to
an indeterminate sentence of one (1) year, seven (7) months and eleven (11) days of prision correccional as MINIMUM,
to six (6) years, one (1) month and eleven (11) days of prision mayor as MAXIMUM.

SO ORDERED.29 (Emphasis in the original)

On December 18, 2006, the Court of Appeals Tenth Division rendered the Resolution 30 denying Macayan’s Motion for
Reconsideration.31

Hence, this Petition was filed.32

Asked by this court to file a Comment, the Office of the Solicitor General instead filed a Manifestation and Motion 33to
adopt as its Comment the same Manifestation and Motion in Lieu of Appellee’s Brief that it filed with the Court of
Appeals. Thus, the Office of the Solicitor General reiterated its position that Macayan’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt has
not been established and that he must be acquitted.

On September 11, 2007, Macayan filed the Manifestation in Lieu of Reply 34 in view of the Office of the Solicitor
General’s earlier Manifestation and Motion.

For resolution is the sole issue of whether Macayan’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt has been established.

We reverse the Decision of the Court of Appeals and acquit petitioner Nilo Macayan, Jr. of the charge of robbery.

Rule 133, Section 2 of the Revised Rules on Evidence specifies the requisite quantum of evidence in criminal cases:

Section 2. Proof beyond reasonable doubt. — In a criminal case, the accused is entitled to an acquittal, unless his guilt is
shown beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof, excluding
possibility of error, produces absolute certainly. Moral certainly only is required, or that degree of proof which produces
conviction in an unprejudiced mind.

This rule places upon the prosecution the task of establishing the guilt of an accused, relying on the strength of its own
evidence, and not banking on the weakness of the defense of an accused. Requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt finds
basis not only in the due process clause35 of the Constitution, but similarly, in the right of an accused to be "presumed
innocent until the contrary is proved."36 "Undoubtedly, it is the constitutional presumption of innocence that lays such
burden upon the prosecution."37 Should the prosecution fail to discharge its burden, it follows, as a matter of course, that
an accused must be acquitted. As explained in Basilio v. People of the Philippines: 38

We ruled in People v. Ganguso:

An accused has in his favor the presumption of innocence which the Bill of Rights guarantees. Unless his guilt is shown
beyond reasonable doubt, he must be acquitted. This reasonable doubt standard is demanded by the due process clause of
the Constitution which protects the accused from conviction except upon proof beyond reasonable doubt of every fact
necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, and unless it
discharges that burden the accused need not even offer evidence in his behalf, and he would be entitled to an acquittal.
Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not, of course, mean such degree of proof as, excluding the possibility of error,
produce absolute certainty. Moral certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an
unprejudiced mind. The conscience must be satisfied that the accused is responsible for the offense charged.

Well-entrenched in jurisprudence is the rule that the conviction of the accused must rest, not on the weakness of the
defense, but on the strength of the prosecution. The burden is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt,
not on the accused to prove his innocence.39 (Citations omitted)

II

The determination of the guilt of an accused hinges on how a court appreciates evidentiary matters in relation to the
requisites of an offense. Determination of guilt is, thus, a fundamentally factual issue.

This court, however, is not a trier of facts. Consistent with Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, "[a]s a rule, only questions of
law, not questions of fact, may be raised in a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45." 40 More specifically, "in a
criminal case, factual findings of the trial court are generally accorded great weight and respect on appeal, especially
when such findings are supported by substantial evidence on record." 41

Nevertheless, there are exceptions allowing this court to overturn the factual findings with which it is confronted.
Speaking specifically of criminal cases, this court stated in People of the Philippines v. Esteban 42 that "in exceptional
circumstances, such as when the trial court overlooked material and relevant matters . . . this Court will re-calibrate and
evaluate the factual findings of the [lower courts]." 43 Below are the recognized exceptions to the general rule binding this
court to the factual findings of lower courts:

(1) When the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmises, and conjectures;

(2) When the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible;

(3) Where there is a grave abuse of discretion;

(4) When the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts;

(5) When the findings of fact are conflicting;

(6) When the Court of Appeals, in making its findings, went beyond the issues of the case and the same is
contrary to the admissions of both appellant and appellee;

(7) When the findings are contrary to those of the trial court;

(8) When the findings of fact are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based;

(9) When the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioners' main and reply briefs are not disputed by
the respondents; and

(10) When the findings of fact of the Court of Appeals are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and
contradicted by the evidence on record.44 (Emphasis supplied)

Here, Macayan asserts that the lower courts committed a serious misapprehension of facts, thereby wrongly concluding
that he is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. He argues that the evidence adduced by the prosecution falls seriously short of
the quantum of evidence required to convict him. He specifically draws attention to the following:

First, Jao’s claim that, immediately after the postponement of the February 12, 2001 conference in the illegal dismissal
case and in the presence of Angel, Macayan threatened to harm and/or kidnap the members of her family, despite the
records in the same case showing that Jao never attended any of the 11 conferences that were set or conducted;

Second, the prosecution’s unjustified failure to present Angel as a witness and its sole reliance on Jao’s testimony,
considering that it was Angel who can confirm if, indeed, Macayan threatened Jao’s family immediately after the
postponement of the February 12, 2001 conference;

Third, Jao’s reliance on nothing more than how she was addressed as "Madam" by the person speaking to her on the
phone as basis for concluding that it must have been Macayan who was supposedly calling and threatening her and her
family;

Fourth, the inconsistency and absurdity of Jao’s conduct in considering Macayan’s threats of such serious nature that she
needed to report it to the National Bureau of Investigation for the prospective conduct of an entrapment operation, and yet
not telling her husband about the threats simply because he would easily get annoyed; and

Lastly, the inconsistent claims of Jao and prosecution witness Rodrigo Mapoy, the NBI operations team leader, as to who
Macayan called on the evening of February 16, 2001 to reset the rendezvous to McDonald’s EDSA. Jao claimed that
Macayan called Angel, while Rodrigo Mapoy claimed that Macayan called Jao herself.

Macayan’s position is buttressed by the Office of the Solicitor General, the public institution otherwise charged with the
task of pursuing the prosecution’s case on appeal. As the Office of the Solicitor General stated:
In the instant case, however, clues of untruthfulness in the testimony of Annie Uy Jao are abundant while incentives for
fabrication of a story [are] not wanting. The only way to eliminate any doubt in Annie Uy Jao’s assertions would have
been to find independent confirmation from the other sources, as by way of unambiguous testimony of a competent and
credible witness. Sadly, no such confirmation could be had as the prosecution’s evidence on the most crucial elements of
the crime was limited to that testified on by Annie Uy Jao.

It is respectfully submitted that had the trial court seen and understood these realities laid on clearly in the records of this
case, it would have concluded reasonable doubt as to acquit appellant. 45 (Underscoring in the original)

The position taken by the Office of the Solicitor General has resulted in the peculiar situation where it is not the
prosecution but, effectively, the trial court and the Court of Appeals arguing for Macayan’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

With the backdrop of these assertions, we deem it proper to reevaluate the factual findings and the conclusions reached by
both the trial court and the Court of Appeals.

III

Article 293 of the Revised Penal Code provides for who are guilty of robbery:

ARTICLE 293. Who are Guilty of Robbery. — Any person who, with intent to gain, shall take any personal property
belonging to another, by means of violence against or intimidation of any person, or using force upon anything, shall be
guilty of robbery.

Accordingly, the following elements must be established to sustain a conviction for robbery:

1)there is a taking of personal property [i.e., unlawful taking]; 2) the personal property belongs to another; 3) the taking is
with animus lucrandi [i.e., intent to gain]; and 4) the taking is with violence against or intimidation of persons or with
force upon things.46

As pointed out by the Office of the Solicitor General, the "bone of contention" 47 centers on the elements of unlawful
taking and of violence against or intimidation of persons. This is precisely Macayan’s contention: that he neither
intimidated nor threatened Jao, and that he could not have unlawfully taken money from her on account of any act of
intimidation and/or threats made by him.

Consistent with the rule on burden of proof, the requisite quantum of evidence in criminal cases, and in light of the points
highlighted by both Macayan and the Office of the Solicitor General, we find that the prosecution failed to establish
Macayan’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Thus, a reversal of the rulings of the trial court and Court of Appeals is in order.
Macayan must be acquitted.

As correctly pointed out by the Office of the Solicitor General, the resolution of this case hinges on whether Jao was
indeed threatened and/or intimidated by Macayan into giving him money, that is, whether he extorted money from Jao.
Per Jao’s own testimony, there were two (2) instances in which she was threatened and/or intimidated: first, immediately
after the postponement of the February 12, 2001 conference in the illegal dismissal case; and second, when Macayan
called her on February 13, 2001 and set a rendezvous for handing over the extorted money.

Contrary to the conclusions of the trial court and the Court of Appeals, we find Jao’s testimony regarding these occasions
(and ultimately, the presence of the requisite of violence against or intimidation of a person) dubious and unreliable.

Macayan and the Office of the Solicitor General are one in pointing out that the records of NLRC-NCR Case No. 00-09-
05057-00 are bereft of any indication that Jao was present in any of the 11 conferences held or set (only to be postponed
even if both parties were represented). The defense introduced as its Exhibits "2" to "12" the minutes and/or constancias
of these conferences. Exhibit "2" was the minutes/constancia of the February 12, 2001 conference. During his testimony,
Macayan specifically referred to this document as proof that he never saw, met, or spoke to Jao on the occasion of or
immediately after the conference set on that date:
Q:Mr. Witness, you were present when complaining witness Annie Uy Jao told this Honorable Court that sometime on
February 12, 2001, during the hearing of the labor case in the NLRC, at Banawe, Quezon City, you threatened her that
you will kidnap her and her family if she will not give P200,000.00. What can you say about this?

A: That is not true, Sir.

Q: Why did you say there is no truth in it?

A: Because we did not meet on February 12.

Q: Do you mean to tell this Honorable Court that Annie Uy Jao was not present during the hearing of that case?

A: She was not there.

Q: Has she an [sic] representative?

A: Yes, Sir.

Q: Who is that?

A: Marjorie Angel, the secretary.

Q: Do you have any proof that she was not present?

A: Yes, Sir.

Q:I am showing to you constancia, date of hearing 2/12/03. Will you please examine this document. Does it have anything
to do with what you said?

A: This is the Minutes of Hearing on February 12, 2001.

Atty. Oliva: We would like to request that this constancia be marked as Exhibit "2."

Court: Mark it. On its face, this is a form by the NLRC containing the caption, the name of the parties and the case
number, date of hearing and the time.

Atty. Oliva: Mr. Witness, there are signature [sic] below this constancia, complaining witness, there is a signature above
the complainant.

A:This is my signature and this is the signature of Marjorie Angel.

Q: How do you know that this is her signature[?]

A: Because I was with her for five (5) months. 48

Jao’s absence in the intended conference (though subsequently postponed despite both parties to the illegal dismissal case
being represented) places serious doubt on the occurrence of the supposed first instance of intimidation on February 12,
2001.

The Court of Appeals reasoned that a constancia "would not be the best evidence of attendance in any of the National
Labor Relations Commission hearings."49 It added that, in any case, the act of intimidation happened after, and not during,
the conference. This is a strained consideration of the facts of this case.
First, consistent with the presumption "[t]hat official duty has been regularly performed" 50 and "[t]hat a person takes
ordinary care of his concerns,"51 both the personnel of the Labor Arbiter’s office who prepared the minutes of the February
12, 2001 conference and the persons who signed it must be considered as having taken the necessary care to make it a
faithful and accurate record of what transpired and of who were present in the conference. Thus, the minutes’ indication
that only Angel was present should be taken as accurate and reliable absent any proof to the contrary. If the principal, Jao,
were present, there would not have been a need for Angel, her representative, to sign in such capacity.

Second, much is made of how the threats were delivered after and not during the conference. To recall the prosecution’s
allegation, the intimidation took place immediately after the conference, outside the Labor Arbiter’s office, along the
corridor of the National Labor Relations Commission Building. 52 As there was neither an appreciable duration of time
between the conference and the subsequent threatening exchange nor a significant distance between where the conference
was held and where the subsequent threatening exchange took place, it may be deduced that whatever exchange, if any,
that transpired must have been between those who were present at the conference. Conversely, those who were absent
from the conference must have been equally unavailable to engage in an exchange with Macayan.

Apart from these, that the rest of the minutes of the illegal dismissal case shows that Jao never attended any conference
gives rise to the question of why she chose to be personally present in, of all conferences, the postponed February 12
conference. If, indeed, she was present in this despite her absence in all others, some particular significance must have
characterized this conference, something that Jao has not accounted for. In any case, if there was any particular
significance to this February 12 conference, then, all the more, her presence or attendance should have been indicated in
the records.

Of course, many explanations — well within the realm of possibility — could be offered for why Jao’s attendance was not
indicated in the minutes. For instance, Jao could have simply chosen to wait outside the Labor Arbiter’s office, or she
could have declined from having her attendance specified in the minutes. What is crucial, however, this being a criminal
case, is for the prosecution to establish the guilt of an accused on the strength of its own evidence. Its case must rise on its
own merits. The prosecution carries the burden of establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt; it cannot merely rest on the
relative likelihood of its claims. Any lacunae in its case gives rise to doubt as regards the "fact[s] necessary to constitute
the crime with which [an accused] is charged."53

Here, there is serious doubt on whether Jao was actually threatened or intimidated at the time she specified. Thus, there is
serious doubt on the existence of the fourth requisite for robbery — violence against or intimidation of a person — in
relation to the alleged February 12, 2001 incident.

The prosecution could have addressed the deficiency in Jao’s allegation that she was threatened on February 12, 2001 by
presenting as witness the other person who was supposedly present in the incident: Angel, Jao’s secretary. However, she
was never presented as a witness.

The Court of Appeals noted that corroborative testimony is dispensable; "the lack of it does not necessarily condemn a
lone witness’ recital of the crime for as long as that single witness’ testimony is credible." 54

People of the Philippines v. Cleopas,55 which the Court of Appeals cited, states that the testimony of a lone witness "may
suffice for conviction if found trustworthy and reliable." 56

Precisely, conviction resting on a singular testimony is warranted if this is, in the words of Cleopas, "trustworthy and
reliable,"57 or, in the words of the Court of Appeals, "credible."58 This could not be said of Jao’s testimony. As previously
discussed, her very presence in the February 12, 2001 conference that she claimed to have been immediately followed by
Macayan’s threats, is in serious doubt. Nothing casts greater doubt on the reliability of Jao’s claim than her having not
been at the time and place of the supposed intimidation.

With the first alleged instance of intimidation being discredited, the prosecution is left to rely on the second supposed
instance of intimidation: the phone call made by Macayan to Jao on February 13, 2001, during which he not only
reiterated his threats but also set a rendezvous for the handover of the extorted money. Even this, however, is doubtful.
The prosecution itself acknowledged that there is no basis for ascertaining the identity of Macayan as the caller other than
the caller’s use of "Madam" in addressing Jao. The following excerpt is taken from Jao’s direct examination:

Atty. Garena: Madam Witness, you said you received another call after February 12, 2001. Is that from the accused or
from another person?

A: From the accused.

Q: What was the call about?

A:He repeated the threat again that I have to give him P200,000.00 or else, he will harm y [sic] family; and he set a place
to give the money.

....

Court: The first word uttered by him. You narrated, more or less.

Did he introduce himself?

A: He never stated his name because he knew I know his name.

Court: That is your presumption, but what was the first word uttered by him and what was your reply, line by line[?]

A: He always calls me madam.

Court: You answer the question of the Court now. How did the conversation go?

A:He said, Madam, Kung hindi mo ibibigay sa akin ang P200,000.00, ipapakidnap ko ang pamilya mo. (Madam, if you
don’t give me that P200,000.00, I am going to ask somebody to kidnap you and your family.)

Court: That was the first line. Was that the end of the first line of the accused?

A:Those were the only words that he told me. I cannot say anything. I just put down the phone.

Court: After he said those lines, you put down the telephone?

A: After he said the date and time.

Court: The Court is asking you to narrate line by line. What he said. What you said.

A:If you will not give me P200,000.00, I will ask somebody to kidnap you, your child and your husband.

Court: That was the first line. Did you reply to him?

A:No, sir. I did not ask. The next line, he said he was going to wait for me at McDo Banawe at around 6:00 [to] 7:00 in
the evening.

Court: Did he state the date?

A: February 16.

Court: You are impressing to this Court that the accused had said two lines already without you uttering any word. How
did the accused knew [sic] that it is Annie Uy Jao on the other line?
A:Because the first word [sic] that I said, Hello, then he replied, Madam.

Court: You uttered the hello, that is why the accused recognized you on the line.

A:Yes, your Honor. Because he knew that only two persons are answering [sic] the phone, my secretary and
me.59(Emphasis supplied)

The prosecution should have offered more convincing proof of the identity of the supposed caller. Even if it were true that
Macayan customarily addressed Jao as "Madam," merely being called this way by a caller does not ascertain that he is the
alleged caller. The prosecution never made an effort to establish how addressing Jao as "Madam" is a unique trait of
Macayan’s and Jao’s relationship. Other persons may be equally accustomed to calling her as such; for instance, "Madam"
may be Jao’s preferred manner of being addressed by her subordinates or employees. Likewise, it was established that
Macayan and Jao have known each other since 1995. Their relation was more than that of employer and employee, as Jao
was Macayan’s godmother in his wedding.60

Certainly, Jao could have offered other, more reliable means of ascertaining that it was, indeed, Macayan with whom she
was conversing. The second alleged instance of intimidation is likewise cast in serious doubt. Left with no other act of
intimidation to rely on, the prosecution fails in establishing the fourth requisite of the crime of robbery.

Apart from these, another point underscores the unreliability of Jao’s allegations. As pointed out by Macayan and
acknowledged by the prosecution, Jao never saw it proper to warn her family, more specifically, her husband, of the threat
of being kidnapped. Nevertheless, she supposedly perceived Macayan’s alleged threat as being of such a serious nature
that she must not only report the matter to the National Bureau of Investigation, but also entreat its officers to conduct an
entrapment operation.

Jurisprudence has established the standard for appreciating the credibility of a witness’ claim:

[F]or evidence to be believed, however, it must not only proceed from the mouth of a credible witness but must be
credible in itself such as the common experience and observation of mankind can approve under the circumstances. The
test to determine the value of the testimony of a witness is whether such is in conformity with knowledge and consistent
with the experience of mankind. Whatever is repugnant to these standards becomes incredible and lies outside of judicial
cognizance.61

Jao’s inconsistent conduct, coupled with flimsy justifications for acting as she did, betrays the absurdity and unreliability
of her claims and ultimately, of her as a witness:

Court: You did not inform anybody about that call?

A: Only my secretary. She was beside me.

Court: What about your husband? At that time, where was he?

A: He was outside.

Court: Does he have a cellular phone at that time?

A: Only a pager.

Court: Did it not occur to you to inform your husband about the call?

A: No, your Honor.

Court: How about the words uttered to you in the Labor hearing, did you inform you [sic] husband?
A: No, your Honor.

Court: What was the reason?

A:I was afraid because he might accused (sic) me of what happened?

Court: This is a very private question. That date of hearing in the

NLRC, you slept together [with] your husband?

A: Yes, your Honor.

Court: That night, you did not inform him?

A: He knows about the labor case.

Court: You did not inform him about the extortion threat of the

Accused?

A: No, sir.62

On cross examination, Jao explained:

Q: During the direct examination, the Honorable Court asked you whether you told this matter to your husband and you
said you did not?

A: I am not [the] type of person who don’t usually tell [sic] everything to my husband specially [sic] regarding things like
this because he is medyo makulit and I don’t want him asking same questions again and again (sic).

Q: Instead of telling your husband, you went to the NBI to report the matter?

A: Yes, sir.63 (Emphasis supplied)

The Court of Appeals stated that "the subsequent and contemporaneous actions of the private complainant from the time
the threat was made bolsters the veracity of her story." 64 This cannot be farther from the truth. On the contrary,
inconsistencies and absurdities in Jao’s actions cast serious doubt on the veracity of her claims.

Finally, the trial court made much of how Macayan is supposedly estopped by the joint stipulation that the prosecution
and the defense made as regards the "existence, authenticity, due execution and contents of [the] NBI Physics Report on
the powder dusting/ positive results."65

The defense’s accession to these is inconsequential. These only prove that Macayan handled the bills used in the alleged
entrapment operation, a fact that he does not dispute. It remains, however, that they do not establish any certainty as to the
circumstances surrounding his handling of the bills, among these: whether there was, indeed, unlawful taking by
Macayan, and whether Jao did hand him the bills because he extorted them from her.

In sum, the prosecution failed to establish the elements of unlawful taking and of violence against or intimidation of a
person. Reasonable doubt persists.1âwphi1 As is settled in jurisprudence, where the basis of conviction is flawed, this
court must acquit an accused:

In criminal cases, the prosecution has the onus probandi of establishing the guilt of the accused. Ei incumbit probatio non
qui negat. He who asserts - not he who denies - must prove. The burden must be discharged by the prosecution on the
strength of its own evidence, not on the weakness of that for the defense. Hence, circumstantial evidence that has not been
adequately established, much less corroborated, cannot be the basis of conviction. Suspicion alone is insufficient, the
required quantum of evidence being proof beyond reasonable doubt. Indeed, "the sea of suspicion has no shore, and the
court that embarks upon it is without rudder or compass."

It must be stressed that in our criminal justice system, the overriding consideration is not whether the court doubts the
innocence of the accused, but whether it entertains a reasonable doubt as to their guilt. Where there is no moral certainty
as to their guilt, they must be acquitted even though their innocence may be questionable. The constitutional right to be
presumed innocent until proven guilty can be overthrown only by proof beyond reasonable doubt. 66 (Emphasis in the
original, citations omitted)

With the prosecution having failed to discharge its burden of establishing Macayan's guilt beyond reasonable doubt, this
court is constrained, as is its bounden duty when reasonable doubt persists, to acquit him.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CR No. 28380 is
REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner Nilo Macayan, Jr. y Malana is hereby ACQUITTED for failure of the
prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. If detained, he is ordered immediately RELEASED, unless he is
confined for any other lawful cause. Any amount paid by way of a bailbond is ordered RETURNED.

SO ORDERED.
3. Franco vs. People, GR No. 191185, 1 February 2016

DECISION

REYES, J.:

The Constitution presumes a person innocent until proven guilty by proof beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution
cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the defense's evidence for it has the onus probandi in
establishing the guilt of the accused - ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non que negat - he who asserts, not he who denies,
must prove.1

Nature of the Case

Before the Court is a Petition for Review on CertiorarP. under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court where petitioner Guilberner
Franco (Franco) assails the Decision3 dated September 16, 2009 of the Court of Appeals (CA), in CA-G.R. CR No. 31706,
affirming the Decision4 dated February 27, 2008 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 15, in Criminal
Case No. 05-238613. The RTC convicted Franco of the crime of Theft under an Information, which reads as follows:

That on or about November 3, 2004, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously, with intent to gain and without the knowledge and consent or the owner thereof, take, steal
and carry away one (1) Nokia 3660 Model cellular phone worth Php 18,500.00 belonging to BENJAMIN JOSEPH
NAKAMOTO Y ERGUIZA to the damage and prejudice of the said owner in the aforesaid amount of Php 18,500.00,
Philippine Currency.

Contrary to law.5

On September 5, 2005, Franco, assisted by counsel, pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. 6

The Facts

The evidence for the prosecution established the following facts:

On November 3, 2004 at around 11 :00 a.m., Benjamin Joseph Nakamoto (Nakamoto) went to work out at the Body
Shape Gym located at Malong Street, Tondo, Manila. After he finished working out, he placed his Nokia 3660 cell phone
worth 'Pl 8,500.00 on the altar where gym users usually put their valuables and proceeded to the comfort room to change
his clothes. After ten minutes, he returned to get his cell phone, but it was already missing. Arnie Rosario (Rosario), who
was also working out, informed him that he saw Franco get a cap and a cell phone from the altar. Nakamoto requested
everyone not to leave the gym, but upon verification from the logbook, he found out that Franco had left within the time
that he was in the shower.7

The gym's caretaker, Virgilio Ramos (Ramos), testified that he saw Franco in the gym but he was not working out and was
just going around the area. Tn fact, it was just Franco's second time at the gym. Ramos even met him near the door and as
Franco did not log out, he was the one who indicated it in their logbook. When Nakamoto mmounced that his cell phone
was missing and asked that nobody leaves the place, he put an asterisk opposite the name of Franco in the logbook to
indicate that he was the only one who left the gym after the cell phone was declared lost.

Nakamoto, together with Jeoffrey Masangkay, a police officer who was also working out at the gym, tried to locate Franco
within the gym's vicinity but they failed to find him. They proceeded to the police station and while there, a report was
received from another police officer that somebody saw Franco along Coral Street, which is near the gym and that he was
holding a cell phone. They went to Coral Street but he was already gone. A vendor told them that he saw a person who
was holding a cell phone, which was then ringing and that the person was trying to shut it off. When they went to Franco's
house, they were initially not allowed to come in but were eventually let in by Franco's mother. They talked to Franco who
denied having taken the cell phone.9
Nakamoto then filed a complaint with the barangay but no settlement was arrived thereat; hence, a criminal complaint for
theft was filed against Franco before the City Prosecutor's Office of Manila, docketed as LS. No. 04K-25849. 10

In his defense, Franco denied the charge, alleging that if Nakamoto had indeed lost his cell phone at around 1 :00 p.m., he
and his witnesses could have confronted him as at that time, he was still at the gym, having left only at around 2:45
p.m.11 He also admitted to have taken a cap and cell phone from the altar but claimed these to be his. 12

Ruling of the RTC

In its Decision elated February 27, 2008, the RTC convicted Franco of theft, the dispositive portion of which reads:

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, this Court finds [Franco], GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of theft
penalized in paragraph 1 of Article 309 in relation to Article 308 of the Revised Penal

Code and hereby imposes upon him the penalty of imprisonment of two (2) years, four (4) months and one (1) day as
minimum to seven (7) years and four (4) months as maximum and to pay the complainant Php 18,500.00.

SO ORDERED.13

The RTC did not find Franco's defense credible and ruled that his denial cannot be given evidentiary value over the
positive testimony of Rosario.14

Franco then appealed to the CA. 15

Ruling of the CA

In affirming the RTC decision, the CA found the elements of theft to have been duly established. It relied heavily on the
"positive testimony" of Rosario who declared to have seen Franco take a cap and a cell phone from the altar. The CA
likewise gave credence to the testimony of Ramos who confirmed that it was only Franco who left the gym immediately
before Nakamoto announced that his cell phone was missing. Ramos also presented the logbook and affirmed having put
an asterisk opposite the name "ELMER," which was entered by the accused upon logging in. The CA stated that taken
together, the foregoing circumstances are sufficient to support a moral conviction that Franco is guilty, and at the same
time, inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent. 16 The CA further ruled that the RTC cannot be faulted for
giving more weight to the testimony of Nakamoto17 and Rosario,18 considering that Franco foiled to show that they were
impelled by an ill or improper motive to falsely testify against him. 19

In his petition for review, Franco presented the following issues for resolution, to wit:

I.

WHETHER THE HONORABLE [CA] ERRED IN GIVING WEIGHT AND CREDENCE TO THE PROSECUTI0N
WITNESSES' INCONSISTENT AND IRRECONCILABLE TESTIMONIES.

II.

WHETHER THE HONORABLE [CA] AFFIRMING [FRANCO'S] CONVICTION FACT THAT THE SAME WAS
FABRICATIONS AND PRESUMPTIONS.1âwphi1

III.

WHETHER THE HONORABLE [CA] ERRED IN ACCEPTING THE VALUE OF THE ALLEGEDLY STOLEN
CELLULAR PHONE WITHOUT SUBSTANTIATING EVIDENCE.20

Ruling of the Court


Preliminarily, the Court restates the n1le that only errors of law and not of facts are reviewable by this Court in a petition
for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court. This rule applies with greater force when the factual
findings of the CA are in full agreement with that of the RTC. 21

The rule, however, is not ironclad. A departure therefrom may be warranted when it is established that the RTC ignored,
overlooked, misconstrued or misinterpreted cogent facts and circumstances, which, if considered, will change the outcome
of the case. Considering that what is at stake here is liberty, the Court has carefully reviewed the records of the case 22 and
finds that Franco should be acquitted.

Failure of the prosecution to prove


JCranco's guilt beyond reasonable
doubt

The burden of such proof rests with the prosecution, which must rely on the strength of its case rather than on the
weakness of the case for the defense. Proof beyond reasonable doubt, or that quantum of proof sufficient to produce a
moral certainty that would convince and satisfy the conscience of those who act in judgment, is indispensable to overcome
the constitutional presumption of innocence.23

In every criminal conviction, the prosecution is required to prove two things beyond reasonable doubt: first, the fact of the
commission of the crime charged, or the presence of all the elements of the offense; and second, the fact that the accused
was the perpetrator of the crime.24 Under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code, the essential elements of the crime of
theft are: (1) the taking of personal property; (2) the property belongs to another; (3) the taking away was done with intent
to gain; (4) the taking away was done without the consent of the owner; and (5) the taking away is accomplished without
violence or intimidation against person or force upon things. 25

The corpus delicti in theft has two elements, to wit: (I) that the property was lost by the owner; and (2) that it was lost by
felonious taking. 26

In this case, the crucial issue is whether the prosecution has presented proof beyond reasonable doubt to establish
the corpus delicti of the crime. In affirming Franco's conviction, the CA ruled that the elements were established.
Moreover, the RTC and the CA apparently relied heavily on circumstantial evidence.

To sustain a conviction based on circumstantial evidence, Section 4, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court provides that the
following requisites must concur: (l) there must be more than one circumstance to convict; (2) the facts on which the
inference of guilt is based must be proved; and (3) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a
conviction beyond reasonable doubt. With respect to the third requisite, it is essential that the circumstantial evidence
presented must constitute an unbroken chain, which leads one to a fair nnd reasonable conclusion pointing to the accused,
to the exclusion of others, as the guilty person.27

The prosecution presented three (3) witnesses - Nakamoto, the complainant; Ramos, the gym's caretaker; and Rosario,
nnother gym user.

Their testimonies established the following circumstances: (l) Nakamoto placed his cell phone on the altar, 28 left and went
to change his clothes, and after ten minutes, returned to get his cell phone but the same was already missing; 29 (2) Rosario
saw Franco get a cap and a cell phone from the same place; 30 and (3) Ramos saw Franco leave the gym at 1 : 15 p.m. and
the latter failed to log out in the logbook.31 The RTC and the CA wove these circumstances in order to arrive at the
"positive identification" of

Franco as the perpetrator. 32

A perusal of their testimonies, however, shows that certain facts have been overlooked by both courts.

For one, it was only Rosario who saw Franco get a cap and a cell phone from the altar. His lone testimony, however,
cannot be considered a positive identification of Franco as the perpetrator:
In People v. Pondivida,34 the Court held:

Positive identification pertains essentially to proof of identity and not perse to that of being an eyewitness to the very act
of commission of the crime. There are two types of positive identification. A witness may identify a suspect or accused in
a criminal case as the perpetrator of the crime as an eyewitness to the very act of the commission of the crime. This
constitutes direct evidence. There may, however, be instances where, although a witness may not have actually seen the
very act of commission of a crime, he may still be able to positively identify a suspect or accused as the perpetrator of a
crime as for instance when the latter is the person or one of the persons last seen with the victim immediately before and
right after the commission of the crime. This is the second type of positive identification, which forms part of
circumstantial evidence, which, when taken together with other pieces of evidence constituting an unbroken chain, leads
to only fair and reasonable conclusion, which is that the accused is the author of the crime to the exclusion of all others. x
x x.35 (Emphasis omitted and underscoring ours)

Rosario's testimony definitely cannot fall under the first category of positive identification. While it may support the
conclusion that Franco took a cell phone from the altar, it does not establish with certainty that what Franco feloniously
took, assuming that he did, was Nakamoto's cell phone. Rosario merely testified that Franco took "a cell phone." He
stated:

Q: How did you know that the said cell phone was taken by the accused?

A: [W]e were then in a conversation when I asked him to spot or assist me with the weights that I intended to carry. We
were then situated in an area very near the altar where his cap and cell phone were placed. After assisting me, he went to
the area and took the cell phone and the cap at the same time.

Q: [W]ho were you talking [sic] at that time?

A: Guilbemer Franco.

Q: 1t was also [G]uilbemer Franco who helped or spot you in the work out?

A: Yes, sir

Q: And after assisting you, what did Franco do?

A: He took the cell phone of Mr. Nakamoto and his cap at the same time and covered the cell phone by his cap and left the
place.

Q: Where was that cell phone of the private complainant placed at that time?

A: At the top of the altar where is [sic] cap is also located.

Q: How far was that altar from where you were working?

A: Only inches.

Q: It was directly in front of you?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What did you do when the accused took the cap as well as the cell phone of the private complainant?

A: None, sir. I thought the cap and cell phone was his.

Q: How did you know that the cell phone belongs to the private complainant?
A: After Mr. Nakamoto came out from the shower, he went directly to the altar to get his cell phone which was not
there anymore and asked us where his cell phone and I told him that I saw Mr. Franco get a cell phone from that
area.36 (Emphasis ours)

On cross-examination, Rosario also stated that he did not actually see Franco take Nakamoto's cell phone 37 but on re-
direct, he clarified that he did not see the cell phone of Nakamoto because he thought that the cell phone was owned by
Franco.38

What was firmly established by Rosario's testimony is that Franco took a cell phone from the altar. But Franco even
admitted such fact.39

What stands out from Rosario's testimony is that he was unable to particularly describe at first instance what or whose cell
phone Franco took from the altar. He only assumed that it was Nakamoto's at the time the latter announced that his cell
phone was missing. This was, in fact, observed by the RTC in the course of Rosario's testimony, thus:

COURT: What you actually saw was, [G]uilbemer Franco was taking his cap together with the cell phone placed beside
the cap but you do not know that [the] cell phone was Bj's or Nakamoto 's?

A: [Y]es, Your Honor.

COURT: You just presumed that the cell phone taken by Guilhemer Franco was his?

A: Yes, Ma'am.40 (Emphasis ours)

Moreover, it must be noted that save for Nakamoto's statement that he placed his cell phone at the altar, no one saw him
actually place his cell phone there. This was confirmed by Rosario -

COURT:

Q: And on that day, you were able to see that Nakamoto on four incidents, when he logged-in, during work-out and when
he went inside the C.[R].?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Therefore, you did not sec Nakamoto place his cell phone at the

Altar·?

A: Yes, sir.41 (Emphasis ours)

Ramos, the gym caretaker, also testified that he did not see Franco take Nakamoto 's cell phone and only assumed that the
cell phone on the altar was Nakamoto's, thus -

Q: And do you know who owns that cell phone put [sic] over the altar?

A: Benjamin Nakamoto.

Q: How do you know that it belongs to Benjamin Nakamoto?

A: He is the only one who brings a cell phone to the gym.

xxxx

Q: [D]id you actually see him take the cell phone of Nakamoto?
A: l did not see him take the [cell] phone but as soon as the cell phone was lost, he was the only one who left the gym. 42

Neither can the prosecution's testimonial evidence fall under the second category of positive identification, that is, Franco
having been identified as the person or one of the persons last seen immediately before and right after the commission of
the theft. Records show that there were other people in the gym before and after Nakamoto lost his cell phone. In fact,
Nakamoto himself suspected Rosario of having taken his cell phone, thus:

ATTY. SANCHEZ:

Q: You said that you s1ayed inside the rest room for more or less 10 minutes?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: After 10 minutes, you don't know whether aside from Franco somebody went out from the gym because you were
inside the c.r.?

A: Yes, sir.

xxxx

Q: As a matter of fact, one of your witness[es] who went near the place where your cell phone was placed was this Arnie
Rosario?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And it was only the accused and [Rosario] who were near the place

where you said you placed the cell phone?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: You did not suspect [Rosario] have taken the cell phone'!

A: I also suspected, sir:43 - (Emphasis ours)

Moreover, the prosecution witnesses confirmed that the altar is the usual spot where the gym users place their valuables.
According to Rosario:

ATTY. SANCHEZ:

Q: And in that place, you said there was a Sto. Niño

A: At the Altar

Q: Those who work-out in that gym usually place their things jon

top ofl the altar.

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Therefore, there were people who place their ('.ell phones on top

(of] the Altar?


A: Yes, sir.

Q: Aside from Nakamoto, other people place their things on top

[of! the Altar?

A: Yes, sir.44 (Emphasis ours)

The prosecution's evidence does not rule out the following possibilities: one, that what Franco took was his own cell
phone; two, even on the assumption that Franco stole a cell phone from the altar, that what he foloniously took was
Nakamoto's cell phone, considering the fact that at the time Nakamoto was inside the changing room, other people may
have placed their cell phone on the same spot; and three, that some other person may have taken Nakamoto's cell phone.

It must be emphasized that "[c]ourts must judge the guilt or innocence of the accused based on facts and not on mere
conjectures, presumptions, or suspicions."45 It is iniquitous to base Franco's guilt on the presumptions of the prosecution's
witnesses for the Court has, time and again, declared that if the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or
more interpretations, one of which being consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other or others consistent
with his guilt, then the evidence in view of the constitutional presumption of innocence has not fulfilled the test of moral
certainty and is thus insufficient to support a conviction. 46

Franco also asserts that the logbook from which his time in and time out at the gym was based was not identified during
the trial and was only produced after Ramos testified.47 Ramos testified that when Nakamoto announced that his cell
phone was missing and asked that nobody leaves the place, he put an asterisk opposite the name of Franco in the logbook
to indicate that he was the only one who left the gym after the cell phone was declared lost. 48

Under the Rules on Evidence, documents are either public or private. Private documents are those that do not fall under
any of the enumerations in Section 19, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court.49 Section 20 of the same Rule, in turn, provides
that before any private document is received in evidence, its due execution and authenticity must be proved either by
anyone who saw the document executed or written, or by evidence of the genuineness of the signature of handwriting or
the maker.50

In this case, the foregoing rule was not followed. The testimony of Ramos shows that the logbook, indeed, was not
identified and authenticated during the course of Ramos' testimony. At the time when Ramos was testifying, he merely
referred to the log in and log out time and the name of the person at page 104 of the logbook that appears on line 22 of the
entries for November 3, 2004. This was photocopied and marked as Exhibit "C-1." 51 Meanwhile, when Nakamoto was
presented as rebuttal witness, a page from the logbook was again marked as Exhibit "D." 52The logbook or the particular
page referred to by Ramos was neither identified nor confirmed by him as the same logbook which he used to log the ins
and outs of the gym users, or that the writing and notations on said logbook was his. The prosecution contends,
meanwhile, that the RTC's evaluation of the witnesses' credibility may no longer be questioned at this stage. 53 The Court is
not unmindful of the rule that the assignment of value and weight to the testimony of a witness is best left to the discretion
of the RTC. But an exception to that rule shall be applied in this case where certain facts of substance and value, if
considered, may affect the result.54 In Lejano v. People,55 the Court stated:

A judge must keep an open mind. He must guard against slipping into hasty conclusion, often arising from a desire to
quickly finish the job or deciding a case. A positive declaration from a witness that he saw the accused commit the crime
should not automatically cancel out the accused's claim that he did not do it. A lying witness can make as positive an
identification as a truthful witness can. The lying witness can also say as forthrightly and unequivocally, "He did it!"
without blinking an eye.56

The facts and circumstances proven by the prosecution, taken together, are not sufficient to justify the unequivocal
conclusion that Franco feloniously took Nakamoto's cell phone. No other convincing evidence was presented by the
prosecution that would link him to the theft.57 The fact Franco took a cell phone from· the altar does not necessarily point
to the conclusion that it was Nakamoto's cell phone that he took. In the appreciation of circumstantial evidence, the rule is
that the circumstances must be proved, and not themselves presumed. The circumstantial evidence must exclude the
possibility that some other person has committed the offense charged. 58
Franco, therefore, cannot be convicted of the crime charged in this case. There is not enough evidence to do so. As a rule,
in order to support a conviction on the basis of circumstantial evidence, all the circumstances must be consistent with the
hypothesis that the accused is guilty. In this case, not all the facts on which the inference of guilt is based were proved.
The matter of what and whose cell phone Franco took from the altar still remains uncertain.

Franco's defense of denial

The evidence of the prosecution must stand on its own weight and not rely on the weakness of the defense. 59 In this case,
Franco did not deny that he was at the Body Shape Gym on November 3, 2004, at around l :00 p.m. and left the place at
around 2:45 p.m.60 He did not even deny that he took a cell phone from the altar together with his cap. What he denied is
that he took Nakamoto's cell phone and instead, claimed that what he took is his own cell phone. 61 Denial may be weak
but courts should not at once look at them with disfavor. There are situations where an accused may really have no other
defenses but denial, which, if established to be the truth, may tilt the scales of justice in his favor, especially when the
prosecution evidence itself. is weak.62

While it is true that denial partakes of the nature of negative and self-serving evidence and is seldom given weight in
law,63 the Court admits an exception established by jurisprudence that the defense of denial assumes significance when the
prosecution's evidence is such that it does not prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. 64 The exception applies in the case at
hand. The prosecution failed to produce sufficient evidence to overturn the constitutional guarantee that Franco is
presumed to be innocent.

Value of the cell phone

It is also argued by Franco that the value of the cell phone must be duly proved with reasonable degree of certainty. On the
other hand, the people contended that there has been a judicial admission of the same. 65 This issue, however, is now moot
and academic considering Franco's acquittal.

Conclusion

The circumstantial evidence proven by the prosecution in this case failed to pass the test of moral certainty necessary to
warrant Franco's conviction.1avvphi1 Accusation is not synonymous with guilt.66 Not only that,

where the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations or interpretations, one of which is
consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not meet or
hurdle the test of moral certainty required for conviction. 67

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the Comi of Appeals dated September 16, 2009 in CA-GR.
CR No. 31706 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner Guilbemer Franco is ACQUITTED of the crime of
Theft charged in Criminal Case No. 05-238613 because his guilt was not proven beyond reasonable doubt. No costs.

SO ORDERED.
4. People vs. Maraorao, GR No. 174369, 20 June 2012

DECISION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

Before us is an appeal from the March 1, 2006 Decision [1] of the Court of Appeals (CA), which affirmed the
Decision[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 35, convicting appellant Zafra Maraorao y Macabalang of
violation of Section 16, Article III of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6425, otherwise known as The Dangerous Drugs Act of
1972, as amended.

Appellant was charged under an Information[3] dated January 4, 2001 filed before the RTC of Manila as follows:

That on or about November 30, 2000, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, without being
authorized by law to possess or use regulated drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly
have in his possession and under his custody and control one (1) transparent plastic sachet
containing ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED EIGHTY POINT ZERO EIGHT ONE (1,280.081)
grams of white crystalline substance known as shabu containing methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a
regulated drug, without the corresponding license or prescription thereof.

Contrary to law.

On March 19, 2001, appellant, assisted by counsel, pleaded not guilty to the offense charged against him. [4] Trial
on the merits ensued.

For the prosecution, PO3 Manuel Vigilla testified that on November 29, 2000, they received reliable information
at Police Station No. 8 of the Western Police District (WPD) that an undetermined amount of shabu will be delivered
inside the Islamic Center in Quiapo in the early morning of the following day. On November 30, 2000, at around 7:00
a.m., he and PO2 Mamelito Abella, PO1 Joseph dela Cruz, and SPO1 Norman Gamit went to the Islamic Center. While
walking along Rawatun Street in Quiapo, they saw two men talking to each other. Upon noticing them, one ran away. PO2
Abella and PO1 Dela Cruz chased the man but failed to apprehend him. [5]

Meanwhile, the man who was left behind dropped a maroon bag on the pavement. He was about to run when PO3
Vigilla held him, while SPO1 Gamit picked up the maroon bag. The man was later identified as appellant Zafra
Maraorao y Macabalang. The police examined the contents of the bag and saw a transparent plastic bag containing white
crystalline substance, which they suspected to be shabu. At the police station, the investigator marked the plastic sachet
ZM-1 in the presence of the police officers.[6]

The specimen was then forwarded to the PNP Crime Laboratory for laboratory chemical analysis. When
examined by Forensic Chemist P/Insp. Miladenia O. Tapan, the 1,280.081 grams of white crystalline substance gave a
positive result to the test for methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a regulated drug. Her findings are contained in Chemistry
Report No. D-1121-00.[7]

In his defense, appellant testified that on November 30, 2000, at around 7:00 a.m., he was going to the place of his uncle,
Abdul Gani, at the Islamic Center to get a letter from his mother. He went there early because he had to report for work at
the Port Area in Manila at 8:00 a.m. On his way, an unidentified man carrying a bag asked him about a house number
which he did not know. He stopped walking to talk to the man, who placed his bag down and asked him again. When they
turned around, they saw four men in civilian attire walking briskly. He only found out that they were police officers when
they chased the man he was talking to. As the man ran away, the man dropped his bag. Appellant averred that he did not
run because he was not aware of what was inside the bag. [8]

Appellant further narrated that the police arrested him and asked who the owner of the bag was. He replied that it did not
belong to him but to the man who ran away. They made him board a bus-type vehicle and brought him to the police
station in Sta. Mesa, Manila where he was referred to a desk sergeant. The desk sergeant asked him whether the bag was
recovered from him, and he replied that he had no knowledge about that bag. He was not assisted by counsel during the
investigation. He was also incarcerated in a small cell for about ten days before he was brought to Manila City Jail. At the
Office of the City Prosecutor, he met his lawyer for the first time. [9]

On September 25, 2001, the trial court rendered a decision, the fallo of which reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered pronouncing accused ZAFRA MARAORAO y MACABALANG


guilty beyond reasonable doubt of possession of 1,280.081 grams of methylamphetamine hydrochloride
without license or prescription, penalized under Section 16 in relation to Section 20 of Republic Act No.
6425, as amended, and sentencing said accused to reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine of P5,000,000.00,
plus the costs.

In the service of his sentence, the full time during which the accused has been under preventive
imprisonment should be credited in his favor provided that he had agreed voluntarily in writing to abide
with the same disciplinary rules imposed on convicted prisoner. Otherwise, he should be credited with
four-fifths (4/5) only of the time he had been under preventive imprisonment.

Exhibit B, which consists of 1,280.081 grams of methylamphetamine hydrochloride, is confiscated and


forfeited in favor of the Government. Within ten (10) days following the promulgation of this judgment,
the Branch Clerk of this Court, is ordered to turn over, under proper receipt, the regulated drug involved
in this case to the Dangerous Drugs Custodian, National Bureau of Investigation, as appointed by the
Dangerous Drugs Board, for appropriate disposition.

SO ORDERED.[10]

Aggrieved, appellant filed a Notice of Appeal. [11] The entire records of the case were elevated to this Court. Pursuant to
our Decision in People v. Mateo,[12] however, the case was transferred to the CA for appropriate action and disposition.

At the CA, appellant raised the following assignment of errors:

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE FABRICATED AND
COACHED TESTIMONY OF THE STAR PROSECUTION WITNESS.

II

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN DISREGARDING THE ACCUSED'S DEFENSE OF


DENIAL.[13]

On March 1, 2006, the CA rendered the assailed Decision, to wit:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is DENIED for lack of merit. The Decision dated 25
September 2001 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 35 in Crim. Case No. 01-188945 is
hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against appellant.

SO ORDERED.[14]

In affirming the RTC Decision, the CA held that there was no showing that the trial court overlooked,
misunderstood or misapplied a fact or circumstance of weight and substance which would have affected the case. It gave
credence to the testimony of PO3 Vigilla and found appellant's defense of denial inherently weak. Furthermore, the CA
held that appellant was lawfully searched as a consequence of his valid warrantless arrest.
Hence, this present recourse.

In his Supplemental Brief,[15] appellant stresses that PO3 Vigilla testified that when they first saw appellant, he
was talking with a certain person. It was appellants companion who scampered away upon seeing the police. PO3 Vigilla
further testified that appellant tried to flee but they were able to arrest him before he could do so. Appellant argues that his
alleged attempt to flee does not constitute a crime that should have prompted the police to arrest him. Since his arrest was
illegal, he contends that the subsequent search made by the police was likewise illegal, and the shabu supposedly
recovered from him is inadmissible in evidence.

The appeal is meritorious.

We have repeatedly held that the trial courts evaluation of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is entitled to
great respect and will not be disturbed on appeal. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. We have reviewed such factual
findings when there is a showing that the trial judge overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some fact or circumstance
of weight and substance that would have affected the case. [16]

It is well-settled that an appeal in a criminal case opens the whole case for review. This Court is clothed with ample
authority to review matters, even those not raised on appeal, if we find them necessary in arriving at a just disposition of
the case. Every circumstance in favor of the accused shall be considered. This is in keeping with the constitutional
mandate that every accused shall be presumed innocent unless his guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt. [17]

Now, in order to convict appellant for illegal possession of a dangerous drug, or the shabu in this case, the prosecution
evidence must prove beyond reasonable doubt the following elements: (1) the appellant was in possession of an item or
object that is identified to be a prohibited or dangerous drug; (2) such possession was not authorized by law; and (3) the
appellant freely and consciously possessed the drug. [18] In this case, the fact of possession by appellant of the bag
containing the shabu was not established in the first place.

A careful perusal of the testimony of PO3 Vigilla reveals a glaring discrepancy which both the trial and the appellate
courts overlooked. In their Joint Affidavit,[19] arresting officers PO3 Vigilla, PO2 Abella, PO1 dela Cruz and SPO1
Gamit stated that they spotted two unidentified persons standing and seemingly conversing a few meters ahead of them.
However, when one of them noticed our presence, he hastily r[a]n away heading towards the Muslim Center leaving
behind the other person and a maroon colored bag with Adidas marking in the pavement. In other words, the maroon bag
was left behind by the man who ran away. But at the trial, PO3 Vigilla testified during direct examination that they spotted
two persons talking to each other, and upon noticing them, one of them scampered away and was chased by my
companions while the other one dropped a bag, sir.[20] Presumably, under his testimony, the bag was now held by the
one who did not run away. Later, in another part of his testimony, he again changed this material fact. When he was asked
by Prosecutor Senados as to who between the two persons they saw talking to each other ran away, PO3 Vigilla categorically
answered, [t]he one who is holding a bag, sir. [21] Such material inconsistency leaves much to be desired about the
credibility of the prosecutions principal witness and casts reasonable doubt as to appellants guilt for it renders
questionable whether he in fact held the bag with intention to possess it and its contents.

In every criminal prosecution, the State must prove beyond reasonable doubt all the elements of the crime charged and the
complicity or participation of the accused. [22] While a lone witness testimony is sufficient to convict an accused in certain
instances, the testimony must be clear, consistent, and crediblequalities we cannot ascribe to this case.Jurisprudence is
consistent that for testimonial evidence to be believed, it must both come from a credible witness and be credible in itself
tested by human experience, observation, common knowledge and accepted conduct that has evolved through the years.
[23]
Clearly from the foregoing, the prosecution failed to establish by proof beyond reasonable doubt that appellant was
indeed in possession of shabu, and that he freely and consciously possessed the same.

The presumption of innocence of an accused in a criminal case is a basic constitutional principle, fleshed out by
procedural rules which place on the prosecution the burden of proving that an accused is guilty of the offense charged by
proof beyond reasonable doubt. Corollary thereto, conviction must rest on the strength of the prosecutions evidence and
not on the weakness of the defense. [24] In this case, the prosecutions evidence failed to overcome the presumption of
innocence, and thus, appellant is entitled to an acquittal.

Indeed, suspicion no matter how strong must never sway judgment. Where there is reasonable doubt, the accused
must be acquitted even though their innocence may not have been established. The Constitution presumes a person
innocent until proven guilty by proof beyond reasonable doubt. When guilt is not proven with moral certainty, it has been
our policy of long standing that the presumption of innocence must be favored, and exoneration granted as a matter of
right.[25]

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated March 1, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No.
01600 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and appellant Zafra Maraorao y Macabalang is hereby ACQUITTED of the
offense charged.

The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is directed to cause the immediate release of appellant, unless the latter
is being lawfully held for other cause/s; and to inform the Court of the date of his release, or the reasons for his
confinement, within five (5) days from notice.

With costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.
5. People vs. Geron, GR No. 113788, 17 October 1997

DECISION
ROMERO, J.:

Here is yet another instance where the Court, aware as it is of the persistent calls of the public for the conviction of
societys misfits, finds itself constrained to apply the maxim Better to free a guilty man than to punish the innocent. In a
recent decision, the Court aptly stated: It is better to liberate a guilty man than to unjustly keep in prison one whose guilt
has not been proved by the required quantum of evidence. [1] Hence, despite the Courts support to ardent crusaders waging
all out war against felons on the loose, when the Peoples evidence fail to indubitably prove the accuseds authorship of the
crime of which he stands accused, then it is the Courts duty, and the accuseds right, to proclaim his innocence. Acquittal,
therefore, is in order.
This is an appeal stemming from the prosecution and subsequent conviction of herein accused-appellant Norlito
Geron y Villanueva under an information for robbery with homicide [2] the accusatory portion of which reads:

That on or about the 29th day of April, 1990, at about 9:00 oclock in the evening, at Brgy. Pantay na Bata, Municipality of
Tanauan, Province of Batangas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above named accused
armed with an axe and nylon cord with intent of (sic) gain and by means of violence and intimidation against persons, did
then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, rob and carry away one (1) radio cassette, [3] one (1)
Walkman[4] and cash money amounting [to] Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00), Philippine Currency, belonging to
Teodora Valencia, to the damage and prejudice of the said owner in the aforementioned amount and that on the occasion
of and by reason of said robbery, the said accused, with intent to kill, with treachery and evident premeditation, did then
and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and hit with the said axe and tied with the said nylon cord
Teodora Valencia y Valencia and Martin Valencia y Vicencio, which directly caused their instantan[e]ous death. [5]

A plea of not guilty to the said charge having been entered by the accused at arraignment, trial ensued. The
prosecution presented seven (7) witnesses.
Evidence for the Prosecution
First to testify for the State was Juan Valencia, Teodora Valencias husband and father of Martin Valencia, who, in his
sworn statement[6] and answers on direct and cross-examination in court, [7] declared that the accused worked for his wife
and son at Barangay Pantay na Bata three months prior to the incident. Although he was not with his family at the time, he
was convinced that the accused committed the crime because only the latter had access to their house. This belief was
reenforced when he saw items allegedly belonging to the victims in accuseds possession upon his arrest and detention in
jail. He identified these items as one radio cassette (hereinafter the radio) and a Walkman (hereinafter the cassette player)
whose photographs were marked for exhibit by the prosecution. [8] Likewise missing, according to him, were money and
pieces of jewelry but the records failed to show if these were ever recovered from the accused.
PO3 Eduardo Lirio of the Philippine National Police (PNP) station in Tanauan, Batangas, whose testimony [9] was
corroborated by Capt. Tomas Lirio told the court that he and Capt. Lirio rushed to Barangay Pantay na Bata after receiving
a report regarding the incident at 6:30 oclock in the morning of April 30, 1990. At the crime scene, they found the lifeless
body of Teodora who appeared to have been strangled and fatally wounded at the nape, as well as that of Martin, who
likewise sustained wounds on his head. They also discovered after further investigation an axe and a nylon
cord[10] believed to have been used in killing the victims. This witness acknowledged his awareness that some items inside
the victims house were missing as he was informed by Juan Valencia himself about it and that the accused surrendered a
radio and a cassette player upon his arrest. Other possible motives in the commission of the crime were explored but they
concluded that it was a case of robbery in view of the missing items retrieved from the accused.
Teodoras niece Melecia A. Vicencio recalled having encountered the accused at about 4:30 oclock in the morning of
April 30, 1990, when she boarded a jeepney driven by Anselmo Trinidad at Barangay Pantay na Matanda, Tanauan,
Batangas. The accused whom she only knew by face was already sitting at the rear end of the vehicle carrying a chicken, a
black bag and a black-colored radio which she identified as the same radio belonging to one of the victims and offered in
evidence by the prosecution. She also remembered very well that during their trip, accused seemed perturbed and showed
signs of fear (lagi siyang nakalingon sa hulihan ng jeep na aming sinasakyan na sa aking tingin ay parang may
kinatatakutan). After a while, accused hastily got off at a bus stop without bothering to claim his change. [11]
Jeepney driver Anselmo Trinidad supported Vicencios testimony in his sworn statement before the police
authorities[12] where he declared having learned about the incident after his return trip to Alabang and that he also knew the
accused as Teodoras helper. He positively identified the accused in court and the radio the latter was carrying while on
board his jeepney.[13]
Patrolman Avelino Manalo, a nephew of Teodora and accuseds former employer, related to the court that he was
informed of the victims death when Teodoras brother, Cresencio Vicencio, came to him at about 6:00 oclock in the
morning of April 30, 1990. Since the victims house was only a few meters away, both of them dashed to the place and
immediately proceeded thereafter to the Tanauan police station where he allegedly got orders from the station commander
to arrest the accused. With one Sgt. Celedonio Alcantara, he then went to the Batangas pier and, having found the accused
lying in the upper deck of a boat listening to a cassette player, apprehended him. Seized from the accused were a cassette
player and a radio found beside him, both of which were later identified as the same articles photographed and shown in
Exhibits C and C-1.[14]
Finally, the Municipal Health Officer, Dr. Priscilla Guzman, testified [15] on the death certificates she issued for
Teodora Valencia[16] and Martin Valencia, [17] as well as post-mortem reports on their corpses. Her findings indicated that
Teodora sustained injuries consisting of hematoma, occiput; skull fracture, post-auricular right; hacking wound, ear left;
and hematoma around the neck. Martin, on the other hand, had a stab wound, occipital; hacking wound from right nasal
bridge extending up to the right eye; and hacking wound at the right side of the mouth. This witness calculated that the
victims could have died at around 8:30 oclock in the evening of April 29, 1990.
Evidence for the Defense
The accused had an entirely different version of the incident. [18] He pointed to Patrolman Avelino Manalo who
allegedly harbored a grudge against the victims regarding a piece of land. According to him, he knew about this because
he had twice been prevented by Manalo from tilling a portion of the victims farm on the ground that the same was his.
Against this background, accused narrated that on the night of April 29, 1990, he and the two victims were about to
sleep when the door suddenly swung open and Manalo, without a word, hacked Teodora at the nape with an
axe. Horrified, he scampered for safety in the kitchen and hid between two jars (tapayan), both of which were two and a
half feet high. Manalos two other companions gave chase but fortunately, they failed to find him because the kitchen was
dark. Frustrated, the assailants turned to Martin who remained standing beside his bed.While in that position, Manalo
mercilessly delivered the fatal blow on the defenseless victim, thus, causing his instantaneous death.
After the assault, Manalo ordered his two companions to search the house, particularly Teodoras room. The two
immediately obeyed but reported that their efforts were fruitless. The trio then left the place leaving behind the murder
weapon. After assuring himself that the assailants were gone, the accused hurriedly took his bag and left the house without
ascertaining whether the victims were still alive. Neither did he report the incident to the police because he knew Manalo
was also assigned to the Tanauan police station.
Upon leaving the house, accused proceeded to the poblacion. Fearing that he might encounter the killers of Teodora
and Martin, he decided to wait till daybreak, when he took a jeepney to Tanauan and then a bus to Batangas pier where he
planned to board a boat bound for Mindoro as a stowaway. However, Manalo and Alcantara nabbed him even before the
boat could leave the pier. From there, Manalo and two other companions brought him to a place called Sambat where he
was allegedly maltreated by his captors for four days until he was taken by Maj. Cesar Valencia, another son of the
deceased Teodora to the Municipal Building. Despite his transfer, Manalo and Alcantara continued maltreating him
whenever Major Valencia was not around. He was even electrocuted in order to implicate a certain Randy as the
perpetrator of the crime.
When asked why he had in his possession at the time of his arrest, a cassette player and a radio belonging to Martin,
accused explained that these were already in his bag even prior to the incident because Martin told him that if someone
should steal their cow, he might fail to notice it above the din of the radio. He has since had the items in his possession.
When presented by the defense, Major Valencia testified that he knew that the accused worked for the victims
because he was informed of this fact eight months before the incident. He likewise admitted having requested the
accuseds transfer of detention and that he filed a motion to implead Manalo as an additional accused to clear doubts on the
latters possible participation in the crime. The records reveal, however, that subsequent investigation against Manalo was
closed and terminated for lack of evidence. [19]
After trial, the court a quo rendered the appealed decision[20] dated November 25, 1993, finding the accused guilty of
the crime charged and, accordingly, sentenced him as follows:
WHEREFORE, Norlito Geron is hereby found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of robbery with double
homicide and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua; to indemnify the heirs of Teodora Valencia in the
amount of P50,000.00 and the heirs of Martin Valencia in the amount of P50,000.00; and to pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

To support the conviction, the trial court relied on what it believed were inculpatory circumstantial evidence which,
when taken together, led to the inescapable conclusion that the accused was indeed the author of the crime, thus:

On the basis of the evidence that accused Norlito Geron was at the house of the victims Teodora Valencia and Martin
Valencia, at the time they were axed to death, as he himself admitted; that he took with him articles, consisting of a radio
casette and a radio walkman, which were taken from the house of the victims; that he fled [from] the scene of the crime
and boarded a boat on his way to Mindoro; that when arrested he was lying on the upper deck of the boat nonchalantly
listening to the radio attached to his ears; that, while he testified that he had no money and was on board the boat only as a
stowaway, the driver and a passenger in the jeep he rode on his way away from the scene of the crime, declared that he
paid his fare and did not bother to get his change; that his being in the upper deck of the boat shows that he was a paying
passenger and not a stowaway; and that he did not even bother to report to anyone the dastardly and brutal slaying of the
victims, all point to his criminal involvement and participationboth in the slaying of his employers, Teodora Valencia and
Martin Valencia, and that the motive was robbery as shown by his taking away of two radios, which he admitted belonged
to Martin, and the ransacking of the cabinet in the room of Teodora Valencia.

The evidence is sufficient for a finding of guilt by circumstantial evidence. x x x. (Emphasis supplied).

We cannot concur with the findings of the trial court.


Doubtless, it is not only by direct evidence that an accused may be convicted of the crime for which he is charged.
[21]
There is in fact consensus that resort to circumstantial evidence is essential since to insist on direct testimony would, in
many cases, result in setting felons free and deny proper protection to the community. [22] However, certain guidelines have
been evolved for circumstantial evidence to be acceptable. Like a tapestry made up of strands which create a pattern when
interwoven,[23] a judgment of conviction based on circumstantial evidence can be upheld only if the circumstances proved
constitute an unbroken chain which leads to one fair and reasonable conclusion which points to the accused, to the
exclusion of all others, as the guilty person. [24] All the circumstances must be consistent with each other, consistent with
the hypothesis that the accused is guilty and at the same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent, and with
every other rationale except that of guilt. [25]
Upon a close scrutiny of the records and bearing in mind the standards set forth above, the Court is of the view that
the circumstantial evidence proffered by the prosecution, contrary to the trial courts position, do not show beyond
reasonable doubt that the accused indeed perpetrated the crime of which he stands charged. The supposed string of
circumstances relied upon by the court a quo to secure a conviction consists of the following:

(1) Accused was present at the crime scene;

(2) Accused had in his possession articles belonging to the victims at the time he was apprehended;

(3) Accused fled from the crime scene and boarded a boat bound for Mindoro;

(4) Accused was at the upper deck of the boat when arrested;

(5) Accused paid his jeepney fare and did not bother to claim his change; and

(6) Accused never reported the incident to anyone.

The above circumstances, as will be shown below, point to no inference exclusively consistent with the guilt of the
accused.
First, the mere presence of the accused at the locus criminis and his possession of certain items belonging to the
victims, while it may have pointed the finger of suspicion at him, cannot be solely interpreted to mean that he committed
the robbery and the attendant killings. His presence at the victims house was not unusual as he was serving there as their
household helper. Along the same line, accuseds unrefuted explanation that Martin himself placed the radio and cassette
player in his bag prior to the incident was equally plausible. It was neither extraordinary nor unlikely that Martin could
have allowed the accused to use and keep them as these items could have been easily lent. At any rate, the mere
possession by the accused of items allegedly stolen, without more, cannot conduce to a single conclusion that robbery
indeed took place or at least was the primary motive for the killings. In the absence of positive and indubitable evidence
showing unlawful taking by the accused by means of violence against or intimidation of persons, the prosecution cannot
rely with certitude on the fact of possession alone. The Courts application of the presumption that a person found in
possession of the personal effects belonging to a person robbed and killed is considered the author of the aggression, the
death of the person, as well as the robbery committed, has been invariably limited to cases where such possession is either
unexplained or that the proffered explanation is rendered implausible in view of independent evidence inconsistent
thereto.
For instance, in People v. Fulinara,[26] we applied the presumption to that case because the accused therein had two
irreconcilable versions as to how the car belonging to a victim of kidnapping was subsequently found with him. More than
that, there was independent testimonial evidence presented by the prosecution positively identifying the accused and
describing in detail how the seizure of the victim took place with his participation.
Similarly, we enunciated the same rationale in People v. Corpuz, [27] also a case of robbery with homicide, in view of
the fact that accused was unable to explain the incriminating evidence consisting of the victims bag and shirt found in his
possession after the incident and that there were also other circumstances independent of the fact of said possession upon
which his guilt was predicated.
Since the above factual considerations do not obtain in the case at bar, we can find no compelling reason to arrive at a
similar conclusion here.
Moreover, we have underscored time and again that in cases of robbery with homicide, the taking of personal
property with intent to gain must itself be established beyond reasonable doubt. Conclusive evidence proving the physical
act of asportation by the accused must be presented by the prosecution. [28] It must be shown that the original criminal
design of the culprit was robbery and the homicide was perpetrated with a view to the consummation of the robbery by
reason or on the occasion of the robbery.[29]
Thus, in People v. Parel,[30] a case involving a similar challenge to the sufficiency of circumstantial evidence against
the accused, we declared emphatically that:

To sustain a conviction for the complex crime of robbery with homicide , which is primarily an offense against property, it
is essential that the robbery itself be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Proof of the homicide alone is not sufficient to
support a conviction for the crime of [robbery with homicide]. The taking with intent to gain of personal property
belonging to another by means of violence against or intimidation of person or using force upon things are the essential
elements of robbery. There is robbery with homicide when by reason or on the occasion of a robbery with the use of
violence against or intimidation of persons, the crime of homicide shall have been committed.

In the instant case, two things must be borne in mind: first, there was no eyewitness either to the robbery or to the
homicide; and second, none of the things already stolen was ever recovered. If there was any proof to support the charge,
the same was entirely circumstantial in character. xxx.

As there was no eyewitness to the alleged robbery, and although the evidence already showed that at the time of the
killing the money in the bag of the deceased was missing, it cannot be presumed that there was robbery. It is essential to
prove intent to rob. This necessarily includes evidence to the effect that the accused carried away the effects or personalty
of the deceased. In the instant case, there is absence of positive proof appellant intended to rob the deceased or that he was
the one who carried away the money belonging to the victim. His mere presence at the locus criminis is not sufficient to
implicate him. [Emphasis supplied].

Second, accuseds alleged flight from the crime scene, his failure to immediately report the gruesome incident and the
fact that he was seen apparently perturbed while on board a jeepney in the early morning of April 30, 1990, are equally
susceptible of interpretation which would be consistent with his innocence. While we adhere to the rule that flight is
competent evidence to indicate guilt, its application, however, is qualified by either the presence or absence of sufficient
explanation therefor. We have ruled that flight, when adequately explained, cannot be attributed to ones consciousness of
guilt.[31] In the case at bar, accused himself presented an unrebutted explanation that he fled, not because of guilt for
having perpetrated a crime, but rather for fear that the suspects who knew he witnessed the dastardly act would run after
him.[32] Considering that the accused in so testifying was subjected to the usual rigors of cross examination by the
prosecution, we have no reason to doubt its veracity.
Third, the trial courts intimation that the accused indeed robbed the victims in view of his ability to pay his boat fare
to the extent of foregoing his change when he took a jeepney likewise deserves little consideration. These circumstances,
even if taken together with the rest, do not conclusively demonstrate that the money he used were proceeds of an unlawful
taking. In fact, the existence of the Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) and pieces of jewelry alleged to have been lost
and stolen by the accused was not adequately established by the prosecution. Furthermore, it is preposterous to think that
the only way the accused could have paid for his fare was through stolen money. The records do not reveal that the
accused has been penniless. From what we have gathered, it appears that accused was employed as a household helper of
the victims, hence, we cannot reasonably discount the possibility that he had money of his own.
All told, whatever apparent weakness is discernible in the accuseds defense is no reason for us to sustain his
conviction. The established doctrine adhered to consistently by the Court is that the conviction of the accused must rest on
the strength of the prosecution and not on the weakness of the defense. [33] As a general rule, the doctrine of reasonable
doubt applies only to criminative, not exculpatory facts; accused is not required to establish matters in mitigation or
defense beyond a reasonable doubt, nor in most jurisdiction, is he required to establish the truth of such matters by a
preponderance of evidence, or even to a reasonable probability. It is sufficient if he satisfies the court of their truth by
credible and preponderating evidence. [34]The truth is that it is not even necessary for him to explain, on some theory
consistent with innocence, any fact or circumstance relied on by the prosecution. [35]
Furthermore, the circumstances proffered by the prosecution and relied upon by the trial court, albeit taken to be
established and credible, only go so far as to create a suspicion that the accused probably perpetrated the crime
charged. But suspicion alone is insufficient, the required quantum of evidence being proof beyond reasonable
doubt. Hence the saying: The sea of suspicion has no shore, and the court that embarks upon it is without rudder or
compass.[36]
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is hereby GRANTED and the decision of Judge Flordelis Ozaeta Navarro in
Criminal Case No. 1890 dated November 25, 1993, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accused-appellant Norlito Geron y
Villanueva is hereby ACQUITTED of all charges against him on ground of reasonable doubt. Consequently, let the
accused be immediately released from his place of confinement unless there is reason to detain him further for any other
legal or valid cause. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
6. People vs. Santos Jr., GR No. 175593, 17 October 2007

DECISION

TINGA, J.:

Salvador Santos, Jr. y Salvador (appellant) was charged before the Regional Trial Court of San Mateo, Rizal, Branch 77
with illegal sale and possession of shabu in violation of Sections 5 and 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165 [1] (R.A.
9165), to wit:

CRIMINAL CASE No. 6365

That on or about the 28th day of August 2002 in the Municipality of San Mateo, Province of Rizal,
Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without being
authorized by law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly sell, deliver and give away to
another person one (1) heat-sealed plastic sachet of white crystalline substance weighing 0.08 gram which
was found positive result (sic) to the screening and confirmatory test for Methamphetamine
Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[2]

CRIMINAL CASE No. 6366

That on or about the 28th day of August 2002 in the Municipality of San Mateo, Province of Rizal,
Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, not being
authorized by law, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly have in his possession and
control white crystalline substance placed in twelve (12) heat sealed transparent plastic sachets with a
total weight of 1.36 grams which were found positive to the test for Methamphetamine Hydrochloride, a
dangerous drug.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[3]

Appellant entered a negative plea to both charges. [4] The two cases were jointly heard. At the trial, the prosecution
presented its lone witness, PO3 Juanito L. Tougan.

Tougan, who was assigned at the Intelligence Section of the San Mateo, Rizal Police Station, testified that at around 9:50
p.m. on 28 August 2002, he, together with SPO1 Arellano and PO2 Pontilla received information from their civilian
informant that a certain Badong Santos was selling illegal drugs. The police officers right away planned the arrest of
herein appellant and they agreed that Tougan would act as a poseur-buyer. Together with the civilian informant, they
headed to appellants residence. There, Arellano and Pontilla positioned themselves more or less ten (10) meters away
from the house where they could observe the impending transaction without being noticed. It was dark outside but the
house was well-lit. Appellant opened the gate and upon seeing the civilian informant uttered, Pare. The civilian informant
replied, Pare, kukuha kami ng panggamit.Tougan handed appellant the marked money worth P200.00 which
bore Tougans initials, JLT. After taking the money, appellant went back inside the house and returned with a plastic sachet
of shabu. Tougan got hold of the plastic sachet of shabu, held appellants hand and introduced himself as a
policeman. Tougan then directed appellant to empty his pockets of their contents. Tougan recovered the two (2) one
hundred peso bills used as marked money and twelve (12) plastic sachets of shabu contained inside a white box. The
police officers thereafter brought appellant to the police station. There, Tougan wrote his initials on all the thirteen (13)
sachets of shabu. A document was prepared for these to be examined at the PNP Crime Laboratory. Tougan also stated
that he had executed a sworn statement regarding the buy-bust incident. [5]

On cross-examination, Tougan stated that appellant had been included in a drug-watch list submitted by
the barangay captain containing the names of drug pushers in the area. At the time of appellants apprehension, however,
the barangay captain had already discontinued submission of the said list to the police. Tougan was directed by the judge
to bring to court the watch list he had talked about. [6]

At the next hearing, Tougan presented the watch list for the years 2000 and 2001. He explained that appellant was not
included in the said list as the latter was then detained in the provincial jail for another criminal charge. He disclosed,
however, that the latest watch list in possession of the police department was dated July 2003. [7]

As lone witness for the defense, appellant testified that at around 11:00 p.m. on 28 August 2002, he was at home fixing a
fluorescent lamp. His wife and three children were there with him. Suddenly, they heard a sound coming from the gate.
Appellant peeped through the window and saw policemen Tougan, Arellano and Pontilla. He was able to recognize them
because he had served as their informer for almost three months. He went out of the house to greet them and in response,
the policemen told him that they had been looking for him. They then held his hands and pushed him into the
house. Tougan shoved him onto the sofa, and Arellano and Pontilla searched the house. Tougan frisked him and
confiscated his money of P180.00. Meantime, Pontilla searched the table and got hold of a set of dart pins owned by
appellants son. Appellant asked the police officers why they came to his house and they replied that they had been
harboring a grudge against him because he no longer wanted to serve as their informer. He saw Pontilla take a box out of
his pocket and heard him say that it contained shabu and drug paraphernalia. He told Pontilla that if the box was his he
would not have placed it on the table but instead hidden it from his
children. Pontilla replied, tumigil ka diyan, tumahimik ka. At the time of the commotion, appellant stated that the members
of his family stayed in another room and were very afraid. Pontilla told appellants wife, ilabas mo na iyan to which she
replied, Ano ang ilalabas ko? Pinerwisyo ninyo na nga kami. Afterwards, appellant was handcuffed and dragged to the
police station where he was detained at once without being informed of his rights. [8]

Appellant also testified that aside from being a police informer, he also worked as a tricycle driver. He likewise stated that
he was applying for a job at the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor and that he had a recommendation from police
officer Amatong. He denied being a drug pusher, as well as receiving the marked money. And while appellant believed
that the evidence against him had been planted, he did not file a complaint against the police officers because nobody
would attend to his complaint.[9]

On cross-examination, appellant stated that he volunteered to be a police informer and served as such from May to July
2002. During this period, he reported to the police officers four times and had acted three times as a poseur-buyer. He,
however, decided to sever his ties with the police officers as the latter reneged on their promise to give him money each
time a drug pusher was arrested. He also claimed that the police officers had him arrested in order to conceal the illegal
acts they had committed during arrests, such as confiscating all the belongings and monies of the person arrested. But he
admitted having been previously indicted in two (2) cases for selling and possessing shabu.[10] On re-direct examination,
he revealed that he was released from imprisonment on 13 December 2001. Thereafter, he worked as a tricycle driver and
applied for a job in the municipal government of San Mateo, Rizal.[11]

After trial, the trial court rendered a Decision [12] dated 17 November 2004 disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, accused SALVADOR SANTOS Y SALVADOR is hereby


found GUILTY as charged beyond reasonable doubt and is hereby sentenced to Life Imprisonment and to
pay a fine of FIVE HUNDRED THOSAND (sic) (P500,000.00) PESOS for Violation of Section 5, of
R.A. 9165 and to suffer an imprisonment of TWELVE (12) YEARS AND ONE DAY TO TWENTY
YEARS (20) and to pay a fine of THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND (P300,000.00) PESOS for
violation of Section 11, of the same law.
SO ORDERED.[13]

Appellant elevated the judgment of conviction to the Court of Appeals. Before the Court of Appeals, he argued that the
trial court erred: (1) in convicting him of the crimes charged despite the prosecutions failure to prove his guilt beyond
reasonable doubt; and (2) in giving credence to the testimony of the prosecution witness. [14]

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), in lieu of an appellees brief, filed a Manifestation and Motion for Acquittal.
[15]
It submitted that there existed reasonable doubt on the culpability of appellant as the identity of the corpus delicti was
not sufficiently established and the testimony of the lone prosecution witness, Tougan, was of doubtful veracity. [16] It
further maintained that should there be reservations regarding the innocence of appellant, the equipoise rule should apply.
[17]

The Court of Appeals in a Decision[18] dated 31 July 2006 in CA G.R. CR-H.C. No. 01227 affirmed with modification the
decision of the trial court. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present appeal is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit. The
appealed DECISION dated November 17, 2004 of the Regional Trial Court of San Mateo, Rizal, Branch
77 is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that the accused-appellant is hereby instead sentenced
in Criminal Case No. 6366 to suffer an indeterminate prison term of eight (8) years and one (1) day
of prision mayor to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal. Needless
to add, the P300,000.00 fine STANDS.

The regulated drug subject of this case is hereby ordered confiscated and forfeited in favor of the
Government to be disposed of in accordance with law.

With costs against the accused-appellent.

SO ORDERED.[19]

The Court of Appeals held that absent any arbitrariness or oversight in the appreciation of facts or circumstances of weight
and substance, it would not disturb on appeal the trial courts evaluation of the credibility of witnesses. The Court of
Appeals, moreover, stated that police officers involved in buy-bust operations are presumed to have performed their duties
regularly. The fact that appellants name was not actually found in the drug-watch list provided by Tougan did not
constitute inconsistency nor did it render doubtful his entire testimony. The watch list was brought up by the prosecution
only to highlight the fact that appellant was previously involved in the illegal peddling of drugs and that the buy-bust
operation was prompted by reliable information.[20]
The Court of Appeals dismissed appellants defense of frame-up as self-serving and uncorroborated. It ruled that the
evidence on record supports his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. [21] The appellate court, however, modified the penalty
imposed by the trial court in Criminal Case No. 6366. The appellate court reduced the prison term of twelve (12) years
and one (1) day to twenty (20) years, imposed by the trial court, to an indeterminate prison term of eight (8) years and one
(1) day of prision mayor to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal. The fine
of P300,000.00 stood.[22]

Appellant is now before the Court reiterating his previous submissions. Through his Manifestation (In Lieu of
Supplementary Brief)[23] dated 13 April 2007, appellant stated that he had exhaustively argued all the relevant issues in his
brief filed before the Court of Appeals. Thus, he manifested that he was adopting it as his supplemental brief. The OSG
likewise manifested that it was no longer filing a supplemental brief. [24]

There is merit in the appeal.

The Constitution mandates that an accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proven beyond reasonable
doubt. The prosecution has the burden to overcome such presumption of innocence by presenting the quantum of evidence
required. Corollarily, the prosecution must rest on its own merits and must not rely on the weakness of the defense. If the
prosecution fails to meet the required quantum of evidence, the defense may logically not even present evidence on its
own behalf. In which case, the presumption of innocence shall prevail and hence, the accused shall be acquitted. However,
once the presumption of innocence is overcome, the defense bears the burden of evidence to show reasonable doubt as to
the guilt of the accused. Reasonable doubt is that doubt engendered by an investigation of the whole proof and an inability
after such investigation to let the mind rest each upon the certainty of guilt. Absolute certainty of guilt is not demanded by
the law to convict a criminal charge, but moral certainty is required as to every proposition of proof requisite to constitute
the offense.[25]

In the case at bar, the testimony for the prosecution and for the defense are diametrically opposed to each other. The
prosecutions version of events solely consisted of Touganstestimony regarding the buy-bust operation whereas appellant,
who cried frame-up, was presented as the lone witness for the defense. In resolving such conflict, which involves the
credibility of witnesses, the usual rule is for the Court to respect the findings of the trial court, it having had the
opportunity to hear the witnesses themselves and to observe their deportment and manner of testifying during trial.
Nonetheless, the rule admits of certain exceptions. Thus, the factual findings of the trial court may be reversed if, by the
evidence or the lack of it, it appears that the trial court erred. [26]

The trial court decreed appellants guilt as follows:

His admission of knowing drug violators in San Mateo, only confirms the fact that he is one of them
and his nefarious activities resulted to his several arrest and convictions in two (2) Courts of San
Mateo, Rizal.

Accused, himself admitted he was arrested and convicted by RTC Branch 77 San Mateo, Rizal and
records of this Court confirms this fact. He averred, thus:

xxx

The two (2) drug cases previously filed with this Court, against the accused were Criminal cases nos.
3483-98 and 3484-98, which resulted to his convictions for possession and drug pushing and was
sentenced to a jail term of two (2) years for each case. Two (2) more cases were filed against him with
another Court, RTC. Br. 75 for violation of Section 16, R.A. 6425, as amended which also resulted to his
convictions and a jail term of one (1) year for each case, docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 3711 and 3819.

Accused allegation (sic) that he was illegally arrested because the police harbored a grudge against him
for refusing to continue to be their informer deserves scant consideration. The police has at their
disposable several informants who can help them in gathering information in their area of jurisdiction.
The loss of one (1) informant will not adversely affect their police operations on illegal drug activities.

Another allegation of the accused that the evidence against him was planted because he came to know
their illegal activities in apprehending drug violators by taking their belongings or their money is
unsubstantiated by evidence and cannot be given any credence.

xxx

If the policemen planted the drugs as alleged by the accused why did he not tell it to his wife or to any
member of his family or to anybody in their community or better still filed (sic) a complaint against the
abusive policemen. But not a whimper of the protest was heard from him belying his claim of being
framed-up.

The court has ruled in a litany of cases that frame-up, like alibi, is viewed with disfavor for it is self-
serving, it can easily be fabricated and is a common standard defense ploy in most prosecution for
violations of the Dangerous Drugs Act. Clear and convincing evidence is required to prove the
defense, which the accused in this case failed to sustain.

What the police operatives did was in accordance with law and absence of any proof of any wrong-
doing or ill-motive, the presumption of regularity in the performance of their official functions
prevail.

The elements necessary for the prosecution of illegal sale of drugs have been complied and proven. The
identity of the buyer and seller, the object and consideration and the delivery of the thing sold and
payment thereto.

In this case the buyer was the prosecution witness Tougan who acted as poseur buyer and the seller was
the herein accused. The object was the shabu sold in consideration of two (2) hundred pesos which was
received by the accused. The prohibited drugs confiscated were presented and identified by the
prosecution witness in Court, which was not objected to by the defense. No doubt the transaction or sale
found in the possession of the accused and they were all presented and identified by the accused with his
initials JLT.[27]

xxx

In a prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the following must be proven: (1) that the transaction or sale took
place; (2) the corpus delicti or the illicit drug was presented as evidence; and (3) that the buyer and seller were identified.
[28]
What is material is the proof that the transaction or sale actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of
the dangerous drug. The delivery of the contraband to the poseur-buyer and the receipt of the marked money
consummates the buy-bust transaction between the entrapping officers and the accused. [29]
An examination of the decision of the trial court reveals that apart from heavily relying on the sole testimony of Tougan, it
used appellants admission of his previous convictions, his declaration as a police informer and the presumption of
regularity of Tougans performance of his duties as anchor for finding appellant guilty.

The Court, however, finds such reliance on Tougans testimony misplaced. Other than his bare
statements, Tougans testimony is unsubstantiated by other proof that the alleged buy-bust operation, through which
appellant was apprehended, took place. In light of appellants theory that he was framed up, it is imperative that the
prosecution present more evidence to support Tougans allegations. The prosecution could have easily presented the other
police officers, namely Arrellano and Pontilla, who Tougan claimed were members of his backup team. As it is, the lack
of any other evidence to buttress Tougans declaration reduces it into a self-serving assertion. Curiously, the prosecution
never offered rebuttal evidence to refute appellants defense of frame-up. This omission does not hold well for the cause of
the prosecution. It creates doubts on whether there has actually been any buy-bust operation at all.

The Court also agrees with the OSGs contention that the inconsistencies in Tougans testimony on the matter of the list
should not be ignored.[30] During trial, when Tougan was asked whether appellants name appeared in the list, he
categorically answered in the affirmative. Then again, it surfaced that this assertion was untruthful as the list he had
brought to court did not contain appellants name. The Court believes that Tougans lack of candidness on this detail
renders the rest of his testimony doubtful.[31]

Moreover, the Court finds that the trial court erred in allowing Tougan to use the mantle of regularity of official functions
to prop up his allegations. The presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty cannot by itself overcome the
presumption of innocence nor constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt. As the Court ruled in People v. Ambrosio:[32]

The presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty cannot be used as basis for affirming
accused-appellants conviction because, [f]irst, the presumption is precisely just thata mere presumption.
Once challenged by evidence, as in this case, x x x [it] cannot be regarded as binding truth. Second, the
presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions cannot preponderate over the
presumption of innocence that prevails if not overthrown by proof beyond reasonable doubt. [33]

While buy-bust operations deserve judicial sanction if carried out with due regard for constitutional and legal safeguards,
it is well to recall that

x x x by the very nature of anti-narcotics operations, the need for entrapment procedures, the use of shady
characters as informants, the ease with which sticks of marijuana or grams of heroin can be planted in
pockets of or hands of unsuspecting provincial hicks, and the secrecy that inevitably shrouds all drug
deals, the possibility of abuse is great. Thus, courts have been exhorted to be extra vigilant in trying drug
cases lest an innocent person is made to suffer the unusually severe penalties for drug offenses. Needless
to state, the lower court should have exercised the utmost diligence and prudence in deliberating upon
accused-appellants guilt. It should have given more serious consideration to the pros and cons of the
evidence offered by both defense and the State and many loose ends should have been settled by the trial
court in determining the merits of the present case. [34]

Consequently, courts are required to put the prosecution evidence through the crucible of a severe testing, and the
presumption of innocence requires them to take a more than casual consideration of every circumstance or doubt favoring
the innocence of the accused.[35]

Significantly, the Court agrees with the OSGs observation that the identity of the corpus delicti has not been sufficiently
established. Tougans testimony does not definitively express that the confiscated plastic sachets of shabu have been
marked/initialed at the scene of the crime, according to proper procedure. Tougan testified as follows:
PUBLIC PROS. MAJOMOT

Q After that, what did you do after you recovered or confiscated these plastic sachets from the accused?

A After he was arrested, sir, we brought him to the police station.

Q After that, what happened next?

A When we reached the police station, sir, he gave his name as Salvador Santos.

Q What happened to the plastic sachets?

A I wrote my initials on all the plastic sachets or the evidence confiscated from him, sir, and a document
was prepared for them to be examined at the PNP Crime Laboratory. [36]

The case of People v. Lim[37] specifies that any apprehending team having initial control of illegal drugs and/or
paraphernalia should, immediately after seizure or confiscation, have the same physically inventoried and photographed in
the presence of the accused if there be any, and/or his representative, who shall be required to sign the copies of the
inventory and be given a copy thereof. The failure of the agents to comply with such a requirement raises doubt whether
what was submitted for laboratory examination and presented in court was the same drug and/or paraphernalia as that
actually recovered from the accused. It negates the presumption that official duties have been regularly performed by the
police officers.

On the point that appellant has previously been charged with and convicted of similar offenses, the Court believes that the
trial court wrongly considered such circumstance for the purpose of showing that he was likely to commit the crimes
charged in the indictment. Evidence of collateral offenses must not be received as substantive evidence of the offenses on
trial.[38]

Concededly, the evidence of the defense is weak and uncorroborated. This, however, cannot be used to advance the cause
of the prosecution as the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own weight and cannot be allowed to draw
strength from the weakness of the defense. [39] Moreover, when the circumstances are capable of two or more inferences, as
in this case, such that one of which is consistent with the presumption of innocence and the other is compatible with guilt,
the presumption of innocence must prevail and the court must acquit. [40]

All told, given the attendant circumstances, the Court entertains serious doubts as to the culpability of appellant and its
mind cannot rest easily upon the certainty of his guilt.

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated 17 November 2004 of the Regional Trial Court of San Mateo, Rizal, Branch 77 in
Criminal Case Nos. 6365 and 6366 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Appellant SALVADOR SANTOS, JR.
y SALVADOR is ACQUITTED of the crimes charged on the ground of reasonable doubt and ordered immediately
RELEASED from custody, unless he is being held for some other lawful cause.

The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is ORDERED to implement this decision forthwith and to INFORM this Court,
within five (5) days from receipt hereof, of the date appellant was actually released from confinement. Costs de officio.

SO ORDERED.
7. People vs. Olivo, GR No. 177768, 27 July 2009

DECISION

QUISUMBING, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision[1] dated November 30, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA- G.R. CR HC No.
00595 which had affirmed in toto the Decision[2] dated August 24, 2004 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City,
Branch 81, finding accused-appellants Charmen Olivo (Olivo), Nelson Danda (Danda), and Joey Zafra (Zafra) guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of robbery with homicide, with no aggravating nor mitigating circumstance, and
sentencing them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify, jointly and severally, the heirs of the victim,
Mariano Constantino, P65,000 as actual damages, P50,000 for the death of the victim, and P50,000 as moral damages.

Accused-appellants Olivo, Danda and Zafra were charged in an Information dated November 29, 2000, as follows:

The undersigned accuses CHARMEN OLIVO Y ALONG alias Lipay, NELSON DANDA Y
SAMBUTO alias Teng, and JOEY ZAFRA Y REYES, of the crime of Robbery with Homicide,
committed as follows:

That on or about the 21st day of November 2000, in Quezon City, Philippines, the said accused,
conspiring and confederating together and helping one another, with intent to gain and by means of force,
violence, and intimidation against persons, to wit: by then and there armed with guns forcibly entered the
hardware store of Mariano Constantino [y] Zoleta located at Eagle Street, Sitio Veterans B, Bgy. Bagong
Silangan, this City, then announced that it was [a] HOLD-UP and ordered Maricel Permejo, storekeeper
thereat, at gunpoint to give them the money of said store, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and
feloniously took, rob and carry away the total amount of P35,000.00 Philippine Currency, representing the
days earnings of said hardware store, that on the occasion of and by reason of the said robbery and in
pursuance of their conspiracy, the said accused with intent to kill, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and
feloniously attack, assault and employ personal violence upon the person of one MARIANO
CONSTANTINO Y ZOLETA, by then and there shooting him with a gun hitting him on the trunk and
extrem[i]ties, thereby inflicting upon said Mariano Constantino [y] Zoleta serious and mortal wounds which
were the direct and immediate cause of his death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of said Mariano
Constantino [y] Zoleta.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[3]

When arraigned on January 22, 2001, all of the accused-appellants pleaded not guilty. [4]

The evidence for the prosecution consisted of the oral testimonies of Maricel Permejo, storekeeper of the victim
Mariano Constantino, Pablito Constantino, the victims brother, SPO2 Joseph Dino (SPO2 Dino), medico-legal officer Dr.
Winston Tan, and Emelita Constantino, the victims wife. The defense, for its part, presented accused-appellants Olivo
and Zafra, Dominica Bernal, who was the landlady of Olivo and Danda, and Rodel de Belen who corroborated Zafras
testimony.

The prosecution, through the Office of the Solicitor General, narrates its version of the facts as follows:
On November 21, 2000, around 6:30 oclock in the evening, Maricel [Permejo] was tending the
store of the victim, Mariano Constantino in Bagong Silangan, Quezon City. Suddenly, three (3) armed
men entered the store and demanded money. When Maricel did not accede to the demand, one of the
armed men later identified as appellant Nelson Danda kicked her in the leg while his other companion,
appellant Joey Zafra got money from the cash register. When the store owner, Mariano Constantino, went
inside the store and shouted, the third companion, appellant Charmen Olivo poked a gun at him. Mariano
ran towards the back of the house but appellant Olivo nevertheless chased him. Thereafter, Maricel heard
successive shots and saw appellants Danda and Zafra going out of the store while the bloodied body of
Mariano was lying at the stairway of the house. The victim was taken to the hospital where he died upon
arrival.

Two days after the incident SPO2 Joseph Dino received an information from the Batasan Police
Station that they have three (3) suspects for drug violations and illegal possession of firearms. He
borrowed the suspects for identification by Maricel. When presented to her, she identified them as the
men who staged a hold up and shot the deceased.[5]

The defense, through the Public Attorneys Office, summarized its version of facts as follows:

EVIDENCE FOR THE PROSECUTION:

To prove the allegations in the Information, the prosecution presented Maricel [Permejo], Pablito
Constantino, SPO2 Joseph Dino, Dr. Winston Tan, and Emelita Constantino.

The evidence for the prosecution tends to establish that while Maricel [Permejo] was tending the
store of the late Mariano Constantino on 21 November 2000, three (3) armed men barged in at
around 6:30 oclock in the evening and ordered her to bring out the money. When she refused, accused
Nelson Danda kicked her leg while accused Joey Zafra proceeded to get the money amounting to
P35,000.00 from the cash register.

Meanwhile, the owner Constantino entered his store and shouted. Accused Charmen Olivo
pointed a gun at him. Constantino ran to the back of the house and accused Olivo chased him.Successive
gunshots were subsequently heard.

[Permejo] looked for her employer and found him wounded and bloodied along the stairway of
the house. She sought help from a neighbor and the victim was brought to the Fairview[General] Hospital
where he expired.

The cadaver was brought for autopsy to Camp Crame and Dr. Winston Tan, after the procedure,
found several gunshot wounds, the fatal among which was the one sustained on the right chest.

The cadaver was thereafter brought to the Dela Paz Funeral where he stayed for a day and a
night. The remains were then brought to Marinduque for the wake which lasted four (4) days and four (4)
nights. Emelita Constantino testified on the civil aspect of the case.

SPO2 Joseph Dino, an investigator at Camp Karingal, was designated to handle the case. He
went to the place of the incident and took the statement of Maricel [Permejo]. Two (2) days after, their
office received information that the Batasan Police Station has three (3) suspects for violation of Republic
Act (RA) 6425. SPO2 Dino borrowed the suspects and when he presented them to Permejo, the latter
identified them as the same persons who held them up and shot her employer.

EVIDENCE FOR THE DEFENSE:

The defense presented the following witnesses, to wit: Charmen Olivo, Dominica Bernal, Joey
Zafra and Rodel de Belen.

The evidence for the defense of accused Charmen Olivo and Nelson Danda shows that at
around 6:30 oclock in the evening of 21 November 2000, the accused were cleaning the house that they
rented from Dominica Bernal on 20 November 2000.

While accused Olivo was fetching water along Barangay Holy Spirit in Payatas, Quezon
City on 24 November 2000, policemen in civilian clothes mauled and arrested him sans a
warrant. Together with two (2) others, they were brought to Station 6 allegedly for violation of R.A.
6425. A woman came and accused Olivo was taken out. The policemen asked her, ito ba?which she
answered in the negative. The same question was repeated twice but the answer was not changed.
After a few days, the accused were imprisoned at Camp Karingal. They were asked their
names. The same woman arrived thereat and at a distance of 1 meters, accused Olivo heard the policemen
telling the woman ituro mo na. The woman then mentioned accused Olivos name.[6]

On August 24, 2004, the RTC rendered a decision convicting accused-appellants of the crime of robbery with
homicide. The dispositive portion of the decision states:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds accused Charmen Olivo y Along, Nelson
Danda y Sambuto and Joey Zafra y Reyes guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Robbery with
Homicide. There being no mitigating or aggravating circumstance, each accused is hereby sentenced to
suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua and is hereby ordered to indemnify, jointly and severally, the
heirs of the victim in the following amounts: P65,000.00 as actual damages, P50,000.00 for the death of
the victim and P50,000.00 as moral damages.

SO ORDERED.[7]

Accused-appellants Olivo and Danda appealed to the Court of Appeals.

In a Decision dated November 30, 2006, the Court of Appeals affirmed in toto the RTCs decision, as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is hereby DISMISSED. The assailed
decision is AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.[8]

Before this Court now, the issues raised by the accused-appellants are the following:
I.
THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANTS
CHARMEN OLIVO AND NELSON DANDA OF THE CRIME CHARGED DESPITE THE FAILURE
OF THE PROSECUTION TO PROVE THEIR GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.

II.
THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THERE WAS CONSPIRACY IN THE
CASE AT BAR.

III.
ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT ACCUSED-APPELLANTS CHARMEN OLIVO AND NELSON
DANDAS CULPABILITY WAS ESTABLISHED, THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN
CONVICTING THEM OF THE COMPLEX CRIME OF ROBBERY WITH HOMICIDE. [9]

The accused-appellants argue that in criminal prosecutions, the State has the burden of proving the guilt of the
accused beyond reasonable doubt. It has to prove the identity of the accused as the malefactor, as well as the fact of the
commission of the crime for which he is allegedly responsible. [10] They argue that it can be gleaned from the records of the
case that the prosecution relied mainly on the testimony of the alleged eyewitness Maricel Permejo, but her testimony
leaves much to be desired.[11] They argue that Maricel Permejo did not point to them as the malefactors and she only did so
upon the instruction given in Camp Karingal. They point out that they were invited allegedly for violation of the anti-
drugs law and were appalled to learn that they were charged with a different crime and the alleged witness was coached to
identify them. Evidently, they stress, their guilt has not been proved with the required quantum of evidence. Where the
peoples evidence fails to meet the quantum required to overcome the constitutional presumption of innocence, the accused
is entitled to acquittal regardless of the weakness of his defense of denial and uncorroborated alibi, for it is better to acquit
a guilty man than to unjustly keep in prison one whose guilt has not been proven beyond the required quantum of
evidence.[12]
The appellants further argue that while the alleged eyewitness claimed she saw the accused-appellant Joey Zafra
take the money from the cash register, she did not see how and who killed Mariano Constantino. She merely claimed that
she saw the accused-appellants armed and chased the deceased outside the store. They conclude that whether or not the
accused-appellants indeed committed homicide on the occasion of the robbery is a matter that has not been proven with
the required moral certainty of guilt.[13]

On the other hand, the prosecution, through the Office of the Solicitor General, argues that findings of fact of the
trial court are generally upheld on appeal and the accused-appellants are assailing the correctness of the findings of fact of
the trial court by impugning the credibility of the prosecution witness Maricel Permejo.[14] The prosecutionclaims that
contrary to the accused-appellants claim that the police officers taught the witness Maricel Permejo to point to them as the
perpetrators, her testimony is straightforward and direct. [15]

After review, we find that the accused-appellants should be acquitted.

It is settled that when the issue is the evaluation of the testimony of a witness or his credibility, this Court accords
the highest respect and even finality to the findings of the trial court, absent any showing that it committed palpable
mistake, misappreciation of facts or grave abuse of discretion. It is the trial court which has the unique advantage of
observing first-hand the facial expressions, gestures and the tone of voice of a witness while testifying. [16]

The well-entrenched rule is that findings of the trial court affirmed by the appellate court are accorded high
respect, if not conclusive effect, by this Court, absent clear and convincing evidence that the tribunals ignored,
misconstrued or misapplied facts and circumstances of substances such that, if considered, the same will warrant the
modification or reversal of the outcome of the case.[17]

Factual findings of trial courts, when substantiated by the evidence on record, command great weight and respect
on appeal, save only when certain material facts and circumstances were overlooked and which, if duly considered, may
vary the outcome of the case.[18]

In this case, the material fact and circumstance that the lone alleged eyewitness, Maricel Permejo, was not able to
identify the accused-appellants as the perpetrators of the crime, varies the outcome of this case. This circumstance was
established during the direct examination of Olivo and was not rebutted by the prosecution during cross-examination or in
its pleadings. Olivos testimony reads as follows:

xxxx
Q: Mr. Witness, when they brought you to Station 6[,] what happened there in Station 6?
A [(Charmen Olivo)]: A woman [(Maricel Permejo)] came in and the police took me out.

Q: After bringing you out[,] what happened when the certain woman arrived?
A: They questioned the woman sir.

Q: What did they ask the woman?


A: They asked the woman, [ito ba]? [T]he woman answered, [he is not the one sir.]

Q: How many times did they ask the woman that question, if they asked more than [once]?
A: Three (3) times sir.

Q: And what was the answer of that woman for the second and third time that they asked her
again?
A: Hindi po yan sir.[19] (Emphasis supplied.)

xxxx
It was only a few days after, when the accused-appellants were brought to Camp Karingal, that Maricel Permejo
was again asked to identify the accused-appellants. This time, she identified them as the perpetrators of the crime. Olivos
testimony reads as follows:
xxxx
Q: After that what happened?
A: The woman gave a negative answer.
After a few days, we were brought to Camp Karingal sir.

Q: When you were brought to Camp Karingal what happened there?


A: Our names were asked sir.

Q: Who took your names?


A: I do not know sir.

Q: What happened after somebody took your names while you were there at Camp Karingal?
A: We were put in prison sir.

Q: What happened after you were brought to the cell?


A: A woman arrived sir.

Q: Are you saying that that woman who arrived was the same woman that you saw there at Station 6?
A: Yes sir.

Q: When she arrived what did you notice that the poli[c]emen were doing while the woman arrived?
A: I saw the poli[c]emen teaching the woman sir.

Q: How do you know that the poli[c]em[e]n [were] te[a]ching the woman?
A: I heard them sir.

Q: How far were you from the police and this woman when you said you overheard them?
A: About one and one half me[t]ers sir.

Q: And what did the policem[e]n [do] when you said the policemen were teaching the woman[?] What
did the policem[e]n tell the woman?
A: The police said [ituro mo na].

Q: What did the woman do after the policem[e]n said [ituro mo na] did the[y] point at you and your
companion?
A: She mentioned my name sir.

Q: What did the woman [do] aside from mentioning your name?
Aside from the woman [giving] your name, [what else] did she do, if she did any?
A: No more sir.[20]

xxxx

The fact that Permejo was not able to identify accused-appellants as the perpetrators of the crime impinges
heavily on the credibility of prosecutions evidence. For if, indeed, the accused-appellants were the malefactors of the
crime who did not hide their faces during the robbery, the eyewitness, who had such close, traumatic encounter with them,
should automatically have recalled their faces upon seeing them. It behooves this Court to declare that she was not able to
do so positively.

Having ignored the abovementioned important circumstance, the trial court misconstrued and misapplied facts
and circumstances of the case, warranting the modification or reversal of the outcome of the case. The trial court
grievously erred when it ruled that the lone prosecution eyewitness categorically and positively identified accused-
appellants as the perpetrators of the crime.
Other circumstances tend to prove that the accused-appellants were not the perpetrators of the crime.

One, they were not arrested for the crime of robbery with homicide but were arrested during a buy-bust
operation. The records are bereft as to whether or not the case against them for violation of Republic Act No.
6425[21] prospered.

Two, they were brought to Camp Karingal for dubious reasons. When SPO2 Dino was asked during direct
examination why he was called to investigate the robbery with homicide which occurred in the Batasan area when he was
in Camp Karingal, SPO2 Dino replied that it was standard operating procedure (SOP) that when the case is murder and
robbery and the amount is more than P1 million, the case will be handled by the Criminal Investigation Unit
(CIU). Apparently realizing his mistake that the amount taken was only P35,000.00 when asked the same question during
cross-examination, SPO2 Dino replied that it was SOP that if the case is murder or homicide and if there is no available
police investigator for that police station, then Camp Karingal will be the one to conduct the investigation. SPO2 Dinos
testimony during direct examination goes:
xxxx

Q: How did you learn of the death of the same person?


A: The case was called at the Batasan Police Station, in our station, and our desk officer told me to handle
the case.

Q: By the way, can you tell this court why the case/incident happened in Batasan and you were called to
investigate when in fact you were in Camp Karingal?
A: It was SOP in the [Central Police District (CPD)] that when the case is Murder and Robbery [and the
amount] is more than 1 million, the case is to be handled by the [Criminal Investigation Unit
(CIU)].[22] (Emphasis supplied.)

xxxx

On cross-examination, he replied:
xxxx

Q: Now, Mr. [P]oliceman, would you tell us why you were assigned to conduct the investigation in this
case when they have other police investigator[s] at Batasan Hills, Quezon City?
A: Because that was the standard [operating] procedure that if the case is [murder] or [h]omicide that if
there is [no] available police investigator for that police station, then Camp Karingal will be
the one to conduct the investigation.

Q: In your direct examination, I did not remember you tell before this Court that you conduct[ed] the
investigation of this case. Since it involved robbery with [h]omicide, do you know how much was
involved in the robbery?
A: If I remember, it was P[h]p 30,000.00 sir.

Q: It was not one (1) million?


A: Yes sir.

Q: By the way, who is the one making the assignment in case of destination of [a] case like this[?]
A: The criminal investigator, sir.

Q: You are referring to Camp [K]aringal or Batasan Hills?


A: Camp Karingal, sir.

Q: You are saying that even if the offense is committed at another place, Camp Karingal will be the one to
investigate?
A: Yes sir.

Q: This case was reported to the Batasan Hills Police Station?


A: Yes sir.

Q: And it was not directly reported to Camp Karingal?


A: The Batasan Police Station Desk Officer reported the case to Camp Karingal.

Q: How do you know that?


A: The Desk Officer called the Camp Karingal Office, sir.[23] (Emphasis supplied.)

xxxx

The abovementioned testimony of SPO2 Dino makes his credibility doubtful.

Apparently, the accused-appellants were arrested without a warrant during a buy-bust operation on November 24,
2000,[24] transferred to Camp Karingal under dubious circumstances, and made to stand in a police line-up and identified
by an eyewitness who failed to identify them three times. These circumstances were ignored by the trial court who gave
too much credence on the positive identification of the accused-appellants by the same eyewitness during direct
examination.

Trial courts are mandated not only to look at the direct examination of witnesses but to the totality of evidence
before them. In every case, the court should review, assess and weigh the totality of the evidence presented by the
parties. It should not confine itself to oral testimony during the trial. [25]

We cannot convict appellants for the special complex crime of robbery with homicide when the evidence relied
upon by the trial court is plainly erroneous and inadequate to prove appellants guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Conviction
must rest on nothing less than moral certainty, whether it proceeds from direct or circumstantial evidence. [26]

In view of the foregoing, acquittal of the accused-appellants is in order.

One final note. The other accused, Joey Zafra, who is identically circumstanced as the other appellants and who
was likewise convicted on the same evidence, does not appear to have perfected an appeal from the trial courts
judgment. The record does not show the reason therefor.

Be that as it may, the present rule is that an appeal taken by one or more several accused shall not affect those who
did not appeal, except insofar as the judgment of the appellate court is favorable and applicable to the latter. [27] Our
pronouncements here with respect to the insufficiency of the prosecution evidence to convict appellants beyond reasonable
doubt are definitely favorable and applicable to accused Joey Zafra. He should not therefore be treated as the odd man out
and should benefit from the acquittal of his co-accused. In fact, under similar conditions and on the same ratiocination,
Section 11(a), Rule 122 of the Rules of Court has justified the extension of our judgment of acquittal to the co-accused who
failed to appeal from the judgment of the trial court which we subsequently reversed.[28]

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated November 30, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 00595
and the Decision dated August 24, 2004 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 81 are REVERSED AND
SET ASIDE. Accused-appellants Charmen Olivo and Nelson Danda are hereby ACQUITTED of the crime charged on
the ground of reasonable doubt. Pursuant to Rule 122 of the Rules of Court, their co-accused Joey Zafra is declared
entitled also to ACQUITTAL. Let a copy of this decision be furnished the Director of the New Bilibid Prison,
Muntinlupa, Rizal, who is ordered to IMMEDIATELY RELEASE them from confinement unless held for some other
legal cause, and to report to this Court any action taken by him within ten days from notice.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.
8. Vicario vs. CA, GR No. 124491, 1 June 1999

DECISION
BELLOSILLO, J.:

ROQUE VICARIO Y MENDEZ was charged with libel by the Provincial Prosecutor of Catarman, Northern Samar,
with Judge Proceso Sidro of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Mondragon-San Roque, Northern Samar, as complaining
witness. According to the Information, the crime was committed when Vicario allegedly distributed and circulated in the
vicinity of the Northern Samar Provincial Hospital in Catarman photocopies of page 7 of the 20 March 1992 issue of
the Philippine Daily Inquirer which contained the following article[1] -

SAMAR JUDGE WHO POCKETED BOND CHARGED WITH GRAFT

OMBUDSMAN Conrado Vasquez yesterday filed with the Sandiganbayan graft charges against a Northern Samar judge
who pocketed the P1,000.00 cash bond posted by a respondent in one of several cases pending in his sala.

Charged was Judge Proceso Sidro of the Northern Samar municipal circuit trial court in Mondragon.

Investigation showed that Sidro failed to deposit the cash bond with his clerk-of-court, and refused to return the money
even after the accused who filed the bond was already acquitted in the case.

Private complainant Sidro alleged that petitioner's act greatly prejudiced his reputation as a member of the bench and
caused him great distress. Petitioner Vicario on the other hand disclaimed responsibility for the distribution of the alleged
libelous article, at the same time asserting that the libel suit against him was ill-motivated for he had filed a criminal
charge for graft and corruption against Judge Sidro before the Ombudsman and an administrative complaint for dishonesty
with the Supreme Court, both due to the latter's unjustified refusal and failure to return petitioner's cash bond
of P1,000.00.
After trial, the court a quo found petitioner Vicario guilty of libel and sentenced him to pay a fine of P200.00 with
subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. [2] The trial court justified its decision by declaring that while no evidence
was presented to show that Vicario distributed copies of the news article to several persons, at least he gave one
photocopy to prosecution witness Amador Montes which amounted to publication, and that this act was tainted with
malice as it stemmed from Vicario's hatred, as evident from the manner his testimony was delivered, towards complaining
witness Sidro.[3]
On 28 February 1996 respondent Court of Appeals affirmed in toto the decision of the trial court.[4] Hence, this
petition for review on certiorari predicated on the following propositions[5] -

First. The news item in question is a privileged matter and since it was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a
nationally circulated newspaper, without any intervention of petitioner, his act of giving a copy to a person named Amador
Montes is not a libelous act;

Second. Respondent court gravely erred in concluding that Amador Montes saw petitioner distributing copy of the
aforesaid issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer;

Third. Respondent court gravely erred in considering the affidavit-complaint petitioner filed with the Ombudsman which
was completely immaterial and impertinent to the issue of whether or not the act of petitioner in giving a copy of the
Philippine Daily Inquirer to Amador Montes where the news item was published, constitutes the crime of libel;

Fourth. Respondent court seriously erred in citing authorities which are not applicable in deciding whether petitioner's act
of giving a copy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer to Amador Montes constituted the crime of libel;
Fifth. Respondent court gravely erred in adopting the conclusion of the trial court that petitioner's act of giving a copy of
the Philippine Daily Inquirer to Amador Montes was motivated by his intense hatred against Judge Sidro, it being clear
that such act was an insufficient and inadequate evidence of the alleged intense hatred of petitioner; and,

Sixth. Respondent court gravely erred, in the final analysis, in not acquitting petitioner on the ground of reasonable doubt.

Two (2) main issues are laid before us: (a) whether the act of merely distributing a photocopy of an article in a
newspaper reporting that graft charges had been filed against a judge named therein constitutes libel, and (b) whether
Vicario's act was proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Libel is defined as a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act,
omission, condition, status or circumstance tending to discredit or cause the dishonor or contempt of a natural or juridical
person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead. [6] Thus, the elements of libel are: (a) imputation of a discreditable
act or condition to another; (b) publication of the imputation; (c) identity of the person defamed; and, (d) existence of
malice.[7]
The evidence on record clearly shows that the elements above enumerated have not been satisfactorily established as
to conclude that libel was committed by petitioner. Thus, we rule in his favor. For an incongruency exists between the
evidence on one hand, and the findings of fact and of law by the trial court and the appellate court on the other, which we
must reconcile, if not rectify.
As found by the trial court, there was no evidence at all to show that petitioner was the source of the statements
contained in the news item published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Indeed, for not only was the news item by itself
bereft of this information, the records also confirmed its absence. This is why it was incorrect for the appellate court to
find that "the news item was patently culled from the Affidavit-Complaint of the appellant imputing a criminal act on
Judge Sidro filed with the Ombudsman (emphasis ours)" when no basis, factual or legal, exists for so ruling. To be sure,
the Affidavit-Complaint was merely a narration of the facts constituting the cause of action of petitioner. Its contents never
appeared in the news article which spoke only of the filing by the Ombudsman with the Sandiganbayan of graft charges
against Judge Sidro after its investigation of a complaint that the judge refused to return the cash bond of an accused
after the latter's acquittal in a criminal case. There is no specific reference therein to petitioner nor to his Affidavit-
Complaint. Since it has not been established that he caused the publication of the subject article nor was the source
thereof, it would be inappropriate to conclude that through the disputed news item he ascribed a criminal act to Judge
Proceso Sidro. Parenthetically, it would have been more accurate for the appellate court to state that the news article
was culled from the resolution of the Ombudsman directing the filing of a criminal charge based on the results of his
investigation of a complaint leveled against the named judge. But then, if it did, it would have been left with no basis at
all to hold, as in fact it did, that Vicario maliciously imputed a discreditable act to respondent judge, and there would be
no more justification for the finding that the first element of libel was established.
The trial court also opined that no suit arising from the publication was filed against the newspaper because what
appears settled is that the item was merely a fair and true report, with no comments or remarks, of official or judicial
proceedings which are not classified as confidential. Again, a perusal of the subject news item confirms this fact. Then the
trial court proceeded to state that the accused (petitioner) however publicized the newspaper item because "shown by
competent and relevant evidence was the giving (by Vicario) of a xerox copy of the publicized item to Amador
Montes." But was petitioner indeed guilty of republication of a libelous article?
In his appeal, petitioner disputes the existence of the elements of publication and malice, [8] arguing that inasmuch as
he was not the author or originator of the subject article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer he could not be liable for its
publication. The Court of Appeals brushed aside this proposition, declaring in the main that by having the news item
machine copied and furnishing prosectution witness Montes a copy thereof, accused-appellant thereby endorsed and
adopted the news item and hence was answerable therefor. We note the American citations relied upon by the appellate
court to support its conclusions. However, we deem these as not authoritative, much less persuasive upon the Court,
considering further that there are dissimilarities in the facts between the cited cases and this case before us.
Contrary to the perception of the appellate court, there was no evidence at all offered to show that petitioner himself
photocopied the article. Nor was evidence sufficiently adduced to prove that he himself distributed photocopies of the
news item to so many people, prompting the trial court to rule as hearsay the testimony on the matter by Judge Sidro and
his protege Amador Montes. This puts to doubt whether petitioner himself gave a copy of the publication to
Montes. Notably, Montes was not even named by the judge as one of the original witnesses listed in the complaint he filed
for preliminary investigation. The witness named therein was a certain Hermito Pahimnayan who was never presented in
court despite his having executed an affidavit which was attached to Sidro's criminal complaint in the Municipal Trial
Court. This affidavit described not the incident of 22 May 1992 on which the charge for libel was based but one which
occurred sometime in 1991 or a year earlier during which Vicario was said to have shown Pahimnayan a copy of his
administrative complaint against Judge Sidro. Moreover, in the affidavit executed by Judge Sidro which he also attached
to his complaint, he declared that it was Romeo Pinangay, his court messenger, who gave him a copy of Philippine Daily
Inquirer and informed him that Roque Vicario distributed clippings of the news item to everyone in the premises of the
hospital. Amador Montes was never mentioned in this affidavit; much less was he made to execute any affidavit to
support the criminal complaint of Judge Sidro. This much he admitted on the witness stand. [9] Other than the testimony of
Montes himself, an acknowledged subaltern of the judge, no one else was presented to establish the fact of distribution by
petitioner of copies of the alleged offensive news article. The prosecution could have offered other witnesses with more
objective dispositions than Montes, but it did not do so. With these doubts subsisting, it was therefore reversible error of
the courts below to conclude that petitioner was liable for the republication of the news article alleged to be libelous.
A person's liability for libel need not, admittedly, stem from the fact that he was the original publisher of the
discreditable act. The maker of a libelous republication or repetition, although not liable for the results of the primary
publication, is liable for the consequence of a subsequent publication which he makes or participates in making. It is no
justification that the defamatory matter is previously published by a third person, [10] provided malice is
present. Granting arguendo the correctness of the finding by the lower courts that petitioner did at least distribute a
machine copy of the article to one Amador Montes, an acknowledged "batos"[11] of Judge Sidro, was there sufficient basis
to ascribe malice in his act?
The trial court rationalized that "the accused has all the motivations to do so (i.e., distribute a copy to Montes)
because of his intense hatred against complainant, manifested even by the very manner he gave testimony, who would not
return to him an amount that he had to borrow from a loan shark (there is nothing to show that the same was returned to
the accused). x x x x Even so, such actuation x x x in disseminating through Montes is removed from the protection
accorded to a privileged communication under the foregoing circumstances." This is flawed reasoning, a veritable non
sequitur. It is established doctrine that the malice that attends the dissemination of the article alleged to be libelous must
attend the distribution itself. It cannot be merely a resentment against a person, manifested unconnectedly several months
earlier or one displayed at a much later date, as what happened in this case. A fine-tooth comb dissection of the testimony
of prosecution witness Amador Montes reveals none that would indicate, much less hint at, the attitude and mental frame
of Vicario at the time he allegedly handed over the photocopy of the news item in question to Montes. If at all, as can be
gathered from the testimonial narration, Vicario's attitude could only be described as noncommittal.
In order to constitute malice, ill will must be personal. So if the ill will is engendered by one's sense of justice or
other legitimate or plausible motive, such feeling negatives actual malice. [12] The anger observed by trial court to have
been shown by the petitioner towards private complainant at the time the former offered his testimony in defense of libel
cannot be properly considered as malice, either in fact or in law, that accompanied the dissemination of an alleged libelous
publication. For the anger discerned of petitioner on the witness stand could also mean anger not only borne out of a sense
of justice frustrated by the continued refusal of Judge Sidro to return to him his cash bond, but also at being criminally
sued in court for an act which he stoutly believed was not imputable to him. This state of mind cannot be appropriately
considered malice and applied retroactively to the time of the distribution of the alleged libelous article unless clear and
convincing evidence shows otherwise; and, there is no such contrary evidence in the case at bar. Since there is no
indication about the cause of such display of "intense hatred" by the petitioner for Judge Sidro, the Court will grant him
the benefit of the doubt under the "equipoise doctrine." [13]
There was nothing defamatory in the news item. This much was found by the trial court itself, noting that the
published article was merely a factual report about the filing by the Ombudsman of the charge of corruption against the
judge with the Sandiganbayan. Of course, it does not necessarily mean that if the news article complained of is not
libelous because it is a privileged matter, he who repeats the publication is likewise free from accountability for the re-
utterance. We recognize that a person's liability for libel does not necessarily proceed from the fact that he was the original
publisher of the discreditable act. The maker of a libelous republication or repetition, although not liable for the results of
the primary publication, is liable for the consequences of a subsequent publication which he makes or participates in
making so long as the elements of libel are satisfied. But in every case malice must be present, something which has not
been shown in the case at bar.
The law presumes that malice is present in every defamatory imputation. However, on this score, Art. 354 of the
Revised Penal Code provides an exemption -
Art. 354. Requirement for publicity. - Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no
good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown, except in the following cases x x x x 2. A fair and true report,
made in good faith, without any comments or remarks, of any judicial, legislative or other official proceedings which are
not of confidential nature, or of any statement, report or speech delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act
performed by public officers in the exercise of their functions (emphasis supplied).

Paragraph 2 aforequoted refers to a qualifiedly privileged communication, the character of which is a matter of defense
that may be lost by positive proof of express malice on the part of the accused. Once it is established that the article is of a
privileged character, the onus of proving actual malice rests on the plaintiff who must then convince the court that the
offender was prompted by malice or ill will. When this is accomplished the defense of privilege becomes unavailing.
[14]
Since the prosecution failed to establish express malice on the part of petitioner by positive proof, its cause perforce
must fail.
WHEREFORE, this petition is GRANTED. The decision of the Regional Trial Court of Catarman, Northern
Samar, dated 11 March 1993 finding petitioner guilty of libel, and that of the Court of Appeals dated 28 February 1996
affirming his conviction are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner ROQUE VICARIO Y MENDEZ is ACQUITTED of
the crime charged.
SO ORDERED.
9. People vs. Erguiza, GR No. 171348, 26 November 2008

DECISION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

The Court is confronted with another case of rape. The victim, a 13-year-old girl. And although the Court may be moved
by compassion and sympathy, the Court, as a court of law, is duty-bound to apply the law. Basic is the rule that for
conviction of a crime, the evidence required is proof beyond reasonable doubt -- conviction with moral certainty.

For review before this Court is the November 18, 2005 Decision [1] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR
H. C. No. 00763 which affirmed with modification the Decision [2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Carlos
City, Pangasinan, Branch 57, finding Larry Erguiza (appellant) guilty of one count of rape and sentencing him to suffer
the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

The Information, dated April 10, 2000, in Criminal Case No. SCC 3282 reads as follows:

That on or about 5:00 oclock in the afternoon of January 5, 2000, at the back of the Bical Norte
Elementary School, municipality of Bayambang, province of Pangasinan, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a kitchen knife, by means of
force and intimidation, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously have sexual intercourse
with AAA[3], a minor of 13 years old, against her will and consent and to her damage and prejudice. [4]
When arraigned, appellant pleaded not guilty. [5] Thereafter trial ensued.

The prosecution presented four witnesses, namely: private complainant (AAA), her mother BBB and father CCC, and Dr.
James Sison. The defense presented five witnesses, namely: Joy Agbuya, Juanito Macaraeg, Juanita
Angeles, Albina Erguiza, and appellant.
On November 27, 2000, the RTC found appellant guilty of the crime of rape, the dispositive portion of which reads as
follows:

In view whereof, the Court finds the accused LARRY C. ERGUIZA guilty of RAPE under Article 266-a
paragraph 1(a) in relation to Article 266-b of R.A. 8353 and R.A. 7659 and sentences (sic) to suffer the
penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the offended party, AAA P50,000 as civil indemnity, P50,000 as
moral damages, P50,000 as exemplary damages, to give support to AAA's offspring and to pay the costs.

SO ORDERED.[6]

On appeal, the CA aptly summarized the respective versions of the parties, based on the evidence presented before the
trial court, thus:

PROSECUTION'S VERSION:

On January 5, 2000, at around 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon, AAA, a thirteen-year old first year high
school student, together with her friends, siblings Joy and Ricky Agbuya, went to the mango orchard
located at the back of ZZZ Elementary School to gather fallen mangoes.[7] When they were bound for
home at around 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon, AAAs short pants got hooked on the fence. AAA
asked Joy and Ricky to wait for her but they ran away and left her.[8]

While AAA was trying to unhook her short pants, Larry suddenly grabbed and pulled her. Poking a knife
at her neck, Larry threatened to hurt her if she would make a noise. [9]

Accused-appellant dragged AAA towards a place where a tamarind tree and other thorny plants grow.
Then Larry removed his maong pants and forced AAA to lie down on the grassy ground. Thereafter, he
removed her short pants and panty, mounted himself on top of her and inserted his penis into her private
parts and made push and pull movements. He likewise raised AAAs sando and mashed her breast. AAA
felt pain when accused-appellant entered her and she felt something sticky in her private part after Larry
made the push and pull movements.[10]

Larry told AAA not to tell anybody about the incident otherwise he would kill her and all the members of
her family and then he ran away.[11]

AAA lingered for a while at the place and kept crying. Having spent her tears, she wore her panty and
short pants and proceeded to the adjacent store of her Aunt Beth who was asleep. After staying for some
time at the store, AAA decided to come (sic) home. Upon reaching home, she directly went to bed.
Fearing Larry's threat, AAA kept mum on the incident.[12]
On April 7, 2000, BBB brought her daughter AAA to her grandmother (BBB's mother), a hilot residing in
XXX, Tarlac, to consult her on the unusual palpitation on the mid-portion of AAA's throat and the
absence of her monthly period. [13] After examining AAA, her grandmother told BBB that her daughter
was pregnant.

BBB asked AAA who was the father of her unborn child but AAA refused to talk. After much prodding,
and in the presence of her Uncle, Rudy Domingo, AAA finally revealed that she was raped by accused-
appellant.[14]

On April 8, 2000, AAA, accompanied by her mother and uncle, went to the police headquarters in
YYY, Pangasinan to report the incident.[15] Then the police brought her to YYY DistrictHospital[16] where
Dr. James Sison, Medical Officer III of said hospital conducted the examination on Michelle.
Dr. Sison made the following findings:

Q. x x x No extragenital injuries noted. Complete healed hymenal laceration 11:00 o'clock. x x x. In


layman's term, Dr. Sison found no physical injury from the breast, the body except the genital area
wherein he found a significant laceration complete (sic) healed over 11:00 o'clock.[17] Dr. Sison also
testified that a single sexual intercourse could make a woman pregnant.

BBB testified that her daughter AAA stopped going to school after she was raped and that no amount of
money could bring back the lost reputation of her daughter.

CCC (AAA's father), testified that on May 2, 2000, the family of accused-appellant went to their house
and initially offered P50,000 and later P150,000; that in January 5, 2000, while they were repairing his
house for the wedding reception[18], Larry left at around 4:00 o'clock p.m.

DEFENSE'S VERSION

On January 5, 2000, Larry Erguiza helped in the repair of CCC's[19] house from 8:00 o'clock in the
morning up to 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon. When he reached home at around 5:00 pm, his
mother Albina Erguiza instructed him to fetch a hilot as his wife Josie was already experiencing labor
pains. He proceeded to fetch the hilot Juanita Angeles and stayed in their house until his wife delivered a
baby at around 3:00 o'clock in the morning of January 6, 2000.[20]

Juanita Angeles corroborated Larry's testimony that he indeed fetched her at around 5:10 pm on
January 5, 2000 to attend to his wife who was experiencing labor pains and who delivered a baby at
about 3:00 a.m. of January 6, 2000; and that Larry never left his wife's side until the latter gave
birth.

Albina, mother of the accused-appellant, testified that AAA is the daughter of her balae Spouses CCC and
BBB; that her son Larry, her husband and two others left CCC and BBB's residence at about 5:00 o'clock
in the afternoon on January 5, 2000; that she went to Spouses CCC and BBB to talk about the charge of
rape against her son; that Spouses CCC and BBB were asking for P1,000,000.00 which was later reduced
to P250,000.00 and that she made a counter-offer of P5,000.00.
Joy Agbuya testified that she and AAA were at the mango orchard of Juanito Macaraeg on January
5, 2000; that she never left AAA when her short pants got hooked; that they went together to the
store of Auntie Beth where they parted.[22]

Juanito Macaraeg, the mango orchard caretaker, testified that the house of Larry was a walking distance
of about three minutes from the mango orchard; that if one runs fast, it would only take a minute to reach
his house; and that he could not recall having seen Larry in the orchard. [23] (Emphasis supplied)

In its Decision dated November 18, 2005, the CA affirmed the decision of the RTC, but modified the amount of
the award of exemplary damages and costs as follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing circumstances, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of
San Carlos (Pangasinan), Branch 57 dated November 27, 2000 in Criminal Case No. SCC-3282
is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Accused-appellant Larry Erguiza is held GUILTY of Rape and
is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. He is ordered to pay the victim
AAA P50,000.00 as civil indemnity; P50,000.00 as moral damages, and P25,000.00 as exemplary
damages and to give support to AAAs offspring.

SO ORDERED.[24]

Hence, herein appeal.

In his appeal Brief,[25] appellant raises the following errors:

1. THE COURT A QUO GRAVLEY ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE INCREDIBLE,


THUS UNBELIEVABLE TESTIMONY OF PRIVATE COMPLAINANT AAA.

2. THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING ACCUSED APPELLANT OF THE


CRIME OF RAPE DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE PROSECTUION EVIDENCE FAILED TO
ESTABLISH HIS GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.

3. THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT APPRECIATING ACCUSED-APPELLANT'S


DEFENSE OF ALIBI CORROBORATED BY THE WITNESSES PRESENTED BY THE
DEFENSE.[26]
The appeal is meritorious. The prosecution's evidence does not pass the test of moral certainty.

This Court has ruled that in the review of rape cases, the Court is guided by the following precepts: (a) an accusation of
rape can be made with facility, but it is more difficult for the accused, though innocent, to disprove it; (b) the
complainant's testimony must be scrutinized with extreme caution since, by the very nature of the crime, only two persons
are normally involved; and (c) if the complainant's testimony is convincingly credible, the accused may be convicted of
the crime.[27]
In the case at bar, the CA upheld the conclusion of the RTC in finding the complainant credible, to wit:

The testimonies of victims who are young and of tender age, like AAA, deserve full credence and should
not be dismissed as mere fabrication especially where they have absolutely no motive to testify against
the accused-appellant as in this case. Larry even admitted that AAA had no ill motive for charging him
with rape. The Supreme Court in several cases, ruled that full credence is accorded the testimony of a rape
victim who has shown no ill motive to testify against the accused. This being so, the trial court did not err
in giving full credence to AAA's testimony.[28]

This Court does not agree with the CA.


The Court is not unmindful of the general rule that findings of the trial court regarding credibility of witnesses are
accorded great respect and even finality on appeal. [29]However, this principle does not preclude a reevaluation of the
evidence to determine whether material facts or circumstances have been overlooked or misinterpreted by the trial court.
[30]
In the past, this Court has not hesitated to reverse a judgment of conviction, where there were strong indications
pointing to the possibility that the rape charge was false. [31]
Generally, when a woman, more so if she is a minor, says that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to
show that rape was committed. And so long as her testimony meets the test of credibility and unless the same
is controverted by competent physical and testimonial evidence, the accused may be convicted on the basis thereof. [32]

After a judicious examination of the records of the case, the Court finds that there is testimonial evidence that contradicts
the findings of the RTC and CA on the basis of which no conviction beyond reasonable doubt could arise. It is
the unrebutted testimony of a credible defense witness. The testimony of Joy Agbuya (Joy) casts doubt as to the possibility
of rape having taken place as narrated by complainant. In addition, the testimony of a disinterested defense witness,
Juanita Angeles (Juanita) corroborated the alibi of appellant.

Before dwelling on the testimonies of Juanita and Joy, the Court shall first scrutinize the testimonial evidence presented
by the prosecution and the defense.

Aside from the testimony of complainant, the prosecution presented the following witnesses: Dr. James Sison, BBB, and
CCC. The pertinent portions of their testimonies may be summarized as follows:

Dr. James Sison testified that he conducted the medical examination of complainant. His diagnosis was that there was a
significant laceration completely healed at the 11:00 o'clock position.[33] However, Dr. Sison testified that his findings
were not conclusive, but were rather suggestive that complainant was raped. Furthermore, as to the question of paternity
of the child of complainant, Dr. Sison suggested doing a DNA match.[34]

BBB testified the she brought AAA to her grandmother, a hilot residing in XXX, Tarlac, to consult her on the unusual
palpitation on the mid-portion of complainant's throat and the absence of her monthly period. [35] After examining
complainant, the hilot told BBB that her daughter was pregnant. AAA later revealed that she was raped by appellant.
[36]
BBB further testified that she accompanied AAA to the police headquarters in YYY, Pangasinan to report the incident.
[37]
Afterwards, the police brought complainant to YYYDistrict Hospital[38] where Dr. James Sison, Medical Officer III of
said hospital, conducted the examination on complainant. On cross-examination, BBB testified that the family of
appellant offered her money to settle the case. [39]

CCC, the father of AAA, was the lone rebuttal witness of the prosecution. In order to rebut the allegation made by
appellant's family that the present case was filed because appellant's family did a poor job in preparing for the wedding
of CCC's daughter DDD and apellant's brother Carlito, CCC testified that on the contrary, the wedding went smoothly.
[40]
CCC further claimed that the family of appellant knelt before him crying and offered money to settle the case.
[41]
Moreover, CCC testified that appellant left his house at 4:00 p.m. on January 5, 2000.

On the other hand, the defense presented four witnesses, namely: Juanito Macaraeg (Macaraeg), Albina Erguiza (Albina),
Juanita and Joy.

Macaraeg, the caretaker of the mango orchard, testified that he did not see appellant on any occasion in the orchard.
[42]
More specifically, Macaraeg emphasized that he did not see appellant on January 5, 2000.[43] However, on cross-
examination, he testified that the house of appellant is only a three-minute walk from the mango orchard and probably a
minute if one walks fast.[44]

Albina, the mother of appellant, testified that on January 5, 2000, she was with appellant at the house of CCC and BBB
preparing for the wedding of CCC's daughter DDD and appellant's brother Carlito. She said that they left the house of
CCC at around 5:00 p.m.[45] Albina narrated that when they arrived home, at around 5:02 or 5:03 p.m., she sent appellant
to fetch a hilot, as the wife of appellant was having some labor pains. [46] She said that appellant and the hilot arrived at
around 5:30 p.m.[47] According to Albinaappellant never left their house.[48]

On the day of the wedding, Albina testified that she had an altercation with BBB regarding the bills and that they never
resolved their quarrel.[49] She spoke to BBB and CCC because she learned that they were falsely accusing appellant of
raping AAA.[50] After talking to BBB and CCC, she and her husband confronted appellant and asked if he had raped
complainant, which appellant denied. [51] Albina claimed that CCC and BBB were demanding P1,000,000.00 and that they
later reduced it to P250,000.00.[52] Albina said that she offered P5,000.00 to BBB and CCC only to preserve their
relationship as in-laws and for peace.[53]
In sum, with the exception of the claim of AAA that she was raped by appellant, other evidence presented by the
prosecution did not identify appellant as the perpetrator of the crime.
Moreover, the testimonies of the witnesses for both the prosecution and the defense conflict on certain points, more
notably the claim by BBB and CCC that the family of appellant offered to settle the case. This, however, was denied
by Albina, who claimed that it was BBB and CCC who demanded P1,000,000.00.
The offer of compromise allegedly made by Albina is critical to the case at bar in light of law and jurisprudence that an
offer of compromise in a criminal case may be received in evidence as an implied admission of guilt. [54] In the case at bar,
the offer of compromise was first testified to by BBB on cross-examination, to wit:

Q. Is it not a fact that there was an offer by you to the mother of the accused that they pay you 1 million
and you have reduced it to P250,000.00?
A. No, sir, it was they who were the ones offering for settlement, but we never offer them any settlement,
sir.[55]

On rebuttal, CCC corroborated the testimony of BBB that the family of appellant offered to settle the case, to wit:

Q. And according to Larry Erguiza as well as his witnesses they told the Honorable Court that you and
your wife are demanding from Larry Erguiza and his parents the amount of one million pesos so
that you will not file this case against the accused, what can you say about that?
A. There is no truth about that, sir.

Q. And what is the truth about it?


A. It was they who went to my house, they even knelt before me crying and they were offering money, sir.
[56]

However, Albina, the mother of appellant, denied the foregoing allegations, to wit:

Q. What happened when you went to the house of BBB and CCC talking with them about their problem
of the alleged rape on AAA, their daughter?
A. They were asking for a settlement price for one million pesos but we have no money, sir.

Q. What did you do when they were asking one million pesos from you?
A. We told them that we do not have that money until they reduced the price to P250,000.00 but we have
no money because we are poor, sir.

Q. Were you around when BBB testified to the witness stand?


A. I was here, sir.

Q. Did you hear what BBB said that you were the one offering money?
A. Yes, sir, I was here and I heard that.

Q. What can you say to that allegation of BBB?


A. That is not true, sir. She was saying that we were the ones offering money for one million to them but
she was telling a lie, it was they who were asking for one million pesos, sir.

Q. What is your proof that is was they who are demanding the amount of one million and reduced that to
two hundred fifty thousand (P250,000.00)?
A. We already left because we cannot afford to give that much, sir.
Q. Aside from the fact that you do not have money, was there any reason or what was your other reason in
going there?
A. Our reason in talking to them was that when Larry said that he did not commit the alleged rape and so
we went there to talk to them so that we could preserve our relationship as in-laws even if it is for
the sake of peace we could try our best to cope up even P5,000.00 just for the sake of peace because
our intention in going to their house was to extract the truth, sir. [57]

On cross-examination, appellant gave the following statements:


Q. Before the filing of this case with this Honorable Court, your parents and you were pleading to the
parents of AAA not to continue anymore the case, is it not?
A. Yes, sir, so that the case will not be filed and our relationship will not be destroyed, sir.

Q. In fact you asked your parents to do so, is it not?


A. No, sir. They were the ones who went to the house of AAA, sir.

Q. But the family of AAA did not agree to the pleadings of your parents that the case be not filed
anymore, is it not?
A. They will agree if we will pay then 1 million, but we do not have 1 million, sir.

Q. Did you offer them 1 million?


A. No, sir. They were the ones who told that to us.[58] (Emphasis Supplied)

The alleged offer of the parents of appellant to settle the case cannot be used against appellant as evidence of his
guilt. Appellant testified that he did not ask his parents to settle the case. Moreover, appellant was not present when the
offer to settle was allegedly made.

An offer of compromise from an unauthorized person cannot amount to an admission of the party himself. [59] Although the
Court has held in some cases that an attempt of the parents of the accused to settle the case is an implied admission of
guilt,[60] we believe that the better rule is that for a compromise to amount to an implied admission of guilt, the accused
should have been present or at least authorized the proposed compromise. [61] Moreover, it has been held that where the
accused was not present at the time the offer for monetary consideration was made, such offer of compromise would not
save the day for the prosecution.[62]

In addition, the Court, in weighing the evidence presented, may give less weight to the testimonies of Albina, on the one
hand, and BBB and CCC, on the other, as they are related to the appellant and the victim, respectively [63] Their testimonies
relating to the offer of settlement simply contradict each other. As a matter of fact, even the lower courts did not consider
the alleged offer of settlement in resolving the case.

Thus, the Court now considers the testimonies of Juanita and Joy.

Testimony of Juanita Angeles

Juanita, a hilot, testified that appellant fetched her at around 5:10 in the afternoon of January 5, 2000.[64] She asserted that
they arrived at the house of appellant at 5:30 p.m. She said that appellant's wife gave birth at dawn at 3:00 a.m. of January
6, 2000.[65] Juanita said that appellant was with her the entire time and never left the house. [66]
Testimony of Joy Agbuya

For a better perspective on the testimony of Joy, it is necessary to repeat the testimony of AAA. AAA testified that
on January 5, 2000, she was accompanied by 12-year-old Joy and the latter's brother Ricky Agbuya (Ricky) to the mango
orchard at the back of the elementary school to pick fallen mangoes. Further, complainant claims that she was left behind
by Joy and Ricky when her shorts got hooked to the fence and that while she was unhooking her pants from the fence,
appellant grabbed her and raped her.[67]

This was however contradicted by Joy, to wit:

Q. How many times did you go to the mango orchard of Juanito Macaraeg?
A. Three (3) times, sir.

Q. When you usually go to the mango orchard of Juanito Macaraeg, where did you met [sic] with AAA?
A. In their house, I dropped by her house, sir.

Q. Was there an occasion wherein you brought your brother Ricky when you went with AAA to the
mango orchard of Juanito Macaraeg?
A. No, sir.

Q. Are we made to understand that Ricky, your brother did not go even once to the mango orchard
of Maning Macaraeg?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. According to AAA in her sworn statement she stated that in [sic] January 5, 2000 you were with
your brother Ricky and AAA in going to the mango orchard, what can you say about that?
A. What she is saying is not true. I was not with my brother, sir. I did not tug him along with me.

Q. It is also said by AAA that you left her behind in the mango orchard when her pants was hooked,
what can you say about that?
A. No, sir I waited for her.

Q. Are we made to understand Madam Witness, that there was no instance or never that happened
that you left her in the mango orchard alone?
A. No, sir, I waited for her and both of us went home together, sir.

Q. Going back to the occasion wherein you were with AAA, who were with you in going back
home?
A. Just the two (2) of us, sir.

Q. In your way home, where did you part or separate with each other?
A. In front of the store of auntie Beth, sir.[68]

xxxx

Q. Is AAA your bestfriend?


A. Yes, sir.

Q. Since you said that AAA is your bestfriend was there an occasion wherein she told you that she was
raped?
A. None, sir.[69] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

On cross-examination, Prosecutor Ely Reintar elicited the following statements from Joy:

Q. In the year 2000, when was the last time that you talked to AAA?
A. April, sir.

Q. After April, you did not talk to AAA anymore?


A. No more, sir.

Q. Your friendship was severed?


A. Yes, sir.

Q. Will you please tell the Honorable Court why your friendship became severed?
A. Because she quarreled with me, sir.

Q. And because you quarreled, that is the reason why you are now testifying against her?
A. Yes, sir.[70]

On re-direct examination, Joy clarified, thus:

Q. Madam Witness, you said that you have a quarrel with the private complainant, AAA, will you
please tell this Honorable Court what is the reason or cause of your quarrel with AAA?
A. Because they wanted me to say another statement that I left AAA behind, sir.[71] (Emphasis
supplied)
On re-cross examination, Joy gave the following answers to the questions of Prosecutor Reintar:

Q. You said that the reason for your quarrel is that they wanted you to change your statement, that you left
behind AAA, who are those they, that you are referring to?

INTERPRETER
No answer.

Witness
I, sir.

PROS. REINTAR
Q. Who told you to change your statement that you left AAA behind?
A. Because they are saying that I will change my statement that I left AAA but I did not sir.

Q. Who are these who are telling that?


A. They, sir.

Q. Will you please mention them?


A. BBB, only her, sir.[72]

The testimony of 12-year-old Joy makes it impossible for the appellant to have raped AAA the way complainant narrated
it, to wit:

Q. You try to understand clearly the question, Madam Witness, and may I repeat that, at the time of the
rape when according to you, you were the one raped, where were Joy and Ricky Agbuya?
A. They left ahead of me because my short pants was hooked at the fence so I was left behind, sir.

Q. Were you able to remove the pants of yours at the fence?


A. I was removing it sir, when he suddenly grabbed me.

Q. And who is this person you are referring to as the one who grabbed you?
A. Larry Erguiza, sir.[73]

Put simply, complainant could not have been raped because Joy waited for complainant when the latters shorts got hooked
to the fence and thereafter both went home together.The Court finds no cogent reason for Joy to lie and say that she had
waited for complainant and that they both went home together. She had nothing to gain for lying under oath.Moreover, the
records are bereft of any showing or claim that Joy was related to or was a close friend of appellant or his family. On the
contrary, Joy considers herself the best-friend and playmate of complainant. [74]

When Prosecutor Reintar questioned her as to her understanding of the oath she took, Joy answered, That I will swear to
God, sir. x x x The truth, sir.[75] Furthermore, Joy did not succumb to pressure even as she was being conscientiously
examined by Prosecutor Reintar. Joy boldly testified that BBB, the mother of complainant, was forcing her to change her
statement.

The testimony of Joy clearly lays down the following facts which are damaging to the case of the prosecution: first, that
Joy did not leave behind AAA when the latters shorts got hooked to the fence; and secondly, that Joy and AAA left the
orchard, went home together and separated at their Aunt Beth's house, indicating that no untoward incident, much less
rape, was committed by appellant at the time and place that complainant had testified on.

Necessarily, either Joy or AAA lied under oath. It was thus critical for the prosecution to show that Joy gave false
statements.
Unfortunately for AAA, the prosecution miserably failed to rebut Joys testimony. Neither complainant nor Ricky, BBB or
any other witness was called to the witness stand to refute Joys testimony. True, it is up to the prosecution to determine
who to present as witnesses. [76] However, considering that the testimony of Joy critically damaged the case of the
prosecution, it behooved the prosecution to present evidence to rebut the defense evidence. Witnesses such as Ricky, AAA
and BBB should have been presented by the prosecution to demolish Joy's testimony. The testimony of Ricky is
particularly significant, especially since AAA claimed that he was with her and his sister Joy at the mango orchard on the
day of the alleged rape incident. The failure on the part of the prosecution to present Ricky or AAA bolsters the defense
evidence, that no rape happened on the date and time claimed by AAA.

The prosecution presented CCC, the father of complainant, as it's lone rebuttal witness.[77] However, the testimony of CCC
covered facts and issues not related to the testimony of Joy. The testimony of CCC merely rebutted the allegation made by
appellant's family that the present case was filed because appellant's family did a poor job of preparing for the wedding
of CCC's daughter DDD and apellant's brother Carlito. To this, CCC testified that on the contrary, the wedding went
smoothly.[78] Furthermore, CCC claimed that the family of appellant knelt before him crying and offered money to settle
the case.[79] In addition, CCC testified that appellant left his house at 4:00 p.m. on January 5, 2000. Thus, the testimony of
CCC did not in any way rebut the testimony of Joy.

Further, Joy testified that during the three times she went with AAA to the mango orchard, the time was 1:00 p.m.
[80]
However, AAA testified that she went to the mango orchard with Joy at 4:00 p.m. [81] The variance in the testimonies of
Joy and AAA as to the time they went to the mango orchard on the day of the alleged rape incident may be disregarded as
they are de minimis in nature and do not relate to the commission of the crime. There is a common point uniting the
testimonies of both Joy and AAA; that is, that both referred to the day when AAAs short got hooked to the fence.

Moreover, assuming arguendo that the variance between the testimonies of AAA and Joy as to the time they were together
at the mango orchard is an indicia that AAA may have been raped by appellant on a different day, not on January 5, 2000,
to still impute to appellant the crime of rape is not plausible.

The Court is not unmindful of the rule that the exact date of the commission of the crime of rape is extraneous to and is
not an element of the offense, such that any inconsistency or discrepancy as to the same is irrelevant and is not to be taken
as a ground for acquittal. [82] Such, however, finds no application to the case at bar. AAA and Joy may differ in their
testimonies as to the time they were at the mango orchard, but there could be no mistake as to the actual day when AAA
was supposed to have been raped; it was the day when AAA's shorts got hooked to the fence at the mango orchard.
The RTC and CA unwittingly brushed aside the testimonies of Juanita and Joy and gave full credence to the testimony of
AAA. As a matter of fact, their probative weight were not considered or evaluated in the text of the lower courts' decision.

As mentioned earlier, the prosecution could have rebutted the testimony of Joy, but for some reason or oversight, it chose
not to do so.

Consequently, in view of the unrebutted testimony of Joy, appellants defense of alibi and denial assumes considerable
weight. It is at this point that the issue as to the time that the rape was committed plays a significant factor in determining
the guilt or innocence of appellant. This Court must therefore address this issue for a thorough evaluation of the case.
The Court takes note that Macaraeg, the caretaker of the orchard, testified that appellant's house was only a minute away
from the orchard if one would run.

As earlier mentioned, CCC testified that appellant left CCC's house at 4:00 p.m. on January 5, 2000, contrary to the
testimony of Albina that she and appellant left at 5:00 p.m. AAA declared that the alleged rape took place after 5:00 p.m.

Q. So at 4:00 o'clock you were at the house and you left and proceeded at the back of the school to pick
mangoes?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. That was already around 5:00 o'clock?


A. Yes, sir. I asked my companion Joy.

Q. What did you ask of her?


A. She was wearing a wristwatch and I asked Joy what time is it and when I looked at her
wristwatch, it was already 5:00 o'clock, sir.[83] (Emphasis Supplied)
Moreover, on cross-examination, AAA gave the following statements, to wit:

Q. So it is almost 5:00 p.m. When you went to the mango orchard with Joy Agbuya and Ricky Agbuya?
A. What I only know was that, it was already about 5:00 o'clock then, sir.

Q. How many minutes did you consume in getting mangoes?


A. When we went there, we were not able to get some mango and when I asked sir what was the
time then and when I looked at the wristwatch, it was already 5:00 o'clock, sir.[84](Emphasis
Supplied)

The testimony of Joy makes it impossible for AAA to have been raped at 4:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. or any time thereafter
since it was not rebutted that Joy never left complainant at the mango orchard even when AAA's shorts got hooked to the
fence, and both went home together without any other untoward incident.

This Court is not unmindful of the doctrine that for alibi to succeed as a defense, appellant must establish by clear and
convincing evidence (a) his presence at another place at the time of the perpetration of the offense and (b) the physical
impossibility of his presence at the scene of the crime. [85]

In the case at bar, although the orchard is just a minute away from the house of appellant, in view of the testimony
of the hilot Juanita that appellant was with her from 5:10 p.m. and never left his house from that time until his wife gave
birth at 3:00 a.m.; and the testimony of Joy that she never left AAA in the orchard and that they both went home together,
the defense of alibi assumes significance or strength when it is amply corroborated by a credible witness. [86] Thus, the
Court finds that appellant's alibi is substantiated by clear and convincing evidence.

What needs to be stressed is that a conviction in a criminal case must be supported by proof beyond reasonable doubt --
moral certainty that the accused is guilty. [87] The conflicting testimonies of Joy and complainant, and the testimony of
Juanita that corroborated appellants alibi preclude the Court from convicting appellant of rape with moral certainty.

Faced with two conflicting versions, the Court is guided by the equipoise rule.[88] Thus, where 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 consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not fulfill the test of moral certainty and is not sufficient to
support a conviction.[89] The equipoise rule provides that where the evidence in a criminal case is evenly balanced, the
constitutional presumption of innocence tilts the scales in favor of the accused. [90]

It is the primordial duty of the prosecution to present its side with clarity and persuasion, so that conviction becomes the
only logical and inevitable conclusion. [91] What is required of it is to justify the conviction of the accused with moral
certainty.[92] Upon the prosecution's failure to meet this test, acquittal becomes the constitutional duty of the Court, lest its
mind be tortured with the thought that it has imprisoned an innocent man for the rest of his life. [93]

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated November 18, 2005 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR H. C. No. 00763
is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Larry Erguiza is ACQUITTED and ordered immediately RELEASED from custody,
unless he is being held for some other lawful cause.

The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is ORDERED to implement this Decision forthwith and to INFORM this
Court, within five (5) days from receipt hereof, of the date appellant was actually released from confinement.

Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.
10. People vs. Lagarde, GR No. 182549, 20 January 2009

DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J.:

In this appeal, accused-appellant Sergio Lagarde seeks to reverse the Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated
March 7, 2007[1] in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00069, affirming the judgment of conviction for rape handed down by the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 13 in Carigara, Leyte on April 24, 2003[2] in Criminal Case No. 4132.

The Facts

Accused-appellant was charged with rape in an information dated March 1, 2002 which reads:

That on or about the 27th day of December, 2001, in the municipality of San Miguel, Province of
Leyte, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable court, the above-named accused, with
deliberate intent with lewd designs and by use of force and intimidation, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with [AAA], 11 years old, against her will to her
damage and prejudice.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[3]

Upon arraignment on August 5, 2002, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty.

During trial, the prosecution presented the victim, AAA, [4] and Drs. Felix P. Oyzon and Karen Palencia-Jadloc as
witnesses. According to the prosecution, on December 27, 2001, around 12 noon, AAA and her mother were at the house
of Lolita Lagarde-Sarsosa, which was about 500 to 600 meters away from the victims house, to attend the death
anniversary celebration of Lolitas mother. Accused-appellant was also present in that occasion, being the nephew of
Lolita. Accused-appellant is a neighbor of AAA and the father of her classmate.

After lunch, AAAs mother, accused-appellant, and the other visitors started drinking tuba (coconut wine). AAA
remained inside the house until her mother ordered her to pick a jackfruit at around 4:00 p.m. AAA obliged and went
outside towards the jackfruit tree which was about 150 meters away from the house. When she was near the tree, she
sensed the presence of somebody behind her who suddenly placed his hand over her mouth and dragged her to
the loonan or copra dryer which was about eight meters away from the jackfruit tree. There, AAA recognized the attacker
as accused-appellant.

In the copra dryer, accused-appellant undressed AAA while keeping one of his hands on her mouth. He then took
off his clothes and told AAA to lie on the papag or bamboo bench. Accused-appellant then mounted AAA, poked a seven-
inch knife on her face, and told her to be silent. Thereafter, he inserted his penis into her vagina and made a pumping
motion, which hurt AAAs chest and vagina. After the sexual assault, accused-appellant stood up, put on his shirt and
pants, and then left the place. Not long after, AAA dressed herself up, and returned to the house and told her ordeal to her
mother. AAA and her mother subsequently reported the incident to the officials of Barangay Lukay, San Miguel, Leyte.
Accused-appellant was immediately arrested. [5]

On December 28, 2001, AAA was brought to the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center, Tacloban City for
physical examination. Drs. Oyzon and Palencia-Jadloc, the attending medical examiners, submitted a report with the
following relevant findings:

Pelvic Exam
External genitalia: grossly normal
Intoitus: (+) healed incomplete laceration of the hymen at 3, 9 & 10 oclock
S/E: speculum inserted with ease
Cervix pinkish, small, smooth (+) whitish mucoid discharge
I/E: cervix firm, closed, nontender on motion
U: small
A: no mass/tenderness
D: whitish mucoid discharge

LABORATORY RESULT:
Vaginal smear for presence of spermatozoa = Negative for spermatozoa [6]

The pertinent testimony of Dr. Oyzon tended to prove that there was apparently no struggle on the part of the
victim because there was no hematoma on her body, although it is possible for injuries to be concealed. Dr. Palencia-
Jadloc, on the other hand, established the fact that the victim had sexual intercourse. [7]
For the defense, Lolita testified that on December 27, 2001, during the celebration of her mothers death
anniversary, accused-appellant was drinking tuba with other visitors on the ground floor of her house. Most of the time,
AAA played with Lolitas niece, Jennilyn, around 10 meters away from the house. AAA went to see her mother a few
times on the second floor of the house until they left around 7:00 p.m. Lolita asserted that at no time did accused-appellant
leave his seat until he left around 5:00 p.m. On cross-examination, Lolita stated that prior to the incident, there was no
altercation between AAAs mother and accused-appellant, and she did not know why they would file a case against her
nephew.[8]

Accused-appellant denied raping AAA. He testified that on the day the alleged offense occurred, he never left the
house of Lolita from the time he arrived at 12 noon until he went home at about 9:00 p.m. He admitted having a drinking
spree with other visitors, but disclaimed never talking to AAA who left with her mother at 4:30 p.m. He stated that there
was no loonan or copra/kiln dryer near the house of Lolita.[9]

The RTC found AAAs testimony credible, noting that at her age, it is inconceivable for her to concoct a tale of
having been raped. Her accusation, according to the RTC, was supported by medical findings that she was indeed sexually
abused. The lower court dismissed accused-appellants denial and alibi. Lolitas testimony was likewise disbelieved not
only because she was related to accused-appellant but also because she herself was busy drinking tuba in another part of
the house. She could not categorically say, the RTC added, that accused-appellant did not leave his seat and molest
AAA. Thus, the trial court convicted accused-appellant of rape aggravated by minority of the victim, use of bladed
weapon and force, and uninhabited place in view of the location of the offense. The dispositive portion of the RTCs
decision states:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, pursuant to Article 266-A and 266-B of the Revised Penal Code as
Amended, and further amended by R.A. No. 8353 (The Anti Rape law of 1997) and the amendatory
provision of R.A. No. 7659 (Death Penalty Law), the Court found SERGIO LAGARDE, GUILTY,
beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of Rape charged under the information and sentenced to suffer a
maximum penalty of DEATH and pay civil indemnity to [AAA], the sum of seventy Five Thousand
(P75,000.00) Pesos and pay moral damages in the amount of Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos, and

Pay the cost.

SO ORDERED.[10]

In view of the imposition of the death penalty, the case was automatically elevated to the Court. In accordance
with the ruling in People v. Mateo,[11] however, the case was transferred to the CA for review per this Courts August 24,
2004 Resolution.

The Ruling of the CA

The appellate court upheld the trial courts findings of fact and judgment of conviction. With regard to the penalty,
however, the CA ruled that the trial court erred when it imposed the death sentence on the basis of the following
aggravating circumstances: minority, use of bladed weapon, and uninhabited place. Aside from the abolition of the death
penalty, the CA held that:

It is basic in criminal procedure that the purpose of the information is to inform the accused of the
nature and cause of the accusation against him or the charge against him so as to enable him to prepare a
suitable defense. It would be a denial of the right of the accused to be informed of the charges against
him, and consequently, a denial of due process, if he is charged with simple rape and convicted of its
qualified form punishable by death although the attendant circumstances qualifying the offense and
resulting in capital punishment were not set forth in the indictment on which he was arraigned. More
importantly, they are not the circumstances that would call for the application of death penalty. Article
266-B of Republic Act 8353 provides, viz-

xxxx
Anent the victims minority, the allegation in the Information that she was a minor and only eleven
(11) years old at the time she was raped by accused-appellant was but an assertion of fact to establish that
the crime committed by accused-appellant fall under Article 266-A in relation to Article 266-B of the
Revised Penal Code which provides:

Art. 266-A. Rape; when and how committed.

1) By a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following
circumstances:

xxxx

d) when the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though
none of the circumstances mention above be present.

Art. 266-B. Penalties. Rape under paragraph 1 of the next preceding article shall be punished
by reclusion perpetua.

To warrant sentencing the accused to death, the child must be under seven (7) years of age.

xxxx

Consequently, the amount of Seventy Five Thousand Pesos (P75,000.00) as indemnity awarded
by the trial court to the victim must be reduced to Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) for the crime of
rape committed in this case was in its simple form in the absence of any qualifying circumstance under
which the imposition of death penalty is unauthorized.[12]

The dispositive portion of the CAs judgment reads:

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Carigara, Leyte, Branch 13,
dated 24 April 2003, in Criminal Case No. 4132 is UPHELD with modification as to the penalty and
award of civil damages. Accordingly, accused-appellant Sergio Lagarde is hereby sentenced to
suffer Reclusion Perpetua in lieu of death penalty and is further ordered to pay the private complainant
the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as civil indemnity and another Fifty Thousand Pesos
(P50,000.00) as moral damages.[13]

Hence, before us is this appeal.


Assignment of Errors

THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED-
APPELLANT FOR THE CRIME CHARGED HAS BEEN PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE
DOUBT.

THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN IMPOSING UPON THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT THE
PENALTY OF [RECLUSION PERPETUA][14]

Accused-appellant asserts that the trial court should not have easily dismissed his denial and alibi, i.e., that he was
at the party drinking tuba with the other visitors and he neither left his seat nor talked to the victim that day. He stresses
that his testimony was corroborated by Lolita. Considering that the crime involves capital punishment, conviction should,
according to accused-appellant, rest on moral certainty of guilt.
Accused-appellant also questions the death penalty imposed on him, arguing that the aggravating circumstances
of minority, use of a bladed weapon, and uninhabited place were not specifically alleged in the information. Since the
crime was not qualified, the award of PhP 75,000 was likewise erroneous.

The Office of the Solicitor General, on the other hand, agrees with the judgment of conviction but not with the
death penalty for the same reasons submitted by accused-appellant.

The Courts Ruling


The appeal has no merit.
In rape cases, courts are governed by the following principles: (1) an accusation of rape can be made with facility;
it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent, to disprove; (2) due to the nature of the
crime of rape in which only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant must be scrutinized with
extreme caution; and (3) the evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot be allowed to
draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the defense. Due to the nature of this crime, only the complainant can
testify against the assailant. Accordingly, conviction for rape may be solely based on the complainants testimony provided
it is credible, natural, convincing, and consistent with human nature and the normal course of things. [15]

In this case, AAA testified as follows:

PROS. MERIN:
Q: Do you know Sergio Lagarde?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Is he inside the courtroom?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Where is he?
A: There. [Witness pointing to a person inside of the courtroom who when asked of his name identified
himself as Sergio Lagarde.]
Q: Why do you know the accused in this case Sergio Lagarde?
A: Because his residence is near our house.

xxxx

Q: On December 27, 2001, about 4:30 oclock in the afternoon, where were you?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Where were you?
A: I was in a celebration of the death anniversary.
Q: And who was celebrating then?
A: A certain Lolita friend of my mother.
Q: How far is that house to that of your house?
A: From here to the public market.
[Witness indicating a distance of five hundred (500) meters to six hundred (600) meters distance.]
Q: Now, were you alone in attending that particular death anniversary or tapos?
A: No, I was a companion of my mother.

xxxx

Q: What time when you arrived at the place where there was a celebration?
A: About 12:00 oclock noon.
Q: You mean, you and your mother took lunch in that particular place of Lolita?
A: Yes, sir we ate our lunch in that place.
Q: And after you ate lunch at that place what did you do next?
A: My mother together with some other people had a drinking spree.

xxxx
Q: And during that time when your mother having that drinking spree where did you go, tell this Court?
A: I stayed inside their house.
Q: And up to when did you stay?
A: Until about 4:00 oclock in the afternoon.
Q: And after 4:00 oclock where did you go?
A: My mother ordered me to pick a jackfruit for me to cook as a viand.

xxxx

Q: And did you accede to that order of your mother?


A: Yes, sir.
Q: Now, you in fact reached that jackfruit tree?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Were you successful in taking a jackfruit?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Were you successful in taking a jackfruit?
A: No sir, I was not.
Q: Were you alone in going there?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Why were you not able to get a jackfruit?
A: Because that person was there.
Q: Who was that person?
A: Sergio Lagarde.
Q: And where was he located in reference to that jackfruit tree?
A: He was already at my back.
Q: Now, were there houses nearby that jackfruit tree?
A: None, sir.
Q: And when you noticed the presence of Sergio Lagarde what happened next, if any?
A: He placed his hand on my mouth to keep me from not making any noise.
Q: Was he in front of you? What was his relative position when he put his hand at your mouth?
A: He was at my back.
Q: And after your mouth was covered by his hand what did Sergio Lagarde do next, if any?
A: He brought me to the copra dryer.

xxxx

Q: Now, how were you brought by this accused to that loonan or kiln dryer?
A: He dragged me.
Q: How were you able to know his person as he was situated at your back?
A: I learned his identity when we were already at the kiln dryer.
Q: When you reached the kiln dryer, what happened next, tell the Court?
A: He placed himself on top of me.
Q: And what was your relative position when he placed himself on top of you? Were you on a bed or
were you on the ground?
A: I was lying down face up in [the] bamboo bench.

xxxx

Q: When you were placed by this accused on this papag and you were laid upon on that papag while he
placed himself on top of you, what did this accused do upon your person?
A: He poked a knife on me and told me not to tell our neighbors.

xxxx
Q: Now, when this knife was poked upon your face which is about seven (7) inches long what did you
feel?
A: I was afraid.
Q: Were you able to shout for help?
A: No, I was not able to shout and he placed his hand on my mouth.

xxxx

Q: Now, how did he rape you?


A: He placed himself on top of me.
Q: And were you still with your clothes?
A: No, he has none.
Q: How about you?
A: None also.
Q: Who took off your clothes?
A: He.
Q: When did he take your clothes?
A: At the time when he placed his hand on my mouth.[16]

The trial court observed that AAAs testimony was credible, straightforward, clear, and convincing. She ably
identified accused-appellant as her attacker and described in detail how she was sexually assaulted. There is no reason a
child would fabricate such a serious accusation such as rape and risk public humiliation if not to seek justice. It is for this
reason that testimonies of child-victims are normally given full weight and credence, since when minors say they were
raped, they say in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was committed. [17] According to the trial court:
No woman, especially one who is of tender age would concoct a tale of defloration, allow the
examination of her private parts, and undergo the expense, trouble, inconvenience, not to mention the
trauma of a public trial, if she is not motivated solely by the desire to have the culprit apprehended and
punished. (People v. Segui, 346 SCRA 178)

The young rape victim, [AAA], when she testified, was frank and straightforward in vividly
describing her horrible and harrowing sexual molestation in the hands of the accused at the copra kiln.

Time-tested is the principle that when a woman says she has been raped, she says in effect all that
is necessary to show that she has been so raped. A woman will not expose herself to the humiliation of a
trial with its attendant publicity and the morbid curiosity it would arouse, unless she has been truly
wronged and seek atonement for her abuse. (People v. Boy Domingo, et. al. G.R. No. 143660, June 5,
2002.)

xxxx

It is inconceivable that [AAA], a very young woman, 11 years of age would concoct a story that
she had been raped by her neighbor, if indeed she was not sexually molested and that her only intention is
to seek justice from the bestial and harrowing experience she suffered from the hands of the accused,
Sergio Lagarde. In fact, her family and family of the accused, Sergio Lagarde, has no misunderstanding
that would propel her to file such a heinous crime against the accused. [18]

Accused-appellant admitted in court that he is not aware of any cause for the accusation against him:

PROS. MERIN:
Q: Did I hear you correctly from the question of your counsel that in so far as the family of [AAA], there
is no untoward relationship between you and [her] family x x x?
A: No, we do not have any misunderstanding and I am no a troublesome person and also [AAA and her
siblings] are friends of my children.
Q: And in fact [AAA] is a close friend of your daughter?
A: Yes, because they are classmates.
Q: So, you do not know of any reason or reasons why [AAA] a classmate of your daughter would file a
case against you of raping her?
A: I do not know of her, sir.[19]

The victims credibility is further bolstered by the immediate reporting of the incident to her mother and
subsequently to the authorities. Moreover, the medical findings of Drs. Oyzon and Palencia-Jadloc established the fact
that complainant had sexual intercourse.
Accused-appellant, on the other hand, could only offer denial and alibi as defenses. His alibi that he spent the
afternoon drinking with other visitors does not deserve merit since he was present in the same house where the victim
was. The copra dryer was only 150 meters away from the house. For alibi to prosper, the accused persons must establish,
by clear and convincing evidence, (1) their presence at another place at the time of the perpetration of the offense and (2)
the physical impossibility of their presence at the scene of the crime. [20] It should also be supported by the most convincing
evidence since it is an inherently weak defense which can easily be fabricated. [21] Accused-appellants alibi miserably fails
the foregoing test. His only defense witness, his relative, Lolita, cannot consistently and convincingly assert that accused-
appellant stayed in one place the whole afternoon. Lolita herself was busy entertaining other visitors while accused-
appellant was outside the house. As found by the trial court:

The testimony of Lolita Lagarde, aunt of the accused, Sergio Lagarde, claiming among others that
since Sergio Lagarde arrived in her house, took his lunch at noontime and started drinking tuba at 1:00 x x
x in the afternoon up to 8:00 x x x in the evening, and that, during that period, Sergio Lagarde did not
leave the place, is of dubious veracity. Sergio Lagarde claimed that her auntie Lolita was drinking tuba at
the upstairs of the house, together with Minggay Guipon, Esing Lagarde, Bandang Lar, June Biako,
Lukas, Olay, Silay, including the accused and some others, however at about 1:00 oclock in the afternoon,
because of the number of people who kept on coming upstairs, Lolita Lagarde requested the accused and
his male drinking partners to transfer to the yard of her house, where they continued their drinking
spree. Lolita Lagarde and her drinking partners remained drinking upstairs. She could not categorically
say that the accused, Sergio Lagarde did not leave her place nor molested Mary Ann Guipon at around
4:30 oclock in the afternoon, when she, herself, was also busy drinking inside their house upstairs,
separated by walls, from the place where Sergio Lagarde and his companions were drinking at the yard. It
could only be surmised that Lolita Lagarde only concocted her testimony in favor of her nephew, Sergio
Lagarde.[22]

As regards the second assigned error, we agree with the appellate court that the death penalty is not warranted by
the alleged aggravating circumstances, i.e., victims minority, use of bladed weapon, and uninhabited place. First, the
death penalty was abolished under Republic Act No. (RA) 9346. Second, the use of a bladed weapon and uninhibited
place cannot be appreciated here because these were not specifically alleged in the information. Section 8, Rule 110 of the
Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides:

Sec. 8. Designation of the offense.The complaint or information shall state the designation of the
offense given by the statute, aver the acts or omissions constituting the offense, and specify its qualifying
and aggravating circumstances. If there is no designation of the offense, reference shall be made to the
section or subsection of the statute punishing it.

It is a basic constitutional right of the accused persons to be informed of the nature and cause of accusation
against them. It would be a denial of accused-appellants basic right to due process if he is charged with simple rape and
consequently convicted with certain qualifying circumstances which were not alleged in the information.

The appellate court correctly ruled that the use of a bladed weapon and uninhabited place are not circumstances
that would call for the imposition of the death penalty. Sec. 2 of RA 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, incorporating
Article 266-B into the Revised Penal Code, provides:

The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of the
following aggravating/qualifying circumstances:
1) When the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant,
step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or the
common law spouse of the parent of the victim.

2) When the victim is under the custody of the police or military authorities or any law
enforcement or penal institution.

3) When the rape is committed in full view of the spouse, parent, any of the children or other
relatives within the third civil degree of consanguinity.

4) When the victim is a religious engaged in legitimate vocation or calling and is personally
known to be such by the offender before or at the time of the commission of the crime.

5) When the victim is a child below seven (7) years old.

6) When the offender knows that he is afflicted with Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus
(HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) or any other sexually transmissible
disease and virus or disease is transmitted to the victim.

7) When committed by any member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or para-military
units thereof or the Philippine National Police or any law enforcement agency or penal
institution, when the offender took advantage of his position to facilitate the commission of
the crime.

8) When by reason or on the occasion of the rape, the victim has suffered permanent physical
mutilation or disability.

9) When the offender knew of the pregnancy of the offended party at the time of the
commission of the crime.

10) When the offender knew of the mental disability, emotional disorder and/or physical
handicap of the offended party at the time of the commission of the crime.

The victims minority does not also qualify the offense to merit the death penalty. To warrant a death sentence, the
victim must be under seven (7) years of age. The applicable provisions, therefore, are the following:

Art. 266-A. Rape; when and how committed.

1) By a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:

a) Through force, threat, or intimidation;

b) When the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious;

c) By means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority; and

d) When the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of
the circumstances mention above is present.

xxxx

Art. 266-B. Penalties.Rape under paragraph 1 of the next preceding article shall be punished by reclusion
perpetua.
In the case at bar, the trial court found that accused-appellant, with the use of force, did have sexual intercourse
with the victim who was then under 12 years old. His guilt was established beyond reasonable doubt. Thus, the applicable
penalty is only reclusion perpetua and not death, the imposition of which has been abolished. Without the qualifying
circumstances, the indemnity should also be reduced from PhP 75,000 to PhP 50,000 only. The award of PhP 50,000 as
moral damages is retained.[23]

WHEREFORE, the CAs March 7, 2007 Decision in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00069
is AFFIRMED IN TOTO. No costs.

SO ORDERED.
11. People vs. Noque, GR No. 175319, 15 January 2010

DECISION

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

The illicit trade and use of dangerous drugs destroys the moral fiber of society. It has eroded and disrupted family life, increased the
transmission of sexually related diseases, resulted in permanent and fatal damage to the physical and mental health, and wasted
dreams, opportunities and hopes for a better future. As an ardent sentinel of the peoples rights and welfare, this Court shall not hesitate
to dispense justice on people who engage in such an activity.[1] The commitment to this end is exemplified in this appeal.

The Charges

The appeal stems from two Informations filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, which were subsequently docketed
as Criminal Case Nos. 01-189458 and 01-189459, and raffled to Branch 35 of said court. The Information in Criminal Case No. 01-
189458 charging appellant Joselito Noque y Gomez with violation of Section 15, Article III in relation to Section 21 (e), (f), (m), (o),
Article 1 of Republic Act (RA) No. 6425, as amended by Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1683 and as further amended by RA 7659
reads:

That on or about January 30, 2001, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, not having been authorized
by law to sell, dispense, deliver, transport or distribute any regulated drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully
and knowingly sell or offer for sale, dispense, deliver, transport or distribute 2.779 (two point seven seven nine
grams) and 2.729 (two point seven two nine grams) of white crystalline substance known as shabu containing
methamphetamine hydrochloride, which is a regulated drug.

Contrary to law.[2]
On the other hand, the Information in Criminal Case No. 01-189459 contains the following accusatory allegations for violation of
Section 16, Article III in relation to Section 2 (e-2) Article I of RA 6425 as amended by Batas Pambansa (BP) Bilang 179 and as
further amended by RA 7659:

That on or about January 30, 2001, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused without being authorized by
law to possess or use any regulated drug, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and knowingly have in his
possession and under his custody and control (six seven nine point two one five grams) 679.215 grams of white
crystalline substance known as shabu containing methamphetamine hydrochloride, a regulated drug, without the
corresponding license or prescription thereof.

Contrary to law.[3]

During his arraignment on July 23, 2001, appellant pleaded not guilty to both charges. Pre-trial conference was conducted and upon
its termination a joint trial ensued.

Version of the Prosecution

At 9 oclock in the evening of January 30, 2001, a confidential informant of


Senior Police Officer 4 (SPO4) Norberto Murillo, went to Police Station No. 4 of the Western Police District (WPD) to tip off on the
drug trafficking activities of the appellant in Malate, Manila. SP04 Murillo immediately directed Police Officers (POs) Christian
Balais (Balais) and Dionisio Borca (Borca) to conduct surveillance in the area mentioned by the informant. The surveillance
confirmed appellants illegal operations being conducted at No. 630 San Andres Street, Malate, Manila. Thereafter, SP04 Murillo
formed and led a buy-bust team with POs Balais, Borca, Ramon Pablo, Roberto Godoy, Edgardo Book, Bernard Mino, Rodante
Bollotano, and Melchor Barolo as members. PO1 Balais was designated as poseur-buyer and was provided with 10 pieces of 100
peso bills as buy-bust money.

The buy-bust team, together with the informant, proceeded to the aforementioned address and upon arrival thereat, positioned
themselves outside the appellants house. PO1 Balais and the informant thereafter called out the appellant, who welcomed the two and
brought them to his bedroom. The informant asked the appellant if he had P1,000.00 worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride
or shabu then pointed to PO1 Balais as the actual buyer. When PO1 Balais handed the marked money to the appellant, the latter
brought out from under a table a pranela bag from which he took two plastic sachets containing white crystalline granules suspected
to be shabu. The informant slipped out of the house as the pre-arranged signal to the buy-bust team that the sale had been
consummated.
After seeing the informant leave, the team entered appellants house. SPO4 Murillo frisked the appellant and recovered the buy-bust
money. He also confiscated the pranela bag that contained a large quantity of crystalline granules suspected to be shabu. The two
persons who were in a pot session with the appellant at the time of the raid were likewise arrested and brought to the WPD Station No.
9 for investigation.

The seized articles were taken to the police station and submitted to the crime laboratory for examination to determine the chemical
composition of the crystalline substance. Police Inspector (P/Insp.) and Forensic Chemical Officer Miladenia Tapan examined one
self-sealing transparent plastic bag with markings JNG containing 679.215 grams of white crystalline granules; and two heat-sealed
transparent plastic sachets each containing white crystalline substance, pre-marked JNG-1 weighing 2.779 grams and JNG-2weighing
2.729 grams. The qualitative examinations yielded positive results for ephedrine, a regulated drug.
Version of the Defense

The appellant gave a different version of the events that transpired. He testified that he was in his house in the evening of January 23,
2001 when six policemen led by SPO4 Murillo entered and arrested an unidentified occupant of the room next to his. The arresting
team returned after 30 minutes and apprehended another person. When they came back the third time, they took him with them to
WPD Station No. 9 where his wallet, belt and shoes were taken. While under detention, SPO4 Murillo ordered him to admit selling
illegal substances but he refused. He was released on January 26, 2001 only to be rearrested at around 9 oclock in the evening
on January 30, 2001 when SPO4 Murillo and his team returned to his house and took him at gunpoint to the police station where he
was detained for 24 hours. Police officers presented him later to Mayor Lito Atienza and General Avelino Razon for a press
conference.

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

In its Decision[4] dated February 28, 2003, the trial court convicted the appellant of both charges. It declared that the evidence adduced
by the prosecution established with moral certainty his guilt for committing the crimes in the manner narrated in the Informations. The
testimonies of police officers that they caught appellant in flagrante delicto of selling and possessing a dangerous drug are clear and
positive evidence that deserve more evidentiary weight than appellants defenses of denial and frame-up, which are mere negative and
self-serving assertions unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence. The trial court also ruled that it cannot deviate from the
presumption of regularity in the performance of duty on the part of the police officers since no ill motives were ascribed to them that
would entice them to testify falsely against the appellant.

The trial court also held that while the Informations alleged methamphetamine hydrochloride as the drug seized from the appellant,
the drug actually confiscated which was ephedrine, is a precursor of methamphetamine, i.e., methamphetamine is an element of, and
is present in ephedrine. Ephedrine is the raw material while methamphetamine is its refined product. Both drugs have the same
chemical formula except for the presence of a single atom of oxygen which when removed by means of chemical reaction changes
ephedrine to methamphetamine. Thus, the trial court ruled that the appellant can be convicted of the offenses charged, which are
included in the crimes proved. The trial court further held that under Section 4, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court, a variance in the
offense charged in the complaint or information and that proved shall result in the conviction for the offense charged which is included
in the offense proved.

In determining the quantity of methamphetamine hydrochloride upon which the proper imposable penalty on the appellant must be
based, the trial court gave credence to the testimony of prosecution witness, P/Insp. Tapan that a gram of ephedrine would produce
gram of methamphetamine when refined.[5]

Conformably, the methamphetamine contents of 5.508 grams[6] of ephedrine in Criminal Case No. 01-189458 would be 2.754
grams. Moreover, the methamphetamine contents of 679.215 grams of ephedrine in Criminal Case No. 01-189459 would be
339.6075 grams.
The dispositive portion of the Decision of the trial court reads:

WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered:

In Criminal Case No. 01-189458, pronouncing accused JOSELITO NOQUE y GOMEZ guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of selling a net quantity of 2.754 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride without authority of
law, penalized under Section 15 in relation to Section 20 of Republic Act No. 6425, as amended, and sentencing the
said accused to the indeterminate penalty ranging from four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional, as
minimum, to six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum, and to pay the costs.

In Criminal Case No. 01-189459, pronouncing the same accused JOSELITO NOQUE y GOMEZ guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of possession of a net quantity of 339.6075 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride
without license or prescription, penalized under Section 16 in relation to Section 20 of Republic Act No. 6425, as
amended, and sentencing the said accused to the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine of P5,000,000.00,
plus the costs.

In the service of his sentences, the full time during which the accused had been under preventive
imprisonment should be credited in his favor provided that he had agreed voluntarily in writing to abide with the
same disciplinary rules imposed on convicted prisoner. Otherwise, he should be credited with four-fifths (4/5) only
of the time he had been under preventive imprisonment.

Exhibits B and C are ordered confiscated and forfeited in favor of the government. Within ten (10) days
following the promulgation of this judgment, the Branch Clerk of this Court, is ordered to turn over, under proper
receipt, the regulated drug involved in these cases to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for proper
disposal.

SO ORDERED.[7]

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

The CA affirmed the trial courts judgment. It held that the designations in the Informations are for violations of Sections 15
and 16 of RA 6425 that define and penalize the crimes of illegal sale and illegal possession of regulated drugs. While the allegations in
the Informations refer to unauthorized sale and possession of shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride, and not of ephedrine, the
allegations are however immediately followed by the qualifying phrase which is a regulated drug. Stated differently, the CA held that
the designations and allegations in the informations are for the crimes of illegal sale and illegal possession of regulated drugs. There
being no dispute that ephedrine is a regulated drug, pursuant to Board Resolution No. 2, Series of 1988, issued by the Dangerous
Drugs Board on March 17, 1988, the CA ruled that the appellant is deemed to have been sufficiently informed of the nature of the
crime with which he is accused. The fact that the chemical structures of ephedrine and methamphetamine are the same except for the
presence of an atom of oxygen in the former strengthens this ruling.[8]
However, the CA modified the penalty imposed by the trial court in Criminal Case No. 01-189458. It held that in the absence
of any mitigating or aggravating circumstances in this case, the penalty should be imposed in its medium period, ranging from six
months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to two years, four months and one day of prision correccional, as maximum. Thus, the
dispositive portion of the Decision of the CA reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the February 28, 2003 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila,
Branch 35, is hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that in Criminal Case No. 01-189458, accused-
appellant is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of six (6) months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to
two (2) years, four (4) months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as maximum.

SO ORDERED.[9]

Our Ruling

The appeal is bereft of merit.

The prosecutions evidence satisfactorily proved that appellant is guilty


of illegal sale of a dangerous drug.
The prosecution successfully proved that appellant violated Section 15, Article III of RA 6425. The prosecutions evidence established
the concurrence of the elements of an illegal sale of a dangerous drug, to wit: (1) the identity of the buyer and seller, object, and
consideration; and (2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor.[10]

In the instant case, the police officers conducted a buy-bust operation after receiving confirmed surveillance reports that the appellant
was engaged in the illicit sale of dangerous drugs at No. 630 San Andres Street, Malate, Manila. PO1 Balais, the designated poseur-
buyer of the buy-bust team, personally identified the appellant as the person who volunteered to sell to him P1,000.00 worth of white
crystalline substance alleged to be shabu. The police officer received this illegal merchandise after giving the appellant the marked
money as payment. Undoubtedly, the appellant is guilty of selling a dangerous drug.
The prosecutions evidence satisfactorily proved that appellant illegally
possessed a dangerous drug.

The prosecution was also successful in proving that appellant violated Section 16, Article III of RA 6425. It adduced evidence that
established the presence of the elements of illegal possession of a dangerous drug. It showed that (1) the appellant was in possession
of an item or an object identified to be a prohibited or regulated drug, (2) such possession is not authorized by law, and (3) the
appellant was freely and consciously aware of being in possession of the drug.[11]

The police buy-bust team apprehended the appellant for the sale of a white crystalline substance then proceeded to search the
premises. They found a large quantity of the same substance inside the bag that contained the two sachets of the regulated drug sold to
PO1 Balais. Appellant did not offer any explanation why he is in custody of the said substance. Neither did the appellant present any
authorization to possess the same. Mere possession of a regulated drug per se constitutes prima facie evidence of knowledge
or animus possidendi sufficient to convict an accused absent a satisfactory explanation of such possession the onus probandi is
shifted to the accused, to explain the absence of knowledge or animus possidendi.[12] With the burden of evidence shifted to the
appellant, it was his duty to explain his innocence on the regulated drug seized from his person. However, as already mentioned, he
did not offer any excuse or explanation regarding his possession thereof.

There is no evidence showing that the police officers are actuated by ill
motives.

Likewise to be considered against the appellant is his failure to present evidence imputing evil motive on the part of the police officers
who participated in the entrapment operation to testify falsely against him. Where there is no evidence that the principal witness of the
prosecution was actuated by ill or devious motive, the testimony is entitled to full faith and credit.[13]

Appellants right to be informed of the nature and cause of the


accusations was not violated.

The only issue raised by the appellant in this petition is that his conviction for the sale and possession of shabu, despite the fact that
what was established and proven was the sale and possession of ephedrine, violated his constitutional right to be informed of the
nature and cause of the accusations against him since the charges in the Informations are for selling and possessing methamphetamine
hydrochloride.

We agree with the findings of the CA and the trial court, as well as the testimony of the forensic chemical officer, that the
drug known as ephedrine has a central nervous stimulating effect similar to that of methamphetamine. In fact, ephedrine is an
important precursor used in the clandestine synthesis of methamphetamine, which in crystallized form is methamphetamine
hydrochloride.

Thus, on March 17, 1988, pursuant to Section 20(8) of RA 6425, as amended, the Dangerous Drugs Board in its Board
Regulation No. 2, S. 1988, classified as regulated drug all raw materials of ephedrine, as well as preparations containing the said
drug. The chemical formula of ephedrine is C10 H15 NO, whereas that of methamphetamine is C10 H15 N. The only difference
between ephedrine and methamphetamine is the presence of a single atom of oxygen in the former. The removal of the oxygen in
ephedrine will produce methamphetamine. With ephedrine containing fifty percent (50%) of methamphetamine hydrochloride if the
oxygen content in the former is removed, the nearly 680 grams of ephedrine seized from the appellant contains about 340 grams of
methamphetamine hydrochloride.
Moreover, as correctly observed by CA, the offenses designated in the Informations are for violations of Sections 15 and 16
of RA 6425, which define and penalize the crimes of illegal sale and possession of regulated drugs. The allegations in the
Informations for the unauthorized sale and possession of shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride are immediately followed by the
qualifying phrase which is a regulated drug. Thus, it is clear that the designations and allegations in the Informations are for the crimes
of illegal sale and illegal possession of regulated drugs. Ephedrine has been classified as a regulated drug by the Dangerous Drugs
Board in Board Resolution No. 2, Series of 1988.

The CA correctly ruled that Sections 4 and 5, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court, [14] can be applied by analogy in convicting the appellant
of the offenses charged, which are included in the crimes proved. Under these provisions, an offense charged is necessarily included
in the offense proved when the essential ingredients of the former constitute or form part of those constituting the latter. At any rate, a
minor variance between the information and the evidence does not alter the nature of the offense, nor does it determine or qualify the
crime or penalty, so that even if a discrepancy exists, this cannot be pleaded as a ground for acquittal. [15] In other words, his right to be
informed of the charges against him has not been violated because where an accused is charged with a specific crime, he is duly
informed not only of such specific crime but also of lesser crimes or offenses included therein.[16]

The Penalties

In Criminal Case No. 01-189458, appellant is found guilty of violation of Section 15, Article III of RA 6425, as
amended. We explained in People
v. Isnani[17] that:

Under Section 15, Article III in relation to the second paragraph of Sections 20 and 21 of Article IV of
Republic Act No. 6425, as amended by Section 17 of R.A. No. 7659, the imposable penalty of illegal sale of a
regulated drug (shabu), less than 200 grams, as in this case, is prision correccional to reclusion perpetua. Based on
the quantity of the regulated drug subject of the offense, the imposable penalty shall be as follows:

QUANTITY IMPOSABLE PENALTY

Less than one (1) gram


to 49.25 grams prision correccional

49.26 grams to 98.50 grams prision mayor

98.51 grams to 147.75 grams reclusion temporal

147.76 grams to 199 grams reclusion perpetua

The quantity of shabu involved is 0.060 grams. Pursuant to the second paragraph of Sections 20 and 21 of
Article IV of R.A. No. 6425, as amended by Section 17 of R.A. No. 7659 (for unauthorized sale of less than 200
grams of shabu) and considering our ruling in the above case, the imposable penalty is prision correccional.

Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, and there being no aggravating or mitigating circumstance that
attended the commission of the crime, the maximum period is prision correccional in its medium period which has
a duration of 2 years, 4 months and 1 day to 4 years and 2 months. The minimum period is within the range of the
penalty next lower in degree which is arresto mayor, the duration of which is 1 month and 1 day to 6
months. Hence, appellant should be sentenced to 6 months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to 2 years, 4 months and
1 days of prision correctional in its medium period, as maximum.

In Criminal Case No. 01-189458, the quantity of the prohibited drug seized from appellant is 2.754 grams. Accordingly, the
Court of Appeals correctly modified the penalty imposed by the trial court to six months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to two
years, four months and one day of prision correccional, as maximum.

As regards Criminal Case No. 01-189459, Section 16, Article III of RA 6425, as amended, provides for the penalty
of reclusion perpetua to death and a fine ranging from P500,000.00 to P10 million upon any person who shall possess or use any
regulated drug without the corresponding license or prescription. Section 20 of RA 6425, as amended, further provides that the
penalty imposed for the offense under Section 16, Article III shall be applied if the dangerous drug involved is 200 grams or more
of shabu. In this case, the appellant was found in illegal possession of 339.6075 grams of prohibited drug. Therefore, both the trial
court and the Court of Appeals correctly imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua and a fine of P500,000.00 to appellant.

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00684 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


12. Hilario vs. People, GR No. 161070, 14 April 2008

DECISION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court filed by John Hilario y Sibal (petitioner), seeking
to annul and set aside the Resolutions dated August 19, 2003[1] and November 28 2003[2] of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No.
75820.
The antecedents are as follows:

Petitioner, together with one Gilbert Alijid (Alijid), was charged with two counts[3] of Murder in the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch
76, Quezon City to which petitioner, assisted by counsel de parte, pleaded not guilty.

During trial, Atty. Raul Rivera of the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), counsel of Alijid, took over representing petitioner in view of the
death of the latter's counsel.

On December 5, 2001, the RTC rendered its Decision[4] finding petitioner and his co-accused Alijid guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime of homicide and sentencing them to suffer imprisonment of eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor to
fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months of reclusion temporal in each count.

On May 10, 2002, petitioner, this time unassisted by counsel, filed with the RTC a Petition for Relief [5] from the Decision
dated December 5, 2001 together with an affidavit of merit. In his petition, petitioner contended that at the time of the promulgation of
the judgment, he was already confined at Quezon City Jail and was directed to be committed to the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa;
that he had no way of personally filing the notice of appeal thus he instructed his lawyer to file it on his behalf; that he had no choice but
to repose his full trust and confidence to his lawyer; that he had instructed his lawyer to file the necessary motion for reconsideration or
notice of appeal; that on May 2, 2002, he was already incarcerated at the New Bilibid Prisons, Muntinlupa City and learned from the
grapevine of his impending transfer to the Iwahig Penal Colony, Palawan; that believing that the notice of appeal filed by his counsel
prevented the Decision dated December 5, 2001 from becoming final to warrant his transfer, he instructed his representative to get a copy
of the notice of appeal from the RTC; that no notice of appeal was filed by his lawyer in defiance of his clear instructions; and that the
RTC Decision showed that it was received by his counsel on February 1, 2002 and yet the counsel did not inform him of any action taken
thereon.

Petitioner claimed that he had a meritorious defense, to wit:

1. The Decision dated December 5, 2001, on page 16 thereof states an imprisonment term of eight (8) years
and one (1) day of Prision Mayor to fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months of Reclusion Temporal - a matter
which ought to be rectified;

2. The undersigned is a first time offender;

3. No ruling was laid down on the stipulated facts (Decision, p. 3) relative to the (1) absence of counsel during
the alleged inquest, and (2) absence of warrant in arresting the accused after ten (10) days from the commission of
the crime;

4. Absence of a corroborating witness to the purported lone eyewitness, as against the corroborated testimony
of accused-petitioner's alibi;

5. The Commission on Human Rights investigation on the torture of the accused-petitioner;

6. and others.[6]
Petitioner argued that he was meted a total of 16 years imprisonment or almost equal to the previous capital punishment of 20 years
which was given an automatic review by the Supreme Court, thus it is of greater interest of justice that his case be reviewed by the
appellate court; and that no damage will be sustained if the appeal is given due course since he continues to languish in jail while the
Petition for Relief is pending.

The Assistant City Prosecutor filed his Comment on the Petition for Relief where he contended that the petition should no longer be
entertained; and that perfection of appeal in the manner and within the period permitted by law was not only mandatory but jurisdictional
and failure to perfect the appeal rendered the judgment final and executory.

The records do not show that the RTC required petitioner's counsel to whom petitioner attributed the act of not filing the notice of appeal
to file his comment.
On September 30, 2002, petitioner's counsel filed a Withdrawal of Appearance[7] from the case with petitioner's consent. Again, the
documents before us do not show the action taken by the RTC thereon.

In an Order[8] dated December 13, 2002, the RTC dismissed petitioner's petition for relief with the following disquisition:

After a careful study of the instant petition and the arguments raised by the contending parties, the Court is not
persuaded by petitioner/accused's allegation that he was prevented from filing a notice of appeal due to excusable
negligence of his counsel.

Accused's allegation that he indeed specifically instructed his counsel to file a notice of appeal of the Decision
dated [sic] and the latter did not heed his instruction is at best self-serving and unsubstantiated and thus, unworthy of
credence. At any rate, even if said omission should be considered as negligence, it is a well-settled rule that negligence
of counsel is binding on the client. x x x Besides, nowhere does it appear that accused/petitioner was prevented from
fairly presenting his defense nor does it appear that he was prejudiced as the merits of this case were adequately passed
upon in the Decision dated December 5, 2001.
It must also be pointed out that in his petition for relief, he stated that he instructed his counsel to file
the necessary motion for reconsideration or notice of appeal of the Decision dated December 5, 2001, whereas
in his affidavit of merit, he claimed to have told his counsel to simply file a notice of appeal thereof. [9] (Emphasis
supplied)

Petitioner, again by himself, filed a petition for certiorari with the CA on the ground that the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion
in dismissing his petition for relief. He claims that the delay in appealing his case without his fault constitutes excusable negligence to
warrant the granting of his petition for relief.
In a Resolution dated August 19, 2003, the CA dismissed the petition in this wise:

It appearing that petitioner in the instant petition for certiorari failed to attach the following documents cited in his
petition, namely:
1. The December 5, 2001 Decision;
2. Comment of the City Prosecutor;
3. Manifestation of petitioner's counsel de oficio signifying his withdrawal as petitioner's counsel.
The instant petition for certiorari is hereby DISMISSED pursuant to Section 2, Rule 42 of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure and as prayed for by the Solicitor General.[10]
Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied in a Resolution dated November 28, 2003 for having been filed beyond the 15-
day reglementary period, in violation of Section 1, Rule 52 of theRules of Court and for failure to attach to the petition, the relevant and
pertinent documents. The CA also stressed that procedural rules are not to be belittled simply because their non-observance may have
resulted in prejudice to a party's substantive rights.

Hence, herein recourse filed by petitioner, still unassisted by counsel, raising the following issues:

Whether or not the delay in appealing the instant case due to the defiance of the petitioner's counsel de oficio to
seasonably file a Notice of Appeal, constitutes excusable negligence to entitle the undersigned detention
prisoner/ petitioner to pursue his appeal?

Whether or not pro hac vice, the mere invocation of justice warrants the review of a final and executory judgment?
Petitioner contends that the negligence of his counsel de oficio cannot be binding on him for the latter's defiance of his instruction to
appeal automatically breaks the fiduciary relationship between counsel-client and cannot be against the client who was prejudiced; that
this breach of trust cannot easily be concocted in this situation considering that it was a counsel de oficio, a lawyer from PAO, who broke
the fiduciary relationship; that the assailed CA Resolutions both harped on technicalities to uphold the dismissal by the RTC of his
petition for relief; that reliance on technicalities to the prejudice of petitioner who is serving 14 years imprisonment for a crime he did not
commit is an affront to the policy promulgated by this Court that dismissal purely on technical grounds is frowned upon especially if it
will result to unfairness; and that it would have been for the best interest of justice for the CA to have directed the petitioner to complete
the records instead of dismissing the petition outright.

In his Comment, the OSG argues that the mere invocation of justice does not warrant the review of an appeal from a final
and executory judgment; that perfection of an appeal in the manner and within the period laid down by law is not only mandatory
but jurisdictional and failure to perfect the appeal renders the judgment sought to be reviewed final and not appealable; and that
petitioner's appeal after the finality of judgment of conviction is an exercise in futility, thus the RTC properly dismissed petitioner's
petition for relief from judgment. The OSG further claims that notice to counsel is notice to clients and failure of counsel to notify his
client of an adverse judgment would not constitute excusable negligence and therefore binding on the client.

We grant the petition.

The CA dismissed the petition for certiorari filed under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, in relation to Rule 46, on the ground that
petitioner failed to attach certain documents which the CA found to be relevant and pertinent to the petition for certiorari.

The requirements to attach such relevant pleadings under Section 1, Rule 65 is read in relation to Section 3, Rule 46 of the Rules of
Court, thus:

Section 1, Rule 65 provides:

SECTION. 1. Petition for certiorari.

xxxx

The petition shall be accompanied by a certified true copy of the judgment, order or resolution subject thereof,
copies of all pleadings and documents relevant and pertinent thereto x x x.

Section 3, Rule 46, provides:

SEC. 3. Contents and filing of petition; effect of non-compliance with requirements.

xxxx

[The petition] shall be x x x accompanied by a clearly legible duplicate original or certified true copy of the
judgment, order, resolution, or ruling subject thereof, such material portions of the record as are referred to therein, and
other documents relevant or pertinent thereto x x x.

xxxx

The failure of the petitioner to comply with any of the foregoing requirements shall be sufficient ground for
the dismissal of the petition.

The initial determination of what pleadings, documents or orders are relevant and pertinent to the petition rests on the petitioner. If, upon
its initial review of the petition, the CA is of the view that additional pleadings, documents or order should have been submitted and
appended to the petition, the following are its options: (a) dismiss the petition under the last paragraph of Rule 46 of the Rules of Court;
(b) order the petitioner to submit the required additional pleadings, documents, or order within a specific period of time; or (c) order the
petitioner to file an amended petition appending thereto the required pleadings, documents or order within a fixed period.[11]

The RTC Decision dated December 5, 2001, finding petitioner guilty of two counts of homicide, the Comment of the City Prosecutor as
well as the counsel's withdrawal of appearance were considered by the CA as relevant and pertinent to the petition for certiorari,
thus it dismissed the petition for failure to attach the same. However, the CA failed to consider the fact that the petition before it was filed
by petitioner, a detained prisoner, without the benefit of counsel. A litigant who is not a lawyer is not expected to know the rules of
procedure. In fact, even the most experienced lawyers get tangled in the web of procedure.[12] We have held in a civil case that to demand
as much from ordinary citizens whose only compelle intrare is their sense of right would turn the legal system into an intimidating
monstrosity where an individual may be stripped of his property rights not because he has no right to the property but because he does not
know how to establish such right.[13] This finds application specially if the liberty of a person is at stake. As we held in Telan v. Court of
Appeals:

The right to counsel in civil cases exists just as forcefully as in criminal cases, specially so when as a
consequence, life, liberty, or property is subjected to restraint or in danger of loss.

In criminal cases, the right of an accused person to be assisted by a member of the bar is
immutable. Otherwise, there would be a grave denial of due process. Thus, even if the judgment had become
final and executory, it may still be recalled, and the accused afforded the opportunity to be heard by himself
and counsel.

xxxx

Even the most experienced lawyers get tangled in the web of procedure. The demand as much from ordinary
citizens whose only compelle intrare is their sense of right would turn the legal system into an intimidating
monstrosity where an individual may be stripped of his property rights not because he has no right to the property but
because he does not know how to establish such right.

The right to counsel is absolute and may be invoked at all times. More so, in the case of an on-going litigation,
it is a right that must be exercised at every step of the way, with the lawyer faithfully keeping his client company.

No arrangement or interpretation of law could be as absurd as the position that the right to counsel
exists only in the trial courts and that thereafter, the right ceases in the pursuit of the appeal.[14] (Emphasis
supplied)

The filing of the petition for certiorari by petitioner without counsel should have alerted the CA and should have required petitioner to
cause the entry of appearance of his counsel. Although the petition filed before the CA was a petition for certiorari assailing the RTC
Order dismissing the petition for relief, the ultimate relief being sought by petitioner was to be given the chance to file an appeal from his
conviction, thus the need for a counsel is more pronounced. To repeat the ruling in Telan, no arrangement or interpretation of law could
be as absurd as the position that the right to counsel exists only in the trial courts and that thereafter, the right ceases in the pursuit of the
appeal.[15] It is even more important to note that petitioner was not assisted by counsel when he filed his petition for relief from judgment
with the RTC.

It cannot be overstressed therefore, that in criminal cases, as held in Telan, the right of an accused person to be assisted by a
member of the bar is immutable; otherwise, there would be a grave denial of due process.

Cases should be determined on the merits after full opportunity to all parties for ventilation of their causes and defenses, rather than on
technicality or some procedural imperfections. In that way, the ends of justice would be served better.[16]

The CA denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration for having been filed late. It appears that the CA Resolution dismissing the petition
for certiorari was received at the address written in the petition on September 1, 2003, and that petitioner filed his motion for
reconsideration on September 18, 2003, or two days late.

While as a general rule, the failure of petitioner to file his motion for reconsideration within the 15-day reglementary period fixed by law
rendered the resolution final and executory, we have on some occasions relaxed this rule. Thus, in Barnes v. Padilla[17] we held:

However, this Court has relaxed this rule in order to serve substantial justice considering (a) matters of life,
liberty, honor or property, (b) the existence of special or compelling circumstances, (c) the merits of the case, (d) a
cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules, (e) a lack of
any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory, and (f) the other party will not be unjustly
prejudiced thereby.
Invariably, rules of procedure should be viewed as mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice.
Their strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote
substantial justice, must always be eschewed. Even the Rules of Court reflects this principle. The power to suspend or
even disregard rules can be so pervasive and compelling as to alter even that which this Court itself had already
declared to be final.

In De Guzman v. Sandiganbayan, this Court, speaking through the late Justice Ricardo J. Francisco, had
occasion to state:

The Rules of Court was conceived and promulgated to set forth guidelines in the
dispensation of justice but not to bind and chain the hand that dispenses it, for otherwise, courts will
be mere slaves to or robots of technical rules, shorn of judicial discretion. That is precisely why
courts in rendering justice have always been, as they ought to be guided by the norm that when on
the balance, technicalities take a backseat against substantive rights, and not the other way
around. Truly then, technicalities, in the appropriate language of Justice Makalintal, "should give
way to the realities of the situation.
Indeed, the emerging trend in the rulings of this Court is to afford every party litigant the amplest opportunity
for the proper and just determination of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities.[18]

Moreover, in Basco v. Court of Appeals,[19] we also held:

Nonetheless, procedural rules were conceived to aid the attainment of justice. If a stringent application of the rules
would hinder rather than serve the demands of substantial justice, the former must yield to the latter. Recognizing this,
Section 2, Rule 1 of the Rules of Court specifically provides that:

SECTION 2. Construction. These rules shall be liberally construed in order to promote their object and to
assist the parties in obtaining just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.[20]

Petitioner claims that he actually received the CA Resolution dismissing his petition for certiorari only on September 4, 2003 even as the
same Resolution was earlier received on September 1, 2003 at the address written in his petition, i.e., c/o Robert S. Bacuraya, No. 9 Iris
St., West Fairview, 1118, Quezon City, by a certain Leonora Coronel. Apparently, Bacuraya is not a lawyer. Ordinarily, petitioner being
detained at the National Penitentiary, Muntinlupa, the CA should have also sent a copy of such Resolution to his place of
detention. Considering that petitioner only received the Resolution on September 4, 2003, we find the two days delay in filing his
motion for reconsideration pardonable as it did not cause any prejudice to the other party. There is no showing that petitioner was
motivated by a desire to delay the proceedings or obstruct the administration of justice. The suspension of the Rules is warranted in this
case since the procedural infirmity was not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of petitioner.

Rules of procedure are mere tools designed to expedite the decision or resolution of cases and other matters pending in court. A
strict and rigid application of rules that would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice must be
avoided.[21]

In dismissing the petition for certiorari filed before it, the CA clearly put a premium on technicalities and brushed aside the
issue raised before it by petitioner, i.e., whether the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion in dismissing petitioner's petition for relief
thus preventing him from taking an appeal from his conviction.

Even if the judgment had become final and executory, it may still be recalled, and the accused afforded the opportunity to be
heard by himself and counsel.[22] However, instead of remanding the case to the CA for a decision on the merits, we opt to resolve the
same so as not to further delay the final disposition of this case.

The RTC denied the petition for relief as it found petitioner's claim that his counsel did not heed his instruction to file an appeal to
be unsubstantiated and self serving; and that if there was indeed such omission committed by the counsel, such negligence is binding on
the client.

Petitioner insists that the failure of his counsel to timely file a notice of appeal of his judgment of conviction despite his explicit
instruction to do so constitutes excusable negligence and so his petition for relief should have been granted.
We find that the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion in dismissing petitioner's petition for relief from judgment.
Petitioner was represented in the RTC by Atty. Rivera of the PAO. Section 1, Article IV of PAO Memorandum Circular No.18 series of
2002, the Amended Standard Office Procedures in Extending Legal Assistance (PAO Memorandum Circular), provides that all appeals
must be made upon the request of the client himself and only meritorious cases shall be appealed; while Section 2, Article II of PAO
Memorandum Circular provides that in criminal cases, the accused enjoys the constitutional presumption of innocence until the contrary
is proven, hence cases of defendants in criminal actions are considered meritorious and therefore, should be appealed, upon the client's
request.

In this case, petitioner claims he had instructed the PAO lawyer to file an appeal. Under the PAO Memorandum Circular,
it was the duty of the latter to perfect the appeal. Thus, in determining whether the petition for relief from judgment is based on a
meritorious ground, it was crucial to ascertain whether petitioner indeed gave explicit instruction to the PAO lawyer to file an appeal but
the latter failed to do so.

To determine the veracity of petitioner's claim, it was incumbent upon the RTC to have required the PAO lawyer to comment on
the petition for relief. However, it appears from the records that the RTC only required the City Prosecutor to file a comment on the
petition.

The RTC Order dismissing the petition for relief did not touch on the question whether the PAO lawyer was indeed negligent in not
filing the appeal as it merely stated that even if said omission, i.e., not filing the appeal despite his clients instruction to do so, should be
considered as negligence, it is a well-settled rule that negligence of counsel is binding on the client.

While as a general rule, negligence of counsel may not be condoned and should bind the client,[23] the exception is when the negligence of
counsel is so gross, reckless and inexcusable that the client is deprived of his day in court.[24] In Aguilar v. Court of Appeals,[25] we held:

x x x Losing liberty by default of an insensitive lawyer should be frowned upon despite the fiction that a
client is bound by the mistakes of his lawyer. The established jurisprudence holds:

xxxx

The function of the rule that negligence or mistake of counsel in procedure is imputed to and binding upon the
client, as any other procedural rule, is to serve as an instrument to advance the ends of justice. When in the
circumstances of each case the rule desert its proper office as an aid to justice and becomes its great hindrance and chief
enemy, its rigors must be relaxed to admit exceptions thereto and to prevent a manifest miscarriage of justice.

xxxx

The court has the power to except a particular case from the operation of the rule whenever the purposes of
justice require it.

xxxx

If the incompetence, ignorance or inexperience of counsel is so great and the error committed as a result
thereof is so serious that the client, who otherwise has a good cause, is prejudiced and denied his day in court, the
litigation may be reopened to give the client another chance to present his case. In a criminal proceeding, where certain
evidence was not presented because of counsel's error or incompetence, the defendant in order to secure a new trial
must satisfy the court that he has a good defense and that the acquittal would in all probability have followed the
introduction of the omitted evidence. What should guide judicial action is that a party be given the fullest opportunity to
establish the merits of his action or defense rather than for him to lose life, liberty, honor or property on mere
technicalities.[26]

The PAO lawyer, Atty. Rivera, filed his Withdrawal of Appearance on September 30, 2002, almost three months before the
RTC rendered its assailed Order dated December 13, 2002,dismissing the petition for relief. The RTC had ample time to require the
PAO lawyer to comment on the petition for relief from judgment, before issuing the questioned Order. Had the RTC done so, there
would have been a factual basis for the RTC to determine whether or not the PAO lawyer was grossly negligent; and eventually, whether
the petition for relief from judgment is meritorious. If there was no instruction from petitioner to file an appeal, then there was no
obligation on the part of the PAO lawyer to file an appeal as stated in the PAO Memorandum Circular and negligence could not be
attributed to him. However, if indeed there was such an instruction to appeal but the lawyer failed to do so, he could be considered
negligent.

Thus, there was no basis for the RTC to conclude that the claim of petitioner that he instructed the PAO lawyer to file an appeal
as self-serving and unsubstantiated. The RTC's dismissal of the petition for relief was done with grave abuse of discretion amounting to
an undue denial of the petitioner's right to appeal.

The RTC faulted petitioner for claiming in his petition for relief that he instructed his counsel to file the necessary motion for
reconsideration or notice of appeal; while in his affidavit of merit, he claimed to have told his counsel to simply file a notice of
appeal. We do not find such circumstance sufficient ground to dismiss the petition considering that he filed the petition for relief
unassisted by counsel.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have the right to appeal in the manner prescribed by law. The importance and real purpose
of the remedy of appeal has been emphasized in Castro v. Court of Appeals[27] where we ruled that an appeal is an essential part of our
judicial system and trial courts are advised to proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of the right to appeal and instructed that
every party-litigant should be afforded the amplest opportunity for the proper and just disposition of his cause, freed from the constraints
of technicalities. While this right is statutory, once it is granted by law, however, its suppression would be a violation of due
process, a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Thus, the importance of finding out whether petitioner's loss of the right to appeal
was due to the PAO lawyer's negligence and not at all attributed to petitioner.

However, we cannot, in the present petition for review on certiorari, make a conclusive finding that indeed there
was excusable negligence on the part of the PAO lawyer which prejudiced petitioner's right to appeal his conviction. To do so would be
pure speculation or conjecture. Therefore, a remand of this case to the RTC for the proper determination of the merits of the petition for
relief from judgment is just and proper.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Resolutions dated August 19, 2003 and November 28, 2003 of the Court of Appeals
are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Order dated December 13, 2002 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 76,
is SET ASIDE. The RTC is hereby ordered to require Atty. Raul Rivera of the Public Attorney's Office to file his comment on the
petition for relief from judgment filed by petitioner, hold a hearing thereon, and thereafter rule on the merits of the petition for
relief from judgment, with dispatch.

SO ORDERED.
13. People vs. Siongco, GR No. 186472, 5 July 2010

DECISION

NACHURA, J.:

Before the Court for review is the September 20, 2007 Decision [1] of the Court of Appeals (CA), affirming the
guilty verdict rendered by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 166, Pasig City, [2] promulgated on November 6, 2000,
against appellants Antonio Siongco (Siongco) and Allan Bonsol (Bonsol), with modification on the penalty imposed and
the amount of damages to be paid to their victim, Nikko Satimbre (Nikko). [3] This review is made, pursuant to the
pertinent provisions of Sections 3 and 10 of Rule 122 and Section 13 of Rule 124 of the Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure, as amended by A.M. No. 00-5-03-SC.

The factual findings of both courts show that between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. of December 27, 1998, 11-year-old
Nikko, a resident of Balanga, Bataan, was induced by Siongco to board a bus bound for Pilar, Bataan, together with the
latters friends, Marion Boton (Boton) and Eriberto Enriquez (Enriquez). Nikko was told that the two would accompany
him in getting the Gameboy that Siongco promised. Siongco was no stranger to Nikko as he used to be a security guard at
Footlockers shoe store where Nikkos mother, Elvira Satimbre (Elvira), works as a cashier. After a short stop in Pilar,
Bataan, the three proceeded to Mariveles, Bataan, where they met with George Hayco (Hayco). The boy was then brought
to Dinalupihan, Bataan, where he was kept for the night.[4]

Meanwhile, Elvira arrived home at 7:00 p.m. and found that her son was not there. She searched for him in the
places he frequented, but to no avail. As her continued search for the child proved futile, she reported him missing to the
nearest police detachment.[5]

The following day, December 28, 1998, Enriquez and Siongco took Nikko to Bicutan, Taguig, Metro Manila.[6] On
December 29, 1998, Elvira received a phone call from a man, later identified as appellant Siongco, who claimed to have
custody of Nikko and asked for P400,000.00 in exchange for his liberty. Elvira haggled with her sons captor until the
latter agreed to reduce the ransom money to P300,000.00. Elvira was also able to talk to her son who was only able to
utter Hello Ma as Siongco immediately grabbed the phone from him. Siongco warned Elvira to refrain from reporting the
matter to the police. He also threatened that Nikko would be killed if she fails to give the ransom money at 6:00 p.m. of
the next day at Genesis Bus Station in Pasay City.[7] That night, Elvira telephoned the Office of the Chief of Police of
Balanga, Bataan and reported that Nikkowas kidnapped.[8]

On December 30, 1998, Enriquez and Siongco moved Nikko to Pateros and cautioned him not to tell anybody that
he was kidnapped. They stayed at the house of Heracleo San Jose (Heracleo), a relative of Enriquez. They again called
Elvira who failed to keep her appointment with them in Pasay City. She explained that she was still gathering funds for
the ransom money. The captors reiterated their threats and, at midnight, they called and instructed her to proceed to
Avenida with whatever available money she had, subject to a subsequent agreement as to the balance. Elvira refused and
insisted that she preferred to give the amount in full. [9]

In the morning of December 31, 1998, Siongco called Elvira several times with the same threats and demands.
Elvira agreed to meet them that afternoon at the Genesis Bus Station in Pasay City. Nikko was allowed to speak with his
mother and he assured her that he was not being maltreated. After the call, Enriquez informed Nikko that his mother
wanted a kaliwaan (face to face exchange) deal. Soon thereafter, Enriquez and Siongco left to meet Elvira,
while Nikko stayed behind.[10]

On the same day, Police Senior Inspector Rodolfo Azurin, Jr. (Police Senior Inspector Azurin, Jr.) was on duty at
Crimes Operation Division of the Philippine Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) office in Camp Crame, Quezon
City. At 11:00 a.m., Elvira arrived and requested for assistance for the recovery of her kidnapped son. The PAOCTF team
then instructed her to bring to the pay-off site a brown envelope with a letter asking for extension of payment. After
briefing, Azurin and other police operatives proceeded to Genesis Bus Station in Pasay City. While waiting for Elvira,
they noticed two (2) male persons, later identified as Enriquez and Siongco, restlessly moving around the place. At around
2:30 p.m., Elvira arrived carrying the brown envelope. As instructed by the kidnappers, she positioned herself near a tree
and tied a white kerchief around her neck. Shortly thereafter, Enriquez approached Elvira and took the brown envelope
from her. As he was walking away, the PAOCTF team arrested him. Thereafter, they followed Siongco, who hurriedly
hailed a taxicab and sped away. Siongco was arrested at the residence of Heracleo in Pateros where Nikko was also
rescued. Thereafter, Siongco and Enriquez were brought to Camp Crame.[11]

The investigations of Nikko and the two detainees, coupled with the follow-up operations of the PAOCTF, led to
the arrest of appellant Bonsol, and the other cohorts, Hayco and Boton. [12]

On January 4, 1999, an Information[13] was filed in court, charging herein appellants Siongco and Bonsol, together
with Enriquez, Hayco, Boton, and a John Doe, with KIDNAPPING and SERIOUS ILLEGAL DETENTION under Article
267 of the Revised Penal Code.

Arraigned on February 24, 1999, the five accused pleaded not guilty to the offense charged. [14] Trial then ensued;
in the course of which, the prosecution presented in evidence the oral testimonies of its witnesses: 1) the victim himself,
11-year-old Nikko; 2) his mother, Elvira; 3) Heracleo, relative of accused Enriquez; 4) Police Senior Inspector Azurin, Jr.
of the PAOCTF; and 5) Police Superintendent Paul Tucay, the one who arrested Bonsol, Hayco and Boton.[15]

With the exception of Boton, all of the accused took the witness stand. Hayco and Bonsol denied knowledge of
and participation in the crime. Siongco testified that, on December 27, 1998, he saw Nikko at a peryahan in
Balanga, Bataan but he did not mind the boy as he was busy conversing with Enriquez about their business of selling toys.
He went to Manila and stayed at the house of Heracleo on December 28 and 29, 1998 to collect installment payments
from customers. On December 31, 1998, he went to his brothers house in San Juan, Metro Manila and when he came back
to Pateros on the same day, he was arrested by PAOCTF agents.

Enriquez declared that Nikko voluntarily went with them. He affirmed that he travelled with Nikko and Siongco
to Manila. They stayed in Bicutan and then moved to Pateros. He alleged that they called Nikkos mother because the boy
kept asking for a Gameboy. He went to the Genesis Bus Station to meet Nikkos mother, who, according to Siongco, would
have something tied around her neck.[16]

The RTC rejected the denials and alibis raised by the accused and held that they conspired and mutually helped
one another in kidnapping and illegally detaining Nikko by taking him through a circuitous journey from Balanga, Bataan
to Manila where ransom demands for his liberty were made.

In a decision dated November 6, 2000, the RTC convicted Siongco, Bonsol, Enriquez and Hayco of the offense
charged in the Information and meted upon them the extreme penalty of death. Boton was ACQUITTED on the ground of
reasonable doubt. The pertinent portion of the RTC decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds accused Antonio Siongco y Dela Cruz, Eriberto Enriquez y
Gemson, George Hayco y Cullera and Allan Bonsol y Paz GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention for the purpose of extorting ransom, as defined and
penalized under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 8 of R.A. 7659, and are
hereby sentenced to suffer the Supreme penalty of Death and indemnify the victim, Nikko Satimbre, and
his mother, Elvira Satimbre, each, in the amount of P50,000.00, as moral damages, plus the costs of suit.

On the ground of reasonable doubt, the Court finds accused Marion Boton y Cereza NOT
GUILTY of the crime charged in the Information.

SO ORDERED.[17]

From the RTC, the case went directly to this Court for automatic review. [18] The parties were then required to file,
as they did file, their respective appellants [19] and appellees[20] briefs. Consistent with this Courts ruling in People v. Mateo,
[21]
the case was transferred to the CA[22] for intermediate review and disposition.

Upon review, the CA concurred with the factual findings and conclusions of the trial court and affirmed the
judgment of conviction but modified the penalty imposed toreclusion perpetua. The CA increased the amount of moral
damages to P100,000.00 and awarded P100,000.00 as exemplary damages, to be paid jointly and solidarily by the accused
to their victim, Nikko. The fallo of the CA Decision states:
WHEREFORE, the Judgment dated November 6, 2000 of the RTC Branch 166, Pasig City, in
Criminal Case No. 115317-H, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that accused-appellants are
sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole and ordered to jointly
and solidarily pay private complainant Nikko Satimbre the amounts of P100,000.00 as moral damages
and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERE[23]
Only herein appellants Siongco and Bonsol were able to perfect an appeal [24] of the CA Decision. Consequently, in
its September 29, 2008 Resolution,[25] the CA declared the conviction of accused Enriquez and Hayco as final and
executory, and a Partial Entry of Judgment was made against them. [26] In a Resolution dated April 13, 2009, [27] this Court
accepted the appeal interposed by Siongco and Bonsol.

We deny the appeal.

Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7659, defines and penalizes
kidnapping and serious illegal detention as follows:

Art. 267. Kidnapping and serious illegal detention. - Any private individual who shall kidnap or
detain another, or in any other manner deprive him of his liberty, shall suffer the penalty of reclusion
perpetua to death:

1. If the kidnapping or detention shall have lasted more than three days.

2. If it shall have been committed simulating public authority.

3. If any serious physical injuries shall have been inflicted upon the person kidnapped or
detained, or if threats to kill him shall have been made.

4. If the person kidnapped or detained shall be a minor, except when the accused
is any of the parents, female, or a public officer.

The penalty shall be death where the kidnapping or detention was committed for the purpose of extorting
ransom from the victim or any other person, even if none of the circumstances above-mentioned were
present in the commission of the offense.

When the victim is killed or dies as a consequence of the detention or is raped, or is subjected to torture or
dehumanizing acts, the maximum penalty shall be imposed.

In the recent People of the Philippines v. Christopher Bringas y Garcia, Bryan Bringas y Garcia, John Robert
Navarro y Cruz, Erickson Pajarillo y Baser (deceased), and Eden Sy Chung, [28] we reiterated the following elements that
must be established by the prosecution to obtain a conviction for kidnapping, viz.: (a) the offender is a private individual;
(b) he kidnaps or detains another, or in any manner deprives the latter of his liberty; (c) the act of detention or kidnapping
must be illegal; and (d) in the commission of the offense, any of the following circumstances is present: (1)
the kidnapping or detention lasts for more than three days; (2) it is committed by simulating public authority; (3)
any serious physical injuries are inflicted upon the person kidnapped or detained, or threats to kill him are made; or (4) the
person kidnapped or detained, is a minor, a female, or a public officer. If the victim is a minor, or is kidnapped or detained
for the purpose of extorting ransom, the duration of detention becomes immaterial.

The essence of kidnapping is the actual deprivation of the victims liberty, coupled with indubitable proof of the
intent of the accused to effect such deprivation.[29]
As correctly held by the RTC and the CA, the prosecution indubitably proved beyond reasonable doubt that the
elements of kidnapping and serious illegal detention obtain in the case at bar. Accused-appellants are private individuals
who, together with their cohorts, took 11-year-old Nikko out of his hometown in Balanga, Bataan on December 27, 1998.
They brought him to Manila on December 28, 1998, where demands for a P400,000.00 ransom were made to his mother.

Appellants contend that the essential element of detention or deprivation of liberty was absent because Nikko voluntarily
went with them and that he was free to move around and play with other children. We disagree.

The deprivation required by Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code means not only the imprisonment of a person,
but also the deprivation of his liberty in whatever form and for whatever length of time. It includes a situation where the
victim cannot go out of the place of confinement or detention or is restricted or impeded in his liberty to move. [30] In this
case, although Nikko was free to move around, he was at all times under the alternate watch of appellants and their
cohorts. He was in their physical custody and complete control as he was kept in places strange and unfamiliar to him.
While he was allowed to play in the houses where he was kept, the fact remains that he was under the control of his
captors who left him there, as he could not leave the house until they shall have returned for him. Because of his tender
age and the fact that he did not know the way back home, he was then and there deprived of his liberty.

As to the contention of appellant Siongco that there was no force or intimidation involved in the taking, this Court
held in People of the Philippines v. Ernesto Cruz, Jr. y Concepcion and Reynaldo Agustin y Ramos [31] that the fact that the
victim voluntarily went with the accused did not remove the element of deprivation of liberty, because the victim went
with the accused on a false inducement, without which the victim would not have done so. In the present case,
when Nikko boarded the bus bound for Pilar, Bataan, he was under the impression that Bonsol and Enriquez were to be
trusted as he was assured by Siongco that the two would accompany him to get his much desired Gameboy. Without such
assurance, Nikko would not have boarded the said vehicle. In kidnapping, the victim need not be taken by the accused
forcibly or against his will. What is controlling is the act of the accused in detaining the victim against his or her will after
the offender is able to take the victim in his custody. In short, the carrying away of the victim in the crime of kidnapping
and serious illegal detention can either be made forcibly or, as in the instant case, fraudulently. [32]

Equally significant is the fact that, in kidnapping, the victims lack of consent is also a fundamental element.
[33]
The general rule is that the prosecution is burdened to prove lack of consent on the part of the victim. However, where
the victim is a minor, lack of consent is presumed. In this case, Nikko was only 11 years old when he was kidnapped; thus
incapable of giving consent, and incompetent to assent to his seizure and illegal detention. The consent of the boy could
place appellants in no better position than if the act had been done against his will. A kidnapper should not be rewarded
with an acquittal simply because he is ingenious enough to conceal his true motive from his victim until he is able to
transport the latter to another place.[34]

The identical factual findings of both the trial and appellate courts likewise show that the actuations and roles
played by appellants Siongco and Bonsol undoubtedly demonstrate that they conspired with Hayco and Enriquez in
kidnapping and illegally detaining Nikko. Being sufficiently supported by evidence on record, we find no reason to
disturb the same.

Siongco was the one who promised Nikko a Gameboy. He told the boy to go with Bonsol and Enriquez and get
the toy in Pilar, Bataan. On December 28, 1998, he arrived in Dinalupihan, Bataan to fetch Nikko. From there, he,
Enriquez and Nikko left for Bicutan, Taguig, Metro Manila in a bus. The following day, Siongco, Nikko, Enriquez, and
the latters friend went to the marketplace and called Nikkos mother. Siongco demanded from her payment of P400,000.00
as a condition for the boys release. Siongco repeatedly telephoned Elvira with the same demand and threats over the next
couple of days. On December 31, 1998, he instructed Enriquez to meet Elvira at the Genesis Bus Station to get the ransom
money.

It is immaterial whether appellant Bonsol acted as a principal or as an accomplice because the conspiracy and his
participation therein have been established. In conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all and the conspirators shall be held
equally liable for the crime. [35] On the pretext of getting Nikkos much desired Gameboy, Bonsol and Enriquez were able to
conveniently whisk Nikko out of Balanga and bring him to Pilar, then to Mariveles, and eventually to Dinalupihan, where
Siongco fetched him. Thus, Enriquez and Siongcos plan of bringing Nikko to Metro Manila, a terrain unfamiliar to the
boy and where the two could enjoy anonymity to carry out their ultimate goal of extorting ransom money from Nikkos
mother, was accomplished. As shown by the evidence, without the participation of appellant Bonsol, the commission of
the offense would not have come to fruition.

Finally, appellants bewail that they were deprived of their right to an independent and competent counsel when
the RTC appointed Atty. Michael Moralde (Atty. Moralde) as their counsel de oficio during the pre-trial conference, direct
examination and cross-examination of the prosecutions principal witness, Nikko. This was so, despite Atty. Moraldes
manifestation during Nikkos cross-examination that the defense of his actual client, accused Boton, conflicts with that of
the other accused.[36]

A scrutiny of the records shows that Atty. Moralde was appointed as appellants counsel de oficio in six (6)
hearings, because their regular counsel de oficio, Atty. Antoniano from the Public Attorneys Office P AO), was
inexplicably absent. There is no denial of the right to counsel where a counsel de oficio is appointed during the absence of
the accused's counsel de parte, or in this case the regular counsel de oficio, pursuant to the court's desire to finish the case
as early as practicable under the continuous trial system. [37] The choice of counsel by the accused in a criminal prosecution
is not a plenary one. If the chosen counsel deliberately makes himself scarce, the court is not precluded from appointing
a de oficio counsel, which it considers competent and independent, to enable the trial to proceed until the counsel of
choice enters his appearance. Otherwise, the pace of a criminal prosecution will be entirely dictated by the accused, to the
detriment of the eventual resolution of the case. [38]

The fact that Botons defense conflicts with that of appellants is immaterial because, as borne out by records, Atty.
Moralde expressly declared that the questions he propounded to Nikko were only for his client Boton. Thereafter, Atty.
Antoniano was furnished with copies of the transcript of stenographic notes of the proceedings she missed and was given
ample opportunity to conduct her own cross-examination during the subsequent hearings. Eventually, she adopted the
cross-examination conducted by the other defense counsels. [39]

The CA correctly modified the penalty imposed by the RTC to reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole.
The penalty for kidnapping for the purpose of extorting ransom from the victim or any other person under Article 267 of
the Revised Penal Code[40] is death. However, R.A. No. 9346[41] has banned the imposition of death penalty and reduced all
death sentences to reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole. [42] In line with prevailing jurisprudence, [43] an award
of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity is proper. The award of P100,000.00 moral damages is increased to P200,000.00
considering the minority of Nikko.[44] As the crime was attended by a demand for ransom, and by way of example or
correction, Nikko is entitled to P100,000.00 exemplary damages as correctly awarded by the CA. [45]

WHEREFORE, the September 20, 2007 Decision..of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00774,
finding appellants Antonio Siongco y dela Cruz and Allan Bonsol y Paz guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of KIDNAPPING and SERIOUS ILLEGAL DETENTION, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that
a P50,000.00 civil indemnity is awarded and the amount of moral damages is increased to P200, 000.00.

Costs against appellants.

SO ORDERED.
14. Lumanog vs. People, GR No. 182555, 7 September 2010

DECISION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

For review is the Decision[1] dated April 1, 2008 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 00667 which
affirmed with modification the Joint Decision [2] dated July 30, 1999 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch
103 in Criminal Case Nos. Q-96-66679, Q-96-66680, Q-96-66682, Q-96-66683 and Q-96-66684.

The consolidated cases arose in connection with the killing of former Chief of the Metropolitan Command Intelligence
and Security Group of the Philippine Constabulary, now the Philippine National Police (PNP), Colonel Rolando N.
Abadilla (Abadilla), who was ambushed in broad daylight while driving his car along Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City.

The Facts

On June 13, 1996, at around 8:00 oclock in the morning, Abadilla left his house at Soliven I, Loyola Grand Villas, Loyola
Heights, Quezon City and drove his car, a black Honda Accord with Plate No. RNA-777. Soon after he left, his wife
Susan Abadilla received a phone call from him and they briefly talked. Just a few minutes after their conversation, she
received another phone call from Abadillas tailor who was asking about her husband because, according to him, he heard
a radio broadcast report that Abadilla met an accident. [3]

Meanwhile, at about 8:40 a.m., Senior Police Officer (SPO) 2 Arthur Ortiz, the desk officer on duty at Station 8 of the
Central Police District Command (CPDC) located at P. Tuazon Blvd., Project 4, Quezon City, answered a telephone call
from a male person who reported a shooting incident along Katipunan Avenue. Station Commander Police Chief Inspector
(Insp.) Edward Villena, together with his investigators SPO2 Wahab Magundacan, Police Officer (PO) 2 Gerardo Daganta
and PO1 Ronald Francisco immediately boarded a PNP marked vehicle and headed towards Katipunan Avenue. [4]

Upon reaching the area at 8:45 a.m., they saw several onlookers around and near a black Honda Accord with Plate No.
RNA-777 on a stop position in the middle lane of Katipunan Avenue facing south going to Libis. They found the victims
bloodied and bullet-riddled body partly slumped onto the pavement at the cars left door, which was open.The front
windshield and sliding glass windows on the left and right side were shattered; a hole was seen on the glass window of the
left rear door, apparently pierced by a bullet.Glass splinters were scattered inside the car and on the pavement at both sides
of the car. On orders of Chief Insp. Villena, PO2 Daganta and PO1 Francisco assisted by a certain Cesar Espiritu,
immediately brought the victim to the Quirino Memorial Hospital in Project 4, Quezon City. SPO2 Magundacan was
instructed to stay behind to cordon the area for the start of the investigation while Chief Insp. Villena went to their station
to get his camera.[5] After ten (10) minutes, Chief Insp. Villena returned and took pictures of the crime scene, and also of
the victim at the hospital.[6] SPO2 Magundacan was able to pick up several spent shells and two (2) slugs, apparently fired
from .45 and 9 mm. pistols.[7] A sketch was prepared by PO2 Daganta who also interviewed some of the witnesses present
at the crime scene.[8] The spot report and list of recovered items (including a Philippine Military Academy gold ring on
which was engraved the name Rolando N. Abadilla) were later prepared by SPO2 Magundacan at the police station. [9]

On the same day, witnesses Cesar F. Espiritu (who was driving his car ahead of the victim), Aurora Urbano
(Metro Aide), Ani C. Icot (house gardener of the Abadilla family, Freddie Alejo (security guard posted at Eliscon
Electrical Supply store located at 211 Katipunan Avenue) and Minella Alarcon (college professor at Ateneo de Manila
University) gave their respective statements before the Criminal Investigation Division of the Central Police District
Command (CID-CPDC), PNP-National Capital Region (NCR) at Camp Karingal, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City, while
the statement of Merlito Herbas (security guard posted at the Blue Ridge Realty Corporation located at No. 219 Katipunan
Avenue, Quezon City) was taken at Station No. 8, CPDC at P. Tuazon Blvd., Proj. 4, Quezon City. [10]
Based on their accounts, the black Honda Accord with Plate Number RNA-777 was caught in traffic while traversing
Katipunan Avenue going to Santolan at past 8:00 oclock on the morning of June 13, 1996. While on a stop position, four
(4) men armed with handguns surrounded the said car and fired several successive shots at the man inside it. One (1) of
the men who were positioned at the left side of the car opened its door and took something inside. He grabbed the victim
by the neck and dropped his body down towards the pavement at the left door. When there were already several people
who had come out to see what was happening, one of the suspects shouted, Walang gagalawDapa!

Minella Alarcon, who was then with her son-in-law on board her white KIA Pride, was following the victims car (at other
side or diagonal line) at the time of the incident. After the shooting, two (2) of the armed men who fired at the victims car
approached their car and pounded at it saying BabaBaba! Terrified, she and her son-in-law got off and crawled towards
the side of the street. The assailants then boarded the KIA Pride and went away to the direction of an alley along
Katipunan Avenue. Her car was later recovered, as it was found abandoned along Aguinaldo Street near the corner of J.P.
Rizal Street, Project 4, Quezon City, still with bloodstains on the car door. [11]

The victim was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The victims identity was confirmed by Susan Abadilla who
had rushed to the hospital. Chief Insp. Villena escorted her in bringing the victims body to the PNP Crime Laboratory in
Camp Crame for the autopsy requested by the CPDC, PNP-NCR, Camp Karingal. [12] From the testimony and medico-legal
report of Dr. Jesusa N. Vergara, it was disclosed that the victim died of hemorrhage as a result of multiple gunshot
wounds, mostly in the head and chest, and also sustained abrasions, contusions, lacerated skin, hematoma and incised
wounds or cuts in the skin caused by glass splinters. [13]

Records indicate that immediately after the incident, elements of the CPDC, PNP-NCR at Camp Karingal were already
coordinating with investigators of Station 8-CPDC who had turned over to said office the evidence gathered and referred
the witnesses present at the crime scene. [14] As a result of follow-up operations, Joel de Jesus, alias Tabong, was
apprehended on June 19, 1996 at his house at Dahlia St., Fairview, Quezon City. He executed his Sinumpaang
Salaysay dated June 20, 1996 and Karagdagang Sinumpaang Salaysay dated June 21, 1996.[15]

In his first statement, Joel de Jesus narrated that on June 13, 1996 at 6:30 in the morning after parking his tricycle
at the corner of Regalado and Camaro Streets, Fairview, he was fetched by Lorenzo Larry delos Santos who was his
neighbor at Ruby St. Larry was accompanied by his nephew Ogie, and a certain Tisoy who drove the owner-type
jeep.Larry told him they were going to kill a big-time personality (may titirahin na malaking tao), whose name was
Abadilla, and that they were going to ambush the latter at Katipunan Avenue. The ambush would be carried out by Joel,
Larry, Tisoy, Ram (de Jesus), Cesar who was a policeman, and four (4) others. That same morning, they proceeded to
Katipunan Avenue on board Larrys owner-type jeep without a plate and a Mitsubishi L-300 van. They carried .45 and 9
mm. pistols; Joel used a .38 caliber revolver. According to Joel, he only acted as lookout; Lorenzo, Ram and Cesar were
the ones who fired shots, while Tisoy focused on a security guard at a store. After the shooting, they separated ways: the
owner-type jeep he was riding in headed towards Santolan; Cesars group split so that three (3) of them rode the L-300 van
and the three (3) others boarded a car stolen from a woman driver. Upon reaching Commonwealth Avenue and Tandang
Sora, they stopped at Glori Supermarket where all the firearms used were returned to the group, including the revolver
earlier given to Joel. It was already dusk when Lorenzo dropped him off at the tricycle parking area at Camaro St. [16]

Joel further stated that the ambush-slay of Abadilla was planned by the group three (3) days before, when they
met at the house of Ram de Jesus also in Fairview near his house. Although he did not know the identity of the person
who masterminded the ambush-slay of Abadilla, he described the mastermind as the one (1) who opened Abadillas car and
pulled Abadilla from the inside of the car, and he was also the one (1) who drove the L-300 van. Lorenzo told him he
should not worry because Lorenzo would take care that he would be compensated for his participation. When they
reached Katipunan Avenue, they alighted from their respective vehicles to wait for Abadilla. The L-300 van where the
mastermind and Cesar rode was just behind Abadillas car. There was no more order given to fire because when traffic
stopped the vehicles on the road, those in the L-300 van just got down, positioned themselves and fired upon
Abadilla. The mastermind not only fired at Abadilla from outside the latters car, he even made sure Abadilla was dead, as
half of his body went inside the car, firing again at Abadilla before finally dropping him to the ground. Joel added that he
just remained silent after the incident, for which he did not earn anything and was threatened by one (1) of those who were
in the L-300 van whose name he did not know. [17]
In his second statement, Joel pointed to his cohorts in a police line-up inside the CID-CPDC, PNP-NCR, Camp
Karingal, Quezon City where he positively identified Rameses de Jesus (Ram), Cesar Fortuna, Lenido Lumanog and PO2
Romeo Costibolo as among those who participated in the ambush-slaying of Abadilla on June 13, 1996. [18]

The afore-named suspects identified by Joel were apprehended during further follow-up operations conducted on
June 20, 1996 by Task Force Rolly subsequently formed by the PNP after the lead initially provided by him. As
mentioned in the Joint Affidavit executed by Police Senior Inspector (P/Sr. Insp.) Ronello N. Navarro, Police Inspector
(P/Insp.) Ferdinand A. Marticio, SPO4 Wilfredo G. Galvan and SPO1 Allan dela Cruz dated June 21, 1996, as early as
June 15, 1996, or two (2) days after the ambush-slay of Abadilla, their investigation already established the identities of a
number of suspects through photo files and forensic sketches of suspects provided by eyewitnesses. [19] Said arresting
officers were also able to seize certain firearms and other pieces of evidence, to wit:

4. That after SPO2 cesar Fortuna revealed the whereabouts of the slain victims stolen cal .45
pistol, we conducted a follow up in a gunsmith located at Sampaloc, Manila on 21 June 1996, from where
we held for investigation, one

DANTE MONTEVIRGEN y VILLANUEVA, 37 years old, married, self-employed/gunsmith,


native of Pula, Oriental Mindoro and with given address at 1412 Riverside Street,
Commonwealth Avenue, Bgy. Holy Spirit, Quezon City.

5. That upon confrontation said subject person surrendered two (2) cal .45 pistols whom suspect
Cesar Fortuna allegedly brought to him for repair/tampering of serial numbers, to wit:

(a) 1- COLT MARK IV cal .45 pistol Govt Model


SN-66B5574; and
(b) 1-COLT MARK IV cal .45 pistol Series 70
SN-647048.

6. On the same day, 21 June 1996, after SPO2 Cesar Fortuna expressed willingness to surrender
the motorcycle allegedly used in casing and surveillance upon the deceased victim, we took said
motorcycle at Gate 2 of Camp Crame along Santolan Road (Col Bony Serrano Avenue), Quezon City, to
wit:

1- Unit, KAWASAKI motorcycle without license plate, chassis No. C-


5121696, Motor No. 658 122951

7. That the aforenamed subject person together with the property/articles recovered were turned
over to the Police Headquarters for investigation and appropriate action;

x x x[20]

With respect to Lorenzo delos Santos, he also executed a statement dated June 21, 1996 admitting his participation in the
ambush-slay of Abadilla on June 13, 1996, and pointing to Rameses de Jesus as the mastermind and also named the
following suspects: POGS whose real name was Lenido Lumanog, Joel de Jesus alias Tabong, Cesar Fortuna and four (4)
others whom he did not know. He said that he was just brought along by Rameses de Jesus and was further threatened that
if he would not go with them, they would kill his family. He claimed that he merely acted as a lookout. As similarly
recounted by Joel, Lorenzo stated that the group used an L-300 van, a car and a jeep in going to Katipunan Avenue in the
morning of June 13, 1996. Joel had a .45 cal pistol, Cesar a .38 revolver, Lenido a 9 mm., a certain Manuel dela Rosa who
did not get out of the vehicle, carried a .38 cal revolver, and Lorenzo, also a .38 cal revolver. Rameses, Joel, Cesar and
Lenido were the ones who shot Abadilla. After the shooting, the group left him behind and he just walked on the street
before taking a taxi ride to the Bureau of Customs. Lorenzo maintained that he was not given any money. He was just
picked up from his house at Ruby St., Fairview Subdivision by Rameses, Lenido, Cesar and Joel. He was made to board
Rameses car with a warning that if he did not join the group, they would throw a hand grenade at his family. [21]
In his Karagdagang Salaysay dated June 21, 1996, security guard Freddie Alejo positively identified Joel and Lorenzo
during a police line-up. Alejo confirmed these two (2) as the persons he saw from his guard post walking to and fro before
the shooting incident. They were also the ones who shouted that no one (1) should interfere at the time the four (4) armed
men were firing shots at Abadilla.[22]

SPO2 Cesar Fortuna y Abudo, Rameses de Jesus y Calma, Lorenzo delos Santos y Dela Cruz, Lenido Lumanog y Luistro,
Joel de Jesus y Valdez and Arturo Napolitano y Caburnay were charged in Criminal Case No. Q-96-66679 with theft of
the alleged gun owned by the late Abadilla (Colt Mark IV cal .45 pistol SN-66BS574), a gold-plated Omega wristwatch
and a wallet containing an undetermined amount of cash plus calling cards and other important papers, all of which were
supposedly stolen by them after killing Abadilla.[23]

On the other hand, Lorenzo delos Santos y Dela Cruz, SPO2 Cesar Fortuna y Abudo and Rameses de Jesus y Calma were
respectively charged with illegal possession of firearms (Presidential Decree No. 1866) in Criminal Case Nos. Q-96-
66680, Q-96-66682 and Q-96-66683.[24]

All the seven (7) named accused in Criminal Case No. Q-96-66684 were indicted for Murder under the following
Information:

That on or about the 13th day of June, 1996 in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named
accused, conspiring together, confederating with several other persons whose true names, identities,
whereabouts have not as yet been ascertained and mutually helping with one another, did then and there,
wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously with intent to kill, with evident premeditation, treachery, in
consideration of a price, reward or promise, and taking advantage of superior strength, attack and employ
personal violence upon the person of COL. ROLANDO ABADILLA y NOLASCO by then and there
shooting the latter with the use of different kinds of firearms, hitting him on the different parts of his
body, thereby causing the instant and immediate cause of his death, to the damage and prejudice of the
heirs of the said COL. ROLANDO ABADILLA y NOLASCO.

Contrary to law.[25]

When arraigned, all the accused pleaded not guilty to the murder charge.

In view of the dismissal of the criminal cases for illegal possession of firearms (P.D. No. 1866) and theft (Criminal Case
Nos. Q-96-66679, Q-96-66680, Q-96-66682 and Q-96-66683), [26] our discussion of the proceedings before the trial court
will be confined to the case for murder against Fortuna, Lumanog, Joel de Jesus, Rameses de Jesus and Santos.

Evidence for the Prosecution

The prosecution presented the testimonies of police officers who conducted the investigation and follow-up operations up
to the actual apprehension of suspects in the killing of Abadilla: SPO2 Wahab Magundacan, PO2 Gerardo Daganta, Maj.
Edward Villena, P/Insp. Rogelio Castillo, SPO2 Jose Garcia, Jr., SPO3 Romeo De Guzman, SPO2 Pio Tarala, Atty.
Florimond Rous, P/Sr. Insp. Jose B. Macanas and P/Insp. Ferdinand Marticio.

The testimonies of P/Insp. Castillo, SPO2 Garcia, SPO2 Tarala, Atty. Rous and P/Sr. Insp. Macanas were given in court in
the light of serious allegations of torture, forced confessions and violations of constitutional rights raised by the accused,
which were widely reported in the media and brought before the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) and eventually to
Amnesty International-USA.

P/Insp. Castillo, testifying on cross-examination, admitted that accused Joel de Jesus was apprehended by members of his
squad led by Lt. Rodolfo on June 19, 1996, but said suspect was not presented to him until noontime of the next day, June
20, 1996. He did not ask his men if Joel had been subjected to investigation and if he was, whether he was assisted by
counsel. He explained that there were still then follow-up operations in which they needed Joel. As for the press
conference wherein Joel was presented together with then Secretary Barbers and General Recaredo Sarmiento, he learned
about it only later.[27]

The witness declared that the constitutional mandate and requirements under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7438 had been
complied with because he secured the services of a counsel during the interrogation of then suspect Joel de Jesus when his
sworn statement was taken on June 20, 1996. He had informed the said suspect of his right to counsel in the presence of
CID personnel and when he brought him to the office of Atty. Confesor R. Sansano of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) located at the second floor of the Hall of Justice, Quezon City Hall. Asked why it occurred to him to
bring the suspect to the IBP, the witness replied that he believed IBP was a private, not a government, institution. He also
asked Joel -- who was allowed to make a telephone call, although he was not aware if Joel made any such call -- whether
he had his own lawyer. He recalled asking Joel if he was willing to go with them to the City Hall, because he had asked to
secure the services of counsel. There had been instances when the IBP lawyers assisted some suspects brought by the
CPDC. The CPDC provided the typewriter and papers to be used and in this case, Atty. Sansano accommodated them in
using the facilities of the IBP Chapter office. Joel executed his statement, with SPO2 Jose L. Garcia, Jr. propounding the
questions. They started taking his statement at 1:10 p.m. of June 20, 1996 at Room 235, IBP Office, Quezon City Hall of
Justice in the presence of Atty. Sansano and a number of people inside said office. [28] He was apprised for the first time
about a suspect (Joel) who was just apprehended when he called their office upon arriving home on the night of June 19,
1996. The information was given to him by the desk sergeant and thereupon he gave instruction to contact the witness and
include that suspect in a line-up. He then informed their Chief regarding this development. When he asked for the
whereabouts of this suspect, he was given the reply that the suspect was still with their squad conducting follow-up
operations.[29]

P/Insp. Castillo recounted that he reported to the office at 8:00 oclock in the morning of June 20, 1996 and Joel
was actually presented to him by Lt. Rodolfo at 10:00 oclock that same morning, in the presence of CID men. He told Joel
he was being implicated in the case, to which Joel replied Sir, lookout lang naman ako, sir. This initial questioning of Joel
took place at the investigation room of the CID, where there were other private complainants talking to investigators, and
there were a number of policemen around who were not in uniform. He advised Joel that he was free to use the telephone,
and although Joel had no relatives present at that time, he warned Joel that his case was serious and he must seek the
services of counsel. He first thought of the legal assistance provided by the City Attorney, then that by the Public
Attorneys Office (PAO), and lastly by the IBP. Between 12:30 and 1:00 p.m., he and his men, together with Joel in a
separate vehicle, left the CID to go to the Quezon City Hall. They scouted for a lawyer and inquired from the IBP chapter
office. They found Atty. Florimond Rous and the lady counsel at a hearing in a courtroom. Atty. Rous advised them to
wait for Atty. Sansano, who apparently was the head of the IBP chapter office. He was moving in and out of the office
while the statement of Joel was being taken in the presence of Atty. Sansano. Before that, Atty. Sansano talked to Joel
alone, after which they were called in again for the taking of the statement at 2:00 p.m. They left City Hall at past 4:00 or
5:00 that afternoon.[30]

SPO2 Garcia, Jr. testified that he was a member of the CID-CPDC at Camp Karingal. On June 20, 1996 when he
reported for duty, he was assigned by P/Insp. Castillo to take down the statement of Joel de Jesus. While still inside the
office of P/Insp. Castillo, he asked Joel if his statement was voluntary and what kind of statement he was going to
give. Joel answered that his statement was voluntary and he wanted to be included as state witness in the Abadilla
case. Together with Joel, SPO2 Tarala and SPO1 Edilberto Nicanor, he took lunch at the back of their office before
proceeding to the Quezon City Hall at around 12:00 oclock noon, with P/Insp. Castillo who said that Joels statement
would be taken infront of a counsel. At the Hall of Justice lobby, P/Insp. Castillo instructed them to guard Joel as he
would look for a counsel. After more or less 25 to 30 minutes, P/Insp. Castillo came back and they proceeded to the
second floor of the office of the IBP chapter. They were met by a lady secretary, and afterwards he saw P/Insp. Castillo
talking to a lawyer whom he came to know as Atty. Rous. It seemed Atty. Rous could not decide on what P/Insp. Castillo
told him and said he (Atty. Rous) would first ask the permission of Atty. Sansano. They waited for Atty. Sansano, who
arrived in about twenty (20) to twenty-five (25) minutes. Atty. Sansano and P/Insp. Castillo talked for about five (5)
minutes and thereafter, Atty. Sansano requested them to leave, because he would talk personally to Joel. Atty. Sansano and
Joel talked inside the room for five (5) to ten (10) minutes. Thereafter, he, P/Insp. Castillo, SPO2 Tarala and SPO1
Edilberto Nicanor went inside the room and that was the time Atty. Sansano announced that Joel was ready for the taking
of his statement.[31]
SPO2 Garcia, Jr. further testified that he took down the statement of Joel using a typewriter in the office of Atty.
Sansano. He brought said typewriter near the table of Atty. Sansano and a chair to sit on beside Joel. Joel was seated
infront of the desk where Atty. Sansano was sitting. After completing the taking down of the statement, he gave it to Joel
and asked the latter to read it. Joel read the typewritten statement and when he finished reading, he gave the same to Atty.
Sansano. Atty. Sansano read all the contents of the document and asked Joel if he understood it, to which he answered
Yes, sir. Atty. Sansano then asked Joel if he was willing to sign the statement, to which the latter again replied in the
affirmative. Joel signed the statement in his presence and also that of Atty. Sansano, who likewise signed it in his
presence. SPO2 Garcia, Jr. also identified his own signature and that of SPO1 Nicanor who signed the statement in his
presence. From the office of Atty. Sansano, they proceeded to the fourth floor in the office of Prosecutor Ramon Gerona
before whom Joel subscribed his statement. After reading the statement, Fiscal Gerona explained to Joel in Tagalog the
consequences of the statement he executed. Joel was calm and said he was only a lookout in the crime. Earlier, before
propounding questions to Joel at the office of Atty. Sansano, the latter addressed Joel in Tagalog: Joel naiintindihan mo na
ang mga itinatanong sa iyo ng mga pulis? Ito ba sarili mo o boluntaryo ba tong statement mo na ito hindi ka ba nila
tinakot, sinaktan o anupaman? While Joel was answering his questions, Atty. Sansano halted him from typing the answer
given by Joel to ask the latter if he could understand the question propounded to him. The witness was also asked to
identify Joel de Jesus inside the courtroom. [32]

On cross-examination, SPO2 Garcia, Jr. affirmed that before the taking down of the statement, he had explained
to Joel the consequences of his being a state witness, in accordance with the instruction of P/Insp. Castillo. He specifically
explained to Joel: Itong statement na ito ay puwedeng gamitin laban o panig sa yo sa alinmang hukuman dito sa
Pilipinas. Ikaw ba ay nakahandang tumestigo sa mga sasabihin ng tao dito sa statement mo na ito na magiging laban sa
kanila. Joel told him, Yes, sir. P/Insp. Castillo had told him that Joel was to turn state witness before the latter was brought
to the IBP Office. When P/Insp. Castillo had returned to the lobby of the Hall of Justice, he told them that the only person
present who would act as Joels counsel would be located at the IBP Office, and Joel would be brought there. It was his
first time to meet Atty. Sansano. As to whether Joel was also assisted by Atty. Rous when he was investigated on June 21,
1996, the witness said he did not know. [33] Regarding the portion of the statement dated June 20, 1996 wherein he asked
Joel about a pending case against him, which Joel identified as a rape case, he denied having knowledge of any such
pending case before the taking of the statement. He also did not ask Joel if he already had a counsel, or if Joel already
knew Atty. Sansano. Another lawyer, Atty. Rous, was actually present when he was taking Joels statement at the office of
Atty. Sansano, who was also present throughout the time he was taking down the statement of Joel. He did not hear Joel
mention the name of another lawyer to Atty. Sansano, specifically that of Atty. David as suggested by defense counsel. [34]

SPO2 Tarala testified that as a member of the PNP Station in Kamuning, Quezon City, assigned at the CID, he
came to investigate accused Lorenzo delos Santos on June 21, 1996. On that day, after lunch, he was instructed by P/Insp.
Castillo to proceed to the Public Assistance and Reaction Against Crime (PARAC), Dallas Bldg. in Tomas Morato
Avenue, because one (1) of the suspects in the Abadilla slaying was apprehended by the PARAC follow-up team and was
supposed to give his statement. So he went there together with SPO1 Primo Borito and PO3 Ramil Hatchero. Upon
arriving at said office, he met P/Sr. Insp. Macanas, who called a person he introduced as Lorenzo delos Santos.Before
taking down the statement of Lorenzo, he advised the latter of his rights under the law, warning that any statement he
would make could be used against him in any court of law, so that he had the right not to answer any question which to his
mind would incriminate him. Lorenzo responded by saying that he wanted to give a statement and to be a state
witness. When Lorenzo asked if he could use a telephone at the information table, he said yes. Lorenzo then called his
office because he was a customs broker, and also called up a relative who was a certain Col. Sala (Col. Milagros Sala), a
Quezon City police official. He told Lorenzo that he should have a lawyer of his choice during the taking down of his
statement. He prodded Lorenzo to call the lawyer, whom Lorenzo knew to be always at the City Hall. They then
proceeded to the Quezon City Hall to look for that lawyer at the Office of the City Attorney. However, Lorenzo was not
able to find said lawyer; he asked somebody (a woman) who referred them to the Hall of Justice. After failing to find the
person Lorenzo was looking for to be his counsel, an old man, a vendor suggested to them to go upstairs at the IBP
Office. The lady secretary of the IBP chapter office introduced them to Atty. Florimond Rous, who then asked him and his
companions to step out of the room so Atty. Rous could talk to Lorenzo. Atty. Rous and Lorenzo talked for ten (10) to
fifteen (15) minutes, after which they were called again to enter the office. His two (2) companions were left outside and
he was told by Atty. Rous that he had already apprised Lorenzo of his rights, but Lorenzo still wanted to give a statement.
[35]
Upon the instruction of Atty. Rous, he took down the statement of Lorenzo, the three (3) of them in one (1) corner
of the room while over at the receiving area there were the secretary and a lady lawyer. The statement of Lorenzo was in
Tagalog, typewritten in question-and-answer form. Each time after he had asked a question, Atty. Rous would in turn ask
Lorenzo if he wanted to answer it, and Lorenzo would answer yes. He was at the typewriter, and the two (2) (Atty. Rous
and Lorenzo) were infront of him, seated across each other. The taking of the statement started at about 3:10 in the
afternoon and was finished in more than one (1) hour. He asked Lorenzo to read first his statement, and then Atty. Rous
read it also. Next, they went up to the office of Fiscal Refuerzo, but was referred by the secretary to the inquest fiscal on
duty, Fiscal Ben dela Cruz. At his office, Fiscal dela Cruz asked Lorenzo to stand infront of him and asked if the statement
was voluntarily given by him, if what was contained therein was true, and if he was ready to swear before him. Lorenzo
answered yes, and the subscribing of his statement before Fiscal dela Cruz was also witnessed by Atty. Rous. [36] Lorenzo
had earlier told him and his companions at the PARAC office that his participation in the ambush-slay of Abadilla was
that of a lookout, and that he was only forced to join the group because of the threat to his family. [37]

SPO2 Tarala admitted that the first time he went to the IBP Office at the Hall of Justice was on June 20, 1996
when SPO2 Garcia, Jr. took the statement of Joel de Jesus.Since only SPO2 Garcia, Jr. and Joel stayed inside the room, he
and his companion just walked around.[38]

Atty. Rous testified that he was one (1) of the free legal aid counsels of the Free Legal Aid Committee of the IBP-
Quezon City Chapter. One (1) of their primary duties was to assist indigents in their cases, and aside from this, they were
also tasked to assist the various suspects during custodial investigations in the various investigations of different agencies,
such as the CIS and PNP. He recalled handling at least ten (10) to fifteen (15) of such custodial investigations. On June 21,
1996, he assisted a person by the name ofLorenzo delos Santos accompanied by a police investigator (whose name he
could no longer remember) from the Central Police District, who told him that the said suspect was willing to make a
confession and asked if he could assist him during his custodial investigation. He identified Lorenzo inside the courtroom.
[39]
The police investigator had informed him of the charge against Lorenzo, which was the killing of Abadilla. [40]

Before the start of the investigation of Lorenzo, Atty. Rous related that he asked the policeman to leave him and
Lorenzo. When the investigators were gone, he asked Lorenzo to remove his shirt so he could see if there were any tell-
tale marks of any harm or specific mark upon him. Having satisfied himself that there were no such mark on the suspects
body, Atty. Rous began interviewing him. He asked Lorenzo if he was willing to execute a confession, and Lorenzo
answered he was willing to do so. He then asked Lorenzo if he was willing to have him as his counsel. Evidently, Lorenzo
wanted him to be his counsel during the custodial investigation for the taking of his statement. Convinced that Lorenzo
was giving his statement without any pressure or force, they started the investigation proper. The police investigator who
accompanied Lorenzo to their office was the one (1) who had propounded questions in Tagalog and typed the answers
given by Lorenzo also in Tagalog. He was just within hearing distance and was present during the entire time of the taking
of Lorenzos statement. Afterwards, he let Lorenzo read the typewritten statement, and he asked Lorenzo if those were the
questions given to him and the answers he had given, to which he replied in the affirmative. He further asked Lorenzo if
he was willing to sign the statement without pressure, and Lorenzo said he was willing to sign the same. He asked
Lorenzo to sign his statement before the office of Prosecutor Ben dela Cruz. Prosecutor dela Cruz first read the statement
and then asked Lorenzo if he was willing to sign the same, and he answered in the affirmative. Lorenzo signed the
statement in their presence; he and Prosecutor dela Cruz also signed it. [41]

Atty. Rous further testified on cross-examination, that after the police investigator and Lorenzo had left, a few
minutes later, some other investigators arrived at their office, bringing along Joel de Jesus. This Joel de Jesus had given a
statement the previous day, June 20, 1996, and he was told that Joel would be giving this time a supplemental
statement. The investigators apprised Joel of his constitutional rights before the taking down of his statement. He was not
sure if Lorenzo and the police investigator had actually left already, and he could not remember exactly what transpired at
this point. The defense counsel noted the absence of the word competent to qualify the word counsel in the preliminary
portion of Lorenzos statement. Atty. Rous described the answers given by Lorenzo as spontaneous, and he did not recall
any hesitancy on the part of the latter. He maintained that he found no contusions or abrasions on Lorenzos body. [42]

P/Sr. Insp. Macanas testified that he was then assigned at the PARAC as its operations officer. They were closely
coordinating with and sharing evidence for case build-up operations with the CPDC in the investigation of the killing of
Abadilla. On June 19, 1996, at around 3:00 oclock in the afternoon, they were directed to proceed to the CPDC
headquarters in view of an information that a certain suspect alias Tabong was already located while repairing his tricycle
somewhere in Fairview, during which he was identified by an eyewitness, security guard Alejo who went there with
CPDC operatives. At the time this radio message was received, they were within the vicinity of Fairview, and the CPDC
gave the signal for them to accost said suspect. He was present when Tabong, who was later identified as Joel de Jesus,
was arrested by the joint elements of the CPDC and PARAC. Joel was turned over to the CID-CPDC at about past 4:00
p.m. Subsequently, their superior, P/Sr. Supt. Bartolome Baluyot, informed them of revelations given by Joel, for which
they were called in again for joint follow-up operations. They brought Joel to Fairview along Ruby St. where Joels
supposed companions, namely: one alias Ram, Lorenzo delos Santos, Ogie and one (1) alias Cesar, could be found. Joel
first pointed to the house of Ram (Rameses de Jesus), but they did not find him there; instead they found a man named
Cesar Fortuna, whom Joel pointed to infront of said house. They immediately apprehended Fortuna and identified
themselves. He informed Fortuna that he was being implicated by Joel in the killing of Col. Abadilla. Fortuna introduced
himself as a policeman assigned with the Traffic Management Command (TMC). As a standard procedure, they informed
Fortuna of his constitutional rights and then brought him to the CPDC for investigation. At the time, Fortuna had a gun
(caliber .38) tucked in his waist, which they confiscated. [43]

P/Sr. Insp. Macanas further testified that in the course of their follow-up operations, with information being
provided by Joel, they were also able to arrest another suspect alias Larry, whom they met at a dark alley. Upon being
pointed to by Joel, they apprehended Larry who was later identified as Lorenzo delos Santos, frisked him and found in his
possession a cal .38 Smith and Wesson, for which he could not present any license or document. They brought Lorenzo to
the CID-CPDC. He identified both Lorenzo and Fortuna inside the courtroom. [44] On cross-examination, the witness
admitted they had no warrant of arrest when they went to Fairview to locate the suspects, as it was a hot person case
ordered by their superior and requiring the immediate arrest of suspects identified by witnesses like, in this case, Joel. Joel
had admitted to the CID-CPDC investigators his participation in the Abadilla killing. After accosting Joel at Camaro St.,
whom they identified through a photograph, and before taking him to the CID-CPDC, he informed Joel that he was
identified as one (1) of the suspects in the killing of Col. Abadilla; that he had a right to remain silent; that anything he
will say could be used against him; he had the right to counsel of his own choice, and if he could not afford one, the
government would provide him. As to Lorenzo, he was arrested past midnight of June 20, 1996; they had brought Joel
along while moving to locate Lorenzo.[45] He was just at the back of those operatives who actually arrested Lorenzo. [46]

The principal witness for the prosecution was Freddie Alejo, who testified that as a security guard employed by
Provider Security Agency, he was then assigned at 211 Katipunan Avenue, Blue Ridge, Quezon City. On June 13, 1996, he
reported for duty at 7:00 oclock in the morning. By 7:30 a.m., he noticed two (2) men walking back and forth infront of
his post. He was shown by the prosecutor some photographs taken of the parking area he was then guarding, his guard
post beside the building and the street infront of said building (Exhibits G, H, I and J [47]).

Alejo recounted that there was a man riding in a black car who was shot by four (4) persons infront of the
building he was guarding. The car was in the middle lane of the road, and the cars specific location was found in one (1)
of the photographs (Exhibit H-4[48]). One (1) of the two (2) persons he earlier saw walking back and forth in front of him
pointed a gun at him (the position of said man was marked as Exhibit H-5[49]). That man was holding a short gun and he
told Alejo to come down (Baba!), but he did not budge. He then saw one (1) of the assailants (No. 1 in Exhibit H [50]), the
one (1) standing on the left side of the car (left front door), grab the victim by the neck, get the clutch bag of the victim
inside the car, pull said victim out of the car, and drop him on the road. He then heard another shot coming from said
attacker (No. 1). Another man (No. 5 in Exhibit H [51]) shouted: Dapawalang makikialam! and the rest of the four (4) men
(marked as Nos. 2, 3 and 4 in Exhibit H [52]) faced him (witness Alejo). Next, the companion of No. 5, who was earlier
walking back and forth infront of him (marked as No. 6 in Exhibit H [53]), pointed a gun at him. This time, he did come
down, lowering his body and bowing his head inside the guardhouse. The witness identified the suspects inside the
courtroom as the persons he saw and marked as No. 5 (Joel de Jesus) the first one who pointed a gun at him
shouting Baba ka!; No. 1 who grabbed the victim, got his clutch bag and pulled him out of the car (Lenido
Lumanog); No. 2 (Rameses de Jesus); No. 6 the second person who pointed a gun at him (Lorenzo delos Santos); No. 4
(Augusto Santos) and No. 3 who was positioned at the right front door of the victims car (Cesar Fortuna). Nos. 1 and 3
(Lumanog and Fortuna) were the ones who shot the victim with short firearms, while No. 2 (Rameses) was just standing
and facing the victim with a gun in his hand, and No. 4 (Augusto) was also just standing facing the driver and holding a
short gun. It was probably less than a minute when the gunfire stopped, and he stood up at his guard post. The assailants
were no longer in sight and he saw the cars window shattered. He identified the victims black car as shown in photographs
(Exhibits A-1 to A-4[54]).[55]
Alejo further testified that he was one (1) of those asked by the policemen who arrived regarding the incident. He
was told to go to Station 8, which was just near the place.At Station 8, another security guard of an adjacent building was
also being investigated. Thereafter, the police officers brought him to Camp Karingal, along with the other security guard.
[56]

On cross-examination, Alejo described his guard post as elevated; and two (2) arms length on the left and right
side, there was an alley just beside the guard post which was at the corner. [57] The victims car was infront of the building
he was guarding, at a slightly slanted direction from it (Lihis po ng konti). His view was toward the direction of the front
door of the car (rear end). From where he was at the time, the car was at a distance of more or less ten (10) meters. The
first time one (1) of the suspects pointed a gun at him, he was not scared. He saw four (4) men standing around the victims
car, two (2) on the left side, and two (2) on the right side. He saw only two (2) of them (the ones at the front left and right
sides of the car) shooting at the car; they were carrying short firearms. One (1) of these two (2) got the clutch bag (at the
left front side of the car), grabbed the victim by the neck and shot him once before dropping him down the road. Even if
he could not see the gun when that assailant pulled the victim from the car, he knew that the victim was shot again,
because he saw a gun smoke just beside the left side of the car where the victim was dropped. The second man who
pointed a gun at him shouted Dapa!and thereupon his companions (the ones at the right rear side, left rear side, and front
right side) faced him for less than a minute. Because at that precise moment the gun was not yet poked at him, he was able
to recognize their faces. When finally the gun was pointed at him, he became nervous and bowed down his head inside the
guard house. The color of the clutch bag taken from the victim was black. He could see the inside of the car from his
guard post because the cars glass window was not tinted and, besides, his position was elevated or higher than the height
of the car.[58] He confirmed the contents of his Sinumpaang Salaysay (Exhibit L) before policeman Edilberto Nicanor on
June 13, 1996 taken at the CID-PNP, Camp Karingal at 1:55 p.m. or barely four (4) hours after the shooting incident. [59]

Alejo further testified on cross-examination that on June 19, 1996 at around 2:00 oclock in the afternoon, he was
fetched by four (4) policemen at his agency in Monumento and they told him they were going to Fairview. Before this, in
the afternoon of June 18, 1996, they showed him a picture of a man wearing eyeglasses, but he told them he would not
point a man in photographs, but would like to see the man in person. That was the second time he saw Joel de Jesus since
the shooting incident on June 13, 1996. He executed a supplemental statement on June 21, 1996 when he identified said
suspect in a police line-up.[60]

On September 26, 1996, the trial court conducted an ocular inspection of the place where the shooting incident
took place, in the presence of the prosecutors, defense counsel, Alejo and Maj. Villena. Alejo was asked to demonstrate
his exact location, the relative positions of the assailants and the victims car, and the entire incident he had witnessed in
the morning of June 13, 1996. The Presiding Judge who took the same position of Alejo in the guardhouse made the
following observations:

COURT:

From this position, the Presiding Judge can see the car very clearly even if the car would be moved back
by another segment of the cement or even if it is forwarded by another segment also, as segment
can accommodate one car of the likes of Honda Accord and the Court observes that from the
guard post the faces of the persons beside the car are very clear.

xxx

COURT:

The Court observed that from where the witness Alejo was he can still see the whole car as it has been
moved back per the directive of Major Villena.

xxx

COURT:

The Court adds that from the position of the witness, Freddie Alejo, the Court can still see faces behind
the car which can accommodate another car.
xxx

COURT:

The front right window has been rolled down and also the back right window of the car have been rolled
down with the left front door opened, the Court can observed the two (2) front seats particularly
the upper portion, meaning the head rest and the back rest, half of the back rest, all the head rest
can be seen.

xxx

INTERPRETER:

(measuring the distance from the guardhouse to the black car).

The measurement from the foot of the guardpost up to the right front door of the black car is fifteen (15)
meters.

xxx

INTERPRETER:

(Measuring the distance between the bodega to the black car)

The measurement from the front portion of the bodega (papaya) to the side of the black car is 11.8
meters.

xxx

INTERPRETER:

The measurementthe distance from where suspect No. 6 was standing to the guard house when measured
is 7.34 meters, your Honor.

xxx

INTERPRETER:

The distance from where suspect No. 5 was standing up to the guard house is 5.17 meters.

xxx

COURT:

After the demonstration while witness Alejo was demonstrating how [suspect No. 2] got the clutch bag
and how [suspect No. 2] grabbed the neck of the driver of the black car, the Judge was at the
guard post and saw for himself that [Alejo] clearly saw the taking of the clutch bag even if the
untinted windows were closed and the pulling of the driver of the black car. [61]

P/Insp. Castillo, on re-direct examination testified that Atty. Sansano actively assisted Joel de Jesus during the
time the latters Sinumpaang Salaysay was being taken by SPO2 Garcia, Jr. There were questions propounded to Joel
which Atty. Sansano had told Joel not to answer, and advice was given by said counsel. They left Quezon City Hall at
about 5:00 oclock in the afternoon and returned to the CPDC headquarters. He maintained that all the accused were
brought before the City Prosecutor for inquest proceedings prior to the filing of the information in court. [62]
Susan Samonte-Abadilla testified that their family incurred expenses for the burial of her husband, repair of the
Honda Accord and loss of the .45 cal gold cup pistol and Omega watch during the shooting of her husband. She further
testified that she was very shocked and saddened by the tragic death of her husband. Because she led a practically
sheltered life, it was difficult for her, as it was the older children who were now taking care of their businesses, which
were attended to by her husband when he was still alive.Three (3) of her eight (8) children were still studying (Ana, 14;
Nico, 13; and BJ, 10), and one had just graduated last March 1997. [63]

Merlito Herbas, in his Karagdagang Salaysay dated June 21, 1996, identified Joel de Jesus in a police line-up at
the CID-CPDC, Camp Karingal, as one (1) of those men who shot the victim on June 13, 1996. [64] However, not having
been presented by the prosecution as witness, he testified for the defense declaring that none of those whom he saw during
the shooting incident was present inside the courtroom. He produced a list of amounts he had received from Mayor
Abadilla, totaling P30,000.00 in support of his claim that Mayor Abadilla did not fulfill his promise to give him exactly
the same salary he was receiving as security guard (P6,000.00 monthly only instead of the P8,000.00 he used to receive as
monthly pay), although he admitted having stayed for free inside the Abadilla compound from July 11, 1996 up to
November 26, 1996. He was later told that he would no longer be presented as witness because the testimony of Alejo
would be sufficient.[65]

Defense Evidence

All the accused raised the defense of alibi, highlighted the negative findings of ballistic and fingerprint
examinations, and further alleged torture in the hands of police officers and denial of constitutional rights during custodial
investigation.

P/Insp. Reynaldo D. de Guzman, firearms examiner and Chief of the Firearms Division of the PNP Crime
Laboratory, testified that he conducted an examination of the slug recovered from the body of Col. Abadilla, as per request
of the CPDC for cross-matching with a bullet also recovered from the body of another shooting victim, Suseso de
Dios, i.e., whether or not they were fired from one (1) and the same firearm. [66] The result of their microscopic
examination was that the aforesaid bullets were fired from the same firearm. [67]

Dr. Jesse Rey Cruel, medico-legal officer of the CHR, testified that he examined accused Cesar
Fortuna, Rameses de Jesus, Lenido Lumanog on June 25, 1996 and Lorenzo delos Santos on July 3, 1996. His findings
showed that their bodies bore the following injuries: (1) Fortuna - abrasions on forearm, elbow and knee; contusions on
chest area; and incised wounds on the waist and legs [68]; (2) Rameses - contusions on chest, abdomen, knee and thigh
areas[69]; (3) Lumanog - contusions on abdomen and lumbar region, and a horizontal lacerated wound on the forehead [70];
and (4) Lorenzo - abrasions on the arms, contusions in thigh and knee, petechia marks (minute hemorrhages) between
chest/abdomen and the penis, discoloration on right arm, and new scars on left arm, right foot and second toe. [71] All said
wounds required not more than nine (9) days of medical attendance. The defense also presented pictures taken at the time
of the examination.[72] On cross-examination, Dr. Cruel opined that it was possible the injuries could have been self-
inflicted and pointed out that the injury on the forehead of Lumanog was not complained of. [73]

Remedios Dedicatoria, a fingerprint examiner at the PNP Crime Laboratory testified on the results stated in a
Dactyloscopy Report No. F-086-96 comparison of the latent prints lifted from the Honda Accord with Plate No. RNA-
777, Kia Pride PTZ-401 and Mitsubishi Lancer car with the standard fingerprints of the accused. The only match was
found in the specimen fingerprint of Rameses de Jesus with respect to the fragmentary prints lifted from the Mitsubishi
Lancer car. None of the fingerprints of the accused is identical with the latent prints lifted from the Honda Accord and Kia
Pride.[74] On cross-examination, the witness stated that if a person had touched the car and rubbed it, there would be no
fingerprint that could be lifted therefrom. She also admitted that no latent print was taken from inside the Honda Accord
nor was there any fingerprint taken of the late Rolando Abadilla (only two [2] fingerprints were taken from his car). When
asked if a person opened the car holding only the back portion of the handle, the witness answered that there would
likewise be no fingerprint on the outside of the car. [75]

Joel de Jesus testified that on June 19, 1996, at around 3:00 oclock in the afternoon, he was at their street corner
fixing his tricycle and was with Arturo Napolitano and Felicisimo Herrera. A van stopped and six (6) armed men alighted
from it, among whom he recognized Antonio Rodolfo, Pio Tarala and Dario Aasco (whom he came to know when they
charged him with rape on January 17, 1994, from which charge he was acquitted on June 19, 1996). He even greeted said
cops, but they forced him into the van, and handcuffed and blindfolded the three (3) of them. They were brought to a
certain house where they were boxed, kicked and slammed on the wall. When his blindfold was removed, the police
officers were forcing him to admit that he killed Abadilla. Capt. Rodolfo was also there and he later identified the rest of
those who picked him up as Romulo Sales, Lt. Castillo, Bartolome Baluyot, Major Reyes and Catalua. After he denied
having anything to do with the killing, PO2 Tarala tried to suffocate him with a plastic bag. He could not breathe and lost
consciousness. Recounting his ordeal in tears, the witness said that for one (1) hour his captors repeatedly inserted a
plastic bag and boxed him. A younger looking man then slapped him saying that they had ambushed his father. While
detained, he was only given water to drink and not allowed to contact his relatives. He was asked to sign by Lt. Castillo a
seven (7)-page document, torturing him if he refused to do so. There were already other signatures on the edge and every
page of said document (Sinumpaang Salaysay dated June 20, 1996). He denied the contents of this statement but admitted
that he was brought to the IBP Office, Quezon City Hall. After signing, he heard Lt. Castillo call somebody
saying, Parating na kami dyan. He was then made to board a vehicle and was taken to the Quezon City Hall where a man
wearing barong tagalog was waiting, asking if he was Joel de Jesus. When Lt. Castillo answered in the affirmative, the
man just signed the document. He denied having met Atty. Confesor Sansano, nor was he told of his right to the assistance
of counsel; he even told them the name of his lawyer at that time, but they just said, Mas marunong ka pa sa amin.[76]

Testifying on cross-examination, Joel insisted that on June 13, 1996, he went home at around 10:00 oclock in the
evening. He started plying his route at 6:00 oclock in the morning; he was hired (inarkila) by a passenger who asked him
to bring her to an albularyo in Roosevelt Avenue, Novaliches. He admitted this was the first time he mentioned this, as it
was not mentioned in his Affidavits [77] which were prepared by the police. Atty. Lupino Lazaro assisted him in filing
charges against the police officers and Atty. Hector Corpuz before the Department of Justice (DOJ). He admitted that he
did not say anything about the illegality of his arrest and the torture he suffered prior to his arraignment. [78] On re-direct
examination, he denied having executed the Karagdagang Salaysay dated June 21, 1996 before the IBP lawyer, because at
this time he was still detained in a safehouse where he remained until June 25, 1996. He was just forced to sign said
document; after signing it, he heard Lt. Castillo say to one (1) Fiscal Soler, Fiscal, salamat. Thereafter, he and the other
accused were presented in a press conference as suspects in the Abadilla slaying inside Camp Crame. During this time, he
pointed to Lorenzo delos Santos and Augusto Santos, because they were his enemies at their place. He only pointed to
them out of fear that he might be salvaged by the police and because of the torture. He really did not know Abadilla nor
was he at any time within the vicinity of Katipunan Avenue on June 13, 1996. He knew Rameses de Jesus, being his
longtime neighbor, and also Lumanog who ran for councilor in their place. All he knows was that his co-accused were
picked up from their place, and he saw them only during the press conference. He affirmed the contents of
the Sinumpaang Salaysay he executed before Police Major (Pol. Maj.) Escote with the assistance of Atty. Lazaro. [79]

Joel admitted that he was the one (1) who pointed out Cesar Fortuna and Rameses de Jesus to the PARAC
investigators. He confirmed that he was known as Tabong in their locality. He also filed a complaint before the CHR
against the same police officers.[80]

Cesar Fortuna testified that he was a member of the PNP assigned at Cagayan de Oro City. He came to Manila
on June 7, 1996, as he was ordered by his superior, Col. Roberto Sacramento, to attend to the documents required for
reassignment of some of their companions (as evidenced by a used Super Ferry ticket and an unused return ticket for June
20, 1996). On June 11, 1996, he went to the PNP Directorate for Personnel at the office of Insp. Oscar Alcala. However,
on the night of June 19, 1996, he was arrested by PARAC operatives while he was at the house of an acquaintance,
Rameses de Jesus, in Ruby St., Fairview. He had brought for repair a Ford Maverick Model 69 registered in the name of
Col. Sacramento. At 11:00 oclock in the evening, his mechanic road-tested the car, but since he was left alone, he decided
to go to the house of Rameses which was near the shop. Several armed policemen arrived and entered the house of
Rameses. Not finding Rameses there, they asked him instead to go along with them. He was made to board an owner-type
jeep and immediately blindfolded. After one (1) hour, they arrived at a place which he was told was the office of
PARAC. Somebody approached him and he felt a lighters flame touch his chin. He then identified himself as a policeman,
but was only told: Walang pulis pulis dito. They kept on asking him where Rameses could be found. Still blindfolded, he
led them to Palmera Subdivision where he knew Rameses had another house. Upon reaching Palmera, his blindfold was
removed, but he was unable to locate the house until they went home at 5:00 p.m. In the morning of June 20, 1996, the
policemen told him that he was just confusing them (nililito), but he explained that he had been to that house only once.
The driver of the Honda Civic was already angry at him and inserted a .45 cal pistol in his mouth. They went back to the
PARAC office, and he was interrogated about the Abadilla killing. He was informed that he was being implicated as
somebody had pointed at him. When he still denied having any knowledge about the ambush-slay, he was repeatedly
suffocated with a plastic bag placed on his head while he was handcuffed and blindfolded. After one (1) hour and due to
hardship he suffered, he just told them he would admit whatever it was they wanted him to admit. He said that he acted as
a look-out. They had him copy a prepared sketch and when his blindfold was finally removed, someone introduced
himself as Col. Bartolome Baluyot who told him he just had to obey and he would not be hurt. Maj. George Reyes arrived,
looked at the sketch and said it was not the place where Col. Abadilla was ambushed. He was blamed for that fiasco even
as he said it was they who prepared the sketch. After an hour, they returned to Palmera Subdivision, Novaliches and this
was already between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. After rounding the area, he found the house, but Rameses was not there. He was
made to sit the whole night in the kitchen.[81]

Fortuna continued to narrate that on June 21, 1996, he was made to lie down on a bench covered with a GI sheet
and was asked where the firearm of Col. Abadilla was.When he answered that he really did not know about it, they
electrocuted him and poured cold water on his body. He told them that if they needed a gun, he had a gun in Sampaloc, a .
45 cal licensed firearm. Thereupon, they asked him to go to that place where Dante Montevirgen was the gunsmith. Only
the policemen alighted from the vehicle and talked to Montevirgen. He saw that Montevirgen gave them two (2) firearms,
after which they went back to the PARAC office. On his licensed firearm, he just brought this for repair on May 10, 1996,
saying ayaw mag-automatic, while the other gun belonged to Capt. Regis, and these were covered by receipts. Next, they
asked him about the Rolex watch of Col. Abadilla. When he denied having any knowledge about it, he was again
electrocuted. He had filed a complaint before the CHR for the injuries inflicted on him and the violation of his
rights. Aside from this case and the charge of illegal possession of firearms, he was also charged with an administrative
case and a criminal complaint for carnapping (of the KIA Pride). The carnapping complaint was dismissed by Assistant
Prosecutor Amolin on September 23, 1996. The Decision issued by P/Sr. Supt. Rodolfo N. Caisip of the PNP
Headquarters Traffic Management Group also dismissed Administrative Case No. 96-09-03. He insisted that on the
morning of June 13, 1996, he was at Camp Crame following up the reassignment papers of his colleagues, showing the
letter-order issued by Col. Sacramento. He saw PO3 Ramon Manzano at the Office of the Directorate for Personnel at
about 9:00 oclock in the morning. He left said office as soon as he got the folder, signed their logbook, gave it to SPO4
Mercado of the Office of PNP Personnel Highway Patrol. Then he went home to eat before proceeding to the Metro
Traffic Force, Central District at the office of Col. Juanito de Guzman at Roces St., Quezon City, at around 2:00 oclock in
the afternoon, for the renewal of the license of Col. Sacramentos driver. [82] He also filed with the CHR an administrative
complaint against those police officers who had illegally arrested, detained and tortured him.

Fortuna further testified that PARAC operatives seized his Kawasaki motorcycle which he had left inside Camp
Crame because it had no fender. However, the certificate of registration was lost since it had been in custody of the police;
the Land Transportation Office (LTO) registration paper was locked inside, and he forgot what its plate number was. He
admitted that he was able to use said motorcycle in June 1996 even with the missing fender. He left the motorcycle at Gate
2, Camp Crame before leaving for Cagayan de Oro City; as to his car, he left it at Pier 2. He admitted that he was the same
person charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention with ransom in Criminal Case No. 96-312, which was filed
on July 15, 1996 in Mabalacat, Pampanga against him, Lumanog and Rameses by a certain Dr. Jesusa dela Cruz. Said case
was transferred to the Quezon City RTC in the same sala of the presiding judge in this case. The filing of this case
destroyed his reputation as a police officer and affected his children, who stopped going to school. He admitted though
that he had once been dishonorably discharged from the service as a result of an extortion case filed against him. He had
appealed his case and he was reinstated on August 20, 1983. A memorandum dated June 25, 1996 was issued by Col.
Sacramento to attest to his moral character and loyalty to the service. [83] He admitted that he never raised the issue of the
legality of his arrest or the torture he suffered while in detention, during his arraignment. When confronted with his sworn
statement submitted to the CHR, he admitted that he did not mention therein the pouring of cold water on his body, that he
was asked to make a sketch of Katipunan Avenue, that a .45 cal pistol was inserted into his mouth and that there was no
firearm confiscated from him at the time of his arrest. When he was apprehended on the night of June 19, 1996 at the
house of Rameses at Ruby St., he was half-naked standing outside at the balcony. He saw someones hand, but not the
whole body of that person to whom he was shown that night, and he just heard from the policemen he had been positively
identified.[84]

Fortunas claim that he was at Camp Crame following up papers in the morning of June 13, 1996 was corroborated
by Oscar Alcala (Chief Clerk of the Recruitment and Selection Division) and SPO2 Ramon Manzano (Office of the
Directorate for Personnel and Recruitment). However, Alcala could not present the particular logbook containing the
record of the documents and transaction with Fortuna, as it could not be located, as it got lost after the office renovation in
the early part of 1997. A xerox copy of the logbook entry was presented in court (Exhibit 70). [85] However, said witness
admitted he was not the custodian of the said logbook, and he did not have personal knowledge of the date and time of the
entries in Exhibit 70; it was also SPO2 Manzano who xeroxed the said logbook entry. [86] Manzano confirmed that he
personally saw Fortuna in the morning of June 13, 1996, between 9:00 and 9:30, when Fortuna retrieved the papers he
earlier submitted in May 1996.[87]

On further cross-examination, Fortuna admitted that he never told his lawyer (Atty. Ramonito M. Delfin) when
they brought his complaint before the CHR that he had documents to prove he was at Camp Crame in the morning of June
13, 1996. He explained that the matter did not enter his mind because he had no food and no sleep for several days: At the
time my salaysay was taken from me, everything was still fresh and there were so many things that I wanted to say but I
was not able to say because masama pa ang aking pakiramdam. Neither did he mention it to Fiscal Refuerzo who
interviewed him after the press conference, as they did not ask him about it. [88] He had brought up such matter with his
lawyer in another case not before the sala of the presiding judge in this case.[89]

Lorenzo delos Santos testified that on June 13, 1996, he left his house at Fairview and boarded a bus bound for
Quiapo. Upon reaching Quiapo, he heard mass in Quiapo Church until around 8:30 a.m. He arrived in their office at
Binondo on June 13, 1996 at 9:30 a.m. He remembered going to the office of the Felipe Santos Brokerage in the same
building to check on the date of arrival of a certain shipment. Thereafter, he went back to his office and stayed there until
2:30 p.m. He left his place of work about 4:30 in the afternoon and went to a client who invited him to drink at the house
of his brother somewhere in Quezon City. On June 19, 1996, at around 11:00 olock in the evening, several persons
suddenly barged into his house while he and his wife were sleeping. Sgt. Bela introduced himself, and he was slapped and
handcuffed and the house was searched. They took his .38 cal revolver which was licensed. He was blindfolded, made to
board a car and taken to a safehouse where he was tied and tortured (suffocation with plastic bag and electrocution). He
was told that he was pointed to by Joel, but he explained to them that Joel was his opponent in a court case (for grave
threats, physical injuries and trespassing). [90] He also answered their questions regarding his co-accused. He told them that
he used to see Rameses when he brings his children to school and came to know Lumanog when he ran as city councilor,
while he did not know Fortuna. After the interrogation, he was again subjected to torture and he felt weak; this lasted up to
June 21, 1996. On June 21, 1996, he was brought to a field (bukid) where he was forced to sign a paper. He was then
brought to the Quezon City Hall of Justice at the second floor and instructed that he should just walk along. There were
two (2) women inside aside from policemen, and he was elbowed by a policeman to sign a document. He signed it out of
fear, and the document was handed by the policemen to a man who entered the room, whom he later came to know as
Atty. Florimond Rous. He was brought to another floor at the Fiscals Office while he was still limping. Somebody there
asked why he was in that condition, but one (1) of his police companions elbowed him so he just said it was nothing. A
man who was probably the Fiscal signed the document, and they left at around 5:00 in the afternoon. [91] Lorenzo admitted
he had an owner-type jeep, which was registered in his own name, but said jeep had been mortgaged to Danilo Lintag
since May 27, 1996.[92]

Lorenzo presented as witness Edith Lingan, an employee of Felipe M. Santos, who corroborated his alibi.[93]

Augusto Santos testified that on June 13, 1996 at around 7:00 oclock in the morning, he accompanied his
brother-in-law Jonas Ayhon whose wife, his sister, gave birth on June 11, 1996 at the Jose Fabella Hospital at Sta. Cruz,
Manila. He stayed there until 2:00 oclock in the afternoon. On June 26, 1996, five (5) men suddenly barged into their
house. He was hit in the neck with a .45 cal. pistol, blindfolded and brought outside where he was beaten. They had no
warrant of arrest but were forcing him to admit that Joel de Jesus gave him big money and that he knew what it was. He
told them that he did not know anything, and that Joel was his enemy, as his Tito Lorenzo had a quarrel with Joel in which
he helped his Tito. He confirmed the contents of the Sinumpaang Salaysay dated July 3, 1996 which he executed at Camp
Crame, and also presented a copy of the birth certificate of the baby delivered by his sister at Fabella Hospital. [94]

Jonas Padel Ayhon corroborated the foregoing testimony of his brother-in-law, Augusto Ogie Santos, whose half-
sister was his wife.[95]

Rameses de Jesus testified that on June 12, 1996 at 7:00 oclock in the evening, he and Lumanog left for
Mabalacat, Pampanga on board the latters brand new Mitsubishi Lancer, together with Romeo Costibollo, Manny dela
Rosa and Boni Mandaro. They arrived in Mabalacat at about 10:00 oclock in the evening and after resting they started
digging infront of the church, inside the compound of the Tiglao family, Lumanogs in-laws. They dug until 4:00 oclock in
the morning of June 13, 1996. Thereafter, they slept and woke up at around 10:00 oclock in the morning. They helped in
the preparations for the celebration of the wedding anniversary of the Tiglaos. After eating lunch, they drank liquor. They
returned to Manila only on June 14, 1996 at 7:00 p.m.. On June 19, 1996, they went back to Pampanga and returned to
Manila on June 20, 1996. At around 10:00 p.m., they proceeded to Fairview, Quezon City to visit the sick child of Romeo
Costibollo who was then confined at Fairview Polymedic Hospital. After Costibollo and Lumanog alighted from their car
and while he was parking infront of the hospital, several armed men came. Two (2) men approached him from behind and
asked him if Costibollo and Lumanog were his companions. When he replied yes, he was pushed inside the car;
Costibollo and Lumanog were handcuffed. Without any warrant, they were apprehended, blindfolded and taken to a place
where he was tortured. They were forcing him to admit that he and his companions killed Kabise who was the ex-
governor of Ilocos Norte.Despite his denials they continued to torture him by electrocution and suffocation with a plastic
bag. A policeman arrived with Fortuna, who was asked how much Ram gave them, to which Fortuna
replied P10,000.00. He got mad at Fortuna and cursed him for telling such a lie. After two (2) days, he was brought to
Camp Karingal still blindfolded. He was again tortured for two (2) days, the policemen forcing him to admit he
participated in the killing of Col. Abadilla. When he could no longer bear the torture, he finally admitted to Insp. Castillo
that he took part in the Abadilla ambush-slay. When the one (1) interviewing him asked how he did it, he just said that
Fortuna came to his house with an owner-type jeep and two (2) other persons, and that they rode to Dau, Pampanga and
headed to Tarlac, on their way to Ilocos to kill Abadilla. Insp. Castillo got angry, saying that he was just fooling them and
he was again hit.[96]

Rameses continued to narrate that after two (2) or three (3) days stay at Camp Karingal, he and the other accused
were presented at a press conference. During the inquest conducted by Fiscal Refuerzo, he saw Freddie Alejo for the first
time, and also his co-accused Lumanog, Fortuna, Lorenzo, Joel and Augusto. As far as he knew, they had brought the
matter of the torture they suffered in the hands of policemen to the DOJ. [97]

On cross-examination, Rameses was shown a medical certificate issued by Dr. Servillano B. Ritualo III at the
PNP General Hospital, Camp Crame, but he said he could no longer remember the date he was examined by said
doctor. He confirmed that Fortuna was renting a room in his house together with his mistress Baby. When confronted with
his Sinumpaang Salaysay dated June 26, 1996 he executed before the CHR, he admitted that there was no mention therein
of their treasure-hunting trip to Pampanga on June 12 to 15, 1996. He said he was never asked about it. He likewise
admitted that he was included in the kidnapping charge filed in Mabalacat, but asserted that it was trumped-up ( Ipinatong
po sa akin yan ni Col. Baluyot).[98]

The Trial Courts Verdict

On August 11, 1999, the trial court promulgated a Joint Decision dated July 30, 1999, the dispositive portion of
which reads:

ACCORDINGLY, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

xxx

V. In Criminal Case No. Q-96-66684, for Murder,:

1. Accused Arturo Napolitano y Caburnay is hereby ACQUITTED;

2. Accused SPO2 Cesar Fortuna y Abudo, Rameses de Jesus y Calma, Leonardo Lumanog y
Luistro (a.k.a. Leonido or Lenido), Joel de Jesus y Valdez, and Augusto Santos y Galang are hereby found
GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt as co-principals of the crime of MURDER as defined and penalized in
the Revised Penal Code for the death of ex-Col. Rolando Abadilla y Nolasco with the aggravating
circumstances of treachery (absorbing abuse of superior strength) and evident premeditation and they are
hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of DEATH;

3. Accused Lorenzo delos Santos y dela Cruz is hereby ACQUITTED.


On the civil aspect, accused SPO2 Cesar Fortuna y Abudo, Rameses de Jesus y Calma, Leonardo
Lumanog y Luistron (a.k.a. Leonido or Lenido), Joel de Jesus y Valdez and Augusto Santos y Galang are
hereby ordered jointly and solidarily to pay the heirs of the deceased ex-Col. Rolando Abadilla y Nolasco
the following:

1. As actual damages, the sum of P294,058.86;

2. As indemnity damages, the sum of P50,000.00;

3. As moral damages, the sum of P500,000.00;

4. As exemplary damages, the sum of P500,000.00.

The firearm, one (1) Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver with Serial No. 980974, subject of
Case No. Q-96-66680 is hereby ordered returned to Lorenzo delos Santos y dela Cruz.

The firearm, one (1) Amscor .38 caliber revolver with Serial No. 21907, subject of Case No. Q-
96-66683 is hereby ordered forwarded to the PNP Firearms and Explosives Division, Camp Crame,
Quezon City for safekeeping in accordance with law and as said firearm belongs and is licensed to
accused Leonardo Lumanog y Luistro (a.k.a. Leonido or Lenido) who has been sentenced in Case No. Q-
96-66684 for Murder, until further orders from this court.

Costs against the accused.

Let the entire records of these cases be transmitted forthwith to the Honorable Supreme Court for
automatic review, in accordance with law and the Rules of Court.

SO ORDERED.[99]

The trial court was firmly convinced that the prosecution succeeded in establishing the identities of accused Joel,
Rameses, Lumanog, Fortuna and Augusto as the perpetrators in the fatal shooting of Abadilla in the morning of June 13,
1996. It found that both security guards Alejo and Herbas confirmed the presence of Joel de Jesus in the crime
scene.However, with respect to the positive identification of all the five (5) accused, namely, Joel de Jesus, Rameses de
Jesus, Cesar Fortuna, Lenido Lumanog and Augusto Santos, the trial court gave more credence to the testimony of Alejo
than the declaration on the witness stand of Herbas who had backtracked on his earlier statement dated June 21, 1996
wherein he pointed to Joel as one (1) of those participants in the shooting incident.

In doubting the credibility of Herbas, the trial court stressed that Herbas was obviously disgruntled at the Abadilla
familys failure to give him the promised salary, and circumstances showed that his need for job and money colored his
perception and attitude in testifying for the defense. Moreover, despite the impression he had given to the police and the
Abadilla family that he could identify the four (4) persons who surrounded Col. Abadillas car, Herbas could not have
really been able to recognize the faces of the ambushers for three (3) reasons: (1) he was on the ground when he turned his
head (lumingon) towards where the gunshots were being fired and quite a lot of vehicles in traffic stopped at the time; (2)
the whole incident, as far as Herbas observed, happened in seconds only; and (3) Herbas was three (3) Meralco posts
away from the ambush site. All these factors combined, according to the trial court, could not have given Herbas enough
time and opportunity to clearly see those who ambushed Abadilla, and hence he was really a poor and inadequate witness
either for the prosecution or the defense.[100]

Compared to Herbas, the trial court found the eyewitness testimony of Alejo more credible due to his elevated
position at his guard post and the fact that the ambush had taken place before his very eyes, so near that one (1) of the
conspirators had to order him to lie flat (which obviously he could not do because of the narrow space inside his guard
house), and which appeared to be the reason why a second order came for him to get down from the guard house, to which
he nervously complied. From his vantage point, Alejo sufficiently and in a detailed manner recognized the relative
positions and participations of the ambushers, each of whom he had identified as Rameses, Fortuna, Lumanog, Augusto
and Joel, both in the police line-up and again inside the courtroom during the trial. [101]
The trial court also found that the statements of Joel, in which he admitted his participation in the crime assisted
by Atty. Sansano and in the presence of the IBP personnel and police investigators, were not flawed by intimidation or
violence when obtained and sworn to before the fiscal. The common defense of alibi put up by all the accused was
rejected by the trial court, holding that (1) the alleged treasure-hunting trip made by Lumanog and Rameses was
incredible and unpersuasive, as it was contrary to ordinary human experience; (2) Fortunas claim was weak, the logbook
entry on his supposed transaction in the Office of the Directorate for Personnel and Recruitment at Camp Crame was a
mere photocopy, and also, as in the case of Rameses, he never mentioned such digging activity in Pampanga in the sworn
complaint he had filed before the CHR; (3) Augustos alibi was supported only by his brother-in-law, and it was simply not
usual for menfolk, instead of women, in our family culture, to fetch a woman who had just given birth at the hospital,
aside from the observation that Augusto could have gone straight to Fabella Hospital in Sta. Cruz, Manila instead of going
first to Buendia, Makati before 7:00 a.m. to fetch his brother-in-law. With respect to Lumanog, the trial court pointed out
that his silence and failure to testify in court, despite the evidence implicating him in the murder of Abadilla, justified an
inference that he was not innocent.[102]

On August 25, 1999, Lumanog filed a motion for reconsideration. [103] On September 2, 1999, Joel filed a motion
for new trial based on newly discovered evidence to present two witnesses, Merevic S. Torrefranca and Rosemarie P.
Caguioa, who offered to testify on the whereabouts of Joel on the day of the incident. [104] Lumanog likewise filed a motion
for new trial for the presentation of a new witness, who was allegedly on board a taxi immediately behind Abadillas car,
and who clearly saw that those who perpetrated the gruesome crime were not the accused. [105] In his Supplement to the
Motion for Reconsideration, Lumanog assailed the inconsistencies in the declarations of Alejo, and the non-presentation
of eyewitnesses Minella Alarcon and Metro Aide Aurora Urbano. In addition, Lumanog pointed to well-publicized
statements of the Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB), which claimed responsibility for the killing of Abadilla, but the
investigation got sidetracked by another angle -- that a political rival of Abadilla paid money for a contract
assassination. He contended that the police opted for the path of least resistance by rounding up the usual suspects, indeed
another glaring example of our law enforcers strategy of instituting trumped-up charges against innocent people just to
comply with their superiors directive to accelerate solving an ambush-slay case. [106] In additional pleadings filed by his
new counsel, Lumanog reiterated the ABBs assassination theory in the light of more recent press statements issued by said
group describing the accused as mere fall guys of the police to project an image of efficiency. [107]

On January 25, 2000, the trial court issued an Order ruling on the pending motions:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the court resolves:

1. to DENY the Motion for Reconsideration by accused Lenido Lumanog;

2. to DENY the Motion for New Trial by accused Joel de Jesus;

3. to consider the Motion for New Trial by accused Lenido Lumanog as abandoned and/or
withdrawn;

4. to DENY the Supplement to the Motion for Reconsideration by accused Lenido Lumanog as
well as his addendum thereto and his Manifestation and Motion dated December 15, 1999 to
allow him to introduce additional evidence in support of his Supplement to the Motion for
Reconsideration;

5. to DENY the Manifestation and Submission dated December 14, 1999 by accused Lenido
Lumanog;

6. and to ORDER the immediate transmittal of the records of these cases to the Honorable
Supreme Court for automatic review pursuant to law, the Rules of Court and the Joint
Decision of this court dated July 30, 1999.

SO ORDERED.[108]
On January 19, 2000, Fr. Roberto P. Reyes, parish priest of the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, University of the
Philippines at Diliman, Quezon City, assisted by Atty. Neri J. Colmenares, filed an Urgent Independent Motion for Leave
of Court to Present Vital Evidence. Fr. Reyes claimed that an ABB personality came to him confessing that the ABB was
responsible for the killing of Abadilla and gave him an object (Omega gold wristwatch) taken from said victim, which can
be presented as evidence in this case to prove the innocence of the accused who were erroneously convicted by the trial
court and save them from the penalty of death. [109]

After due hearing, the trial court denied the said motion of Fr. Reyes, holding that the latters proposed testimony
could not be considered an exception to the hearsay rule, considering that: (1) it cannot be said that the person who
allegedly approached Fr. Reyes was unable to testify, as said person was simply unwilling to face in a court of law the
legal consequences of whatever admissions he made to Fr. Reyes; (2) the alleged admission was made long after trial had
ended and long after the court had promulgated its decision, at which time the public and persons interested in the
outcome of the case knew already what were the courts findings and conclusions of fact; and (3) going by the advertised
image of the ABB as an ideologically motivated group that would shoot to death public officers and private individuals
perceived by its ranking cadres as corrupt, the court found it hard to believe that ABB gunman would in full view of
idealist comrades and everybody else, would open Abadillas car and steal that watch, and remain unscathed for his
unproletarian act by his peers in the organization. [110] The trial court, however, ordered that the Omega wristwatch
allegedly belonging to the late Col. Abadilla, the copy of the motion for leave to present vital evidence and the transcript
of the proceedings on January 26, 2000 be attached to the records of the case as part of the offer of proof of the defense.

Two (2) more pleadings were filed by Lumanogs counsel just before the records of Criminal Case No. Q-96-
66684 were transmitted to this Court for automatic review, namely, a Final Submission to This Court dated February 8,
2000, together with an attached copy of the letter of Lt. Gen Jose M. Calimlim of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP) Intelligence Service regarding an unsuccessful operation of the ABB to kill Col. Abadilla, and Final Manifestation
to This Court dated February 9, 2000.[111]

Lumanog challenged before this Court the validity of the Orders dated January 25, 26, and 28, 2000 allegedly
issued with grave abuse of discretion on the part of the trial judge who thereby denied the accused the opportunity to
introduce evidence on the alleged role of the ABB in the ambush-slay of Col. Abadilla. On September 7, 2001, we denied
his petition for certiorari in G.R. No. 142065,[112] as we thus held:
A perusal of the pieces of evidence, except the Omega wristwatch, which are sought to be
presented by the petitioners in a new trial are not newly discovered evidence because they were either
available and could have been presented by the defense during the trial of the case with the exercise of
due diligence, such as the alleged newspaper reports and AFP/PNP intelligence materials on Col.
Abadilla. The wristwatch allegedly belonging to the late Col. Abadilla is immaterial to the case of murder
while the testimony of F. Roberto Reyes on the turn over of the said wristwatch by an alleged member of
the ABB who purportedly knows certain facts about the killing of Col. Abadilla would be hearsay without
the testimony in court of the said alleged member of the ABB. The document which granted amnesty to
Wilfredo Batongbakal is irrelevant to the killing of Col. Abadilla inasmuch as Batongbakal does not
appear privy to the actual commission of the crime of murder in the case at bar. If at all, those pieces of
additional evidence will at most be merely corroborative to the defense of alibi and denial of herein
petitioners. Petitioners alternative prayer that this Court itself conduct hearings and receive evidence on
the ABB angle is not well taken for the reason that the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts. [113]

Accused-petitioners motion for reconsideration of the above decision was denied with finality on November 20, 2001.
[114]
On September 17, 2002, this Court likewise denied for lack of merit the motion for new trial and related relief dated
April 26, 2002 filed by counsel for said accused-petitioner. [115]

Pursuant to our decision in People v. Mateo,[116] this case was transferred to the Court of Appeals for intermediate review
on January 18, 2005.[117]

Ruling of the CA
On April 1, 2008, the CA rendered the assailed decision, thus:

WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, the impugned decision is AFFIRMED with the
MODIFICATION that the accused-appellants are sentenced each to suffer reclusion perpetua without the
benefit of parole.

In all other respects, the lower courts decision is AFFIRMED.

Costs against appellants.

SO ORDERED.[118]

The CA upheld the conviction of the accused-appellants based on the credible eyewitness testimony of Alejo, who
vividly recounted before the trial court their respective positions and participation in the fatal shooting of Abadilla, having
been able to witness closely how they committed the crime. On the sufficiency of prosecution evidence to establish
appellants guilt beyond reasonable doubt and the scant weight of their defense of alibi, as well as the allegations of torture
and intimidation in the hands of the police investigator and negative results of ballistic and fingerprint tests, the CA ruled
as follows:

Despite a lengthy and exhaustive cross-examination by the defense counsel, eyewitness Alejo
stuck to the essentials of his story, including the identification of the persons who killed Col. Abadilla. He
was only ten (10) meters away from the locus crimini. Standing on an elevated guardhouse, he had a close
and unobstructed view of the whole incident. He was in a vantage position to clearly recognize Col.
Abadillas assailants, more so because the crime happened in clear and broad daylight.

Even standing alone, Alejos positive and unequivocal declaration is sufficient to support a
conviction for murder against appellants. Indeed, the testimony of a single witness, when positive and
credible, is sufficient to support a conviction even for murder. For there is no law requiring that the
testimony of a simple [sic] witness should be corroborated for it to be accorded full faith and credit. The
credible testimony of a lone witness(es) assumes more weight when there is no showing that he was
actuated by improper motive to testify falsely against the accused, as in the case of Freddie Alejo.

xxx

appellants failed to prove that it was physically impossible for them to be at the locus delicti or
within its immediate vicinity at the time the crime was committed.

In the case of Joel de Jesus, he maintains that he was driving his tricycle on a special chartered
trip for a passenger going to Roosevelt, Novalichez, Quezon City. But, it was not impossible for him to
have also gone to Katipunan Avenue, which is also part of Quezon City; not to mention the fact that with
his tricycle, he could have easily moved from one place to another.

The testimonies of Rameses de Jesus and Leonido Lumanog that they were treasure hunting in
Mabalacat, Pampanga on the day in question, lack credence as they are unsupported by the testimonies of
independent witnesses. At any rate, Rameses de Jesus admitted that they were using the new car of
Leonido Lumanog. Hence, it was not physically impossible for them to travel to Quezon City via the
North Expressway at the time the crime took place.

Augusto claims that he was at the Fabella Hospital in Sta. Cruz, Manila, and his alibi was
corroborated by his brother-in-law, Jonas Padel Ayhon, who is not an impartial witness. Where nothing
supports the alibi except the testimony of a relative, it deserves scant consideration.

xxx

Finally, Cesar Fortuna claims that he was in Camp Crame on the day the murder took place. But it
was not impossible for him to have gone to Katipunan Road, Blue Ridge, which is relatively near Camp
Crame when the shooting happened around 8:40 in the morning. After the shooting, he could have easily
and quickly transferred to Camp Crame between 9:00 and 9:30 in the morning of the same day.

In any event, appellants alibis were belied by the positive identification made by prosecution
eyewitness Freddie Alejo.

xxx

Further, appellants allegations that the police authorities maltreated them, and forcibly extracted
their extra-judicial confessions do not exculpate them from criminal liability. For one, their conviction
was not based on their extra-judicial confessions, but on their positive identification of Freddie Alejo as
the authors of the crime. Such positive identification is totally independent of their extra-judicial
confessions. For another, the Constitutional guarantees contained in the Bill of Rights cannot be used as a
shield whereby a person guilty of a crime may escape punishment. Thus, the Supreme Court in Draculan
vs. Donato, held:

x x x. Pangalawa, ang mga karapatan ng mga mamamayan na natatala sa Saligang Batas


(sa Bill of Rights) ay hindi mga paraan upang ang isang tunay na may pagkakasala na labag sa
batas, ay makaligtas sa nararapat na pagdurusa. Ang tunay na layunin ng mga tadhanang iyon ng
Saligang Batas ay walang iba kundi tiyakin na sinumang nililitis ay magkaroon ng sapat na
pagkakataon at paraan na maipagtanggol ang sarili, bukod sa pagbabawal ng pagtanggap ng
katibayan (evidence) laban sa kanya na bunga ng pagpipilit, dahas at iba pang paraang labag sa
kanyang kalooban.

To repeat, assuming that appellants allegations of torture were true, the same do not exculpate
them from liability for the crime which the People had adequately established by independent evidence,
neither was their claim that the results of the ballistics test purportedly showing that the bullets and bullet
shells found in the crime scene did not match with any of the firearms supposedly in their possession. But
these ballistic results are inconclusive and can never prevail over appellants positive identification by
eyewitness Freddie Alejo as the persons who perpetrated the ambush-slay of Col. Abadilla. Besides, there
is no showing that the firearms supposedly found in appellants possession long after the incident were the
same ones they used in the ambush-slay.[119]

In its Resolution[120] dated October 28, 2008, the CA denied the motions for reconsideration respectively filed by
Fortuna and Joel de Jesus.[121]

Rameses de Jesus and Joel de Jesus filed notices of appeal [122] (G.R. No. 187745), while Fortuna (G.R. No.
185123), and Lumanog and Augusto Santos (G.R. No. 182555) filed their respective petitions for review. On August 6,
2009, G.R. No. 187745 was ordered consolidated with the already consolidated petitions in G.R. Nos. 182555 and
185123.[123] In view of the judgment of the CA imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua, said petitions for review are
treated as appeals, in accordance with A.M. No. 00-5-03-SC (Amendments to the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure to
Govern Death Penalty Cases)[124] which provides under Rule 124 (c):
(c) In cases where the Court of Appeals imposes reclusion perpetua, life imprisonment or a lesser
penalty, it shall render and enter judgment imposing such penalty. The judgment may be appealed to the
Supreme Court by notice of appeal filed with the Court of Appeals.

Appellants Arguments

Lenido Lumanog and Augusto Santos set forth the following arguments in their memorandum, which basically reflect the
same issues raised by appellants in the memorandum filed in G.R. No. 182555:

1. The Court of Appeals did not make a real and honest review of the appealed case. There was a failure
of appellate review, rendering its decision void.
2. The affirmation of the conviction over-relies on the testimony of one alleged eyewitness, Freddie Alejo.

3. The affirmation of the conviction misappreciates the alibi evidence for the defense.

4. The affirmation of conviction gravely erred when it unduly disregarded other pieces of vital evidence.

5. The penalty imposed by the Court of Appeals is unconstitutional. [125]

On his part, Fortuna alleges that:

I. The Honorable Court of Appeals committed serious error and gravely abused its discretion when it
affirmed the conviction of the petitioner and his co-accused based solely on the incredible and
contradicted eyewitness account of Security Guard (S/G) Alejo.

II. The Honorable Court of Appeals seriously erred and gravely abused its discretion in not considering
the defense of petitioner herein despite the weakness of the evidence of the prosecution.

III. The Honorable Court seriously erred in favoring the prosecution on the ballistic test showing that the
bullets and bullet shells found in the crime scene did not match with any firearms supposedly in
petitioners possession; evidence which was supposed to support the theory of the prosecution. When such
physical evidence did not favor the prosecutions theory the same was still taken against the petitioner.

IV. The Honorable Court of Appeals seriously erred in disregarding allegations and proof of torture and
maltreatment by police officers against the petitioner in affirming his conviction. [126]

Appellants assail the wholesale adoption, if not verbatim copying, by the CA of the factual narration, as well as the
arguments for and disposition of the merits of the case from the Consolidated Brief for the Appellees, which in turn is
based on the memorandum submitted by the private prosecutors to the trial court. This anomaly, according to the
appellants, which was aggravated by the insufficient findings of fact and absence of actual discussion of the assignment of
errors raised by each appellant before the CA, resulted in the failure of intermediate review without any independent
findings and resolution of important issues of the case, thus rendering the CA decision void. Hence, appellants seek not
just to overturn or reverse the CA decision but also to declare it null and void, by way of radical relief from this Court.

On the merits, appellants principally contend that the CA gravely erred in its over-reliance on the problematic
identification provided by the prosecutions lone eyewitness, security guard Alejo. The CA simply did not rule on
questions concerning the credibility of said eyewitness through the totality of circumstances test. They also fault the CA
for misappreciating their common defense of alibi, thus disregarding exculpatory documentary evidence including
negative results of ballistic and fingerprint examinations, and evidence of torture which appellants had suffered in the
hands of police investigators. Equally deplorable is the trial and appellate courts refusal to admit evidence coming from
underground revolutionary forces, in particular the ABB which claimed responsibility for the killing of Col. Abadilla, a
notorious military henchman during the martial law era.Appellants maintain that violations of constitutional rights have
been held as a ground for acquittal or dismissal in certain cases. In one (1) case, the long delay in the termination of
preliminary investigation was found to be violative of the accuseds constitutional rights to procedural due process and
speedy disposition of cases and was cause for the dismissal of the case by this Court as a matter of radical relief.

Finally, the appellants argue that the penalty of reclusion perpetua without the benefit of parole meted by the CA pursuant
to Sec. 3 of R.A. No. 9346 is unconstitutional. Article III, Section 19 (1) of the 1987 Constitution provides that any death
penalty imposed shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua. There is no mention of without the benefit of parole or shall not
be eligible for parole therein.

Appellants contend that the questioned provisions of R.A. No. 9346 constitute encroachments or dilutions of the
Presidents broad, if not near absolute, constitutional power of executive clemency, based not only on Article VII, Sec. 19,
but also on constitutional tradition and jurisprudence. Although the said section does not explicitly mention parole as a
form of executive clemency, constitutional tradition and jurisprudence indicate it to be such. In Tesoro v. Director of
Prisons,[127] for instance, it was held that the power to pardon given to the President by the Constitution includes the power
to grant and revoke paroles. The aforesaid provision of R.A. No. 9346 also inflicts an inhuman punishment, which is
prohibited by the Constitution, and also violates the equal protection clause of the Bill of Rights.

Our Ruling

Once again, this Court upholds the constitutional mandate protecting the rights of persons under custodial
investigation. But while we strike down the extrajudicial confession extracted in violation of constitutionally enshrined
rights and declare it inadmissible in evidence, appellants are not entitled to an acquittal because their conviction
was not based on the evidence obtained during such custodial investigation. Even without the extrajudicial confession of
appellant Joel de Jesus who was the first to have been arrested, the trial courts judgment is affirmed, as the testimonial and
documentary evidence on record have established the guilt of appellants beyond reasonable doubt.

CA Decision meets the constitutional standard

The Constitution commands that [n]o decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and
distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based. [128]Judges are expected to make complete findings of fact in their
decisions and scrutinize closely the legal aspects of the case in the light of the evidence presented. They should avoid the
tendency to generalize and form conclusions without detailing the facts from which such conclusions are deduced. [129]

Section 2, Rule 120 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure, as amended, likewise provides:

Sec. 2. Form and contents of judgments. -- The judgment must be written in the official language,
personally and directly prepared by the judge and signed by him and shall contain clearly and distinctly a
statement of the facts proved or admitted by the accused and the law upon which the judgment is
based.

x x x x x x x x x. [EMPHASIS SUPPLIED.]

We have sustained decisions of lower courts as having substantially or sufficiently complied with the constitutional
injunction, notwithstanding the laconic and terse manner in which they were written; and even if there (was left) much to
be desired in terms of (their) clarity, coherence and comprehensibility, provided that they eventually set out the facts and
the law on which they were based, as when they stated the legal qualifications of the offense constituted by the facts
proved, the modifying circumstances, the participation of the accused, the penalty imposed and the civil liability; or
discussed the facts comprising the elements of the offense that was charged in the information, and accordingly rendered a
verdict and imposed the corresponding penalty; or quoted the facts narrated in the prosecutions memorandum, but made
their own findings and assessment of evidence, before finally agreeing with the prosecutions evaluation of the case. [130]

In the same vein, we have expressed concern over the possible denial of due process when an appellate court
failed to provide the appeal the attention it rightfully deserved, thus depriving the appellant of a fair opportunity to be
heard by a fair and responsible magistrate. This situation becomes more ominous in criminal cases, as in this case, where
not only property rights are at stake but also the liberty if not the life of a human being. [131] The parties to a litigation
should be informed of how it was decided, with an explanation of the factual and legal reasons that led to the conclusions
of the trial court. The losing party is entitled to know why he lost, so he may appeal to the higher court, if permitted,
should he believe that the decision should be reversed. A decision that does not clearly and distinctly state the facts and
the law on which it is based leaves the parties in the dark as to how it was reached and is precisely prejudicial to the losing
party, who is unable to pinpoint the possible errors of the court for review by a higher tribunal. [132]

In Bank of the Philippine Islands v. Leobrera, [133] we held that though it is not a good practice, we see nothing
illegal in the act of the trial court completely copying the memorandum submitted by a party, provided that the decision
clearly and distinctly states sufficient findings of fact and the law on which they are based. [134] In another case where we
upheld the validity of memorandum decisions, we nevertheless took occasion to remind judges that it is still desirable for
an appellate judge to endeavor to make the issues clearer and use his own perceptiveness in unraveling the rollo and his
own discernment in discovering the law. No less importantly, he must use his own language in laying down his judgment.
[135]

Perusing the CA decision, we hold that it cannot be deemed constitutionally infirm, as it clearly stated the facts
and law on which the ruling was based, and while it did not specifically address each and every assigned error raised by
appellants, it cannot be said that the appellants were left in the dark as to how the CA reached its ruling affirming the trial
courts judgment of conviction. The principal arguments raised in their Memorandum submitted before this Court actually
referred to the main points of the CA rulings, such as the alleged sufficiency of prosecution evidence, their common
defense of alibi, allegations of torture, probative value of ballistic and fingerprint test results, circumstances qualifying the
offense and modification of penalty imposed by the trial court. What appellants essentially assail is the verbatim copying
by the CA of not only the facts narrated, but also the arguments and discussion including the legal authorities, in disposing
of the appeal. On such wholesale adoption of the Office of the Solicitor Generals position, as well as the trial courts
insufficient findings of fact, appellants anchor their claim of failure of intermediate review by the CA.

We now proceed to the other substantive issues presented by appellants.

Rights of Accused During


Custodial Investigation

The rights of persons under custodial investigation are enshrined in Article III, Section 12 of the 1987 Constitution, which
provides:

Sec. 12 (1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right
to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably
of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one.
These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.

(2) No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation or any other means which vitiate the free will
shall be used against him. Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of
detention are prohibited.

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or section 17 hereof (right against
self-incrimination) shall be inadmissible in evidence against him.

(4) The law shall provide for penal and civil sanctions for violation of this section as well as
compensation for the rehabilitation of victims of tortures or similar practices, and their
families. [EMPHASIS SUPPLIED.]

Extrajudicial Confession
of Joel de Jesus Not Valid

Custodial investigation refers to the critical pre-trial stage when the investigation is no longer a general inquiry into
an unsolved crime, but has begun to focus on a particular person as a suspect. [136] Police officers claimed that appellants
were apprehended as a result of hot pursuit activities on the days following the ambush-slay of Abadilla. There is no
question, however, that when appellants were arrested they were already considered suspects: Joel was pinpointed by
security guard Alejo who went along with the PARAC squad to Fairview on June 19, 1996, while the rest of appellants
were taken by the same operatives in follow-up operations after Joel provided them with the identities of his conspirators
and where they could be found.

R.A. No. 7438,[137] approved on May 15, 1992, has reinforced the constitutional mandate protecting the rights of
persons under custodial investigation. The pertinent provisions read:
SEC. 2. Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or under Custodial Investigation; Duties of Public
Officers.

a. Any person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation shall at all times be assisted by
counsel.

b. Any public officer or employee, or anyone acting under his order or his place, who arrests,
detains or investigates any person for the commission of an offense shall inform the latter, in a
language known to and understood by him, of his rights to remain silent and to have competent and
independent counsel, preferably of his own choice, who shall at all times be allowed to confer private
with the person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation. If such person cannot afford the
services of his own counsel, he must be provided by with a competent and independent counsel.

xxxx

f. As used in this Act, custodial investigation shall include the practice of issuing an invitation to
a person who is investigated in connection with an offense he is suspected to have committed, without
prejudice to the liability of the inviting officer for any violation of law. [EMPHASIS SUPPLIED.]

Police officers claimed that upon arresting Joel, they informed him of his constitutional rights to remain silent, that
any information he would give could be used against him, and that he had the right to a competent and independent
counsel, preferably, of his own choice, and if he cannot afford the services of counsel he will be provided with one
(1). However, since these rights can only be waived in writing and with the assistance of counsel, there could not have
been such a valid waiver by Joel, who was presented to Atty. Sansano at the IBP Office, Quezon City Hall only the
following day and stayed overnight at the police station before he was brought to said counsel.

P/Insp. Castillo admitted that the initial questioning of Joel began in the morning of June 20, 1996, the first time
said suspect was presented to him at the CPDC station, even before he was brought to the IBP Office for the taking of his
formal statement. Thus, the possibility of appellant Joel having been subjected to intimidation or violence in the hands of
police investigators as he claims, cannot be discounted. The constitutional requirement obviously had not been
observed. Settled is the rule that the moment a police officer tries to elicit admissions or confessions or even plain
information from a suspect, the latter should, at that juncture, be assisted by counsel, unless he waives this right in writing
and in the presence of counsel. [138] The purpose of providing counsel to a person under custodial investigation is to curb
the police-state practice of extracting a confession that leads appellant to make self-incriminating statements. [139]

Even assuming that custodial investigation started only during Joels execution of his statement before Atty.
Sansano on June 20, 1996, still the said confession must be invalidated. To be acceptable, extrajudicial confessions must
conform to constitutional requirements. A confession is not valid and not admissible in evidence when it is obtained in
violation of any of the rights of persons under custodial investigation. [140]

Since Joel was provided with a lawyer secured by CPDC investigators from the IBP-Quezon City chapter, it cannot
be said that his right to a counsel preferably of his own choice was not complied with, particularly as he never objected to
Atty. Sansano when the latter was presented to him to be his counsel for the taking down of his statement. The
phrase preferably of his own choice does not convey the message that the choice of a lawyer by a person under
investigation is exclusive as to preclude other equally competent and independent attorneys from handling the defense;
otherwise the tempo of custodial investigation would be solely in the hands of the accused who can impede, nay, obstruct
the progress of the interrogation by simply selecting a lawyer who, for one reason or another, is not available to protect his
interest.[141] Thus, while the choice of a lawyer in cases where the person under custodial interrogation cannot afford the
services of counsel or where the preferred lawyer is not available is naturally lodged in the police investigators, the
suspect has the final choice, as he may reject the counsel chosen for him and ask for another one. A lawyer provided by
the investigators is deemed engaged by the accused when he does not raise any objection against the counsels
appointment during the course of the investigation, and the accused thereafter subscribes to the veracity of the statement
before the swearing officer.[142]
The question really is whether or not Atty. Sansano was an independent and competent counsel as to satisfy the
constitutional requirement. We held that the modifier competent and independent in the 1987 Constitution is not an empty
rhetoric. It stresses the need to accord the accused, under the uniquely stressful conditions of a custodial investigation, an
informed judgment on the choices explained to him by a diligent and capable lawyer. [143] An effective and vigilant counsel
necessarily and logically requires that the lawyer be present and able to advise and assist his client from the time the
confessant answers the first question asked by the investigating officer until the signing of the extrajudicial
confession. Moreover, the lawyer should ascertain that the confession is made voluntarily and that the person under
investigation fully understands the nature and the consequence of his extrajudicial confession in relation to his
constitutional rights. A contrary rule would undoubtedly be antagonistic to the constitutional rights to remain silent, to
counsel and to be presumed innocent.[144]

Atty. Sansano, who supposedly interviewed Joel and assisted the latter while responding to questions propounded by
SPO2 Garcia, Jr., did not testify on whether he had properly discharged his duties to said client. While SPO2 Garcia, Jr.
testified that Atty. Sansano had asked Joel if he understood his answers to the questions of the investigating officer and
sometimes stopped Joel from answering certain questions, SPO2 Garcia, Jr. did not say if Atty. Sansano, in the first place,
verified from them the date and time of Joels arrest and the circumstances thereof, or any previous information elicited
from him by the investigators at the station, and if said counsel inspected Joels body for any sign or mark of physical
torture.

The right to counsel has been written into our Constitution in order to prevent the use of duress and other undue
influence in extracting confessions from a suspect in a crime. The lawyers role cannot be reduced to being that of a mere
witness to the signing of a pre-prepared confession, even if it indicated compliance with the constitutional rights of the
accused. The accused is entitled to effective, vigilant and independent counsel. [145] Where the prosecution failed to
discharge the States burden of proving with clear and convincing evidence that the accused had enjoyed effective and
vigilant counsel before he extrajudicially admitted his guilt, the extrajudicial confession cannot be given any probative
value.[146]

With respect to the other appellants, they were likewise entitled to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution when they
were brought to the police station as suspects and were, therefore under custodial investigation. [147] However, they cannot
simply rely on those violations of constitutional rights during custodial investigation, which are relevant only when the
conviction of the accused by the trial court is based on the evidence obtained during such investigation. [148] As for the
matters stated in the extrajudicial confession of appellant Joel, these were not the basis for appellants conviction. It has to
be stressed further that no confession or statement by appellants Fortuna, Lumanog, Augusto and Rameses was used as
evidence by the prosecution at the trial.

After a thorough and careful review, we hold that there exists sufficient evidence on record to sustain appellants
conviction even without the extrajudicial confession of appellant Joel de Jesus.

Allegations of Torture and Intimidation

The Court notes with utmost concern the serious allegations of torture of appellants who were dubbed by the
media as the Abadilla 5. This was brought by appellants before the CHR which, in its Resolution dated July 26, 1996, did
not make any categorical finding of physical violence inflicted on the appellants by the police authorities. The CHR,
however, found prima facie evidence that respondent police officers could have violated R.A. No. 7438, particularly on
visitorial rights and the right to counsel, including the law on arbitrary detention, and accordingly forwarded its resolution
together with records of the case to the Secretary of Justice, Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local
Government, the PNP Director General and the Ombudsman to file the appropriate criminal and/or administrative actions
against the person or persons responsible for violating the human rights of the suspects as the evidence may warrant.
[149]
As per the manifestation of appellants, the DOJ, after conducting a preliminary investigation, referred the matter to the
Ombudsman in 2004. As of July 2007, the case before the Ombudsman docketed as OMB-P-C-04-1269/CPL-C-04-1965
was still pending preliminary investigation.[150]

Right to Speedy Disposition of Cases

Appellants further cite the comment made by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in its Communication
No. 1466/2006 that under the circumstances, there was, insofar as the eight (8)-year delay in the disposition of their
appeal in the CA was concerned, a violation of Article 14, paragraph 3 (c) of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (1966). It provides that in the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be
entitled, as among the minimum guarantees provided therein, to be tried without undue delay. [151]

Section 16, Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides that all persons shall have the right to a speedy
disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies. [152] This protection extends to all
citizens and covers the periods before, during and after trial, affording broader protection than Section 14(2), which
guarantees merely the right to a speedy trial. [153] However, just like the constitutional guarantee of speedy trial, speedy
disposition of cases is a flexible concept. It is consistent with delays and depends upon the circumstances. What the
Constitution prohibits are unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive delays, which render rights nugatory. [154]

In this case, the records of Criminal Case No. Q-96-66684 were transmitted to this Court for automatic review on
February 11, 2000. On September 7, 2001, this Court rendered a decision dismissing the Petition for Certiorari (Rule 65)
and for Extraordinary Legal and Equitable Relief (G.R. No. 142065). By June 2004, all appeal briefs for the present
review had been filed and on July 6, 2004, appellants filed a Consolidated Motion for Early Decision. On December 13,
2004, they filed a Motion for Early Decision.[155]

By resolution of January 18, 2005, we transferred this case to the CA for intermediate review, conformably with
our pronouncement in People v. Mateo decided on July 7, 2004. Appellants Urgent Motion for Reconsideration of
Transfer to the Court of Appeals filed on February 24, 2005 was denied on March 29, 2005. A similar request filed on
June 2, 2005 was likewise denied by our Resolution dated July 12, 2005. [156] At the CA, appellants also moved for early
resolution of their appeal after the case was submitted for decision on November 29, 2006. The case remained unresolved
due to a number of factors, such as the CA internal reorganization and inhibition of some Justices to whom the case was
re-raffled.[157] Before the retirement of the ponente, Justice Agustin S. Dizon, the CAs Sixteenth Division finally rendered
its decision on April 1, 2008. Appellants motion for reconsideration was denied by the Special Former Sixteenth Division
on October 28, 2008.

It must be stressed that in the determination of whether the right to speedy disposition of cases has been violated,
particular regard must be taken of the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case. A mere mathematical reckoning of
the time involved would not be sufficient. [158] Under the circumstances, we hold that the delay of (4) four years during
which the case remained pending with the CA and this Court was not unreasonable, arbitrary or oppressive.

In several cases where it was manifest that due process of law or other rights guaranteed by the Constitution or statutes
have been denied, this Court has not faltered to accord the so-called radical relief to keep accused from enduring the rigors
and expense of a full-blown trial. [159] In this case, however, appellants are not entitled to the same relief in the absence of
clear and convincing showing that the delay in the resolution of their appeal was unreasonable or arbitrary.

Credibility of Eyewitness Testimony

Time and again, we have held that the testimony of a sole eyewitness is sufficient to support a conviction so long as it is
clear, straightforward and worthy of credence by the trial court. [160] Indeed, when it comes to credibility of witnesses, this
Court accords the highest respect, even finality, to the evaluation made by the lower court of the testimonies of the
witnesses presented before it. This holds true notwithstanding that it was another judge who presided at the trial and Judge
Jaime N. Salazar, Jr. who penned the decision in this case heard only some witnesses for the defense. It is axiomatic that
the fact alone that the judge who heard the evidence was not the one who rendered the judgment, but merely relied on the
record of the case, does not render his judgment erroneous or irregular. This is so even if the judge did not have the fullest
opportunity to weigh the testimonies, not having heard all the witnesses speak or observed their deportment and manner of
testifying.[161]

Verily, a judge who was not present during the trial can rely on the transcript of stenographic notes taken during
the trial as basis of his decision. Such reliance does not violate substantive and procedural due process. [162] We have ruled
in People v. Rayray[163] that the fact that the judge who heard the evidence was not himself the one who prepared, signed
and promulgated the decision constitutes no compelling reason to jettison his findings and conclusions, and does not per
se render his decision void. The validity of a decision is not necessarily impaired by the fact that its ponente only took
over from a colleague who had earlier presided at the trial. This circumstance alone cannot be the basis for the reversal of
the trial courts decision.[164]

In giving full credence to the eyewitness testimony of security guard Alejo, the trial judge took into account his
proximity to the spot where the shooting occurred, his elevated position from his guardhouse, his opportunity to view
frontally all the perpetrators for a brief time -- enough for him to remember their faces (when the two [2] lookouts he had
earlier noticed walking back and forth infront of his guard post pointed their guns at him one [1] after the other, and
later when the four [4] armed men standing around the victims car momentarily looked at him as he was approached at
the guardhouse by the second lookout), and his positive identification in the courtroom of appellants as the six (6)
persons whom he saw acting together in the fatal shooting of Abadilla on June 13, 1996. The clear view that Alejo had at
the time of the incident was verified by Judge Jose Catral Mendoza (now an Associate Justice of this Court) during the
ocular inspection conducted in the presence of the prosecutors, defense counsel, court personnel, and witnesses Alejo and
Maj. Villena.

The trial judge also found that Alejo did not waver in his detailed account of how the assailants shot Abadilla who
was inside his car, the relative positions of the gunmen and lookouts, and his opportunity to look at them in the face. Alejo
immediately gave his statement before the police authorities just hours after the incident took place. Appellants make
much of a few inconsistencies in his statement and testimony, with respect to the number of assailants and his reaction
when he was ordered to get down in his guard post. But such inconsistencies have already been explained by Alejo during
cross-examination by correcting his earlier statement in using number four (4) to refer to those persons actually standing
around the car and two (2) more persons as lookouts, and that he got nervous only when the second lookout shouted at
him to get down, because the latter actually poked a gun at him. It is settled that affidavits, being ex-parte, are almost
always incomplete and often inaccurate, but do not really detract from the credibility of witnesses. [165] The discrepancies
between a sworn statement and testimony in court do not outrightly justify the acquittal of an accused, [166] as testimonial
evidence carries more weight than an affidavit. [167]

As to appellants attempt to discredit Alejo by reason of the latters acceptance of benefits from the Abadilla family,
the same is puerile, considering that the trial court even verified for itself how Alejo could have witnessed the shooting
incident and after he withstood intense grilling from defense lawyers. Case law has it that where there is no evidence that
the principal witness for the prosecution was actuated by improper motive, the presumption is that he was not so actuated
and his testimony is entitled to full faith and credit. [168]

The trial judge also correctly rejected appellants proposition that the eyewitness testimony of security guard
Herbas should have been given due weight and that other eyewitnesses should have been presented by the prosecution,
specifically Cesar Espiritu and Minella Alarcon, who allegedly had better opportunity to recognize Abadillas attackers. As
correctly pointed out by the trial judge, Herbas could not have really seen at close range the perpetrators from his position
at a nearby building, which is several meters away from the ambush site, as confirmed by photographs submitted by the
prosecution, which Herbas failed to refute. The same thing can be said of Espiritu who admitted in his Sinumpaang
Salaysay that his car was ahead of the Honda Accord driven by Abadilla, and that he had already alighted from his car
some houses away from the exact spot where Abadilla was ambushed while his car was in the stop position. [169]

Positive Identification of Appellants


Appellants assail the out-of-court identification made by Alejo who pointed to appellant Joel de Jesus and Lorenzo delos
Santos in a line-up at the police station together with police officers. However, appellants claim that the police officers
who joined the line-up were actually in their police uniforms at the time, as to make the identification process suggestive
and hence not valid, was unsubstantiated.

In People v. Teehankee, Jr.,[170] we explained the procedure for out-of-court identification and the test to determine the
admissibility of such identification, thus:
Out-of-court identification is conducted by the police in various ways. It is done thru show-
ups where the suspect alone is brought face to face with the witness for identification. It is done thru mug
shots where photographs are shown to the witness to identify the suspect. It is also done thru line-
ups where a witness identifies the suspect from a group of persons lined up for the purpose. . . In
resolving the admissibility of and relying on out-of-court identification of suspects, courts have adopted
the totality of circumstances test where they consider the following factors, viz: (1) the
witness opportunity to view the criminal at the time of the crime; (2) the witness degree of attention at
that time; (3) the accuracy of any prior description given by the witness; (4) the level of
certainty demonstrated by the witness at the identification; (5) the length of time between the crime
and the identification; and, (6) the suggestiveness of the identification procedure.[171] [EMPHASIS
SUPPLIED.]

Examining the records, we find nothing irregular in the identification made by Alejo at the police station for
which he executed the Karagdagang Sinumpaang Salaysay dated June 21, 1996, during which he positively identified
Joel de Jesus and Lorenzo delos Santos as those lookouts who had pointed their guns at him demanding that he buck down
at his guardhouse. In any case, the trial court did not rely solely on said out-of-court identification considering that Alejo
also positively identified appellants during the trial. Thus, even assuming arguendo that Alejos out-of-court identification
was tainted with irregularity, his subsequent identification in court cured any flaw that may have attended it. [172] We have
held that the inadmissibility of a police line-up identification should not necessarily foreclose the admissibility of an
independent in-court identification.[173]

We also found none of the danger signals enumerated by Patrick M. Wall, a well-known authority in eyewitness
identification, which give warning that the identification may be erroneous even though the method used is proper. The
danger signals contained in the list, which is not exhaustive, are:

(1) the witness originally stated that he could not identify anyone;

(2) the identifying witness knew the accused before the crime, but made no accusation against him
when questioned by the police;

(3) a serious discrepancy exists between the identifying witness original description and the actual
description of the accused;

(4) before identifying the accused at the trial, the witness erroneously identified some other person;

(5) other witnesses to the crime fail to identify the accused;

(6) before trial, the witness sees the accused but fails to identify him;

(7) before the commission of the crime, the witness had limited opportunity to see the accused;

(8) the witness and the person identified are of different racial groups;

(9) during his original observation of the perpetrator of the crime, the witness was unaware that a crime
was involved;

(10) a considerable time elapsed between the witness view of the criminal and his identification of the
accused;
(11) several persons committed the crime; and

(12) the witness fails to make a positive trial identification. [174]

Appellants nonetheless point out the allegedly doubtful prior descriptions given by Alejo, who was able to
describe the physical appearance of only two (2) suspects in his statement:

Iyong tumutok sa akin ay naka-asul na t-shirt, edad 30-35, 55-56 ang taas, katamtaman ang
katawan, maikli ang buhok, kayumanggi. Ang baril niya ay tipong 45 o 9 mm na pistola. Iyong sumakal
sa biktima at nang-agaw ng clutch bag nito ay 25-30 ang edad, payat, mahaba ang buhok na
nakatali, maitim, may taas na 55-56, maiksi din ang baril niya at naka-puting polo.Iyong iba ay maaring
makilala ko kung makikita ko uli.[175]

Appellants claimed that if Alejo was referring to appellant Joel de Jesus who pointed a gun at him, his description
did not jibe at all since Joel de Jesus was just 22 years old and not 30-35 years of age, and who stands 59 and not 55-
56. And if indeed it was appellant Lenido Lumanog whom Alejo saw as the gunman who had grabbed the victim by the
neck after opening the cars left front door, his description again failed because far from being maitim, Lumanog was in
fact fair-complexioned.

We are not persuaded. Alejo positively identified Joel de Jesus in a line-up at the police station and again inside
the courtroom as the first lookout who pointed a gun at him. Though his estimate of Joels age was not precise, it was not
that far from his true age, especially if we consider that being a tricycle driver who was exposed daily to sunlight, Joels
looks may give a first impression that he is older than his actual age. Moreover Alejos description of Lumanog as dark-
skinned was made two (2) months prior to the dates of the trial when he was again asked to identify him in court. When
defense counsel posed the question of the discrepancy in Alejos description of Lumanog who was then presented as
having a fair complexion and was 40 years old, the private prosecutor manifested the possible effect of Lumanogs
incarceration for such length of time as to make his appearance different at the time of trial.

Applying the totality-of-circumstances test, we thus reiterate that Alejos out-court-identification is reliable, for
reasons that, first, he was very near the place where Abadilla was shot and thus had a good view of the gunmen, not to
mention that the two (2) lookouts directly approached him and pointed their guns at them; second, no competing event
took place to draw his attention from the event; third, Alejo immediately gave his descriptions of at least two (2) of the
perpetrators, while affirming he could possibly identify the others if he would see them again, and the entire happening
that he witnessed; and finally, there was no evidence that the police had supplied or even suggested to Alejo that
appellants were the suspects, except for Joel de Jesus whom he refused to just pinpoint on the basis of a photograph
shown to him by the police officers, insisting that he would like to see said suspect in person. More importantly, Alejo
during the trial had positively identified appellant Joel de Jesus independently of the previous identification made at the
police station. Such in-court identification was positive, straightforward and categorical.

Appellants contend that the subsequent acquittal of Lorenzo delos Santos, whom Alejo had categorically pointed
to as one (1) of the two (2) men whom he saw walking to and fro infront of his guard post prior to the shooting incident,
and as one (1) of the two (2) men who pointed a gun at him and ordered him to get down, totally destroyed said witness
credibility and eroded the trustworthiness of each and every uncorroborated testimony he gave in court. This assertion is
untenable. A verdict of acquittal is immediately final; hence, we may no longer review the acquittal of accused Lorenzo
delos Santos.[176] However, the acquittal of their co-accused does not necessarily benefit the appellants.We have ruled that
accused-appellant may not invoke the acquittal of the other conspirators to merit the reversal of his conviction for murder.
[177]

Ballistic and fingerprint examination results are


inconclusive and not indispensable
Appellants deplore the trial courts disregard of the results of the ballistic and fingerprint tests, which they claim should
exonerate them from liability for the killing of Abadilla.These pieces of evidence were presented by the defense to prove
that the empty shells recovered from the crime scene and deformed slug taken from the body of Abadilla were not fired
from any of the firearms seized from appellants. Instead, they matched the same firearm used in the killings of Suseso de
Dios and other supposed victims of ambush-slay perpetrated by suspected members of the ABB. Further, none of the
fingerprints lifted from the KIA Pride, used by the gunmen as getaway vehicle, matched any of the specimens taken from
the appellants.

We are not persuaded. As correctly held by the CA, the negative result of ballistic examination was inconclusive, for there
is no showing that the firearms supposedly found in appellants possession were the same ones used in the ambush-slay of
Abadilla. The fact that ballistic examination revealed that the empty shells and slug were fired from another firearm does
not disprove appellants guilt, as it was possible that different firearms were used by them in shooting Abadilla. [178] Neither
will the finding that the empty shells and slug matched those in another criminal case allegedly involving ABB members,
such that they could have been fired from the same firearms belonging to said rebel group, exonerate the appellants who
are on trial in this case and not the suspects in another case. To begin with, the prosecution never claimed that the firearms
confiscated from appellants, which were the subject of separate charges for illegal possession of firearms, were the same
firearms used in the ambush-slay of Abadilla. A ballistic examination is not indispensable in this case. Even if another
weapon was in fact actually used in killing the victim, still, appellants Fortuna and Lumanog cannot escape criminal
liability therefor, as they were positively identified by eyewitness Freddie Alejo as the ones who shot Abadilla to death. [179]

As this Court held in Velasco v. People[180] --

As regards the failure of the police to present a ballistic report on the seven spent shells recovered
from the crime scene, the same does not constitute suppression of evidence. A ballistic report serves only
as a guide for the courts in considering the ultimate facts of the case. It would be indispensable if there are
no credible eyewitnesses to the crime inasmuch as it is corroborative in nature. The presentation of
weapons or the slugs and bullets used and ballistic examination are not prerequisites for
conviction. The corpus delicti and the positive identification of accused-appellant as the perpetrator of
the crime are more than enough to sustain his conviction. Even without a ballistic report, the positive
identification by prosecution witnesses is more than sufficient to prove accuseds guilt beyond reasonable
doubt. In the instant case, since the identity of the assailant has been sufficiently established, a
ballistic report on the slugs can be dispensed with in proving petitioners guilt beyond reasonable
doubt. [EMPHASIS SUPPLIED.]

The negative result of the fingerprint tests conducted by fingerprint examiner Remedios is likewise inconclusive and
unreliable. Said witness admitted that no prints had been lifted from inside the KIA Pride and only two (2) fingerprints
were taken from the car of Abadilla.

Defense of Alibi Cannot


Prevail Over Positive Identification

Alibi is the weakest of all defenses, for it is easy to fabricate and difficult to disprove, and it is for this reason that
it cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused by the witnesses. [181] To be valid for purposes of
exoneration from a criminal charge, the defense of alibi must be such that it would have been physically impossible for
the person charged with the crime to be at the locus criminis at the time of its commission, the reason being that no person
can be in two places at the same time. The excuse must be so airtight that it would admit of no exception. Where there is
the least possibility of accuseds presence at the crime scene, the alibi will not hold water.[182]

Deeply embedded in our jurisprudence is the rule that positive identification of the accused, where categorical and
consistent, without any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying, should prevail over the alibi and
denial of appellants, whose testimonies are not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence. [183] However, none of the
appellants presented clear and convincing excuses showing the physical impossibility of their being at the crime scene
between 8:00 oclock and 9:00 oclock in the morning of June 13, 1996. Hence, the trial court and CA did not err in
rejecting their common defense of alibi.

As to the failure of appellant Lumanog to take the witness stand, indeed the grave charges of murder and illegal
possession of firearms would have normally impelled an accused to testify in his defense, particularly when his life is at
stake. As this Court observed in People v. Delmendo:[184]

An adverse inference may also be deduced from appellant's failure to take the witness
stand. While his failure to testify cannot be considered against him, it may however help in determining
his guilt. The unexplained failure of the accused to testify, under a circumstance where the crime
imputed to him is so serious that places in the balance his very life and that his testimony might at
least help in advancing his defense, gives rise to an inference that he did not want to testify because
he did not want to betray himself.

An innocent person will at once naturally and emphatically repel an accusation of crime, as a
matter of self-preservation, and as a precaution against prejudicing himself. A persons silence, therefore,
particularly when it is persistent, may justify an inference that he is not innocent. Thus, we have the
general principle that when an accused is silent when he should speak, in circumstances where an
innocent person so situated would have spoken, on being accused of a crime, his silence and omission are
admissible in evidence against him. Accordingly, it has been aptly said that silence may be assent as well
as consent, and may, where a direct and specific accusation of crime is made, be regarded under some
circumstances as a quasi-confession.[185]

Treachery and Evident Premeditation


Attended the Commission of the Crime

As regards the presence of treachery as a qualifying circumstance, the evidence clearly showed that the attack on the
unsuspecting victim -- who was inside his car on a stop position in the middle of early morning traffic when he was
suddenly fired upon by the appellants -- was deliberate, sudden and unexpected. There was simply no chance for Abadilla
to survive the ambush-slay, with successive shots quickly fired at close range by two (2) armed men on both sides of his
car; and much less to retaliate by using his own gun, as no less than 23 gunshot wounds on his head and chest caused his
instantaneous death. As we have consistently ruled, the essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack on an
unsuspecting victim by the perpetrator of the crime, depriving the victim of any chance to defend himself or to repel the
aggression, thus insuring its commission without risk to the aggressor and without any provocation on the part of the
victim.[186]

Evident premeditation was likewise properly appreciated by the trial court, notwithstanding the inadmissibility of Joel de
Jesuss extrajudicial confession disclosing in detail the pre-planned ambush of Abadilla, apparently a contract killing in
which the perpetrators were paid or expected to receive payment for the job. As correctly pointed out by the CA, Alejo
had stressed that as early as 7:30 in the morning of June 13, 1996, he already noticed something unusual going on upon
seeing the two (2) lookouts (appellants Joel de Jesus and Lorenzo delos Santos) walking to and fro along Katipunan
Avenue infront of the building he was guarding. True enough, they were expecting somebody to pass that way, who was
no other than Abadilla driving his Honda Accord. After the lapse of more or less one (1) hour, he already heard successive
gunshots, while in his guard post, from the direction of the middle lane where Abadillas car was surrounded by four (4)
men carrying short firearms. All the foregoing disclosed the execution of a pre-conceived plan to kill Abadilla. The
essence of evident premeditation is that the execution of the criminal act is preceded by cool thought and reflection upon
the resolution to carry out criminal intent within a span of time sufficient to arrive at a calm judgment. [187]

The trial court and CA were therefore correct in declaring the appellants guilty as conspirators in the ambush-slay of
Abadilla, the presence of treachery and evident premeditation qualifying the killing to murder under Art. 248 of
the Revised Penal Code, as amended.

Proper Penalty
The CA correctly modified the death penalty imposed by the trial court. At the time the crime was committed, the penalty
for murder was reclusion perpetua to death. Since the penalty is composed of two (2) indivisible penalties, then for the
purpose of determining the imposable penalty, Article 63 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, must be considered. It
provides in part:

1. When in the commission of the deed there is present only one aggravating circumstance, the greater
penalty shall be applied.

With the presence of the aggravating circumstance of treachery and there being no mitigating circumstance, the
higher penalty of death should be imposed.[188]

In view, however, of the passage of Republic Act No. 9346 entitled, An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death
Penalty in the Philippines, which was signed into law on June 24, 2006, the imposition of the death penalty has been
prohibited. Pursuant to Section 2 thereof, the penalty to be meted to appellants shall be reclusion perpetua. Said section
reads:

SECTION 2. In lieu of the death penalty, the following shall be imposed:

(a) the penalty of reclusion perpetua, when the law violated makes use of the nomenclature of the
penalties of the Revised Penal Code; or

(b) the penalty of life imprisonment, when the law violated does not make use of the
nomenclature of the penalties of the Revised Penal Code.

Notwithstanding the reduction of the penalty imposed on appellants, they are not eligible for parole following
Section 3 of said law which provides:[189]

SECTION 3. Persons convicted of offenses punished with reclusion perpetua, or whose sentences
will be reduced to reclusion perpetua, by reason of this Act, shall not be eligible for parole under Act No.
4103, otherwise known as the Indeterminate Sentence Law, as amended.

Appellants attack on the constitutionality of the above provision on grounds of curtailment of the Presidents absolute
power to grant executive clemency, imposition of an inhuman punishment and violation of equal protection clause, is
utterly misplaced.

As succinctly explained by this Court in People v. Gardon[190]

We should point out that the benefit of parole cannot be extended to Gardon even if he committed
the crimes for which he is now convicted prior to the effectivity of R.A. No. 9346. Sec. 2 of the
Indeterminate Sentence Law provides that the law shall not apply to persons convicted of offenses
punished with death penalty or life- imprisonment. Although the law makes no reference to persons
convicted to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua such as Gardon, the Court has consistently held that
the Indeterminate Sentence Law likewise does not apply to persons sentenced to reclusion
perpetua. In People v. Enriquez, we declared:

[R]eclusion perpetua is the only penalty that can be imposed against the appellants. As
correctly argued by the Solicitor General, Act No. 4103, otherwise known as the Indeterminate
Sentence Law, cannot be applied in the case of appellants considering the proscription in Sec. 2
thereof, viz:

xxxx
Indeed, in People v. Asturias, Serrano v. Court of Appeals, People v.
Lampaza and People v. Tan, to name a few cases, we in effect equated the penalty of reclusion
perpetua as synonymous to life-imprisonment for purposes of the Indeterminate Sentence Law,
and ruled that the latter law does not apply to persons convicted of offenses punishable with the
said penalty. Consequently, we affirm the Court of Appeals in not applying the Indeterminate
Sentence Law, and in imposing upon appellants the penalty of reclusion perpetua instead.

Reclusion perpetua is an indivisible penalty without a minimum or maximum period. Parole, on


the other hand, is extended only to those sentenced to divisible penalties as is evident from Sec. 5 of the
Indeterminate Sentence Law, which provides that it is only after any prisoner shall have served the
minimum penalty imposed on him that the Board of Indeterminate Sentence may consider whether such
prisoner may be granted parole.[191]

Further, we cite the concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Dante Tinga in People v. Tubongbanua,[192] addressing the
issue herein raised by appellants, to wit:
No constitutional sanctities will be offended if persons previously sentenced to death, or persons
sentenced to reclusion perpetua, are denied the benefit of parole conformably to Section 3 of Rep. Act No.
9346. As to persons previously sentenced to death, it should be remembered that at the time of the
commission of the crime, the penalty attached to the crime was death.To their benefit, Rep. Act No.
9346 reduced the penalty attached to the crime to reclusion perpetua. Yet such persons cannot claim the
benefit of parole on the basis of the ex post facto clause of the Constitution, since an ex post facto law is one
which, among others, changes punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment than the law annexed to the
crime when committed. Rep. Act No. 9346 had the effect of inflicting a lighter punishment, not a greater
punishment, than what the law annexed to the crime when committed.[193] [EMPHASIS SUPPLIED.]

Civil Liability

When death occurs due to a crime, the following damages may be awarded: (1) civil indemnity ex delicto for the
death of the victim; (2) actual or compensatory damages; (3) moral damages; (4) exemplary damages; and (5) temperate
damages.[194]

Civil indemnity is mandatory and granted to the heirs of the victim without need of proof other than the
commission of the crime.[195] We have ruled that even if the penalty of death is not to be imposed because of the
prohibition in R.A. No. 9346, the civil indemnity of P75,000.00 is proper, because it is not dependent on the actual
imposition of the death penalty but on the fact that qualifying circumstances warranting the imposition of the death
penalty attended the commission of the offense. [196] As explained in People v. Salome,[197] while R.A. No. 9346 prohibits
the imposition of the death penalty, the fact remains that the penalty provided for by the law for a heinous offense is still
death, and the offense is still heinous. Accordingly, the heirs of Col. Rolando N. Abadilla is entitled to civil indemnity in
the amount of P75,000.00. The grant of actual damages representing burial expenses, funeral services and cost of repair of
the Honda car, is likewise in order, being duly supported by receipts. [198]

With regard to moral and exemplary damages, we find the amounts awarded by the trial court excessive and the
same are hereby reduced to P75,000.00 and P30,000.00, respectively. It must again be stressed that moral damages are
emphatically not intended to enrich a plaintiff at the expense of the defendant. When awarded, moral damages must not be
palpably and scandalously excessive as to indicate that it was the result of passion, prejudice or corruption on the part of
the trial judge or appellate court justices. [199] As to exemplary damages, the same is justified under Article 2230 of the New
Civil Code when a crime is committed with an aggravating circumstance, either qualifying or generic. [200]

WHEREFORE, the consolidated petitions and appeal are hereby DISMISSED. The Decision dated April 1, 2008
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 00667 is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS in that the civil
indemnity for the death of Col. Rolando N. Abadilla is hereby increased to P75,000.00, and the amounts of moral and
exemplary damages awarded to his heirs are reduced to P75,000.00 and P30,000.00, respectively.
With costs against the accused-appellants.

SO ORDERED.
15. Perez vs. People, GR No. 164763, 12 February 2008

DECISION

REYES, R.T., J.:

PETITIONER Zenon R. Perez seeks a review1 of his conviction by the Sandiganbayan2 for malversation of public
funds3 under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.

This is not a big case but its implications are wide-ranging and the issues We resolve include the rights to speedy trial and
speedy disposition of a criminal case, the balancing test, due process, and cruel and unusual punishment.

The Facts

On December 28, 1988, an audit team headed by Auditor I Arlene R. Mandin, Provincial Auditor’s Office,
Bohol,4conducted a cash examination on the account of petitioner, who was then the acting municipal treasurer of
Tubigon, Bohol.

Petitioner was absent on the first scheduled audit at his office on December 28, 1988. A radio message was sent to Loon,
the town where he resided, to apprise him of the on-going audit. The following day, the audit team counted the cash
contained in the safe of petitioner in his presence. In the course of the audit, the amount of P21,331.79 was found in the
safe of petitioner.

The audit team embodied their findings in the Report of Cash Examination, 5 which also contained an inventory of cash
items. Based on the said audit, petitioner was supposed to have on hand the total amount of P94,116.36, instead of
the P21,331.79, incurring a shortage of P72,784.57.6

The report also contained the Cash Production Notice7 dated January 4, 1989, where petitioner was informed and required
to produce the amount of P72,784.57, and the cash count sheet signed and acknowledged by petitioner indicating the
correctness of the amount of P21,331.79 found in his safe and counted in his presence. A separate demand letter 8 dated
January 4, 1989 requiring the production of the missing funds was sent and received by petitioner on January 5, 1989.

When asked by the auditing team as to the location of the missing funds, petitioner verbally explained that part of the
money was used to pay for the loan of his late brother, another portion was spent for the food of his family, and the rest for
his medicine.9

As a result of the audit, Arlene R. Mandin prepared a memorandum 10 dated January 13, 1989 addressed to the Provincial
Auditor of Bohol recommending the filing of the appropriate criminal case against petitioner.

On January 16, 1989, petitioner remitted to the Office of the Provincial Treasurer of Bohol the amounts of P10,000.00
and P15,000.00, respectively. On February 14, 1989, petitioner again remitted to the Provincial Treasurer an additional
amount of P35,000.00, followed by remittances made on February 16, 1989 in the amounts of P2,000.00 and P2,784.00.

An administrative case was filed against petitioner on February 13, 1989. He filed an Answer 11 dated February 22, 1989
reiterating his earlier verbal admission before the audit team.

On April 17, 1989, petitioner again remitted the amount of P8,000.00 to the Provincial Treasurer of Bohol. Petitioner had
then fully restituted his shortage in the amount of P72,784.57. The full restitution of the missing money was confirmed
and shown by the following receipts:12

Official Receipt Date Issued and Amount


No. Received

8266659 January 16, 1989 P10,000.00

8266660 January 16, 1989 P15,000.00

8266662 February 14, 1989 P35,000.00

8266667 February 16, 1989 P 2,000.00

8266668 February 16, 1989 P 2,784.00

8266675 April 17, 1989 P 8,000.00

TOTAL - P72,784.57

Later, petitioner was charged before the Sandiganbayan with malversation of public funds, defined and penalized by
Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code in an Information that read:

That on or about the period covering from December 28, 1988 to January 5, 1989, and for sometime prior thereto,
in the Municipality of Tubigon, Province of Bohol, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-named accused Zenon R. Perez, a public officer being then Acting Municipal Treasury of the
said Municipality, by reason of the duties of his official position was accountable for the public funds collected
and received by him, with grave abuse of confidence did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously
misappropriate, misapply, embezzle and take away from the said funds the total amount of SEVENTY-TWO
THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED EIGHTY-FOUR PESOS and 57/100 (P72,784.57), which said fund was
appropriated and converted by the said accused to his own personal use and benefit to the damage and prejudice
of the government in the aforementioned amount.

CONTRARY TO LAW.13 (Underscoring supplied)

On March 1, 1990, petitioner, duly assisted by counsel de parte, entered a plea of "not guilty."14

Pre-trial was initially set on June 4-5, 1990 but petitioner’s counsel moved for postponement. The Sandiganbayan,
however, proceeded to hear the case on June 5, 1990, as previously scheduled, due to the presence of prosecution witness
Arlene R. Mandin, who came all the way from Bohol.

On said date, the Sandiganbayan dispensed with pre-trial and allowed the prosecution to present its witness. Arlene R.
Mandin testified as narrated above.

The defense presented evidence through petitioner Zenon R. Perez himself. He denied the contents of his first Answer 15 to
the administrative case filed against him by the audit team. He claimed it was prepared without the assistance of counsel
and that at the time of its preparation and submission, he was not in peak mental and physical condition, having been
stricken with diabetes mellitus.16

He then revoked his Answer dated February 22, 1989 and filed his second Answer dated March 2, 1989. 17 In the latter, he
vehemently denied that he incurred a cash shortage P72,784.57.

According to petitioner, the alleged shortage was in the possession and custody of his accountable personnel at the time of
the audit examination. Several amounts totalling P64,784.00 were remitted to him on separate dates by his accountable
officer, starting January 16, 1989 to February 16, 1989. The same were turned over by him to the Office of the Provincial
Treasurer, leaving an unremitted sum of P8,000.00 as of February 16, 1989.18 He remitted the P8,000.00 on April 17, 1989
to the Provincial Treasurer of Bohol, fully restoring the cash shortage.

Petitioner further testified that on July 30, 1989, he submitted his Position Paper 19 before the Office of the Ombudsman,
Cebu City and maintained that the alleged cash shortage was only due to oversight. Petitioner argued that the government
did not suffer any damage or prejudice since the alleged cash shortage was actually deposited with the Office of the
Provincial Treasurer as evidenced by official receipts. 20

Petitioner completed his testimony on September 20, 1990. He rested his case on October 20, 1990. 21

Sandiganbayan Disposition

On September 24, 2003, the Sandiganbayan rendered a judgment of conviction with a fallo reading:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused ZENON R. PEREZ, GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of Malversation of Public Funds as defined in and penalized by Article 217 of the
Revised Penal Code and, there being one mitigating circumstance without any aggravating circumstance to offset
the same, is hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of from TEN (10) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY
of prision mayor as the minimum to FOURTEEN (14) YEARS and EIGHT (8) MONTHS of reclusion
temporal as the maximum and to suffer perpetual special disqualification. The accused Zenon R. Perez is likewise
ordered to pay a FINE equal to the total amount of the funds malversed, which is Seventy-Two Thousand Seven
Hundred Eighty-Four Pesos and Fifty-Seven Centavos (P72, 784.57).

SO ORDERED.22 (Emphasis in the original)

On January 13, 2004, petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration 23 which the prosecution opposed on January 28,
2004.24 Petitioner replied25 to the opposition. On August 6, 2004, petitioner’s motion was denied with finality.

On September 23, 2004, petitioner resorted to the instant appeal 26 raising the following issues, to wit:

I. THE HON. SANDIGANBAYAN BY UNDULY AND UNREASONABLY DELAYING THE DECISION OF


THE CASE FOR OVER THIRTEEN (13) YEARS VIOLATED THE PETITIONER’S RIGHT TO SPEEDY
DISPOSITION OF HIS CASE AND DUE PROCESS.

II. THE LAW RELIED UPON IN CONVICTING THE PETITIONER AND THE SENTENCE IMPOSED IS
CRUEL AND THEREFORE VIOLATES SECTION 19 OF ARTICLE III (BILL OF RIGHTS) OF THE
CONSTITUTION.27 (Underscoring supplied)

Our Ruling

Before addressing petitioner’s twin assignment of errors, We first tackle the propriety of petitioner’s conviction for
malversation of public funds.

I. Petitioner was correctly convicted of malversation.


Malversation is defined and penalized under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code. The acts punished as malversation
are: (1) appropriating public funds or property, (2) taking or misappropriating the same, (3) consenting, or
through abandonment or negligence, permitting any other person to take such public funds or property, and (4) being
otherwise guilty of the misappropriation or malversation of such funds or property. 28

There are four elements that must concur in order that one may be found guilty of the crime. They are:

(a) That the offender be a public officer;

(b) That he had the custody or control of funds or property by reason of the duties of his office;

(c) That those funds or property involved were public funds or property for which he is accountable; and

(d) That he has appropriated, took or misappropriated or consented or, through abandonment or negligence,
permitted another person to take them.29

Evidently, the first three elements are present in the case at bar. At the time of the commission of the crime charged,
petitioner was a public officer, being then the acting municipal treasurer of Tubigon, Bohol. By reason of his public office,
he was accountable for the public funds under his custody or control.

The question then is whether or not petitioner has appropriated, took or misappropriated, or consented or through
abandonment or negligence, permitted another person to take such funds.

We rule in the affirmative.

In malversation, all that is necessary to prove is that the defendant received in his possession public funds; that he could
not account for them and did not have them in his possession; and that he could not give a reasonable excuse for its
disappearance. An accountable public officer may be convicted of malversation even if there is no direct evidence of
misappropriation and the only evidence is shortage in his accounts which he has not been able to explain satisfactorily.30

Verily, an accountable public officer may be found guilty of malversation even if there is no direct evidence of
malversation because the law establishes a presumption that mere failure of an accountable officer to produce public funds
which have come into his hands on demand by an officer duly authorized to examine his accounts is prima facie case of
conversion.31

Because of the prima facie presumption in Article 217, the burden of evidence is shifted to the accused to adequately
explain the location of the funds or property under his custody or control in order to rebut the presumption that he has
appropriated or misappropriated for himself the missing funds. Failing to do so, the accused may be convicted under the
said provision.

However, the presumption is merely prima facie and a rebuttable one. The accountable officer may overcome the
presumption by proof to the contrary. If he adduces evidence showing that, in fact, he has not put said funds or property to
personal use, then that presumption is at end and the prima facie case is destroyed.32

In the case at bar, petitioner was not able to present any credible evidence to rebut the presumption that he malversed the
missing funds in his custody or control. What is extant in the records is that the prosecution, through witness Arlene R.
Mandin, was able to prove that petitioner malversed the funds under his custody and control. As testified by Mandin:

Atty. Caballero:

Q: Was Mr. Zenon Perez actually and physically present during the time of your cash examination?

Witness:

A. Yes, Sir.
Q: From December 28, to January 5, 1989?

A: He was present on December 28, 1988 and January 4 and 5, 1989, Sir.

Q: Did he not make any verbal explanation as the reason why he was short of about P72,000.00, after you
conducted the cash count on January 5, 1989?

A: Yes, Sir, he did.

Q: What did he tell you?

A: He told us that he used some of the money to pay for the loan of his brother and the other portion was
spent for food of his family; and the rest for his medicine.33 (Emphasis supplied)

Petitioner gave himself away with his first Answer filed at the Office of the Provincial Treasurer of Bohol in the
administrative case filed against him.

In that Answer, petitioner narrated how he disposed of the missing funds under his custody and control, to wit: (1)
about P30,000.00 was used to pay the commercial loan of his late brother; (2) he spent P10,000.00 for the treatment of his
toxic goiter; and (3) about P32,000.00 was spent for food and clothing of his family, and the education of his children. He
there stated:

1. That the circumstances surrounding the cash shortage in the total amount of P72,784.57 during the examination
of the respondent’s cash accounts by the Commission on Audit on December 28-29, 1988 and January 4-5, 1989
are as follows, to wit:

(a) That respondent paid the amount of about P30,000.00 to the Philippine National Bank,
Tagbilaran Branch as interests of the commercial loan of his late brother Carino R. Perez using
respondent’s house and lot as collateral thereof. If the interests would not be paid, the loan would be
foreclosed to respondent’s great prejudice and disadvantage considering that he and his family are
residing in said house used as collateral;

(b) That respondent spent the amount of P10,000.00 in connection with the treatment of his toxic
goiter;

(c) That the rest of the amount amounting to about P32,000.00 was spent by him for his family’s
foods, clothings (sic), and education of his children because his monthly salary is not enough for the
needs of his family.34

By the explicit admission of petitioner, coupled with the testimony of Arlene R. Mandin, the fourth element of the crime
of malversation was duly established. His conviction thus stands in terra firma.

True it is that petitioner filed another Answer on March 2, 1989 with the Office of the Provincial Treasurer of Bohol,
substantially changing the contents of his earlier answer of February 22, 1989. His second Answer averred:

3. That the truth of the matter is that the alleged total cash shortage of P72,784.57 were still in the possession and
custody of his accountable personnel at the time of the examination held by the auditor of the Commission on
Audit;

4. That out of the alleged cash shortage of P72,784.57, almost all of said amount were already remitted to him by
his accountable personnel after January 5, 1989, and only the remaining amount of P8,000.00 remains to be
remitted to him by his accountable personnel.35

The sudden turnaround of petitioner fails to convince Us. To Our mind, petitioner only changed his story to exonerate
himself, after realizing that his first Answer put him in a hole, so to speak.
It is contended that petitioner’s first Answer of February 22, 1989 should not have been given probative weight because it
was executed without the assistance of counsel. 36

There is no law, jurisprudence or rule which mandates that an employee should be assisted by counsel in an administrative
case. On the contrary, jurisprudence is in unison in saying that assistance of counsel is not indispensable in administrative
proceedings.

Walang batas, hurisprudensiya, o tuntunin na nagsasabi na ang isang kawani ay dapat may tulong ng abogado sa
isang kasong administratibo. Sa katunayan, ang hurisprudensiya ay iisa ang sinasabi na ang pagtulong ng isang
abogado ay hindi kailangang-kailangan sa kasong administratibo.

The right to counsel, which cannot be waived unless the waiver is in writing and in the presence of counsel, is a right
afforded a suspect or accused during custodial investigation. It is not an absolute right and may be invoked or rejected in a
criminal proceeding and, with more reason, in an administrative inquiry. 37

Ang karapatang magkaroon ng abogado, na hindi maaaring talikdan malibang ang waiver ay nakasulat at sa harap
ng abogado, ay karapatang ibinibigay sa suspek o nasasakdal sa isang custodial investigation. Ito ay hindi lubos na
karapatan at maaring hingin o tanggihan sa isang prosesong kriminal, at lalo na sa isang administratibong
pagsisiyasat.

While investigations conducted by an administrative body may at times be akin to a criminal proceeding, the fact remains
that under existing laws, a party in an administrative inquiry may or may not be assisted by counsel, irrespective of the
nature of the charges and of respondent’s capacity to represent himself, and no duty rests on such body to furnish the
person being investigated with counsel.38

Thus, the right to counsel is not imperative in administrative investigations because such inquiries are conducted merely
to determine whether there are facts that merit disciplinary measures against erring public officers and employees, with
the purpose of maintaining the dignity of government service. 39

Kung gayon, ang karapatang magkaroon ng abogado ay hindi sapilitan sa isang administratibong imbestigasyon
sapagkat ito ay ginagawa lamang upang malaman kung may sapat na batayan na patawan ng disiplina ang
nagkasalang opisyal o empleyado, para mapanatili ang dignidad ng paglilingkod sa pamahalaan.

There is nothing in the Constitution that says that a party in a non-litigation proceeding is entitled to be represented by
counsel and that, without such representation, he shall not be bound by such proceedings. The assistance of lawyers, while
desirable, is not indispensable. The legal profession was not engrafted in the due process clause such that without the
participation of its members, the safeguard is deemed ignored or violated. The ordinary citizen is not that helpless that he
cannot validly act at all except only with a lawyer at his side. 40

More than that, petitioner’s first Answer may be taken against him, as he executed it in the course of the administrative
proceedings below. This is pursuant to Rule 130, Section 26 of the Rules of Court which provides that the "act, declaration
or omission of a party as to a relevant fact may be given against him." In People v. Lising,41 the Court held:

Extrajudicial statements are as a rule, admissible as against their respective declarants, pursuant to the rule that the
act, declaration or omission of a party as to a relevant fact may be given against him. This is based upon the
presumption that no man would declare anything against himself, unless such declarations were true. A man’s act,
conduct and declarations wherever made, provided they be voluntary, are admissible against him, for the reason
that it is fair to presume that they correspond with the truth and it is his fault if they are not.

There is also no merit in the contention that petitioner’s sickness affected the preparation of his first Answer. He presented
no convincing evidence that his disease at the time he formulated that answer diminished his capacity to formulate a true,
clear and coherent response to any query. In fact, its contents merely reiterated his verbal explanation to the auditing team
on January 5, 1989 on how he disposed of the missing funds.

II. There is no violation of the rights to a speedy disposition of the case and to due process of law.
We now discuss the right to a speedy trial and disposition, the balancing test, due process, and cruel and unusual
punishment.

Petitioner asserts that his right to due process of law and to speedy disposition of his case was violated because the
decision of the Sandiganbayan was handed down after the lapse of more than twelve years. The years that he had to wait
for the outcome of his case were allegedly spent in limbo, pain and agony. 42

We are not persuaded.

Due process of law as applied to judicial proceedings has been interpreted to mean "a law which hears before it
condemns, which proceeds on inquiry, and renders judgment only after trial." 43 Petitioner cannot complain that his right to
due process has been violated. He was given all the chances in the world to present his case, and the Sandiganbayan
rendered its decision only after considering all the pieces of evidence presented before it.

Petitioner’s claim of violation of his right to a speedy disposition of his case must also fail.

The 1987 Constitution44 guarantees the right of an accused to speedy trial. Both the 1973 Constitution in Section 16 of
Article IV and the 1987 Constitution in Section 16 of Article III, Bill of Rights, are also explicit in granting to the accused
the right to speedy disposition of his case.45

In Barker v. Wingo,46 the United States Supreme Court was confronted for the first time with two "rigid approaches" on
speedy trial as "ways of eliminating some of the uncertainty which courts experience protecting the right." 47

The first approach is the "fixed-time period" which holds the view that "the Constitution requires a criminal defendant to
be offered a trial within a specified time period."48 The second approach is the "demand-waiver rule"which provides that
"a defendant waives any consideration of his right to speedy trial for any period prior to which he has not demanded trial.
Under this rigid approach, a prior demand is a necessary condition to the consideration of the speedy trial right." 49

The fixed-time period was rejected because there is "no constitutional basis for holding that the speedy trial can be
quantified into a specific number of days or months."50 The demand-waiver rule was likewise rejected because aside from
the fact that it is "inconsistent with this Court’s pronouncements on waiver of constitutional rights," 51 "it is insensitive to a
right which we have deemed fundamental."52

The Court went on to adopt a middle ground: the "balancing test," in which "the conduct of both the prosecution and
defendant are weighed."53 Mr. Justice Powell, ponente, explained the concept, thus:

A balancing test necessarily compels courts to approach speedy trial cases on an ad hoc basis. We can do
little more than identify some of the factors which courts should assess in determining whether a particular
defendant has been deprived of his right. Though some might express them in different ways, we identify four
such factors: Length of delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant’s assertion of his right, and prejudice
to the defendant.

The length of the delay is to some extent a triggering mechanism. Until there is some delay which is
presumptively prejudicial, there is no necessity for inquiry into the other factors that go into the
balance. Nevertheless, because of the imprecision of the right to speedy trial, the length of delay that will
provoke such an inquiry is necessarily dependent upon the peculiar circumstances of the case. To take but
one example, the delay that can be tolerated for an ordinary street crime is considerably less than for a serious,
complex conspiracy charge.

Closely related to length of delay is the reason the government assigns to justify the delay. Here, too,
different weights should be assigned to different reasons. A deliberate attempt to delay the trial in order to hamper
the defense should be weighted heavily against the government. A more neutral reason such as negligence or
overcrowded courts should be weighted less heavily but nevertheless should be considered since the ultimate
responsibility for such circumstances must rest with the government rather than with the defendant. Finally, a
valid reason, such as a missing witness, should serve to justify appropriate delay. We have already discussed the
third factor, the defendant’s responsibility to assert his right. Whether and how a defendant asserts his right is
closely related to the other factors we have mentioned. The strength of his efforts will be affected by the length
of the delay, to some extent by the reason for the delay, and most particularly by the personal prejudice,
which is not always readily identifiable, that he experiences. The more serious the deprivation, the more likely
a defendant is to complain. The defendant’s assertion of his speedy trial right, then, is entitled to strong
evidentiary weight in determining whether the defendant is being deprived of the right. We emphasize that
failure to assert the right will make it difficult for a defendant to prove that he was denied a speedy trial.

A fourth factor is prejudice to the defendant. Prejudice, of course, should be assessed in the light of the
interests of defendants which the speedy trial right was designed to protect. This Court has identified three
such interests: (i) to prevent oppressive pretrial incarceration; (ii) to minimize anxiety and concern of the
accused; and (iii) to limit the possibility that the defense will be impaired. Of these, the most serious is the
last, because the inability of a defendant adequately to prepare his case skews the fairness of the entire system. If
witnesses die or disappear during a delay, the prejudice is obvious. There is also prejudice if defense witnesses are
unable to recall accurately events of the distant past. Loss of memory, however, is not always reflected in the
record because what has been forgotten can rarely be shown. 54(Emphasis supplied)

Philippine jurisprudence has, on several occasions, adopted the balancing test.

In 1991, in Gonzales v. Sandiganbayan,55 this Court ruled:

It must be here emphasized that the right to a speedy disposition of a case, like the right to speedy trial, is deemed
violated only when the proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays; or when
unjustified postponements of the trial are asked for and secured, or when without cause or justifiable motive a
long period of time is allowed to elapse without the party having his case tried. Equally applicable is the
balancing test used to determine whether a defendant has been denied his right to a speedy trial, or a speedy
disposition of a case for that matter, in which the conduct of both the prosecution and the defendant are weighed,
and such factors as length of the delay, reason for the delay, the defendant’s assertion or non-assertion of his right,
and prejudice to the defendant resulting from the delay, are considered. (Underscoring supplied)

Subsequently, in Dela Peña v. Sandiganbayan,56 this Court again enumerated the factors that should be considered and
balanced, namely: (1) length of delay; (2) reasons for the delay; (3) assertion or failure to assert such right by the accused;
and (4) prejudice caused by the delay.57

Once more, in Mendoza-Ong v. Sandiganbayan,58 this Court reiterated that the right to speedy disposition of cases, like the
right to speedy trial, is violated only when the proceedings are attended by vexatious, capricious and oppressive
delays.59 In the determination of whether said right has been violated, particular regard must be taken of the facts and
circumstances peculiar to each case. 60 The conduct of both the prosecution and defendant, the length of the delay, the
reasons for such delay, the assertion or failure to assert such right by accused, and the prejudice caused by the delay are
the factors to consider and balance.61

Moreover, the determination of whether the delays are of said nature is relative and cannot be based on a mere
mathematical reckoning of time.62

Measured by the foregoing yardstick, We rule that petitioner was not deprived of his right to a speedy disposition of his
case.

More important than the absence of serious prejudice, petitioner himself did not want a speedy disposition of his
case.63 Petitioner was duly represented by counsel de parte in all stages of the proceedings before the Sandiganbayan.
From the moment his case was deemed submitted for decision up to the time he was found guilty by the Sandiganbayan,
however, petitioner has not filed a single motion or manifestation which could be construed even remotely as an
indication that he wanted his case to be dispatched without delay.
Petitioner has clearly slept on his right. The matter could have taken a different dimension if during all those twelve years,
petitioner had shown signs of asserting his right to a speedy disposition of his case or at least made some overt acts, like
filing a motion for early resolution, to show that he was not waiving that right. 64

Currit tempus contra decides et sui juris contempores: Time runs against the slothful and those who neglect their
rights. Ang panahon ay hindi panig sa mga tamad at pabaya sa kanilang karapatan. Vigilantis sed non dormientibus
jura in re subveniunt. The law aids the vigilant and not those who slumber in their rights. Ang batas ay tumutulong sa
mga mapagbantay at hindi sa mga humihimbing sa kanilang karapatan.

Pending his conviction by the Sandiganbayan, petitioner may have truly lived in suspicion and anxiety for over twelve
years. However, any prejudice that may have been caused to him in all those years was only minimal. The supposed
gravity of agony experienced by petitioner is more imagined than real.

This case is analogous to Guerrero v. Court of Appeals.65 There, the Court ruled that there was no violation of petitioner’s
right to speedy trial and disposition of his case inasmuch as he failed seasonably to assert his rights:

In the present case, there is no question that petitioner raised the violation against his own right to speedy
disposition only when the respondent trial judge reset the case for rehearing. It is fair to assume that he would
have just continued to sleep on his right – a situation amounting to laches – had the respondent judge not taken the
initiative of determining the non-completion of the records and of ordering the remedy precisely so he could
dispose of the case. The matter could have taken a different dimension if during all those ten years between 1979
when accused filed his memorandum and 1989 when the case was re-raffled, the accused showed signs of
asserting his right which was granted him in 1987 when the new Constitution took effect, or at least made some
overt act (like a motion for early disposition or a motion to compel the stenographer to transcribe stenographic
notes) that he was not waiving it. As it is, his silence would have to be interpreted as a waiver of such right.

While this Court recognizes the right to speedy disposition quite distinctly from the right to a speedy trial, and
although this Court has always zealously espoused protection from oppressive and vexatious delays not
attributable to the party involved, at the same time, we hold that a party’s individual rights should not work
against and preclude the people’s equally important right to public justice. In the instant case, three people died as
a result of the crash of the airplane that the accused was flying. It appears to us that the delay in the disposition of
the case prejudiced not just the accused but the people as well. Since the accused has completely failed to assert
his right seasonably and inasmuch as the respondent judge was not in a position to dispose of the case on the
merits due to the absence of factual basis, we hold it proper and equitable to give the parties fair opportunity to
obtain (and the court to dispense) substantial justice in the premises.

III. The law relied upon in convicting petitioner is not cruel and unusual. It does not violate Section 19, Article III of
the Bill of Rights.

What constitutes cruel and unusual punishment has not been exactly defined. 66 The Eighth Amendment of the United
States Constitution,67 the source of Section 19, Article III of the Bill of Rights 68 of our own Constitution, has yet to be put
to the test to finally determine what constitutes cruel and inhuman punishment. 69

Cases that have been decided described, rather than defined, what is meant by cruel and unusual punishment. This is
explained by the pronouncement of the United States Supreme Court that "[t]he clause of the Constitution, in the opinion
of the learned commentators, may be therefore progressive, and is not fastened to the obsolete, but may acquire meaning
as public opinion becomes enlightened by a humane justice." 70

In Wilkerson v. Utah,71 Mr. Justice Clifford of the United States Supreme Court opined that "[d]ifficulty would attend the
effort to define with exactness the extent of the constitutional provision which provides that cruel and unusual
punishments shall not be inflicted; but it is safe to affirm that punishments of torture, x x x and all others in the same line
of unnecessary cruelty, are forbidden by that amendment to the constitution." 72

In In Re: Kemmler,73 Mr. Chief Justice Fuller of that same Court stated that "[p]unishments are cruel when they involve
torture or a lingering death; but the punishment of death is not cruel within the meaning of that word as used in the
constitution. It implies x x x something more inhuman and barbarous, something more than the mere extinguishment of
life."74

Again, in Weems v. U.S.,75 Mr. Justice McKenna held for the Court that cadena temporal and its accessory penalties "has
no fellow in American legislation. Let us remember that it has come to us from a government of a different form and
genus from ours. It is cruel in its excess of imprisonment and that which accompanies and follows imprisonment. It is
unusual in character. Its punishments come under the condemnation of the Bill of Rights, both on account of their degree
and kind. And they would have those bad attributes even if they were found in a Federal enactment, and not taken from an
alien source."

In Echegaray v. Executive Secretary,76 this Court in a per curiam Decision held that Republic Act No. 8177,77 even if it
does not provide in particular the details involved in the execution by lethal injection, is not cruel, degrading or inhuman,
and is thus constitutional. Any infliction of pain in lethal injection is merely incidental in carrying out the execution of the
death penalty and does not fall within the constitutional proscription against cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment. 78

The Court adopted the American view that what is cruel and unusual is not fastened to the obsolete but may acquire
meaning as public opinion becomes enlightened by humane justice and must draw its meaning from the evolving
standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society. 79

In his last ditch effort to exculpate himself, petitioner argues that the penalty meted for the crime of malversation of public
funds "that ha[ve] been replenished, remitted and/or returned" to the government is cruel and therefore unconstitutional,
"as government has not suffered any damage."80

The argument is specious on two grounds.

First. What is punished by the crime of malversation is the act of a public officer who, by reason of the duties of his
office, is accountable for public funds or property, shall appropriate the same, or shall take and misappropriate or shall
consent, or through abandonment or negligence shall permit any other person to take such public funds or property,
wholly or partially, or shall otherwise be guilty of the misappropriation or malversation of such funds or property. 81

Payment or reimbursement is not a defense for exoneration in malversation; it may only be considered as a mitigating
circumstance. This is because damage is not an element of malversation.

Second. There is strong presumption of constitutionality accorded to statutes.

It is established doctrine that a statute should be construed whenever possible in harmony with, rather than in violation of,
the Constitution.82 The presumption is that the legislature intended to enact a valid, sensible and just law and one which
operates no further than may be necessary to effectuate the specific purpose of the law. 83 It is presumed that the legislature
has acted within its constitutional powers. So, it is the generally accepted rule that every statute, or regularly accepted act,
is, or will be, or should be, presumed to be valid and constitutional. 84

He who attacks the constitutionality of a law has the onus probandi to show why such law is repugnant to the
Constitution. Failing to overcome its presumption of constitutionality, a claim that a law is cruel, unusual, or inhuman,
like the stance of petitioner, must fail.

IV. On the penalty

The Sandiganbayan sentenced petitioner to an indeterminate sentence of ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor,
as minimum, to fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months of reclusion temporal, as maximum. In imposing the penalty, it
found that petitioner was entitled to the mitigating circumstance of payment which is akin to voluntary surrender.

Article 217 penalizes malversation in the following tenor:

Article 217. Malversation of public funds or property. – Presumption of malversation. – Any public officer who,
by reason of the duties of his office, is accountable for public funds or property, shall appropriate the same, or
shall take and misappropriate or shall consent, or through abandonment or negligence shall permit any other
person to take such public funds or property, wholly or partially, or shall otherwise be guilty of the
misappropriation or malversation of such funds or property.

xxxx

4. The penalty of reclusion temporal in its medium and maximum periods, if the amount involved is more
than 12,000 but is less than 22,000 pesos. If the amount exceeds the latter, the penalty shall be reclusion
temporal in its maximum period to reclusion perpetua.

In all cases, persons guilty of malversation shall also suffer the penalty of perpetual special disqualification and a
fine equal to the amount of the funds malversed or equal to the total value of the property embezzled.

The failure of a public officer to have duly forthcoming any public funds or property with which he is chargeable
upon demand by any duly authorized officer, shall be prima facie evidence that he has put such missing funds or
property to personal uses. (Underscoring supplied)

The amount malversed totalled P72,784.57. The prescribed penalty is reclusion temporal in its maximum period
to reclusion perpetua, which has a range of seventeen (17) years, four (4) months and one (1) day to forty (40) years.

However, the commission of the crime was attended by the mitigating circumstance akin to voluntary surrender. As
correctly observed by the Sandiganbayan, petitioner restituted the full amount even before the prosecution could present
its evidence. That is borne by the records.

It bears stressing that the full restitution of the amount malversed will not in any way exonerate an accused, as payment is
not one of the elements of extinction of criminal liability. Under the law, the refund of the sum misappropriated, even
before the commencement of the criminal prosecution, does not exempt the guilty person from liability for the crime. 85 At
most, then, payment of the amount malversed will only serve as a mitigating circumstance 86 akin to voluntary surrender,
as provided for in paragraph 7 of Article 1387 in relation to paragraph 1088 of the same Article of the Revised Penal Code.

But the Court also holds that aside from voluntary surrender, petitioner is entitled to the mitigating circumstance of no
intention to commit so grave a wrong,89 again in relation to paragraph 10 of Article 13. 90

The records bear out that petitioner misappropriated the missing funds under his custody and control because he was
impelled by the genuine love for his brother and his family. Per his admission, petitioner used part of the funds to pay off
a debt owed by his brother. Another portion of the misappropriated funds went to his medications for his debilitating
diabetes.

Further, as shown earlier, petitioner restituted all but Eight Thousand Pesos (P8,000.00) of the funds in less than one
month and a half and said small balance in three (3) months from receipt of demand of COA on January 5, 1999.
Evidently, there was no intention to commit so grave a wrong.

Of course, the end does not justify the means. To condone what petitioner has done because of the nobility of his purpose
or financial emergencies will become a potent excuse for malefactors and open the floodgates for more corruption in the
government, even from "small fry" like him.

The bottom line is a guilty person deserves the penalty given the attendant circumstances and commensurate with the
gravity of the offense committed. Thus, a reduction in the imposable penalty by one degree is in order. Article 64 of the
Revised Penal Code is explicit:

Art. 64. Rules for the application of penalties which contain three periods. – In cases in which the penalties
prescribed by law contains three periods, whether it be a single divisible penalty or composed of three difference
penalties, each one of which forms a period in accordance with the provisions of Articles 76 and 77, the courts
shall observe for the application of the penalty, the following rules, according to whether there are no mitigating
or aggravating circumstances:
xxxx

5. When there are two or more mitigating circumstances and no aggravating circumstances are present,
the court shall impose the penalty next lower to that prescribed by law, in the period that it may deem
applicable, according to the number and nature of such circumstances. (Underscoring supplied)

Considering that there are two mitigating circumstances, the prescribed penalty is reduced to prision mayor in its
maximum period to reclusion temporal in its medium period, to be imposed in any of its periods. The new penalty has a
range of ten (10) years and one (1) day to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence
Law,91 the maximum term could be ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayormaximum, while the minimum term is
again one degree lower92 and could be four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day of prision correccional maximum.

In the 1910 case of U.S. v. Reyes,93 the trial judge entered a judgment of conviction against the accused and meted to him
the penalty of "three years’ imprisonment, to pay a fine of P1,500.00, and in case of insolvency to suffer subsidiary
imprisonment at the rate of one day for every P2.50 that he failed to pay, which subsidiary imprisonment, however, should
not exceed one third of the principal penalty" and to be "perpetually disqualified for public office and to pay the costs."
This was well within the imposable penalty then under Section 1 of Act No. 1740, 94 which is "imprisonment for not less
than two months nor more than ten years and, in the discretion of the court, by a fine of not more than the amount of such
funds and the value of such property."

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the accused’s conviction was affirmed but his sentence was modified and reduced to six
months. The court, per Mr. Justice Torres, reasoned thus:

For the foregoing reasons the several unfounded errors assigned to the judgment appealed from have been fully
refuted, since in conclusion it is fully shown that the accused unlawfully disposed of a portion of the municipal
funds, putting the same to his own use, and to that of other persons in violation of Act. No. 1740, and
consequently he has incurred the penalty therein established as principal of the crime of misappropriation; and
even though in imposing it, it is not necessary to adhere to the rules of the Penal Code, the court in using its
discretional powers as authorized by law, believes that the circumstances present in the commission of crimes
should be taken into consideration, and in the present case the amount misappropriated was refunded at the time
the funds were counted.95 (Underscoring supplied)

We opt to exercise an analogous discretion.

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Sandiganbayan dated September 24, 2003 is AFFIRMED with
the MODIFICATION that petitioner is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of four (4) years, two (2)
months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum term, to ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as
maximum term, with perpetual special disqualification. He is likewise ORDERED to pay a fine of P72,784.57, the
amount equal to the funds malversed.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.
16. People vs. Rapeza, GR No. 169431, 3 April 2007

DECISION

TINGA, J.:

In the complex but exquisite scheme laid down by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights occupies a position of
primacy, way above the articles on governmental power. [1]Once again, the Court extends fresh vitality to the rights of a
person under custodial investigation, which, beginning with the 1987 Constitution, has been accorded equal but
segregate weight as the traditional right against self-incrimination, to tip the scales of justice in favor of the
presumption of innocence and the lot of an unlettered confessant.

This treats of the appeal from the Decision[2] dated 1 July 2005 of the Court of Appeals affirming the Consolidated
Judgment[3] dated 24 July 2001 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Palawan, Puerto Princesa City in Criminal Case Nos.
13064 and 13202 where Jerry Rapeza (appellant) was found guilty of two (2) counts of murder and sentenced to the
penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count, plus a total of P100,000.00 as indemnity for the heirs of the two (2) victims.

In two (2) separate Informations, appellant, together with Mike Regino, was charged with the murder of the
Spouses Cesar Ganzon and Priscilla Libas,[4] with the following accusatory allegations:

Criminal Case No. 13064

That on or about the 21st day of October, [sic] 1995, more or less 4:00 oclock in the afternoon at
Cawa-Cawa District, Municipality of Culion, Province of Palawan, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating together and
mutually helping each other, with evident premeditation, treachery and abuse of superior strength, with
intent to kill and while armed with bladed weapons, did then and there wilfully [sic], unlawfully and
feloniously attack, assault and stab with their bladed weapons, to wit: knives, PRI[S]CILLA LIBAS,
hitting her in the different vital parts of her body and inflicting upon her multiple stab wounds which
causes (sic) hypovolemic shock which were (sic) the direct and immediate cause of her instantaneous
death.[5]

Criminal Case No. 13202

That on or about the 21st day of October, [sic] 1995, more or less 4:00 oclock in the afternoon at Cawa-
Cawa District, Municipality of Culion, Province of Palawan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating together and mutually helping
each other, with evident premeditation, treachery and abuse of superior strength, with intent to kill and
while armed with bladed weapons, did then and there wilfully, [sic] unlawfully and feloniously attack,
assault and stab with their bladed weapons, to wit: knives, CESAR GANZON, hitting him in the different
vital parts of his body and inflicting upon him multiple stab wounds which causes hypovolemic shock
which were the direct and immediate cause of his instantaneous death. [6]

As Mike Regino was at large, only appellant was arraigned and he pleaded not guilty. Forthwith, joint trial ensued
which resulted in the judgment of guilt against appellant as co-principal for two (2) counts of murder, with conspiracy and
evident premeditation attending the commission of the felonies. Both cases were thereafter elevated to this Court on
automatic review, but later referred to the Court of Appeals per People v. Mateo.[7] The Court of Appeals affirmed the
judgment of guilt.[8]

The prosecution had sought to establish the facts and events recited below.

In the afternoon of 21 October 1995, an unidentified woman went to the Culion Municipal Station and reported a
killing that had taken place in Sitio Cawa-Cawa, Barangay Osmea, Culion, Palawan.[9] The officer-in-charge, SPO2
Ciriaco Gapas, sent to the victims house which was the scene of the crime an investigating team led by SPO2 Crisanto
Cuizon, Jr. and PO2 Isidro Macatangay. There they saw two bloodied bodies, that of a woman lying on the floor of the
sala and that of a man inside the bedroom. The investigating team wrapped the bodies in blankets and loaded them in a
banca to be brought to the morgue.[10] The victims were later identified as Priscilla Libas and Cesar Ganzon.

The Autopsy Reports[11] show that the common cause of death of both victims was hypovolemic shock secondary
to massive bleeding secondary to multiple stab wounds and that both bodies were in the early stages of
decomposition. The medico-legal officer testified that Ganzon sustained six (6) wounds on different parts of his body
while Libas bore sixteen (16) wounds.[12] All the wounds of the victims were fatal and possibly caused by a sharp
instrument.

Upon information supplied by a certain Mr. Dela Cruz that appellant had wanted to confess to the crimes, SPO2
Gapas set out to look for appellant.[13] He found appellant fishing in Asinan Island and invited the latter for
questioning. Appellant expressed his willingness to make a confession in the presence of a lawyer. [14] Appellant was then
brought to the police station after which SPO2 Gapas requested Kagawad Arnel Alcantara to provide appellant with a
lawyer. The following day, appellant was brought to the house of Atty. Roberto Reyes, the only available lawyer in the
municipality.[15] The typewriter at the police station was out of order at that time and Atty. Reyes could not go to the police
station as he was suffering from rheumatism. [16] At the house of Atty. Reyes, in the presence of Vice-Mayor Emiliano
Marasigan of Culion, two (2) officials of the Sangguniang Barangay, SPO2 Cuizon and an interpreter, SPO2 Gapas
proceeded with the custodial investigation of appellant who was assisted by Atty. Reyes. Appellant was expressly advised
that he was being investigated for the death of Libas and Ganzon.

Per the Sinumpaang Salaysay[17] that appellant executed, he was informed of his constitutional rights in the
following manner:

xxxx

Tanong: Bago kita kunan ng isang salaysay, ikaw ay mayroong karapatan sa ating Saligang Batas na
sumusunod:

a) Na, ikaw ay maaaring hindi sumagot sa tanong na sa iyong akala ay makaka-apekto sa


iyong pagkatao;

b) Na, ikaw ay may karapatang pumili ng isang manananggol o abogado na iyong sariling
pili;

c) Na, kung ikaw ay walang kakayahan kumuha ng isang ab[u]gado ang Pulisya ang
siyang magbibigay sa iyo.

d) Na, ang lahat na iyong sasabihin ay maaaring gawing ebidensya pabor o laban sa iyo.
Sagot: Opo, sir.

Tanong: Nakahanda ka na bang ipag-patuloy ang pagsisiyasat na ito, na ang ating gagamiting salita ay
salitang Tagalog, na siyang ginagamit nating [sic]?

Sagot: Opo, sir.

x x x[18]

Thereupon, when asked about the subsequent events, appellant made the following narration:

xxx

Tanong: Maari mo bang isalaysay ang pang-yayari [sic]?

Sagot: Opo, [n]oong Sabado ng umaga alas 8:00[,] petsa 21 ng Oktobre, 1995, kami ni Mike
ay nagkaroon ng pag-iinuman sa kanilang bahay sa Cawa-Cawa at sinabi sa akin
[sic] puntahannaming iyong matanda, dahil may galit daw si Mike
sa dalawang matanda [Pris]cilla Libas at Cesar Ganzon) na nakatira din sa Cawa-Cawa at
ang layo ay humigit-kumulangisang daang metro sa aming pinag-
iinuman at kami ay nakaubos ng labing dalawang bote ng
beer, mula umaga hanggang alas kuatro ng hapon at habang kami ay nag-
iinomaming pinag-uusapan [sic] ang pagpatay sa dalawang matanda. Noong sinasabi sa
akin ni Mike, ako umayaw ngunit ako ay pinilit at sinabihan ko rin siya (Mike) at pinag-
tatapon[sic] pa niya ang bote ng beer at may sinabi pa si Mike hindi
ka pala marunong tumulong sa akin, pamangkin mo pa naman ako. At
ang sagot ko sa kanya,
ay maghintay ka, mamayang hapon natin[g] puntahan. At noong humigit-kumulang [sa
alas] [sic] kuatro ng hapon, amin ng pinuntahan ang bahay ng mag-asawa,
at pagdating namin sa bahay na dala naming [sic] ang patalim, tuloy-
tuloy na kaming umakyat, at hinawakan ni Mike ang babae (Presing) at nilaslas na
ang leeg at sinaksak ng sinaksak niya sa ibat ibang parte
ng katawan at ako ay umakyat din sa bahay at nakita kong nakataob ang lalaki (Cesar)
[,] aking hinawakan [sic] ko sa kanyang balikat, at siya ay nakaalam [sic] na
mayroong taosa kanyang likuran, akin nang sinaksak sa kaliwang tagiliran [sic]
ng kanyang katawan, at hindi ko na alam ang sumunod na pang-yayari
[sic] dahil ako[]y tuliro. At kami ay umalis at tumalon sa likod ng kusina, nang alam na
naming [sic] na patay [na] iyong dalawang matanda.

x x x x[19]

An interpreter was provided appellant as he was not well versed in Tagalog being a native of Samar. As he is
illiterate, appellant affixed only his thumbmark on the statement above his printed name. Bonifacio Abad, the interpreter,
and Atty. Reyes, as the assisting counsel, also signed the statement. Atty. Reyes signed again as the notary public who
notarized the statement.

Thereafter, a complaint for multiple murder was filed against appellant, and Regino was likewise arrested. Judge
Jacinto Manalo of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Culion conducted a preliminary investigation. Finding probable
cause only as against appellant, Regino was ordered released. [20] The Provincial Prosecutor, however, reversed the finding
of the MTC by including Regino in the Informations, but by then the latter had already left Culion. [21]

Testifying in his defense, appellant presented a different story during the trial. The defense presented no other
witness.
Appellant testified that he did not know the victims and that he had nothing to do with their deaths. He was a
native of Samar and he did not know how to read or write as he never attended school. [22] He arrived in Culion as a
fisherman for the Parabal Fishing Boat. [23] As his contract had already expired, he stayed in Culion to look for work. He
lived with Regino as the latter was his only friend in Cawa-Cawa. [24] Reginos house was about 40 meters away from the
victims house.

Several days after appellants arrival, the killings took place. Appellant, along with Regino and another man named
Benny Macabili, was asked by a police officer to help load the bodies of the victims in a banca. Shortly thereafter,
appellant was arrested and brought to the municipal hall where he was mauled by PO2 Macatangay and placed in a small
cell.[25] Regino, too, was arrested with him. While under detention, appellant told the police that it was Regino who was
responsible for the killing of the victims but the police did not believe appellant. But appellant later testified that he
implicated Regino only in retaliation upon learning that the latter pointed to him as the perpetrator. [26]Appellant was then
asked by SPO2 Gapas to sign a document so that he will be released. When appellant replied that he did not know how to
sign his name, SPO2 Gapas took appellants thumb, dipped it in ink and marked it on the document. [27] Appellant claimed
he did not resist because he was afraid of being mauled again.

Appellant further denied going to the house of Atty. Reyes or meeting Abad, the alleged interpreter. He never left
the jail from the time he was arrested except to attend the hearing before the MTC. [28] When appellant was brought to the
MTC, nobody talked to him during the hearing nor did counsel assist him. [29] He was thereafter brought by a police officer
to a hut in a mountain where he was told to go a little bit farther. He refused for fear of being shot. The police officer then
got angry and punched him in the stomach.[30]

On the basis of appellants extrajudicial confession, the RTC found him guilty of both crimes. The Court of
Appeals upheld the trial court.

Appellant submits for our resolution two issues, namely: (1) whether his guilt was proven beyond reasonable
doubt; and (2) whether the qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation was likewise proven beyond reasonable
doubt.

Appellant mainly contends that the extrajudicial confession upon which the trial court placed heavy emphasis to
find him guilty suffers from constitutional infirmity as it was extracted in violation of the due process
guidelines. Specifically, he claims that he affixed his thumbmark through violence and intimidation. He stresses that he
was not informed of his rights during the time of his detention when he was already considered a suspect as the police had
already received information of his alleged involvement in the crimes. Neither did a competent and independent counsel
assist him from the time he was detained until trial began. Assuming Atty. Reyes was indeed designated as counsel to
assist appellant for purposes of the custodial investigation, said lawyer, however, was not appellants personal choice.

Appellant likewise maintains that although the Sinumpaang Salaysay states that his rights were read to him, there
was no showing that his rights were explained to him in a way that an uneducated person like him could understand. On
the assumption that the confession is admissible, appellant asserts that the qualifying circumstance of evident
premeditation was not amply proven as the trial court merely relied on his alleged confession without presenting any other
proof that the determination to commit the crime was the result of meditation, calculation, reflection or persistent attempt.

The Solicitor General, on the other hand, contends that the constitutional guidelines on custodial investigation
were observed. Hence, appellants Sinumpaang Salaysay is admissible. Even if appellant was not informed of his
constitutional rights at the time of his alleged detention, that would not be relevant, the government counsel argues, since
custodial investigation began only when the investigators started to elicit information from him which took place at the
time he was brought to the house of Atty. Reyes.Moreover, appellant did not interpose any objection to having Atty. Reyes
as his counsel. As to the qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation, the Solicitor General submits that the same
was sufficiently proven when accused proceeded to the victims house together with Regino, armed with bladed weapons,
in order to consummate their criminal design. He further argues that appellants defense of denial and his lame excuse of
being illiterate must be rejected in the face of a valid voluntary extrajudicial confession.

The fundamental issue in this case is whether appellants extrajudicial confession is admissible in evidence to
warrant the verdict of guilt.

There is no direct evidence of appellants guilt except for the alleged confession and the corpus delicti. Upon
careful examination of the alleged confession and the testimony of the witnesses, we hold that the alleged confession is
inadmissible and must perforce be discarded.

A confession is admissible in evidence if it is satisfactorily shown to have been obtained within the limits
imposed by the 1987 Constitution.[31] Sec. 12, Art. III thereof states in part, to wit:

SEC. 12. (1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right
to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of
his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These
rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.

(2) No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation or any other means which vitiate the free will
shall be used against him. Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of
detention are prohibited.

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or Section 17 hereof shall be
inadmissible in evidence against him.

xxxx

Republic Act No. 7438,[32] approved on 15 May 1992, has reinforced the constitutional mandate protecting the
rights of persons under custodial investigation. The pertinent provisions read:

SEC. 2. Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or under Custodial Investigation; Duties of Public Officers.

a. Any person arrested, detained or under custodial investigation shall at all times be assisted by
counsel.

b. Any public officer or employee, or anyone acting under his order or his place, who arrests,
detains or investigates any person for the commission of an offense shall inform the latter, in a language
known to and understood by him, of his rights to remain silent and to have competent and independent
counsel, preferably of his own choice, who shall at all times be allowed to confer private with the person
arrested, detained or under custodial investigation. If such person cannot afford the services of his own
counsel, he must be provided by with a competent and independent counsel.

xxxx
f. As used in this Act, custodial investigation shall include the practice of issuing an invitation to a
person who is investigated in connection with an offense he is suspected to have committed, without
prejudice to the liability of the inviting officer for any violation of law.

If the extrajudicial confession satisfies these constitutional standards, it must further be tested for voluntariness,
that is, if it was given freely by the confessant without any form of coercion or inducement, [33] since, to repeat, Sec. 12(2),
Art. III of the Constitution explicitly provides:

(2) No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation or any other means which vitiate the free will
shall be used against him. Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of
detention are prohibited.

Thus, the Court has consistently held that an extrajudicial confession, to be admissible, must conform to the
following requisites: 1) the confession must be voluntary; 2) the confession must be made with the assistance of a
competent and independent counsel, preferably of the confessants choice; 3) the confession must be express; and 4) the
confession must be in writing.[34]

If all the foregoing requisites are met, the confession constitutes evidence of a high order because it is presumed that no
person of normal mind will knowingly and deliberately confess to a crime unless prompted by truth and conscience.
[35]
Otherwise, it is disregarded in accordance with the cold objectivity of the exclusionary rule. [36] The latter situation
obtains in the instant case for several reasons.

Appellant was not informed of


his constitutional rights in
custodial investigation.

A person under custodial investigation essentially has the right to remain silent and to have competent and independent
counsel preferably of his own choice and the Constitution requires that he be informed of such rights. The raison d'
etre for this requirement was amply explained in People v. Ayson[37] where this Court held, to wit:

xxxx

In Miranda, Chief Justice Warren summarized the procedural safeguards laid down for a person
in police custody, "in-custody interrogation" being regarded as the commencement of an adversary
proceeding against the suspect.

He must be warned prior to any questioning that he has the right to remain silent,
that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the
presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for
him prior to any questioning if he so desires. Opportunity to exercise those rights must be
afforded to him throughout the interrogation. After such warnings have been given, such
opportunity afforded him, the individual may knowingly and intelligently waive these
rights and agree to answer or make a statement. But unless and until such warnings and
waivers are demonstrated by the prosecution at the trial, no evidence obtained as a result of
interrogation can be used against him.

The objective is to prohibit "incommunicado interrogation of individuals in a police-dominated


atmosphere, resulting in self-incriminating statement without full warnings of constitutional rights."
The rights above specified, to repeat, exist only in "custodial interrogations," or "in-custody
interrogation of accused persons." And, as this Court has already stated, by custodial interrogation is
meant "questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or
otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way." The situation contemplated has also
been more precisely described by this Court.

x x x After a person is arrested and his custodial investigation begins[,] a


confrontation arises which at best may be termed unequal. The detainee is brought to an
army camp or police headquarters and there questioned and "cross-examined" not only by
one but as many investigators as may be necessary to break down his morale. He finds
himself in strange and unfamiliar surroundings, and every person he meets he considers
hostile to him. The investigators are well-trained and seasoned in their work. They employ
all the methods and means that experience and study have taught them to extract the truth,
or what may pass for it, out of the detainee. Most detainees are unlettered and are not aware
of their constitutional rights. And even if they were, the intimidating and coercive presence
of the officers of the law in such an atmosphere overwhelms them into silence. Section 20
of the Bill of Rights seeks to remedy this imbalance.

x x x x[38]

We note that appellant did not voluntarily surrender to the police but was invited by SPO2 Gapas to the police
station. There he was detained from 11 oclock in the morning of 22 October 1995 up to the morning of 23 October
1995 before his extrajudicial statement was allegedly taken. At this juncture, appellant should have been informed of his
constitutional rights as he was already considered a suspect, contrary to the finding of the trial court that the mandatory
constitutional guidelines only attached when the investigators started to propound questions to appellant on 23 October
1995 in the house of Atty. Reyes.[39] In People v. Dueas, Jr.,[40] we ruled, to wit:

Custodial investigation refers to the critical pre-trial stage when the investigation ceases to be a
general inquiry into an unsolved crime but has begun to focus on a particular person as a
suspect. According to PO3 Palmero, right after appellants arrest, the latter already insinuated to him that
he would confess his participation in the killing. As he testified on cross-examination:

Q On December 18, 1996, when you arrested him what did he actually told [sic] you?

A Before we put him in jail at the Baler Police Station he told us that he has [sic] to reveal
something about the death of Elvira Jacob.

Q So you already know [sic] that on December 18, 1996 that whatever Catalino Duenas will
reveal to you will give you lead in solving the investigation in connection with the death
of Elvira Jacob, isnt it?

A Yes, sir.

Q So, you still waited until December 23, 1996 for that revelation, isnt it?

A Yes, sir. Thats all, your honor.[41]

In the case at bar, SPO2 Gapas testified:


Q By the way, when you conducted the investigation in the house of Atty. Reyes in Culion, why was Jerry
Rapeza there?

A I invited Jerry Rapeza and upon my invitation he voluntarily came to me.

Q In the first place, why did you invite him?

A To ask [a] question about the crime committed in the Island of Cawa-Cawa.

xxx

Q That was the only reason why you invited him, being a transient in that place you made him a suspect?

A In the first place[,] Your Honor, he was not a suspect but 2 days after the commission of the crime a
certain person came to me and said that Jerry Rapeza requested that he will give his confession
but in front of a lawyer, so he said: Puntahan nating [sic] ang isang taong nagngangalang Jerry
Rapeza.

xxx

Q And based on your experienced [sic], would it not be quite strange that a person who committed a
crime would voluntarily give confession because ordinarily a criminals [sic] will find a way to
escape?

A Yes, sir. [B]ut at that time the person who assisted me strongly believed that Jerry Rapeza would
confess so I did not make any tanong-tanong in order to solve that crime so I proceeded to that
place and talked to the suspect.

Q So you already considered Jerry Rapeza as a suspect?

A When that person informed me that Jerry Rapeza would like to confess.

x x x x [Emphasis ours.][42]

Already being held as a suspect as early as 21 October 1995, accused should have been informed of his constitutional
rights. SPO2 Gapas admitted that appellant was not so informed, thus:

Q What was he doing?

A He was fishing, sir.

Q And you told him that youre going to arrest him?

A He did not refuse to go with me, sir.


xxxx

Q From the Island you brought him to the station?

A Yes, sir.

Q And there you arrived at the station at around 11:00 oclock in the morning?

A Yes, sir.

Q And then you started to conduct the investigation as Investigator of the Police Station?

A Yes, sir.

xxxx

Q And what was the[,] result of your investigation?

A According to him he would confess and he would give his confession in the presence of a lawyer
so I talked to Kgd. Arnel Alcantara.

x x x x[43]

Q On October 22, 1995[,] when you brought him to the Police Station, did you start the investigation at
that time?

A Not yet sir, I only talked to him.

Q When did you start the investigation?

A I started the investigation when Jerry Rapeza was in front of his lawyer.

Q When was that?

A October 23, 1995[,] noon time, sir.

Q From the Island you just talked to him?

A Yes, sir.

Q You did not consider that as part of the investigation?

A Yes sir, my purpose at that time was to certain (sic) the suspect of the said crime.

xxxx

Q Please answer my question[,] Mr. Witness, on October 22, 1995, did you inform him of his
constitutional rights?

A No sir, I did not.

x x x x(Emphasis ours.)[44]

Even supposing that the custodial investigation started only on 23 October 1995, a review of the records reveals that the
taking of appellants confession was flawed nonetheless.

It is stated in the alleged confession that prior to questioning SPO2 Gapas had informed appellant in Tagalog of
his right to remain silent, that any statement he made could be used in evidence for or against him, that he has a right to
counsel of his own choice, and that if he cannot afford the services of one, the police shall provide one for him.
[45]
However, there is no showing that appellant had actually understood his rights. He was not even informed that he may
waive such rights only in writing and in the presence of counsel.

In order to comply with the constitutional mandates, there should likewise be meaningful communication to and
understanding of his rights by the appellant, as opposed to a routine, peremptory and meaningless recital thereof. [46] Since
comprehension is the objective, the degree of explanation required will necessarily depend on the education, intelligence,
and other relevant personal circumstances of the person undergoing investigation. [47]

In this case, it was established that at the time of the investigation appellant was illiterate and was not well versed
in Tagalog.[48] This fact should engender a higher degree of scrutiny in determining whether he understood his rights as
allegedly communicated to him, as well as the contents of his alleged confession.

The prosecution underscores the presence of an interpreter in the person of Abad to buttress its claim that
appellant was informed of his rights in the dialect known to him.However, the presence of an interpreter during the
interrogation was not sufficiently established. Although the confession bears the signature of Abad, it is uncertain whether
he was indeed present to assist appellant in making the alleged confession.

For one thing, SPO2 Cuizon did not mention Abad as one of the persons present during the interrogation. He
testified:

Q Who were present during that investigation?


A Vice Mayor Marasigan and the two other SB members.

Q Can you identify who are these two SB members?


A SB Mabiran and SB Alcantara.

Q Who else?
A No more, sir.

Q So, there were two SB members, Vice Mayor Atty. Reyes, Gapas and you?
A Yes, sir.

x x x x[49]

For another, the prosecution did not present Abad as witness. Abad would have been in the best position to prove that he
indeed made the translation from Tagalog to Waray for appellant to understand what was going on. This significant
circumstance lends credence to appellants claim that he had never met Abad.

According to the appellate court, appellant admitted in his Brief that the confession was made in the presence of an
interpreter. The passage in appellants Brief on which the admission imputed to him was based reads, thus:

The extra-judicial confession was allegedly made in Tagalog when accused-appellant is


admittedly not well versed in said language. Even if the confession was made in the presence of an
interpreter, there is no showing that the rights of a person under investigation were effectively explained
and/or interpreted to accused-appellant. The interpreter was not even presented in Court to prove that said
rights were translated in a language understood by accused-appellant. [50]

Clearly, the imputation is erroneous. Throughout his Brief, appellant disputes the allegation that he ever met the
interpreter much less made the confession with the latters assistance. The evident import of the passage is that on the
assumption that there was an interpreter present still there was no indication that the rights of a person under investigation
were effectively imparted to appellant, as the interpreter could not translate that which was not even said in the course of
the proceeding.

Moreover, SPO2 Gapas testified on direct examination:


Q As a way of refreshing your mind[,] Mr. Witness, can you take a look at this statement [ referring to
appellants Sinumpaang Salaysay] those appearing on page 1 of the same up to the word Opo sir,
kindly take a look at this, do you remember that you were the one who profounded (sic) this (sic)
questions?
A Yes, sir, I was the one who profounded [sic] that [sic] questions.

Q And you are very definite that the answer is in [the] affirmative, in your question and answer?
A I am not very sure, sir.

Q You are not very sure because he has a lawyer?


A Yes, sir.

x x x x[51]

SPO2 Gapas could not say for certain if appellant had indeed understood his rights precisely because he did not
explain them to appellant. In any event, SPO2 Gapas would be incompetent to testify thereon because appellants alleged
confession was made through an interpreter as he did not understand Tagalog. SPO2 Gapas testimony as regards the
contents of appellants confession would in fact be hearsay. In U.S. v. Chu Chio,[52] this Court rendered inadmissible the
extrajudicial confession of the accused therein because it was not made immediately to the officer who testified, but
through an interpreter. Thus, the officer as witness on the stand did not swear of his own knowledge as to what the
accused had said. Similarly in this case, SPO2 Gapass testimony as to what was translated to appellant and the latters
responses thereto were not of his personal knowledge.Therefore, without the testimony of Abad, it cannot be said with
certainty that appellant was informed of his rights and that he understood them.

Not having been properly informed of his rights prior to questioning and not having waived them either, the
alleged confession of appellant is inadmissible.

Confession was not made with


the assistance of competent and
independent counsel of appellants
choice.

Appellant denies that he was ever assisted by a lawyer from the moment he was arrested until before he was
arraigned. On the other hand, the prosecution admits that appellant was provided with counsel only when he was
questioned at the house of Atty. Reyes to which appellant was allegedly taken from the police station.

SPO2 Gapas testified that he talked to appellant when they got to the police station at 11 oclock in the morning
of 22 October 1995 and the result of their talk was that appellant would give his confession in the presence of a
lawyer. Appellant was then held in the police station overnight before he was allegedly taken to the house of Atty. Reyes.

The constitutional requirement obviously had not been observed. Settled is the rule that the moment a police
officer tries to elicit admissions or confessions or even plain information from a suspect, the latter should, at that juncture,
be assisted by counsel, unless he waives this right in writing and in the presence of counsel. [53] Appellant did not make any
such waiver.

Assuming that Atty. Reyes did assist appellant, still there would be grave doubts as to his competence and
independence as appellants counsel for purposes of the custodial investigation. The meaning of competent counsel and the
standards therefor were explained in People v. Deniega[54] as follows:

The lawyer called to be present during such investigations should be as far as reasonably
possible, the choice of the individual undergoing questioning. If the lawyer were one furnished in the
accuseds behalf, it is important that he should be competent and independent, i.e., that he is willing to
fully safeguard the constitutional rights of the accused, as distinguished from one who would be
merely be giving a routine, peremptory and meaningless recital of the individuals constitutional
rights. In People v. Basay, this Court stressed that an accuseds right to be informed of the right to remain
silent and to counsel contemplates the transmission of meaningful information rather than just the
ceremonial and perfunctory recitation of an abstract constitutional principle.

Ideally therefore, a lawyer engaged for an individual facing custodial investigation (if the latter
could not afford one) should be engaged by the accused (himself), or by the latters relative or person
authorized by him to engage an attorney or by the court, upon proper petition of the accused or person
authorized by the accused to file such petition. Lawyers engaged by the police, whatever testimonials
are given as proof of their probity and supposed independence, are generally suspect, as in many
areas, the relationship between lawyers and law enforcement authorities can be symbiotic.

x x x The competent or independent lawyer so engaged should be present from the beginning to
end, i.e., at all stages of the interview, counseling or advising caution reasonably at every turn of the
investigation, and stopping the interrogation once in a while either to give advice to the accused that
he may either continue, choose to remain silent or terminate the interview.

x x x x (Emphasis supplied)[55]

The standards of competent counsel were not met in this case given the deficiencies of the evidence for the
prosecution. Although Atty. Reyes signed the confession as appellants counsel and he himself notarized the statement,
there is no evidence on how he assisted appellant. The confession itself and the testimonies of SPO2 Gapas and
SPO2 Cuizon bear no indication that Atty. Reyes had explained to appellant his constitutional rights. Atty. Reyes was not
even presented in court to testify thereon whether on direct examination or on rebuttal. It appears that his participation in
the proceeding was confined to the notarization of appellants confession. Such participation is not the kind of legal
assistance that should be accorded to appellant in legal contemplation.
Furthermore, Atty. Reyes was not appellants counsel of choice but was picked out by the police officers allegedly
through the barangay officials. Appellants failure to interpose any objection to having Atty. Reyes as his counsel cannot be
taken as consent under the prevailing circumstances. As discussed earlier, appellant was not properly informed of his
rights, including the right to a counsel preferably of his own choice. SPO2 Gapas testified thus:

Q Now Mr. Witness, you will agree with me that the accused[,] when he allegedly gave his voluntary
confession[,] he [sic] did not read the document when he made his thumbmark?

A He did not because according to him he is illiterate.

Q Illiterate because he only placed his thumbmark and you have all the freedom to manipulate him
and in fact he doesnt know that he is entitled to have a lawyer of his own choice?

A He doesnt know.

x x x x[56]

Strikingly, while it was made to appear in the alleged confession that appellant was informed of his right to a
counsel of his own choice and that if he cannot afford the services of one, the police shall provide him with one,
it was overlooked that it was not similarly made to appear in the same statement that appellant was advised that he had the
option to reject the counsel provided for him by the police authorities. [57]

Set against the clear provisions of the Constitution and the elucidations thereof in jurisprudence, the foregoing
lapses on the part of the police authorities preclude the admissibility of appellants alleged confession.

Confession is not voluntary.


It is settled that a confession is presumed voluntary until the contrary is proved and the confessant bears the
burden of proving the contrary.[58] The trial court found that appellants bare denials failed to overcome this
presumption. However, several factors constrain us to hold that the confession was not given under conditions that
conduce to its admissibility.

First, the confession contains facts and details which appear to have been supplied by the investigators
themselves.

The voluntariness of a confession may be inferred from its language such that if, upon its face, the confession
exhibits no suspicious circumstances tending to cast doubt upon its integrity, it being replete with detailswhich could only
be supplied by the accusedreflecting spontaneity and coherence, it may be considered voluntary. [59] The trial court applied
this rule but without basis. On closer examination of the evidence, the key details in the alleged confession were provided
not by appellant but by the police officers themselves.
The prosecution failed to establish the actual date of the killings. This is disturbing, to say the least.

The trial court found that the killings were reported to the police at four oclock in the afternoon of 21 October
1995. That when the investigating team arrived at the scene of the crime, the bodies of the victims were already rank
and decomposing,[60] and that two days after the crimes were committed, SPO2 Gapas had set out to look for appellant
following information from a certain Mr. Dela Cruz that appellant would like to confess to the crimes.

Indeed, SPO2 Gapas testified that he received a report of the killings on 21 October 1995 and sent a team to
investigate the incident. On direct examination, he declared that two days after the commission of the crime, he
received information that appellant would give his confession in front of a lawyer. [61] However, on cross-examination,
he stated that it was on the following day or on 22 October 1995 when he found appellant and invited him to the police
station and that appellants custodial investigation had taken place on 23 October 1995.
Likewise, SPO2 Cuizons testimony is far from enlightening. He testified, thus:

xxxx

Q Now, on October 24, 1995, where were you?


A I was in Culion Police Station.
Q While you were there in the Police Station, what happened?
A A woman reported to us regarding this incident.[62]

xxxx

Q When was the investigation conducted?


A October 24, 1995.

Q On the same day that you discover [sic] the cadavers?


A The investigation was conducted on October 25, 1995.

x x x x[63]

The actual date of the commission of the crimes is material in assessing the credibility of the prosecution witnesses and
of the admissibility of the alleged confession.

While the prosecution insists through the recitals of the Informations and the testimony of its witnesses that the
killings took place on 21 October 1995, the totality of its evidence shows otherwise, i.e. the killings took place
earlier. When the bodies were discovered on 21 October 1995, they were already decomposing, a factor that indicates
that the victims had been dead long before then. How then could appellant have killed the victims at 4 oclock in the
afternoon of 21 October 1995 as expressly stated in the confession, when that was the same date and time when the
bodies were discovered? Had appellant voluntarily confessed and had he really been the killer, he would have given
the correct date and time when he committed the horrid acts. The only sensible way to sort out the puzzle is to
conclude that the police officers themselves supplied 21 October 1995 and four oclock in the afternoon as the date and
time of the killings in appellants statement, a barefaced lie on which the prosecution based its allegations in the
Informations and which SPO2 Gapas repeated on the witness stand.

Moreover, the police officers went to the house of the victims on 21 October 1995 where they found the
bodies. The autopsy on the victimss bodies was done the following day or on 22 October 1995 while appellants statement
was allegedly taken on 23 October 1995. By then, the investigators knew how and where the victims were killed,
circumstances that could have enabled them to fill up the details of the crime in the extrajudicial confession. [64]

Curiously, the autopsy report on Ganzons body shows that he sustained six (6) stab wounds, four (4) on the
right side of his body and two (2) on the left side. Yet, it is stated in appellants extrajudicial confession that he stabbed
Ganzon on his left side. Quite oddly, SPO2 Cuizon testified that Ganzon was wounded on the left arm only. His full
account on this aspect runs, thus:

Q Where did you go?


A I immediately proceeded to the house of the victim.

Q What did you find out when you went to the house of the victim?

A I have seen blood on the ground floor of the house.

xxxx

Q When you opened the house[,] you are [sic] with Macatangay?

A Yes, sir[.] I was with POII Macatangay but he was a little bit far from the victim and I was the one who
opened the door and went upstairs.

Q What did you find out inside the house?

A I have seen a woman lying down with her hands nakadipa on the ground and blooded (sic).

xxxx

Q Where else did you go when you were already inside the house?

A I went to the other bedroom.

Q And what did you find out?

A An old man with his face facing downward.

Q The woman already dead was in the sala?

A Yes, sir.

x x x x[65]

Q Do you know in what bedroom (sic) of her body she was wounded?

A The neck was slashed and both arms and both foot (sic) were wounded.
Q How about the man?

A Left arm, sir.

Q Where else?

A No more, sir.

x x x x[66] (Emphasis ours.)

The prosecutions evidence likewise fails to establish when the custodial investigation had taken place and for
how long appellant had been in detention. Strangely, the confession is undated and it cannot be ascertained from it
when appellant made the confession or affixed his thumbmark thereon. What emerges only is the bare fact that it was
notarized by Atty. Reyes on 23 October 1995. One can only speculate as to the reason behind what seems to be a lack
of forthrightness on the part of the police officers.

These unexplained inconsistencies cast doubt on the integrity and voluntariness of appellants alleged confession.

Second, again appellant was not assisted by counsel.

To reiterate, the purpose of providing counsel to a person under custodial investigation is to curb the police-state
practice of extracting a confession that leads appellant to make self-incriminating statements. [67] And in the event the
accused desires to give a confession, it is the duty of his counsel to ensure that the accused understands the legal import of
his act and that it is a product of his own free choice.

It bears repeating that appellant was held in the police station overnight before he was allegedly taken to the
house of Atty. Reyes. He was not informed of his rights and there is no evidence that he was assisted by counsel. Thus,
the possibility of appellant having been subjected to trickery and intimidation at the hands of the police authorities, as
he claims, cannot be entirely discounted.

Confession was not sufficiently


corroborated.

Courts are slow to accept extrajudicial confessions when they are subsequently disputed unless they are
corroborated.[68] There must be such corroboration so that when considered in connection with the confession, it will
show the guilt of accused beyond a reasonable doubt.[69]

As a general rule, a confession must be corroborated by those to whom the witness who testified thereto refers
as having been present at the time the confession was made [70] or by any other evidence.[71]

The inconsistencies in the testimonies of the police officers as well as any lingering doubt as to the credibility of
appellants statement could have been laid to rest by the testimonies of Atty. Reyes, of Abad, and of those allegedly present
during the custodial investigation. However, they were not presented in court.

Abads testimony was likewise crucial in proving that appellant had understood every part of his alleged
confession. Confessions made in a language or dialect not known to the confessant must also be corroborated by
independent evidence.[72] As appellant is unschooled and was not familiar with the Tagalog dialect, his confession which
was in Tagalog necessarily had to be read and translated to Waray allegedly by Abad. This Court has held that such a
multiple process of reading and translating the questions and translating and typing the answers and reading and
translating again the said answers is naturally pregnant with possibilities of human, if unintentional, inadequacies and
incompleteness which render the said confession unsafe as basis of conviction for a capital offense, unless sufficiently
corroborated.[73] A confession may be admissible if it is shown to have been read and translated to the accused by the
person taking down the statement and that the accused fully understood every part of it. [74] To repeat, we cannot accept
SPO2 Gapas testimony as regards the contents of appellants alleged confession for being hearsay evidence thereon. Since
appellant allegedly made the confession to SPO2 Gapas through Abad, Abads testimony is thus indispensable in order to
make the confession admissible.

Consequently, the non-production of these material witnesses raises a doubt which must be resolved in favor of
appellant[75] and the confession should be disregarded as evidence. [76] Verily, we are left with the unconvincing testimony
of two police officers against whose abuse of authority the Constitution protects the appellant. As their respective
testimonies are sated with inconsistencies and hearsay evidence, we find the same insufficient bases to hold appellants
extrajudicial confession admissible against him.

The only other prosecution evidence under consideration are the autopsy reports with which the alleged
confession supposedly dovetails, as the trial court concluded.However, a perusal of the alleged confession would reveal
that does not fit the details in the autopsy report. As discussed earlier, Ganzon was found to have sustained six (6) stab
wounds on different parts of his body while appellant allegedly admitted stabbing him on his left side only. The
confession does not even state how many times appellant stabbed the old man. SPO2 Cuizon testified that he saw only one
stab wound on Ganzons body and it was on the latters left arm. Thus, it is not with the autopsy reports that the alleged
confession dovetails but rather with what the police authorities would like us to believe as the truth.

Nevertheless, since the confession is inadmissible, it becomes irrelevant whether it dovetails with the autopsy reports. The
corroboration that medico-legal findings lend to an extrajudicial confession becomes relevant only when the latter is
considered admissible. In People v. De la Cruz,[77] we held, to wit:

It is significant that, with the exception of appellants putative extrajudicial confession, no other
evidence of his alleged guilt has been presented by the People. The proposition that the medical findings
jibe with the narration of appellant as to how he allegedly committed the crimes falls into the fatal error of
figuratively putting the horse before the cart. Precisely, the validity and admissibility of the supposed
extrajudicial confession are in question and the contents thereof are denied and of serious dubiety, hence
the same cannot be used as the basis for such a finding. Otherwise, it would assume that which has still to
be proved, a situation of petitio principii or circulo en probando.[78]

No motive could be ascribed

to appellant.

For the purpose of meeting the requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt, motive is essential for conviction
when there is doubt as to the identity of the perpetrator. [79] In view of the inadmissibility of the confession, there is no
other evidence that directly points to appellant as the culprit. However, the prosecution failed to show any motive on
appellants part to commit the felonies. Appellant consistently denied having known the victims. Although the confession
states that Regino allegedly sought appellants help in killing the victims as Regino was his nephew, the fact of their
relationship was denied by appellant and was never established by the prosecution. In People v. Aguilar,[80] we held that
the absence of apparent motive to commit the offense charged would, upon principles of logic, create a presumption of the
innocence of the accused, since, in terms of logic, an action without a motive would be an effect without a cause. [81]
Furthermore, appellants conduct after the killings was not that of a guilty person. He never attempted to flee even
if he knew that the police authorities were already investigating the incident as he was summoned to help load the bodies
in a banca. Being a transient in the place, he could have easily disappeared and left the island but he remained there to
continue looking for work.

Taken together, these circumstances generate serious doubts that must be resolved in appellants favor, congruently with
the constitutional presumption of innocence.

In view of the inadmissibility of appellants confession, which is the sole evidence of the prosecution against him,
the resolution of the issue of whether the qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation had attended the commission
of the crimes has become academic. Indeed, there exists no other prosecution evidence on which appellants guilt beyond
reasonable doubt may be based.

In conclusion, the overriding consideration in criminal cases is not whether appellant is completely innocent, but
rather whether the quantum of evidence necessary to prove his guilt was sufficiently met. With the exclusion of appellants
alleged confession, we are left with no other recourse but to acquit him of the offenses charged for the constitutional right
to be presumed innocent until proven guilty can be overcome only by proof beyond reasonable doubt. In fact, unless the
prosecution discharges the burden of proving the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, the latter need not even
offer evidence in his behalf.[82]

WHEREFORE, the Decisions of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 52, Palawan, Puerto Princesa City in Criminal
Case Nos. 13064 and 13202 and the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00642 are REVERSED and SET
ASIDE. Appellant Jerry Rapeza y Francisco is hereby ACQUITTED for insufficiency of evidence leading to reasonable
doubt. The Director of the Bureau of Prisons is ordered to cause the immediate release of appellant from confinement,
unless he is being held for some other lawful cause, and to report to this Court compliance herewith within five (5) days
from receipt hereof.

SO ORDERED.
17. People vs. Casimiro, GR No. 146277, 20 June 2002

DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:

This is an appeal from the decision, [1] dated October 17, 2000, of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, Baguio City,
finding accused-appellant Albert Casimiro guilty of violating Republic Act No. 6425, 4, as amended, and sentencing him
to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine of P500,000.00 and the costs.
The information against accused-appellant alleged:

That on or about the 17th day of August 1999, in the City of Baguio, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously sell and/or deliver to
SPO2 DOROTHEO SUPA of the 14th Regional Field Office, Narcotics Unit, posing as buyer, about nine hundred fifty
(950) grams of marijuana dried leaves in brick form, without any authority of law to do so and knowing fully well that the
article is a prohibited drug, in violation of the aforecited provision of law. [2]

Upon arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty to the crime charged, whereupon the trial of the case
followed.[3]
Three (3) witnesses testified for the prosecution: PO2 Dorotheo Supa, [4] Alma Margarita D. Villaseor, and PO3 Juan
Piggangay, Jr. Their testimonies established the following:
On August 16, 1999, a civilian informer, named Rose, walked into the office of Police Chief Inspector Benson
Dagiw-a Leleng at the 14th Regional Narcotics Office, DPS Compound in Baguio City. She informed Chief Inspector
Leleng and PO3 Juan Piggangay that a certain Albert Casimiro, accused-appellant herein, was engaged in the distribution
or sale of marijuana. As proof, Rose told the police officers to wait and accused-appellant would call them up on that
day. Accused-appellant, however, did not call up. Nonetheless, Police Chief Inspector Leleng formed a buy-bust team
composed of P/Insp. Edgar Afalla as team leader, PO2 Dorotheo Supa as poseur-buyer, and SPO2 Marquez Madlon and
PO3 Juan Piggangay, Jr. as back-up men.[5]
The following day, August 17, 1999, Rose again told the Narcotics agents to wait for a call from accused-
appellant. True enough, at around 4:00 p.m., the telephone rang. When PO2 Supa answered the telephone, he found that it
was accused-appellant who was calling. Rose introduced on the telephone PO2 Supa to accused-appellant as someone
who wanted to buy marijuana. Accused-appellant allegedly agreed to meet PO2 Supa at around 1:00 p.m. the following
day outside Anthonys Wine and Grocery at the YMCA Building, Post Office Loop, Upper Session Road. PO2 Supa said
he wanted to buy one kilogram of marijuana and accused-appellant said it would cost P1,500.00. Accused-appellant said
he would wear white pants and a black leather jacket to their meeting the following day. [6]
On August 18, 1999, at around 1:00 p.m., PO2 Supa and Rose went to the grocery store. SPO2 Madlon and PO3
Piggangay waited secretly inside the Post Office building, around 12 meters across the street, where they could see PO2
Supa and Rose. At around 1:30 p.m., accused-appellant arrived. Rose greeted him, O Bert, heto na yung sinasabi ko sa
iyong buyer. Bahala na kayong mag-usap. Aalis na ako. (Bert, here is the buyer I told you about. Ill leave you two alone
to talk.) Rose then left the two men alone.[7]
PO2 Supa said he had P1,500.00 with him and asked for the marijuana. Accused-appellant gave the poseur-buyer a
paper bag, which contained an object wrapped in plastic and newspaper. After determining from its appearance and smell
that the object inside was marijuana, PO2 Supa gave a signal for the back-up team to make an arrest by combing his
hair. He testified that he no longer gave the marked money to accused-appellant because he placed the latter under arrest,
reciting to him his rights, while the back-up team ran from across the street. [8]
After arresting accused-appellant, the policemen took him to the 14th Narcom Office, where PO2 Supa, SPO2
Madlon, and PO3 Piggangay wrote their initials on the brick of marijuana before giving it to the evidence custodian. The
policemen prepared a booking sheet and arrest report, affidavits, and a request for the laboratory examination of the
confiscated marijuana.[9] They also prepared a receipt of property seized, dated August 18, 1999, (Exh. L) which states:

18 August 1999
RECEIPT OF PROPERTY SEIZED

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

THIS IS TO CERTIFY that I, SPO2 Marquez K. Madlon PNP, the undersigned seizing Officer have seized and taken
possession of the property described hereunder from the

a. Suspect: ALBERT CASIMIRO Y SERILLO, 24 yrs.-old, single, waiter, native of Mandaluyong, Metro
Manila and resident of #2 Happy Homes, Old Lucban, Baguio City.
b. Facts of the case: Suspect was arrested by elements of this office on or about 181330H August 1999, in front
of Anthonys Grocery along the vicinity of Post Office Loop, Baguio City.
c. Nature of the Case: Violation of Section 4 Art. II of RA 6425 as amended by RA 7659.
EXHIBIT QUANTITY/ DESCRIPTION REMARKS
A One (1) Bricks Marijuana Dried Leaves wrapped in a Delivered by the
newspaper page placed inside a black plastic bag with suspect to a poseur
markings Prime wear shirt haus place[d] inside a dark gray buyer.
paper bag with markings Spencer & SM City

WITNESSES:
(signed) (signed)
1. PO3 Juan A. Piggangay ALBERT CASIMIRO Y CERILLO
PNP (Suspect/ Owner)

(signed) (signed)
2. PO2 Dorotheo T. Supa SPO2 Marquez K. Madlon
PNP PNP (Seizing Officer)

Accused-appellant signed the receipt without the assistance of counsel. [10] The dried leaves were then examined by
the PNP Crime Laboratory Service, Cordillera Administrative Region. [11] Police officer and forensic chemist Alma
Margarita Villaseor found the specimen to weigh 904.6 grams. The chemistry report dated August 20, 1999, signed by
Villaseor, stated that the leaves were positive for marijuana. [12]
The defense then presented evidence showing the following: Accused-appellant, then 25 years old, residing at No. 1
Old Lucban Street, Happy Homes, Baguio City, [13] said that at around 8:00 a.m. of August 16, 1999, he took the child of
his neighbor to the Christian Mission Center School near the Baguio General Hospital. He then went home and stayed
there during the day, as he usually did, except when he needed to fetch the boy from school. At around 5:00 or 5:30 p.m.,
he reported for work at the Perutz Bar [14] on Magsaysay Avenue, where he worked as a waiter, until 3:00 a.m. of the next
day.[15]
On August 17, 1999, accused-appellant said he received a call from Rose, an acquaintance who worked as a guest
relations officer at a club on Magsaysay Avenue. Rose offered to help him find a better job and asked that they meet at
Anthonys Wine and Grocery. In the past, Rose had offered to sell him shabu or marijuana, but he refused to buy from her
as he had no money.[16] At around 1:00 or 2:00 p.m., accused-appellant met Rose in front of the grocery store. While she
talked to him about a job opening in a club in Dagupan City, PO3 Piggangay grabbed his hands from behind even as he
shouted I-handcuff, i-handcuff! (Handcuff him, handcuff him!) Accused-appellant was then taken to the Regional
Narcotics Office by the policemen, accompanied by Rose. [17]
At the Narcotics Office, PO3 Piggangay confronted accused-appellant about the marijuana allegedly seized from
him. Accused-appellant said he denied having carried the bag of marijuana which he had seen Rose carrying earlier.
[18]
After taking pictures of him pointing at the bag, the policemen threatened to shoot him in a secluded place if he did not
admit owning the marijuana. After failing to make him admit ownership of the marijuana, PO3 Piggangay offered to
release accused-appellant if he gave them money. When accused-appellant replied that he had no money, PO3 Piggangay
said, If you have no money, then we will work on your papers so that you will go to Muntinlupa. The policemen then took
accused-appellant to a hospital for a physical examination and afterwards asked him to sign a receipt of property, a
booking sheet, and an arrest report without explaining their contents or allowing him to read them. [19]
On October 17, 2000, the trial court rendered a decision finding accused-appellant guilty of the crime charged. The
dispositive portion of its decision states:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused Albert Casimiro guilty beyond doubt of Violation of Section 4 of Article II of
Republic Act 6425 as amended by Sections 13 and 17 of RA 7659 (Sale or delivery of 904.6 grams of marijuana brick) as
charged in the Information and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay a Fine
of P500,000.00 without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency and to pay the costs.

The marijuana brick weighing 904.6 grams (Exhs. J to J-4) being the subject of the crime and a prohibited drug is hereby
declared confiscated and forfeited in favor of the State to be destroyed immediately in accordance with law.

The accused Albert Casimiro, being a detention prisoner, is entitled to be credited in the service of his sentence 4/5 of his
preventive imprisonment in accordance with the provisions of Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code.

SO ORDERED.[20]

Hence, this appeal. Accused-appellant contends that the evidence against him is insufficient to prove his guilt beyond
reasonable doubt.[21]
We find the appeal meritorious. Although the trial courts evaluation of the credibility of witnesses and their
testimonies is entitled to great respect and will not be disturbed on appeal, the rule does not apply where it is shown that
any fact of weight and substance has been overlooked, misapprehended, or misapplied by the trial court. [22] In this case,
several such circumstances stand out as having been overlooked or misapprehended by the lower court which entitle
accused-appellant to an acquittal.
First. With respect to the receipt of property seized from accused-appellant, the lower court declared:

The fact that there was a receipt of property seized issued by the police which was signed by the accused does not affect
the liability of the accused. The receipt of property seized was issued by the police in accordance with their standard
operating procedure in a buy bust operation to show what property was seized. The receipt should not be treated as an
admission or confession.[23]

Indeed, the receipt (Exh. L) could not be considered evidence against accused-appellant because it was signed by him
without the assistance of counsel.[24] Art. III, 12(1) of the Constitution provides:

Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain
silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice.If the person cannot afford the
services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of
counsel.

The receipt states that a brick of dried marijuana leaves was delivered by the suspect to a poseur buyer and signed by
accused-appellant Albert Casimiro as suspect/ owner. In effect, accused-appellant admitted that he delivered a prohibited
drug to another, which is an offense under the law. Having been made without the assistance of counsel, it cannot be
accepted as proof that marijuana was seized from him. It is inadmissible in evidence.[25]
In People v. Obrero,[26] this Court held that an uncounseled statement is presumed by the Constitution to be
psychologically coerced. Swept into an unfamiliar environment and surrounded by intimidating figures typical of the
atmosphere of a police interrogation, the suspect needs the guiding hand of counsel.
PO2 Supa testified that he informed accused-appellant of his Miranda rights while he was being arrested outside the
grocery:
Q: What happened after you brought out your comb and started combing your hair?
A: Sir, my two companions went to our place and effected the arrest of the suspect.
Q: What else happened after the two members of the team rushed to your place?
A: We apprised the suspect of his constitutional rights and brought him to our Narcotics office.
Q: How did you apprise the suspect of his rights as you said?
A: Sir, we informed him of his constitutional rights by saying, You are under arrest for violation of 6425. You have the
right to remain silent. You have the rights to call for a lawyer of your own choice. Anything you say may be used
as evidence in favor or against you. And we brought him to the office, sir.
Q: What happened after that?
A: Sir, we investigated him and the suspect identified himself as Albert Casimiro. [27]
The warning was incomplete. It did not include a statement that, if accused-appellant could not afford counsel, one
would be assigned to him. The warning was perfunctory, made without any effort to find out if he understood it. It was
merely ceremonial and inadequate in transmitting meaningful information to the suspect. [28] We cannot say that, in signing
the receipt without a lawyer, accused-appellant acted willingly, intelligently, and freely. What is more, the police
investigators did not pause long enough and wait for accused-appellant to say whether he was willing to answer their
questions even without the assistance of counsel or whether he was waiving his right to remain silent at all.
Second. Nor is there other credible evidence against accused-appellant. As he points out, he could not have been so
careless as to call the telephone number of the 14th Regional Narcotics Office and offer marijuana to the policemen there.
Nor can we believe that when accused-appellant finally showed up at the appointed place, Rose could simply introduce
PO2 Supa as the one who wanted to buy marijuana as if the latter were buying something not prohibited or illegal. While
drugs may indeed be sold to police officers, [29] these transactions are usually done face-to face. It is improbable that a drug
dealer would discuss the details of an illegal sale over the telephone with someone he has never seen before.
Third. The prosecution failed to establish the identity of the prohibited drug which constitutes the corpus delicti of
the offense, an essential requirement in a drug-related case. [30]
In People v. Mapa,[31] accused-appellant was granted an acquittal after the prosecution failed to clarify whether the
specimen submitted to the NBI for laboratory examination was the same one allegedly taken from the accused. In People
v. Dismuke,[32] this Court ruled that the failure to prove that the specimen of marijuana examined by the forensic chemist
was that seized from the accused was fatal to the prosecutions case. In People v. Laxa,[33] the policemen composing the
buy-bust team failed to mark the confiscated marijuana immediately after the alleged apprehension of accused-appellant.
One policeman admitted that he marked the seized items only after seeing them for the first time in the police
headquarters. It was held:

This deviation from the standard procedure in anti-narcotics operations produces doubts as to the origins of the
marijuana. Were the bags which the policemen allegedly recovered from the scene of the buy-bust operation the same
ones which PO2 Espadera marked in the police headquarters? This question gives rise only to surmises and speculations,
and cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of accused-appellant.

In this case, the prosecution failed to prove the crucial first link in the chain of custody. The prosecution witnesses
PO2 Supa, SPO2 Madlon, and PO3 Piggangay admitted they did not write their initials on the brick of marijuana
immediately after allegedly seizing it from accused-appellant outside the grocery store but only did so in their
headquarters.[34] The narcotics field test, which initially identified the seized item as marijuana, was likewise not
conducted at the scene of the crime, but only at the narcotics office. [35] There is thus reasonable doubt as to whether the
item allegedly seized from accused-appellant is the same brick of marijuana marked by the policemen in their
headquarters and given by them to the crime laboratory for examination.
According to PO3 Piggangay, the bag that he saw accused-appellant give PO2 Supa was colored gray or blue, the
same color as that of the bag sent to the PNP Crime Laboratory Service for laboratory examination.[36] PO2 Supa stated,
however, that the bag of marijuana which accused-appellant was carrying in the grocery was colored brown. [37] The
discrepancy in the testimony of these two police officers casts additional doubt on the identity of the prohibited drug
which constitutes the corpus delicti.
Indeed, there is failure in this case to observe standard operating procedure for a buy-bust operation. The
governments drive against illegal drugs deserves everybodys support. But it is precisely when the governments purposes
are beneficent that we should be most on our guard to protect these rights. As Justice Brandeis warned long ago, the
greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.
[38]
Our desire to stamp out criminality cannot be achieved at the expense of constitutional rights. For these reasons, we
cannot uphold the conviction of accused-appellant.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, Baguio City is REVERSED and accused-
appellant Albert Casimiro is ACQUITTED on the ground of reasonable doubt.Consequently, he is ordered forthwith
released from custody, unless he is being lawfully held for another crime. The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is
hereby ordered to report to this Court the action taken hereon within five (5) days from receipt hereof.
SO ORDERED.
18. People vs. Lauga, GR No. 186228, 15 March 2010

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

Before Us for final review is the trial courts conviction of the appellant for the rape of his thirteen-year old
daughter.

Consistent with the ruling of this Court in People v. Cabalquinto,[1] the real name and the personal circumstances
of the victim, and any other information tending to establish or compromise her identity, including those of her immediate
family or household members, are not disclosed in this decision.

The Facts

In an Information dated 21 September 2000,[2] the appellant was accused of the crime of QUALIFIED RAPE
allegedly committed as follows:

That on or about the 15th day of March 2000, in the evening, at Barangay xxx, municipality of
xxx, province of Bukidnon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-
named accused, being the father of AAA with lewd design, with the use of force and intimidation, did
then and there, willfully, unlawfully and criminally have carnal knowledge with his own daughter AAA, a
13 year[s]old minor against her will.[3]

On 12 October 2000, appellant entered a plea of not guilty. [4] During the pre-trial conference, the prosecution and
the defense stipulated and admitted: (a) the correctness of the findings indicated in the medical certificate of the physician
who examined AAA; (b) that AAA was only thirteen (13) years old when the alleged offense was committed; and (c) that
AAA is the daughter of the appellant. [5] On trial, three (3) witnesses testified for the prosecution, namely: victim AAA;
[6]
her brother BBB;[7] and one Moises Boy Banting,[8] a bantay bayan in the barangay. Their testimonies revealed the
following:

In the afternoon of 15 March 2000, AAA was left alone at home. [9] AAAs father, the appellant, was having a
drinking spree at the neighbors place. [10] Her mother decided to leave because when appellant gets drunk, he has the habit
of mauling AAAs mother.[11] Her only brother BBB also went out in the company of some neighbors. [12]

At around 10:00 oclock in the evening, appellant woke AAA up; [13] removed his pants, slid inside the blanket
covering AAA and removed her pants and underwear; [14]warned her not to shout for help while threatening her with his
fist;[15] and told her that he had a knife placed above her head. [16] He proceeded to mash her breast, kiss her repeatedly, and
inserted his penis inside her vagina.[17]

Soon after, BBB arrived and found AAA crying. [18] Appellant claimed he scolded her for staying out late. [19] BBB
decided to take AAA with him. [20] While on their way to their maternal grandmothers house, AAA recounted her
harrowing experience with their father.[21] Upon reaching their grandmothers house, they told their grandmother and uncle
of the incident,[22] after which, they sought the assistance of Moises Boy Banting.[23]

Moises Boy Banting found appellant in his house wearing only his underwear. [24] He invited appellant to the
police station,[25] to which appellant obliged. At the police outpost, he admitted to him that he raped AAA because he was
unable to control himself.[26]

The following day, AAA submitted herself to physical examination. [27] Dra. Josefa Arlita L. Alsula, Municipal
Health Officer of x x x, Bukidnon, issued the Medical Certificate, which reads:

hyperemic vulvae with 4 oclock & 6 oclock freshly lacerated hymen; (+) minimal to moderate
bloody discharges 2 to an alleged raping incident [28]
On the other hand, only appellant testified for the defense. He believed that the charge against him was ill-
motivated because he sometimes physically abuses his wife in front of their children after engaging in a heated argument,
[29]
and beats the children as a disciplinary measure. [30] He went further to narrate how his day was on the date of the
alleged rape.

He alleged that on 15 March 2000, there was no food prepared for him at lunchtime. [31] Shortly after, AAA
arrived. She answered back when confronted.[33] This infuriated him that he kicked her hard on her buttocks. [34]
[32]

Appellant went back to work and went home again around 3 oclock in the afternoon.[35] Finding nobody at home,
[36]
he prepared his dinner and went to sleep.[37]

Later in the evening, he was awakened by the members of the Bantay Bayan headed by Moises Boy Banting.
[38]
They asked him to go with them to discuss some matters. [39] He later learned that he was under detention because AAA
charged him of rape.[40]

On 8 July 2006, the Regional Trial Court, Branch 9, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, rendered its
decision[41] in Criminal Case No. 10372-0, finding appellant guilty of rape qualified by relationship and minority, and
sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.[42] It also ordered him to indemnify AAA P50,000.00 as moral
damages, and P50,000.00 as civil indemnity with exemplary damages of P25,000.00.[43]

On 30 September 2008, the decision of the trial court was AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS [44] by the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 00456-MIN.[45] The appellate court found that appellant is not eligible for parole and it
increased both the civil indemnity and moral damages from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00.[46]

On 24 November 2008, the Court of Appeals gave due course to the appellants notice of appeal. [47] This Court
required the parties to simultaneously file their respective supplemental briefs, [48] but both manifested that they will no
longer file supplemental pleadings.[49]

The lone assignment of error in the appellants brief is that, the trial court gravely erred in finding him guilty as
charged despite the failure of the prosecution to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt, [50] because: (1) there were
inconsistencies in the testimonies of AAA and her brother BBB; [51] (2) his extrajudicial confession before Moises Boy
Banting was without the assistance of a counsel, in violation of his constitutional right; [52] and (3) AAAs accusation was
ill-motivated.[53]

Our Ruling

Appellant contests the admissibility in evidence of his alleged confession with a bantay bayan and the credibility of the
witnesses for the prosecution.

Admissibility in Evidence of an
Extrajudicial Confession before
a Bantay Bayan

Appellant argues that even if he, indeed, confessed to Moises Boy Banting, a bantay bayan, the confession was
inadmissible in evidence because he was not assisted by a lawyer and there was no valid waiver of such requirement. [54]

The case of People v. Malngan[55] is the authority on the scope of the Miranda doctrine provided for under Article
III, Section 12(1)[56] and (3)[57] of the Constitution. In Malngan, appellant questioned the admissibility of her extrajudicial
confessions given to the barangay chairman and a neighbor of the private complainant. This Court distinguished. Thus:

Arguably, the barangay tanods, including the Barangay Chairman, in this particular instance, may be
deemed as law enforcement officer for purposes of applying Article III, Section 12(1) and (3), of the
Constitution. When accused-appellant was brought to the barangay hall in the morning of 2 January 2001,
she was already a suspect, actually the only one, in the fire that destroyed several houses x x x. She was,
therefore, already under custodial investigation and the rights guaranteed by x x x [the] Constitution
should have already been observed or applied to her.Accused-appellants confession to Barangay
Chairman x x x was made in response to the interrogation made by the latter admittedly conducted
without first informing accused-appellant of her rights under the Constitution or done in the presence of
counsel. For this reason, the confession of accused-appellant, given to Barangay Chairman x x x, as well
as the lighter found x x x in her bag are inadmissible in evidence against her x x x.

[But such does] not automatically lead to her acquittal. x x x [T]he constitutional safeguards during
custodial investigations do not apply to those not elicited through questioning by the police or their
agents but given in an ordinary manner whereby the accused verbally admits x x x as x x x in the case at
bar when accused-appellant admitted to Mercedita Mendoza, one of the neighbors x x x [of the private
complainant].[58] (Emphasis supplied)

Following the rationale behind the ruling in Malngan, this Court needs to ascertain whether or not
a bantay bayan may be deemed a law enforcement officer within the contemplation of Article III, Section 12 of the
Constitution.

In People of the Philippines v. Buendia,[59] this Court had the occasion to mention the nature of a bantay bayan,
that is, a group of male residents living in [the] area organized for the purpose of keeping peace in their
community[,which is] an accredited auxiliary of the x x x PNP.[60]

Also, it may be worthy to consider that pursuant to Section 1(g) of Executive Order No. 309 issued on 11
November 1987, as amended, a Peace and Order Committee in each barangay shall be organized to serve as
implementing arm of the City/Municipal Peace and Order Council at the Barangay level.[61] The composition of the
Committee includes, among others: (1) the Punong Barangay as Chairman; (2) the Chairman of the Sangguniang
Kabataan; (3) a Member of the Lupon Tagapamayapa; (4) a BarangayTanod; and (5) at least three (3) Members of
existing Barangay-Based Anti-Crime or neighborhood Watch Groups or a Non Government Organization
Representative well-known in his community.[62]

This Court is, therefore, convinced that barangay-based volunteer organizations in the nature of watch groups, as
in the case of the bantay bayan, are recognized by the local government unit to perform functions relating to the
preservation of peace and order at the barangay level. Thus, without ruling on the legality of the actions taken
by Moises Boy Banting, and the specific scope of duties and responsibilities delegated to a bantay bayan, particularly on
the authority to conduct a custodial investigation, any inquiry he makes has the color of a state-related function and
objective insofar as the entitlement of a suspect to his constitutional rights provided for under Article III, Section 12 of the
Constitution, otherwise known as the Miranda Rights, is concerned.

We, therefore, find the extrajudicial confession of appellant, which was taken without a counsel, inadmissible in
evidence.

Be that as it may, We agree with the Court of Appeals that the conviction of the appellant was not deduced solely
from the assailed extrajudicial confession but from the confluence of evidence showing his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
[63]

Credibility of the Witnesses for the Prosecution

Appellant assails the inconsistencies in the testimonies of AAA and her brother BBB. AAA testified that BBB
accompanied her to the house of their grandmother. Thereafter, they, together with her relatives, proceeded to look for
a bantay bayan. On the other hand, BBB testified that he brought her sister to the house of their bantay bayan after he
learned of the incident.

Citing Bartocillo v. Court of Appeals,[64] appellant argues that where the testimonies of two key witnesses cannot
stand together, the inevitable conclusion is that one or both must be telling a lie, and their story a mere concoction. [65]
The principle, however, is not applicable in the case at bar. In Bartocillo, the two testimonies could not simply stand
together because:

On one hand, if we are to believe Susan, Orlando could not have possibly seen the hacking
incident since he had accompanied Vicente home. On the other hand, if we are to accept the testimony
of Orlando, then Susan could not have possibly witnessed the hacking incident since she was with Vicente
at that time.

Here, the testimony of AAA does not run contrary to that of BBB. Both testified that they sought the help of
a bantay bayan. Their respective testimonies differ only as to when the help was sought for, which this Court could well
attribute to the nature of the testimony of BBB, a shortcut version of AAAs testimony that dispensed with a detailed
account of the incident.

At any rate, the Court of Appeals is correct in holding that the assailed inconsistency is too trivial to affect the
veracity of the testimonies.[66] In fact, inconsistencies which refer to minor, trivial or inconsequential circumstances even
strengthen the credibility of the witnesses, as they erase doubts that such testimonies have been coached or rehearsed. [67]

Appellants contention that AAA charged him of rape only because she bore grudges against him is likewise
unmeritorious. This Court is not dissuaded from giving full credence to the testimony of a minor complainant by motives
of feuds, resentment or revenge.[68] As correctly pointed out by the Court of Appeals:

Indeed, mere disciplinary chastisement is not strong enough to make daughters in a Filipino family invent
a charge that would not only bring shame and humiliation upon them and their families but also bring
their fathers into the gallows of death. [69] The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that it is unbelievable for
a daughter to charge her own father with rape, exposing herself to the ordeal and embarrassment of a
public trial and subjecting her private parts to examination if such heinous crime was not in fact
committed.[70] No person, much less a woman, could attain such height of cruelty to one who has sired
her, and from whom she owes her very existence, and for which she naturally feels loving and lasting
gratefulness.[71] Even when consumed with revenge, it takes a certain amount of psychological depravity
for a young woman to concoct a story which would put her own father to jail for the most of his
remaining life and drag the rest of the family including herself to a lifetime of shame. [72] It is highly
improbable for [AAA] against whom no proof of sexual perversity or loose morality has been shown to
fake charges much more against her own father. In fact her testimony is entitled to greater weight since
her accusing words were directed against a close relative. [73]

Elements of Rape

Having established the credibility of the witnesses for the prosecution, We now examine the applicability of the
Anti-Rape Law of 1997[74] to the case at bar.

The law provides, in part, that rape is committed, among others, [b]y a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a
woman through force, threat or intimidation. [75] The death penalty shall be imposed if it is committed with
aggravating/qualifying circumstances, which include, [w]hen the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the
offender is a parent.[76]

The consistent and forthright testimony of AAA detailing how she was raped, culminating with the penetration of
appellants penis into her vagina, suffices to prove that appellant had carnal knowledge of her. When a woman states that
she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape was committed. [77] Further, when such
testimony corresponds with medical findings, there is sufficient basis to conclude that the essential requisites of carnal
knowledge have been established.[78]

The Court of Appeals pointed out that the element of force or intimidation is not essential when the accused is the
father of the victim, inasmuch as his superior moral ascendancy or influence substitutes for violence and intimidation.
[79]
At any rate, AAA was actually threatened by appellant with his fist and a knife allegedly placed above AAAs head. [80]
It may be added that the self-serving defense of appellant cannot prevail over the positive and straightforward
testimony of AAA. Settled is the rule that, alibi is an inherently weak defense that is viewed with suspicion because it is
easy to fabricate.[81] Alibi and denial must be supported by strong corroborative evidence in order to merit credibility.
[82]
Moreover, for the defense of alibi to prosper, the accused must establish two elements (1) he was not at
the locus delicti at the time the offense was committed; and (2) it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene at
the time of its commission.[83] Appellant failed in this wise.

Aggravating/Qualifying Circumstances

The presence of the qualifying circumstances of minority and relationship with the offender in the instant case has
likewise been adequately established. Both qualifying circumstances were specifically alleged in the Information,
stipulated on and admitted during the pre-trial conference, and testified to by both parties in their respective
testimonies. Also, such stipulation and admission, as correctly pointed out by the Court of Appeals, are binding upon this
Court because they are judicial admissions within the contemplation of Section 4, Rule 129 of the Revised Rules of
Court. It provides:

Sec. 4. Judicial admissions. - An admission, verbal or written, made by a party in the course of the
proceedings in the same case, does not require proof. The admission may be contradicted only by
showing that it was made through palpable mistake or that no such admission was made.

Penalty

Finally, in increasing the amount of civil indemnity and damages each from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00, the Court
of Appeals correctly considered controlling jurisprudence to the effect that where, as here, the rape is committed with any
of the qualifying/aggravating circumstances warranting the imposition of the death penalty, the victim is entitled
to P75,000.00 as civil indemnity ex delicto[84] and P75,000.00 as moral damages.[85] However, the award of exemplary
damages should have been increased from P25,000.00to P30,000.00.[86] Also, the penalty of reclusion perpetua in lieu of
death was correctly imposed considering that the imposition of the death penalty upon appellant would have been
appropriate were it not for the enactment of Republic Act No. 9346, or An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty
in the Philippines.[87] We further affirm the ruling of the Court of Appeals on appellants non-eligibility for parole. Sec. 3 of
Republic Act No. 9346 clearly provides that persons convicted of offenses punished with reclusion perpetua, or whose
sentences will be reduced to reclusion perpetua by reason of the law, shall not be eligible for parole.

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 30 September 2008 in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 00456-
MIN is hereby AFFIRMED. Appellant Antonio Lauga is GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of qualified rape, and is
hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole and to pay AAA P75,000.00as
civil indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral damages, and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.
19. Tan vs. People, GR No. 173673, 21 April 2009

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari filed under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court seeking the
reversal and setting aside of the Decision1 dated 22 February 2006 and Resolution2 dated 17 July 2006 issued by the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 83068 entitled, "People of the Philippines v. Hon. Briccio C. Ygana, in his capacity as
Presiding Judge of Branch 153, Regional Trial Court, Pasig City and Dante Tan."

The assailed Decision reinstated Criminal Case No. 119830, earlier dismissed by the trial court due to an alleged violation
of petitioner Dante T. Tan's right to speedy trial.ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

The assailed Resolution denied his Motion for Reconsideration and Motion to Inhibit.

The factual and procedural antecedents of the instant petition are as follows:

On 19 December 2000, a Panel of Prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ), on behalf of the People of the
Philippines (People), filed three Informations against Dante T. Tan (petitioner) before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Pasig City. The cases were docketed as Criminal Cases No. 119830, No. 119831 and No. 119832, all entitled, "People of
the Philippines v. Dante Tan."

Criminal Case No. 1198303 pertains to allegations that petitioner employed manipulative devises in the purchase of
Best World Resources Corporation (BW) shares. On the other hand, Criminal Cases No. 119831 4and No.
1198325 involve the alleged failure of petitioner to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a sworn
statement of his beneficial ownership of BW shares.

In two other related cases, two Informations were filed against a certain Jimmy Juan and Eduardo G. Lim for violation of
the Revised Securities Act involving BW shares of stock. These were docketed as Criminal Cases No. 119828 and No.
119829.

On the same day, the DOJ, through Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Nilo C. Mariano, filed a Motion for Consolidation
praying that Criminal Cases No. 119830, No. 119831 and No. 119832 be consolidated together with Criminal Cases No.
119828 and No. 119829, which the trial court granted.

On 21 December 2000, Criminal Cases No. 119830, No. 119831 and No. 119832 were raffled off to the Pasig RTC,
Branch 153, presided by Judge Briccio C. Ygana. Criminal Cases No. 119828 and No. 119829 also went to the same
court.

Petitioner was arraigned on 16 January 2001, and pleaded not guilty to the charges. 6

On 6 February 2001, the pre-trial was concluded, and a pre-trial order set, among other things, the first date of trial on 27
February 2001.7

Atty. Celia Sandejas of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), under the direct control and supervision of
Public Prosecutor Nestor Lazaro, entered her appearance for the People; Atty. Agnes Maranan for petitioner Dante Tan;
Atty. Sigfrid Fortun for Eduardo Lim, Jr.; and Atty. Rudolf Brittanico for Jimmy Juan. State Prosecutors Susan Dacanay
and Edna Villanueva later on took over as lawyers for the People.

The People insists that during the pendency of the initial hearing on 27 February 2001, the parties agreed that Criminal
Cases No. 119831 and No. 119832 would be tried ahead of Criminal Case No. 119830, and that petitioner would not
interpose any objection to its manifestation, nor would the trial court disapprove it.
Thereafter, the People presented evidence for Criminal Cases No. 119831 and No. 119832. On 18 September 2001, the
prosecution completed the presentation of its evidence and was ordered by the RTC to file its formal offer of evidence
within thirty days.

After being granted extensions to its filing of a formal offer of evidence, the prosecution was able to file said formal offer
for Criminal Cases No. 119831 and No. 119832 on 25 November 2003.8

On 2 December 2003, petitioner moved to dismiss Criminal Case No. 119830 due to the People's alleged failure to
prosecute. Claiming violation of his right to speedy trial, petitioner faults the People for failing to prosecute the case for
an unreasonable length of time and without giving any excuse or justification for the delay. According to petitioner, he
was persistent in asserting his right to speedy trial, which he had allegedly done on several instances. Finally, he claimed
to have been substantially prejudiced by this delay.

The prosecution opposed the Motion, insisting on its claim that the parties had an earlier agreement to defer the trial of
Criminal Case No. 119830 until after that of Criminal Cases No. 119831-119832, as the presentation of evidence and
prosecution in each of the five cases involved were to be done separately. The presentation of evidence in Criminal Cases
No. 119831-119832, however, were done simultaneously, because they involved similar offenses of non-disclosure of
beneficial ownership of stocks proscribed under Rule 36(a)-1 9 in relation to Sections 32(a)-110and 5611 of Batas Pambansa
Bilang 178, otherwise known as the "Revised Securities Act." Criminal Case No. 119830 pertains to alleged violation of
Section 27 (b),12 in relation to Section 56 of said act.

On 22 December 2003, Judge Briccio C. Ygana of the Pasig RTC, Branch 153, ruled that the delays which attended the
proceedings of petitioner's case (Criminal Case No. 119830) were vexatious, capricious and oppressive, resulting in
violation of petitioner's right to speedy trial. The RTC ordered 13 the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 119830, disposing as
follows:

WHEREFORE, foregoing premises duly considered and finding the motion to dismiss to be meritorious, the Court hereby
orders Criminal Case No. 119830 DISMISSED.ςηαñrοblεš νιr†υαl lαω lιbrαrÿ

On motion for reconsideration, the prosecution insisted that the parties agreed to hold separate trials of the BW cases, with
petitioner acquiescing to the prosecution of Criminal Cases No. 119831 and No. 119832 ahead of Criminal Case No.
119830. In an Order dated 20 January 2004, the RTC denied the Motion for Reconsideration for lack of merit.

The RTC's order of dismissal was elevated to the Court of Appeals via a petition for certiorari, with the People
contending that:

RESPONDENT JUDGE GRAVELY ABUSED HIS DISCRETION IN RULING THAT THE PEOPLE VIOLATED
DANTE TAN'S RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL, ALBEIT, THE LATTER AND RESPONDENT JUDGE HIMSELF HAVE
CONFORMED TO THE DEFERMENT OF CRIMINAL CASE NO. 119830 PENDING HEARING OF THE TWO
OTHER RELATED CASES.

Setting aside the trial court's order of dismissal, the Court of Appeals granted the petition for certiorari in its Decision
dated 22 February 2006. In resolving the petition, the appellate court reinstated Criminal Case No. 119830 in this wise:

WHEREFORE, the petition is granted and the assailed Orders dated December 22, 2003 and January 20, 2004 are set
aside. Criminal Case No. 119830 is reinstated and the trial court is ordered to conduct further proceedings in said case
immediately.14

Petitioner moved for a reconsideration of the Decision and filed a motion for inhibition of the Justices who decided the
case.

On 17 July 2006, the Court of Appeals denied both motions.

Petitioner Dante Tan, henceforth, filed the instant Petition for Review on Certiorari, raising the following issues:
I.

WHETHER OR NOT THE ACTING SECRETARY OF JUSTICE MAY VALIDLY EXECUTE THE CERTIFICATE OF
NON-FORUM SHOPPING ATTACHED TO THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI FILED BY THE PEOPLE WITH
THE COURT OF APPEALS EVEN THOUGH THE CRIMINAL ACTION WAS INSTITUTED BY A COMPLAINT
SUBSCRIBED BY THE AUTHORIZED OFFICERS OF THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION.

II.

WHETHER OR NOT THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI VIOLATED TAN'S RIGHT AGAINST DOUBLE
JEOPARDY.

III.

WHETHER OR NOT CRIMINAL CASE NO. 119830 WAS CORRECTLY DISMISSED BY THE TRIAL COURT ON
THE GROUND OF VIOLATION OF TAN'S RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL.

IV.

WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION.

We first resolve the preliminary issues.

In an attempt at having the instant petition dismissed, petitioner contends that the certificate of non-forum shopping
attached to the People's appeal before the Court of Appeals should have been signed by the Chairman of the SEC as
complainant in the cases instead of Acting DOJ Secretary Merceditas N. Gutierrez.

Petitioner's argument is futile. The Court of Appeals was correct in sustaining the authority of Acting DOJ Secretary
Merceditas Gutierrez to sign the certificate of non-forum shopping of the petition for certioraribefore said court. It must
be stressed that the certification against forum shopping is required to be executed by the plaintiff. 15 Although the
complaint-affidavit was signed by the Prosecution and Enforcement Department of the SEC, the petition before the Court
of Appeals originated from Criminal Case No. 119830, where the plaintiff or the party instituting the case was the People
of the Philippines. Section 2, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court leaves no room for doubt and establishes that criminal cases
are prosecuted in the name of the People of the Philippines, the offended party in criminal cases. Moreover, pursuant to
Section 3, paragraph (2) of the Revised Administrative Code, the DOJ is the executive arm of the government mandated to
investigate the commission of crimes, prosecute offenders and administer the probation and correction system. It is the
DOJ, through its prosecutors, which is authorized to prosecute criminal cases on behalf of the People of the
Philippines.16 Prosecutors control and direct the prosecution of criminal offenses, including the conduct of preliminary
investigation, subject to review by the Secretary of Justice. Since it is the DOJ which is the government agency tasked to
prosecute criminal cases before the trial court, the DOJ is best suited to attest whether a similar or related case has been
filed or is pending in another court of tribunal. Acting DOJ Secretary Merceditas N. Gutierrez, being the head of the DOJ,
therefore, had the authority to sign the certificate of non-forum shopping for Criminal Case No. 119830, which was filed
on behalf of the People of the Philippines.

The preliminary issues having been resolved, the Court shall proceed to discuss the main issues.

At the crux of the controversy is the issue of whether there was a violation of petitioner Dante Tan's right to speedy trial.

Petitioner Dante Tan assails the Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 83068. The appellate
court determined that he "impliedly agreed" that Case No. 119830 would not be tried until after termination of Criminal
Cases No. 119831-119832, which finding was grounded entirely on speculations, surmises and conjectures.

Both parties concede that this issue is factual. It is a basic rule that factual issues are beyond the province of this Court in a
Petition for Review, for it is not our function to review evidence all over again. 17 Rule 45 of the Rules of Court provides
that only questions of law may be raised in this Court in a Petition for Review on Certiorari .18 The reason is that the
Court is not a trier of facts.19 However, the rule is subject to several exceptions. 20 Under these exceptions, the Court may
delve into and resolve factual issues, such as in cases where the findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals are
absurd, contrary to the evidence on record, impossible, capricious or arbitrary, or based on a misappreciation of facts.

In this case, the Court is convinced that the findings of the Court of Appeals on the substantial matters at hand, while
conflicting with those of the RTC, are adequately supported by the evidence on record. We, therefore, find no reason to
deviate from the jurisprudential holdings and treat the instant case differently.

An accused's right to "have a speedy, impartial, and public trial" is guaranteed in criminal cases by Section 14(2) of
Article III of the Constitution. This right to a speedy trial may be defined as one free from vexatious, capricious and
oppressive delays, its "salutary objective" being to assure that an innocent person may be free from the anxiety and
expense of a court litigation or, if otherwise, of having his guilt determined within the shortest possible time compatible
with the presentation and consideration of whatsoever legitimate defense he may interpose. 21 Intimating historical
perspective on the evolution of the right to speedy trial, we reiterate the old legal maxim, "justice delayed is justice
denied." This oft-repeated adage requires the expeditious resolution of disputes, much more so in criminal cases where an
accused is constitutionally guaranteed the right to a speedy trial. 22

Following the policies incorporated under the 1987 Constitution, Republic Act No. 8493, otherwise known as "The
Speedy Trial Act of 1998," was enacted, with Section 6 of said act limiting the trial period to 180 days from the first day
of trial.23 Aware of problems resulting in the clogging of court dockets, the Court implemented the law by issuing
Supreme Court Circular No. 38-98, which has been incorporated in the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure, Section 2 of
Rule 119.24

In Corpuz v. Sandiganbayan,25 the Court had occasion to state'

The right of the accused to a speedy trial and to a speedy disposition of the case against him was designed to prevent the
oppression of the citizen by holding criminal prosecution suspended over him for an indefinite time, and to prevent delays
in the administration of justice by mandating the courts to proceed with reasonable dispatch in the trial of criminal cases.
Such right to a speedy trial and a speedy disposition of a case is violated only when the proceeding is attended by
vexatious, capricious and oppressive delays. The inquiry as to whether or not an accused has been denied such right is not
susceptible by precise qualification. The concept of a speedy disposition is a relative term and must necessarily be a
flexible concept.

While justice is administered with dispatch, the essential ingredient is orderly, expeditious and not mere speed. It cannot
be definitely said how long is too long in a system where justice is supposed to be swift, but deliberate. It is consistent
with delays and depends upon circumstances. It secures rights to the accused, but it does not preclude the rights of public
justice. Also, it must be borne in mind that the rights given to the accused by the Constitution and the Rules of Court are
shields, not weapons; hence, courts are to give meaning to that intent.

The Court emphasized in the same case that:

A balancing test of applying societal interests and the rights of the accused necessarily compels the court to approach
speedy trial cases on an ad hoc basis.

In determining whether the accused has been deprived of his right to a speedy disposition of the case and to a speedy trial,
four factors must be considered: (a) length of delay; (b) the reason for the delay; (c) the defendant's assertion of his right;
and (d) prejudice to the defendant. x x x.

Closely related to the length of delay is the reason or justification of the State for such delay. Different weights should be
assigned to different reasons or justifications invoked by the State. x x x. 26

Exhaustively explained in Corpuz v. Sandiganbayan, an accused's right to speedy trial is deemed violated only when the
proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays. In determining whether petitioner was deprived of
this right, the factors to consider and balance are the following: (a) duration of the delay; (b) reason therefor; (c) assertion
of the right or failure to assert it; and (d) prejudice caused by such delay. 27
From the initial hearing on 27 February 2001 until the time the prosecution filed its formal offer of evidence for Criminal
Cases No. 119831-119832 on 25 November 2003, both prosecution and defense admit that no evidence was presented for
Criminal Case No. 119830. Hence, for a period of almost two years and eight months, the prosecution did not present a
single evidence for Criminal Case No. 119830.

The question we have to answer now is whether there was vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delay. To this, we apply
the four-factor test previously mentioned.

We emphasize that in determining the right of an accused to speedy trial, courts are required to do more than a
mathematical computation of the number of postponements of the scheduled hearings of the case. A mere mathematical
reckoning of the time involved is clearly insufficient, 28 and particular regard must be given to the facts and circumstances
peculiar to each case.29

In Alvizo v. Sandiganbayan,30 the Court ruled that there was no violation of the right to speedy trial and speedy
disposition. The Court took into account the reasons for the delay, i.e., the frequent amendments of procedural laws by
presidential decrees, the structural reorganizations in existing prosecutorial agencies and the creation of new ones by
executive fiat, resulting in changes of personnel, preliminary jurisdiction, and the functions and powers of prosecuting
agencies. The Court also considered the failure of the accused to assert such right, and the lack of prejudice caused by the
delay to the accused.

In Defensor-Santiago v. Sandiganbayan,31 the complexity of the issues and the failure of the accused to invoke her right to
speedy disposition at the appropriate time spelled defeat for her claim to the constitutional guarantee.

In Cadalin v. Philippine Overseas Employment Administration's Administrator, 32 the Court, considering also the
complexity of the cases and the conduct of the parties' lawyers, held that the right to speedy disposition was not violated
therein.

Petitioner's objection to the prosecution's stand that he gave an implied consent to the separate trial of Criminal Case No.
119830 is belied by the records of the case. No objection was interposed by his defense counsel when this matter was
discussed during the initial hearing.33 Petitioner's conformity thereto can be deduced from his non-objection at the
preliminary hearing when the prosecution manifested that the evidence to be presented would be only for Criminal Cases
No. 119831-119832. His failure to object to the prosecution's manifestation that the cases be tried separately is fatal to his
case. The acts, mistakes and negligence of counsel bind his client, except only when such mistakes would result in serious
injustice.34 In fact, petitioner's acquiescence is evident from the transcript of stenographic notes during the initial
presentation of the People's evidence in the five BW cases on 27 February 2001, herein quoted below:

COURT: Atty. Sandejas, call your witness.

ATTY. SANDEJAS [SEC Prosecuting Lawyer]: May we make some manifestation first, your Honor, before we continue
presenting our witness. First of all, this witness will only be testifying as to two (2) of the charges: non-disclosure of
beneficial ownership of Dante Tan x x x.

xxx

COURT: (to Atty. Sandejas) Call your witness.

ATTY. SANDEJAS: Our witness is Mr. Wilfredo Baltazar of the Securities and Exchange Commission, your Honor. We
are presenting this witness for the purpose of non-disclosure of beneficial ownership case'

COURT: I would advise the counsel from the SEC to make it very clear your purpose in presenting your first witness.

ATTY. SANDEJAS: Yes, your Honor. Can I borrow the file?cralawred

COURT: Show it to counsel.


ATTY. SANDEJAS: Crim. Case Nos. 119831 and 119832, for Violation of RA Rule 36(a)1, in relation to Sec. 32 (a)-1 of
the Revised Securities Act when he failed to disclose his beneficial ownership amounting to more than 10% which
requires disclosure of such fact.35

During the same hearing, the People manifested in open court that the parties had agreed to the separate trials of the BW
Cases:

PROSECUTOR LAZARO:

May we be allowed to speak, your Honor?cralawred

Your Honor please, as we x x x understand, this is not a joint trial but a separate trial x x x so as manifested by the SEC
lawyer, the witness is being presented insofar as 119831 and 119832 as against Dante Tan only x x x. 36

The transcript of stenographic notes taken from the 3 April 2001 hearing further clarifies that only the two cases against
Dante Tan were being prosecuted:

ATTY. DE LA CRUZ [new counsel for accused Eduardo Lim, Jr.]:

Your Honor, please, may I request clarification from the prosecutors regarding the purpose of the testimony of the witness
in the stand. While the Private Prosecutor stated the purpose of the testimony of the witness. . .

xxx

PROSECUTOR LAZARO:

I was present during the last hearing. I was then going over the transcript of this case, well, I believe the testimony x x x
mainly [is] on accused Dante Tan, your Honor. As a matter of fact, there was a clarification made by the parties and
counsels after the witness had testified that the hearing in these cases is not a joint trial because it involves separate
charges, involving different documents, your Honor. That is why the witness already testified only concerning Dante Tan.
Per the query made by Atty. Fortun, because at that time, Atty. Fortun was still representing Mr. Lim, I believe, your
Honor, then I understand that the testimony of this witness cannot just be adopted insofar as the other accused, your
Honor.

ATTY. MARANAN:

We confirm that, your Honor, since x x x particularly since this is already cross, it is clear that the direct examination dealt
exclusively with Mr. Dante Tan.

PROS. LAZARO:

Mr. Dante Tan, involving the 2 (two) cases.37

Moreover, although periods for trial have been stipulated, these periods are not absolute. Where periods have been set,
certain exclusions are allowed by law.38 After all, this Court and the law recognize that it is but a fact that judicial
proceedings do not exist in a vacuum and must contend with the realities of everyday life. In spite of the prescribed time
limits, jurisprudence continues to adopt the view that the fundamentally recognized principle is that the concept of speedy
trial is a relative term and must necessarily be a flexible concept. 39

As to the assertion that delay in the presentation of evidence for Criminal Case No. 119830 has prejudiced petitioner
because the witnesses for the defense may no longer be available at this time, suffice it to say that the burden of proving
his guilt rests upon the prosecution.40 Should the prosecution fail for any reason to present evidence sufficient to show his
guilt beyond reasonable doubt, petitioner will be acquitted. It is safely entrenched in our jurisprudence that unless the
prosecution discharges its burden to prove the guilt of an accused beyond reasonable doubt, the latter need not even offer
evidence in his behalf.41
In the cases involving petitioner, the length of delay, complexity of the issues and his failure to invoke said right to speedy
trial at the appropriate time tolled the death knell on his claim to the constitutional guarantee. 42 More importantly, in
failing to interpose a timely objection to the prosecution's manifestation during the preliminary hearings that the cases be
tried separately, one after the other, petitioner was deemed to have acquiesced and waived his objection thereto.

For the reasons above-stated, there is clearly insufficient ground to conclude that the prosecution is guilty of violating
petitioner's right to speedy trial. Grave abuse of discretion defies exact definition, but generally refers to "capricious or
whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction." Any capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment
in dismissing a criminal case is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. This is true in the instant case.

There is also no merit to petitioner's claim that a reversal of the RTC's Order dismissing Criminal Case No. 119830 is a
violation of his constitutional right against double jeopardy which dismissal was founded on an alleged violation of his
right to speedy trial.

The constitutional protection against double jeopardy shields one from a second or later prosecution for the same offense.
Article III, Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution declares that no person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for
the same offense, providing further that if an act is punished by a law and an ordinance, conviction or acquittal under
either shall constitute a bar to another prosecution for the same act.

Following the above constitutional provision, Section 7, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Court found it apt to stipulate:

SEC. 7. Former conviction or acquittal; double jeopardy. - When an accused has been convicted or acquitted, or the case
against him dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon a
valid complaint or information or other formal charge sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction and after the
accused had pleaded to the charge, the conviction or acquittal of the accused or the dismissal of the case shall be a bar to
another prosecution for the offense charged, or for any attempt to commit the same or frustration thereof, or for any
offense which necessarily includes or is necessarily included in the offense charged in the former complaint or
information.

For double jeopardy to attach then, the following elements in the first criminal case must be present:

(a) The complaint or information or other formal charge was sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction;

(b) The court had jurisdiction;

(c) The accused had been arraigned and had pleaded; andcralawlibrary

(d) He was convicted or acquitted or the case was dismissed or otherwise terminated without the express consent of the
accused.43

Among the above-cited elements, we are concerned with the fourth element, conviction or acquittal, or the case was
dismissed or otherwise terminated without the express consent of the accused. This element is crucial since, as a general
rule, the dismissal of a criminal case resulting in acquittal, made with the express consent of the accused or upon his own
motion, will not place the accused in double jeopardy. 44 This rule, however, admits of two exceptions, namely:
insufficiency of evidence and denial of the right to speedy trial. 45 While indeed petitioner was in fact the one who filed the
Motion to Dismiss Criminal Case No. 119830, the dismissal thereof was due to an alleged violation of his right to speedy
trial, which would otherwise put him in double jeopardy should the same charges be revived. Petitioner's situation is
different. Double jeopardy has not attached, considering that the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 119830 on the ground of
violation of his right to speedy trial was without basis and issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
excess of jurisdiction. Where the right of the accused to speedy trial has not been violated, there is no reason to support
the initial order of dismissal.

Following this Court's ruling in Almario v. Court of Appeals,46 as petitioner's right to speedy trial was not transgressed,
this exception to the fourth element of double jeopardy - that the defendant was acquitted or convicted, or the case was
dismissed or otherwise terminated without the express consent of the accused - was not met. Where the dismissal of the
case was allegedly capricious, certiorari lies from such order of dismissal and does not involve double jeopardy, as the
petition challenges not the correctness but the validity of the order of dismissal; such grave abuse of discretion amounts to
lack of jurisdiction, which prevents double jeopardy from attaching. 47

As this Court ruled in People v. Tampal,48 reiterated in People v. Leviste,49where we overturned an order of dismissal by
the trial court predicated on the right to speedy trial'

It is true that in an unbroken line of cases, we have held that dismissal of cases on the ground of failure to prosecute is
equivalent to an acquittal that would bar further prosecution of the accused for the same offense. It must be stressed,
however, that these dismissals were predicated on the clear right of the accused to speedy trial. These cases are not
applicable to the petition at bench considering that the right of the private respondents to speedy trial has not been violated
by the State. x x x.

From the foregoing, it follows that petitioner cannot claim that double jeopardy attached when said RTC order was
reversed by the Court of Appeals. Double jeopardy does not apply to this case, considering that there is no violation of
petitioner's right to speedy trial.

The old adage that justice delayed is justice denied has never been more valid than in our jurisdiction, where it is not a
rarity for a case to drag in our courts for years and years and even decades. It was this difficulty that inspired the
constitutional requirement that the rules of court to be promulgated by the Supreme Court shall provide for a simplified
and inexpensive procedure for the speedy trial and disposition of cases. 50Indeed, for justice to prevail, the scales must
balance, for justice is not to be dispensed for the accused alone. 51

Evidently, the task of the pillars of the criminal justice system is to preserve our democratic society under the rule of law,
ensuring that all those who appear before or are brought to the bar of justice are afforded a fair opportunity to present their
side. As correctly observed by the Court of Appeals, Criminal Case No. 119830 is just one of the many controversial cases
involving the BW shares scam where public interest is undoubtedly at stake. The State, like any other litigant, is entitled
to its day in court, and to a reasonable opportunity to present its case. A hasty dismissal, instead of unclogging dockets,
has actually increased the workload of the justice system and unwittingly prolonged the litigation. 52

Finally, we reiterate that the rights given to the accused by the Constitution and the Rules of Court are shields, not
weapons. Courts are tasked to give meaning to that intent. There being no capricious, vexatious, oppressive delay in the
proceedings, and no postponements unjustifiably sought, we concur in the conclusions reached by the Court of Appeals.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. The assailed 22 February 2006 Decision and 17 July 2006 Resolution issued
by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 83068 are hereby AFFIRMED.

The instant case is REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court, Branch 153, Pasig City for further proceedings in Criminal
Case No. 119830 with reasonable dispatch.

SO ORDERED.
20. Coscolluela vs. SB, GR No. 191411, 15 July 2013

G.R. No. 191411

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Assailed in these consolidated Petitions for Certiorari[1] are the October 6, 2009[2] and February 10, 2010[3] Resolutions of
public respondent First Division of Sandiganbayan (SB), denying the Motion to Quash [4] dated July 8, 2009 filed by
petitioner Rafael L. Coscolluela (Coscolluela). The said motion was adopted by petitioners Edwin N. Nacionales
(Nacionales), Dr. Ernesto P. Malvas (Malvas), and Jose Ma. G. Amugod (Amugod), praying for the dismissal of Crim.
Case No. SB-09-CRM-0154 for violation of their right to speedy disposition of cases.

The Facts

Coscolluela served as governor of the Province of Negros Occidental (Province) for three (3) full terms which ended on
June 30, 2001. During his tenure, Nacionales served as his Special Projects Division Head, Amugod as Nacionales'
subordinate, and Malvas as Provincial Health Officer. [5]

On November 9, 2001, the Office of the Ombudsman for the Visayas (Office of the Ombudsman) received a letter-
complaint[6] dated November 7, 2001 from People's Graftwatch, requesting for assistance to investigate the anomalous
purchase of medical and agricultural equipment for the Province in the amount of P20,000,000.00 which allegedly
happened around a month before Coscolluela stepped down from office.

Acting on the letter-complaint, the Case Building Team of the Office of the Ombudsman conducted its investigation,
resulting in the issuance of a Final Evaluation Report [7] dated April 16, 2002 which upgraded the complaint into a criminal
case against petitioners.[8]Consequently, petitioners filed their respective counter-affidavits. [9]

On March 27, 2003, the assigned Graft Investigation Officer Butch E. Cañares (Cañares) prepared a Resolution (March
27, 2003 Resolution), finding probable cause against petitioners for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. (RA)
3019, otherwise known as the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act," and recommended the filing of the corresponding
information. On even date, the Information[10]was prepared and signed by Cañares and submitted to Deputy Ombudsman
for the Visayas Primo C. Miro (Miro) for recommendation. Miro recommended the approval of the Information on June 5,
2003. However, the final approval of Acting Ombudsman Orlando C. Casimiro (Casimiro), came only on May 21, 2009,
and on June 19, 2009, the Information was filed before the SB.

Petitioners alleged that they learned about the March 27, 2003 Resolution and Information only when they received a
copy of the latter shortly after its filing with the SB. [11]

On July 9, 2009, Coscolluela filed a Motion to Quash,[12] arguing, among others, that his constitutional right to speedy
disposition of cases was violated as the criminal charges against him were resolved only after almost eight (8) years since
the complaint was instituted. Nacionales, Malvas, and Amugod later adopted Coscolluela's motion.

In reply, the respondents filed their Opposition to Motion to Quash [13] dated August 7, 2009, explaining that although the
Information was originally dated March 27, 2003, it still had to go through careful review and revision before its final
approval. It also pointed out that petitioners never raised any objections regarding the purported delay in the proceedings
during the interim.[14]

The Ruling of the Sandiganbayan

In a Resolution[15] dated October 6, 2009, the SB denied petitioners' Motion to Quash for lack of merit. It held that the
preliminary investigation against petitioners was actually resolved by Cañares on March 27, 2003, one (1) year and four
(4) months from the date the complaint was filed, or in November 9, 2001. Complying with internal procedure, Cañares
then prepared the March 27, 2003 Resolution and Information for the recommendation of the Miro and eventually, the
final approval of the Casimiro. As these issuances had to undergo careful review and revision through the various levels of
the said office, the period of delay i.e., from March 27, 2003 to May 21, 2009, or roughly over six (6) years cannot be
deemed as inordinate[16] and as such, petitioners' constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases was not violated. [17]

Aggrieved, petitioners filed their respective Motions for Reconsideration [18] dated November 9, 2009 and November 6,
2009, similarly arguing that the SB erred in making a distinction between two time periods, namely: (a) from the filing of
the complaint up to the time Cañares prepared the resolution finding probable cause against petitioners; and (b) from the
submission of the said resolution to the Acting Ombudsman for review and approval up to the filing of the Information
with the SB. In this regard, petitioners averred that the aforementioned periods should not be compartmentalized and thus,
treated as a single period. Accordingly, the delay of eight (8) years of the instant case should be deemed prejudicial to
their right to speedy disposition of cases.[19]

The SB, however, denied the foregoing motions in its Resolution[20] dated February 10, 2010 for lack of merit.

Hence, the instant petitions.

The Issue Before the Court

The sole issue raised for the Court's resolution is whether the SB gravely abused its discretion in finding that petitioners'
right to speedy disposition of cases was not violated.

The Court's Ruling

The petitions are meritorious.

A person's right to the speedy disposition of his case is guaranteed under Section 16, Article III of the 1987 Philippine
Constitution (Constitution) which provides:

SEC. 16. All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or
administrative bodies.

This constitutional right is not limited to the accused in criminal proceedings but extends to all parties in all cases, be it
civil or administrative in nature, as well as all proceedings, either judicial or quasi-judicial. In this accord, any party to a
case may demand expeditious action to all officials who are tasked with the administration of justice. [21]

It must be noted, however, that the right to speedy disposition of cases should be understood to be a relative or flexible
concept such that a mere mathematical reckoning of the time involved would not be sufficient. [22] Jurisprudence dictates
that the right is deemed violated only when the proceedings are attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays;
or when unjustified postponements of the trial are asked for and secured; or even without cause or justifiable motive, a
long period of time is allowed to elapse without the party having his case tried. [23]

Hence, in the determination of whether the defendant has been denied his right to a speedy disposition of a case, the
following factors may be considered and balanced: (1) the length of delay; (2) the reasons for the delay; (3) the assertion
or failure to assert such right by the accused; and (4) the prejudice caused by the delay. [24]

Examining the incidents in the present case, the Court holds that petitioners' right to a speedy disposition of their criminal
case had been violated.

First, it is observed that the preliminary investigation proceedings took a protracted amount of time to complete.

In this relation, the Court does not lend credence to the SB's position that the conduct of preliminary investigation was
terminated as early as March 27, 2003, or the time when Cañares prepared the Resolution recommending the filing of the
Information. This is belied by Section 4, Rule II of the Administrative Order No. 07 dated April 10, 1990, otherwise
known as the "Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman," which provides:

SEC. 4. Procedure The preliminary investigation of cases falling under the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan and Regional
Trial Courts shall be conducted in the manner prescribed in Section 3, Rule 112 of the Rules of Court, subject to the
following provisions:

xxxx

No information may be filed and no complaint may be dismissed without the written authority or approval of the
Ombudsman in cases falling within the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan, or of the proper Deputy Ombudsman in all
other cases. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

The above-cited provision readily reveals that there is no complete resolution of a case under preliminary investigation
until the Ombudsman approves the investigating officer's recommendation to either file an Information with the SB or to
dismiss the complaint. Therefore, in the case at bar, the preliminary investigation proceedings against the petitioners were
not terminated upon Cañares' preparation of the March 27, 2003 Resolution and Information but rather, only at the time
Casimiro finally approved the same for filing with the SB. In this regard, the proceedings were terminated only on May
21, 2009, or almost eight (8) years after the filing of the complaint.

Second, the above-discussed delay in the Ombudsman's resolution of the case largely remains unjustified.

To this end, the Court equally denies the SB's ratiocination that the delay in proceedings could be excused by the fact that
the case had to undergo careful review and revision through the different levels in the Office of the Ombudsman before it
is finally approved, in addition to the steady stream of cases which it had to resolve.

Verily, the Office of the Ombudsman was created under the mantle of the Constitution, mandated to be the "protector of
the people" and as such, required to "act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against officers and
employees of the Government, or of any subdivision, agency or instrumentality thereof, in order to promote efficient
service."[25] This great responsibility cannot be simply brushed aside by ineptitude. Precisely, the Office of the
Ombudsman has the inherent duty not only to carefully go through the particulars of case but also to resolve the same
within the proper length of time. Its dutiful performance should not only be gauged by the quality of the assessment but
also by the reasonable promptness of its dispensation. Thus, barring any extraordinary complication, such as the degree of
difficulty of the questions involved in the case or any event external thereto that effectively stymied its normal work
activity any of which have not been adequately proven by the prosecution in the case at bar there appears to be no
justifiable basis as to why the Office of the Ombudsman could not have earlier resolved the preliminary investigation
proceedings against the petitioners.

Third, the Court deems that petitioners cannot be faulted for their alleged failure to assert their right to speedy disposition
of cases.

Records show that they could not have urged the speedy resolution of their case because they were unaware that the
investigation against them was still on-going. They were only informed of the March 27, 2003 Resolution and Information
against them only after the lapse of six (6) long years, or when they received a copy of the latter after its filing with the SB
on June 19, 2009.[26] In this regard, they could have reasonably assumed that the proceedings against them have already
been terminated. This serves as a plausible reason as to why petitioners never followed-up on the case altogether.
Instructive on this point is the Court's observation in Duterte v. Sandiganbayan,[27]to wit:

Petitioners in this case, however, could not have urged the speedy resolution of their case because they were
completely unaware that the investigation against them was still on-going. Peculiar to this case, we reiterate, is the
fact that petitioners were merely asked to comment, and not file counter-affidavits which is the proper procedure to follow
in a preliminary investigation. After giving their explanation and after four long years of being in the dark,
petitioners, naturally, had reason to assume that the charges against them had already been dismissed.

On the other hand, the Office of the Ombudsman failed to present any plausible, special or even novel reason which could
justify the four-year delay in terminating its investigation. Its excuse for the delay the many layers of review that the case
had to undergo and the meticulous scrutiny it had to entail has lost its novelty and is no longer appealing, as was the
invocation in the Tatad case. The incident before us does not involve complicated factual and legal issues, specially (sic)
in view of the fact that the subject computerization contract had been mutually cancelled by the parties thereto even before
the Anti-Graft League filed its complaint. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Being the respondents in the preliminary investigation proceedings, it was not the petitioners' duty to follow up on the
prosecution of their case. Conversely, it was the Office of the Ombudsman's responsibility to expedite the same within the
bounds of reasonable timeliness in view of its mandate to promptly act on all complaints lodged before it. As pronounced
in the case of Barker v. Wingo:[28]

A defendant has no duty to bring himself to trial; the State has that duty as well as the duty of insuring that the trial is
consistent with due process.

Fourth, the Court finally recognizes the prejudice caused to the petitioners by the lengthy delay in the proceedings against
them.

Lest it be misunderstood, the right to speedy disposition of cases is not merely hinged towards the objective of spurring
dispatch in the administration of justice but also to prevent the oppression of the citizen by holding a criminal prosecution
suspended over him for an indefinite time.[29] Akin to the right to speedy trial, its "salutary objective" is to assure that an
innocent person may be free from the anxiety and expense of litigation or, if otherwise, of having his guilt determined
within the shortest possible time compatible with the presentation and consideration of whatsoever legitimate defense he
may interpose.[30] This looming unrest as well as the tactical disadvantages carried by the passage of time should be
weighed against the State and in favor of the individual. In the context of the right to a speedy trial, the Court in Corpuz v.
Sandiganbayan[31] (Corpuz) illumined:

A balancing test of applying societal interests and the rights of the accused necessarily compels the court to approach
speedy trial cases on an ad hoc basis.

x x x Prejudice should be assessed in the light of the interest of the defendant that the speedy trial was designed to protect,
namely: to prevent oppressive pre-trial incarceration; to minimize anxiety and concerns of the accused to trial; and to limit
the possibility that his defense will be impaired. Of these, the most serious is the last, because the inability of a
defendant adequately to prepare his case skews the fairness of the entire system. There is also prejudice if the
defense witnesses are unable to recall accurately the events of the distant past. Even if the accused is not
imprisoned prior to trial, he is still disadvantaged by restraints on his liberty and by living under a cloud of
anxiety, suspicion and often, hostility. His financial resources may be drained, his association is curtailed, and he is
subjected to public obloquy.

Delay is a two-edge sword. It is the government that bears the burden of proving its case beyond reasonable doubt. The
passage of time may make it difficult or impossible for the government to carry its burden. The Constitution and the Rules
do not require impossibilities or extraordinary efforts, diligence or exertion from courts or the prosecutor, nor contemplate
that such right shall deprive the State of a reasonable opportunity of fairly prosecuting criminals. As held in Williams v.
United States, for the government to sustain its right to try the accused despite a delay, it must show two things: (a) that
the accused suffered no serious prejudice beyond that which ensued from the ordinary and inevitable delay; and (b) that
there was no more delay than is reasonably attributable to the ordinary processes of justice.

Closely related to the length of delay is the reason or justification of the State for such delay. Different weights should be
assigned to different reasons or justifications invoked by the State. For instance, a deliberate attempt to delay the trial in
order to hamper or prejudice the defense should be weighted heavily against the State. Also, it is improper for the
prosecutor to intentionally delay to gain some tactical advantage over the defendant or to harass or prejudice him. On the
other hand, the heavy case load of the prosecution or a missing witness should be weighted less heavily against the State.
x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied; citations omitted)

As the right to a speedy disposition of cases encompasses the broader purview of the entire proceedings of which trial
proper is but a stage, the above-discussed effects in Corpuz should equally apply to the case at bar. As held in Dansal v.
Fernandez, Sr.:[32]

Sec. 16, Article III of the 1987 Constitution, reads:

"Sec. 16. All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or
administrative bodies."

Initially embodied in Section 16, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, the aforesaid constitutional provision is one of three
provisions mandating speedier dispensation of justice. It guarantees the right of all persons to "a speedy disposition
of their case"; includes within its contemplation the periods before, during and after trial, and affords broader
protection than Section 14(2), which guarantees just the right to a speedy trial. It is more embracing than the
protection under Article VII, Section 15, which covers only the period after the submission of the case. The present
constitutional provision applies to civil, criminal and administrative cases. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied; citations
omitted)

Thus, in view of the unjustified length of time miring the Office of the Ombudsman's resolution of the case as well as the
concomitant prejudice that the delay in this case has caused, it is undeniable that petitioners' constitutional right to due
process and speedy disposition of cases had been violated. As the institutional vanguard against corruption and
bureaucracy, the Office of the Ombudsman should create a system of accountability in order to ensure that cases before it
are resolved with reasonable dispatch and to equally expose those who are responsible for its delays, as it ought to
determine in this case.

Corollarily, for the SB's patent and utter disregard of the existing laws and jurisprudence surrounding the matter, the Court
finds that it gravely abused its discretion when it denied the quashal of the Information. Perforce, the assailed resolutions
must be set aside and the criminal case against petitioners be dismissed.

While the foregoing pronouncement should, as matter of course, result in the acquittal of the petitioners, it does not
necessarily follow that petitioners are entirely exculpated from any civil liability, assuming that the same is proven in a
subsequent case which the Province may opt to pursue.

Section 2, Rule 111 of the Rules of Court provides that an acquittal in a criminal case does not bar the private offended
party from pursuing a subsequent civil case based on the delict, unless the judgment of acquittal explicitly declares that
the act or omission from which the civil liability may arise did not exist.[33] As explained in the case of Abejuela v.
People,[34] citing Banal v. Tadeo, Jr.:[35]

The Rules provide: "The extinction of the penal action does not carry with it extinction of the civil, unless the
extinction proceeds from a declaration in a final judgment that the fact from which the civil might arise did not
exist. In other cases, the person entitled to the civil action may institute it in the jurisdiction and in the manner
provided by law against the person who may be liable for restitution of the thing and reparation or indemnity for
the damage suffered."

xxxx

In Banal vs. Tadeo, Jr., we declared:

"While an act or omission is felonious because it is punishable by law, it gives rise to civil liability not so much because it
is a crime but because it caused damage to another. Viewing things pragmatically, we can readily see that what gives
rise to the civil liability is really the obligation and moral duty of everyone to repair or make whole the damage
caused to another by reason of his own act or omission, done intentionally or negligently, whether or not the same
be punishable by law."(Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Based on the violation of petitioners' right to speedy disposition of cases as herein discussed, the present case stands to be
dismissed even before either the prosecution or the defense has been given the chance to present any evidence. Thus, the
Court is unable to make a definite pronouncement as to whether petitioners indeed committed the acts or omissions from
which any civil liability on their part might arise as prescribed under Section 2, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court.
[36]
Consequently, absent this pronouncement, the Province is not precluded from instituting a subsequent civil case based
on the delict if only to recover the amount of P20,000,000.00 in public funds attributable to petitioners' alleged
malfeasance.

WHEREFORE, the petitions are hereby GRANTED. The assailed Resolutions dated October 6, 2009 and February 10,
2010 of the First Division of the Sandiganbayan are ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. The Sandiganbayan is likewise
ordered to DISMISS Crim. Case No. SB-09-CRM-0154 for violation of the Constitutional right to speedy disposition of
cases of petitioners Rafael L. Coscolluela, Edwin N. Nacionales, Dr. Ernesto P. Malvas, and Jose Ma. G. Amugod, without
prejudice to any civil action which the Province of Negros Occidental may file against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.
21. People vs. Ayson, GR No. 85215, 7 July 1989

NARVASA, J.:

What has given rise to the controversy at bar is the equation by the respondent Judge of the right of an individual not
to "be compelled to be a witness against himself" accorded by Section 20, Article III of the Constitution, with the right of
any person "under investigation for the commission of an offense . . . to remain silent and to counsel, and to be informed
of such right," granted by the same provision. The relevant facts are not disputed.

Private respondent Felipe Ramos was a ticket freight clerk of the Philippine Airlines (PAL), assigned at its Baguio City
station. It having allegedly come to light that he was involved in irregularities in the sales of plane tickets, 1 the PAL
management notified him of an investigation to be conducted into the matter of February 9, 1986. That investigation was
scheduled in accordance with PAL's Code of Conduct and Discipline, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed by
it with the Philippine Airlines Employees' Association (PALEA) to which Ramos pertained. 2

On the day before the investigation, February 8,1986, Ramos gave to his superiors a handwritten notes 3 reading as
follows:

2-8-86

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

THE UNDERSIGNED WOULD LIKE TO STATE THAT HE IS WILLING TO SETTLE


IRREGULARITIES ALLEGEDLY CHARGED VS. HIM IN THE AMT. OF P 76,000 (APPROX.)
SUBJECT TO CONDITIONS AS MAY BE IMPOSED BY PAL ON OR BEFORE 1700/9 FEB 86.

(s)
Felipe
Ramos

(Printed
) F.
Ramos

At the investigation of February 9, 1986, conducted by the PAL Branch Manager in Baguio City, Edgardo R. Cruz, in the
presence of Station Agent Antonio Ocampo, Ticket Freight Clerk Rodolfo Quitasol, and PALEA Shop Steward Cristeta
Domingo, Felipe Ramos was informed "of the finding of the Audit Team." Thereafter, his answers in response to
questions by Cruz, were taken down in writing. Ramos' answers were to the effect inter alia that he had not indeed
made disclosure of the tickets mentioned in the Audit Team's findings, that the proceeds had been "misused" by him, that
although he had planned on paying back the money, he had been prevented from doing so, "perhaps (by) shame," that he
was still willing to settle his obligation, and proferred a "compromise x x to pay on staggered basis, (and) the amount
would be known in the next investigation;" that he desired the next investigation to be at the same place, "Baguio CTO,"
and that he should be represented therein by "Shop stewardees ITR Nieves Blanco;" and that he was willing to sign his
statement (as he in fact afterwards did). 4 How the investigation turned out is not dealt with the parties at all; but it would
seem that no compromise agreement was reached much less consummated.

About two (2) months later, an information was filed against Felipe Ramos charging him with the crime of estafa
allegedly committed in Baguio City during the period from March 12, 1986 to January 29, 1987. In that place and during
that time, according to the indictment, 5 he (Ramos) —

.. with unfaithfulness and/or abuse of confidence, did then and there willfully ... defraud the Philippine
Airlines, Inc., Baguio Branch, ... in the following manner, to wit: said accused ... having been entrusted
with and received in trust fare tickets of passengers for one-way trip and round-trip in the total amount of
P76,700.65, with the express obligation to remit all the proceeds of the sale, account for it and/or to return
those unsold, ... once in possession thereof and instead of complying with his obligation, with intent to
defraud, did then and there ... misappropriate, misapply and convert the value of the tickets in the sum of
P76,700.65 and in spite of repeated demands, ... failed and refused to make good his obligation, to the
damage and prejudice of the offended party .. .

On arraignment on this charge, Felipe Ramos entered a plea of "Not Guilty," and trial thereafter ensued. The prosecution
of the case was undertaken by lawyers of PAL under the direction and supervision of the Fiscal.

At the close of the people's case, the private prosecutors made a written offer of evidence dated June 21, 1988, 6which
included "the (above mentioned) statement of accused Felipe J. Ramos taken on February 9, 1986 at PAL Baguio City
Ticket Office," which had been marked as Exhibit A, as well as his "handwritten admission x x given on February 8,
1986," also above referred to, which had been marked as Exhibit K.

The defendant's attorneys filed "Objections/Comments to Plaintiff s Evidence." 7 Particularly as regards the peoples'
Exhibit A, the objection was that "said document, which appears to be a confession, was taken without the accused
being represented by a lawyer." Exhibit K was objected to "for the same reasons interposed under Exhibits 'A' and 'J.'

By Order dated August 9, 1988, 8 the respondent judge admitted all the exhibits "as part of the testimony of the witnesses
who testified in connection therewith and for whatever they are worth," except Exhibits A and K, which it rejected. His
Honor declared Exhibit A "inadmissible in evidence, it appearing that it is the statement of accused Felipe Ramos taken on
February 9, 1986 at PAL Baguio City Ticket Office, in an investigation conducted by the Branch Manager x x since it
does not appear that the accused was reminded of this constitutional rights to remain silent and to have counsel, and that
when he waived the same and gave his statement, it was with the assistance actually of a counsel." He also declared
inadmissible "Exhibit K, the handwritten admission made by accused Felipe J. Ramos, given on February 8, 1986 x x for
the same reason stated in the exclusion of Exhibit 'A' since it does not appear that the accused was assisted by counsel
when he made said admission."

The private prosecutors filed a motion for reconsideration. 9 It was denied, by Order dated September 14, 1988. 10 In
justification of said Order, respondent Judge invoked this Court's rulings in Morales, Jr. v. Juan Ponce Enrile, et al., 121
SCRA 538, People v. Galit, 135 SCRA 467, People. v. Sison, 142 SCRA 219, and People v. Decierdo, 149 SCRA 496,
among others, to the effect that "in custodial investigations the right to counsel may be waived but the waiver shall not be
valid unless made with the assistance of counsel," and the explicit precept in the present Constitution that the rights in
custodial investigation "cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel." He pointed out that the
investigation of Felipe Ramos at the PAL Baguio Station was one "for the offense of allegedly misappropriating the
proceeds of the tickets issued to him' and therefore clearly fell "within the coverage of the constitutional provisions;" and
the fact that Ramos was not detained at the time, or the investigation was administrative in character could not operate to
except the case "from the ambit of the constitutional provision cited."

These Orders, of August 9, 1988 and September 14, 1988 are now assailed in the petition for certiorari and prohibition at
bar, filed in this Court by the private prosecutors in the name of the People of the Philippines. By Resolution dated
October 26, 1988, the Court required Judge Ayson and Felipe Ramos to comment on the petition, and directed issuance of
a "TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER . . . ENJOINING the respondents from proceeding further with the trial
and/or hearing of Criminal Case No. 3488-R (People ... vs. Felipe Ramos), including the issuance of any order, decision or
judgment in the aforesaid case or on any matter in relation to the same case, now pending before the Regional Trial Court
of Baguio City, Br. 6, First Judicial Region." The Court also subsequently required the Solicitor General to comment on
the petition. The comments of Judge Ayson, Felipe Ramos, and the Solicitor General have all been filed. The Solicitor
General has made common cause with the petitioner and prays "that the petition be given due course and thereafter
judgment be rendered setting aside respondent Judge's Orders . . . and ordering him to admit Exhibits 'A' and 'K' of the
prosecution." The Solicitor General has thereby removed whatever impropriety might have attended the institution of the
instant action in the name of the People of the Philippines by lawyers de parte of the offended party in the criminal action
in question.

The Court deems that there has been full ventilation of the issue — of whether or not it was grave abuse of discretion
for respondent Judge to have excluded the People's Exhibits A and K. It will now proceed to resolve it.
At the core of the controversy is Section 20, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, 11 to which respondent Judge has
given a construction that is disputed by the People. The section reads as follows:

SEC. 20. No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself Any person under
investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to remain silent and to counsel,
and to be informed of such right. No force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which
vitiates the free will shall be used against him. Any confession obtained in violation of this section
shall be inadmissible in evidence.

It should at once be apparent that there are two (2) rights, or sets of rights, dealt with in the section, namely:

1) the right against self-incrimination — i.e., the right of a person not to be compelled to be a
witness against himself — set out in the first sentence, which is a verbatim reproduction of Section
18, Article III of the 1935 Constitution, and is similar to that accorded by the Fifth Amendment of
the American Constitution, 12 and

2) the rights of a person in custodial interrogation, i.e., the rights of every suspect "under
investigation for the commission of an offense."

Parenthetically, the 1987 Constitution indicates much more clearly the individuality and disparateness of these rights. It
has placed the rights in separate sections. The right against self- incrimination, "No person shall be compelled to be a
witness against himself," is now embodied in Section 17, Article III of the 1987 Constitution. The lights of a person in
custodial interrogation, which have been made more explicit, are now contained in Section 12 of the same Article III. 13

Right Against Self-Incrimination

The first right, against self-incrimination, mentioned in Section 20, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, is accorded to
every person who gives evidence, whether voluntarily or under compulsion of subpoena, in any civil, criminal, or
administrative proceeding. 14 The right is NOT to "be compelled to be a witness against himself"

The precept set out in that first sentence has a settled meaning. 15 It prescribes an "option of refusal to answer
incriminating questions and not a prohibition of inquiry." 16 It simply secures to a witness, whether he be a party or not,
the right to refue to answer any particular incriminatory question, i.e., one the answer to which has a tendency to
incriminate him for some crime. However, the right can be claimed only when the specific question, incriminatory in
character, is actually put to the witness. It cannot be claimed at any other time. It does not give a witness the right to
disregard a subpoena, to decline to appear before the court at the time appointed, or to refuse to testify altogether. The
witness receiving a subpoena must obey it, appear as required, take the stand, be sworn and answer questions. It is only
when a particular question is addressed to him, the answer to which may incriminate him for some offense, that he may
refuse to answer on the strength of the constitutional guaranty.

That first sentence of Section 20, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution does not impose on the judge, or other officer
presiding over a trial, hearing or investigation, any affirmative obligation to advise a witness of his right against self-
incrimination. It is a right that a witness knows or should know, in accordance with the well known axiom that every one
is presumed to know the law, that ignorance of the law excuses no one. Furthermore, in the very nature of things, neither
the judge nor the witness can be expected to know in advance the character or effect of a question to be put to the latter. 17

The right against self-incrimination is not self- executing or automatically operational. It must be claimed. If not
claimed by or in behalf of the witness, the protection does not come into play. It follows that the right may be
waived, expressly, or impliedly, as by a failure to claim it at the appropriate time. 18

Rights in Custodial Interrogation

Section 20, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution also treats of a second right, or better said, group of rights. These rights
apply to persons "under investigation for the commission of an offense," i.e., "suspects" under investigation by
police authorities; and this is what makes these rights different from that embodied in the first sentence, that against self-
incrimination which, as aforestated, indiscriminately applies to any person testifying in any proceeding, civil, criminal, or
administrative.

This provision granting explicit rights to persons under investigation for an offense was not in the 1935 Constitution. It is
avowedly derived from the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona, 19 a decision described as an
"earthquake in the world of law enforcement." 20

Section 20 states that whenever any person is "under investigation for the commission of an offense"--

21
1) he shall have the right to remain silent and to counsel, and to be informed of such right,

2) nor force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiates the free will shall be used
against him; 22 and

23
3) any confession obtained in violation of x x (these rights shall be inadmissible in evidence.

In Miranda, Chief Justice Warren summarized the procedural safeguards laid down for a person in police custody, "in-
custody interrogation" being regarded as the commencement of an adversary proceeding against the suspect. 24

He must be warned prior to any questioning that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used
against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney
one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires. Opportunity to exercise those rights must be
afforded to him throughout the interrogation. After such warnings have been given, such opportunity afforded him, the
individual may knowingly and intelligently waive these rights and agree to answer or make a statement. But unless and
until such warnings and waivers are demonstrated by the prosecution at the trial, no evidence obtained as a result of
interrogation can be used against him.

The objective is to prohibit "incommunicado interrogation of individuals in a police-dominated atmosphere, resulting in


self-incriminating statement without full warnings of constitutional rights." 25

The rights above specified, to repeat, exist only in "custodial interrogations," or "in-custody interrogation of accused
persons." 26 And, as this Court has already stated, by custodial interrogation is meant "questioning initiated by law
enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any
significant way." 27 The situation contemplated has also been more precisely described by this Court." 28

.. . After a person is arrested and his custodial investigation begins a confrontation arises which at best
may be tanned unequal. The detainee is brought to an army camp or police headquarters and there
questioned and "cross-examined" not only by one but as many investigators as may be necessary to break
down his morale. He finds himself in strange and unfamiliar surroundings, and every person he meets he
considers hostile to him. The investigators are well-trained and seasoned in their work. They employ all
the methods and means that experience and study have taught them to extract the truth, or what may pass
for it, out of the detainee. Most detainees are unlettered and are not aware of their constitutional rights.
And even if they were, the intimidating and coercive presence of the officers of the law in such an
atmosphere overwhelms them into silence. Section 20 of the Bill of Rights seeks to remedy this
imbalance.

Not every statement made to the police by a person involved in some crime is within the scope of the constitutional
protection. If not made "under custodial interrogation," or "under investigation for the commission of an offense,"
the statement is not protected. Thus, in one case, 29 where a person went to a police precinct and before any sort of
investigation could be initiated, declared that he was giving himself up for the killing of an old woman because she was
threatening to kill him by barang, or witchcraft, this Court ruled that such a statement was admissible, compliance with
the constitutional procedure on custodial interrogation not being exigible under the circumstances.

Rights of Defendant in Criminal Case


As Regards Giving of Testimony

It is pertinent at this point to inquire whether the rights just discussed, i.e., (1) that against self-incrimination and (2) those
during custodial interrogation apply to persons under preliminary investigation or already charged in court for a crime.

It seems quite evident that a defendant on trial or under preliminary investigation is not under custodial
interrogation. His interrogation by the police, if any there had been would already have been ended at the time of
the filing of the criminal case in court (or the public prosecutors' office). Hence, with respect to a defendant in a
criminal case already pending in court (or the public prosecutor's office), there is no occasion to speak of his right while
under "custodial interrogation" laid down by the second and subsequent sentences of Section 20, Article IV of the 1973
Constitution, for the obvious reason that he is no longer under "custodial interrogation."

But unquestionably, the accused in court (or undergoing preliminary investigation before the public prosecutor), in
common with all other persons, possesses the right against self- incrimination set out in the first sentence of Section 20
Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, i.e., the right to refuse to answer a specific incriminatory question at the time that it is
put to him. 30

Additionally, the accused in a criminal case in court has other rights in the matter of giving testimony or refusing to do so.
An accused "occupies a different tier of protection from an ordinary witness." Under the Rules of Court, in all criminal
prosecutions the defendant is entitled among others-

1) to be exempt from being a witness against himself, 31 and 2) to testify as witness in his own behalf; but if he offers
himself as a witness he may be cross-examined as any other witness; however, his neglect or refusal to be a witness shall
not in any manner prejudice or be used against him. 32

The right of the defendant in a criminal case "to be exempt from being a witness against himself' signifies that he cannot
be compelled to testify or produce evidence in the criminal case in which he is the accused, or one of the accused. He
cannot be compelled to do so even by subpoena or other process or order of the Court. He cannot be required to be a
witness either for the prosecution, or for a co-accused, or even for himself. 33 In other words — unlike an ordinary witness
(or a party in a civil action) who may be compelled to testify by subpoena, having only the right to refuse to answer a
particular incriminatory question at the time it is put to him-the defendant in a criminal action can refuse to testify
altogether. He can refuse to take the witness stand, be sworn, answer any question. 34And, as the law categorically states,
"his neglect or refusal to be a witness shall not in any manner prejudice or be used against him." 35

If he should wish to testify in his own behalf, however, he may do so. This is his right. But if he does testify, then he "may
be cross- examined as any other witness." He may be cross-examined as to any matters stated in his direct examination, or
connected therewith . 36 He may not on cross-examination refuse to answer any question on the ground that the answer
that he will give, or the evidence he will produce, would have a tendency to incriminate him for the crime with which he
is charged.

It must however be made clear that if the defendant in a criminal action be asked a question which might incriminate him,
not for the crime with which he is charged, but for some other crime, distinct from that of which he is accused, he may
decline to answer that specific question, on the strength of the right against self-incrimination granted by the first sentence
of Section 20, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution (now Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution). Thus, assuming that in a
prosecution for murder, the accused should testify in his behalf, he may not on cross-examination refuse to answer any
question on the ground that he might be implicated in that crime of murder; but he may decline to answer any particular
question which might implicate him for a different and distinct offense, say, estafa.

In fine, a person suspected of having committed a crime and subsequently charged with its commission in court, has the
following rights in the matter of his testifying or producing evidence, to wit:

1) BEFORE THE CASE IS FILED IN COURT (or with the public prosecutor, for preliminary
investigation), but after having been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his liberty in some
significant way, and on being interrogated by the police: the continuing right to remain silent and to
counsel, and to be informed thereof, not to be subjected to force, violence, threat, intimidation or any
other means which vitiates the free will; and to have evidence obtained in violation of these rights
rejected; and

2) AFTER THE CASE IS FILED IN COURT — 37

a) to refuse to be a witness;

b) not to have any prejudice whatsoever result to him by such refusal;

c) to testify in his own behalf, subject to cross-examination by the prosecution;

d) WHILE TESTIFYING, to refuse to answer a specific question which tends to


incriminate him for some crime other than that for which he is then prosecuted.

It should by now be abundantly apparent that respondent Judge has misapprehended the nature and import of the
disparate rights set forth in Section 20, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution. He has taken them as applying to the
same juridical situation, equating one with the other. In so doing, he has grossly erred. To be sure, His Honor sought
to substantiate his thesis by arguments he took to be cogent and logical. The thesis was however so far divorced from the
actual and correct state of the constitutional and legal principles involved as to make application of said thesis to the case
before him tantamount to totally unfounded, whimsical or capricious exercise of power. His Orders were thus rendered
with grave abuse of discretion. They should be as they are hereby, annulled and set aside.

It is clear from the undisputed facts of this case that Felipe Ramos was not in any sense under custodial
interrogation, as the term should be properly understood, prior to and during the administrative inquiry into the
discovered irregularities in ticket sales in which he appeared to have had a hand. The constitutional rights of a
person under custodial interrogation under Section 20, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution did not therefore come
into play, were of no relevance to the inquiry. It is also clear, too, that Ramos had voluntarily answered questions posed
to him on the first day of the administrative investigation, February 9, 1986 and agreed that the proceedings should be
recorded, the record having thereafter been marked during the trial of the criminal action subsequently filed against him as
Exhibit A, just as it is obvious that the note (later marked as Exhibit K) that he sent to his superiors on February 8,1986,
the day before the investigation, offering to compromise his liability in the alleged irregularities, was a free and even
spontaneous act on his part. They may not be excluded on the ground that the so-called "Miranda rights" had not
been accorded to Ramos.

His Honor adverts to what he perceives to be the "greater danger x x (of) the violation of the right of any person against
self-incrimination when the investigation is conducted by the complaining parties, complaining companies, or
complaining employers because being interested parties, unlike the police agencies who have no propriety or pecuniary
interest to protect, they may in their over-eagerness or zealousness bear heavily on their hapless suspects, whether
employees or not, to give statements under an atmosphere of moral coercion, undue ascendancy and undue influence." It
suffices to draw attention to the specific and peremptory requirement of the law that disciplinary sanctions may not be
imposed on any employee by his employer until and unless the employee has been accorded due process, by which is
meant that the latter must be informed of the offenses ascribed to him and afforded adequate time and opportunity to
explain his side. The requirement entails the making of statements, oral or written, by the employee under such
administrative investigation in his defense, with opportunity to solicit the assistance of counsel, or his colleagues and
friends. The employee may, of course, refuse to submit any statement at the investigation, that is his privilege. But if he
should opt to do so, in his defense to the accusation against him, it would be absurd to reject his statements, whether at the
administrative investigation, or at a subsequent criminal action brought against him, because he had not been accorded,
prior to his making and presenting them, his "Miranda rights" (to silence and to counsel and to be informed thereof, etc.)
which, to repeat, are relevant only in custodial investigations. Indeed, it is self-evident that the employee's statements,
whether called "position paper," "answer," etc., are submitted by him precisely so that they may be admitted and duly
considered by the investigating officer or committee, in negation or mitigation of his liability.

Of course the possibility cannot be discounted that in certain instances the judge's expressed apprehensions may be
realized, that violence or intimidation, undue pressure or influence be brought to bear on an employee under investigation
— or for that matter, on a person being interrogated by another whom he has supposedly offended. In such an event, any
admission or confession wrung from the person under interrogation would be inadmissible in evidence, on proof of the
vice or defect vitiating consent, not because of a violation of Section 20, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution, but simply
on the general, incontestable proposition that involuntary or coerced statements may not in justice be received against the
makers thereof, and really should not be accorded any evidentiary value at all.

WHEREFORE, the writ of certiorari is granted annulling and setting aside the Orders of the respondent Judge in Criminal
Case No. 3488-R, dated August 9, 1988 and September 14, 1988, and he is hereby ordered to admit in evidence Exhibits
"A" and "K" of the prosecution in said Criminal Case No. 3488-R, and thereafter proceed with the trial and adjudgment
thereof. The temporary restraining order of October 26, 1988 having become functus officio, is now declared of no further
force and effect.
22. People vs. Olvis, GR No. 71092, 30 September 1987

SARMIENTO, J.:

This is an appeal from the decision of the Regional Trial Court to Zamboanga Del Norte sitting in Dipolog City. 1 The
case was certified to this Court on January 19, 1985 following the death sentences imposed on each of the three accused-
appellants, Romulo Villarojo, Leonardo Cademas, and Dominador Sorela (the accused first-named, Anacleto Olvis, was
acquitted), over which, under the Constitution then in force, 2 we exercised exclusive appellate jurisdiction. 3 With the
promulgation of the 1987 Charter, abolishing the death penalty and commuting death penalties already imposed
to reclusion perpetua 4 we, on May 14, 1987, issued a death penalty abolition resolution requiring the three accused-
appellants to file a statement, personally signed by them with the assistance of counsel, stating whether or not they wished
to continue with the case as an appealed case. 5 We have since observed this procedure with respect to all pending capital
cases.

In compliance with our resolution, the three accused-appellants, on May 28, 1987, filed a statement informing us that they
desire to continue with this case as an appealed case. 6

This appeal stemmed from an information dated November 11, 1976 charging all four accused with the murder of
Discredit Bagon. The same reads as follows:

xxx xxx xxx

The undersigned First Assistant Provincial Fiscal accuses ANACLETO Q. OLVIS, as principal by
inducement, ROMULO VILLAROJO, LEONARDO CADEMAS and DOMINADOR SORELA, as
principals by direct participation, of the crime of murder, committed as follows:

That in the evening on or about the 7th day of September 1975, in title Municipality of Polanco,
Zamboanga del Norte, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused,
consprising and confederating with one another and acting upon the direction and instruction of
ANACLETO Q. OLVIS who mastermind the bizarre plot and directly induced ROMULO VILLAROJO,
LEONARDO CADEMAS and DOMINADOR SORELA to execute the conspiracy and who, armed with
boloes and a hunting knife, with intent to kill by means of treachery and evident premeditation, and for a
consideration of a price or reward, did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault,
hack and stab one DISCREDIT BAGON, thereby inflicting upon him multiple inc. (hack) and stab
wounds which caused his instantaneous death.

CONTRARY TO LAW, with the qualifying circumstances of treachery and evident premeditation and the
generic aggravating circumstances of superior strength, nighttime and in consideration of a price or
reward. 7

xxx xxx xxx

The four accused entered Identical "not guilty" pleas.

After trial, the court a quo rendered the decision under appeal, the dispositive portion whereof reads as follows:

FOREGOING CONSIDERED, and on the part of accused ANACLETO Q. OLVIS, SR., there being no
evidence, direct or indirect, whether testimonial, documentary or physical evidence, that tend to establish
his complicity in this case, said accused has to be, as he hereby is, ACQUITTED.

On the part of the three (3) remaining accused ROMULO VILLAROJO, LEONARDO CADEMAS, and
DOMINADOR SORELA, the degree of moral, certainty establishing their authorship of the crime is
irreversibly positive. The three (3) accused conspired and confederated with one another to successfully
achieve their ghastly, evil ends. Their guilt has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Treachery and evident premeditation are qualifying circumstances in this case of MURDER. But said
offense was attended by the aggravating circumstances of superior strength and nighttime. No mitigating
circumstance has been shown to offset the two (2) aggravating circumstances, as a consequence of which,
the Court hereby renders judgment sentencing the accused ROMULO VILLAROJO, LEONARDO
CADEMAS, and DOMINADOR SORELA, to suffer the maximum penalty of DEATH.

SO ORDERED. 8

We come to the facts.

On September 9, 1975, Alfredo and Estrella Bagon, brother and sister, arrived at the local Integrated National Police
station of Barrio Polanco, in Zamboanga del Norte, to report their brother, Deosdedit Bagon, missing. The station
commander, Captain Ruperto Encabo, received their report.

Bagon had been in fact missing since two days before. He was last seen by his wife in the afternoon of September 7, 1975,
on his way home to Sitio Sebaca where they resided. She did three probable places, but her efforts were in vain.

It was Captain Encabo himself who led a search party to mount an inquiry. As a matter of police procedure, the team
headed off to Sitio Sebaca to question possible witnesses. There, Captain Encabo's men chanced upon an unnamed
volunteer, who informed them that Deosdedit Bagon was last seen together with Dominador Sorela, one of the
accused herein.

Encabo then instructed one of his patrolmen to pick up Sorela.

Sorela bore several scratches on his face, neck and arms when the police found him. According to him, he sustained
those wounds while clearing his ricefield. Apparently unconvinced. Captain Encabo had Sorela take them to the
ricefield where he sustained his injuries. But half way there, Sorela illegally broke down, and, in what would
apparently crack the case for the police, admitted having participated in the killing of the missing Bagon. By then,
the police of Polanco knew that they had a murder case in their hands. Sorela allegedly confessed having been with
Deosdedit Bagon, a friend of his, in the evening of September 7, 1976 in Sitio Sebaca after some marketing. They
were met by Romulo Villarojo and Leonardo Cademas, Sorela's co-accused herein and likewise friends of the
deceased, who led them to a secluded place in the ricefields. It does not appear from the records how the three were
able to have the deceased join them.

It was then that Villarojo allegedly attacked Bagon with a bolo, hacking him at several parts of the body until he, Bagon,
was dead. Moments later, Sorela fled, running into thick cogon grasses where he suffered facial and bodily scratches.

The police soon picked up Villarojo and Cademas. Together with Sorela, they were turned over to the custody of Captain
Encabo.

The police thereafter made the three re-enact the crime. Patrolman Dionisio Capito directed Sorela to lead them to the
grounds where Discredit Bagon was supposed to have been buried. But it was Villarojo who escorted them to a watery
spot somewhere in the ricefields, where the sack-covered, decomposing cadaver of Bagon lay in a shallow grave.

The actual exhumation of the body of the victim was witnessed by Polanco policemen and Civilian Home Defense Forces
volunteers, numbering about thirty. The body was transported to the Polanco municipal hand the following day,
September 10, 1975. It was displayed, morbidly, in front of the building where Mrs. Catalina Bagon, widow of the
deceased, and her four children viewed it. The exhumation, as well as the transfer of Bagon's cadaver, were captured by
the lens of a photographer. (Exhibits "I", "J", "K", its "L", "M", and "N").

The "ceremonies" continued in the parish church of the Polanco, where the body of the victim was transferred. It was laid
on the altar, in full public view. Again the proceedings were recorded by the camera of a photographer. (Exhibits "R",
"S".)
But it was only later on that the body itself was uncovered from the sack that had concealed it. (Exhibits "T", "U", "VIP.)
Thereupon, it was readied for autopsy.

The necropsy report prepared by the provincial health officer disclosed that the deceased suffered twelve stab and hack
wounds, six of which were determined to be fatal.

In the re-enactment, the suspects, the three accused herein, demonstrated how the victim was boloed to death. Exhibit "Y,"
a photograph, shows the appellant Villarojo in the posture of raising a bolo as if to strike another, while Solero and
Cademas look on. Exhibit "X", another photograph, portrays Villarojo in the act of concealing the murder weapon behind
a banana tree, apparently after having done the victim in.

The investigation yielded several effects of the offense: a twenty-inch long bolo, the shovel used to inter the victim's
remains, a nylon rope with which the dead body was tied, and the sack itself.

Initial findings of investigators disclosed that the threesome of Solero, Villarojo, and Cademas executed Discredit Bagon
on orders of Anacleto Olvis, then Polanco municipal mayor, for a reward of P3,000.00 each.

While in custody, the three executed five separate written confessions each. The first confessions were taken on
September 9, 1975 in the local Philippine Constabulary headquarters. The second were made before the Polanco police.
On September 18, 1975, the three accused reiterated the same confessions before the National Bureau of Investigation
Dipolog City sub-office. On September 21, 1975 and September 25, 1975, they executed two confessions more, again
before the Philippine Constabulary and the police of Polanco.

In their confessions of September 9, 1975, September 14, 1975, September 21, 1975, and September 25, 1975, the said
accused again pointed to the then accused Anacleto Olvis as principal by inducement, who allegedly promised them
a reward of P3,000.00 each.

In their confessions of September 18, 1975, sworn before agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, however, they
categorically denied Olvis' involvement in the knowing. We note that the three were transported to the Dipolog City NBI
sub-office following a request on September 10, 1975 by Mrs. Diolinda O. Adaro daughter of Olvis, and upon complaint
by her of harassment against her father by his supposed political enemies.

Based on these subsequent statements, the court a quo rendered separate verdicts on the three accused on the one
hand, and Anacleto Olvis on the other. As earlier stated Olvis was acquitted, while the three were all sentenced to
die for the crime of murder.

In acquitting Olvis, the trial court rejected the three accused's earlier confessions pointing to him as the
mastermind, and denied the admissibility thereof insofar as far as he was concerned. It rejected claims of witnesses
that the three accused-appellants would carry out Olvis' alleged order to kill Bagon upon an offer of a reward
when in fact no money changed hands. It likewise noted that Olvis had, two days after the murder, been in Cebu City,
and who, upon arriving in Dipolog City, was in fact informed by the Philippine Constabulary that he was a "wanted" man,
"to which said accused (Olvis) meekly complied" 9 (that is, he assented, ambiguously, to the remark). According to the
court, this was inconsistent with a guilty mind.

The court repudiated claims that Olvis had motives to do away with the deceased arising from alleged attempts on his
(Olvis') part to eject the deceased from his landholding (the deceased having been a tenant of his), the case in fact having
reached the then Ministry of Agrarian Reform. It dismissed insinuations that his children had a score to settle with the
victim, who had earlier brought a physical injuries suit against the former, that case having been dismissed. It observed,
furthermore, that he was not questioned by the police after the killing, notwithstanding efforts by the three herein accused-
appellants to implicate him. It relied, finally, on the retraction of the accused themselves, absolving Olvis of any liability.
It was satisfied, overall, that he had a "clean bill of health" 10 in connection with the murder case.

With the acquittal of Olvis, we are left with the murder cases against the three accused-appellants. The accused-appellants
subsequently repudiated their alleged confessions in open court alleging threats by the Polanco investigators of physical
harm if they refused to "cooperate" in the solution of the case. They likewise alleged that they were instructed by the
Polanco police investigators to implicate Anacieto Olvis in the case. They insisted on their innocence. The acused Romulo
Villarojo averred, specifically, that it was the deceased who had sought to kill him, for which he acted in self-defense.

The murder of Deosdedit Bagon was witnessed by no other person. The police of Polanco had but the three accused-
appellants' statements to support its claiming. The fundamental issue then is whether or not these statements, as any
extrajudicial confession confronting us, can stand up in court.

We hold that, based on the recorded evidence, the three accused-appellants' extrajudicial confessions are
inadmissible in evidence.

It was on May 7, 1987 that we promulgated People v. Decierdo.11 In that decision, we laid down the rule with respect to
extrajudicial confessions:

xxx xxx xxx

... Prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any
statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an
attorney, either retained or appointed. The defendant, may waive effectuation of indicates in any manner
and at any stage of the process that he wishes to consult with an attorney before speaking, there can be no
questioning. Likewise, if the individual is alone and indicates in any manner that he does not wish to be
interrogated, the police may not question him The mere fact that he may have answered some questions or
volunteered some statements on his own does not deprive him of the right to refrain from answering any
further inquiries until he has converted with an attorney and thereafter consent to be questioned.

xxx xxx xxx

In People v. Duero, we added:

xxx xxx xxx

At the outset, if a person in custody is to be subjected to interrogation, he must first be informed in clear
and unequivocal terms that he has the right to remain silent.

For those unaware of the privilege, the warning is needed simply to make them aware of — the threshold
requirement for an intelligent decision as to its exercise.

More important, such a warning is an absolute pre-requisite in overcoming the inherent pressures of the
interrogation atmosphere

Further, the warning will show the individual that his interrogators are prepared to recognize his privilege
should he choose to exercise it . . .

The warning of the right to remain silent must be accompanied by the explanation that anything said can
and WW be used against the individual in court. This warning is needed in order to make him aware not
only of the privilege, but also of the consequences of foregoing it . . .

An individual need not make a pre-interrogation request for a lawyer. While such request affirmatively
secures his right to have one, his failure to ask for a lawyer does not constitute a waiver. No effective
waiver of the right to counsel during interrogation can be recognized unless specifically made after the
warnings we here delineate have been given. The accused who does not know his rights and therefore
does not make a request may be the person who most needs Counsel

If an individual indicates that he wishes the assistance of counsel before any interrogation occurs, the
authorities cannot rationally ignore or deny his request on the basis that the individual does not have or
cannot afford a retained attorney . . .
In order fully to apprise a person interrogated of the extent of his rights under this system then, it is
necessary to warn him not only that he has the right to consult with an attorney, but also that ff. he is
indigent a lawyer will be appointed to represent him . . .

Once warnings have been given, the subsequent procedure is clear, If the individual indicates in any
manner, at any time prior to or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation
impose cease. . . If the individual cannot obtain an attorney and he indicates that he wants one before
speaking to policy, they must respect his decision to remain silent . . .

If the interrogation continues without the presence of an attorney and a statement is taken, a heavy burden
rests on the government to demonstrate that the defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his
privilege against self-incriminate tion and his right to retained or appointed counsel ... 12

xxx xxx xxx

Like the Decierdo confessions, the confessions in the case at bar suffer from a Constitutional infirmity. In their
supposed statements dated September 9, 14, and 21, 1975, the accused-appellants were not assisted by counsel
when they "waived" their rights to counsel. As we said in Decierdo, the lack of counsel "makes [those] statement[s], in
contemplation of law, 'involuntary,' even if it were otherwise voluntary, technically." 13

With reset to the confessions of September 18, 197 5, while it is stated therein that this Office had just requested the
services of Atty. NARVARO VELAR NAVARRO of the Citizens Legal Assistance Office, Department of Justice,
Dipolog District Office, are you wining to accept the legal assistance of Atty. NAVARRO to handle your case, 14 the
same nonetheless call for a similar rejection. There is nothing there that would show that Atty. Navarro was the
accused-appellants' counsel of choice (specifically, the appellant Romulo Villarojo who admitted therein having been
the bolo-wielder). On the contrary, it is clear therefrom that Atty. Navarro was summoned by the NBI. He cannot
therefore be said to have been acting on behalf of the accused-appellants when he lent his presence at the
confession proceedings. What we said in People v. Galit, 15 applies with like force here:

No custodial investigation shall be conducted unless it be in the presence of counsel engaged by the
person arrested, by any person on his behalf, or appointed by the court upon petition either of the dead 16
trainee himself or by anyone on his behalf. 16

We cast aside, for the same reason, the confessions of September 25, 1975.

But the accused-appellants were denied their right to counsel not once, but twice. We refer to the forced re-enactment of
the crime the three accused were made to perform shortly after their apprehension.

Forced re-enactments, like uncounselled and coerced confessions come within the ban against self- incrimination. The
1973 Constitution, the Charter prevailing at the time of the proceedings below, says:

No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. 17

This constitutional privilege has been defined as a protection against testimonial compulsion, 18 but this has since been
extended to any evidence "communicative in nature" 19 acquired under circumstances of duress. Essentially, the right is
meant to "avoid and prohibit positively the repetition and recurrence of the certainly inhuman procedure of competing a
person, in a criminal or any other case, to furnish the missing evidence necessary for his conviction." 20 This was the
lesson learned from the ancient days of the inquisition in which accusation was equivalent to guilt. 21 Thus, an act,
whether testimonial or passive, that would amount to disclosure of incriminatory facts is covered by the inhibition of the
Constitution.

This should be distinguished, parenthetically, from mechanical acts the accused is made to execute not meant to unearth
undisclosed facts but to ascertain physical attributes determinable by simple observation. This includes requiring the
accused to submit to a test to extract virus from his body, 22 or compelling him to expectorate morphine from his
mouth 23 or making her submit to a pregnancy test 24 or a footprinting test, 25 or requiring him to take part in a police lineup
in certain cases." In each case, the accused does not speak his guilt. It is not a prerequisite therefore that he be provided
with the guiding hand of counsel.

But a forced re-enactment is quite another thing. Here, the accused is not merely required to exhibit some physical
characteristics; by and large, he is made to admit criminal responsibility against his will. It is a police procedure just as
condemnable as an uncounselled confession.

Accordingly, we hold that all evidence based on such a re-enactment to be in violation of the Constitution and hence,
incompetent evidence.

It should be furthermore observed that the three accused-appellants were in police custody when they took part in the re-
enactment in question. It is under such circumstances that the Constitution holds a strict application. As for the accused
Dominador Sorela, we cannot accept the trial judge's finding that he acted "with unexpected spontaneity" 27 when he
allegedly "spilled the beans 28 before the law enforcers on September 9, 1975. What is to be borne in mind is that Sorela
was himself under custody. Any statement he might have made thereafter is therefore subject to the Constitutional
guaranty.

By custodial interrogation, we mean questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has
been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way. 29

We indeed doubt whether Sorela's admissions, under the circumstances, were truly his voluntary statements Chavez v.
Court of Appeals 30 tells us:

Compulsion as it is understood here does not necessarily connote the use of violence; it may be the
product of unintentional statements. Pressure which operates to overbear his will disable him from
making a free and rational choice, or impair his capacity for rational judgment would in our opinion be
sufficient. So is moral coercion "tending to force testimony from the unwilling lips of the defendant. 31

In such a case, he should have been provided with counsel.

Indeed, the three accused-appellants had languished in jail for one year and two months before the information was filed,
and only after they had gone to court on an application for habeas corpus. For if the authorities truly had a case in their
hands, we are puzzled why they, the accused, had to be made to suffer preventive imprisonment for quite an enormous
length of time.

What is more, there are striking aspects in the case that we find distressing. For one, there was no trace of grief upon the
faces of the deceased's bereaved relatives, more so his widow and children, upon witnessing his cadaver-wrapped in a
sack and all — although it was supposedly the first time that they saw his remains after two days of frantic
search. 32 Exhibits "K", "L", "M", "N", and "R", for another, depict the deceased's relatives in fixed poses, while the
deceased's corpse lay in the foreground. 33

Moreover, the victim was transferred to the municipal hand building and then subsequently, to the parish church, again,
for a photographing session — unusual procedure — when the perfunctory police procedure should have been to bring the
corpse to the health officer for autopsy.

It was in fact only on September 10, 1975 that Discredit Bagon's remains were unwrapped, at the parish church at that, as
if pursuant to a script or as part of some eerie ceremony.

To the mind of, this Court, the disposition of the case was characterized by unusual grandstanding, for reasons as yet
unclear to us. It leaves us with an uncomfortable impression that each scene was an act in some contrived tragedy.

We likewise find the authorities' haste in securing the accused Anacleto Olvis' acquittal, at the expense of the present three
accused, quite disconcerting. It should be noted that the three appellants had initially implicated Olvis as the mastermind.
Yet, Olvis was never invited for the usual questioning.
To us, there is more to Exhibit "20," the request to transfer Olvis' case to the jurisdiction of the National Bureau of
Investigation for reinvestigation, than meets the eye. As it happened, happily for Olvis, the three accused-appellants while
under NBI custody, retracted their earlier statements indicting him as a co-conspirator. Why the NBI should intervene in
the case when the Polanco police had apparently "solved" it, is, in the first place, suspicious enough, but why the three
appellants should, in an instant, make a turn-about there leaves us even more disturbed.

While we do not challenge the verdict by acquittal rendered in favor of Olvis, for it is not within our power to overturn
acquittals, 34 what is our concern is the apparent design to use three ill-lettered peasants, 35 the three herein accused, as fall
guys in an evident network of political intrigue.

Still, we are not prepared to hand down a judgment of acquittal upon all the three accused-appellants.

In his counter-affidavit, 36 marked as Exhibit "44-A" for the defense, the accused Romulo Villarojo admitted hacking the
victim to death with a bolo. He stressed, however, that he did so in self- defense. He pulled out a hunting knife in order to
stab me and in order also to defend my body, I hack[ed] him." 37 He completely absolved his co-accused Dominador
Sorela and Leonardo Cademas from any liability.

Villarojo's admission inflicting the fatal wounds upon the deceased is binding on him. 38 But it is still our business to see
whether his defense can stand scrutiny.

The records will disclose that the deceased suffered twelve assorted wounds caused by a sharp instrument. The assault
severed his right hand and left his head almost separated from his body. This indicates a serious intent to kill, rather than
self-defense. 39

In finding that Villarojo did take the life of the victim, we cannot, however, appreciate superior strength or nocturnity.
These qualifying circumstances were considered by the court a quo on the basis of the extrajudicial statements executed
by the accused, statements we reject for the reasons earlier discussed. In the absence of any other proof, the severity and
number of wounds sustained by the deceased are not, by themselves, sufficient proof to warrant the appreciation of the
generic aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength. Hence, Villarojo should be liable for plain homicide.

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered modifying the Decision dated November 30, 1984. The accused-appellants
Leonardo Cademas and Dominador Sorela are ACQUITTED on the ground of reasonable doubt. The accused-appellant
Romulo Villarojo is found guilty of homicide, and is sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of eight years and one
day of prision mayor as minimum, to fourteen years, eight months, and one day of reclusion temporal, as maximum. He is
furthermore ordered to indemnify the heirs of Discredit Bagon in the sum of P30,000.00. No special pronouncement as to
costs
23. Beltran vs. Samson, GR No. 32025, 23 September 1929

DECISION

ROMUALDEZ, J.:

This is a petition for a writ of prohibition, wherein the petitioner complains that the respondent judge ordered him to
appear before the provincial fiscal to take dictation in his won handwriting from the latter.

The order was given upon petition of said fiscal for the purpose of comparing the petitioner’s handwriting and
determining whether or not it is he who wrote certain documents supposed to be falsified.

There is no question as to the facts alleged in the complaints filed in these proceedings; but the respondents contend that
the petitioner is not entitled to the remedy applied for, inasmuch as the order prayed for by the provincial fiscal and later
granted by the court below, and against which the instance action was brought, is based on the provisions of section 1687
of the Administrative Code and on the doctrine laid down in the cases of People v. Badilla (48 Phil., 718); United States v.
Tan Teng (23 Phil., 145); United States v. Ong Siu Hong (36 Phil., 735), cited by counsel for the respondents, and in the
case of Villaflor v. Summers (41 Phil., 62) cited by the judge in the order in question.

Of course, the fiscal under section 1687 of the Administrative Code, and the proper judge, upon motion of the fiscal, may
compel witnesses to be present at the investigation of any crime of misdemeanor. But this power must be exercised
without prejudice to the constitutional rights of persons cited to appear.

And the petitioner, in refusing to perform what the fiscal demanded, seeks refuge in the constitutional provision
contained in the Jones Law and incorporated in General Orders, No. 58.

Therefore, the question raised is to be decided by examining whether the constitutional provision invoked by the
petitioner prohibits compulsion to execute what is enjoined upon him by the order against which these proceedings
were taken.

Said provision is found in paragraph 3, section 3 of the Jones Law which (in Spanish) reads: "Ni se le obligara a declarar
en contra suya en ningun proceso criminal" and has been incorporated in our Criminal Procedure (General Orders, No. 58)
in section 15 (No. 4) and section 56.

As to the extent of this privilege, it should be noted first of all, that the English text of the Jones Law, which is the original
one, reads as follows: "Nor shall he be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself."cralaw virtua1aw
library

This text is not limited to declaracion but says "to be a witness." Moreover, as we are concerned with a principle contained
both in the Federal constitution and in the constitutions of several states of the United States, but expressed differently, we
should take it that these various phrasings have a common conception.

"In the interpretation of the principle, nothing turns upon the variations of wordings in the constitutional clauses; this
much is conceded (ante, par. 2252). It is therefore immaterial that the witness is protected by one Constitution from
’testifying,’ or by another from ’furnishing evidence,’ or by another from ’giving evidence,’ or by still another from ’being
a witness.’ These various phrasings have a common conception, in respect to the form of the protected disclosure. What is
that conception?" (4 Wigmore on Evidence, p. 863, 1923 ed.)

As to its scope, this privilege is not limited precisely to testimony, but extends to all giving or furnishing of evidence.

"The rights intended to be protected by the constitutional provision that no man accused of crime shall be compelled to be
a witness against himself is so sacred, and the pressure toward their relaxation so great when the suspicion of guilt is
strong and the evidence obscure, that it is the duty of courts liberally to construe the prohibition in favor of personal
rights, and to refuse to permit any steps tending toward their invasion. Hence, there is the well-established doctrine that
the constitutional inhibition is directed not merely to giving of oral testimony, but embraces as well the furnishing of
evidence by other means than by word of mouth, the divulging, in short, of any fact which the accused has a right to hold
secret." (28 R. C. L., paragraph 20, page 434 and notes.) (Italics ours.)

The question, then, is reduced to a determination of whether the writing from the fiscal’s dictation by the petitioner for the
purpose of comparing the latter’s handwriting and determining whether he wrote certain documents supposed to be
falsified, constitutes evidence against himself within the scope and meaning of the constitutional provision under
examination.

Whenever a defendant, at the trial of his case, testifying in his own behalf, denies that a certain writing or signature is in
his own hand, he may on cross-examination but compelled to write in open court in order that the jury may be able to
compare his handwriting with the one in question. It was so held in the case of Bradford v. People (43 Pacific Reporter,
1013) inasmuch as the defendant, in offering himself as witness in his own behalf, waived his personal privileges.

Of like character is the case of Sprouse v. Com. (81 Va., 374, 378), where the judge asked the defendant to write his name
during the hearing, and the latter did so voluntarily.

But the cases so resolved cannot be compared to the one now before us. We are not concerned here with a defendant, for it
does not appear that any information was filed against the petitioner for the supposed falsification, and still less is it a
question of a defendant on trial testifying and under cross-examination. This is only an investigation prior to the
information and with a view to filing it. And let it further be noted that in the case of Sprouse v. Com., the defendant
performed the act voluntarily.

We have also come upon a case wherein the handwriting or the form of writing of the defendant was obtained before the
criminal action was instituted against him. We refer to the case of People v. Molineux (61 Northeastern Reporter, 286).

Neither may it be applied to the instant case, because there, as in the aforesaid case of Sprouse v. Com., the defendant
voluntarily offered to write, to furnish a specimen of his handwriting.

We cite this case particularly because the court there given prominence to the defendant’s right to decline to write, and to
the fact that he voluntarily wrote. The following appears in the body of said decision referred to (page 307 of the volume
cited):jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"The defendant had the legal right to refuse to write for Kinsley. He preferred to accede to the latter’s request, and we can
discover no ground upon which the writings thus produced can be excluded from the case." (Italics ours.)

For this reason it was held in the case of First National Bank v. Robert 941 Mich., 709; 3 N. W., 199), that the defendant
could not be compelled to write his name, the doctrine being stated as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"The defendant being sworn in his own behalf denied the indorsement.

"He was then cross-examined and questioned in regard to his having signed papers not in the case, and was asked in
particular whether he would not produce signatures made prior to the note in suit, and whether he would not write his
name there in court. The judge excluded all these inquiries, on objection, and it is our these rulings that complaint is made.
The object of the questions was to bring into the case extrinsic signatures, for the purpose of comparison by the jury, and
we think the judge was correct in ruling against it."cralaw virtua1aw library

It is true that the eminent Professor Wigmore, in his work cited (volume 4, page 878), says:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Measuring or photographing the party is not within the privilege. Nor is the removal or replacement of his garments or
shoes. Nor is the requirement that the party move his body to enable the foregoing things to be done. Requiring him to
make specimens of handwriting is no more than requiring him to move his body . . ." but he cites no case in support of his
last assertion on specimens of handwriting. We noted that in the same paragraph 2265, where said author treats of "Bodily
Exhibition," and under proposition "1. A great variety of concrete illustrations have been ruled upon," he cites many cases,
among them that of People v. Molineux (61 N. E., 286) which, as we have seen, has no application to the case at bar
because there the defendant voluntarily gave specimens of his handwriting, while here the petitioner refuses to do so and
has even instituted these prohibition proceedings that he may not be compelled to do so.

Furthermore, in the case before us, writing is something more than moving the body, or the hand, or the fingers; writing is
not a purely mechanical and attention; and in the case at bar writing means that the petitioner herein is to furnish a means
to determine or not he is the falsifier, as the petition of the respondent fiscal clearly states. Except that it is more serious,
we believe the present case is similar to that of producing documents of chattels in one’s possession. And as to such
production of documents or chattels, which to our mind is not so serious as the case now before us, the same eminent
Professor Wigmore, in his work cited, says (volume 4, page 864):jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

". . . 2264, Production or Inspection of Documents and Chattels. — 1. It follows that the production of documents or
chattels by a person (whether ordinary witness or party-witness) in response to a subpoena, or to a motion to order
production, or to other form of process treating him as a witness (i. e. as a person appearing before the tribunal to furnish
testimony on his moral responsibility for truth- telling), may be refused under the protection of the privilege; and this is
universally conceded." (And he cites the case of People v. Gardner, 144 N. Y., 119, 38 N. E., 1003.)

We say that, for the purposes of the constitutional privilege, there is a similarity between one who is compelled to produce
a document, and one who is compelled to furnish a specimen of his handwriting, for in both cases, the witness is required
to furnish evidence against himself.

And we say that the present case is more serious than that of compelling the production of documents or chattels, because
here the witness is compelled to write and create, by means of the act of writing, evidence which does not exist, and which
may identify him as the falsifier. And for this reason the same eminent author, Professor Wigmore, explaining the matter
of the production of documents and chattels, in the passage cited, adds:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"For though the disclosure thus sought be not oral in form, and though the documents or chattels be already in existence
and not desired to be first written and created by a testimonial act or utterance of the person in response to the process,
still no line can be drawn short of any process which treats him as a witness; because in virtue of it he would be at any
time liable to make oath to the identity of authenticity or origin of the articles produced." (Ibid., pp. 864-865.) (Italics
ours.)

It cannot be contended in the present case that if permission to obtain a specimen of the petitioner’s handwriting is not
granted, the crime would go unpunished. Considering the circumstance that the petitioner is a municipal treasurer,
according to Exhibit A, it should not be a difficult matter for the fiscal to obtain genuine specimens of his handwriting.
But even supposing it is impossible to obtain a specimen or specimens without resorting to the means complained of
herein, that is not reason for trampling upon a personal right guaranteed by the constitution. It might be true that in some
cases criminals may succeed in evading the hand of justice, but such cases are accidental and do not constitute the raison
d’etre of the privilege. This constitutional privilege exists for the protection of innocent persons.

With respect to the judgments rendered by this court and cited on behalf of the respondents, it should be remembered that
in the case of People v. Badilla (48 Phil., 718), it does not appear that the defendants and other witnesses were questioned
by the fiscal against their will, and if they did not refuse to answer, they must be understood to have waived their
constitutional privilege, as they could certainly do.

"The privilege not to give self-incriminating evidence, while absolute when claimed, may be waived by any one entitled
to invoke it." (28 R. C. L., paragraph 29, page 442, and cases noted.)

The same holds good in the case of United States v. Tan Teng (23 Phil., 145), where the defendant did not oppose the
extraction from his body of the substance later used as evidence against him.

In the case of Villaflor v. Summers (41 Phil., 62), it was plainly stated that the court preferred to rest its decision on the
reason of the case rather than on blind adherence to tradition. The said reason of the case there consisted in that it was a
case of the examination of the body by physicians, which could be and doubtless was interpreted by this court, as being no
compulsion of the petitioner therein to furnish evidence by means of a testimonial act. In reality she was not compelled to
execute any position act, much less a testimonial act; she was only enjoined from something, preventing the examination;
all of which is very different from what is required of the petitioner in the present case, where it is sought to compel his to
perform a positive, testimonial act, to write and give a specimen of his handwriting for the purpose of comparison. Beside,
in the case of Villaflor v. Summers, it was sought to exhibit something already in existence, while in the case at bar, the
question deals with something not yet in existence, and it is precisely sought to compel the petitioner to make, prepare, or
produce by means, evidence not yet in existence; in short, to create this evidence which may seriously incriminate him.

Similar considerations suggest themselves to us with regard to the case of United States v. Ong Siu Hong (36 Phil., 735),
wherein the defendant was to compelled to perform any testimonial act, but to take out of his mouth the morphine he had
there. It was not compelling him to testify or to be a witness or to furnish, much less make, prepare, or create through a
testimonial act, evidence for his own condemnation.

Wherefore, we find the present action well taken, and it is ordered that the respondents and those under their orders desist
and abstain absolutely and forever from compelling the petitioner to take down dictation in his handwriting for the
purpose of submitting the latter for comparison.

Without express pronouncement as to costs. So ordered.


24. Marcelo vs. SB, GR No. 109242, 26 January 1999

DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari filed by Lito Marcelo from a decision of the Sandiganbayan (First
Division)[1] convicting him and two others of qualified theft. The information against them alleges

That on or about February 17, 1989, in the Municipality of Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction
of this Honorable Court, the accused, ARNOLD PASICOLAN, a public officer, being then an Emergency Laborer
assigned as bag opener at the printed matters section of Makati Central Post Office, and taking advantage of his official
position by having access to the mail matters in conspiracy with accused RONNIE S. ROMERO and LITO MARCELO,
both private individuals, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously with grave abuse of confidence, and with
intent of gain and without the consent of the owners thereof, take, steal and carry away from the Central Post office of
Makati one bag containing assorted mail matters some of them containing U.S. Dollar Bills in the aggregate amount of
$500, or its peso equivalent in the amount of P11,000.00, Philippine Currency, to the damage and prejudice of the
different addressee (sic) or the government in the aforesaid mentioned (sic) amount.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

The facts established during the trial show the following:


On February 10, 1989, Jacinto Merete, a letter carrier in the Makati Central Post Office, disclosed to his
chief, Projecto Tumagan, the existence of a group responsible for the pilferage of mail matter in the post office. [2] Among
those mentioned by Merete were Arnold Pasicolan, an emergency laborer assigned as a bag opener in the Printed Matters
Section, and Redentor Aguinaldo, a mail sorter of the Makati Post Office. Merete likewise described the modus operandi
of the group.
For this reason, Tumagan sought the aid of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in apprehending
the group responsible for mail pilferage in the Makati Post Office.
On February 17, 1989, NBI Director Salvador Ranin dispatched NBI agents to Legaspi Village following a report
that the group would stage a theft of mail matter on that day. Tumagan accompanied a team of NBI agents composed of
Senior Agent Arles Vela and two other agents in a private car. They arrived at Legaspi Village at about 1:00 p.m. They
stayed at the corner of Adelantado and Gamboa Streets, while two other teams of NBI agents waited at Amorsolo Street,
near the Esguerra Building.[3]
At 2:00 p.m., a postal delivery jeep, driven by one Henry Orindai, was parked in front of the Esguerra Building on
Adelantado Street.[4] Esguerra Building is located between Adelantado and Amorsolo Streets. Adelantado and Amorsolo
Streets are parallel to each other. The passengers of the postal delivery jeep were Arnold Pasicolan, Jacinto Merete, and
the driver, Henry Orindai.[5] Pasicolan alighted from the jeep bringing with him a mail bag. Merete stayed inside the
jeep. Pasicolan then passed through an alley between Esguerra and Montepino Buildings going towards Amorsolo St.
[6]
Montepino Building is adjacent to Esguerra Building. The two are separated by the alley. Upon reaching Amorsolo St.,
Pasicolan gave the mail bag to two persons, who were later identified as Ronnie Romero and petitioner Lito Marcelo. The
latter transferred the contents of the mail bag (i.e., assorted mail matter) to a travelling bag. The two then secured the bag
to the back of their motorcycle.[7]
Meanwhile, the NBI team led by agent Vela, upon seeing Pasicolan going towards Amorsolo St., moved their
car and started towards Amorsolo St. They were just in time to see Pasicolan handing over the mail bag to Marcelo
and Romero.[8] At that point, Atty. Sacaguing and Arles Vela arrested the two accused.
Unaware of the arrest of Romero and Marcelo, Pasicolan went back to the postal delivery jeep and proceeded toward
Pasay Road. The NBI agents followed the postal delivery jeep, overtook it, and arrested Pasicolan. [9]
The NBI agents brought Pasicolan, Marcelo, and Romero to their headquarters. They also brought along with them
the motorcycle of Romero and Marcelo and the bag of unsorted mail found in their possession. [10] On their way to the NBI
headquarters, they passed by the Makati Central Post Office, intending to arrest another suspect, Redentor Aguinaldo.
However, they were not able to find him there. [11]
The unsorted mail seized from Marcelo and Romero consisted of 622 letters. [12] The names of the addressees
were listed. They were subsequently notified by the Bureau of Posts to claim their letters.Many of them, after
proper identification, were able to claim their letters. Some letters contained money.
Romero, Marcelo, and Pasicolan were asked to affix their signatures on the envelopes of the letters. They did
so in the presence of the members of the NBI Administrative and Investigative Staff and the people transacting
business with the NBI at that time. According to Director Ranin, they required the accused to do this in order to
identify the letters as the very same letters confiscated from them.[13]
NBI Director Ranin allegedly saw US dollar bills in various denominations of 20, 50, and 100 dollars. [14] Vela and the
other NBI agents stated in their affidavits that there were dollar bills in the letters which, if converted to Philippine pesos,
at the then exchange rate of P22 to US $1, were worth P11,000.00.[15] The addressees agreed to leave the envelopes of the
letters with the NBI. Those letters which were not claimed were opened in court in the presence of the counsel for the
defense. The letters were found to contain three (3) one dollar bills, one (1) five dollar bill, one (1) twenty dollar bill, a
check for twenty-five dollars, and fifty (50) Saudi Arabian riyals.[16]
Arnold Pasicolan, Ronnie Romero, and herein petitioner Lito Marcelo were charged with infidelity in the
custody of documents. The case was later withdrawn and another information for qualified theft was filed before the
Sandiganbayan.
On March 8, 1993, the Sandiganbayan found all the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt as principals of the
crime of qualified theft. The dispositive portion of its decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the three accused, Arnold Pasicolan y Mabazza, Ronnie Romero y Santos, and Lito
Mercado [should be Marcelo] y Cruz, guilty, as principals, beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of qualified theft defined
in Article 310, in conjunction with Articles 308 and 309, of the Revised Penal Code. Accordingly, applying the
Indeterminate Sentence Law and considering the aggravating circumstances of taking advantage of public position, the
Court imposes upon Arnold Pasicolan y Mabazza the penalty ranging from EIGHT (8) years, EIGHT (8) months, and
ONE (1) day of Prision mayor, as minimum, to THIRTEEN (13) YEARS, ONE (1) month, and ELEVEN (11) days
of reclusion temporal, as maximum. Applying again the Indeterminate Sentence Law and there being no aggravating nor
mitigating circumstances, the Court imposes upon Ronnie Romero y Santos and Lito Marcelo y Cruz, the penalty ranging
from SEVEN (7) YEARS, four (4) months, and ONE (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to eleven (11) years, SIX (6)
months, and TWENTY-ONE (21) days of prision mayor, as maximum.

Hence, the instant petition for review on certiorari based on the following assignment of errors:
(1) Respondent Honorable Court had wrongly made the crucial finding against petitioner that he has
committed the act charged in conspiracy with each other.
(2) Respondent Honorable Court erred in admitting as evidence of petitioners guilt the letters signed by
the accused during custodial investigation without the assistance of counsel, in utter disregard of his
constitutional right.
First. Petitioner says that since the subject of the alleged pilferage was mail matter, only a government employee
may be held guilty of qualified theft unless a private individual was shown to have been in conspiracy with him. He
contends that since he is not a government employee, then he cannot be charged or held guilty of the crime as there is no
proof that he conspired with a postal employee. The petitioner argues that there is no evidence to prove that he was at any
time in conspiracy with the members of the syndicate inside the post office. In fact, petitioner points out, Jacinto Merete,
Projecto Tumagan, and his co-accused Arnold Pasicolan were one in saying that it was their first time to see him and
Romero on February 17, 1989. Likewise, in the meeting allegedly conducted by the members of the syndicate, he and
Romero were not around nor were their names mentioned. Petitioner says that although he and Romero knew each other,
it was only on February 17, 1989 that they saw each other again in order to see a movie.
We cannot understand petitioners theory that, as the subject of the pilferage was mail matter, only a government
employee, presumably of the postal service, can be held liable of qualified theft. What makes the theft of mail matter
qualified is the fact that the subject thereof is mail matter, regardless of whether the offender is a postal employee or a
private individual. This much is clear from Art. 310 of the Revised Penal Code which provides:
Qualified theft. The crime of theft shall be punished by the penalties next higher by two degrees than those respectively
specified in the next preceding article, if committed by a domestic servant, or with grave abuse of confidence, or if the
property stolen is motor vehicle, mail matter or large cattle or consists of coconuts taken from the premises of a
plantation, fish taken from a fishpond or fishery or if property is taken on the occasion of fire, earthquake, typhoon,
volcanic eruption, or any other calamity, vehicular accident or civil disturbance.

Thus, as long as the thing stolen is one of those enumerated in Art. 310, the crime is qualified theft. In this case, it is
mail matter. Hence, it is not necessary that petitioner be shown to have been inconspiracy with a government employee in
order to hold him liable for qualified theft.
Be that as it may, conspiracy was proven in this case. NBI agent Arles Vela testified that petitioner was instrumental
in transferring the contents of the mail bag which Pasicolan handed to them to their travelling bag and that afterward
petitioner and his co-accused Romero tied the bag to their motorcycle.
Velas testimony was corroborated by Projecto Tumagan, who likewise testified that Romero and Marcelo transferred
the contents of the mail bag to their bags. Although Tumagan said petitioner and Romero had two bags, thus contradicting
Velas testimony that petitioner and his co-accused had only one bag, the inconsistency in the testimonies of these two
prosecution witnesses is not really of much importance. What is important is that Tumagan corroborated Velas testimony
that petitioner helped in putting the letters in their bag. The discrepancy could be due to the fact that these two witnesses
were inside a car and were at some distance from the persons they were observing. At any rate, during the cross-
examination, Tumagan said that the contents of the mail bag were transferred to one other bagimplying that there was
really just one bag involved.[17] Moreover, the defense should have confronted Tumagan with this inconsistency and asked
him to explain. For its failure to do so, the defense cannot for the first time raise the point in this appeal.
Petitioner Marcelo showed no sign of surprise or hesitation when Pasicolan handed the mail bag to him and
Romero. It was apparent he was acting pursuant to a prior agreement because when the mail bag was given to him, he got
the bag and he and Romero then transferred its contents to their travelling bag. Petitioner acted in concert with Pasicolan
and Romero, thus indicating he was in conspiracy with them. As the Sandiganbayan said:

The accused appear to have committed the acts charged in conspiracy with each other pursuant to a pre-conceived plan
known to all of them to attain a common goal. Thus, when the postal delivery jeep stopped near Esguerra Building along
Adelantado Street, Pasicolan alighted bringing with him a mail bag, passed through an alley beside Esquerra Building,
and upon reaching Amorsolo Street handed over the mail bag to Romero and Marcelo who were waiting for him. Upon
receiving the mail bag they quickly opened it and transferred its contents to a bag which Aguinaldo provided for the
purpose. No words were exchanged between Pasicolan, on the other hand, and Romero and Marcelo, on the other, in
effecting the delivery. Pasicolan did not ask if Romero and/or Marcelo were the person or persons sent to receive the mail
bag. These facts indicate that the three accused already knew each other and were fully aware of what each had to do. And
when Romero and Marcelo were arrested for receiving the mail bag, they said nothing to the NBI. Not even a whimper of
protest was heard from them. They appear resigned to their fate after having been caught red-handed.

Petitioner Marcelo claimed that he and Romero met on February 17, 1989 in order to see a movie; that when
Pasicolan handed four envelopes to Romero, he was across the street buying cigarettes; and that when he joined Romero,
a person identifying himself as an NBI agent arrested them. Marcelo testified:[18]
ATTY. CRUZ
Q So you were asked by Ronnie Romero if you will be reporting for work at that time?
A Yes, sir.
JUSTICE HERMOSISIMA
Q What time was this when you were asked by Ronnie Romero?
A 1:00 oclock in the afternoon.
ATTY. CRUZ
Q What was the reason why you were asked by Ronnie Romero?
A He wanted me to go with him to see a movie.
Q Did he tell you at what place you will see a movie?
A No, sir.
Q What was your reply?
A I told him yes, I will go with you, anyway I have to go to my work at 10:00 oclock in the evening.
....
Q What happened next Mr. Marcelo?
A Then I rode at the back of his motorcycle and we went straight to Makati. Suddenly we stopped near a building and I
asked him what we will do there and he told me he was going to wait for somebody there.
....
ATTY. CRUZ
Q What was told to you when you reached there?
WITNESS
A He told me he had to wait for somebody there and I told him to hurry up, I thought you said we are going to see a
movie, and he said, this will not take long.
Q While at Taguig, were you informed by Ronnie Romero that you will be waiting for somebody when you reached
Makati?
A No, sir.
....
Q And what happened next?
A While we were there I told Ronnie Romero I had to buy cigarette from across the street and after a while, about half
an hour, Ronnie called me I saw somebody handing him about four pieces of envelopes.
Q How would you describe that envelope?
A It was like the Manila envelope that we see being used by the elementary grades.
Q Was there any distinguishing mark in this envelope?
A No, sir.
Q Were you able to see what was the contents of these envelopes?
A No, sir.
Q That person who handed the envelope to Ronnie, do you know him?
A I do not know him.
Q While that envelope was being handed to Ronnie, you mean to say you were across the street?
A Yes, sir.
Q And so you crossed the street to reach Ronnie?
A Yes, sir.
Q When you crossed the street was the envelope still being handed or already handed to Ronnie?
A It was already handed to him.
Q What happened next?
A After I crossed the street somebody shouted at us identifying himself as NBI, WE are from the NBI, do not move.
The foregoing testimony is contrary to the testimony of Ronnie Romero. Romero said that Redentor Aguinaldo, a
mail sorter, had asked him to meet a person in Makati who would give him an envelope to be delivered to an unidentified
person at the BF Homes Subdivision in Paraaque. Romeros version is as follows:[19]
ATTY. I. CRUZ:
Q And do you know a certain person by the name of Redentor Aguinaldo?
JUSTICE HERMOSISIMA:
Q The accusation against you is that you conspired with your co-accused Arnold Pasicolan and Lito Marcelo in
stealing the articles and things stated in the Information. Why do you say that you are not part of the conspiracy,
what do you mean by that statement?
A Because, sir, I do not know what was the contents of the envelope.
You can proceed now.
ATTY. I. CRUZ:
Q You mentioned of an envelope which you claim not to have known the contents of the same. Who gave you the
envelope?
A Arnold Pasicolan.
Q Do you know Arnold Pasicolan prior to and/or before February 17, 1989?
....
A No, sir.
ATTY. I. CRUZ:
Q When for the first time did you come to know Arnold Pasicolan?
A On February 17, sir.
Q When, where specifically did you come to know him?
A At the NBI office, sir.
Q Now...
JUSTICE HERMOSISIMA:
Q February 17, 1989?
A Yes, Your Honor.
Proceed.
....
ATTY. I. CRUZ:
Q Do you know a certain Redentor Aguinaldo?
A Yes, sir.
JUSTICE HERMOSISIMA:
Q Tell us the circumstances under which you received this envelope?
A I received that envelope given to me by Arnold Pasicolan.
Q If you answer in monosyllable we will not understand. Alright, you tell your story?
A Redentor Aguinaldo on February 17 told me that he is going to give me a job. What I will do is get the envelope and
bring it to a certain subdivision in Las Pias and somebody will pick it up and pay me P100.00 for it.
Proceed.
ATTY. I. CRUZ:
Q Now, do you know the person to whom you are to deliver the envelope?
A No, sir.
Q Now, if you do now know the person to whom you will deliver the envelope. JUSTICE HERMOSISIMA:
You may not cross-examine, tell him to tell us facts.
ATTY. I. CRUZ:
Q Where specifically in the subdivision in Paraaque where you will deliver the envelope?
A BF Homes.
JUSTICE HERMOSISIMA:
Q To what particular person will you supposed to deliver it?
A I was just asked to go to that place and somebody will approach me.
Q To make your story more believable, BF Homes in Paraaque is a very big subdivision. You enter that subdivision
and there will be several persons whom you can see there. How will the person know that you are carrying an
envelope for him. Where were you supposed to deliver it. If you cannot explain that, we will not believe you?
A In that subdivision, there is a vacant place where there are no houses. It is where I often go.
Q BF Homes subdivision in Paraaque has several vacant lots, how will you know what vacant lot to proceed to?
A It was pointed to me by Aguinaldo.
Q So, Aguinaldo went with you in the morning of that same day and pointed to you the place?
A In the morning of that same day and he pointed to me the place.
Second. The petitioner contends that the Sandiganbayan erred in admitting in evidence the letters signed by him
because he was asked to sign them during custodial investigation without the assistance of counsel. The following
provisions of the Constitution are invoked by petitioner:

Article III, 12(1). - Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of
his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person
cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and
in the presence of counsel.

....

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or Section 17 hereof shall be inadmissible in evidence
against him.

17. No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.

Petitioners counsel says that the signing of petitioners and his co-accuseds names was not a mere mechanical act but
one which required the use of intelligence and therefore constitutes self-incrimination. Petitioners counsel presumably has
in mind the ruling in Beltran v. Samson[20] to the effect that the prohibition against compelling a man to be a witness
against himself extends to any attempt to compel the accused to furnish a specimen of his handwriting for the purpose of
comparing it with the handwriting in a document in a prosecution for falsification. Writing is something more than
moving the body, or the hand, or the fingers; writing is not a purely mechanical act because it requires the application of
intelligence and attention,[21] so it was held.
To be sure, the use of specimen handwriting in Beltran is different from the use of petitioners signature in this
case. In that case, the purpose was to show that the specimen handwriting matched the handwriting in the document
alleged to have been falsified and thereby show that the accused was the author of the crime (falsification) while in this
case the purpose for securing the signature of petitioner on the envelopes was merely to authenticate the envelopes as the
ones seized from him and Ronnie Romero. However, this purpose and petitioners signatures on the envelope, when
coupled with the testimony of prosecution witnesses that the envelopes seized from petitioner were those given to him and
Romero, undoubtedly help establish the guilt of petitioner. Since these signatures are actually evidence of admission
obtained from petitioner and his co-accused under circumstances contemplated in Art. III, 12(1) and 17 of the
Constitution, they should be excluded. For indeed, petitioner and his co-accused signed following their arrest. Hence, they
were at the time under custodial investigation, defined as questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person
has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in a significant way. [22] Under the Constitution,
among the rights of a person under custodial investigation is the right to have competent and independent counsel
preferably of his own choice and if the person cannot afford the services of counsel, that he must be provided with one.
However, the letters are themselves not inadmissible in evidence. The letters were validly seized from petitioner and
Romero as an incident of a valid arrest. A ruling that petitioners admission that the letters in question were those seized
from him and his companion on February 17, 1989 is inadmissible in evidence does not extend to the exclusion from
evidence of the letters themselves. The letters can stand on their own, being the fruits of a crime validly seized during a
lawful arrest. That these letters were the ones found in the possession of petitioner and his companion and seized from
them was shown by the testimonies of Vela and Tumagan. Indeed, petitioner and his co-accused were not convicted solely
on the basis of the signatures found on the letters but on other evidence, notably the testimonies of NBI agents and other
prosecution witnesses.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Sandiganbayan is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.
25. Rivera vs. People, GR No. 163996, 9 June 2005

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assails the decision dated May 3, 2004
of the Sandiganbayan,[1] which convicted petitioner of twelve counts of the crime of falsification by a public officer under
Article 171 and one count of the crime of malversation of public funds under Article 217 (4), both of the Revised Penal
Code and its resolution dated June 10, 2004,[2] denying reconsideration thereof and disallowing him to present evidence.

The antecedent facts are as follows:

Petitioner Juan G. Rivera and Eric O. Garcia, municipal mayor and disbursement officer, respectively, of
Guinobatan, Albay, were charged before the Sandiganbayan with twelve counts of falsification of public documents and
one count of malversation of public funds involving the amount of P1,936,798.64 given to the Municipality of Guinobatan
as calamity fund for the victims of the Mayon volcanic eruption. Garcia died on August 25, 2001 and was accordingly
dropped from the amended information.

Upon arraignment,[3] petitioner entered a plea of not guilty to all thirteen cases. A pre-trial was conducted and
thereafter trial ensued. On various dates, the prosecution presented its witnesses and offered documentary exhibits. Then,
it rested its case.

The defense was scheduled to present evidence on September 29, 2003; however, during the hearing, petitioners
former counsel, Atty. Benjamin C. Belarmino, Jr., informed the court that they have not yet received the resolution on the
prosecutions Formal Offer of Exhibits, further manifesting that upon receipt of the resolution, they will ask for leave of
court to file demurrer to evidence.

Thereupon, the court directed Atty. Belarmino to file a demurrer to evidence even without leave of court but the
latter manifested that he would still discuss the matter with his collaborating counsel.

However, in the order issued by the Sandiganbayan on September 29, 2003, it was stated that petitioner, through
counsel, manifested that he would be filing a demurrer to evidence without leave of court within ten (10) days. [4]

On October 20, 2003, petitioner filed his Demurrer to Evidence [5] without leave of court to which the prosecution
filed its Opposition on October 27, 2003.

Pursuant to Section 23, Rule 119 of The Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Sandiganbayan considered the
right of petitioner to present evidence waived and deemed the case submitted for judgment on the basis of the evidence for
the prosecution. On May 3, 2004, the Sandiganbayan rendered the assailed decision finding petitioner guilty as charged,
the dispositive portion of which states:

WHEREFORE:

A. In Criminal Cases No. 26686 to 26697, the Court finds the accused Juan G. Rivera GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt for TWELVE (12) COUNTS of the crime of Falsification by Public Officer
defined under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code, and is hereby sentenced to suffer the
penalty of imprisonment of, after applying the indeterminate sentence law, TWO (2) YEARS,
FOUR (4) MONTHS, and ONE (1) DAY of prisin correccional as minimum, up to TEN (10)
YEARS of prisin mayor, as maximum, for each count;

Fine of Two Thousand Pesos (P2,000.00) for each count, or a total of TWENTY FOUR
THOUSAND PESOS (P24,000.00) for all twelve counts; and

All the accessory penalties provided for by law.


B. In Criminal Case No. 26698, the Court finds the accused Juan G. Rivera GUILTY beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime of Malversation of Public Funds defined under Article 217(4) of the Revised
Penal Code, and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of, after applying

i) the indeterminate sentence law, TWELVE (12) YEARS, FIVE (5) MONTHS, and ELEVEN
(11) DAYS of reclusion temporal as minimum, up to TWENTY (20) YEARS
of reclusion temporal as maximum,

ii) the penalty of perpetual special disqualification,

iii) a fine of SEVEN HUNDRED NINETY FOUR THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED FORTY
FIVE PESOS (P794,445.00).

By way of restitution, the accused is likewise ordered to indemnify the government in the same
amount of SEVEN HUNDRED NINETY FOUR THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED FORTY FIVE
PESOS (P794,445.00); and

All the accessory penalties provided for by law.

SO ORDERED.[6]

On May 17, 2004, petitioner moved for reconsideration of the decision and further moved that he be
allowed to present evidence.[7] The same, however, was denied in a resolution dated June 10, 2004, the dispositive
portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court is constrained to DENY the omnibus motion for
reconsideration.

SO ORDERED.[8]

Hence, this petition for review on certiorari.[9]

The sole issue for resolution is whether or not the assailed decision and resolution of the Sandiganbayan should be set
aside to allow petitioner to present evidence despite the demurrer to evidence filed.

Petitioner prays that in the interest of justice he be allowed to present evidence in view of the severity of the
penalty imposed on him which is imprisonment of about 140 years. He asserts that he was unaware of the consequences of
the action taken by his former counsel when he manifested that they were opting to file a demurrer to evidence. He also
claims that the Sandiganbayan made no searching inquiry to determine whether he fully understood the legal ramifications
of filing a demurrer to evidence without leave of court. He submits that by its filing, he was totally unaware and did not
comprehend that he was in effect waiving his constitutional right to present evidence and be heard.

The petition is meritorious.

We recognize the importance of procedural rules in insuring the effective enforcement of substantive rights
through the orderly and speedy administration of justice. [10]However, the rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a
very rigid technical sense, as they are used only to help secure, not override substantial justice. If a technical and rigid
enforcement of the rules is made, their aim would be defeated. [11] That the Court has the power to set aside its own rules in
the higher interests of justice is well-entrenched in our jurisprudence. [12]

The adjudication of cases involving the transcendental matter of life and liberty of a person, requires our utmost
consideration.[13] The Constitution ordains that due process must be observed in cases involving a possible deprivation of
life, liberty, or property.[14]
In the case at bar, the extreme penalty of more than a double-life sentence was imposed. No less than his liberty is
at stake here.[15] Consequently, this case deserves to be deliberated upon, moreso because after the initial assessment by the
Sandiganbayan, petitioners only and last resort is with this Court.

A demurrer to evidence is defined as an objection by one of the parties in an action, to the effect that the evidence
which his adversary produced is insufficient in point of law, whether true or not, to make out a case or sustain the issue.
[16]
The party demurring challenges the sufficiency of the whole evidence to sustain a verdict. [17] In passing upon the
sufficiency of the evidence raised in a demurrer, the court is merely required to ascertain whether there is competent or
sufficient proof to sustain the indictment or to support a verdict of guilt. [18]

The transcript of stenographic notes taken during the hearing held on September 29, 2003 is reproduced herein, to
wit:

CHAIRMAN:
Call the cases.

INTERPRETER:
Criminal Cases Nos. 26686-97 and 26698 entitled, People versus Juan Rivera, for trial.

PROSECUTOR:
Respectfully appearing for the People, your Honor.

COUNSEL:
Same appearance for the accused, your Honor.

CHAIRMAN:
Ready? Its your turn now to present evidence (referring to defense counsel).

COUNSEL:
Your Honor please, last week, we received a telegram from this Court, wherein we were notified
that the prosecutions Formal Offer of Exhibits has been resolved. But we have not received the
final Resolution, your Honor.

CHAIRMAN:
Will that be a justification for asking for a postponement? Dont you think of preparing for todays
hearing?

COUNSEL:
I dont intend, your Honor, to request for postponement, however, we have thought that upon
receipt of said Resolution, we will be asking for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence.

CHAIRMAN:
You file your demurrer to evidence, just file it without leave of court.

COUNSEL:
I will have to discuss this matter yet with my collaborating counsel, your Honor.

CHAIRMAN:
You do that, since you are the lead counsel.
Where is the accused?

COUNSEL:
He is in court, your Honor.
CHAIRMAN:
Okay, just tell us if you are not ready, but do not say you are still going to confer with the
accused.
If you will tell us you are not ready yet, so that you will have time to intelligently prepare for it, by all
means, we will agree to that.

COUNSEL:
Thank you, your Honor.

CHAIRMAN:
ORDER.

When these cases were called for hearing this morning, counsel for the accused manifested that he will
be filing a demurrer to evidence even without leave of court.

WHEREFORE, as prayed for, the defense is hereby granted a period of ten (10) days within
which to file the said demurrer, furnishing the prosecution a copy thereof, who asked for the same
period to file its comment/opposition thereto. Thereafter, this incident shall be deemed submitted
for resolution of this Court.

SO ORDERED. (Emphasis supplied)

It appears from the aforequoted TSN of the hearing on September 29, 2003, that counsel for accused, Atty. Belarmino,
asked for leave of court to file a demurrer to evidence but was curtly ordered to file the same even without leave of court.
When Atty. Belarmino inquired about the resolution on the prosecutions Formal Offer of Exhibits, the Sandiganbayan
thought that it was only an excuse to request for postponement, and that he was not prepared for the hearing.

The order dated September 29, 2003, [19] inaccurately stated that Atty. Belarmino manifested that he will be filing a
demurrer to evidence even without leave of court when the records show no such manifestation was made. On the
contrary, the records show that Atty. Belarmino asked for leave of court to file a demurrer to evidence and for time to
discuss the same with his co-counsel but was instead ordered by the court to file the same without leave of court within
ten days.

In addition, we note that Atty. Belarmino did not cite any ground when he moved for leave of court to file
demurrer to evidence; neither did the Sandiganbayan make any inquiry thereon before issuing the September 29, 2003
order, directing the petitioner to file a demurrer to evidence even without leave of court. This is contrary to the provisions
of Section 23, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which specifically instructs that the motion for leave
of court to file demurrer to evidence shall specifically state its grounds.

Also, the records show that petitioner was not consulted nor did his counsel confer with him and ask
whether he understood the significance of filing a demurrer to evidence. In fact, Atty. Belarmino was not given the
opportunity to discuss with petitioner the consequences of filing a demurrer to evidence without leave of court.

In People v. Bodoso,[20] the accused was charged with raping his fourteen-year old daughter. After the prosecution
rested its case, the counsel de oficio of accused manifested that the defense was not intending to present any evidence and
was resting its case. There was no clear showing that accused agreed to the waiver and intended to relinquish his right to
be heard as manifested by his counsel. We held thus, to wit:

Henceforth, to protect the constitutional right to due process of every accused in a capital
offense and to avoid any confusion about the proper steps to be taken when a trial court comes face to
face with an accused or his counsel who wants to waive his clients right to present evidence and be heard,
it shall be the unequivocal duty of the trial court to observe, as a prerequisite to the validity of such
waiver, a procedure akin to a searching inquiry as specified in People v. Aranzado when an accused
pleads guilty, particularly
1. The trial court shall hear both the prosecution and the accused with their respective
counsel on the desire or manifestation of the accused to waive the right to present evidence and be
heard.

2. The trial court shall ensure the attendance of the prosecution and especially the accused
with their respective counsel in the hearing which must be recorded. Their presence must be duly
entered in the minutes of the proceedings.

3. During the hearing, it shall be the task of the trial court to

a. ask the defense counsel a series of question to determine whether he had


conferred with and completely explained to the accused that he had the right to present
evidence and be heard as well as its meaning and consequences, together with the
significance and outcome of the waiver of such right. If the lawyer for the accused has
not done so, the trial court shall give the latter enough time to fulfill this professional
obligation.

b. inquire from the defense counsel with conformity of the accused whether he
wants to present evidence or submit a memorandum elucidating on the contradictions and
insufficiency of the prosecution evidence, if any, or in default theory, file a demurrer to
evidence with prior leave of court, if he so believes that the prosecution evidence is so
weak that it need not even be rebutted. If there is a desire to do so, the trial court shall
give the defense enough time to this purpose.

c. elicit information about the personality profile of the accused, such as his age,
socio-economic status, and educational background, which may serve as a trustworthy
index of his capacity to give a free and informed waiver.

d. all questions posed to the accused should be in a language known and


understood by the latter, hence, the record must state the language used for this purpose
as well as reflect the corresponding translation thereof in English.

In passing, trial courts may also abide by the foregoing procedure even when the waiver of the
right to be present and be heard is made in criminal cases involving non-capital offenses. After all, in
whatever action or forum the accused is situated, the waiver that he makes if it is to be binding and
effective must still be exhibited in the case records to have been validly undertaken, that is, it was done
voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently with sufficient awareness of the relevant circumstances and likely
consequences. As a matter of good court practice, the trial court would have to rely upon the most
convenient, if not primary, evidence of the validity of the waiver which would amount to the same thing
as showing its adherence to the step-by-step process outlined above. [21] (Emphasis supplied)

Similarly, in People v. Flores,[22] counsel for accused manifested that Flores was waiving his right to present
evidence and requested for time to file a demurrer to evidence. The records were bereft of any indications that accused
voluntarily waived his right to present evidence and with full comprehension. In that case, we ruled thus:

The lower court, in view of the severity of the imposable penalty, ought to have inquired into the
voluntariness and full knowledge of the consequences of accused-appellants waiver. Though the Rules
require no such inquiry to be undertaken by the court for the validity of such waiver or any judgment
made as result of the waiver, prudence, however, requires the Court to ascertain the same to avoid any
grave miscarriage of justice. Although accused-appellants waiver amazed the lower court, nevertheless,
the record is devoid of any facts which would indicate that the lower court took steps to assure itself of
accused-appellants voluntariness and full knowledge of the consequences of their waiver.

Besides, counsels waiver should have put the court on guard. Any lawyer worth his salt ought to
know that the filing of a demurrer to evidence with leave of court as was done below, has the beneficial
effect of reserving the movants right to present evidence if the demurrer is denied by the court. Thus, a
counsel who files a demurrer with leave of court, but at the same time expressly waives his right to
present evidence should put a judge on guard that said counsel may not entirely comprehend the
consequences of the waiver. The trial court should have exercised prudence by warning counsel about the
prejudicial effects of their waiver, that with such a waiver, the case would be deemed submitted for
decision, and their leave to file motion for demurrer to evidence will have no effect. [23]

Finally, the evidence on record of the instant case do not clearly show where and to whom the allegedly malversed money
were given after it was encashed. What is clear is that the calamity fund was released to Almeda O. Lim, the Municipal
Treasurer of Guinobatan, Albay to which Official Receipt No. 8749242H was issued. Thereafter, checks bearing her
signature and that of Riveras were personally encashed by her while she was allegedly accompanied by Garcia. Witnesses
who owned the forged receipts testified that they handed the blank receipts to Garcia and not to petitioner. Then, after
receipt of the cash, the disbursement vouchers and other forms required to liquidate the amount were allegedly prepared
by Almeda O. Lim and thereafter, transmitted to Rivera for approval, and finally to the provincial Government. It has not
been satisfactorily established whether petitioner has appropriated, taken or misappropriated, or has consented to the
taking by another person, of such funds.

Due to the precipitate filing by the defense of the demurrer to evidence, the Sandiganbayan determined petitioners guilt
based only on the prosecutions evidence. To our mind, the presentation of evidence by the defense would resolve any
doubt as to petitioners complicity and avoid possible miscarriage of justice. Clearly, when transcendental matters like life,
liberty or State security are involved, suspension of the rules is likely to be welcomed more generously. [24] The Rules on
procedure are merely tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. When they are rigid and strict in application,
resulting in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote justice, the Court is empowered to suspend the rules. [25]

In the interest of substantial justice, we are therefore constrained to remand the case to the Sandiganbayan for
further proceedings.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The decision dated May 3, 2004 and the resolution dated June 10, 2004 of
the Sandiganbayan are hereby SET ASIDE. Let the records of Criminal Case Nos. 26686-98 be REMANDED to the
Sandiganbayan for further proceedings.

SO ORDERED.
26. People vs. Ortillas, GR No. 137666, 20 May 2004

DECISION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

On January 6, 1995, an Information[1] was filed against Marlon Ortillas with the Makati Regional Trial Court, and
assigned by raffle to Branch 255 (Las Pias), then presided over by Judge Florentino M. Alumbres. [2] The Information
reads:

The undersigned 3rd Assistant Prosecutor accuses MARLON ORTILLAS Y GAMLANGA of the crime of Murder,
committed as follows:

That on or about the 21st day of December, 1994, in the Municipality of Las Pias, Metro Manila, Philippines and within
the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating with one Jacob Relox
whose true identity and present whereabout is still unknown and both of them mutually helping and aiding one another,
with intent to kill and without justifiable motive and evident premeditation and by means of treachery and use of
explosive (pillbox), did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and throw a Pillbox to one
Jose Mesqueriola y Labarosa, thereby inflicting upon the latter serious and mortal wounds, which directly caused his
death.

CONTRARY TO LAW.
Las Pias, Metro Manila
December 28, 1994.

(signed)
APOLINAR C. QUETULIO, JR.
3rd Assistant Prosecutor[3]
Despite the fact that it is stated in the title of the Information that appellant was a minor, detained at the Municipal
Jail, Las Pias, Metro Manila, Presiding Judge Alumbres failed to ascertain and verify the alleged minority of appellant and
determine if the provisions of P.D. No. 603, otherwise known as The Child and Youth Welfare Code should be applied to
Ortillas.
After arraignment of appellant who pleaded not guilty to the offense with which he is charged, the trial court
dispensed with the pre-trial and proceeded to trial on the merits.
On June 8, 1995, the prosecution presented Russel [4] Guiraldo, an alleged eyewitness. After Russels direct
examination, Atty. Jose G. de Leon, the then counsel for Ortillas moved for postponement as he had a very important
appointment to keep which Judge Alumbres granted. Subsequently, Atty. de Leon had to withdraw as counsel because of
eye ailment which the trial court approved. The only other hearing that took place after the testimony of Russel on June 8,
1995, was on September 5, 1995 when NBI Medico-Legal Officer Roberto Garcia testified for the prosecution. All in all,
the continuation of the hearing was postponed thirteen times from June 8, 1995 until May 8, 1996 when the prosecution
finally rested its case[5] with the submission of its documentary evidence. [6] Witness Russel was never presented for cross-
examination. The last time he was subpoenaed was for the hearing set on November 6, 1995, [7] but records do not show
that he appeared on said date. Although several hearings were scheduled thereafter, Russel was not subpoenaed anymore.
On the basis of the testimonies of Russel and Dr. Garcia, Judge Alumbres rendered a decision [8] dated September 21,
1998 with the following findings:

Roselle Guiraldo positively identified and pointed to the accused as the one who threw the pillbox to his companion Jose
Mesqueriola in the morning of December 21, 1994. He even specified the exact location where the accused was at the
time he threw the pillbox. According to him, the accused was standing in front of a gate of a house along Calle Real, near
Plaza Quezon, Las Pias, Metro Manila. He could not be mistaken of the identity of the accused because they were former
classmates at the Las Pias Municipal High School and members of rival fraternities. As could be deduced from the facts,
the pillbox was intended for Roselle Guiraldo because the accused has the strongest motive of killing him. It will be
recalled that three (3) days after the opening of classes at the Las Pias Municipal High School, Roselle Guiraldo and the
accused could not see eye to eye already because Roselle Guiraldo was stoned and the stone came from the direction of
the accused while seated inside the classroom. Roselle Guiraldo tried to get even with the accused by waiting for him
outside of the school premises every after classes. Afraid that a personal encounter may happen and he will be in big
trouble, the accused sought transfer to the Las Pias Municipal High School North, which is located at the Vergonville
Subdivision in Barangay Pulanglupa II. This is now very far from his residence at San Francisco St. in Barangay
Aldana. While if he was not transferred, his school (Las Pias Municipal High School) is only walking distance from his
residence at San Francisco St. His ill-feelings against Roselle Guiraldo became intense because of the increasing problem
he has to face or handle. He has his work and a common-law wife to support and who was now getting pregnant. But all
the while, he has not severed his relationship with his gangmates, although according to him, he already quit from being
an active member of Crime buster fraternity after he became a working student in July 1993. [9]

...

The defense put up by the accused is alibi, a very weak defense because it is easy to fabricate. Just like in the present case,
he was still able to tell the authorities that he was in his house when his friend Jose Mesqueriola was killed. If there was
truth that he was in his house when Jose Mesqueriola was killed, how come not one occupant in his house came forward
to testify for him during the trial. Alibi is considered the weakest defense because it can easily be fabricated and cannot
stand in the light of clear, positive and precise evidence of the prosecution establishing the identity of the accused (People
vs. Magallanes, 218 SCRA 109; People vs. Santos, 221 SCRA 715; People vs. Bescana, 220 SCRA 93; People vs. dela
Cruz, 217 SCRA 283). It is a fundamental dictum that the defense of alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of
the accused (People vs. Tanco, 218 SCRA 494).

The charge against the accused is murder, defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended
by RA 7659. The commission of the crime in the present case was attended by the circumstance of explosion (the use and
exploding of the pillbox). In the Certificate of Post-Mortem Examination (Exh. C) which Dr. Garcia issued, he placed that
the cause of death which is Traumatic-head injury was the result of an alleged explosion. On whether there was the
circumstance of evident premeditation, the evidence does not clearly show.

There is present in the circumstancial evidence of flight. As earlier established, the accused was one of those who escaped
from detention in the jail of Las Pias City on April 17, 1997. It is well-settled rule that flight is indicative of guilt of the
accused. Flight is a silent admission of guilt, and is an indication of his guilt or of a guilty mind (People vs. Martinado,
214 SCRA 712; People vs. Cruz, 213 SCRA 601; People vs. Alabaso, 204 SCRA 458; People vs. Babac, 204 SCRA 968;
People vs. Lorenzo, 204 SCRA 361).[10]

The dispositve portion of the assailed decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused Marlon Ortillas y Gamlanga guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the charge
against him in the information, and he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua; to suffer the
accessory penalties provided for by law; to indemnify the heirs of the victim Jose Mesqueriola in the sum of P100,000.00;
and to pay the costs.

SO ORDERED.[11]

Hence, the present petition for review on certiorari with the following Assignment of Errors:
I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT COMMITTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT TO THE CARE OF
THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE WHICH SHALL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS APPEARANCE
IN COURT WHENEVER REQUIRED.
II
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE REQUEST OF ATTY. TERESITA CARANDANG-
PANTUA OF THE PUBLIC ATTORNEYS OFFICE TO CROSS-EXAMINE THE WITNESS PRESENTED BY
THE PROSECUTION DURING THE HEARING ON JUNE 8, 1995.
III
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING WEIGHT AND CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONY OF
PROSECUTION WITNESS ROSELLE GUIRALDO AND IN DISREGARDING THE TESTIMONY OF
ACCUSED-APPELLANT.[12]
Anent the first assigned error:
In his Brief, appellant points out that the first counsel of appellant, Atty. Jose de Leon, raised the minority of
appellant and invoked the provisions of P.D. No. 603 during the initial hearing conducted on June 8, 1995 but Judge
Alumbres outrightly denied his request. Atty. de Leon submitted to the ruling and prosecution witness Russel was called
to the witness stand.There is merit to the complaint of appellant. Judge Alumbres was remiss of his duty to ascertain the
minority of appellant at the onset of the proceedings. The records further disclose that he likewise ignored the letter of
Director Milda S. Alvior of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) filed with his court on January
31, 1996 informing him that appellant at that time was sixteen years old and alleging that his prolonged stay in the Las
Pias Jail for one year and one month at the time, mixed with hundred criminals affected him physically, intellectually,
emotionally and socially.[13]
The Presiding Judge should be sanctioned for his negligence in the performance of his duties with respect to accused
minor - but these particular omissions are not sufficient grounds to merit the reversal of the assailed decision.
As to the second assigned error:
The Court finds merit to appellants claim that the judgment of the trial court has unduly deprived him of his
constitutional right to meet the witness face to face [14] which includes the right to cross-examine the witness.
Section 1(f), Rule 115 of the then prevailing Rules of Criminal Procedure provides:

SECTION 1. Rights of the accused at the trial. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be entitled to the following
rights:

...

(f) To confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him at the trial. . . .

Section 6, Rule 132 of the then prevailing Rules on Evidence provides:

SEC. 6. Cross-examination; its purpose and extent. Upon the termination of the direct examination, the witness may be
cross-examined by the adverse party as to any matters stated in the direct examination, or connected therewith, with
sufficient fullness and freedom from interest or bias, or the reverse, and to elicit all important facts bearing upon the issue.

As the Court held in People vs. Rivera, to wit:

The right of a party to cross-examine a witness is embodied in Art. III, 14(2) of the Constitution which provides that the
accused shall have the right to meet the witnesses face to face and in Rule 115, 1(f) of the Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure which states that, in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have the right to confront and cross-examine
the witness against him. The cross-examination of a witness is essential to test his or her credibility, expose falsehoods or
half-truths, uncover the truth which rehearsed direct examination testimonies may successfully suppress, and demonstrate
inconsistencies in substantial matters which create reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused and thus give substance
to the constitutional right of the accused to confront the witnesses against him. [15]

Records disclose that there was never a valid waiver on the part of appellant or his counsel to cross-examine the
prosecution witness Russel. The first counsel, Atty. de Leon, in the hearing of June 8, 1995 requested for postponement of
the cross-examination of Russel in view of his professional engagement, without objection on the part of the prosecution.
[16]
The next hearing was also postponed in view of the eye problem of Atty. de Leon. [17] And on August 3, 1995, the
hearing was again postponed due to the withdrawal of appearance of Atty. de Leon on ground of eye-ailment.
[18]
Subsequent dates of hearing were postponed because the Presiding Judge went on leave. [19] It is only on September 25,
1995 that Atty. Leopoldo Macinas appeared as new counsel for appellant. [20] However, although it appears in the Minutes
of the hearing scheduled on said date that the same is for cross-examination of Russel, [21] there is no showing that Russel
was present during that day. In fact, the Minutes show that Russel had to be notified for the next hearing set on November
6, 1995.[22] But on November 6, the hearing was again postponed to November 11, 1995 due to typhoon Rosing. The
Minutes again does not show that on November 6, Russel appeared in court as only complaining witness Grace
Mesqueriola signed thereon.[23] Thereafter, Russel was never notified of the hearings set on December 11, 1995, January
17, 1996, January 22, 1996, January 31, 1996, February 26, 1996, March 25, 1996 and May 8, 1996.
Judge Alumbres refusal to give opportunity for Atty. Teresita Carandang-Pantua of the Public Attorneys Office
(PAO), the new counsel for appellant, to cross-examine prosecution witness Russel on the ground that prosecution had
already rested its case, is patently a grave abuse of discretion on his part. Although Atty. Pantua had adequately explained
appellants predicament, on the first scheduled date of hearing for the presentation of defense evidence, Judge Alumbres,
upon the perfunctory objection of the prosecution, unreasonably refused to heed Atty. Pantuas request.
It was well within the trial courts discretion to allow the recall of witness Russel under the then prevailing Section 9,
Rule 132 of the Rules on Evidence, to wit:

SEC. 9. Recalling witness. After the examination of a witness by both sides has been concluded, the witness cannot be
recalled without leave of the court. The Court will grant or withhold leave in its discretion, as the interests of justice may
require.

Certainly, under the foregoing circumstances, Judge Alumbres should have known that the interest of justice required that
appellant should have been given the opportunity to cross-examine Russel, as it was not his fault that Russel had not been
cross-examined. While a petition for certiorari could have been duly availed of by counsel for appellant to rectify the
judges grave abuse of discretion, appellant should not be made to suffer for the failure of his counsel to do so; as a
layman, he could not have known better as to what must be done under the circumstances. On this matter, the PAO, as de
oficio counsel for appellant was remiss of its duty to protect the interest of its client.
Under the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, it is evident that appellant had not been given the opportunity
to cross-examine the lone prosecution witness. In the absence of cross-examination, which is prescribed by statutory norm
and jurisprudential precept,[24] the direct examination of the witness should have been expunged from the records, in
which case, the trial court would have had no valid basis to deny the demurrer to evidence.
Nevertheless, the Court will resolve the third issue so as to put an end to the question whether or not the trial court
erred in giving weight and credence to the testimony of prosecution witness Russel and in disregarding the testimony of
appellant.
The trial court declared that the issue in this case hinges mainly on credibility of the witnesses, both of the
prosecution and the defense.[25]
The prosecution evidence is principally based on the testimony of Russel which is narrated by the trial court, as
follows:

. . . He testified that at around 6:00 oclock in the morning of December 21, 1994, he was with one Jose Mesqueriola, alias
Joey, hearing Misa de Gallo at the Bamboo Organ Church in Las Pias, Metro Manila.After the mass, he and Jose
Mesqueriola were walking side by side at the side of the road leading to the direction of Quezon Plaza. Upon reaching a
point at the side of the road near Plaza Quezon, and at a distance of about fifteen (15) meters, he saw the accused in front
of a gate of a house threw (sic) a pillbox towards their direction and the pillbox exploded on the head of his companion
Jose Mesqueriola. He was also hit at a portion of his right face. After the bomb exploded on the head of Jose Mesqueriola,
the latter fell down so he helped him by bringing him to the Las Pias Emergency Hospital which is just nearby. However,
the next day, he died. After the accused threw the bomb, he ran away and hid. He came to know of the accused since June
1994 (they being classmates in the Municipal High School, according to the accused). . . [26]

On the other hand, the defense evidence consist only of the testimony of appellant which is aptly narrated by the trial
court, as follows:

. . . he testified that on December 21, 1994, at around 6:00 oclock in the morning, he was in his house at his given address
when he heard an explosion. He then ran towards the direction where the explosion was to find out what was it all
about. Reaching the place, he found some people around and he saw a person lying prostrate on the street and blooded. He
was being assisted and brought to the hospital by his classmate Roselle Guiraldo. After the wounded person was brought
to the hospital, he learned from his neighbors that the person lying on the street was a victim of pillbox explosion and he
came to know that his name was Joey and his friend. When he ran out of his house, he saw his classmate Jacob Relox was
running away from the scene of the explosion, together with companions, and he was also told by Aling Itang, one of his
neighbors, that the one who threw the pillbox to Joey was Jacob Relox. He learned also from his neighbor, Aling Itang,
that the reason why Jacob Relox threw pillbox at Joey is because on December 20, 1994, Jacob was mauled by Joey
Mesqueriola and his companions.

The accused revealed during the trial that he was a working student enrolled at the Las Pias Municipal High School near
Saint Joseph Church in Las Pias Poblacion. In their school, there were two rival fraternities, the Crimebuster and the
Taugamma. He was a member of the Crimebuster together with Roselle Guiraldo and Jose Mesqueriola, his
classmates. He left the Crimebuster because he did not like the rules and he joined the Taugamma.

After one (1) week of attending classes at the Las Pias Municipal High School, he asked for transfer to Las Pias North
Municipal High School because in the Las Pias Municipal High School, every after classes, his classmate Roselle
Guiraldo always waited for him outside (inaabangan) and look (sic) for trouble, and this Roselle Guiraldo has a bad blood
or grudge against him. It started when there was stone throwing inside their classroom on the third day of their
classes. Roselle Guiraldo was hit and he thought that he (accused) was the one who threw the stone because it came from
the direction where he was sitting, not knowing that it was his sitmate (sic) who threw the stone. So that even if he was
not the one who threw the pillbox in the early morning of December 21, 1994 which cause the death of Jose Mesqueriola,
he was the one pointed to by Roselle Guiraldo because of this grudge against him.

He also testified that Jacob Relox has the motive for killing Jose Mesqueriola because on December 20, 1994, Jacob
Relox was mauled by Jose Mesqueriola and the other members of the Crimebuster fraternity. Jacob Relox then was a
member of the rival fraternity, the Taugamma. [27]

Considering that appellant was unlawfully deprived of the opportunity to cross-examine prosecution witness Russel,
his testimony should have been strictly scrutinized and analyzed with utmost care and any doubt thereon should have been
interpreted by the trial court in favor of appellant.
We reproduce hereunder the testimony of Russel on direct examination:
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q How long have you been rather how long have you know (sic) this Marlon Ortillas?
WITNESS
A June, 1994, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Now, will you please tell us, at around 6:00 oclock in the morning of December 21, 1994, where were you?
WITNESS
A I was in the church, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Where is that church located, Mr. Witness?
WITNESS
A Las Pias, Sir.
...
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Now, at around that time also, who were your companions, if any in going to church?
WITNESS
A Joey, Sir. His name, true name is Jose Miscariola, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Now, where is this Jose Miscariola now, Mr. Witness?
WITNESS
A He died already, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q When did he die?
WITNESS
A December 22, 1994, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Now, when you and Jose Miscariola were in the church, was there, at around 7:00 rather 6:00 oclock in the
morning of December 21, 1994, was there any unusual incident that happened?
WITNESS
A Yes, there was, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q What was that incident, if any, Mr. Witness?
WITNESS
A When we were about to leave the church, Joey or Jose Miscariola was hit with the pillbox that was
thrown by the accused, Marlon Ortillas.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Now, when this incident happened, how far were you then from the church, Mr. Witness?
WITNESS
A We were already far from the church because the incident happened in the plaza, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Now, what happened at the plaza, Mr. Witness?
WITNESS
A The incident was about the throwing of pillbox by Marlon Ortillas, Sir, to Jose Miscariola.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Now, this pillbox that was allegedly thrown to Joey, what happened to him, if any?
WITNESS
A It exploded in his head, Sir, or in the head of Jose Miscariola, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q And what happened to Joey Miscariola after the pillbox thrown by Marlon Ortillas exploded in his head?
WITNESS
A He fell down, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q And how about you, what did you do when you saw Joey Miscariola fell down?
WITNESS
A I helped him, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Now, this Joey Miscariola, when he was hit with the pillbox that exploded in his head, how far were you then,
Mr. Witness?
WITNESS
A I was beside him, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Were you not also hit by the pillbox, Mr. Witness?
WITNESS
A I was also hit, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Where were you hit, Mr. Witness?
WITNESS
A In my face, Sir.
INTERPRETER
Witness pointing to the right portion of his face.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Now, Now, where was Marlon Ortillas at that time when you saw him threw (sic) the pillbox to your
direction?
WITNESS
A At the gate located at the opposite side of the street.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q What is this gate, gate of a house or gate of the plaza?
WITNESS
A Gate of house, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Now, how far was Marlon Ortillas from both of you and Joey when you saw Marlon throwing the pillbox
towards you?
WITNESS
A It is just near, Sir.
INTERPRETER
Witness pointing to a distance from the chair where he is sitting to the door of the courtroom which was
estimated by the prosecution and counsel for the accused to be about fifteen (15) meters, more or less.
COURT
Q Do you agree that the distance is about fifteen (15) meters more or less, Fiscal?
FISCAL QUETULIO
A Yes, Your Honor.
ATTY. DE LEON
No objection, Your Honor.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Now, you said that you helped Joey when he fell down, what help did you do, Mr. Witness?
WITNESS
A I brought him to the Las Pias Emergency Hospital which was located nearby, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q What about Marlon Ortillas, after throwing the pillbox or after it exploded, did you notice what happened to
him?
WITNESS
A He hid, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Where did he hide, Mr. Witness?
WITNESS
A In their house, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q Where is this house of Marlon located, Mr. Witness?
WITNESS
A It was just located nearby, Sir.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q How far from the gate where Marlon was standing from where Marlon threw the pillbox up to his house, how
far is that, if you know?
WITNESS
A From here up to that distance, Sir.
INTERPRETER
Witness is pointing to a distance of more or less six (6) meters from the place where he is sitting.
FISCAL QUETULIO
Q More or less six meters, is that agreed, Counsel?
ATTY. DE LEON
A Yes, Your Honor.[28]
It is doctrinal that the Court will not interfere with the judgment of the trial court in passing upon the credibility of
witnesses, unless there appears in the record some fact or circumstance of weight and influence which has been
overlooked or the significance of which has been misapprehended or misinterpreted. [29]
The trial courts assessment of Russels testimony is not only perfunctorily done but its decision is also partly based on
the evidence presented by the defense, in stark violation of the well-settled rule that the conviction of appellant must not
act on the weakness of the defense but on the strength of the prosecution. [30]
First, it cannot be over-emphasized that there is no direct, positive testimony that Russel actually saw appellant throw
the pillbox. He only testified that when he and victim Joey or Jose Miscariola [31] were about to leave the church, Joey was
hit with the pillbox that was thrown by the accused, Marlon Ortillas. This statement is a conclusion of fact rather than
a declaration of what he actually saw. He did not testify that he actually saw appellant in the act of throwing the pillbox
at them. It was only the Fiscal who expressed in his question or who presumed that Russel saw appellant throw the pillbox
to the place where they were, which although not objected to by counsel for appellant, should not have been a basis for
appellants conviction. The purported eyewitness should at least have declared, positively and explicitly, having seen
appellant throw the pillbox or an unidentified object. There is not even a testimony that Russel saw appellant holding the
pillbox before he threw it.
Second, it is difficult to reconcile the contradiction in the declaration of Russel that it is when they were about to
leave the church that Joey was hit with the pillbox thrown by appellant as against his succeeding answer to the next
question of the Fiscal as to how far were they from the church when the incident happened and he replied that they were
already far from the church because the incident happened in the plaza. Where did the throwing of the pillbox actually
take place, when he was about to leave the church or in the plaza? Why the discrepancy?Did he really see the actual
throwing of the pillbox? These are questions, the answers to which are not found in the testimony of Russel.
Third, Russel testified that appellant was fifteen meters away from them at the opposite side of the street. To be able
to testify that he saw appellant throw a pillbox, Russel should have seen the actual throwing by appellant before the
pillbox left the hand of appellant; otherwise, how could Russel say for certain that it was appellant who threw the
pillbox? And if Russel did see the actual throwing of an object thrown at their direction, how could he not have at least
attempted to avoid the same when the distance between them and appellant is fifteen meters.At the normal speed of a hand
thrown object as big as a pillbox, if Russel had actually seen appellant in the act of throwing the pillbox from that
distance, instinct would have naturally spurred him, at least, to attempt to dodge the same, even if he would not have
succeeded in doing so. As it is, Russel did not testify that upon seeing the pillbox or the object being thrown by appellant
at their direction, he tried to evade the same. Neither is there any testimony on the part of Russel that when he saw the
pillbox being thrown at him and Joey, there was no time to evade the same.
Fourth, the testimony of Russel that he helped Joey when the latter was hit and fell down, but, at the same time, he
saw appellant run and hide in his (appellants) house that was six meters away from the place where appellant threw the
pillbox, is not credible. It goes beyond human experience for Russel to be able to follow the movements of a culprit right
after Joey, his companion, had been hit at the same time that he was helping Joey when the latter fell to the ground, not to
mention the fact that he was also hit on the right side of his face. Does it mean that Russel just stood by watching
appellants movements while the latter threw the pillbox at them and hit him and Joey? The failure of the prosecution to
explain this incredible feat is fatal to its cause. No better test has been found to measure the value of a witness testimony
than its conformity to the knowledge and common experience of mankind. [32]
Fifth, the motive attributed by the trial court to appellant in throwing a pillbox at Russel is based not on the testimony
of prosecution witness Russel but on the testimony of appellant. It is a hornbook doctrine that the prosecution must rely on
its own evidence to prove the guilt of appellant beyond reasonable doubt [33] and therefore, the trial court should not depend
on the evidence of the defense to support the conviction of appellant. However, considering that the presiding judge had
given probative weight or credibility to the testimony of appellant by using his testimony to establish motive on his part to
commit the crime, the same testimony may be used likewise to prove that witness Russel had an ill-motive to testify
against appellant. And when the evidence admits of two interpretations, that which is favorable to appellant should
prevail.[34]
Sixth, while indeed, it is true that flight evidences guilt and a guilty conscience, [35] the escape of appellant from jail
pending trial of his case, cannot, under the attendant circumstances, be considered as evidence of his guilt in the
commission of the offense, or as basis of his conviction in this case. Appellant had sufficiently explained that he escaped
from detention because he got bored in jail, he wanted to see his first new born child and to look for his own father. [36] It is
quite surprising why the trial judge in his decision only mentioned and denigrated the explanation of appellant that he
wanted to look for his father and not mention at all the other reasons of appellant for bolting out of jail. At any rate, it is
not refuted that appellant subsequently surrendered to a member of the Office of the Assistant Regional Director, BJMP,
because of fear for his life.[37]
On the other hand, in denying that he threw the pillbox, no other witness was presented by appellant to corroborate
his testimony. Nonetheless, the testimony of appellant fully explains why Russel testified against him. Russel was of the
belief that appellant was the one who earlier threw a stone at him in the classroom. Unfortunately, the trial court
misapprehended the import of his testimony and interpreted it against him to explain the latters purported motive in
throwing the pillbox at Russel and Joey.
Although denial, like alibi, can be fabricated, it is not always false and without merit, and when coupled with the
improbabilities and uncertainties of the prosecution evidence, the defense of alibi deserves merit. [38] Settled is the rule that
conviction should rest on the strength of evidence of the prosecution and not on the weakness of the defense. [39] The
weakness of the defense does not relieve it of this responsibility. [40] And when the prosecution fails to discharge its burden
of establishing the guilt of an accused, an accused need not even offer evidence in his behalf. [41] A judgment of conviction
must rest on nothing less than moral certainty. [42] It is thus required that every circumstance favoring his innocence must
be duly taken into account. The proof against him must survive the test of reason and the strongest suspicion must not be
permitted to sway judgment. [43] There must be moral certainty in an unprejudiced mind that it was accused-appellant who
committed the crime. Absent this required quantum of evidence would mean exoneration for accused-appellant. [44]
As the Court declared in People vs. Tajada:

While we strongly condemn the senseless and gruesome crime and sincerely commiserate with the suffering and
emotional stress suffered by the bereaved family of the victim, nevertheless, we find the pieces of circumstantial evidence
insufficient to prove the guilt of accused-appellant beyond reasonable doubt. They do not pass the requisite moral
certainty, as they admit of the alternative inference that other persons, not necessarily the accused-appellant, may have
perpetrated the crime. Where the evidence admits of two interpretations, one which is consistent with guilt and the other
with innocence, the accused must be acquitted. Indeed, 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. [45]

Thus, the Court is constrained to set aside the conviction of appellant.


Had not Judge Alumbres been compulsorily retired in 2001, he together with the Public Attorneys Office would have
been admonished to be more circumspect in the performance of their respective duties so as to prevent miscarriage of
justice.
WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment is REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. Another judgment is entered
ACQUITTING appellant MARLON ORTILLAS y GAMLANGA for failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond
reasonable doubt. He is ordered IMMEDIATELY RELEASED from prison, unless he is being held for some other lawful
cause. The Director of Prisons is DIRECTED to inform this Court of the action taken hereon within five (5) days from
receipt of copy of herein Decision.
The Public Attorneys Office is admonished to be more circumspect in the performance of its duties so as to prevent
miscarriage of justice. Let copy of herein decision be furnished the Chief Public Attorney of the Public Attorneys Office
so that appropriate steps may be taken to ensure the improvement of the service of that office.
SO ORDERED.
27. People vs. Escote, GR No. 140756, 4 April 2003

DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:

Robbery with homicide is classified as a crime against property. Nevertheless, treachery is a generic aggravating
circumstance in said crime if the victim of homicide is killed treacherously. The Supreme Court of Spain so ruled. So does
the Court rule in this case, as it had done for decades.
Before the Court on automatic review is the Decision [1] of Branch 11 of the Regional Trial Court of Bulacan in
Criminal Case No. 443-M-97 convicting accused-appellants Juan Gonzales Escote, Jr. and Victor Acuyan of the complex
crime of robbery with homicide, meting on each of them the supreme penalty of death, and ordering them to pay the heirs
of the victim, SPO1 Jose C. Manio, Jr., the total amount of P300,000.00 by way of actual and moral damages and to pay
to Five Star Bus, Inc., the amount of P6,000.00 by way of actual damages.

The Facts

The antecedent facts as established by the prosecution are as follows:


On September 28, 1996 at past midnight, Rodolfo Cacatian, the regular driver of Five Star Passenger Bus bearing
Plate No. ABS-793, drove the bus from its terminal at Pasay City to its destination in Bolinao, Pangasinan. Also on board
was Romulo Digap, the regular conductor of the bus, as well as some passengers. At Camachile, Balintawak, six
passengers boarded the bus, including Victor Acuyan and Juan Gonzales Escote, Jr. who were wearing maong pants,
rubber shoes, hats and jackets. [2] Juan seated himself on the third seat near the aisle, in the middle row of the passengers
seats, while Victor stood by the door in the mid-portion of the bus beside Romulo. Another passenger, SPO1 Jose C.
Manio, Jr., a resident of Angeles City, was seated at the rear portion of the bus on his way home to Angeles City. Tucked
on his waist was his service gun bearing Serial Number 769806. Every now and then, Rodolfo looked at the side view
mirror as well as the rear view and center mirrors installed atop the drivers seat to monitor any incoming and overtaking
vehicles and to observe the passengers of the bus.
The lights of the bus were on even as some of the passengers slept. When the bus was travelling along the highway in
Plaridel, Bulacan, Juan and Victor suddenly stood up, whipped out their handguns and announced a holdup. Petrified,
Rodolfo glanced at the center mirror towards the passengers seat and saw Juan and Victor armed with handguns. Juan
fired his gun upward to awaken and scare off the passengers. Victor followed suit and fired his gun upward. Juan and
Victor then accosted the passengers and divested them of their money and valuables. Juan divested Romulo of the fares he
had collected from the passengers. The felons then went to the place Manio, Jr. was seated and demanded that he show
them his identification card and wallet. Manio, Jr. brought out his identification card bearing No. 00898. [3] Juan and Victor
took the identification card of the police officer as well as his service gun and told him: Pasensya ka na Pare, papatayin
ka namin, baril mo rin and papatay sa iyo. The police officer pleaded for mercy: Pare maawa ka sa akin. May pamilya
ako. However, Victor and Juan ignored the plea of the police officer and shot him on the mouth, right ear, chest and right
side of his body. Manio, Jr. sustained six entrance wounds. He fell to the floor of the bus.Victor and Juan then moved
towards the driver Rodolfo, seated themselves beside him and ordered the latter to maintain the speed of the bus. Rodolfo
heard one of the felons saying: Ganyan lang ang pumatay ng tao. Parang pumapatay ng manok. The other said: Ayos na
naman tayo pare. Malaki-laki ito. Victor and Juan further told Rodolfo that after they (Victor and Juan) shall have alighted
from the bus, he (Rodolfo) should continue driving the bus and not report the incident along the way. The robbers assured
Rodolfo that if the latter will follow their instructions, he will not be harmed. Victor and Juan ordered Rodolfo to stop the
bus along the overpass in Mexico, Pampanga where they alighted from the bus. The robbery was over in 25 minutes.
When the bus reached Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga, Rodolfo and Romulo forthwith reported the incident to the police
authorities. The cadaver of SPO1 Manio, Jr. was brought to the funeral parlor where Dr. Alejandro D. Tolentino, the
Municipal Health Officer of Mabalacat, Pampanga, performed an autopsy on the cadaver of the police officer. The doctor
prepared and signed an autopsy report detailing the wounds sustained by the police officer and the cause of his death:
Body still flaccid (not in rigor mortis) bathed with his own blood. There were 6 entrance wounds and 6 exit wounds. All
the entrance were located on his right side. An entrance (0.5 cm x 0.5 cm.) located infront of the right ear exited at the left
side just below the ear lobe. Another entrance through the mouth exited at the back of the head fracturing the occiput with
an opening of (1.5 cm x 2 cm). Blood CSF and brain tissues came out. Another fatal bullet entered at the upper right
cornea of the sternum, entered the chest cavity pierced the heart and left lung and exited at the left axillary line. Severe
hemorrhage in the chest cavity came from the heart and left lung. The other 3 bullets entered the right side and exited on
the same side. One entrance at the top of the right shoulder exited at the medial side of the right arm.The other entered
above the right breast and exited at the right lateral abdominal wall travelling below muscles and subcutaneous tissues
without entering the cavities. Lastly another bullet entered above the right iliac crest travelled superficially and exited
above the right inguinal line.

Cause of Death:

Shock, massive internal and external hemorrhage, complete brain destruction and injury to the heart and left lung caused
by multiple gunshot wounds.[4]

Rodolfo and Romulo proceeded to the police station of Plaridel, Bulacan where they reported the robbery and gave
their respective sworn statements.[5] SPO1 Manio, Jr. was survived by his wife Rosario Manio and their four young
children. Rosario spent P20,000.00 for the coffin and P10,000.00 for the burial lot of the slain police officer. [6] Manio, Jr.
was 38 years old when he died and had a gross salary of P8,085.00 a month.[7]
Barely a month thereafter, or on October 25, 1996, at about midnight, SPO3 Romeo Meneses, the team leader of
Alert Team No. 1 of Tarlac Police Station, and PO3 Florante S. Ferrer were at the police checkpoint along the national
highway in Tarlac, Tarlac. At the time, the Bambang-Concepcion bridge was closed to traffic and the police officers were
tasked to divert traffic to the Sta. Rosa road. Momentarily, a white colored taxi cab without any plate number on its front
fender came to view. Meneses stopped the cab and asked the driver, who turned out to be the accused Juan Gonzales
Escote, Jr., for his identification card. Juan told Meneses that he was a policeman and handed over to Meneses the
identification card of SPO1 Manio, Jr. and the money which Juan and Victor took from Manio, Jr. during the heist on
September 28, 1996.[8] Meneses became suspicious when he noted that the identification card had already expired on
March 16, 1995. He asked Juan if the latter had a new pay slip. Juan could not produce any. He finally confessed to
Meneses that he was not a policeman. Meneses brought Juan to the police station. When police officers frisked Juan for
any deadly weapon, they found five live bullets of a 9 millimeter firearm in his pocket. The police officers confiscated the
ammunition. In the course of the investigation, Juan admitted to the police investigators that he and Victor, alias Victor
Arroyo, staged the robbery on board Five Star Bus and are responsible for the death of SPO1 Manio, Jr. in Plaridel,
Bulacan. Meneses and Ferrer executed their joint affiavit of arrest of Juan. [9] Juan was subsequently turned over to the
Plaridel Police Station where Romulo identified him through the latters picture as one of those who robbed the passengers
of the Five Star Bus with Plate No. ABS-793 and killed SPO1 Manio, Jr. on September 28, 1996. In the course of their
investigation, the Plaridel Police Station Investigators learned that Victor was a native of Laoang, Northern Samar. [10] On
April 4, 1997, an Information charging Juan Gonzales Escote, Jr. and Victor Acuyan with robbery with homicide was filed
with the Regional Trial Court of Bulacan. The Information reads:

That on or about the 28th day of September 1996, in the municipality of Plaridel, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating together and
mutually helping each other, armed with firearms, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with intent of
(sic) gain and by means of force, violence and intimidation, take, rob and carry away with one (1) necklace and cash in
[the] undetermine[d] amount of one SPO1 Jose C. Manio, Jr., to the damage and prejudice of the said owner in the said
undetermine[d] amount; that simultaneously or on the occassion (sic) of said robbery, said accused by means of violence
and intimidation and in furtherance of their conspiracy attack, assault and shoot with the service firearm of the said SPO1
Jose C. Manio, Jr., thereby inflicting serious physical injuries which resulted (sic) the death of the said SPO1 Jose C.
Manio, Jr.

Contrary to law.[11]

On the strength of a warrant of arrest, the police officers arrested Victor in Laoang, Northern Samar and had him
incarcerated in the Bulacan Provincial Jail. Assisted by Atty. Ramiro Osorio, their counsel de parte, Juan and Victor were
duly arraigned and entered their plea of not guilty to the charge. Trial thereafter ensued. After the prosecution had rested
its case on August 26, 1998, Juan escaped from the provincial jail. [12] The trial court issued a bench warrant on September
22, 1998 for the arrest of said accused-appellant. [13] In the meantime, Victor adduced his evidence.
Victor denied the charge and interposed the defense of alibi. He testified that in 1996, he worked as a tire man in the
vulcanizing shop located in Banga I, Plaridel, Bulacan owned by Tony Boy Negro. On one occasion, Ilarde Victorino, a
customer of Tony Boy Negro, ordered Victor to sell a tire. Victor sold the tire but did not turn over the proceeds of the sale
to Ilarde.The latter hated Victor for his misdeed. The shop was later demolished and after two months of employment,
Victor returned to Barangay Muwal-Buwal, Laoang, Northern Samar. On September 26, 1996, at 9:30 p.m., Victor was at
the town fiesta in Laoang. Victor and his friends, Joseph Iringco and Rickey Lorcio were having a drinking spree in the
house of Barangay Captain Ike Baluya. At 11:30 p.m., the three left the house of the barangay captain and attended the
public dance at the town auditorium. Victor and his friends left the auditorium at 5:30 a.m. of September 27, 1996. Victor
likewise testified that he never met Juan until his arrest and detention at the Bulacan Provincial Jail. One of the inmates in
said provincial jail was Ilarde Victorino. Victor learned that Ilarde implicated him for the robbery of the Five Star Bus and
the killing of SPO1 Manio, Jr. to hit back at him for his failure to turn over to Ilarde the proceeds of the sale of the latters
tire.
On January 14, 1999, Juan was rearrested in Daet, Camarines Norte. [14] However, he no longer adduced any evidence
in his behalf.