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EN BANC

G.R. No. 137182 April 24, 2003

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee,


vs.
ABDILA SILONGAN Y LINANDANG, MACAPAGAL SILONGAN Y LINANDANG, AKMAD AWAL Y LAGASI, TEDDY
SILONGAN, ROLLY LAMALAN Y SAMPOLNAK, SACARIA ALON Y PAMAALOY, JUMBRAH MANAP Y BANTOLINAY,
RAMON PASAWILAN Y EDO, MAYANGKANG SAGUILE, HADJI KUTANG OMAR, BASCO SILONGAN, MONGA ALON,
OTENG SIILONGAN, BEDDO LAXAMANA, and FIFTY-FOUR (54) OTHERS KNOWN ONLY BY THEIR ALIASES, AND OTHER
JOHN DOES, accused,
ABDILA SILONGAN Y LINANDANG, MACAPAGAL SILONGAN Y LINANDANG, AKMAD AWAL Y LAGASI, ROLLY
LAMALAN Y SAMPOLNAK, SACARIA ALON Y PAMAALOY, JUMBRAH MANAP Y BANTOLINAY, and RAMON PASAWILAN
Y EDO, appellants.

PER CURIAM:

For automatic review is the decision1 dated January 18, 1999, of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 103, in Criminal Case
No. 98-75208 convicting appellants Abdila Silongan, Macapagal Silongan, Akmad Awal, Rolly Lamalan, Sacaria Alon, Jumbrah Manap,
and Ramon Pasawilan of the crime of Kidnapping for Ransom with Serious Illegal Detention2 and sentencing them to suffer the penalty of
death. The appellants were also ordered to pay jointly and severally, Alexander Saldaña 3 and Americo Rejuso, Jr., indemnification damages
of P50,000 each and moral damages of P100,000 and P50,000, respectively.

The amended information,4 under which the appellants have been tried and convicted, reads as follows:

That on or about 8:30 o'clock in the evening of March 16, 1996, at Sitio Kamangga, Barangay Laguilayan, Municipality of Isulan,
Province of Sultan Kudarat, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, in the company with
other unidentified persons, conspiring, confederating and mutually aiding one another, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously kidnap ALEXANDER SALDANA, AMERICO REJUSO, JR., ERVIN TORMIS and VICTOR CINCO for the purpose
of demanding ransom in the amount of Twelve Million Pesos (P 12,000,000.00), detaining and depriving Alexander Saldana of his
personal liberty up to September 24, 1996.

CONTRARY TO LAW....

x x x

Upon arraignment,5 all the appellants pleaded not guilty to the charge. Subsequently, this Court issued a Resolution 6 on December 9, 1997,
granting the request of the Secretary of Justice for a change of venue from the RTC, Branch 19, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, to any of the special
crimes court of the RTC of Quezon City. The case was raffled to the RTC, Branch 103, Quezon City, and trial ensued.

The facts established by the prosecution are as follows:

On March 16, 1996, businessman Alexander Saldaña went to Barangay Laguilayan, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat with Americo 7 Rejuso,8 Jr., Ervin
Tormis, and Victor Cinco to meet with a certain Macapagal Silongan alias Commander Lambada. 9 They arrived in the morning and were
able to talk to Macapagal concerning the gold nuggets that were purportedly being sold by the latter. 10 During the meeting Macapagal told
them that someone in his family has just died and that he has to pick up an elder brother in Cotabato City, hence, they had better transact
business in the afternoon.11

In the afternoon, Alexander's group and Macapagal, with a certain Teddy Silongan and another person named Oteng 12 Silongan, traveled to
Cotabato City to fetch Macapagal's brother.13 Afterwards, the group returned to Isulan on Macapagal's orders. At Isulan, Macapagal gave
additional instructions to wait until dark allegedly because the funeral arrangements for his relative were not yet finished. 14 When the group
finally got on their way, Macapagal ordered the driver to drive slowly towards the highway. 15 Oteng Silongan and his bodyguards alighted
somewhere along the way.

Then around 7:30 p.m., as they headed to the highway, Alexander Saldaña noticed that Macapagal Silongan was busy talking over his hand-
held radio with someone. But because the conversation was in the Maguindanaoan dialect, he did not understand what was being said. At
8:30 p.m., they neared the highway. Macapagal ordered the driver to stop.

Suddenly, 15 armed men appeared. Alexander and his three companions were ordered to go out of the vehicle, tied up, and blindfolded.
Macapagal and Teddy were also tied up and blindfolded, but nothing more was done to them. 16Alexander identified the appellants Oteng
Silongan, Akmad Awal,17 Abdila Silongan alias Long Silongan,18 and Rolly Lamalan as belonging to the group that abducted them. 19 He also
pointed to an elder brother of Macapagal, alias Keddy, alias Wet, and an alias Ngunib as also belonging to the group. 20

The four victims were taken to a mountain hideout in Maganoy, Maguindanao, where a certain Salik Karem, Hadji Kutang Omar alias
Commander Palito, and Jumbrah Manap met them.21 Initially, the three demanded fifteen million pesos (P15,000,000) from Alexander
Saldaña for his release, but the amount was eventually reduced to twelve million pesos after much haggling. 22 They made Alexander write a
letter to his wife to pay the ransom. The letter was hand-carried by a certain Armand Jafar, alias Dante, and two of the victims, Ervin Tormis
and Victor Cinco, who both later managed to escape. 23 No ransom was obtained so Commander Palito and Jumbrah Manap sent other
persons and one of the victims, Americo Rejuso, Jr., to renegotiate with Alexander's wife. No agreement was likewise reached.

Seven days later, Alexander Saldaña and Americo Rejuso, Jr., were transferred to the town proper of Maganoy. Commander Palito, Jumbrah
Manap, Sacaria24 Alon alias Jack Moro,25 Ramon Pasawilan,26 guarded them. When the kidnappers learned that the military was looking for
Alexander, they returned to the mountain hideout and stayed there for two weeks. 27

At one time, Alexander Saldaña was made to stay at a river hideout where a certain Commander Kugta held him and sheltered his abductors
for at least a week.28 There, Alexander saw Macapagal Silongan with Jumbrah Manap and other armed men. These men brought Alexander
to Talayan where he met Mayangkang Saguile. From Talayan, Mayangkang and his men brought Alexander to Maitum, Kabuntalan,
Maguindanao, where Mayangkang's lair is located. Mayangkang made Alexander write more letters 29 to the latter's family. On several
occasions, Mayangkang himself would write letters30 to Alexander's wife. Alexander personally was detained in Kabuntalan for a total period
of five (5) months and was kept constantly guarded by armed men. Among his guards were the appellants Macapagal Silongan, Abdila
Silongan, Akmad Awal, and a certain Basco Silongan.31

On September 24, 1996, Mayangkang released Alexander Saldaña to the military in exchange for a relative who was caught delivering a
ransom note to Alexander's family. However, only eight of the accused were brought to trial, namely, Abdila, Macapagal, and Teddy, all
surnamed Silongan, Akmad Awal, Rolly Lamalan, Sacaria Alon, Jumbrah Manap, and Ramon Pasawilan.

The prosecution presented Alexander Saldana; his wife, Carmelita Saldaña, and a certain Major Parallag who was responsible for
Alexander's release. Carmelita testified as to matters relayed to her by Americo Rejuso, Jr., and identified the ransom notes sent to her. Major
Parallag, for his part, testified as to the operations undertaken by the military to effect the rescue of Alexander.

In their defense, all the accused, except Macapagal and Teddy Silongan, denied ever having met Alexander Saldaña and his three (3)
companions much less having kidnapped them. 32 Additionally, all eight of the accused established that they came under the control of the
government military authorities when they surrendered as Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front
(MNLF) rebels.33 They claim they voluntarily surrendered when a certain Perry Gonzales convinced them that the government would grant
them amnesty, pay for their guns, and give them the items listed in their lists of demands.34

On the witness stand, appellant Macapagal Silongan admitted being with Alexander's group in the van when they were waylaid. But he
denies involvement in the kidnapping.35 In fact he said when Alexander Saldaña saw him in the mountains, he was there specifically to beg
Mayangkang Saguile to release Alexander. He further claimed that he was also hogtied by the armed men who blocked the van that evening
of March 16, 1996. He testified that he was separated from Teddy Silongan and did not know what happened to Teddy. 36 He admitted
knowing Alexander Saldaña for four months prior to March 16, 1996 because the latter asked for his help in locating a plane that crashed in
the mountains.37 According to him, Alexander Saldaña hired him to act as a guide in treasure hunting. When asked to give more information
about the plane, Macapagal Silongan stated that he saw it before he met Alexander, and that when he saw said plane it had no more
sidewalls. He added that many people have already seen the plane and that vines and mosses have grown about the plane because it had been
quite some time since it crashed.38

Appellant Teddy Silongan, for his part, testified that his cousin Macapagal Silongan contacted him so he could act as interpreter for
Macapagal because Alexander could not speak Maguindanaoan and Macapagal does not understand any other language. He added that after
the van stopped, one of those who stopped the van opened its rear door and then someone hit him with the butt of a gun rendering him
unconscious. When he regained consciousness he found himself hogtied like Macapagal but could not find Alexander's group or the van.39

All eight of the accused, except Akmad Awal, admitted having signed separate extra-judicial confessions40 admitting to their complicity in
the kidnapping of Alexander Saldaña and his companions, but they asserted that they did not understand what they were
signing.41 Additionally, they assert that they did not know or hire Atty. Plaridel Bohol III, the lawyer who appears to have assisted them in
making their confessions.42

After trial, the RTC rendered judgment43 on January 18, 1999, the decretal portion of which reads as follows:

ACCORDINGLY, judgment is hereby rendered finding the herein accused:

1. ABDILA SILONGAN y Linandang;

2. MACAPAGAL SILONGAN y Linandang;

3. AKMAD AWAL y Lagasi;

4. ROLLY LAMALAN y Sampolnak;

5. SACARIA ALON y Pamaaloy;

6. JUMBRAH MANAP y Bantolinay; and

7. RAMON PASAWILAN y Edo

GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt, as principals, of the crime, herein charged, of Kidnapping for Ransom as defined by law, and
the said seven (7) accused are hereby sentenced to DEATH as provided for in Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended
by RA 7659.
On the civil aspect, the above-named seven (7) accused are hereby ordered jointly and severally to pay Alexander Saldana the sum
of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as indemnification damages and One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) as moral
damages; and to pay Americo Rejuso, Jr. the sum of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as indemnification damages and Fifty
Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as moral damages.

The accused TEDDY SILONGAN is hereby ACQUITTED of the charge of Kidnapping for Ransom filed in this case.

Cost against the accused, except Teddy Silongan.

SO ORDERED.

Hence, this automatic review.44 The appellants in their brief allege that the trial court committed the following errors:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT PROSECUTION EVIDENCE HAS ESTABLISHED THE GUILT OF
ACCUSED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT DESPITE MATERIAL INCONSISTENCIES IN THE TESTIMONIES OF
PROSECUTION WITNESSES;

II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT GIVING CREDENCE TO THE DEFENSE PUT UP BY ACCUSED WHICH ARE
VALID, CREDIBLE AND IN ACCORDANCE WITH HUMAN EXPERIENCES. 45

Essentially, the issue before this Court is whether the guilt of the appellants has been proven by credible evidence beyond reasonable doubt.

The appellants assert that the identification of the kidnappers of Alexander Saldaña is gravely flawed. They contend that Alexander Saldaña
and Americo Rejuso,Jr., could not have positively identified Rolly Lamalan, Akmad Awal, Sacaria Alon, and Abdila Silongan as their
abductors46 because the incident happened at night in a place where there was no electricity, 47 and more importantly, because both of them
were hogtied and blindfolded at the time.

Americo Rejuso, Jr., erroneously pointed to Akmad Awal when asked to identify the accused Teddy Silongan. Neither did he know the
names of Jumbrah Manap and Ramon Pasawilan.48 Alexander Saldaña, for his part, testified that Mayangkang Saguile detained him for five
months in Kabuntalan,49 but when asked in open court to point to Mayangkang Saguile, 50 he pointed to someone who was not Mayangkang
Saguile. The appellants claim the real Mayangkang Saguile remains at large.

The appellants also point to inconsistencies in the testimony of Alexander Saldaña who testified that Teddy and Macapagal Silongan were
among the 15 armed persons who stopped the vehicle and abducted the group 51 after having earlier testified that the two were inside the van
and were unarmed.52 Also, Alexander testified that they were abducted around 7:30 p.m. on March 16, 1996, but at pre-trial, the time of the
abduction was stipulated to be around 8:30 p.m. on the same date.53

The appellants further argue that the fact that they are rebel surrenderees precludes conviction for the common crime of
kidnapping.54 Citing People v. Hernandez,55 they contend that common crimes are absorbed in rebellion. Therefore, the trial court erred when
it convicted them of kidnapping for ransom.

Finally, appellants assert that some of them are illiterate and that the trial court should have accordingly mitigated their liability.

At the outset, we hold that the trial court correctly ruled that the extrajudicial statements of the appellants are inadmissible in evidence. The
assistance afforded by Atty. Plaridel Bohol is not the assistance contemplated by the fundamental law. Atty. Bohol limited his assistance
"(f)or the purpose of (the) written waiver" as expressly stated by him in all confessions. It does not appear that he was present and
independently and competently participated in all the investigation proceedings. All the accused, except Teddy Silongan, are conversant only
in the Maguindanaoan dialect and yet the statements were written in almost perfect Filipino. There is no evidence that the accused, prior to
the taking of the supposed confessions, were made aware of their right to be silent and to have independent and competent counsel. Neither is
there evidence that, as required by Rep. Act. No. 7438, 56 the statements were read to and explained to the accused by the investigating
officer.

This notwithstanding, we find there exist sufficient evidence on record to sustain the conviction of the appellants.

The rule in evidence, which the Court has always applied, is that positive identification prevails over the simple denial of the accused.
Denial, like alibi, is an insipid and weak defense, being easy to fabricate and difficult to disprove. A positive identification of the accused,
when categorical, consistent and straightforward, and without any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying on the
matter, prevails over this defense.57

The conditions which purportedly created serious doubt on the ability of prosecution witnesses Alexander Saldaña and Americo Rejuso, Jr.,
to identify positively their abductors did not perdure throughout the duration of their captivity. The records bear out that Alexander and
Americo both had a number of opportunities to see the faces of the appellants. They were transferred from one lair to another without
blindfolds and often in broad daylight. These improved circumstances necessarily permitted both Alexander and Americo to see the faces of
the appellants. Moreover, it must be remembered that Alexander was detained for six months. During this period, Alexander saw them, ate
with them, and actually lived with them. Appellants Akmad Awal and Ramon Pasawilan have both acted as guards to Alexander many times:
Akmad in Kabuntalan58 and Ramon in the mountain hideout of Maganoy59 as well as when Alexander was transferred to the hideout in the
town proper of Maganoy.60 For their part, the appellants Jumbrah Manap, Abdila Silongan, and Sacaria Alon guarded Alexander both in the
mountain hideout of Maganoy and in Kabuntalan.61 These instances, among many others, gave Alexander ample time to see and imprint their
faces in his memory. We likewise note that as borne by the records, the kidnappers made little or no attempt to conceal their identities. In
fact, they even told Alexander their names when he asked for them. 62 The positive identification Alexander and Americo made in open
court63 thus deserves much weight. We have held in People v. Bacungay,64 that "it is the most natural reaction for victims of crimes to strive
to remember the faces of their assailants and the manner in which they committed the crime."

That prosecution witness Americo Rejuso, Jr., does not know the names of the abductors is not sufficient to cast doubt on his testimony. It is
not necessary that the name of an accused be specifically stated by a witness in an affidavit or in his testimony. Victims of crimes cannot
always identify their assailants by name. It is imperative, however, that the attacker be pointed out and unequivocally identified during the
trial in court as the same person who committed the crime. 65 We hold that this imperative requirement has been met as to all appellants.

Moreover, not only are the testimonies of Alexander Saldaña and Americo Rejuso, Jr., consistent in all material aspects, they are also replete
with precise details of the crime and the specific involvements of the different accused therein. In more than one instance, Alexander has
identified the appellants to be his kidnappers. He has recounted both on the witness stand as well as in his sworn statement the specific acts
performed by the appellants. The records of this case reflect that in more than one instance, the appellants have acted together as guards to
Alexander in Kabuntalan, Maganoy, and while he was being transferred from one lair to another. 66 There can be no question, therefore, that
the appellants committed the crime. Absent any showing that the trial court overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied any fact or
circumstance of weight and influence which could affect the outcome of the case, the factual findings and assessment of credibility of a
witness made by the trial court remain binding on the appellate tribunal. 67

The records are bereft of any evidence that Alexander Saldaña entertained any particular or specific prejudice against the appellants
especially because there were 68 accused in this case. The trial court correctly opined that it was quite strange that Alexander would point to
the appellants as the perpetrators of the crime if it were true that all of them, except Macapagal and Teddy, do not know or have not even met
Alexander. Indeed, it was in Alexander's best interest to implicate only those people who were responsible for abducting him. He has nothing
to gain by implicating and testifying against persons innocent of the crime. In People v. Garalde,68 this Court ruled that when there is no
evidence to show any dubious reason or improper motive why a prosecution witness would testify falsely against an accused or falsely
implicate him in a heinous crime, the testimony is worthy of full faith and credit.

The essence of the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention as defined and penalized in Article 267 69 of the Revised Penal Code is
the actual deprivation of the victim's liberty coupled with proof beyond reasonable doubt of an intent of the accused to effect the same. It is
thus essential that the following be established by the prosecution: (1) the offender is a private individual; (2) he kidnaps or detains another,
or in any other manner deprives the latter of his liberty; (3) the act of detention or kidnapping must be illegal; and (4) in the commission of
the offense, any of the four circumstances enumerated in Article 267 be present.70 But if the kidnapping was done for the purpose of
extorting ransom, the fourth element is no longer necessary. 71

There is no mistaking the clear, overwhelming evidence that the appellants abducted Alexander Saldaña and his companions at gunpoint and
deprived them of their freedom. That the appellants took shifts guarding the victims until only Alexander was left to be guarded and in
transferring Alexander from one hideout to another to prevent him from being rescued by the military establish that they acted in concert in
executing their common criminal design.

Macapagal's participation is clearly evident from the records. Aside from being one of Alexander's armed guards in Kabuntalan,72 and having
been part of a party which brought Alexander from the river hideout of Commander Kugta to Mayangkang Saguile's lair in
Talayan,73 indirect evidence also support Macapagal's participation in the criminal design. First, Macapagal made several postponements of
their trip on March 16, 1996 until it was already 7:30 in the evening. His reason that someone in his family died is not corroborated at all.
Teddy, his cousin, never mentioned it, and his other relative, co-accused Abdila Silongan, was reticent about it. In fact, nobody told the trial
court the name of the deceased relative. Secondly, Americo testified that when they stopped over at Macapagal's house, he heard the wife of
Macapagal utter the words "kawawa naman sila" as they were leaving. 74 Thirdly, it was established that Macapagal ordered the driver to
proceed slowly towards the highway. During this time, he was busy talking on his handheld radio with someone and the victims heard him
say "ok." When they were near the highway, he ordered the driver to stop whereupon 15 armed men appeared and blocked their
vehicle. Finally, while the 15 men took away Alexander Saldaña and his three companions, nothing was done to Macapagal or to Teddy
Silongan. By their own admission, they were just left behind after being hogtied. How they managed to escape was not explained. All these
taken together give rise to the reasonable inference that Macapagal had concocted the funeral for a supposed recently deceased relative
purposely to afford his co-conspirators time to stage the kidnapping. Then, also, it was through Macapagal's indispensable contribution that
the armed men were able to stop the vehicle at a precise location near the highway.

Likewise, the prosecution has established beyond reasonable doubt that the kidnapping was committed "for the purpose of extorting ransom"
from Alexander, as to warrant the mandatory imposition of the death penalty. For the crime to be committed, at least one overt act of
demanding ransom must be made. It is not necessary that there be actual payment of ransom because what the law requires is merely the
existence of the purpose of demanding ransom. In this case, the records are replete with instances when the kidnappers demanded ransom
from the victim. At the mountain hideout in Maganoy where Alexander was first taken, he was made to write a letter to his wife asking her to
pay the ransom of twelve million pesos. Among those who demanded ransom were the appellants Ramon Pasawilan,75 Sacaria Alon,76 and
Jumbrah Manap.77 Then, when Alexander was in the custody of Mayangkang Saguile, not only was he made to write more letters to his
family, Mayangkang himself wrote ransom notes. In those letters, Mayangkang even threatened to kill Alexander if the ransom was not paid.

As regards the argument that the crime was politically motivated and that consequently, the charge should have been rebellion and not
kidnapping, we find the same likewise to be without merit. As held in Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Zamboanga Del Norte vs.
CA,78 the political motivation for the crime must be shown in order to justify finding the crime committed to be rebellion. Merely because it
is alleged that appellants were members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or of the Moro National Liberation Front does not necessarily
mean that the crime of kidnapping was committed in furtherance of a rebellion. Here, the evidence adduced is insufficient for a finding that
the crime committed was politically motivated. Neither have the appellants sufficiently proven their allegation that the present case was filed
against them because they are rebel surrenderees. This court has invariably viewed the defense of frame-up with disfavor. Like the defense of
alibi, it can be just as easily concocted.

Finally, that appellants Jumbrah Manap, Abdila Silongan, Rolly Lamalan, Sacaria Alon, and Macapagal Silongan are illiterate is not
sufficient to lower the penalty. Article 63 of the Revised Penal Code is specific. It states that "(i)n all cases in which the law prescribes a
single indivisible penalty, it shall be applied by the courts regardless of any mitigating or aggravating circumstances that may have attended
the commission of the deed." Hence, while illiteracy is generally mitigating in all crimes, such circumstance, even if present, cannot result in
a reduction of the penalty in this case.

Considering that it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that the abduction of Alexander Saldaña, Americo Rejuso, Jr., Ervin Tormis,
and Victor Cinco were for the purpose of extorting ransom, the trial court correctly imposed the death penalty.

As already stated, the trial court ordered the appellants to pay, jointly and severally, Alexander Saldaña and Americo Rejuso, Jr.,
indemnification damages of P50,000 each and moral damages of P100,000 and P50,000, respectively. However, to be entitled to actual
damages, it is necessary to prove the actual amount of loss with reasonable degree of certainty, premised upon competent proof and on the
best evidence available to the injured party.79 There is no evidence adduced before the trial court as to actual damages suffered by either
Alexander or Americo. Hence, we are constrained to delete the award. This notwithstanding, under Article 222180 of the New Civil Code,
nominal damages are adjudicated in order that a right of the plaintiff, which has been violated by the defendant, may be vindicated by him.
Conformably, the Court rules that both Alexander and Americo shall be awarded P50,000 each as nominal damages.81

We affirm the award of P100,000 to Alexander and P50,000 to Americo as moral damages. The amount of moral anxiety suffered by the two
victims is in no wise the same. Undoubtedly, Alexander's family had undergone greater distress in the uncertainty of seeing Alexander again.

Three Justices of the Court maintain their position that R.A. No. 7659 is unconstitutional insofar as it prescribes the death penalty;
nevertheless, they submit to the ruling of the majority that the law is constitutional, and that the death penalty can be lawfully imposed in the
case at bar.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 103, convicting the appellants ABDILA SILONGAN,
MACAPAGAL SILONGAN, AKMAD AWAL, ROLLY LAMALAN, SACARIA ALON, JUMBRAH MANAP, and RAMON
PASAWILAN of the crime of Kidnapping for Ransom with Serious Illegal Detention and sentencing them to suffer the penalty of DEATH is
AFFIRMED. Further, the appellants are ORDERED to pay, jointly and severally, Alexander Saldaña and Americo Rejuso, Jr., nominal
damages of P50,000.00 each and moral damages of P100,000.00 and P50,000.00, respectively.

In accordance with Section 25 of R.A. No. 7659 amending Article 83 of the Revised Penal Code, let the records of this case be forthwith
forwarded, upon finality of this decision, to the Office of the President for possible exercise of the pardoning power.SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 123979 December 3, 1998

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
ALIPIO SANTIANO, JOSE SANDIGAN, ARMENIA PILLUETA and JOSE VICENTE (JOVY) CHANCO, accused-appellants.

VITUG, J.:

Accuse-appellants Alipio Santiano, Jose Sandigan, Armenia Pillueta and Jose Vicente (Jovy) Chance were indicted for the kidnapping with
murder of Ramon John Dy Kow, Jr., a detention prisoner at the Naga City Jail, in an amended Information, docketed Criminal Case No. P-
2319, filed with the Regional Trial Court ("RTC") of Pili, Branch 32, Camarines Sur.

When arraigned, the four accused pleaded not guilty to the charge. The trial thereupon ensued.

The evidence submitted by the prosecution, disclosing its version of the case, is narrated by the Solicitor General in the People's brief.

On May 13, 1993, the kidnap victim, Ramon John Dy Kow, Jr. and his live-in partner, Loida Navidad were arrested by
appellants Jose Sandigan and Armenia Pillueta and several other NARCOM agents for alleged illegal possession of
marijuana (p. 32, TSN, April 20, 1994).

After the arrest, they were brought to the NARCOM Office situated at the compound of the Philippine National Police
(PNP) Headquarters, Naga City (p. 32, ibid.). Thereat, they were at first warned by appellant Pillueta not to contact a
lawyer (p. 35, ibid.). Appellant Pillueta likewise reminded them that "it is only a matter of P10,000.00" (p. 35, ibid.).

When Navidad's brother nonetheless arrived accompanied by a lawyer, appellant Pillueta got angry (p. 38, ibid.). At once,
the victim and Navidad were dragged to the Naga City Jail situated at a distance of six (6) to seven (7) meters from the
NARCOM Office (pp. 10, 38-39, ibid.). Since their arrest, they were detained at the Naga City Jail (ibid.).

Sometime in July 1993, appellant Alipio Santiano was detained at the Naga City Jail (pp. 4-5, ibid.). He was detained in the
same cell occupied by the victim (p. 6, ibid.). When appellant Santiano was mauled by the inmates of Cell 3, the victim
was one of those who participated in mauling him (p. 16, ibid.).

After the release of Santiano, he returned to the City Jail in November 1993 accompanied by one Lt. Dimaano (pp. 7-
8, ibid.). Thereat, the victim was pointed to by appellant Santiano as the one who mastermind his mauling (ibid.).

On December 27, 1993, at about 6:00 o'clock in the evening, the victim asked permission from a jail trustee to allow him to
buy viand outside the jail (pp. 7-9, ibid.). When he left, the victim was wearing a fatigue jacket and short pants (p. 9, ibid.).

As the victim emerged from the PNP store, he was accosted by appellants Sandigan and Santiano (p. 7, TSN, April 25,
1994). The two (2) appellants held the victim between them and thereafter hurriedly, proceeded towards the NARCOM
Office situated at a distance of about twenty-five (25) meters away (pp. 7, 38-41, ibid.). Upon reaching the door of the
NARCOM office, the victim was pushed inside (pp. 7-8, ibid.). Once the victim was already inside the NARCOM Office,
appellant Sandigan proceeded to and took his place at Plaza Barlin facing the PNP Police Station (pp. 8-12, ibid.). The
victim was made to sit and thereafter mauled by appellant Santiano (pp. 8-11, ibid.). Santiano got hold of a handkerchief,
rolled it around his fists and continued to punch the victim for almost fifteen (15) minutes (p. 16, ibid.). As the victim was
being mauled, appellant Pillueta stood by the door of the NARCOM office, her both hands inside her pockets while
looking to her right and left, acting as a lookout (ibid.).

At this time, appellant Chanco who owned and drove his trimobile, parked it in front of the door of the NARCOM Office
(pp. 15, 17, TSN, April 25, 1994). Thereafter, he proceeded inside the NARCOM Office (pp. 15, 17, ibid.).

After a few minutes, appellant Chanco went out of the NARCOM Office and started the trimobile (p. 21,ibid.). His co-
appellant Santiano and Pillueta followed him. Inside the trimobile, appellant Pillueta occupied the back seat (p. 21, ibid.).
Santiano occupied the reserved seat in front of the passenger seat which was occupied by the victim (ibid.).

As appellant Chanco was about to start his trimobile, appellant Sandigan, who was at Plaza Barlin, transferred to and
stationed himself at the Century Fox in front of the GSIS building situated at the corner of General Luna and Arana Streets
(p. 23, ibid.).
The trimobile proceeded towards the direction of San Francisco Church (p. 40, TSN, April 23, 1994). When it passed the
Panganiban Drive, Naga City, on its way towards the direction of Palestina, Pili, Camarines Sur, the victim was still aboard
the trimobile seated at the passenger seat nearest the driver (p. 4, TSN, May 24, 1994).

When prosecution witness Rañola heard over the radio that a person was found dead at the canal in Palestina, Pili,
Camarines Sur, he lost no time in informing a policeman Prila of the Pili Police Department that the descriptions of the
dead person he heard over the radio fit not only the person he saw being hauled to and thereafter mauled at the NARCOM
Office but likewise the same person who was on board the trimobile driven by appellant Chanco (p. 13, TSN, May 6,
1994).

Robert Dy Kow identified the man found dead in Palestina, Pili, Camarines Sur, as his brother Ramon John Dy Kow, Jr. 1

The defense presented its own account of the facts hereunder expounded by it; viz:

Accused-appellant Armenia Pillueta is an organic member of the NARCOM, Naga City, Command. Accused-Appellant
Jose Sandigan is a regular member of the PNP but, he was a former organic member of the NARCOM. On the other hand,
Accused Alipio Santiano and Jose Vicente "Jovi" Chanco are amongst the active Civilian Volunteer/Assists of the
NARCOM.

That at or about 5:00 o'clock P.M. of December 27, 1993, accused-appellant Sandigan was in front of the Advent theater;
that while thereat, he saw accused-appellant Santiano and he invited the latter for a snack at the Mang Donald's, a burger
house, situated just beside the Advent theater; that after taking their snacks, they decided to go to the NARCOM office;
that while on their way to the NARCOM office, they saw accused-appellant Chanco emerging from the Nehrus Department
Store where the latter bought something; that this Nehrus Department Store is located in front of the Naga City Police Head
Quarters which is also near the NARCOM office, that the three of them (Sandigan, Santiano and Chanco) proceeded to the
NARCOM office; that when they arrived, accused-appellant Pillueta, SPO3 Lorna "Onang" Fernandez, Tet Deniega and
the NARCOM, District Commander P/Insp. Del Socorro were at the NARCOM office while accused-appellant. Chanco's
trimobile was parked in front of the NARCOM office; that while in the NARCOM office, accused-appellant Santiano and
Chanco were joking with each other, like kids, such that accused-appellants Santiano would sling accused-appellant
Chanco with his handkerchief; that, as it was intermittently raining, accused-appellants Sandigan, Santiano and Chanco left
the NARCOM office past 6:00 P.M. aboard the trimobile of accused-appellant Chanco, while accused-appellant Pillueta
together with SPO3 Lorna Fernandez and Tet Deniega left the NARCOM office at or about 8:00 P.M. and proceeded to the
Sampaguita Music Lounge to watch a lady band performing at the Sampaguita Music Lounge, leaving behind P/Insp.
Nelson Del Socorro at the NARCOM office.

That upon leaving the NARCOM office and while on board the trimobile accused-appellants Sandigan, Santiano and
Chanco were deciding whether to see a movie or have a round of drink and, after failing to decide whether to see a movie
or a round of drink, accused-appellants Sandigan and Chanco conducted accused-appellant Santiano to the jeepney
terminal for Milaor, Camarines Sur and thereupon, accused-appellant Chanco also conducted accused-appellant Sandigan
to the Philtranco terminal where the latter boarded a bus to Bato, Camarines Sur where he resides.

That between 6:30 and 7:00 o'clock P.M. of the same date, accused-appellant Santiano was in Milaor, Camarines Sur, a
Municipality less than four kilometers away from Naga City, and fetched Ms. Arcadia Paz, a traditional mid-wife
(komadrana), from the latter's residence to conduct/perform a pre-natal therapy (hilot) upon his (Santiano) pregnant wife;
that Ms. Paz and accused-appellant Santiano proceeded to and arrived at the latter's house in Naga City about past 7:00
o'clock in the evening where Ms. Paz conducted a pre-natal therapy upon appellant Santiano's wife; that Ms. Paz finished
the pre-natal therapy at or about 9:00 o'clock P.M.; that she (Paz) left the house of accused-appellant Santiano and was
accompanied for home by latter at or about 10:00 o'clock of the same evening; that from past 7:00 o'clock when Paz and
Santiano arrived at the latter's house until past 10:00 o'clock when they left Santiano's house, accused-appellant Santiano
was all the time present at and never left his house;

That on the other hand, SPO3 Fernandez, Deniega and accused-appellant Pillueta, upon leaving the NARCOM office, went
directly to the Sampaguita Music Lounge and watched the lady band perform thereat; that Roy Cabral, a common
acquaintance of SPO3 Fernandez, Deniega and accused-appellant Pillueta, even saw and approached them (SPO3
Fernandez, Deniega and Pillueta) at their table inside the Sampaguita Music Lounge; that the three of them (SPO3
Fernandez, Deniega and Pillueta) left the Sampaguita Music Lounge at or about 2:00 A.M. of December 28, 1993, and
thereupon, they went to their respective homes.

That on December 27, 1993, at any time of the day, the late Ramon John Dy Kow, Jr. was neither seen by the accused-
appellants nor was he in the NARCOM office more specifically and particularly between 6:00 to 7:00 P.M. of the same
date; that the late Ramon John Dy Kow, Jr. was known to SPO3 Fernandez and his (Dy Kow, Jr.) height and body built is
almost the same or similarly the same as that of accused-appellant Chanco; that she (SPO3 Fernandez) also known William
Rañola whom she usually see drunk/under the influence of liquor;

That in the first week of January, 1994, during the investigation of the case conducted by the PNP Pili, Camarines Sur,
SPO3 Fernandez was asked by major Ernesto Idian, chief of PNP Pili, Camarines Sur, of accused-appellant Pillueta's
whereabouts in the night of December 27, 1993, where she (SPO3 Fernandez) told Major Idian that accused-appellant
Pillueta was with her (SPO3 Fernandez) at the Sampaguita Music Lounge; that Major Idian did not ask her (SPO3
Fernandez) to execute an affidavit of what she told him instead, Major Idian requested her not to tell accused-appellant
Pillueta about what he asked her.
That on January 20, 1994, accuse-appellants Pillueta, Santiano and Chanco, reported and submitted themselves to their
superior officer, Col. Norberto Manaog, Deputy Director of the NARCOM at Camp Crame, Quezon City, wherein they
reported that they were suspected of having killed Ramon John Dy Kow, Jr. and requested that they be placed under his
custody; that Col. Manaog referred them to the legal officer of the NARCOM, Major Acpal; that after being informed by
accused-appellants Pillueta, Santiano and Chanco that they did not have any idea of whether a warrant of arrest was already
issued against them, Col. Manaog, in consultation with Major Acpal, told them that there is no yet basis for them to be
placed under custody, so that, Col. Manaog instructed them just get in touch with him so that if a warrant of arrest comes
out, the same could be served upon them; that Col. Manaog directed Major Acpal to proceed to Pili, Camarines Sur to
determine the status of the investigation and to know whether a warrant of arrest was already issued; that on January 24,
1994, Major Acpal went to Pili, Camarines Sur and found out that a warrant of arrest against accused-appellants, Sandigan,
who was already arrested, Pillueta and Santiano has been issued on January 21, 1994; that on January 25, 1994, Major
Acpal, being a lawyer and the Legal officer of the NARCOM filed before the Municipal Trial Court, Pili, Camarines Sur, a
motion to quash the warrant of arrest; that on January 23, 1994 accused-appellant Pillueta informed Col. Manaog that she
was hospitalized due to a car accident and that she may be placed under his custody should a warrant for her arrest be
issued; on January 26, 1994, she was placed under the custody of her superior, Col. Manaog of the NARCOM. On the
other hand, accused-appellants, Santiano and Chanco were, from time to time, contacting Col. Manaog to determine
whether a warrant of arrest was already issued but, since Col. Manaog was always out of his office, they were able to
contact, via telephone facility, Col. Manaog only on April 16, 1994; and accused-appellants Chanco and Santiano went to
the office of NARCOM, Camp Crame, Quezon City, voluntarily surrendered, and Maj. Acpal placed them under the
custody of the NARCOM and were detained at PNP NARCOM Cell, Camp Crame, Quezon City. The records of this case
show that no warrant of arrest was issued against accused-appellant Chanco (Order dated Sept. 5, 1994), however, he
voluntarily surrendered and submitted to the custody of the NARCOM and to the trial court. 2

Appellant Jovy Chanco had this further statement in his supplemental appeal brief; thus:

On December 28, 1993, a cadaver of an unknown person was discovered somewhere in the vicinity of Barangay Palestina,
Municipality of Pili, Province of Camarines, by Danilo Camba, the Barangay Captain of said locality. The corpse was later
on identified by Robert Dy Kow as that one of his brother, Ramon John Dy Kow, Jr. 3

Dr. Thomas S. Gonzales performed an autopsy on the cadaver of the victim. His findings revealed that Dy Kow, Jr., had fatally sustained the
following injuries:

Eye: Contusion, upper lid extending to the outer canthus, right;

Ear: lacerated wound ripping off the lowest pole of the lobule, right; serrated border

Sub-occipital region: lacerated wound, 0.9 cms. in length, centrally located;

Neck: punctured wound, 3-4 mm deep, semi-circular with serrated border, base of neck
at the sternomastoid border, right;

Chest: Gunshot wound

point of entrance: 2nd ICS, sternal border, right, 12 mm in diameter

Bullet route: from the point of entrance extending backwards to the left, piercing the
heart and left lung and lodging on the anterior aspect or surface of the sub scapular
area, left

Point of exist: None

Bullet slug: Recovered

CAUSE OF DEATH: INTERNAL HEMORRHAGE

SECONDARY TO GUNSHOT WOUND.4

Evaluating the evidence before it, the trial court found all four accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of kidnapping, defined and penalized
under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code; the court adjudged:

UPON THE FOREGOING CONSIDERATIONS, this Court FINDS FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, and
finds all of the accused, Jose Sandigan, Armenia, aka Armie Pillueta, Alipio Santiano, and Jose Vicente Chanco, aka Jovy,
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of KIDNAPPING as defined and penalized under Art. 267 of the Revised
Penal Code, and there being no mitigating or aggravating circumstances, hereby sentences each and all of them to suffer
imprisonment, RECLUSION PERPETUA, with all the accessories of the penalty, and to indemnify the heirs of Ramon John
Dy Kow, Jr. the sum of Fifty Thousand Pesos, and to pay the costs; they are credited in full for the preventive
imprisonment.5

Accused-appellants filed the instant appeal.


Assailing the decision of the court a quo, appellants would insist that the amended information under which they were arraigned, tried and
convicted, although so captioned as an indictment for the complex crime of kidnapping with murder, was, in reality a mere indictment for
murder. According to appellants, the use of the words "abducted" and "kidnapping" in the amended information was not in itself indicative of
the crime of kidnapping being charged but that, from the averments of the information, it could be apparent that Ramon John Dy Kow, Jr.,
was "abducted or kidnapped" not for the purpose of detaining but of liquidating him. Hence, the defense theorized, the conviction for
kidnapping had no legal ground to stand on.

Let it not be said that the contention lacks remarkableness nevertheless, it is a legal proposition that can here hardly be accepted. The
amended information reads:

The undersigned 1st Assistant Provincial Prosecutor of Camarines Sur accuses JOSE SANDIGAN, ALIPIO SANTIANO,
ARMIE PILLUETA and JOVY CHANCO of the crime of KIDNAPPING WITH MURDER, defined and penalized under
Article 267 and Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, committed as follows:

That on or about the 27th day of December 1993 between 6:00 o'clock to 7:00 o'clock in the evening at
Barangay Palestina, Municipality of Pili, Province of Camarines Sur, Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually
helping one another with intent to kill, with treachery, superior strength and evident premeditation, did
then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously abduct, kidnap, and bring into a secluded place at
Palestina, Pili, Camarines Sur, one RAMON JOHN DY KOW, JR. and while thereat attack and shoot
with firearm the said Ramon John Dy Kow, Jr. for several times hitting him on the different parts of his
body causing his instantaneous death.

That as a consequence of the death of the victim Ramon John Dy Kow, Jr. his heirs suffered damages. 6

The information is not so wanting as to render it legally inadequate for the purpose it has been intended by the prosecution. It should be
sufficient for an information to distinctly state the statutory designation of the offense and the acts or omissions complained of as being
constitutive of that offense.7 A reading of the amended information readily reveals that the charge is for "kidnapping with murder, defined
and penalized under Article 267 (Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention) and Article 248 (Murder) of the Revised Penal Code" Evidently,
appellants have been properly apprised of the charges, the information did go on to state thus —

That on or about the 27th day of December 1993 between 6:00 o'clock to 7:00 o'clock in the evening at Barangay Palestina,
Municipality of Pili, Province of Camarines Sur, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-
named accused conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another with intent to kill, with treachery, superior
strength and evident premeditation, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously abduct kidnap and bring into a
secluded place at Palestina, Pili, Camarines Sur one RAMON JOHN DY KOW, JR. and while thereat attack and shoot
with firearm the said Ramon John Dy Kow, Jr. for several times hitting him on the different parts of his body causing his
instantaneous death. 8

The accused have gone through trial without any objection thereover. Exceptions relative to the statement or recital of fact
constituting the offense charged ought be presented before the trial court; if none is taken and the defective or even omitted
averments are supplied by competent proof, it would not be error for an appellate court to reject those exceptions on appeal. 9

The issue is next posed: When a complex crime has been charged in an information and the evidence fails to support the charge on one of the
component offenses, can the defendant still be separately convicted of the other offense? The question has long been answered in the
affirmative. In United States vs. Lahoylahoy and Madanlog, 10 the Court has ruled to be legally feasible the conviction of an accused on one
of the offenses included in a complex crime charged, when properly established, despite the failure of evidence to hold the accused guilty of
the other charge.

Art. 267 of the Revised Penal Code, prior to its amendment by Section 8 of Republic Act 7659, 11 reads:

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 ofreclusion perpetua to death;

1. If the kidnapping or detention shall have lasted more than five 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, 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.

The elements of the offense, here adequately shown, are (a) that the offender is a private individual; (b) that he kidnaps or detains
another, or in any other manner deprives the latter of his liberty; (c) that the act of detention or kidnapping is illegal; and (d) that, in
the commission of the offense, any of the following circumstances is present, i.e., (i) that the kidnapping or detention lasts for more
than 5 days, or (ii) that it is committed simulating public authority, or (iii) that any serious physical injuries are inflicted upon the
person kidnapped or detained or threats to kill him are made, or (iv) that the person kidnapped or detained is a minor, female, or a
public officer. 12

Prosecution witness William Rañola testified that he had seen the victim being accosted, held and thereafter dragged to the NARCOM office
by appellants Santiago and Sandigan. Inside the NARCOM office the victim was mauled by Santiano. For several minutes, Santiano
continued to batter him with punches while Pillueta stood by the door and so acted as the "lockout." The appellants then took the victim away
on a trimobile owned and driven by Chanco. Rañola positively identified the fatigue jacket worn by the victim on the evening of his
abduction on 27 December 1993 and when his lifeless body was found in the morning of 28 December 1993. Don Gumba corroborated
Rañola's testimony. Gumba was positive that he had seen the victim at around eight o'clock in the evening of 27 December 1993 with
appellants Santiano and Pillueta on board the trimobile driven by appellant Chanco on its way towards the direction of Palestina, Pili,
Camarines Sur, where, the following morning the victim was found dead evidently after succumbing to several gunshot wounds.

Appellants have not shown any nefarious motive on the part of the witnesses that might have influenced them to declare falsely against
appellants; the Court sees no justification to thereby deny faith and credit to their testimony. 13 The Court likewise shares the view of the
Solicitor General in pointing out that —

1. There is no question that the victim, who was on the date in question detained at the Naga City Jail, asked permission
from the jail trustee in order to buy viand outside. It was while he was emerging from the PNP store that he was accosted
by appellants Santiano and Sandigan.

2. From the moment that the victim was accosted in Naga City, he was at first dragged to the NARCOM Office where he
was mauled. This circumstance indicated the intention to deprive him of his liberty for sometime, an essential element of
the crime of kidnapping.

3. The victim did not only sustain serious physical injuries but likewise died as indicated in the autopsy report, thus,
belying appellants' claim that none of the circumstances in Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code was present.

4. Witness Don Gumba was positive when he declared that he saw the victim at about 8:00 o'clock in the evening of
December 27, 1993 with appellant Chanco on its way towards the direction of Palestina, Pili, Camarines Sur where the
victim was found dead. 14

The fact alone that appellant Pillueta is "an organic member of the NARCOM" and appellant Sandigan a regular member of the PNP would
not exempt them from the criminal liability for kidnapping. 15 It is quite clear that in abducting and taking away the victim, appellants did so
neither in furtherance of official function nor in the pursuit of authority vested in them. It is not, in fine, in relation to their office, but in
purely private capacity that they have acted in concert with their co-appellants Santiano and Chanco.

The crime of kidnapping cannot be here absorbed by the charge of murder since the detention of the victim is not shown to have been for the
purpose of liquidating him. Appellants themselves, in fact, all deny having killed the victim. And while the evidence may have thus been
found to be wanting by the trial court so as to equally hold appellants responsible for the death of the victim, the Court is conviced that the
court a quo did not err in making them account for kidnapping. The circumstances heretofore recited indicate the attendance of conspiracy
among the appellants thereby making them each liable for the offense.

The claim of appellants that they cannot be held liable for indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00 because the prosecution did not present
evidence to prove damages is without merit. The indemnity awarded by the trial court clearly refers to the civil indemnity for the
offense 16 and not for actual damages sustained.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 207949 July 23, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
ARMANDO DIONALDO y EBRON, RENATO DIONALDO y EBRON, MARIANO GARIGUEZ, JR. y RAMOS, and RODOLFO
LARIDO y EBRON, Accused-Appellants.

RESOLUTION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Before the Court is an appeal assailing the Decision1 dated February 15, 2013 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02888
finding accused-appellants Armando Dionaldo y Ebron (Armando), Renato Dionaldo y Ebron (Renato), Mariano Gariguez, Jr. y Ramos
(Mariano), and Rodolfo Larido y Ebron (Rodolfo) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention.

The Facts

At around 8 o'clock in the morning of May 16, 2003, Roderick Navarro (Roderick) dropped his brother Edwin Navarro (Edwin) off at the
Health Is Wealth Gym in Caloocan City. Thirty minutes later, he received a text message from another brother who told him that Edwin had
been kidnapped.2 Records show that three (3) men, later identified as Armando, Renato, and Mariano, forcibly dragged a bloodied Edwin
down the stairway of the gym and pushed him inside a dark green Toyota car with plate number UKF 194. 3 Upon receiving the message,
Roderick immediately reported the incident to the police. At around 10 o’clock in the morning of the same day, he received a phone call
from Edwin‟s kidnappers who threatened to kill Edwin if he should report the matter to the police. 4

The following day, Roderick received another call from the kidnappers, who demanded the payment of ransom money in the amount of
₱15,000,000.00. Roderick told them he had no such money, as he only had ₱50,000.00. On May 19, 2003, after negotiations over the
telephone, the kidnappers agreed to release Edwin in exchange for the amount of ₱110,000.00. Roderick was then instructed to bring the
money to Batangas and wait for their next call.5

At around 7:30 in the evening of the same day, as Roderick was on his way to Batangas to deliver the ransom money, the kidnappers called
and instructed him to open all the windows of the car he was driving and to turn on the hazard light when he reaches the designated place.
After a while, Roderick received another call directing him to exit in Bicutan instead and proceed to C-5 until he arrives at the Centennial
Village. He was told to park beside the Libingan ng mga Bayani. After several hours, an orange Mitsubishi car with plate number DEH 498
pulled up in front of his vehicle where four (4) men alighted. Roderick saw one of the men take a mobile phone and upon uttering the word
"alat," the men returned to their car and drove away.6

Meanwhile, a team had been organized to investigate the kidnapping of Edwin, headed by SPO3 Romeo Caballero (SPO3 Caballero) and
PO3 Nestor Acebuche (PO3 Acebuche) of the Camp Crame Police Anti-Crime Emergency Response (PACER). During the course of the
investigation, Rodolfo, an employee at the Health Is Wealth Gym, confessed to PO3 Acebuche that he was part of the plan to kidnap Edwin,
as in fact he was the one who tipped off Mariano, Renato, Armando and a certain Virgilio 7 Varona8 (Virgilio) on the condition that he will be
given a share in the ransom money. Rodolfo gave information on the whereabouts of his cohorts, leading to their arrest on June 12, 2003. In
the early morning of the following day or on June 13, 2003, the PACER team found the dead body of Edwin at Sitio Pugpugan Laurel,
Batangas, which Roderick identified.9

Thus, accused-appellants as well as Virgilio were charged in an Information10 which reads:

That on or about the 16th day of May, 2003 in Caloocan City, Metro Manila and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-
named accused, conspiring together and mutually helping one another, being then private persons, did then and there by force and
intimidation willfully, unlawfully and feloniously with the use of motor vehicle and superior strength take, carry and deprive EDWIN
NAVARRO Y ONA, of his liberty against his will, for the purpose of extorting ransom as in fact a demand of ₱15,000,000.00 was made as a
condition of the victim’s release and on the occasion thereof, the death of the victim resulted.

Contrary to law.

During arraignment, accused-appellants pleaded not guilty11 and interposed the defenses of denial and alibi. Except for Rodolfo, they
individually claimed that on said date and time, they were in their respective houses when they were taken by men in police uniforms, then
subsequently brought to Camp Crame, and there allegedly tortured and detained. On the other hand, Rodolfo, for himself, averred that at
around 8 o’clock in the evening of June 12, 2003, while walking on his way home, he noticed that a van had been following him. Suddenly,
four (4) persons alighted from the vehicle, boarded him inside, blindfolded him, and eventually tortured him. He likewise claimed that he
was made to sign an extrajudicial confession, purporting too that while a certain Atty. Nepomuceno had been summoned to assist him, the
latter failed to do so.12

During trial, the death of the victim, Edwin, was established through a Certificate of Death 13 with Registry No. 2003-050 (subject certificate
of death) showing that he died on May 19, 2003 from a gunshot wound on the head.
The RTC Ruling

In a Decision14 dated June 13, 2007, the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City, Branch 129 (RTC), in Crim. Case No. C-68329, convicted
accused-appellants of the crime of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention, sentencing each of them to suffer the penalty of reclusion
perpetua.

It gave credence to the positive and straightforward testimonies of the prosecution witnesses which clearly established that it was the
accusedappellants who forcibly dragged a bloodied Edwin into a car and, consequently, deprived him of his liberty. 15 In light thereof, it
rejected accused-appellants‟ respective alibis and claims of torture, which were not substantiated. It also held that the crime of Kidnapping
had been committed for the purpose of extorting ransom, which is punishable by death. However, in view of the suspended imposition of the
death penalty pursuant to Republic Act No. (RA) 9346, 16 only the penalty of reclusion perpetua was imposed. 17 Further, the RTC found that
conspiracy attended the commission of the crime, as the accused-appellants’ individual participation was geared toward a joint purpose and
criminal design.18

Notably, while the RTC found that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses prove that the victim Edwin was abducted, deprived of
liberty, and eventually killed,19 a fact which is supported by the subject certificate of death, it did not consider said death in its judgment. The
CA Ruling

In a Decision20 dated February 15, 2013, the CA affirmed in toto the RTC’s conviction of accused-appellants, finding that the prosecution
was able to clearly establish all the elements of the crime of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention, namely: (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 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, except when the accused is any of the parents,
female or a public officer.21 It likewise sustained the finding that the kidnapping was committed for the purpose of extorting ransom, as
sufficiently proven by the testimony of the brother of the victim. 22 Moreover, the CA affirmed that conspiracy attended the commission of
the crime, as the acts of accused-appellants emanated from the same purpose or common design, and they were united in its execution. 23

Separately, the CA found that accused-appellants’ claims of torture were never supported, and that Rodolfo voluntarily signed the
extrajudicial confession and was afforded competent and independent counsel in its execution. 24

Aggrieved by their conviction, accused-appellants filed the instant appeal.

The Issue Before the Court

The sole issue to be resolved by the Court is whether or not accusedappellants are guilty of the crime of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal
Detention.

The Court’s Ruling

The appeal is devoid of merit.

Well-settled is the rule that the question of credibility of witnesses is primarily for the trial court to determine. Its assessment of the
credibility of a witness is entitled to great weight, and it is conclusive and binding unless shown to be tainted with arbitrariness or unless,
through oversight, some fact or circumstance of weight and influence has not been considered. Absent any showing that the trial judge
overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight which would affect the result of the case, or that the judge
acted arbitrarily, his assessment of the credibility of witnesses deserves high respect by the appellate court. 25

In this case, the RTC, as affirmed by the CA, gave weight and credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, which they found to
be straightforward and consistent. Through these testimonies, it was clearly established that accused-appellants, who were all private
individuals, took the victim Edwin and deprived him of his liberty, which acts were illegal, and for the purpose of extorting ransom.26 Thus,
seeing no semblance of arbitrariness or misapprehension on the part of the court a quo, the Court finds no compelling reason to disturb its
factual findings on this score.1âwphi1

Anent the finding that conspiracy attended the commission of the crime, the Court likewise finds the conclusion of the RTC in this regard, as
affirmed by the CA, to be well-taken. Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a
felony and decide to commit it, and when conspiracy is established, the responsibility of the conspirators is collective, not individual,
rendering all of them equally liable regardless of the extent of their respective participations. 27 In this relation, direct proof is not essential to
establish conspiracy, as it can be presumed from and proven by the acts of the accused pointing to a joint purpose, design, concerted action,
and community of interests.28 Hence, as the factual circumstances in this case clearly show that accused-appellants acted in concert at the
time of the commission of the crime and that their acts emanated from the same purpose or common design, showing unity in its
execution,29 the CA, affirming the trial court, correctly ruled that there was conspiracy among them.

The foregoing notwithstanding, the Court is, however, constrained to modify the ruling of the RTC and the CA, as the crime the
accusedappellants have committed does not, as the records obviously bear, merely constitute Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention, but
that of the special complex crime of Kidnapping for Ransom with Homicide. This is in view of the victim’s (i.e., Edwin’s) death, which was
(a) specifically charged in the Information,30and (b) clearly established during the trial of this case. Notably, while this matter was not among
the issues raised before the Court, the same should nonetheless be considered in accordance with the settled rule that in a criminal case, an
appeal, as in this case, throws open the entire case wide open for review, and the appellate court can correct errors, though unassigned, that
may be found in the appealed judgment.31
After the amendment of the Revised Penal Code on December 31, 1993 by RA 7659, Article 267 of the same Code now provides:

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. (Emphases supplied)

The Court further elucidated in People v. Mercado:32

In People v. Ramos, the accused was found guilty of two separate heinous crimes of kidnapping for ransom and murder committed on July
13, 1994 and sentenced to death. On appeal, this Court modified the ruling and found the accused guilty of the "special complex crime" of
kidnapping for ransom with murder under the last paragraph of Article 267, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659. This Court said:

x x x This amendment introduced in our criminal statutes the concept of „special complex crime‟ of kidnapping with murder or homicide. It
effectively eliminated the distinction drawn by the courts between those cases where the killing of the kidnapped victim was purposely
sought by the accused, and those where the killing of the victim was not deliberately resorted to but was merely an afterthought.
Consequently, the rule now is: Where the person kidnapped is killed in the course of the detention, regardless of whether the killing was
purposely sought or was merely an afterthought, the kidnapping and murder or homicide can no longer be complexed under Art. 48, nor be
treated as separate crimes, but shall be punished as a special complex crime under the last paragraph of Art. 267, as amended by RA No.
7659.33 (Emphases supplied; citations omitted)

Thus, further taking into account the fact that the kidnapping was committed for the purpose of extorting ransom, accused-appellants’
conviction must be modified from Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention to the special complex crime of Kidnapping for Ransom with
Homicide, which carries the penalty of death. As earlier intimated, the enactment of RA 9346 had suspended the imposition of the death
penalty. This means that the accused-appellants could, as the CA and trial court properly ruled, only be sentenced to the penalty of reclusion
perpetua. To this, the Court adds that the accused-appellants are not eligible for parole.34

On a final note, the Court observes that the RTC and the CA failed to award civil indemnity as well as damages to the family of the kidnap
victim. In People v. Quiachon, 35 the Court explained that even if the death penalty was not to be imposed on accused-appellants in view of
the prohibition in RA 9346, the award of civil indemnity was nonetheless proper, not being 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
crime.36 In the present case, considering that both the qualifying circumstances of ransom and the death of the victim during captivity were
duly alleged in the information and proven during trial, civil indemnity in the amount of ₱100,000.00 must therefore be awarded to the
family of the victim, to conform with prevailing jurisprudence.37

Similarly, the Court finds that the award of moral damages is warranted in this case. Under Article 2217 of the Civil Code, moral damages
include physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, wounded feelings, moral shock and similar injury, while Article 2219 of
the same Code provides that moral damages may be recovered in cases of illegal detention. It cannot be denied, in this case, that the kidnap
victim‟s family suffered mental anguish, fright, and serious anxiety over the detention and eventually, the death of Edwin. As such, and in
accordance with prevailing jurisprudence,38 moral damages in the amount of ₱100,000.00 must perforce be awarded to the family of the
victim.

Finally, exemplary damages must be awarded in this case, in view of the confluence of the aforesaid qualifying circumstances and in order to
deter others from committing the same atrocious acts. In accordance with prevailing jurisprudence, 39 therefore, the Court awards exemplary
damages in the amount of ₱100,000.00 to the family of the kidnap victim.

In addition, interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum shall be imposed on all damages awarded from the date of finality of judgment
until fully paid, pursuant to prevailing jurisprudence.40

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision dated February 15, 2013 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 02888
is hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that all the accusedappellants herein are equally found GUILTY of the special complex
crime of Kidnapping for Ransom with Homicide, and are sentenced to each suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, without eligibility for
parole, and to pay, jointly and severally, the family of the kidnap victim Edwin Navarro the following amounts: (1) ₱100,000.00 as civil
indemnity; (2) ₱100,000.00 as moral damages; and (3) ₱100,000.00 as exemplary damages, all with interest at the rate of six percent (6%)
per annum ·from the date of finality of judgment until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 186417 July 27, 2011

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
FELIPE MIRANDILLA, JR., Defendant and Appellant.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

For Review before this Court is the Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 00271,1 dated 29 February 2008, finding
accused Felipe Mirandilla, Jr., (Mirandilla) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of special complex crime of kidnapping with rape; four counts of
rape; and, one count of rape through sexual assault.

Mirandilla is now asking this Court to acquit him. He contends that he could not have kidnapped and raped the victim, AAA, 2 whom he
claims to be his live-in partner. The records, however, reveal with moral certainty his guilt. Accordingly, We modify the CA Decision and
find him guilty of the special complex crime of kidnapping and illegal detention with rape.

THE FACTS

AAA narrated her 39-day ordeal in the hands of Mirandilla.

It was 2 December 2000, eve of the fiesta in Barangay San Francisco, Legazpi City. At the plaza, AAA was dancing with her elder sister,
BBB.3

AAA went out of the dancing hall to buy candies in a nearby store. While making her way back through the crowd, a man grabbed her hand,
his arm wrapped her shoulders, with a knife’s point thrust at her right side. She will come to know the man’s name at the police station, after
her escape, to be Felipe Mirandilla, Jr.4 He told her not to move or ask for help. Another man joined and went beside her, while two others
stayed at her back, one of whom had a gun. They slipped through the unsuspecting crowd, walked farther as the deafening music faded into
soft sounds. After a four-hour walk through the grassy fields, they reached the Mayon International Hotel, where they boarded a waiting
tricycle. Upon passing the Albay Cathedral, the others alighted, leaving AAA alone with Mirandilla who after receiving a gun from a
companion, drove the tricycle farther away and into the darkness. Minutes later, they reached the Gallera de Legazpi in Rawis. 5

Mirandilla dragged AAA out of the tricycle and pushed her inside a concrete house. At gunpoint he ordered her to remove her pants. 6 When
she defied him, he slapped her and hit her arms with a gun, forced his hands inside her pants, into her panty, and reaching her vagina, slipped
his three fingers and rotated them inside. The pain weakened her. He forcibly pulled her pants down and lifting her legs, pushed and pulled
his penis inside.7 "Sayang ka," she heard him whisper at her,8 as she succumbed to pain and exhaustion.

When AAA woke up the following morning, she found herself alone. She cried for help, shouting until her throat dried. But no one heard
her. No rescue came.

At around midnight, Mirandilla arrived together with his gang. Pointing a gun at AAA, he ordered her to open her mouth; she sheepishly
obeyed. He forced his penis inside her mouth, pulling through her hair with his left hand and slapping her with his right. After satisfying his
lust, he dragged her into the tricycle and drove to Bogtong, Legazpi. At the road’s side, Mirandilla pushed her against a reclining tree,
gagged her mouth with cloth, punched her arm, thigh, and lap, and pulled up her over-sized shirt. Her underwear was gone. Then she felt
Mirandilla’s penis inside her vagina. A little while, a companion warned Mirandilla to move out. And they drove away.9

They reached a nipa hut and AAA was thrown inside. Her mouth was again covered with cloth. Mirandilla, with a gun aimed at her point
blank, grabbed her shirt, forced her legs open, and again inserted his penis into her vagina. 10

The following evening, Mirandilla and his gang brought AAA to Guinobatan, where she suffered the same fate. They repeatedly detained her
at daytime, moved her back and forth from one place to another on the following nights, first to Bonga, then back to Guinobatan, where she
was locked up in a cell-type house and was raped repeatedly on the grassy field right outside her cell, then to Camalig, where they caged her
in a small house in the middle of a rice field. She was allegedly raped 27 times. 11

One afternoon, in Guinobatan, AAA succeeded in opening the door of her cell. Seeing that Mirandilla and his companions were busy playing
cards, she rushed outside and ran, crossed a river, got drenched, and continued running. She rested for awhile, hiding behind a rock; she
walked through the fields and stayed out of people’s sight for two nights. Finally, she found a road and followed its path, leading her to the
house of Evelyn Guevarra who brought her to the police station. It was 11 January 2001. AAA was in foul smell, starving and sleepless.
Evelyn Guevarra gave her a bath and the police gave her food. When the police presented to her pictures of suspected criminals, she
recognized the man’s face – she was certain it was him. He was Felipe Mirandilla, Jr., the police told her.12
The following morning, accompanied by the police, AAA submitted herself to Dr. Sarah Vasquez, Legazpi City’s Health Officer for medical
examination. The doctor discovered hymenal lacerations in different positions of her hymen, indicative of sexual intercourse. 13 Foul smelling
pus also oozed from her vagina - AAA had contracted gonorrhoea.14

Mirandilla denied the charges against him. This is his version.

Mirandilla first met AAA on 3 October 2000. By stroke of fate, they bumped into each other at the Albay Park where AAA, wearing a school
uniform, approached him. They had a short chat. They were neighbors in Barangay San Francisco until Mirandilla left his wife and daughter
there for good.15

Two days later, Mirandilla and AAA met again at the park. He started courting her, 16 and, after five days, as AAA celebrated her 18th
birthday, they became lovers. Mirandilla was then 33 years old.

Immediately, Mirandilla and AAA had sex nightly in their friends’ houses and in cheap motels. On 24 October 2000, after Mirandilla went to
his mother’s house in Kilikao, they met again at the park, at their usual meeting place, in front of the park’s comfort room, near Arlene
Moret, a cigarette vendor who also served as the CR’s guard. 17 They decided to elope and live as a couple. They found an abandoned house
in Rawis, at the back of Gallera de Legazpi. Emilio Mendoza who owned the house, rented it to them for ₱1,500.00.18 They lived there from
28 October until 11 December 2000.19 From 12 December 2000 until 11 January 2001, 20 Mirandilla and AAA stayed in Rogelio
Marcellana’s house, at the resettlement Site in Banquerohan, Legazpi City.

Mirandilla and AAA’s nightly sexual intimacy continued, with abstentions only during AAA’s menstrual periods, the last of which she had
on 7 December 2000.21 In late December, however, Mirandilla, who just arrived home after visiting his mother in Kilikao, saw AAA soaked
in blood, moaning in excruciating stomach pain.22 AAA had abortion – an inference he drew upon seeing the cover of pills lying beside
AAA. Mirandilla claimed that AAA bled for days until she left him in January 2001 after quarrelling for days. 23

Mirandilla, however, had a second version of this crucial event. He claimed that AAA missed her menstruation in December 2000 24 and that
he would not have known she had an abortion had she not confessed it to him. 25

THE RTC RULING

Mirandilla was charged before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Legazpi City, Branch 5, with kidnapping with rape (Crim. Case No. 9278),
four counts of rape (Crim. Case Nos. 9274 to 9277), and rape through sexual assault (Crim. Case No. 9279).

The RTC, in its decision dated 1 July 2004, convicted Mirandilla of kidnapping, four counts of rape, and one count of rape through sexual
assault with this finding:

This Court has arrived at the factual conclusion that Felipe Mirandilla, Jr., in the company of three others [conferrers], kidnapped AAA in
Barangay xxx, City of xxx, on or on about midnight of December 2, 2000 or early morning of December 3, 2000, held her in detention for
thirty-nine days in separate cells situated in the City of xxx; xxx; and xxx. Felipe Mirandilla, Jr., carnally abused her while holding a gun
and/or a knife for twenty seven times, employing force and intimidation. The twenty seven sexual intercourses were eventually perpetrated
between the City of xxx and the towns of xxx and xxx. At least once, Felipe Mirandilla, Jr., put his penis inside the mouth of AAA against
her will while employing intimidation, threats, and force. 26

THE COURT OF APPEALS RULING

On review, the CA affirmed with modification the RTC ruling, convicting Mirandilla. It found him guilty of the special complex crime of
kidnapping with rape (instead of kidnapping as the RTC ruled), four counts of rape, and one count of rape by sexual assault.27 It rejected
Mirandilla’s defense that he and AAA were live-in partners and that their sexual encounters were consensual. 28 It noted that Mirandilla failed
to adduce any evidence or any credible witness to sustain his defense.29

Hence, this appeal.

Mirandilla repeats his allegations that the prosecution’s lone witness, AAA, was not a credible witness and that he and AAA were live-in
partners whose intimacy they expressed in consensual sex.

OUR RULING

We find Mirandilla guilty of the special complex crime of kidnapping and illegal detention with rape.

Mirandilla admitted in open court to have had sexual intercourse with AAA, which happened almost nightly during their cohabitation. He
contended that they were live-in partners, entangled in a whirlwind romance, which intimacy they expressed in countless passionate sex,
which headed ironically to separation mainly because of AAA’s intentional abortion of their first child to be – a betrayal in its gravest form
which he found hard to forgive.

In stark contrast to Mirandilla’s tale of a love affair, is AAA’s claim of her horrific ordeal and her flight to freedom after 39 days in captivity
during which Mirandilla raped her 27 times.

First Issue:

Credibility of Prosecution Witness


Jurisprudence is consistent that for testimonial evidence to be believed, it must not only come from a credible witness but must be credible in
itself – tested by human experience, observation, common knowledge and accepted conduct that has evolved through the years. 30

Daggers v. Van Dyck,31 illuminates:

Evidence to be believed, must not only proceed from the mouth of a credible witness, but it must be credible in itself – such as the common
experience and observation of mankind can approve as probable under the circumstances. We have no test of the truth of human testimony,
except its conformity to our knowledge, observation, and experience. Whatever is repugnant to these belongs to the miraculous and is outside
of judicial cognizance.32

First, the trial judge, who had the opportunity of observing AAA’s manner and demeanour on the witness stand, was convinced of her
credibility: "AAA appeared to be a simple and truthful woman, whose testimony was consistent, steady and firm, free from any material and
serious contradictions."33 The court continued:

The record nowhere yields any evidence of ill motive on the part of AAA to influence her in fabricating criminal charges against Felipe
Mirandilla, Jr. The absence of ill motive enhances the standing of AAA as a witness. x x x.

When AAA testified in court, she was sobbing. While she was facing Felipe Mirandilla, Jr., to positively identify him in open court, she was
crying. Felipe Mirandilla Jr.’s response was to smile. AAA was a picture of a woman who was gravely harmed, craving for justice. x x x.34

Second, the trial court found AAA’s testimony to be credible in itself. AAA’s ordeal was entered into the police blotter immediately after her
escape,35 negating opportunity for concoction.36 While in Mirandilla’s company, none of her parents, brothers, sisters, relatives, classmates,
or anyone who knew her, visited, saw, or talked to her. None of them knew her whereabouts. 37 AAA’s testimony was corroborated by Dr.
Sarah Vasquez, Legazpi City’s Health Officer, who discovered the presence not only of hymenal lacerations but also gonorrhoea, a sexually
transmitted disease.

More importantly, AAA remained consistent in the midst of gruelling cross examination. The defense lawyer tried to impeach her testimony,
but failed to do so.

The Court of Appeals confirmed AAA’s credibility in affirming the RTC decision.

We emphasize that a trial court’s assessment of a witness’ credibility, when affirmed by the CA, is even conclusive and binding, if not
tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight or influence. 38 This is so because of the judicial experience that
trial courts are in a better position to decide the question of credibility, having heard the witnesses themselves and having observed firsthand
their deportment and manner of testifying under gruelling examination.39 Thus, in Estioca v. People,40 we held:

In resolving issues pertaining to the credibility of the witnesses, this Court is guided by the following principles: (1) the reviewing court will
not disturb the findings of the lower courts, unless there is a showing that it overlooked or misapplied some fact or circumstance of weight
and substance that may affect the result of the case; (2) the findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses are entitled to great
respect and even finality, as it had the opportunity to examine their demeanour when they testified on the witness stand; and (3) a witness
who testifies in a clear, positive and convincing manner is a credible witness. 41

Second Issue

"Sweetheart Theory" not Proven

Accused’s bare invocation of sweetheart theory cannot alone, stand. To be credible, it must be corroborated by documentary, testimonial, or
other evidence.42 Usually, these are letters, notes, photos, mementos, or credible testimonies of those who know the lovers. 43

The sweetheart theory as a defense, however, necessarily admits carnal knowledge, the first element of rape. Effectively, it leaves the
prosecution the burden to prove only force or intimidation, the coupling element of rape. Love, is not a license for lust.44

This admission makes the sweetheart theory more difficult to defend, for it is not only an affirmative defense that needs convincing
proof;45 after the prosecution has successfully established a prima facie case, 46 the burden of evidence is shifted to the accused,47 who has to
adduce evidence that the intercourse was consensual.48

A prima facie case arises when the party having the burden of proof has produced evidence sufficient to support a finding and adjudication
for him of the issue in litigation.49

Burden of evidence is "that logical necessity which rests on a party at any particular time during the trial to create a prima facie case in his
favour or to overthrow one when created against him." 50(Emphasis supplied)

Mirandilla with his version of facts as narrated above attempted to meet the prosecution’s prima facie case. To corroborate it, he presented
his mother, Alicia Mirandilla; his relatives, Rogelio Marcellana and Emilio Mendoza; and, his friend Arlene Moret.

Arlene Moret, the cigarette vendor who also served as the CR’s guard, testified that on 30 October 2000, AAA and Mirandilla arrived
together at the park.51 They approached her and chatted with her. On cross examination, she claimed otherwise: Mirandilla arrived alone two
hours earlier, chatting with her first, before AAA finally came. 52 She also claimed meeting the couple for the first time on 30 October 2000,
only to contradict herself on cross examination with the version that she met them previously, three times at least, in the previous
month.53 On the other hand, Mirandilla claimed first meeting AAA on 3 October 2000 at the park. 54
The accused’s mother, Alicia Mirandilla, testified meeting her son only once, and living in Kilikao only after his imprisonment.55 This
contradicted Mirandilla’s claim that he visited his mother several times in Kilikao, from October 2000 until January 2001.56

Even Mirandilla contradicted himself. His claim that he saw AAA soaked in blood, agonizing in pain, with the abortifacient pills’ cover lying
nearby, cannot be reconciled with his other claim that he came to know AAA’s abortion only through the latter’s admission. 57

Taken individually and as a whole, the defense witnesses’ testimonies contradicted each other and flip-flopped on materials facts,
constraining this Court to infer that they concocted stories in a desperate attempt to exonerate the accused.

As a rule, self-contradictions and contradictory statement of witnesses should be reconciled, 58 it being true that such is possible since a
witness is not expected to give error-free testimony considering the lapse of time and the treachery of human memory. 59 But, this principle,
learned from lessons of human experience, applies only to minor or trivial matters – innocent lapses that do not affect witness’
credibility.60 They do not apply to self-contradictions on material facts.61 Where these contradictions cannot be reconciled, the Court has to
reject the testimonies,62 and apply the maxim, falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. Thus,

To completely disregard all the testimony of a witness based on the maxim falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, testimony must have been false
as to a material point, and the witness must have a conscious and deliberate intention to falsify a material point. In other words, its
requirements, which must concur, are the following: (1) that the false testimony is as to one or more material points; and (2) that there should
be a conscious and deliberate intention to falsity.63

Crimes and Punishment

An appeal in criminal case opens the entire case for review on any question, including one not raised by the parties.64 This was our
pronouncement in the 1902 landmark case of U.S. v. Abijan, 65 which is now embodied in Section 11, Rule 124 of the Rules of Court:

SEC 11. Scope of Judgment. – The Court of Appeals may reverse, affirm, or modify the judgment and increase or reduce the penalty
imposed by the trial court, remand the case to the Regional Trial Court for new trial or retrial, or dismiss the case. (Emphasis supplied)

The reason behind this rule is that when an accused appeals from the sentence of the trial court, he waives the constitutional safeguard
against double jeopardy and throws the whole case open to the review of the appellate court, which is then called upon to render such
judgment as law and justice dictate, whether favorable or unfavorable to the appellant. 66

To reiterate, the six informations charged Mirandilla with kidnapping and serious illegal detention with rape (Crim. Case No. 9278), four
counts of rape (Crim. Case Nos. 9274-75-76-77), and one count of rape through sexual assault (Crim. Case No. 9279).

The accusatory portion of the information in Criminal Case No. 9278 alleged that Mirandilla kidnapped AAA and seriously and illegally
detained her for more than three days during which time he had carnal knowledge of her, against her will. 67

The Court agrees with the CA in finding Mirandilla guilty of the special complex crime of kidnapping with rape, instead of simple
kidnapping as the RTC ruled. It was the RTC, no less, which found that Mirandilla kidnapped AAA, held her in detention for 39 days and
carnally abused her while holding a gun and/or a knife. 68

Rape under Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code states that:

Art. 266-A. Rape, When and How Committed. – Rape is 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; xxx.

2. By any person who, under any of the circumstances mentioned in paragraph 1 hereof, shall commit an act of sexual assault by
inserting his penis into another person’s mouth or anal orifice, or any instrument or object, into the genital or anal orifice of another
person.

AAA was able to prove each element of rape committed under Article 266-A, par. 1(a) of the Revised Penal Code, that (1) Mirandilla had
carnal knowledge of her; (2) through force, threat, or intimidation. She was also able to prove each element of rape by sexual assault under
Article 266-A, par. 2 of the Revised Penal Code: (1) Mirandilla inserted his penis into her mouth; (2) through force, threat, or intimidation.

Likewise, kidnapping and serious illegal detention is provided for under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code:

Article 267. Kidnapping and serious illegal detention. – Any private individual who shall kidnap or detain another, or in any 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. xxx

An imminent Spanish commentator explained:

la detención, la prición, la privación de la libertad de una persona, en cualquier forma y por cualquier medio ó por cualquier tiempo en virtud
de la cual resulte interrumpido el libre ejercicio de su actividad." 69
Emphatically, the last paragraph of Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 7659, 70 states that 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. This provision gives rise to a special complex crime. As the Court explained in People v. Larrañaga, 71 this arises where the law
provides a single penalty for two or more component offenses.72

Notably, however, no matter how many rapes had been committed in the special complex crime of kidnapping with rape, the resultant crime
is only one kidnapping with rape.73 This is because these composite acts are regarded as a single indivisible offense as in fact R.A. No. 7659
punishes these acts with only one single penalty. In a way, R.A. 7659 depreciated the seriousness of rape because no matter how many times
the victim was raped, like in the present case, there is only one crime committed – the special complex crime of kidnapping with rape.

However, for the crime of kidnapping with rape, as in this case, the offender should not have taken the victim with lewd designs, otherwise,
it would be complex crime of forcible abduction with rape. In People v. Garcia, 74 we explained that if the taking was by forcible abduction
and the woman was raped several times, the crimes committed is one complex crime of forcible abduction with rape, in as much as the
forcible abduction was only necessary for the first rape; and each of the other counts of rape constitutes distinct and separate count of rape.75

It having been established that Mirandilla’s act was kidnapping and serious illegal detention (not forcible abduction) and on the occasion
thereof, he raped AAA several times, We hold that Mirandilla is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of kidnapping
and serious illegal detention with rape, warranting the penalty of death. However, in view of R.A. No. 9346 entitled, An Act Prohibiting the
Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines,76the penalty of death is hereby reduced to reclusion perpetua, 77 without eligibility for
parole.78

We, therefore, modify the CA Decision. We hold that the separate informations of rape cannot be considered as separate and distinct crimes
in view of the above discussion.

As to the award of damages, we have the following rulings.

This Court has consistently held that upon the finding of the fact of rape, the award of civil damages ex delicto is mandatory.79 As we
elucidated in People v. Prades,80 the award authorized by the criminal law as civil indemnity ex delicto for the offended party, aside from
other proven actual damages, is itself equivalent to actual or compensatory damages in civil law. 81 Thus, we held that the civil liability ex
delicto provided by the Revised Penal Code, that is, restitution, reparation, and indemnification, 82 all correspond to actual or compensatory
damages in the Civil Code.83

In the 1998 landmark case of People v. Victor, 84 the Court enunciated that if, in the crime of rape, the death penalty is imposed, the
indemnity ex delicto for the victim shall be in the increased amount of NOT85 less than ₱75,000.00. To reiterate the words of the Court: "this
is not only a reaction to the apathetic societal perception of the penal law and the financial fluctuation over time, but also an expression of the
displeasure of the Court over the incidence of heinous crimes..."86 xxx (Emphasis supplied)

After the enactment R.A. 9346,87 prohibiting the imposition of death penalty, questions arose as to the continued applicability of the
Victor88 ruling. Thus, in People v. Quiachon,89 the Court pronounced that even if the penalty of death is not to be imposed because of R.A.
No. 9346, the civil indemnity ex delicto of ₱75,000.00 still applies because this indemnity is not dependent on the actual imposition of death,
but on the fact that qualifying circumstances warranting the penalty of death attended the commission of the offense. 90 As explained
in People v. Salome,91 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. 92 (Emphasis supplied)

In addition, AAA is entitled to moral damages pursuant to Art. 2219 of the Civil Code, 93 without the necessity of additional pleadings or
proof other than the fact of rape. This move of dispensing evidence to prove moral damage in rape cases, traces its origin in People v.
Prades,94 where we held that:

The Court has also resolved that in crimes of rape, such as that under consideration, moral damages may additionally be awarded to the
victim in the criminal proceeding, in such amount as the Court deems just, without the need for pleading or proof of the basis thereof as has
heretofore been the practice. Indeed, the conventional requirement of allegata et probata in civil procedure and for essentially civil cases
should be dispensed with in criminal prosecutions for rape with the civil aspect included therein, since no appropriate pleadings are filed
wherein such allegations can be made. (Emphasis supplied)1avvphi1

Corollarily, the fact that complainant has suffered the trauma of mental, physical and psychological sufferings which constitute the bases for
moral damages are too obvious to still require the recital thereof at the trial by the victim, since the Court itself even assumes and
acknowledges such agony on her part as a gauge of her credibility. What exists by necessary implication as being ineludibly present in the
case need not go through superfluity of still being proven through a testimonial charade. (Emphasis supplied) 95

AAA is also entitled to exemplary damages of ₱30,000.00, pursuant to the present jurisprudence.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 00271 is hereby AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATION. Accused Felipe Mirandilla, Jr., is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of kidnapping and
serious illegal detention with rape under the last paragraph of Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, by R.A. No. 7659, and is
sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, without eligibility for parole, and to pay the offended party AAA, the amounts of
₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity ex delicto, ₱75,000.00 as moral damages, and ₱30,000.00 as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 101797 March 24, 1994

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
ABUNDIO ROLUNA, accused-appellant.

CARLOS DAGUING, PATERNO DAGUING, MAMERTO ASMOLO, TEODULFO DAGUING, FEDERICO SIMPRON,
BIENVENIDO SIMPRON and DIDOC BONGCALOS (all at large), accused.

The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.

Ernesto D. Labastida, Sr. for accused-appellant.

PUNO, J.:

In an Information dated June 26, 1990, eight (8) persons were charged with the crime of Kidnapping with Murder before the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 14, Baybay, Leyte. 1 They were Abundio Roluna, Carlos Daguing, Paterno Daguing, Mamerto Asmolo, Teodulfo Daguing,
Federico Simpron, Bienvenido Simpron and Didoc Bongcalos. The Information against them reads:

That on or about the 27th day of May, 1984, in the municipality of Baybay, Province of Leyte, Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping with (sic)
one another, with the use of firearms and taking advantage of superior strength, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, and
feloniously hogtie and kidnap one Anatalio Moronia and take him away to a place unknown up (to) this time whereat said
victim was killed.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

Only accused Abundio Roluna was arrested, tried and convicted. The other seven (7) accused remain at large.

The prosecution presented two (2) witnesses, namely, Conrado Sombilon and Buenaventura Nogalada, both of whom were residents of
barangay Amguhan, Baybay, Leyte.

CONRADO SOMBILON testified that on May 27, 1984, at around seven o'clock in the morning, he was on his way to sitio Bungabungan in
barangay Amguhan to attend to the pasture of his carabao. At a distance of thirty (30) meters, he saw his neighbor, Anatalio Moronia,
stopped in his tracks and taken captive by accused Abundio Roluna. Roluna was then accompanied by seven (7) other persons. viz: Didoc
Bongcalos, Federico Simpron, Bienvenido Simpron, Teodulfo Daguing, Carlos Daguing, Mamerto Asmolo and Paterno Daguing. Accused
Roluna was armed with an armalite while his companions were carrying short firearms. Using an abaca strip, he saw Carlos Daguing tie up
the hands of Moronia at the back. Frightened, he did not shout for help and proceeded on his way. With the exception of his wife, he did not
inform anyone about what he saw that fateful day. 2

BUENAVENTURA NOGALADA corroborated in substance the testimony of Sombilon. He testified that on said day, at around nine o'clock
in the morning, he came from his farm in barangay Monterico, Baybay and was on his way home to barangay Amguhan. At a distance of
about twenty-five (25) meters, he saw Moronia walking along a human trail in barangay Amguhan, with his hands tied by a rope behind his
back. Moronia was followed by accused Roluna, Carlos Daguing and five (5) other persons whom he did not recognize. Accused Roluna was
carrying an armalite while Carlos Daguing was armed with a pistol. Frightened, Nogalada immediately left the place. 3

From that time on, both witnesses testified that Moronia was never seen or heard from.

At the trial, accused Roluna hoisted the defense of denial and alibi. Roluna claimed that on May 24, 1984, Danilo Noroño, a cousin of his
wife, went to their house in barangay Amguhan. They were informed by Danilo that Iluminada Cortines y Noroño, his wife's grandmother,
was bedridden and seriously ill. He and his wife immediately proceeded to Iluminada's house in barangay Banahaw, Baybay, Leyte. As soon
as they arrived, he gathered some herbal plants for Iluminada. He boiled these plants and regularly applied them on Iluminada's body. He and
his wife attended to Iluminada for three (3) weeks. After Iluminada recuperated from her illness, they returned to their home in barangay
Amguhan. 4 His testimony was corroborated in substance by his wife, Teresita Roluna and his grandmother-in-law, Iluminada Cortines de
Noroño.

Accused Roluna charged that prosecution witnesses Sombilon and Nogalada, harboring ill-feelings against him, testified falsely and
implicated him in the disappearance of Anatalio Moronia. He claimed that in 1983, he and Sombilon had a dispute over a cara y cruz game
held in their barangay. Sombilon was then drunk and he, as chairman of the Kabataang Barangay, tried to pacify Sombilon but the latter got
mad at him. Since then, they have not talked with each other. Nogalada on the other hand, also had a grudge against him. In 1982, they had
an altercation during a volleyball game held during the barangay fiesta. 5

After the trial, the court a quo promulgated its decision, 6 the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, this Court finds accused Abundio Roluna y Elhig guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the complex crime of
Kidnapping With Murder. As kidnapping (and serious illegal detention) is penalized with reclusion perpetua to death and
murder with reclusion temporal in its maximum period to death, under Article 48 of the Code, the herein accused should be
punished with the maximum of the more serious crime, hereat the supreme penalty of death. Considering that the
Constitution of 1987 does not allow the imposition of the death penalty, however, herein accused is hereby sentenced to
life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua, with the accessory penalties of the law, and to indemnify the heirs of Anatalio
Moronia the sum of P30,000.00. He is credited with the full period of his detention in accordance with Article 29 of the
Revised Penal Code, as amended, except if he did not sign an agreement to obey the prison laws, rules and regulations at
the inception.

SO ORDERED.

Hence this appeal.

In his brief, accused-appellant charges that the trial court erred in finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Kidnapping
with Murder. Accused-appellant points and stresses that the corpus delicti was not duly proved by the prosecution. He submits, inter alia,
that considering that the body of Anatalio Moronia was never found, Moronia's questionable and unexplained absence and disappearance
should not be blamed on him for the alleged victim, in all probability, may still be alive.

In its brief, the People contends that the fact of Moronia's death and the culpability of accused-appellant were sufficiently established by the
evidence. The People relies on the disputable presumption provided under Section 5 (x) (3), Rule 131 of the Rules of Court, viz.:

The following shall be presumed dead for all purposes, including the division of the estate among the heirs:

xxx xxx xxx

(3) A person who has been in danger of death under other circumstances and his existence has not been known for four (4)
years.

Undoubtedly, the victim, Moronia, was last seen on that fateful day of May 27, 1984. During this time, Moronia, with his hands tied at the
back, was accompanied by eight (8) armed men. Clearly, he was then in danger of death. Since that day until the date of the trial (or for a
span of six years), Moronia has not been seen or heard from. The People urges that these circumstances raised a presumption that Moronia
has been killed by accused-appellant and his companions.

The pivotal issues are: (a) whether or not the circumstances proved by the prosecution are sufficient to establish the death of Anatalio
Moronia, and; (b) if in the affirmative, whether or not accused-appellants and his companions could be held liable therefor.

Corpus delicti has been defined as the body or substance of the crime and, in its primary sense, refers to the fact that a crime has been
actually committed. As applied to a particular offense, it means the actual commission by someone of the particular crime
charged. 7 The corpus delicti is a compound fact made up of two (2) things, viz: the existence of a certain act or result forming the basis of
the criminal charge, and the existence of a criminal agency as the cause of this act or result. 8

Were the two (2) aspects of the corpus delicti proved in this case?

Insofar as the death of Moronia is concerned, the fact that he was last seen on May 27, 1984 with his hands tied at the back and accompanied
by eight (8) armed men undoubtedly shows that his life was then in danger or peril. Coupled with the fact that Moronia has been absent and
unheard from since that time until the trial of this case (or a total of six years), a presumption of death was sufficiently raised. This is in
consonance with Section 5 (x) (3), Rule 131 of the Rules of Court, viz.:

The following shall be presumed dead for all purposes, including the division of the estate among the heirs:

xxx xxx xxx

(3) A person who has been in danger of death under other circumstances and his existence has not been known for four (4)
years.

However, the circumstances presented by the prosecution would not be enough to hold accused-appellant responsible for the death of
Moronia.

In the early case of People v. Sasota, 9 the Court affirmed the conviction of the accused for murder although the body of the victim was not
found or recovered. In said case, we ruled that in case of murder or homicide, it is not necessary to recover the body of the victim or show
where it can be found. It is enough that the death and the criminal agency causing death is proven. The Court recognized that there are cases
where the death and intervention of the criminal agency that caused it may be presumed or established by circumstantial evidence.
However, the ruling in the Sasota case cannot be applied to the case at bench. In the Sasota case, the prosecution witnesses saw the four (4)
armed accused forcibly take the victim from his house to a lake, beating him up all the way to the boat. While sailing, the accused continued
ill-treating the victim until the latter died. The body of the victim was never found.

In this case, however, the prosecution witnesses testified that they merely saw one of the accused, Carlos Daguing, tie up the hands of
Moronia. He was then taken in the direction of barangay Monterico and was never seen or heard from since. At no point during the trial was
it ever established that any of the eight (8) accused beat up Moronia or in any way laid a violent hand on him. Nogalada even testified that he
did not hear any shot fired by any of the eight (8) armed accused 10 so as to warrant a reasonable conclusion that Moronia was killed by
accused-appellant or any of his co-conspirators. Indeed, even the possible motive of accused-appellant and his group for abducting Moronia
was not definitively established. To be sure, the circumstances proved are insufficient to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt for
the serious crime of kidnapping with murder.

There being no evidence to the contrary, the disputable presumption under Section 5 (x) (3), Rule 131 of the Rules of Court would apply,
but only insofar as to establish the presumptive death of Moronia. Whether accused-appellant is responsible for the death of Moronia is a
different matter. The Rules did not authorize that from this disputable presumption of death, it should be further presumed that the person
with whom the absentee was last seen shall be responsible for the subsequent unexplained absence/disappearance of the latter. The
conviction of accused-appellant for the serious crime of kidnapping with murder cannot be allowed to rest on the vague and nebulous facts
established by the prosecution. As discussed earlier, the evidence presented by the prosecution surrounding the events of that fateful day are
grossly insufficient to establish the alleged liability of accused-appellant for the death of Moronia.

It is a well-entrenched principle in criminal law that an accused is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. No less than proof beyond
reasonable doubt is required to convict him. On the whole, the evidence adduced by the prosecution would not prove beyond a shadow of a
doubt that accused-appellant should be convicted for the serious crime of kidnapping with murder.

Since none of the circumstances mentioned in Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code (kidnapping with serious illegal detention) was proved
and only the fact of kidnapping of Anatalio Moronia was established, we find that the crime committed is slight illegal detention under
Article 268 of the Revised Penal Code. In the execution of the crime, more than three (3) armed malefactors acted together in its commission.
Thus, since the generic aggravating circumstance of band 11 attended the commission of the crime and there being no mitigating
circumstance present, the penalty of reclusion temporal in its maximum period as maximum and prision mayor as minimum should be
imposed on accused-appellant. 12

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the appealed decision is hereby MODIFIED.


Accused-appellant Abundio Roluna is found guilty of slight illegal detention and is meted an indeterminate sentence from twelve (12) years
of prision mayor as minimum to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal as maximum. 13Costs against accused-appellant.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 118620-21 September 1, 1997

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
NARITO @ "NARING" DADLES, accused-appellant.

FRANCISCO, J.:

This case involves the alleged kidnapping of two farmers, Alipio Tehidor and Salvador Alipan and their respective sons, Dionisio and
Antonio from their homes in Barangay Amontay, Binalbagan, Negros Occidental on May 24, 1989. For the said kidnapping,
appellant Narito alias "Naring" Dadles was charged in two separate informations, to wit:

That on or about the 24th day of May, 1989, in the Municipality of Binalbagan, Province of Negros Occidental, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the first above-named accused, in company of his five (5) other co-
accused, whose true names are still unknown and herein designated only as "Ka Morito", "Ka Willy", "Ka Dindo", "Ka
Mike" and "Ka Juanito", who are all still at large, armed with assorted firearms of unknown calibers, conspiring,
confederating and mutually helping one another, by means of force, violence and intimidation, did then and there, wilfully,
unlawfully and feloniously take, kidnap, detain, and keep ALIPIO TEHIDOR and DIONISIO TEHIDOR under guard,
from their residence at Brgy. Amontay of the above-named municipality, and bring them somewhere in the hinterlands of
said municipality, under restraint and against their will, without proper authority thereof, thereby depriving said victims of
their civil liberties since then up to the present.1

and

That on or about the 24th day of May, 1989, in the Municipality of Binalbagan, Province of Negros Occidental, Philippines and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the first abovenamed accused, in company of his nine (9) other co-accused, whose
true names are still unknown and herein designated only as "Ka Dindo", "Ka Morito", "Ka Tiwi", "Ka Amay", "Ka Bobby", "Ka
Pedro", "Ka Juanito", "Ka Bernardo" and "Ka Mike" who are all still at large, armed with assorted firearms of unknown caliber,
conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, by means of force, violence and intimidation, did then and there,
wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, kidnap, detain, and keep Salvador Alipan alias "Bado" and Antonio Alipan under guard,
from their residence at Barangay Amontay of the above-named municipality, and bring them somewhere in the hinterlands of said
municipality, under restraint and against their will, without proper authority thereof, thereby depriving said victims of their civil
liberties since then up to the present.2

Of the several accused named in the aforequoted informations, only appellant was arraigned while the cases against the other accused who
remain at large up to the present have been temporarily archived until their apprehension. At the arraignment, the appellant pleaded not guilty
to both counts of kidnapping. Upon joint manifestation of the Public Prosecutor and the defense counsel, both cases were ordered
consolidated and were jointly tried.3

On the abduction of victims Alipio and Dionisio Tehidor, prosecution witnesses Francisca Tehidor and Danilo Tehidor testified as follows:

On May 24, 1989 at around 11:00 o'clock in the evening, the appellant Narito alias "Naring" Dadles together with five (5) others, namely
Dindo, Mike, Willy, Morito, and Juanito arrived at the residence of one of the victims, Alipio Tehidor, in Barangay Amontay, Binalbagan,
Negros Occidental. Alipio, his wife, Francisca, and their two sons Dionisio and Danilo were awakened from their sleep when the appellant
and his companions called Alipio from downstairs. The group which was known to the Tehidor family because they used to visit the latter's
house to ask for rice was allowed to enter by Francisca. Once inside, they told Francisca that they wanted to talk to Alipio downstairs.
Francisca asked them not to bring Alipio outside and to just talk to him upstairs but her request went unheeded. Then Morito, assisted by the
appellant, tied the hands of Alipio and Dionisio. When Francisca protested, the appellant's group told her that they would free Alipio and
Dionisio if they surrender the firearms of their two other sons, Logenio and Jenny, both of whom were members of the Civilian Armed
Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU). Unable to surrender the said firearms which were not in the possession of the spouses Tehidor, the
appellant's group forced Alipio and Dionisio to walk with them to an unknown place. Since then and up to the present, Francisca has not
heard from either her husband or her son.4

On the other hand, prosecution witnesses Luzviminda Alipan and Vicente Alipan narrated the alleged kidnapping of Salvador and Antonio
Alipan in this wise:

On May 24, 1989 at around 11:30 in the evening while Salvador, his wife, Luzviminda and their sons, Vicente and Antonio were in their
house in Barangay Amontay, Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, they heard somebody calling them from outside. Luzviminda lighted a lamp
and opened the door. She saw the appellant and his nine (9) companions namely, Dindo, Morito, Amay, Pedro, Juanito, Bernardo, Tiwi,
Mike and Bobby who were all armed. The appellant and Dindo went upstairs and told Salvador to go with them downstairs as they have
something to talk about. Salvador who was apparently acquainted with the group acceded and followed the appellant and Dindo downstairs.
Then the appellant told Luzviminda, "Nay, we will borrow Tatay, we will return him tomorrow". When Luzviminda refused, the appellant
assured her saying, "Nay, don't worry, just let Tatay go with us together with your son because they will be returned tomorrow." Thereafter,
Salvador and Antonio left with the group to an unknown destination. And like Francisca, Luzviminda never saw her husband and son again
after that night.5

Appellant denied the charges against him and interposed an alibi. The defense attempted to prove that on the said date and time of the alleged
kidnapping of the victims, the appellant was in the house of defense witness Rogelio Ariola sleeping soundly after a round of beer with the
latter and his other guests.

The appellant who was engaged in the business of selling fruits claimed that he delivered fruits to one of his usual customers, Rogelio, on
May 23, 1989 in Barangay San Pedro, Binalbagan, Negros Occidental. As Rogelio was not able to pay appellant on the said date, the former
allowed the appellant to sleep over in his house until the following morning. However, Rogelio was able to pay the appellant only at around
6:00 o'clock in the evening of the next day. Thus, upon the advice of Rogelio, the appellant decided to stay and sleep in the former's house
for another night. He went home to Barangay Amontay at around 7:00 o'clock the following morning.6

Rogelio Ariola who is a Minister of the Apostolic Church and a resident of Barangay San Pedro, Binalbagan, Negros Occidental testified that
on May 24, 1989, there was an occasion in their church and he went home at around 6:00 o'clock in the evening to attend to his guests, some
of whom were members of his church. The appellant was also in his house as he had delivered fruits to Rogelio the previous day and was
waiting to be paid therefor. It was customary for the appellant to sleep in Rogelio's house whenever the latter could not immediately pay him
for the fruits delivered. Since Rogelio paid the appellant only at around 6:00 o'clock in the evening of May 24, the latter was no longer able
to go home to Barangay Amontay. Rogelio invited the appellant to sleep in his house again that night and the latter accepted. 7

In the meantime, Rogelio entertained his guests by buying Gold Eagle Beer for them to drink. Their drinking session lasted until 10:00
o'clock in the evening, after which, his visitors went home leaving behind the appellant who then slept in one of the rooms in Rogelio's
house.8

Finding the alibi of the appellant insufficient to controvert his positive identification by the prosecution witnesses, Branch 55 of the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) of Himamaylan, Negros Occidental rendered a decision convicting the appellant of two (2) courts of kidnapping and
serious illegal detention. He was sentenced to suffer the penalty of "double life imprisonment" and to indemnify the families of the victims in
the amount of one hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) each without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. 9

Hence the present appeal before this Court where the appellant raises the following assignment of errors:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING MUCH WEIGHT AND CREDENCE ON (sic) THE EVIDENCE FOR THE
PROSECUTION AND IN DISREGARDING THE EVIDENCE FOR THE DEFENSE.

II

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING ACCUSED-APPELLANT NARITO DADLES OF TWO (2)
COUNTS OF KIDNAPPING AND SERIOUS ILLEGAL DETENTION. 10

In assailing the credibility of the prosecution witnesses, the appellant asseverates that their failure to confront him about the disappearance of
the victims despite several opportunities to do so after the alleged incident casts a doubt on the truthfulness of their accusation. The appellant
brands as incredulous the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses that although they would see the appellant during Sundays which is the
market day in Barangay Amontay, they did not ask him about their missing relatives.11 According to the appellant, likewise puzzling is the
failure of the prosecution witnesses to report the incident to the authorities immediately when their respective husbands and sons failed to
return the following morning as promised by the appellant and his companions. 12

This court finds neither of the aforementioned circumstances sufficient to detract from the credibility of the prosecution witnesses. It has
been held in a large number of cases that the lapse of a considerable length of time before a witness comes forward to reveal the identity of
the perpetrators of the crime does not taint the credibility of the witness and his testimony where such delay is satisfactorily
explained.13 Also, this court has had occasion to observe that delay in reporting the occurrence of a crime or other unusual events in rural
areas is well known and should thus, not be taken against the witness. 14

In the instant case, the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses reveal that it was their overriding fear of reprisal from the appellant's group
that prevented them from seeking the aid of the authorities. Thus, Vicente Alipan testified as follows:

QUESTION:

Now, after the alleged incident, did you ever report this matter to the police authority or any military personnel in
your area, if any?

ANSWER:

I was not able to report this matter to the authorities.

xxx xxx xxx


QUESTION:

And you did not likewise report the incident to any of the military personnel who were patrolling at your area, is
that correct?

ANSWER:

We were not able to report the matter to the military authority because we were warned by these people not to
report because if we will report they will kill us all.15 (Emphasis supplied.)

Danilo Tehidor likewise testified that the appellant and his companions threatened their family with execution should they report the matter
to the authorities:

QUESTION:

Immediately after that incident when your father and your brother were forcibly taken by Naring and his group,
why did you not immediately report the matter to the police?

ANSWER:

Because at that time we were warned not to report, they were guarding us.

QUESTION:

Who were guarding you?

ANSWER:

The companions of the accused.

QUESTION:

Why after the incident were there occasions that this Narito Dadles and his companions visited you in your house
or have seen you elsewhere, were there instances?

ANSWER:

Yes, sir.

QUESTION:

Do (sic) they visit your house after that incident?

ANSWER:

Not in the house, only in a certain market place.

QUESTION:

Who among your (sic) members of the family being (sic) warned by Narito Dadles or his group not to report the
matter to the police.

ATTY. LABIS:

No basis. There was no answer that this witness was warned not to report to the police.

COURT:

Guarded only.

PROSECUTOR AREVALO:

QUESTION:

How do (sic) you know that you and any members (sic) of your family is (sic) being guarded from the moment
you tried to go out from your place?
ANSWER:

They sent us a letter warning us that if ever we report the matter to the authorities they will kill all of us.

QUESTION:

Who sent the letter to your family?

ANSWER:

Dindo.

QUESTION:

Whom (sic) did Dindo send the letter?

ANSWER:

The letter was sent to my mother through a child courier. 16 (Emphasis supplied.)

It is evident that the prosecution witnesses were overcome by fear that the appellant and his companions would make good their threat the
moment they report the incident to the police. This is undoubtedly the same fear which deterred them from confronting the appellant despite
their many opportunities to do so. The prosecution witnesses were well aware that the appellant did not act alone but was aided by several
other men and that they all possessed firearms. Furthermore, the appellant lived in the same barangay as the witnesses and had easy access to
them. Under the circumstances, the witnesses could not be blamed for reporting the incident only after they were already able to transfer
residence to another barangay. Contrary to appellant's allegation, such a reaction is natural, spontaneous and logical in view of the witnesses'
first impulse for self-preservation. It is of common human experience that people overcome by great fear, not only for their lives but also of
those of their loved ones, will choose to remain tight-lipped about an incident and suffer in silence rather than expose to risk their own safety
and of those for whom they care.17

Anent the appellant's defense, suffice it to state that his alibi even if supported by the testimonies of his friends, deserves the barest
consideration.18 This court has held time and again that the defense of alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused by
the prosecution witnesses who had no untoward motive to falsely testify against him. 19 Relevant is the fact that there appears to be no motive
on the part of the prosecution witnesses to fabricate a criminal charge against the appellant who is admittedly an acquaintance and whom
they have welcomed in their respective households several times in the past. It must be noted that the prosecution witnesses in this case are
immediate relatives of the victims whose natural interest in obtaining justice and redress by securing the conviction of the parties responsible
for the crime would deter them from implicating persons other than the real culprits. 20

Just as oft-repeated is the rule that for alibi to offset the evidence of the prosecution demonstrating the guilt of the accused, he must establish
not only that he was somewhere else when the crime was committed but also that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the
scene of the crime at the time that it was committed.21 The defense has failed to meet the requisites of time and place. Nowhere from the
testimonies of the defense witnesses nor from the circumstances of the case may we infer that it was physically impossible for the appellant
to be at the scene of the crime at the alleged time of its commission.

Rogelio's testimony succeeds only in establishing that the appellant slept in his house on the night of May 24, 1989. Rogelio who slept in
another room could not have known if appellant left his house sometime during the night after everyone else had fallen asleep. Furthermore,
from the appellant's own admission, Barangay Amontay is only 30 kilometers away from Barangay San Pedro. 22 The defense's theory that as
there was no longer any public transportation available after six o'clock in the evening, it was impossible for the appellant to have been able
to reach Barangay Amontay fails to persuade. The absence of public transportation does not negate the possibility that the appellant availed
of other modes of transportation present at that hour. Thus, it was not totally improbable for the appellant to have hitched a ride in one of the
many trucks plying that route.

As the core issue in the appellant's first assignment of error is ultimately the credibility of the prosecution vis-a-visthe defense witnesses, it
may not be amiss to state herein the well-settled doctrine that the opinion of the trial court as to who of them should be believed is entitled to
great respect, the latter having had the unequalled opportunity to directly observe the witnesses and to determine by their demeanor on the
stand the probative value of their testimonies. And none of the recognized exceptions to the rule, that is, where the record circumstances of
weight and influence have been overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied by the trial court which, if considered, would have affected the
result of the case, and when such findings are arbitrary, exist in the case of bench. 23

We now go to the appellant's second assignment of error where he posits that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses fail to make out a
case of kidnapping. It is argued that the prosecution was unable to indubitably prove that the purpose of the appellant and his companions in
taking the victims was to deprive them of their liberty. 24 We disagree.

Nothing else is clearer from the testimony of Francisca than that her husband, Alipio and son, Dionisio were taken by the appellant's group
by force and against their will. Thus:

QUESTION:

After that what happened?


ANSWER:

My husband was hogtied downstairs.

QUESTION:

Personally, who hogtied your husband?

ANSWER:

Morito.

QUESTION:

Was he assisted by any of his companions?

ANSWER:

Yes, sir.

QUESTION:

Who among his companions?

ANSWER:

Narito and Mike, only the two of them.

QUESTION:

While these persons you mentioned were hogtying your husband, what did you do:

ANSWER:

I did not do anything. I asked them why they hogtied their "tatay". They answered, "we will free "tatay" if he will
surrender the firearm because we knew (sic) that the firearm of your son is with you.

QUESTION:

In spite of your plea, these persons, who tied your husband, did not hear (sic) to your request?

ANSWER:

No, sir, they did not.

QUESTION:

While hogtying your husband, what happened?

ANSWER:

They said that if my husband will surrender to them the firearm, they will free my husband and my son.

QUESTION:

Why, you said awhile ago that it was only your husband Alipio Tehidor, why what happened to your son?

ANSWER:

They were two, my husband and my son were hogtied.

QUESTION:

The two of them were hogtied?

ANSWER:
Yes, sir. 25 (Emphasis supplied.)

The foregoing was corroborated by another eyewitness to the crime, Danilo who testified as follows:

QUESTION:

At around that time on that date, May 24, 1989 at around 11:00 o'clock in the evening, could you recall if there
was any untoward incident that happened?

ANSWER:

Yes, sir.

QUESTION:

What was that unusual incident that happened?

ANSWER:

My father and brother were taken by them on that evening.

QUESTION:

When you said, "taken by them", whom (sic) are you referring, who took your brother and father?

ANSWER:

Narito Dadles.

QUESTION:

When you said they took your brother and father was Narito Dadles accompanied by other members of his group?

ATTY. LABIS:

The question is leading.

PROSECUTOR AREVALO:

I was just confronting the witness. That was the statement of the witness.

COURT:

Witness may answer.

ANSWER:

Yes, sir, his companions were Dindo, Mike, Narito (sic), Willy and Juanito.

PROSECUTOR AREVALO:

QUESTION:

There were five of them?

ANSWER:

Yes, sir.

QUESTION:

How did they take your brother and father?

ANSWER:

Their hands were tied at the back.


QUESTION:

The two of them, your father and your brother?

ANSWER:

Yes, sir.26 (Emphasis supplied.)

As regards the victims Salvador and Antonio Alipan, the appellant points out that the testimony of Luzviminda who witnessed the alleged
kidnapping demonstrate that the victims were not deprived of their liberty because they went with the appellant and his companions
peacefully without being subjected to threats and coercion. 27 The court is not convinced. That the victims' hands were not tied nor guns
poked at their sides when they were taken by the appellant's do not conclusively preclude the deprivation of their liberty. The circumstances
surrounding the taking of Salvador and Antonio, particularly the appellant and his companions' previous conduct in kidnapping victims
Alipio and Dionisio, plainly demonstrate their intent to likewise deprive Salvador and Antonio of their liberty.

True it is that "evidence that one did or did not do a certain thing at one time is not admissible to prove that he did or did not do the same or
similar thing at another time."28 However, "it may be received to prove a specific intent or knowledge, identity, plan, system, scheme, habit,
custom or usage, and the like."29 Thus we have held that:

The general rule is that evidence is not admissible which shows or tends to show, that the accused in a criminal case has committed
a crime wholly independent of the offense for which he is on trial. It is not competent to prove that he committed other crimes of a
like nature for the purpose of showing that he would be likely to commit the crime charged in the indictment. A man may be a
notorious criminal, but this fact may not be shown to influence a jury in passing upon the question of his guilt or innocence of the
particular offense for which he is on trial. A man may have committed many crimes and still be innocent of the crime charged in the
case on trial. To permit proof of other crimes would naturally predispose the minds of the jurors against the defendant. One who
commits one crime may be more likely to commit another; yet logically, one crime does not prove another, nor tend to prove
another, unless there is such a relation between them that proof of one tends to prove the other. 30

In the early case of United States v. Evangelista,31 the accused was convicted of arson after the trial court admitted evidence that he had
earlier attempted to set fire to the same premises. Ruling on the admissibility of the said evidence, we said that:

. . . While it was not the fire charged in the information, and does not by any means amount to direct evidence against the accused, it
was competent to prove the intent of the accused in setting the fire which was charged in the information.

xxx xxx xxx

. . . "Where a person is charged with the commission of a specific crime, testimony may be received of other similar acts, committed
about the same time, for the purpose only of establishing the criminal intent of the accused."32 (Emphasis supplied.)

In this case we find that there is such a relation between both incidents of kidnapping charged in the two informations that "proof of one
tends to prove the other", and evidence of similar acts committed about the same time establishes the criminal intent of the appellant to
deprive Salvador and Alipan of their liberty. First of all, both incidents happened almost simultaneously. The kidnapping of Alipio and
Dionisio occurred only some thirty (30) minutes before Salvador and Antonio were taken from their home. The appellant and his companions
were apparently well acquainted with the Tehidors and the Alipans who readily allowed them entrance into their respective houses on the
fateful night of May 24, 1989. Alipio and Dionisio were taken by the appellant's group on the pretext that they wanted to talk to Alipio.
Similarly, the appellant claims that they took Salvador and Antonio only because they wanted to talk to the former. Alipio's wife was warned
not to tell the authorities about the incident. The same warning was given to Salvador's wife.

Moreover, as correctly pointed out by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), circumstances exist to further warrant the conclusion that it
was the appellant's criminal intent to deprive the victims of liberty, to wit:

First. If appellant's group merely wanted to talk to Salvador Alipan, they could just have talked to him then and there at the house of
the latter without necessarily taking him together with his son.

Second. Appellant's group could have elicited the required information from Salvador in just a matter of hours. Hence, they should
have returned Salvador and his son the following day as promised. To this date, however, no trace of the two (2) can be found.

Third. If they did not have any ill-motive against the duo, why did they warn the family of the victims not to report the incident to
anybody or they will be killed? Clearly, this behavior betrays the falsity of their alleged intention. 33

The court therefore finds the appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of kidnapping the victims, Salvador Alipan, Antonio Alipan, Alipio
Tehidor and Dionisio Tehidor. However, "since none of the circumstances mentioned in Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code (kidnapping
with serious illegal detention) was proved and only the fact of kidnapping . . . was established, we find that the crime committed is slight
illegal detention under Article 268 of the Revised Penal Code. . . . ."34 Moreover, in the execution of the crime against the first two (2)
victims, Salvador and Antonio Alipan, more than three (3) armed malefactors acted together in its commission. 35 Thus, since the generic
aggravating circumstance of band36 attended the commission of the crime and there being no mitigating circumstance present, the penalty
is reclusion temporal in its maximum period. For the slight illegal detention of the latter two (2) victims, Alipio and Dionisio Tehidor, the
aggravating circumstance that the crime was committed by a band as alleged in the information finds no sufficient factual basis since the
testimonies of the prosecution witnesses do not disclose that at least four (4) of the malefactors were armed. 37 Hence there being no
aggravating nor mitigating circumstance attendant in the commission of the crime, the penalty of reclusion temporal should be imposed in its
medium period.

WHEREFORE, the judgment appealed from is hereby MODIFIED. Appellant Narito Dadles is found guilty of two counts of slight illegal
detention and is sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of ten (10) years of prision mayor as minimum to twenty (20) years
of reclusion temporal maximum as maximum for the slight illegal detention of Salvador and Antonio Alipan, and the indeterminate penalty
of ten (10) years of prision mayor as minimum to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months of reclusion temporal medium as maximum for
the slight illegal detention of Alipio and Dionisio Tehidor, both penalties to be served successively according to Article 70 of the Revised
Penal Code on successive service of sentences. Appellant is likewise ordered to indemnify the families of the victims in the amount of ONE
HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (P100,000.00) each without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 121519 October 30, 1996

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
VICENTE TY and CARMEN TY, accused-appellants

KAPUNAN, J.:p

Vicente Ty and Carmen Ty were charged with the crime of kidnapping and failure to return a minor in an information filed by 2nd Assistant
City Prosecutor of Kalookan City Rosauro J. Silverio, the accusatory portion of which reads:

That on or about the month of April 1989, in Kalookan. City, Metro Manila, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-named accused, being then the owners, proprietors, managers and administrators of Sir John Clinic and as
such said accused had the custody of Arabella Sombong, a minor, conspiring together and mutually helping one another
and with deliberate intent to deprive the parents of the child of her custody, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously fail to restore the custody of said Arabella Sombong to her parents by giving said custody of subject minor to
another person without the knowledge and consent of her parents.

Contrary to Law.1

Both accused were arrested, and then arraigned on October 27, 1992 when they pleaded not guilty to the crime charged.

After trial, on May 31, 1995, a decision was rendered by the Regional Trial Court of Kalookan City, Branch 123, the decretal portion of
which disposes as follows:

WHEREFORE, this Court finds both accused Spouses Vicente Ty and Carmen Ty guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of kidnapping a minor and failure to return the same as defined and penalized by Article 270 of the Revised Penal
Code and hereby sentences them to suffer imprisonment of reclusion perpetua. The accused are hereby ordered to pay the
private complainant the sum of P100,000.00 by way of moral damages caused by anxiety, by her being emotionally
drained coupled by the fact that up to this date she could not determine the whereabouts of her child Arabella Sombong.

SO ORDERED.2

The accused now interpose this appeal alleging the ensuing assignment of errors, viz:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT APPELLANTS "DELIBERATELY FAILED TO RESTORE THE
CHILD TO HER MOTHER," AND CONVICTING THEM UNDER ART. 270 OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE, AND
SENTENCING THEM TO "RECLUSION PERPETUA";

II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE CRIME COMMITTED, IF ANY, IS THAT DEFINED
AND PENALIZED UNDER ART. 277 OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE;

III

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT RECOMMENDING EXECUTIVE CLEMENCY PURSUANT TO PRECEDENT
IN "PEOPLE vs. GUTIERREZ," 197 SCRA 569; and

IV

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN AWARDING "COMPLAINANT THE SUM OF P100,000.00 BY WAY OF MORAL,
DAMAGES."3

The relevant antecedents surrounding the case are as follows:

On November 18, 1987, complainant Johanna Sombong brought her sick daughter Arabella, then only seven (7) months old, for treatment to
the Sir John Medical and Maternity Clinic located at No. 121 First Avenue, Grace Park, Kalookan City which was owned and operated by
the accused-appellants. Arabella was diagnosed to be suffering bronchitis and diarrhea, thus complainant was advised to confine the child at
the clinic for speedy recovery. About three (3) days later, Arabella was well and was ready to be discharged but complainant was not around
to take her home. A week later, complainant came back but did not have enough money to pay the hospital bill in the amount of P300.00.
Complainant likewise confided to accused-appellant Dr. Carmen Ty that no one would take care of the child at home as she was working.
She then inquired about the rate of the nursery and upon being told that the same was P50.00 per day, she decided to leave her child to the
care of the clinic nursery. Consequently, Arabella was transferred from the ward to the nursery. 4

Thereafter, hospital bills started to mount and accumulate. It was at this time that accused-appellant Dr. Ty suggested to the complainant that
she hire a "yaya" for P400.00 instead of the daily nursery fee of P50.00. Complainant agreed, hence, a "yaya" was hired. Arabella was then
again transferred from the nursery to the extension of the clinic which served as residence for the hospital staff. 5

From then on, nothing was heard of the complainant. She neither visited her child nor called to inquire about her whereabouts. Her estranged
husband came to the clinic once but did not get the child. Efforts to get in touch with the complainant were unsuccessful as she left no
address or telephone number where she can be reached. This development prompted Dr. Ty to notify the barangay captain of the child's
abandonment.6 Eventually, the hospital staff took turns in taking care of Arabella. 7

Sometime in 1989, two (2) years after Arabella was abandoned by complainant, Dr. Fe Mallonga, a dentist at the clinic, suggested during a
hospital staff conference that Arabella be entrusted to a guardian who could give the child the love and affection, personal attention and
caring she badly needed as she was thin and sickly. The suggestion was favorably considered, hence, Dr. Mallonga gave the child to her aunt,
Lilibeth Neri.8

In 1992, complainant came back to claim the daughter she abandoned some five (5) years back.

When her pleas allegedly went unanswered, she filed a petition for habeas corpus against accused-appellants with the Regional Trial Court
of Quezon City. Said petition was however denied due course and was summarily dismissed without prejudice on the ground of lack of
jurisdiction, the alleged detention having been perpetrated in Kalookan City.

Thereafter, the instant criminal case was filed against accused-appellants.

Complainant likewise filed an administrative case for dishonorable conduct against accused-appellant Dr. Carmen Ty before the Board of
Medicine of the Professional Regulation Commission. This case was subsequently dismissed for failure to prosecute.

On October 13, 1992, complainant filed a petition for habeas corpus with the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, this time against the
alleged guardians of her daughter, namely, Marietta Neri Alviar and Lilibeth Neri. On January 15, 1993, the trial court rendered a decision
granting the petition and ordering the guardians to immediately deliver the person of Cristina Grace Neri to the complainant, the court having
found Cristina to be the complainant's child. On appeal to the Court of Appeals, however, said decision was reversed on the ground that the
guardians were not unlawfully withholding from the complainant the rightful custody of Cristina after finding that Cristina and complainant's
daughter are not one and the same person. On January 31, 1996, this Court in Sombong v. Court of Appeals9 affirmed the Court of Appeals'
decision.

In this appeal, accused-appellants would want us to take a second look and resolve the issue of whether or not they are guilty of kidnapping
and failure to return a minor. Accused-appellants of course contend that they are not guilty and the Solicitor General agrees. In its
Manifestation and Motion in lieu of Appellee's Brief, the Office of the Solicitor General recommends their acquittal.

We agree.

As we have mentioned above, this Court in Sombong v. Court of


Appeals10 affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals reversing the trial court's ruling that complainant has rightful custody over the child,
Cristina Grace Neri, the latter not being identical with complainant's daughter, Arabella. The Court discoursed, thusly:

Petitioner does not have the right of custody over the minor Cristina because, by the evidence disclosed before, the court a
quo, Cristina has not been shown to be petitioner's daughter, Arabella. The evidence adduced before the trial court does not
warrant the conclusion that Arabella is the same person as Cristina.

xxx xxx xxx

In the instant case, the testimonial and circumstantial proof establishes the individual and separate existence of petitioner's
child, Arabella, from that of private respondents' foster child, Cristina.

We note, among others, that Dr. Trono, who is petitioner's own witness, testified in court that, together with Arabella, there
were several babies left in the clinic and so she could not be certain whether it was Arabella or some other baby that was
given to private respondents. Petitioner's own evidence shows that, after the confinement of Arabella in the clinic in 1987,
she saw her daughter again only in 1989 when she visited the clinic. This corroborates the testimony of petitioner's own
witness, Dra. Ty, that Arabella was physically confined in the clinic from November, 1987 to April, 1989. This testimony
tallies with her assertion in her counter-affidavit to the effect that Arabella was in the custody of the hospital until April,
1989. All this, when juxtaposed with the unwavering declaration of private respondents that they obtained custody of
Cristina in April, 1988 and had her baptized at the Good Samaritan Church on April 30, 1988, leads to the conclusion that
Cristina is not Arabella.

Significantly, Justice Lourdes K. Tayao-Jaguros, herself a mother and the ponente of the herein assailed decision, set the
case for hearing on August 30, 1993 primarily for the purpose of observing petitioner's demeanor towards the minor
Cristina. She made the following personal but relevant manifestation:
The undersigned ponente as a mother herself of four children, wanted to see how petitioner as an alleged
mother of a missing child supposedly in the person of Cristina Neri would react on seeing again her long
lost child. The petitioner appeared in the scheduled hearing of this case late, and she walked inside the
courtroom looking for a seat without even stopping at her alleged daughter's seat; without even casting a
glance on said child, and without even that tearful embrace which characterizes the reunion of a loving
mother with her missing dear child. Throughout the proceedings, the undersigned ponente noticed no
signs of endearment and affection expected of a mother who had been deprived of the embrace of her
little child for many years. The conclusion or finding of undersigned ponente as a mother, herself, that
petitioner-appellee is not the mother of Cristina Neri has been given support by aforestated observation. .
.

xxx xxx xxx

Since we hold that petitioner has not been established by evidence to be entitled to the custody of the minor Cristina on
account of mistaken identity, it cannot be said that private respondents are unlawfully withholding from petitioner the
rightful custody over Cristina. At this juncture, we need not inquire into the validity of the mode by which private
respondents acquired custodial rights over the minor, Cristina.

xxx xxx xxx

Under the facts and ruling in Sombong, as well as the evidence adduced in this case accused-appellants must perforce be acquitted of the
crime charged, there being no reason to hold them liable for failing to return one Cristina Grace Neri, a child not conclusively shown and
established to be complainant's daughter, Arabella.

The foregoing notwithstanding, even if we were to consider Cristina Grace Neri and Arabella Sombong as one and the same person, still, the
instant criminal case against the accused-appellants must fall.

Before a conviction for kidnapping and failure to return a minor under Article 270 of the Revised Penal Code can be had, two elements must
concur, namely: (a) the offender has been entrusted with the custody of the minor, and (b) the offender deliberately fails to restore said minor
to his parents or guardians. The essential element herein is that the offender is entrusted with the custody of the minor but what is actually
punishable is not the kidnapping of the minor, as the title of the article seems to indicate, but rather the deliberate failure or refusal of the
custodian of the minor to restore the latter to his parents or guardians. 11 Said failure or refusal, however, must not only be deliberate but must
also be persistent as to oblige the parents or the guardians of the child to seek the aid of the courts in order to obtain custody.12 The key word
therefore of this element is deliberate and Black's Law Dictionary defines deliberate as:

Deliberate, adj. Well advised; carefully considered; not sudden or rash; circumspect; slow in determining. Willful rather
than merely intentional. Formed, arrived at, or determined upon as a result of careful thought and weighing of
considerations, as a deliberate judgment or plan. Carried on coolly and steadily, especially according to a preconceived
design; given to weighing facts and arguments with a view to a choice or decision; careful in considering the consequences
of a step; slow in action; unhurried; characterized by reflection; dispassionate; not rash. People v. Thomas, 25 Cal. 2d 880,
156 P.2d 7, 17, 18.

By the use of this word, in describing a crime, the idea is conveyed that the perpetrator weighs the motives for the act and
its consequences, the nature of the crime, or other things connected with his intentions, with a view to a decision thereon;
that he carefully considers all these, and that the act is not suddenly committed. It implies that the perpetrator must be
capable of the exercise of such mental powers as are called into use by deliberation and the consideration and weighing of
motives and consequences.13

Similarly, the word deliberate is defined in Corpus Juris Secundum as:

DELIBERATE.

As a Verb

The word is derived from two Latin words which mean literally "concerning" and "to weigh;" it implies the possession of a
mind capable of conceiving a purpose to act, and the exercise of such mental powers as are called into use by the
consideration and weighing of the motives and the consequences of the act; and has been defined as meaning to consider,
reflect, take counsel, or to weigh the arguments for and against a proposed course of action; to consider and examine the
reasons for and against, consider maturely, ponder, reflect upon, or weigh in the mind; to reflect, with a view to make a
choice; to weigh the motives for an act and its consequences, with a view to a decision thereon.

As an Adjective

The word, used adjectively, implies action after thought and reflection, and relates to the end proposed; indicates a purpose
formed in a mind capable of conceiving a purpose; and is based upon an intention accompanied by such circumstances as
evidence a mind fully conscious of its own purpose and design. It has been defined as meaning carefully considered;
circumspect; entered upon after deliberation and with fixed purpose, formed after careful consideration, and fully or
carefully considering the nature or consequences of an act or measure; maturely reflected; not sudden or rash, carefully
considering the probable consequences of a step; premeditated; slow in determining; weighing facts and arguments with a
view to a choice of decision; well-advised.
Under some circumstances, it has been held synonymous with, or equivalent to, "intentional," "premeditated," and
"willful."

Under other circumstances, however, it has been compared with, or distinguished from, "premeditated," "sudden," and
"willful."14

Essentially, the word deliberate as used in the article must imply something more than mere negligence; it must be premeditated, obstinate,
headstrong, foolishly daring or intentionally and maliciously wrong.

In the case at bar, it is evident that there was no deliberate refusal or failure on the part of the accused-appellants to restore the custody of the
complainant's child to her. When the accused-appellants learned that complainant wanted her daughter back after five (5) long years of
apparent wanton neglect, they tried their best to help herein complainant find the child as the latter was no longer under the clinic's care.
Accused-appellant Dr. Ty did not have the address of Arabella's guardians but as soon as she obtained it from Dr. Fe Mallonga who was
already working abroad, she personally went to the guardians' residence and informed them that herein complainant wanted her daughter
back. Dr. Ty testified as follows:

Q: Now, since you said a while ago that when you placed the child under the (sic) guardianship, you are
(sic) aware that the natural mother will get back the child, why did you not return the minor to the natural
mother?

A: During that time mam, the resident physician who will (sic) discharged the baby was not present
because she was abroad.

Q: But then madam witness, are you aware where the child was and to whom it was given?

A: The exact address was not given to me, mam, before the resident physician left for abroad so, I asked
the PAO to give me one month to have (sic) a long distance call to this doctor and asked her for the
whereabout(s) of the child.

Q: And where you granted the thirty-day period by the Officer of the PAO?

A: Yes, mam.

Q: What happened if any during that thirty-day period?

A: I was able to talk to Fe Mallonga in Bahrain and she told me the exact address of the guardian, mam.

Q: Were (sic) you informed (of) the exact address of the guardian, did you informed (sic) the PAO?

A: Yes, mam.

ATTY. WARD:

Q: Then, what happened next, madam witness?

A: I was the one who went to the address to be sure that the child was really there, mam.

Q: And did you see the child?

A: Yes, mam.

Q: What did you do with the child?

A: I just tell (sic) the child, "Ay ang laki mo na pala," I just told the child like that and I've (sic) talked
also to the guardian during that time, mam.

Q: And what did you tell the guardian?

A: I told the guardian that the rightful mother was claiming for the child and that we should talked (sic)
with each other at the PAO for the decision, mam.

Q: Did the guardian bring the child to the PAO's Office (sic)?

A: No mam, she did not appear.

Q: Why?
A: They told me first that they are (sic) going to contact a lawyer but for (sic) several days, she did not
respond anymore, mam. 15

When the guardians refused to return the child, accused-appellant Dr. Ty sought the assistance of the National Bureau of
Investigation (NBI) which conducted a conference among the parties but since a case was yet to be filed, the custody of the minor
remained with the guardians. This fact is evident from the following testimony, thus:

Q: You testified on cross-examination that you located the whereabouts of the child sometime later, what
steps did you take up (sic) after you found the child?

A: I explained to the guardian that the verbal agreement between the supposed to be guardianship was
only a plain guardianship and not as an adoption, sir.

Q: You said you went to the NBI after you found the child, why did you go to the NBI?

A: Because the guardian are (sic) not willing to surrender the child to the PAO's Office (sic), that is why
I asked their help, sir. 16. . .

Q: Now, when you informed the present custodian that the natural mother is now claiming the child, why
were you not able to get the minor?

A: I was not able to get the minor so I asked the help of the NBI to have the child surrender (sic), mam.

ATTY. WARD:

Q: And what happened when you get (sic) the assistance of the NBI?

A: They were the ones who asked the guardian to surrender the child, mam.

Q: You stated a while ago that there was no written agreement between you or your hospital and the
guardian of the minor, is that correct?

A: Yes, mam.

Q: For what reason if you know, why (did) the guardian did (sic) not follow you or obey you when you
want (sic) to get back the child?

A: I don't know of any reason, mam. 17

The efforts taken by the accused-appellants to help the complainant in finding the child clearly negate the finding that there was a
deliberate refusal or failure on their part to restore the child to her mother. Evidence is simply wanting in this regard.

It is worthy to note that accused-appellants' conduct from the moment the child was left in the clinic's care up to the time the child was given
up for guardianship was motivated by nothing more than an earnest desire to help the child and a high regard for her welfare and well-being.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision appealed from is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, accused-appellants
VICENTE TY and CARMEN TY are hereby ACQUITTED of the crime charged and are ordered to be released immediately unless they are
being detained for other lawful causes. Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 163898 December 23, 2008

ROBERTO BARBASA, petitioner,


vs.
HON. ARTEMIO G. TUQUERO, in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of Justice, GRACE GUARIN, NESTOR
SANGALANG, VICTOR CALLUENG, respondents.

DECISION

QUISUMBING, J.:

Petitioner assails the Decision1 dated July 29, 2003 and the Resolution2 dated May 21, 2004 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No.
62610, which dismissed his petition for certiorari and denied his motion for reconsideration, respectively. The appellate court had found no
reason to reverse the Resolution3 of the Secretary of Justice ordering the City Prosecutor of Manila to move for the dismissal of Criminal
Case No. 336630 against private respondents.

Petitioner avers that he is the president of Push-Thru Marketing, Inc., which leases commercial stalls CS-PL 05, 19 and 30 in Tutuban
Center, owned by Tutuban Properties, Inc., (TPI). On June 30, 1999, Angelina Hipolito, merchandising officer of Push-Thru Marketing,
received a notice of disconnection of utilities from private respondent Grace Guarin, the Credit and Collection Manager of TPI, for failure of
Push-Thru Marketing to settle its outstanding obligations for Common Usage and Service Area (CUSA) charges, utilities, electricity and
rentals.

Petitioner settled the charges for CUSA, utilities and electricity, which payment was accepted by private respondent Guarin, but petitioner
failed to pay the back rentals. Thus, on July 1, 1999, private respondents Guarin, Nestor Sangalang, engineering manager of TPI, and Victor
Callueng, TPI head of security, together with several armed guards, disconnected the electricity in the stalls occupied by Push-Thru
Marketing.

Aggrieved, petitioner filed a criminal complaint for Grave Coercion against TPI and its officers, David Go, Robert Castanares, Buddy
Mariano, Art Brondial, and herein private respondents before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila. 4 The complaint dated July 13,
1999 alleged that TPI and its officers cut off the electricity in petitioner’s stalls "in a violent and intimidating manner" 5 and by unnecessarily
employing "several armed guards to intimidate and frighten" 6 petitioner and his employees and agents.

The respondents in the criminal complaint filed separate counter-affidavits7 which presented a common defense: that the July 1, 1999 cutting
off of electrical supply was done peacefully; that it was an act performed in the lawful performance of their assigned duties, and in
accordance with the covenants set forth in the written agreements previously executed between petitioner and TPI; that petitioner was not
present when the alleged acts were committed; and that petitioner had outstanding accumulated unpaid rentals, CUSA billings, electrical and
water bills, unpaid interest and penalty charges (from June 1998 to May 1999) in the amount of P267,513.39 for all his rented stalls, as
reflected in three Interest-Penalty Reports8 duly sent to him. Petitioner was likewise given demand letter-notices in writing at least three
times wherein it was stated that if he did not settle his arrears in full, electricity would be cut.9 Of the total amount due from him, petitioner
paid only P127,272.18 after receipt of the third notice. Accordingly, private respondents proceeded with the power cut-off, but only after
sending a "Notice of Disconnection of Utilities" 10 to petitioner’s stalls informing him of the impending act.

Private respondents also pointed out that aside from the above arrears, petitioner has outstanding accountabilities with respect to "Priority
Premium Fees" in the amount of P5,907,013.10.11

They likewise stressed that their Agreement12 with petitioner contains the following stipulations:

CONTRACT OF LEASE
Prime Block Cluster Stall

xxxx

PRIORITY PREMIUM : P *2,367,750.00

xxxx

RENT PER MONTH : P *******378.00 per sq. m (Plus P*******37.80 10% VAT)

xxxx

OTHER FEES AND EXPENSES CHARGEABLE


TO THE LESSEE:

xxxx
B. COMMON USAGE AND SERVICE AREA (CUSA) CHARGES

Minimum rate of P190.00/sq. m./mo. to cover expenses stipulated in Section 6 hereof, subject to periodic review and adjustment to
reflect actual expenses.

C. INDIVIDUAL UTILITIES
ELECTRIC CONSUMPTION : metered + reasonable service

(meter to be provided by the LESSOR, for the account of the LESSEE)

OTHER SERVICES : metered and/or reasonable

service charge

xxxx

7. PAYMENTS

xxxx

In cases where payments made by the LESSEE for any given month is not sufficient to cover all outstanding obligations
for said period, the order of priority in the application of the payments made is as follows:

a. Penalties

b. Interests

c. Insurance

d. CUSA Charges

e. Rent

f. Priority Premium

xxxx

21. PENALTY CLAUSE

xxxx

It is also expressly agreed that in case the LESSEE fails to pay at any time the installments on the priority premium, lease
rentals or CUSA and utility charges corresponding to a total of three (3) months, even if not consecutively incurred, the
LESSOR is hereby granted the option to cut off power and other utility services to the LESSEE until full payment of said
charges, expenses, penalty and interest is made, without prejudice to any other remedies provided under this Contract,
including the termination of this Contract.

x x x x (Emphasis supplied.)

Petitioner filed his Reply Affidavit,13 claiming that Go, Castanares, Mariano, Brondial, Guarin and Sangalang, while not personally present at
the scene at the time, were to be held liable as the authors of the criminal design since they were the ones who ordered the cutting off of
petitioner’s electricity. Petitioner admitted that none of the armed personnel drew his gun, much more aimed or fired it, but insisted that he
was unduly prevented from using electricity to the detriment of his business and his person. He claimed that the officers of TPI were unable
to show the amount and extent of his unpaid bills; that as to the electric bills, the same were paid; and that there was an ongoing negotiation
with respect to the matter of rentals and for reformation of the lease agreements. 14

The Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila, through Prosecutor Venus D. Marzan, dismissed the complaint against David Go, Roberto
Castanares, Buddy Mariano and Art Brondial but found probable cause against private respondents Grace Guarin, Nestor Sangalang and
Victor Callueng. On January 13, 2000, an Information15 for grave coercion was filed in court, but proceedings therein were deferred when
the private respondents filed an appeal to the Secretary of Justice.

On August 23, 2000, the Secretary of Justice reversed the City Prosecutor’s Resolution, as follows:

WHEREFORE, the assailed resolution is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The City Prosecutor is directed to move, with
leave of court, for the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 336630 of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila and to report the action
taken within ten (10) days from receipt hereof.

SO ORDERED.16
His motion for reconsideration having been denied, petitioner assailed the Resolution of the Secretary of Justice before the Court of Appeals
through a petition for certiorari, which was, however, dismissed by the appellate court for lack of merit. The appellate court likewise denied
his motion for reconsideration. Hence this petition.

Petitioner raises the sole issue of whether private respondents’ act of disconnecting the supply of electricity to petitioner’s stalls and the
manner by which it was carried out constitute grave coercion.

After carefully considering petitioner’s appeal, we are in agreement to deny it for utter lack of merit.

The crime of grave coercion has three elements: (a) that a person is prevented by another from doing something not prohibited by law, or
compelled to do something against his or her will, be it right or wrong; (b) that the prevention or compulsion is effected by violence, either
by material force or such a display of it as would produce intimidation and, consequently, control over the will of the offended party; and (c)
that the person who restrains the will and liberty of another has no right to do so; in other words, that the restraint is not made under authority
of law or in the exercise of any lawful right. 17

Petitioner’s appeal gives us no sufficient reason to deviate from what has already been found by the Secretary of Justice and the Court of
Appeals.

The records show that there was no violence, force or the display of it as would produce intimidation upon petitioner’s employees when the
cutting off of petitioner’s electricity was effected. On the contrary, it was done peacefully and after written notice to petitioner was sent. We
do not subscribe to petitioner’s claim that the presence of armed guards were calculated to intimidate him or his employees. Rather, we are
more inclined to believe that the guards were there to prevent any untoward or violent event from occurring in the exercise of TPI’s rights
under the lease agreements. If the respondents desired a violent result, they would have gone there unannounced or cut petitioner’s electricity
through less desirable and conspicuous means.

It is likewise clear from the penalty clause in the Contracts of Lease entered into by the parties that TPI is given the option to cut off power
and other utility services in petitioner’s stalls in case petitioner fails to pay at any time the installments on the priority premium, lease rentals
or CUSA and utility charges corresponding to a total of three months until full payment of said charges, expenses, penalty and interest is
made.18 The stipulation under said clause is clear; there is no ambiguity in what is stated. There could be no grave coercion in the private
respondents’ act of exercising in behalf of TPI a right afforded to TPI under the solemn and unequivocal covenants of a contract to which
petitioner had agreed and which he did execute and sign.

As held by this Court in a previous case which we find instructive:

Contracts constitute the law between the parties. They must be read together and interpreted in a manner that reconciles and gives
life to all of them. The intent of the parties, as shown by the clear language used, prevails over post facto explanations that find no
support from the words employed by the parties or from their contemporary and subsequent acts showing their understanding of
such contracts.19

We could not see how the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila, through Prosecutor Venus D. Marzan, could have made a finding of
probable cause to file a criminal case for grave coercion against private respondents, in light of the evidence then and now prevailing, which
will show that there was a mutual agreement, in a contract of lease, that provided for the cutting off of electricity as an acceptable penalty for
failure to abide faithfully with what has been covenanted. Although the propriety of its exercise may be the subject of controversy, mere
resort to it may not so readily expose the lessor TPI to a charge of grave coercion. Considering that petitioner owed TPI the total amount of
more than P5 million, which was undisputed, we find that the resort to the penalty clause under the lease agreements was justified. As held
in Pryce Corporation v. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation:

A penal clause is "an accessory obligation which the parties attach to a principal obligation for the purpose of insuring the
performance thereof by imposing on the debtor a special prestation (generally consisting in the payment of a sum of money)
in case the obligation is not fulfilled or is irregularly or inadequately fulfilled."

Quite common in lease contracts, this clause functions to strengthen the coercive force of the obligation and to provide, in
effect, for what could be the liquidated damages resulting from a breach. There is nothing immoral or illegal in such
indemnity/penalty clause, absent any showing that it was forced upon or fraudulently foisted on the obligor.20 (Emphasis supplied.)

In this connection, counsels must be reminded that equally important, as their duty to clients, is their duty as officers of the court to see to it
that the orderly administration of justice is not unduly impeded or delayed. Counsel needs to advise a client, ordinarily a layman
unaccustomed to the intricacies and vagaries of the law, concerning the objective merit of his case. If counsel finds that his client’s cause
lacks merit, then it is his bounden duty to advise accordingly. Indeed a lawyer’s oath to uphold the cause of justice may supersede his duty to
his client’s cause; for such fealty to ethical concerns is indispensable to the success of the rule of law.21

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED. The Decision dated July 29, 2003 and the Resolution dated May 21, 2004 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 62610 are hereby AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.
FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 113006 November 23, 2000

ONG CHIU KWAN, petitioner,


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

DECISION

PARDO, J.:

What is before the Court for consideration is the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the conviction of accused Ong Chiu Kwan, for
unjust vexation.1

On January 31, 1991, Assistant City Prosecutor Andres M. Bayona of Bacolod filed with the Municipal Trial Court, Bacolod City an
information charging petitioner with unjust vexation for cutting the electric wires, water pipes and telephone lines of "Crazy Feet," a business
establishment owned and operated by Mildred Ong.2

On April 24, 1990, at around 10:00 in the morning, Ong Chiu Kwan ordered Wilfredo Infante to "relocate" the telephone, electric and water
lines of "Crazy Feet," because said lines posed as a disturbance. 3 However, Ong Chiu Kwan failed to present a permit from appropriate
authorities allowing him to cut the electric wires, water pipe and telephone lines of the business establishment. 4

After due trial, on September 1, 1992, the Municipal Trial Court found Ong Chiu Kwan guilty of unjust vexation, 5 and sentenced him to
"imprisonment for twenty days." 6 The court also ordered him to pay moral damages, finding that the wrongful act of abruptly cutting off the
electric, water pipe and telephone lines of "Crazy Feet" caused the interruption of its business operations during peak hours, to the detriment
of its owner, Mildred Ong. The trial court also awarded exemplary damages to complainant "as a deterrent to the accused not to follow
similar act in the future and to pay attorney’s fees." 7 The trial court disposed of the case as follows:

"IN VIEW THEREOF, this Court finds the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of unjust vexation provided under Article
287 par. 2 of the Revised Penal Code and sentences him to suffer a penalty of imprisonment of twenty (20) days and to pay private
complainant the following:

P10,000.00 - moral damages

P 5,000.00 - exemplary damages

P 5,000.00 - attorney’s fees and to pay the cost of this suit."

"SO ORDERED.

"Bacolod City, Philippines, September 1, 1992.

"(SGD.)RAFAEL O. PENUELA
Judge"8

On appeal to the Regional Trial Court, Bacolod City, the latter court in a decision dated December 8, 1992, simplistically adopted the
decision of the lower court in toto, without stating the reasons for doing so.9

On April 22, 1993, by petition for review, Ong Chiu Kwan elevated the case to the Court of Appeals. 10 On August 16, 1993, the Court of
Appeals promulgated its decision dismissing the appeal, 11 agreeing with the lower court’s finding that petitioner was guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of unjust vexation.

Hence, this petition for review.12

The Court notes that in the decision of the Regional Trial Court which the Court of Appeals affirmed peremptorily without noticing its
nullity, the Regional Trial Court merely quoted the decision of the Municipal Trial Court in full and added two paragraphs, thus:

"This Court, in accordance with the rules, required the parties to submit their corresponding memorandum or brief. The prosecution filed its
memorandum, and also with the defense.

"After a careful perusal of the record of the case and evaluating the evidence thereto and exhibits thereof, this Court finds no ground to
modify, reverse or alter the above-stated decision and hereby affirms the decision of the lower court in toto."13

The Constitution requires 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."14 The 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended, provides that "[T]he 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." 15
Although a memorandum decision is permitted under certain conditions, it cannot merely refer to the findings of fact and the conclusions of
law of the lower court. The court must make a full findings of fact and conclusions of law of its own.16

Consequently, the decision of the regional trial court is a nullity. Very recently, speaking of a similarly worded decision of a regional trial
court, we said:

"[I]t is starkly hallow, otiosely written, vacuous in its content and trite in its form. It achieved nothing and attempted at nothing, not even at a
simple summation of facts which could easily be done. Its inadequacy speaks for itself."17

Judges similarly disposed to pay lip service to their work must rethink their place in the judiciary or seriously take refresher courses on
decision writing. We warn them of stiff sanctions for such lackadaisical performance.

Consequently, the case may be remanded to the lower court for compliance with the constitutional requirement of contents of a decision.
However, considering that this case has been pending for sometime, the ends of justice will be fully served if we review the evidence and
decide the case.

Petitioner admitted having ordered the cutting of the electric, water and telephone lines of complainant’s business establishment because
these lines crossed his property line. He failed, however, to show evidence that he had the necessary permit or authorization to relocate the
lines. Also, he timed the interruption of electric, water and telephone services during peak hours of the operation of business of the
complainant. Thus, petitioner’s act unjustly annoyed or vexed the complainant. Consequently, petitioner Ong Chiu Kwan is liable for unjust
vexation.

Regarding damages, we find the award of moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees to be without basis. Moral damages may be
recovered if they were the proximate result of defendant’s wrongful act or omission. 18 An award of exemplary damages is justified if the
crime was committed with one or more aggravating circumstances. 19There is no evidence to support such award. Hence, we delete the award
of moral damages, exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees.

WHEREFORE, the decisions of the lower courts are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. In lieu thereof, accused Ong Chiu Kwan is hereby
sentenced to pay a fine of P200.00, and the costs. The award of moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees is hereby deleted.

SO ORDERED.