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G.R. No. 138645       January 16, 2001.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,appelle, 



vs.

WILBERT CABAREÑO, appellant.

PANGANIBAN, J.:

Version of the Prosecution

"December 13, 1997, the barangay fiesta of Jayobo, Lambunao, Iloilo. At around 9;00 [o]n the evening of the
same day festivities, a disco was going on near the house of Barangay Chairman Aurelio Catedrilla (Ibid., pp.
5-6). Suddenly, there was a commotion near the store that was located a few arm's length away form the venue
of the disco (Ibid., p.7). It involved a certain Pestilo and the younger brother of a certain Manolo (Ibid., pp.8-9).
The younger brother of Manolo splashed beer on Pestilo (Ibid.,p. 9.). Then, Aurelio Catedrilla went to the place
where the trouble was to pacify them (Ibid., pp. 9-10). He was followed by Nerio Casaquite (Ibid). When Aurelio
Catedrilla reached the place, Wilbert Cabareño, alias Bebot , shot him at the back with 10 inch long firearm (Ibid.,
pp. 10 and 12). However, instead of the bullet hitting Aurelio Cabareño was about two arm's length away from
them when he pulled the trigger (Ibid., p.11).1âwphi1.nêt

"Nerio Casaquite fell to the ground, while Wilbert Cabareño fled the scene (Ibid., p.13). The Barangay tanod
came to Nerio Casaquite's aid and brought him to the hospital (Ibid.).

"However, Nerio Casaquite later succumbed to the gunshot wound he sustained (Ibid., pp. 23-25)."6

Version of the Defense

Denying the charge against him, appellant narrates the facts in the following manner:7

"On December 12 and 13, 1997, Barangay Jayobo, Lambunao, Iloilo, was celebrating its Barangay Fiesta. As
additional come ons to liven the celebration, a disco dance was held every night from December 12 and 13,
1997 near the house of the incumbent [b]arangay [c]aptain, Aurelio Catedrilla.

On December 113, 1997 at about 9:00 o'clock in the evening, while the disco dance was in progress, a certain
Tayok Estiba and Pablo Sanchez were having a drinking spree at the nearby store about two (2) armslength [sic]
from the "discohan". Probably as a sign of having reconciled after their quarrel the night before December 12,
1997, which was succesfully pacified by Nerio Casaquite and Barangay Captain Aurelio Catedrilla. At that
particular time, accused-appellant while passing by the store towards the 'discohan" was invited by Pablo
Sanchez and Tayok Estiva and [he] obliged himself to join in their drinking spree. Thereafter, Pablo Sanchez and
Tayok Estiva being drunk again quarreled with each other. As before, Nerio Casaquite came to pacify them[;]
however, this time, the protagonists would not listen to him. Consequently, he requested the [b]arangay [t]anod
present to fetch the [b]arangay [c]aptain, Aurelio Catedrilla to help him in pacifying the quarelling Pablo Sanchez
and Tayok Estiva. A few minutes later, Barangay Captian Aurelio Catedrilla arrived with his tanods and a militray
man. Immediately, the said military man hit Tayok Estiva with the butt of his armalite rifle, forcing Barangay
Captain Aurelio Catedrilla to admonish him not to hurt Tayok Estiva being his grand nephew. In obedience, the
said military man now turned his ire against Pablo Sanchez. To prevent the latter from being further hurt by the
military man, Nerio Casaquite now ushered Pablo Sanchez out of the store and persuaded him to go home.

Meanwhile, Tayok Estiva, not yet fully assua[ged] of his anger against Pablo Sanchez, was seen grappling with
his uncle, Barangay Captain Aurelio Catedrilla, for possession and control of a 12 gauge shot gun inside the
store and in the presence of accused-appellant. White thus in that situation, the gun accidentally fired[,] hitting
Nerio Casaquite at his back causing his death. Afterwards Barangay Captain Aurelio Catedrilla told his grand
nephew, Tayok Estiva, to leave the place. When he finally left the scene of the accident, accused-appellant
followed and also went home.

The next morning, Barangay Captain Aurelio Catedrilla was arrested at his house as the primary suspect in the
shooting and killing of Nerio Casaquite on the night of December 13, 1997. Despite the said arrest of Barangay
Captain Aurelio Catedrilla being duly witnessed by his cousin, guest Absalon Lego, however, the latter never told
the arresting police authorities that it was accused-appellant who actually shot Nerio Casaquite. It was only 3
days later, and while Barangay Captain Aurelio was already jailed, when Absalon Lego, who was fetched from his
house by the younger brother of the Barangay Captain, conveniently executed a sworn statement inculpating
accused-appellant as the one who really shot Nerio Casaquite on the night of December 13, 1997. As a result,
accused-appellant, Wilbert Carabeño was arrested on December 19, 1997. Despite his protestation, however,
the arresting police dismissed his claim of innocence, without even giving him the benefit of the doubt, in
fairness and in the interest of law and justice [which] the police were sworn to uphold and protect."

Ruling of the Trial Court

In its Decision, the trial court found the testimony of the prosecution witness, Absalon Lego, to be "positive and
straightforward, hence persuasive and credible."8 Lego, who personally knew appellant, positively identified him
as the shooter. Moreover, the witness had a good view of the incident because he was only a few meters away
from the locus criminis, which was well-lighted at the time.

The trial court also rejected appellant's claim that Tayok Estiva was the killer. It held that this defense was
improbable because the person in front of Estiva was Aurelio Catedrilla, not the deceased. It also ruled that the
killing was qualified by treachery.

Hence, this appeal.9

Issues

In his Brief, appellant cites the following alleged errors:

"I

The lower court erred in finding the defense of accused-appellant that it was Tayok Estiva who fired the gun that
hit Nerio Casaquite, highly improbable.

"II

The lower court likewise erred in finding the uncorroborated testimony of prosecution witness, Absalon Lego,
sufficient to prove the guilt of the accused-appellant beyond reasonable doubt."10

In the main, appellant questions the credibility of the prosecution eyewitness. The Court, in addition, will also
determine the character of the crime and the presence of treachery as a qualifying circumstance.

The Court's Ruling

The appeal is partly meritorious. Appellants should be convicted of homicide, not murder.

Main Issue:

Credibility of Lone Eyewitness

The defense assails the credibility of the lone prosecution witness, Absalon Lego, claiming that he was outside
the store where the incident occurred. Moreover, his attention was focused on the nearby disco, not on the store,
thus rendering his account highly improbable. Moreover, when he saw the police arrest Catedrilla, the former did
not readily point to appellant as the malefactor. It was only three days later that he came forward, stating that he
had seen what happened and that appellant had fired the fatal shot.

Time and again, this Court has ruled that the evaluation of the credibility of witnesses is a matter that particularly
falls within the authority of the trial court, as it had the opportunity to observe the demeanor of the witnesses on
the stand. For this reason, appellate courts accord its factual findings and assessments of witnesses with great
weight and even finality, barring arbitrariness or oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight and substance.
11

In this case, the trial court, which had the opportunity to hear and examine the testimony of the lone prosecution
eyewitness, was convinced of his credibility. Eyewitness Lego narrated that he was only a few meters away from
the incident and positively stated that it was appellant who had fired the shot that killed the victim:

"Q       Where [was] this Aurelio going followed by Nerio Casaquite?

A       He was intending to pacify the trouble.

Q       Was he able to go where the trouble was?

A       Yes, sir.

Q       And when he reached the place what did Aurelio Catedrilla do?

A       He was shot by Bebot.

Q       When you said Bebot are you referring to the accused in this case Wilbert Carabeño?

A       Yes, sir.

xxx       xxx       xxx

Q       When Bebot shot Aurelio who was hit?

A       Nong Nerio Casaquite was hit.

Q       And what was Nerio Casquite doing when he was hit?

A       He had his back towards the accused also?

COURT;

Q       How many times did the accused shoot Aurelio?

A       One time.

Q       What kind of weapon did he use?

A       A 12 gauge gun.

Q       How long [was] that gun which he used in shooting Nerio?

A       Like this.

xxxA       xxx       xxx

COURT:

Q       So, there was no exchange of words between Nerio and tha accused when the gun was fired?

A       No, there was none.

Q       And what happened to Nerio when you said he was shot?

A       He fell to the ground.

Q       Right there at all place where he was shot?

A       He was about to walk back first before he fell to the ground.

Q       How far [was] that place where he fell [from] the place where he was shot/

A       About one (1) arm's length."

xxx       xxx       xxx

PROS. GEDUSPAN:

Q       How about Wilbert Cabareño alias Bebot, what did he do after shot Aurelio?

A       He fled.

Q       And what happened to Nerio Casaquite after he fell down?

A       The Barangay Tanods came to Nerio's aid.

Q       Where did they bring Nerio Casaquite?

A       To the hospital.

Q       How about you, what did you do?

A       I also fled."12

Moreover, Lego had a clear view of the incident, which happened, in a sufficiently illuminated area.

"Q       So, the place where the trouble ensued was two (2) arms length [sic] away from you/

A       Yes, sir.

Q       Was that place near the store or near the dance hall?

A       It was near the store and near the disco place.

Q       What about the place where the commotion took place, was that lighted?

A       Lighted.

Q       What kind of light?

A       It was lighted by an electric bulb.

Q       Where was that bulb placed in relation to the store?

A       It was inside the store."

Indeed, appellant has given us no sufficient reason to overturn the factual findings of the trial court. Futile is his
claim that Lego, whose attention ought to have been focused on the disco instead, could not have witnessed the
shooting incident. First, Lego had a clear view of the store because it was only a few meters away and was open
on three sides, having only one wall at the back. Second, it was natural for him to look in that direction, because
of the commotion that had occurred prior to the actual shooting and the arrival of Catedrilla with three
companions, one of whom had a long firearm. In fact, Lego's attention would have been focused on the store,
because Catedrilla even hit one Pablo Sanchez with the butt of a firearm.

That Lego reported to the authorities what he had seen only after a delay of three days is of no moment.
In  People v. Lapay,  13  this Court ruled that a witness' non-disclosure to police of crime is not entirely against
human experience. Delay in revealing the names of malefactors does not, by itself, impair the credibility of
prosecution witnesses and their testimonies. 14 In this case, Lego readily admitted that he was afraid to report to
the authorities. His failure to specify the object of his fear 15 did not make his testimony less credible.

Estiva Not the Shooter

Appellant further claims that it was Estiva who shot the victim and that the RTC erred in rejecting this claim.
Allegedly, the trial court merely stated that said defense was highly improbable because it was not the victim
who should have been hit. Rather, it should have been Catedrilla, being directly in front of Estiva who was
allegedly grappling for possession of the gun at the time.

It must be pointed out that the conviction of appellant was based primarily on the testimony of Prosecution
Witness Lego, who had positively identified the former. The trial court, which had the opportunity to observe the
manner and demeanor of all the witnesses, gave credence to Lego's testimony and rejected appellant's claim. Its
ruling on this point is clear and unassailable.

Crime and Punishment

Paragraph 1, Article 4 of the Revised Penal Code, provides:

" Art. 4 Criminal Liability.--- Criminal liability shall be incurred:

1. By any person committing a felony although the wrongful act done be different from that which he intended."

In the present case, appellant is responsible for the death of Nerio Casaquite, even if the former's intended target
when he fired the gun was supposedly Catedrillo. Criminal liability is incurred by any person committing a felony,
although the actual victim be different from the one intended. 16 As held in US v. Diana 17 decided by the Court as
early as 1915, "The same crime would have been committed if the injured man and the deceased had been
Dionisio Legara, instead of the defendant's nephew, xxx; the crime of homicide would have been committed just
the same and one man would have been deprived of his life by the criminal act of another."

Treachery

The trial court ruled that the killing was qualified by treachery.18  It failed to explain, however, the basis of said
ruling. Indeed, the proven facts do not adequately establish the presence of this qualifying circumstance.

Treachery is present when the means, methods or form of execution gives the person attacked no opportunity
for self-defense or retaliation. It must be proven that such means, method or form of execution is deliberately
and consciously adopted without danger to the accused.19

In this case, the prosecution proved that appellant fired at the back of the victim. It was not able to show,
however, that appellant had deliberately adopted the attack, considering that it was executed during a
commotion and a s result of it. Moreover, it could not be said that the attack was without risk to himself, because
the victim was then in the company of three other persons, all of whom were alert and one was even armed.
Indeed, the Court has held thus:20

"xxx. The qualifying circumstance of treachery can not logically be appreciated because the accused did not
make any preparation to kill the deceased in such a manner as to insure the commission of the crime or to make
it impossible or hard for the person attacked to defend himself or retaliate. This circumstance can only be
applied, according to the tenor of Article 13, Sub-section 16 of the Revised Penal Code, when the culprit
employs means, methods or forms of execution which tend directly and specially to insure the commission of the
crime and at the same time to eliminate or diminish the risk to his own person from defense which the other
party might offer. IN United States vs. Namit, 38 Phil. 926, it was held that the circumstance that an attack was
sudden and unexpected to the person assaulted did not constitute the element of alevosia necessary to raise a
homicide to murder, where it did not appear that the aggressor had consciously adopted a mode of attack
intended to facilitate the perpetration of the homicide without risk to himself."

Well-settled is the rule that a qualifying circumstance must be established as clearly as the elements of a
crime.  21  In this case, treachery was not proven beyond reasonable doubt. Absent any other qualifying
circumstance, appellant should therefore be convicted only of homicide, 22 not murder.

Civil Liability

We affirm the award of P50,000.00 as indemnity ex delicto, which is granted without need of proof other than the
commission of a crime. 23 Likewise, the trial court correctly awarded the sum of P89,000.00 as actual damages,
which we find to be supported by evidence.1âwphi1.nêt

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision is hereby  MODIFIED.  Appellant is  CONVICTED  of homicide
and  SENTENCED  to an indeterminate penalty of eight years and one day of  prision mayor, as minimum,  to
fourteen years, eight months and one day of  reclusion temporal  as maximum. The award of civil indemnities
is AFFIRMED. SO OREDERED

G.R. No. 123939             May 28, 2004

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee, 



vs.

DOMINGO VASQUEZ y PACHECO and RAMON VASQUEZ y PACHECO, accused.

DOMINGO VASQUEZ y PACHECO, appellant.

D E C I S I O N

CALLEJO, SR., J.:

Before us on appeal is the Decision1  of the Regional Trial Court of Kalookan City, Branch 121, convicting the
appellant Domingo Vasquez y Pacheco of murder for the death of Geronimo Espinosa and sentencing him to
suffer reclusion perpetua; and, of attempted homicide for which the appellant was sentenced to suffer an
indeterminate penalty.

The appellant and his brother Ramon Vasquez were charged with murder and attempted murder under two
Informations. The accusatory portion of each Information reads as follows:

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 48935(95)



(For Murder)

That on or about the 18th day of June 1995, Kalookan City, Metro Manila and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring together and mutually helping one another, without any
justifiable cause, with deliberate intent to kill, treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there, willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously hack with a bolo one GERONIMO ESPINOSA, hitting him on the vital parts of the body,
thereby inflicting upon the latter serious physical injuries, which injuries caused his instantaneous death.

CONTRARY TO LAW.2

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 48936(95)



(For Attempted Murder)

That on or about the 18th day of June 1995 in Kalookan City, Metro Manila and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring together and mutually helping one another, without any
justifiable cause, with deliberate intent to kill, with treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, hit and bump by (sic) a motor vehicle one LUIS LUABLE y DESCA, thus,
commencing directly by overt acts of the commission of the crime of Murder, however, said accused was not
able to perform all the acts of execution which would produce said felony as a consequence, by reason of
causes independent of the will of the herein accused, that is, the said complainant was able to evade the vehicle.

CONTRARY TO LAW.3

When arraigned, assisted by counsel, both accused entered their pleas of not guilty.

The Case for the Prosecution

Luis Luable, a twenty-seven-year-old employee of the Selecta Farms, testified that at 6.00 p.m. on June 18,
1995, he was conversing with his brother-in-law, Antonio Cortez, in front of his house at Ramvil 5, Robes
Subdivision, Kalookan City. Roel Pacheco, who lived only about seven meters away from their house, arrived and
told Maria Theresa (Luis’ wife) that his father, Pedro Pacheco, was stoning him. Before long, Pedro and his other
son, Marlon, arrived. Marlon was armed with a two-foot long bolo. Luis intervened and asked Pedro, "Ano ba
iyan?" Pedro resented this question and told him, "Bakit ka nakikialam sa away ng pamilya namin?" Luis told
Pedro that if he and his son Roel were bent on stoning each other, they should do so in their house and not in the
streets because there were plenty of children playing. Roel then grabbed the bolo from his brother Marlon and
suddenly hacked Luis. Luis was able to parry the blow with his arm, but his index finger was hit. Luis moved
backwards, but Roel picked up a stone about the size of a fist, and threw it at Luis, hitting the latter on the
forehead. Luis then fled towards the direction of the Selecta Farms where the house of his half-brother, Geronimo
Espinosa, was located, with Pedro and the latter’s two sons in hot pursuit. The house was more than a kilometer
away.

Luis arrived at the house of his brother, Geronimo, and told the latter that he was being chased and stoned by
Pedro and his two sons. He asked to be accompanied back to his house. Geronimo agreed. Luis got home with
Geronimo at about 7:00 p.m. After about five minutes, policemen arrived at his house and brought him and
Geronimo to the Vicas police precinct. Pedro and Marlon were also brought to the police station so that their
differences could be settled. Roel, however, was nowhere to be found. Policemen advised Luis to have his
wound treated first and to return to the station later. As he did not bring any money for doctor’s fees and
medicine, he decided to go back home with Geronimo to get money.

Luis and Geronimo walked side by side on the right side of Lapu-Lapu Street at Urduja Village. With them were
their cousins, Raymund Luable, Angelo Luable and Orlando Desca. As they were nearing a Meralco lamp post at
the corner of Lapu-Lapu and Magat Salamat Streets,4  he saw a blue-colored passenger jeep with a white-
colored rear door and with its front lights on, driven by Roel’s uncle, Domingo Vasquez, who was with Roel’s
brother, Ramon, and five others. The jeep, which was coming from the opposite direction, going towards the
Vicas supermarket, sped towards them. They dived to the ground near a grassy area, to avoid being hit. The
vehicle sped past Luis and Geronimo and stopped in front of the lamp post on the left side of the street.
Domingo and Ramon Vasquez, each armed with a bolo, with five others, alighted from the jeepney and
proceeded to where Luis and Geronimo were. Afraid for their lives, the two fled towards the direction of Mary
Homes at North Olympus Street. Luis ran ahead, and when he looked back towards Geronimo, he saw the latter
fleeing towards the direction of Sumakwel Street5  with three persons, including Domingo and Ramon, in hot
pursuit. By the time he reached Datu Puti Street, only one man was pursuing him. Luis finally arrived at their
house. He then mounted his bicycle and pedaled to the police station to report the incident, only to learn that his
half-brother, Geronimo, was already dead. He and some policemen proceeded to Bagong Silang Funeral Parlor
where they saw Geronimo’s body.

Debbie Dorado, a twenty-seven-year-old housewife, testified that between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. on June
18, 1995, she and her cousins, Raymund, Orlando and Angelo, were walking along Lapu-Lapu Street, Urduja
Village, Kalookan City. They were on their way home. Angelo and his cousins Luis and Geronimo were walking
ahead of her, while Orlando and Raymund strolled behind. Suddenly, a passenger jeepney sped towards where
her cousins Luis and Geronimo were walking. The two dived into the grassy portion of the road to avoid being
hit.6 They were near a Meralco lamp post at the corner of Lapu-Lapu and Sumakwel Streets, about ten to fifteen
meters away from her. Three male persons alighted from the jeepney. One of them, who was armed with a fan
knife, placed his left hand on her right shoulder and was about to stab her. Debbie shouted, "I am a woman!"
Nonetheless, he held her by the neck and pushed her. The man then went back to the passenger jeepney.

Raymund and Orlando approached Debbie and inquired what the commotion was all about, "Manang, manang,
ano yon?" Debbie replied, "Tayo yata ang hinahabol ng jeep, sige tumakbo na kayo." She hurriedly left the place,
but looked back towards the jeepney and saw that Luis and Geronimo were still in the grassy area. Instead of
walking towards Lapu-Lapu Street, she walked towards Sumakwel Street because she saw a male person armed
with a bolo who had alighted from the jeepney. She looked back at her cousins, Luis and Geronimo. She saw
Luis fleeing towards Mary Homes at North Olympus Street. A man was chasing him. She also saw Geronimo
walking slowly, going towards the direction of Lakandula Street,  7 and was being chased by three male persons,
one of whom had a big stomach. The other man chasing Geronimo was Domingo Vasquez, who was short, had a
moustache and short hair. The third man was Ramon Vasquez who had a jutting jaw ("babalu"). Domingo and
Ramon were armed with bolos. She shouted to her cousins Orlando, Angelo and Raymund not to leave their
cousin Geronimo alone. When she reached the corner of Lakandula Street, a tricycle arrived. She boarded the
tricycle and told the driver to bring her to the Vicas police station.

At the station, Debbie told the policemen that men armed with bolos were chasing her cousins Luis and
Geronimo. The policemen told her that they were going to the Tala hospital. She insisted that they investigate the
matter, but the policemen ignored her. They even told her, "Mrs., why are you complaining, it’s just a simple
matter, and you’re not telling the truth."

Maria Luisa Abellanosa, a thirty-two-year-old housewife, testified that between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. on June 18,
1995, she was walking with Debbie Dorado at the corner of Magat Salamat and Lapu-Lapu Streets, Kalookan
City, coming from the Vicas police station. She saw Luis and Geronimo walking ahead of her. Suddenly, a blue-
colored jeepney driven by Domingo Vasquez arrived and bumped Geronimo. The jeepney stopped at the corner
of Magat Salamat Street, even as Geronimo fell to the ground. Ramil Gonzales alighted from the jeepney, poked
his knife at Debbie and went towards Geronimo. Fearing for her life, she hid near the concrete wall underneath a
nearby bush. Meanwhile, Geronimo stood up and fled towards the direction of Kalantiao Street, through
Sumakwel Street. Ramil ran after Geronimo and hacked him on the back part of the head. Geronimo then fled for
dear life. She saw her neighbors Marlon Pacheco, his brother Danny Pacheco, each armed with bolos. The two
of them, along with Roel Pacheco Ramil Bartonico, Dodoy Bartonico and the appellant, were running to where
Geronimo was. The appellant returned to the jeepney and drove it towards where his companions were. The men
had ganged up on Geronimo and stabbed the latter. She heard the appellant say to his companions, "Sige
patayin niyo na, patayin niyo na, at huwag niyong iwanang buhay!" The appellant forthwith drove the jeepney
away. When Maria Luisa Abellanosa arrived home, she saw the Pacheco brothers and asked them how they
were, and they replied, "Ayos na po." She saw the front part of Dario Pacheco’s bloodied body.

Maria Teresa Luable, the wife of Luis, testified that between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. on June 18, 1995, she was in
front of their house. Roel Pacheco arrived and asked for her help. When she asked what had happened, he
replied that his father had stoned him and that he was wounded. Luis asked his wife what was going on, and
when apprised of Roel’s purpose, Luis told Roel that he and his father should stone each other in their house and
not in the street because children might be hit. Roel got mad and hacked Luis, hitting the latter’s index finger.
She ordered Luis to flee, but Roel picked up a stone and hit Luis with it. Roel even warned him, "Baka ikaw pa
ang ipasok sa kabaong." Luis then left his house and later returned in the company of Geronimo. At about 9:00
p.m., policemen arrived and brought Pedro Pacheco, Luis and Geronimo to the police station. She followed but
failed to find them there. When told that Luis had himself treated for his wound, she proceeded to the San Lazaro
Hospital but failed to locate him there. She went to the Vicas police precinct where she was told that a man had
arrived and informed the policemen that he saw a person lying prostrate on Sumakwel Street. She then boarded
a tricycle, returned to that street and saw Geronimo sprawled on the ground. She looked for her husband at the
Tala Hospital, and went home when she failed to find him there.

PO3 Celerino del Rosario testified that at 8:00 p.m. on June 18, 1995, SPO4 Marvin Lardizabal informed him of a
stabbing incident in Sumakwel Street, Urduja Village, Kalookan City. He and three other policemen arrived at the
scene to conduct an on-the-spot investigation, and saw Geronimo along Sumakwel Street sprawled on the
ground near a Meralco lamp post with multiple stab wounds.8 The policemen brought the cadaver to the funeral
parlor for autopsy. Per police report, Domingo and Ramon Vasquez, and Pedro and Marlon Pacheco were
identified as Geronimo’s assailants.

Dr. Rosaline Cosidon, Medico-Legal Officer, performed an autopsy on the cadaver of Geronimo and submitted
her report thereon which contained her findings, viz:

1. A wound appearing and starting at the right portion of the forehead extending just above the ear up to the
neck portion of the head. This type of wound could be caused by a heavy instrument like a bolo, saver (sic) or an
axe. This wound was fatal;

2. Injury located beside the left eye caused by friction with a rough surface. This injury was not fatal.

3. The third injury was a hacked wound found below the left eye extending across the left ear to the back portion
of the leftside (sic) of the head. This injury could be caused by a heavy cutting instrument like that in number 1.
Said injury was, likewise, fatal.

4. The fourth injury was an incised wound located below the left cheek which could have been caused by the
sharp edge of a cutting instrument. This is not fatal.

5. Multiple abrasions located at the back portion of the left shoulder above the scapular caused by friction with a
hard, blunt object.

6. An incised wound at the back of the body at the right side just above the waistline probably caused by the
sharp edge of a cutting instrument.

7. A hacked wound located at the right shoulder just above the right arm caused by a heavy cutting instrument.
The wound was not fatal.

8. An incised wound measuring 11.5 by 0.4 cms. found below the right elbow caused by a sharp-edged cutting
instrument. And,

9. A hacked wound measuring 11 by 2.5 cms. at the right arm at the back of the wrist probably caused by a
heavy sharp linear-edged instrument.9

The Case for the Appellant

Domingo Vasquez denied killing Geronimo and attempting to kill Luis. He testified that Ramon Vasquez was his
brother, while Roel and Marlon were his first cousins. On June 18, 1995, a Sunday, he was in his house at Lot 8-
E, Block 8, Frontville-V, Kalookan City, repairing the windows.

At 11:00 p.m., his wife awakened him as his brother Ramon had arrived in his house with a policeman. The
policeman and his companions brought Domingo to the Vicas police station where he was detained. He saw
Pedro and Marlon Pacheco, who were also detained. When he asked why they were there, Pedro and Marlon
replied that they arrived in the police station to report the incident and found themselves inside the detention cell.
He saw two women seated on a bench near the cell with Luis, who turned out to be Debbie Dorado and Gemma
Espinosa. A policeman asked Debbie, "Ito ba?" But Debbie replied, "Hindi po." When asked again, Debbie fell
silent. When asked for the third time, Debbie replied, "Hindi po." Debbie was also asked to identify Ramon,
Pedro and Marlon, but she refused to do so. Policemen also asked Luis to identify the appellant, but Luis replied,
"No." A teenaged boy also arrived and was asked to identify him along with Ramon, Pedro and Marlon, and the
boy replied, "No." The policemen brought the boy out of the police station, and when they returned, the boy
pointed to him, Ramon, Pedro and Marlon, as the culprits. The Vasquez brothers, Pedro and his son Marlon were
then brought to the office of the station commander where Luis finally identified the four of them as the culprits.

The policemen told Ramon and the appellant that they would be detained at the Hilcost police station to protect
them from their enemies. The appellant’s wife confirmed that many people were waiting outside the police
station.

Meanwhile, a policeman brought him on board a police car to his house, where he was asked to drive the blue-
colored jeepney of his brother Ramon. He drove the jeepney to the police station. He had not driven any jeepney
for the last three months or so.

Ramon Vasquez also denied killing Geronimo and attempting to kill Luis. He testified that his house was only 800
meters away from Urduja Village. He did not know Luis Luable and Geronimo Espinosa. On June 18, 1995, a
Sunday, he was at home fixing the jalousy window of a blue, seven-seater jeepney owned by Jessie Gomez,
which he used as a service jeep to bring children to and from school. He later used the jeep until 6:00 p.m. At
7:00 p.m., he went to sleep. Josefina Pacheco, Pedro’s wife, and the latter’s children, Roel and Dario, arrived to
borrow the jeepney. Dario had apparently sustained a gunshot wound on the face. He agreed, provided that
someone would drive the vehicle. Josefina replied that the jeepney would be driven by Roel. He gave the keys of
the vehicle to Josefina and returned to bed.

At 11:00 p.m., Kagawad Ed Santos arrived with a policeman and told him that he and the appellant would be
brought to the Vicas police station. He was told to sit on a bench while Ed, the policeman and the appellant,
went out of the station. He and the appellant were then detained. A policeman asked a man and two women to
identify him and the appellant, "Sila ba? But the three replied, "Hindi po." The two of them were then brought to
the police station at Hilcost, followed by the three witnesses. A policeman then asked the witnesses if he and the
appellant were the assailants, and the witnesses replied that they were not the ones.

Vaselisa Vasquez, the appellant’s wife, corroborated his testimony.

After trial, the court rendered judgment acquitting Ramon, but convicting the appellant of murder for the killing of
Geronimo, and attempted homicide for attempting to kill Luis. The decretal portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, The accused RAMON VASQUEZ is hereby ACQUITTED on reasonable
doubt of the crimes of MURDER and ATTEMPTED MURDER. Accused DOMINGO VASQUEZ is hereby found by
this Court to be guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of MURDER and ATTEMPTED HOMICIDE and is
accordingly sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA for Murder; to suffer an imprisonment of
SIX (6) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY TO SIX (6) YEARS OF PRISION CORRECCIONAL for ATTEMPTED
HOMICIDE; and to pay the heirs of the deceased Geronimo Espinosa ₱18,000.00 for funeral expenses;
₱1,500,000.00 by way of unrealized earnings; ₱50,000.00 by way of indemnity; ₱20,000.00 by way of moral
damages; and to pay the costs of the suit.

SO ORDERED.10

The trial court gave credence to the testimony of Maria Luisa Abellanosa and concluded that the prosecution
failed to prove the guilt of Ramon Vasquez beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes charged, viz:

On the other hand, another prosecution witness, Maria Luisa Abellanosa, identified the pursuers as Roel and
Dario Pacheco and Ramil and Dodoy Bartonico. Due to the glaring flaws in Debbie Dorado’s testimony and
considering further that Luis Luable’s testimony is mainly self-serving, the Court gives more faith to Abellanosa’s
version of facts. This is especially so because there is nothing to show that Abellanosa’s testimony was tainted
with impure motives. Indeed, it behooves the Court to point out that the prosecution’s witnesses gave conflicting
testimonies on points which are of utmost importance.

In the light of such conflicting testimonies, the Court firmly believes that the accused Ramon Vasquez was
nowhere near the scene of the crimes on the night of June 18, 1995. The prosecution’s eyewitnesses do not
concur with respect to the presence of said accused on the scene of the crime. Evidently, the prosecution failed
to establish with certainty the accused Ramon Vasquez’s involvement in the two crimes described in the
information. The only fact that was clearly established is that Ramon Vasquez drives the jeepney involved in this
case when bringing children to and from school. The mere fact that he had the jeepney in his possession is not
sufficient to connect him with the unlawful acts.

Domingo Vasquez, now the appellant, appealed the Decision contending that:

THE HONORABLE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT DESPITE THE FAILURE
OF THE PROSECUTION TO ESTABLISH SUFFICIENT MOTIVE ON HIS PART TO COMMIT THE CRIMES
CHARGED.

THE HONORABLE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT DESPITE THE
INCREDIBLE AND INCONSISTENT TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES IN THE
IDENTIFICATION OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT AS ONE OF THE PERPETRATORS OF THE CRIMES
CHARGED.

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT APPRECIATING THE DEFENSE OF ALIBI POSED BY THE HEREIN
ACCUSED-APPELLANT CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT THE EVIDENCE FOR THE PROSECUTION IS WEAK.

ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT WAS INDEED POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED TO BE THE
DRIVER OF THE BLUE-COLORED JEEPNEY DURING THE INCIDENT IN QUESTION, THE TRIAL COURT,
NONETHELESS ERRED IN FINDING HIM TO BE A CONSPIRATOR AND NOT A MERE ACCOMPLICE IN THE
MURDER OF THE VICTIM GERONIMO ESPINOSA.11

As the assigned errors are interrelated, the Court shall delve into and resolve the same simultaneously.

The appellant avers that he and his brother Ramon were not involved in the quarrel between Luis Luable and
Geronimo Espinosa, on the one hand, and Roel Pacheco, Marlon Pacheco and their father Pedro Pacheco, on
the other. He and his brother Ramon, thus, had no motive to kill Geronimo. The appellant contends that the
witnesses for the prosecution were not in agreement as to who killed Geronimo. While Luis Luable and Debbie
Dorado testified that they saw the appellant stab Geronimo, Maria Luisa Abellanosa testified that Ramil
Gonzales, Marlon Pacheco, Dario Pacheco, Roel Pacheco, Ramil Bartonico and Dodoy Bartonico were the ones
who stabbed and killed the victim. The appellant noted that according to the testimony of Abellanosa, the
appellant stayed in the jeepney and merely yelled to his companions who ganged up on Geronimo, "Sige patayin
ninyo, patayin ninyo na, at huwag ninyong iwanang buhay!"

The appellant further posits that the prosecution witnesses were not even in accord as to where Geronimo was
stabbed to death. He pointed out that Luis Luable testified that Geronimo was hacked to death at the corner of
Lapu-Lapu and Sumakwel Streets, while Maria Luisa Abellanosa testified that Geronimo was killed at the corner
of Lapu-Lapu and Magat Salamat Streets. Furthermore, Debbie Dorado was not certain where Geronimo was
killed. The appellant asserts that the location of the killing is important because the Meralco lamp post which
illuminated the place of the incident is located at the corner of Lapu-Lapu and Magat Salamat Streets, and not at
the corner of Lapu-Lapu and Sumakwel Streets. The appellant argues that because of the inconsistencies in the
testimonies of the witnesses of the prosecution, it failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes
charged. Hence, he should be acquitted of the said charges.

The Office of the Solicitor General, for its part, argues that there is no incongruence between the testimony of
Abellanosa, on the one hand, and those of Domingo and Luable, on the other, as to the situs where Geronimo
was killed. Moreover, whether the appellant is a principal by direct participation or a principal by inducement is
immaterial. In conspiracy, all the conspirators are criminally liable for the death of the victim regardless of the
degree of their participation in the crime. The inconsistencies in the testimonies of the witnesses of the
prosecution are trivial. They do not affect the credibility of the said witnesses and the veracity of the substance of
their testimonies.

The appeal has no merit.

Prefatorily, we will no longer delve into and revisit the factual and legal basis for the acquittal of Ramon Vasquez
of the crimes charged. The decision of the trial court acquitting the said accused and its basis for the said
acquittal can no longer be altered without placing the said accused in double jeopardy. Nonetheless, we are not
precluded from delving into and reviewing the findings of facts of the trial court in resolving the issues involved in
this case relating to the appellant’s appeal from its decision.

The general rule is that the findings of fact of the trial court, its assessment of the credibility of witnesses and
their testimonies, and the probative weight thereof, as well as its conclusions based on the said findings, are
accorded by the appellate court high respect, if not conclusive effect, because of the unique advantage of the
trial court in observing at close range the conduct and deportment of the said witnesses. However, the appellate
court may set aside the findings of the trial court and its conclusions based on the said findings if it overlooked,
ignored, misconstrued and misinterpreted cogent facts and circumstances which, if considered, would alter the
outcome of the case.

The trial court rejected the testimonies of Luis Luable, Debbie Dorado and gave credence to the testimony of
Maria Luisa Abellanosa, viz:

Luis Luable and Debbie Dorado testified that two of the three pursuers of the deceased, Geronimo Espinosa,
were herein accused Domingo and Ramon Vasquez. Moreover, they have been pinpointed as the ones who
wielded bolos. However, Debbie Dorado’s credibility is seriously doubted by the Court on account of her failure
to give the identities of the pursuers in her sworn statement and her failure to issue a supplemental statement
later when she finally made her identification upon seeing the two accused. Additionally, it must be observed that
she gave a detailed physical description of the deceased’s pursuers despite the fact that during that time she
was running away from the scene of ambush. Hence, even if she looked back from time to time, it could have
been impossible for her to see the facial features of the pursuers because of two reasons, to wit: (1) the pursuers
were running towards the opposite direction and necessarily only their backs could have been exposed to the
witness, and (2) the surrounding darkness of night and the increasing distance between the witness and the
deceased’s pursuers could have made it very difficult if not impossible for the witness to pay attention to tiny
details such as the moustache the former sported as well as the bone structure of the chin of accused Ramon
Vasquez.

On the other hand, another prosecution witness, Maria Luisa Abellanosa, identified the pursuers as Roel and
Dario Pacheco and Ramil and Dodoy Bartonico. Due to the glaring flaws in Debbie Dorado’s testimony and
considering further that Luis Luable’s testimony is merely self-serving, the Court gives more faith to Abellanosa’s
version of facts. This is especially so because there is nothing to show that Abellanosa’s testimony was tainted
with impure motives. Indeed, it behooves the Court to point out that the prosecution’s witnesses gave conflicting
testimonies on points which are of utmost importance.12

We hold that the trial court erred in rejecting the testimonies of Luable and Dorado. The credibility and probative
weight of the testimony of Dorado cannot be assailed by her failure to state the name of the appellant in her
sworn statement to the police investigator13  as among those who ran after Geronimo and Luis. The well-
entrenched principle is that sworn statements being ex parte are almost always incomplete and often inaccurate
but do not really detract from the credibility of the affiants.14

The failure of a witness to disclose the name of the culprit does not necessarily impair the credibility of Dorado.
15Moreover, as contended by the Office of the Solicitor General:

Debbie Dorado was recalled as witness, on a separate date. During the additional cross-examination, it was
admitted by both parties that the pictures presented by the defendants were taken during daytime. She
reiterated that there were three (3) persons chasing her cousin Geronimo. She identified two (2) of the three (3) as
the Vasqueses. When confronted as to her failure to identify the accused when presented to her for identification
as proven by the sworn statement she gave to the police investigator, she averred that her statement had already
been taken, typewritten, and signed by her when she saw the accused and that it was only Luis Luable who was
brought to the detention cell to identify the accused…16

The affiants may give the names of the culprits subsequent to the submission of their affidavits and even during
the trial. It bears stressing that even in her sworn statement, Dorado declared that three persons pursued Luis
and Geronimo when they fled from the place, where they were almost sideswiped by the appellant’s jeepney.
Dorado’s declaration to the police investigator jibes with her testimony before the trial court.

The culprit may be identified not only by his name or nickname but also by his physical appearance, by his voice
or by his gait.

The evidence on record shows that it was near Magat-Salamat Street corner Lapu-Lapu Street where Luis and
Geronimo were sideswiped by the jeepney driven by the appellant. The place was lighted by a Meralco lamp
post.17The appellant alighted from the jeepney along with other men. Luable and Geronimo were near the
jeepney. Dorado was barely fifteen meters away from the place. Considering the lighting condition therein and
the proximity of Luable, Dorado and Abellanosa to the place where the incident occurred, they saw and
recognized the appellant and could, thus, identify him. When she testified, Dorado declared that the appellant
was one of those who pursued Luis and Geronimo after the appellant had alighted from the jeepney:

Q Would you again describe the other man who was armed with a bolo and who was chasing the victim?

A The other man is short with a moustache and stout with short hair.

Q Will you please look around the courtroom and if this person you have just described is presently inside the
courtroom, will you please point him to the Honorable Court?

A Yes, he is here, Sir.

(At this juncture, the witness is pointing to a male person sitted (sic) inside the courtroom who gave his name as
Domingo Vasquez)

ATTY. COPE:

The man just pointed by the witness is sporting a moustache and sporting a short hair.18

For his part, Luis Luable testified that the appellant was among those who pursued him and Geronimo, who,
armed with a bolo, alighted from the jeepney.

Q Now, after you jumped to the right side of the road, what did the jeep do, if any, Mr. Witness?

A The jeep stopped in front of the post.

Q Where was this post, Mr. Witness?

A Is (sic) located at the left side of Lapu-Lapu St. 

Q And after the jeep stopped near the post Mr. Witness, what happened next?

A The driver alighted from the jeep together with his companion.

Q Were you able to recognize this driver Mr. Witness and his companion who went down on the jeep?

A Yes, Sir.

Q And if you see them, would you be able to identify them?

A Yes, Sir.

Q Now, are those people inside the courtroom right now, Mr. Witness?

A Yes, Sir.

Q Now, can you point to them, Mr. Witness?

A Yes, Sir.

MS. DEL ROSARIO: At this juncture, witness is pointing to a male person sitted (sic) inside the courtroom who
gave their names as Domingo Vasquez and Ramon Vasquez.

ATTY. PAGUITON:

Q Now, of the two (2) people whom you are (sic) identified in court just right now, who was driving the jeep?

MS. DEL ROSARIO: Witness pointing to Domingo Vasquez.

ATTY. PAGUITON:

Q And what about Mr. Ramon Vasquez, where was he sitted (sic) in the jeep, Mr. Witness?

A Ramon Vasquez was sitted (sic) beside the driver.

Q Now, did you notice if there were other people who were inside the jeep, if any, Mr. Witness?

A Yes, Sir.

Q Would you be able to say to this court how many people were there inside the jeep including the driver and the
passenger who was sitted (sic) in front?

A Yes, Sir.

Q And how many people are these, Mr. Witness?

A More than seven (7) persons.

Q Now, you mentioned earlier that when the jeep stopped… did you notice if they were carrying anything, if any,
Mr. Witness? 

ATTY. SAMPAGA: Leading, Your Honor.

COURT: Sustained.

ATTY. PAGUITON:

Q When Domingo and Ramon Vasquez went down the jeep, what happened next?

A Domingo and Ramon chased me and my brother while they were holding a bolo.

Q Now, what were the other people who were inside the jeep doing when Ramon and Domingo chased you?

A They also alighted from the jeep and they also chased us.

Q Were these other people also armed, Mr. Witness?

ATTY. SAMPAGA: Leading, Your Honor.

COURT: Sustained. 

ATTY. PAGUITON:

Q Now, you mentioned earlier that you saw bolos, who were holding the bolos, Mr. Witness?

A Ramon Vasquez and Domingo Vasquez were the ones holding bolos.

Q What about the other people who alighted from the jeep, Mr. Witness?

A I did not notice whether they were armed because we already ran.

Q Towards what direction did you run, Mr. Witness?

A We ran towards the direction of North Olympus Street.19

In his sworn statement to the police investigator, Luable declared that the place where he and Geronimo were
sideswiped was lighted:

30. T: Dati mo na bang kakilala itong si Domingo Vasquez at Ramon Vasquez?

S: Hindo po.

31.T: Papaano mo silang (sic) nakilala?

S: Nakilala ko sila dahil sa maliwanag sa lugar na iyon.

32.T: Saan nanggagaling ang liwanag ng iyong sinasabi?

S: Sa ilaw ng poste.20

Luable and Dorado admitted that they did not see the appellant hack the victim. Neither did Abellanosa. The
latter testified that after failing to overtake Geronimo, the appellant returned to the passenger jeepney and drove
it to where Geronimo was hacked. The appellant, while still in the jeepney ordered his cohorts, "Sige patayin niyo
na, patayin niyo na, huwag niyong iwanang buhay." She identified and pointed to the appellant in open court. 

Q Who was this person who was bumped by this jeep on that date and time?

A Geronimo Espinosa, Sir.

Q What happened after Geronimo Espinosa was being (sic) bumped by the jeep?

A Geronimo Espinosa fell down, Sir.

Q Where did Geronimo Espinosa fall?

A At the corner of Magat Salamat, Sir.

Q What happened after that?

A And then I saw a male persons (sic) by the name of Ramil Gonzales alighted (sic) from the jeep, Sir.

Q What happened next?

A Then Ramil Gonzales poked 29 knife on the body of a female person, Sir.

Q Do you know this female person?

A Yes, Sir, I know.

Q What is her name?

A Her name is Debbie, Sir.

Q Do you know the family name of Debbie?

A I don’t know her family name, Sir.

Q What happened after that?

A And then Ramil Gonzales approached the person who fell down by the name of Geronimo and then when
Geronimo stood up Ramil (sic) chased Geronimo, Sir.

Q What happened when Ramil chased Geronimo?

A Ramil hacked Geronimo, Sir.

Q What part of the body of Geronimo who (sic) was hacked?

A The back part of the head of Geronimo, Sir.

Q What happened after that?

A Geronimo run (sic) and then Ramil chased Geronimo, Sir.

Q Where did Geronimo go when he was (sic) chased?

A Geronimo was proceeding to the direction of Kalantiao Street, Sir.

Q Is this Kalantiao Street near Sumakwel Street?

ATTY. SAMPAGA:

Leading, Your Honor.

COURT:

Sustained.

ATTY. COPE:

Q What particular street did Geronimo passed (sic) while he was [being] chased?

ATTY. SAMPAGA:

Objection, Your Honor, already answered. He proceeded to Kalantiao Street.

ATTY. COPE:

Yes, Your Honor, proceeded to but this time the particular street he used when he was being chased.

COURT:

At the corner of Magat Salamat.

ATTY. COPE:

Q When he was running away, what street did Geronimo use when he was running away when he was being
chased?

ATTY. SAMPAGA:

Objection, Your Honor, Geronimo proceeded to Kalantiao Street.

COURT:

Sustained.

ATTY. COPE:

I think, Your Honor, it is different, the incident happened at Magat Salamat and then when he was chased he run
(sic) towards the direction of Kalantiao Street, now, we are asking the question on what particular street where he
was …

COURT:

He was at Magat Salamat, towards the direction of Kalantiao Street.

ATTY. COPE:

We submit, Your Honor.

Q What happened after Geronimo was chased?

A And the four (4) persons followed Ramil, and the persons who followed Ramil are two Pachecos and two
Bartoneco (sic), Sir.

COURT:

Q Are they brothers?

A Yes, Your Honor.

ATTY. COPE:

Q Do you know the names of the Pachecos brothers (sic)?

A …

Q What are their names?

A Luis Pacheco, Danny Pacheco and Dario Pacheco, Roel Pacheco, Sir.

Q How about the Bartonico brothers, do you know their names?

A Yes, Sir.

Q What are their names?

A Darwin Bartonico and Dodoy Bartonico, Sir.

Q What happened after that?

A They gunned (sic) up Geronimo Espinosa, Sir.

Q Who was the driver of the jeep you saw?

A Jun Vasquez, Sir.

Q What is the real name of June?

A Domingo Vasquez, Sir.

Q Where was this Domingo Vasquez when the person you mentioned was hacking Geronimo Espinosa?

A He was inside the jeep, Sir.

Q What was he doing?

A He was driving the jeep, Sir.

Q What did he say when he was inside the jeep?

A I heard Domingo Vasquez uttered the following words – "Sige patayin niyo na, patayin niyo na, huwag niyong
iwanang buhay."

COURT:

Q How far where (sic) you from Domingo Vasquez when you heard the words uttered by him "sige patayin niyo
na, patayin niyo na, huwag niyong iwanang buhay."

A I am (sic) just near, Your Honor, about five arms’ length.

ATTY. COPE:

Q Where were you when Domingo Vasquez uttered those statements?

A I was at the concrete wall underneath the plants, Sir.

Q How far was the jeep driven by accused Domingo Vasquez from where the persons you mentioned, the
Bartonico brothers and Pacheco brothers who were hacking Geronimo Espinosa?

A Just near, Sir, just less than 10 arms’length.

Q Ms. Abellanosa, to whom was the accused Domingo Vasquez saying those statement "sige patayin niyo na,
patayin niyo na, huwag niyong iwanang buhay?"

ATTY. SAMPAGA:

Objection, Your Honor, she is incompetent to answer.

COURT:

Overruled, witness may answer.

A He was not mentioning any names, he was just shouting Ma’am, and uttering those words.

ATTY. COPE:

Q Will you please repeat [the name of] the person who hacked Geronimo Espinosa?

ATTY. SAMPAGA:

Objection, Your Honor, already answered.

COURT:

Sustained.

ATTY. COPE:

Q Why do you know these persons Roel Pacheco, Dario Pacheco, Ramil Bartonico, Dodoy Bartonico, Ramon
Vasquez, Ramil Gonzales and Domingo Vasquez?

A Because they are my neighbors, Sir.

Q For how long have you been neighbors? 

A For four (4) years, Sir.

Q What happened Ms. Abellanosa after the person you mentioned hacked Geronimo Espinosa and Domingo
Vasquez shouted "sige patayin niyo na, patayin niyo na, huwag niyong iwanang buhay."

A They already boarded the jeep and they proceeded in (sic) their house, Sir.21

The testimony of Abellanosa is corroborated by the autopsy report of Dr. Rosalyn Cosidon showing that the
victim sustained multiple incised hacked wounds and abrasions. Even if there is no evidence that the appellant
stabbed or hacked the victim, he is, nonetheless, criminally liable for the victim’s death because he conspired
with the principals by direct participation in the commission of the crime. As the trial court ruled:

Whether Domingo Vasquez chased the deceased with a bolo was averred by Luis Luable or whether the accused
merely incited his companions in the jeepney to kill the deceased as averred by Luisa Abellanosa, is immaterial in
the determination of his liability because a conspiracy among the occupants of the jeepney has been
established.

In the case of People vs. Cortez, 57 SCRA 308 cited in Luis B. Reyes Revised Penal Code with Annotations,
Book I, 12th edition, 1981, p. 493, it was clarified, "In order to hold an accused guilty as co-principal by reason of
conspiracy, it must be established that he performed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy, either by
actively participating in [the] actual commission of the crime, or  by lending moral assistance to his co-
conspirators by being present at the scene of the crime, or by exerting moral ascendancy over the rest of the
conspirators as to move them to executing the conspiracy." (Underscoring supplied).

The Supreme Court, likewise, stressed in the case of People vs. Bernardo, 222 SCRA 502, "where there are
several accused and conspiracy has been established, the prosecution need not pinpoint who among the
accused inflicted the fatal wound."

And in the case of People vs. Magalang, 217 SCRA 571, it was held, "where conspiracy has been established,
evidence as to who among the accused rendered the fatal blow is not necessary. All the conspirators are liable
as co-principals regardless of the intent and character of their participation because the act of one is the act of
all."

Hence, accused Domingo Vasquez is found by the Court to be a co-principal in the attempted killing of Luis
Luable as well as in the fatal hacking of Geronimo Espinosa.22

In People vs. Bisda,23 we held that: 

Article 8 of the Revised Penal Code provides that there is conspiracy when two or more person agree to commit
a felony and decide to commit it. In People vs. Pagalasan, this Court held that conspiracy need not be proven by
direct evidence. It may be inferred from the conduct of the accused before, during and after the commission of
the crime, showing that they had acted with a common purpose and design. Conspiracy may be implied if it is
proved that two or more persons aimed by their acts towards the accomplishment of the same unlawful object,
each doing a part so that their combined acts, though apparently independent of each other were, in fact,
connected and cooperative, indicting a closeness of personal association and a concurrence of sentiment.
Conspiracy once found, continues until the object of it has been accomplished and unless abandoned or broken
up. To hold an accused guilty as a co-principal by reason of conspiracy, he must be shown to have performed an
overt act in pursuance or furtherance of the complicity. There must be intentional participation in the transaction
with a view to the furtherance of the common design and purpose.

We further ruled in the said case that: 

Each conspirator is responsible for everything done by his confederates which follows incidentally in the
execution of a common design as one of its probable and natural consequences even though it was not intended
as part of the original design. Responsibility of a conspirator is not confined to the accomplishment of a
particular purpose of conspiracy but extends to collateral acts and offenses incident to and growing out of the
purpose intended. Conspirators are held to have intended the consequences of their acts and by purposely
engaging in conspiracy which necessarily and directly produces a prohibited result, they are, in contemplation of
law, chargeable with intending that result. Conspirators are necessarily liable for the acts of another conspirator
unless such act differs radically and substantively from that which they intended to commit. As Judge Learned
Hand put it in Unites States vs. Andolscheck, "when a conspirator embarks upon a criminal venture of indefinite
outline, he takes his chances as to its content and membership, so be it that they fall within the common
purposes as he understands them."

In the case at bar, the appellant drove the passenger jeepney with his cohorts on board looking for Luable and
Geronimo. When the appellant saw the two going in the opposite direction, the appellant drove the vehicle and
sideswiped Geronimo. And when Geronimo fled, the appellant, armed with a bolo, pursued him. When the
appellant failed to overtake the victim, he returned to the passenger jeepney and drove it to where his cohorts
ganged up on the victim. The appellant urged them on to kill Geronimo. Thereafter, he left the scene along with
his cohorts, leaving the hapless Geronimo mortally wounded. All the foregoing constitutes evidence beyond cavil
of conspiracy between the appellant and the principals by direct participation. The appellant is, thus, criminally
liable for the death of the victim, although there is no evidence that he did not actually stab the latter.

There is no evidence on record that Luable, Dorado and Abellanosa nurtured any ill motive to point to the
appellant and falsely implicate him in the killing of Geronimo. Luable, for one thing, did not know the appellant
before the killing. Case law has it that in the absence of any improper motive, the testimonies of the witnesses
are worthy of full faith and credit.24

The bare claim of the appellant that he has no motive to kill Geronimo is not a valid defense to the crime
charged. Motive to commit a felony is not an element of the said crime; hence, the prosecution is not burdened
to prove the same. As we held in People vs. Delim:25

In murder, the specific intent is to kill the victim. In kidnapping, the specific intent is to deprive the victim of his/
her liberty. If there is no motive for the crime, the accused cannot be convicted for kidnapping. In kidnapping for
ransom, the motive is ransom. Where accused kills the victim to avenge the death of a loved one, the motive is
revenge.

In this case, it is evident on the fact of the Information that the specific intent of the malefactors in barging into
the house of Modesto was to kill him and that he was seized precisely to kill him with the attendant modifying
circumstances. The act of the malefactors of abducting Modesto was merely incidental to their primary purpose
of killing him. Moreover, there is no specific allegation in the information that the primary intent of the malefactors
was to deprive Modesto of his freedom or liberty and that killing him was merely incidental to kidnapping.
Irrefragably then, the crime charged in the Information is Murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code
and not Kidnapping under Article 268 thereof.

The threshold issue that now comes to fore is whether or not the prosecution mustered the requisite quantum of
evidence to prove that Marlon, Ronald and Leon are guilty of murder.

In criminal prosecutions, the prosecution is burdened to prove the guilt of the accused beyond cavil of doubt.
The prosecution must rely on the strength of its own evidence and not on the weakness of the evidence of the
accused. The proof against the accused must survive the test of reason; the strongest suspicion must not be
permitted to sway judgment.

In the case at bar, the prosecution was burdened to prove the corpus delicti which consists of two things: first,
the criminal act and second, the defendant’s agency in the commission of the act. Wharton says that corpus
delicti includes two things: first, the objective; second, the subjective element of crimes. In homicide (by dolo)
and in murder cases, the prosecution is burdened to prove: (a) the death of the party alleged to be dead; (b) that
the death was produced by the criminal act of some other than the deceased and was not the result of accident,
natural cause or suicide; and (c) that the defendant committed the criminal act or was in some way criminally
responsible for the act which produced the death. To prove the felony of homicide or murder, there must be
incontrovertible evidence, direct or circumstantial, that the victim was deliberately killed (with malice); in other
words, that there was intent to kill. Such evidence may consist inter alia in the use of weapons by the
malefactors, the nature, location and number of wounds sustained by the victim and the words uttered by the
malefactors before, at the time or immediately after the killing of the victim. If the victim dies because of a
deliberate act of the malefactor, intent to kill is conclusively presumed.

The prosecution is burdened to prove corpus delicti beyond reasonable doubt either by direct evidence or by
circumstantial or presumptive evidence.

In the case at bar, the prosecution adduced the requisite quantum of proof of corpus delicti. Modesto sustained
five (5) gunshot wounds. He also sustained seven (7) stab wounds, defensive in nature. The use by the
malefactors of deadly weapons, more specifically handguns and knives, in the killing of the victim, as well as the
nature, number and location of the wounds sustained by said victim are evidence of the intent by the malefactors
to kill the victim with all the consequences flowing therefrom. As the State Supreme Court of Wisconsin held in
Cupps v. State:

"This rule, that every person is presumed to contemplate the ordinary and natural consequences of his own acts,
is applied even in capital cases. Because men generally act deliberately and by the determination of their own
will, and not from the impulse of blind passion, the law presumes that every man always thus acts, until the
contrary appears. Therefore, when one man is found to have killed another, if the circumstances of the homicide
do not themselves show that it was not intended, but was accidental, it is presumed that the death of the
deceased was designed by the slayer; and the burden of proof is on him to show that it was otherwise."

The prosecution did not present direct evidence to prove the authors of the killing of Modesto. It relied on
circumstantial evidence to discharge its burden of proving the guilt of the accused-appellants of murder.26

On the other hand, we are inclined to believe that the appellant joined cause with his cousins, Roel Pacheco,
Marlon Pacheco and Danny Pacheco in venting their ire on Geronimo and Luis for the altercation which earlier
transpired between Roel and Marlon, on the one hand, and Luis Luable on the other. Geronimo was not involved
in the altercation, but he was killed simply because he was with his half-brother, Luis Luable, when the appellant
and his cohorts caught up with them.

The bare denial and alibi of the appellant cannot prevail over the collective testimonies of the witnesses of the
prosecution corroborated by the physical evidence that the appellant conspired with the principals by direct
participation to kill the victim. Denial and alibi are weak defenses. To merit approbation of his defense of alibi, the
appellant is burdened to prove, with clear and convincing evidence that he was in a place other than the situs of
the crime, such that it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime when it was committed.
The appellant failed to do so. He relied merely on his bare testimony which is dubious in the first place.

The trial court convicted the appellant of murder qualified by treachery. However, the trial court failed to state in
its decision the factual basis for such a finding. From all indications, the cohorts of the appellant managed to
overtake Geronimo along Sumakwel Street, as he ran for dear life after being hit earlier by Ramil Gonzales on the
head. Geronimo was, thus, aware of the peril to his life.27  The assailants of Geronimo took advantage of their
superior strength when they ganged up on him, armed with bolos and hacked him to death. However, the
qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength is not alleged in the Information; hence, cannot qualify the
crime to murder. The appellant is guilty only of homicide under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code, punishable
by reclusion temporal.

We, likewise, agree with the conviction of the appellant of attempted homicide in Criminal Case No. 48936(95).
But we do not agree with the penalty meted on the appellant, six (6) months and one (1) day to six (6) years of
prision correccional. The imposable penalty for attempted homicide is prision correccional which is two degrees
lower than reclusion temporal. The maximum of the indeterminate penalty shall be taken from the imposable
penalty of prision correccional, taking into account the modifying circumstances, if any. To determine the
minimum of the indeterminate penalty, the penalty of prision correccional has to be reduced by one degree,
which is arresto mayor. The minimum of the indeterminate penalty shall be taken from the full range of arresto
mayor. Hence, the appellant may be sentenced to an indeterminate penalty from four (4) months of arresto mayor
in its medium period, as minimum, to three (3) years of prision correccional, in its medium period, as maximum.
Although the appellant used a vehicle to commit attempted homicide, the said circumstance was not alleged in
the Information, as mandated by Section 8, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure. The said Rule
should be applied retroactively although the crime was committed before the effectivity of the same.

The trial court awarded ₱18,000 as actual damages for funeral expenses, ₱1,500 as unearned income of the
victim and ₱20,000 as moral damages. The trial court did not award exemplary damages to Luis Luable. The
decision of the trial court shall, thus, be modified.

In lieu of actual damages in the amount of ₱18,000.00, the heirs of the victim are entitled to ₱25,000.00 by way
of temperate damages, conformably to current jurisprudence. The amount of ₱1,500,000.00 is deleted for failure
of the prosecution to adduce any documentary and oral evidence to prove the factual basis of such amount.
28  The award of moral damages should be increased to ₱50,000.00 to conform to current jurisprudence. Luis

Luable is entitled to ₱25,000.00 exemplary damages.29

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Kaloocan City, Branch 121, is
AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS.

1. In Criminal Case No. 48935(95), appellant Domingo Vasquez y Pacheco is found GUILTY beyond reasonable
doubt of homicide under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and there being no modifying
circumstance in the commission of the crime, is hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty from nine
(9) years and four (4) months of prision mayor, in its medium period, as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8)
months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal, in its medium period, as maximum. The said appellant is
ORDERED to pay to the heirs of the victim Geronimo Espinosa ₱50,000.00 as civil indemnity; ₱50,000.00 as
moral damages; ₱25,000.00 as temperate damages;

2. In Criminal Case No. 48936(95), the appellant is found GUILTY of attempted homicide under Article 249 in
relation to Article 6 of the Revised Penal Code and there being no modifying circumstances in the commission of
the crime, is hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty from four (4) months of arresto mayor, in its
medium period, as minimum, to three (3) years of prision correccional in its medium period, as maximum. The
said appellant is ORDERED to pay ₱25,000.00 to Luis Luable by way of exemplary damages. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 139179      April 3, 2002

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee, 



vs.

WILFREDO TOLENTINO Y ESPERAT and JONATHAN FABROS Y CASTRO, accused,

JONATHAN FABROS Y CASTRO, appellant. 

PANGANIBAN, J.:

An appeal in a criminal case opens the entire records to review. The appellate court may pass upon every
circumstance favorable to the accused. In the present case, the prosecution failed to prove the existence of
conspiracy beyond reasonable doubt. Neither was it able to show that appellant was an accomplice or
accessory. Hence, he must be acquitted on reasonable ground.

The Case

Jonathan Fabros y Castro appeals the May 27, 1999 Decision1 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Zamboanga
City (Branch 17) in Criminal Case No. 13698, finding him guilty of murder and sentencing him to  reclusion
perpetua. The dispositive portion of the Decision reads as follows:

"WHEREFORE, finding the accused Wilfredo Tolentino and Jonathan Fabros guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
the crime of murder, and taking into consideration the aggravating circumstance of dwelling (morada) without
any mitigating circumstance to offset the same, the Court hereby sentences the above-named accused
separately to suffer the penalty of [r]eclusion [p]erpetua, to pay separately the heirs of the victim the sum of
P50,000.00 as moral damages, the sum of P50,000.00 as exemplary damages, and to indemnify the said heirs
[in] the sum of P15,000.00 as actual damages, and to pay the costs."2 

The Information, dated March 2, 1996, charged appellant as follows:

"That on or about February 28, 1996, in the City of Zamboanga, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a piece of wood and knife, conspiring and
confederating together, mutually aiding and assisting with one another, by means of treachery and evident
premeditation and with intent to kill, did then and there without any warning, assault, attack and stab with the
use of said weapons that they were armed with, at the person of HERNAN SAGARIO y CUESTA, thereby
inflicting mortal wounds on the different parts of the latter's body which directly caused his death, to the damage
and prejudice of the heirs of said victim. 

"That the commission of the above-stated offense has been attended by the following aggravating
circumstances, to wit:

1. Abuse of superior strength; and

2. Dwelling."3 

With the assistance of counsel,4 appellant pleaded not guilty when arraigned on June 7, 1996.5 After due trial,
the RTC rendered the assailed Decision.

The Facts

Version of the Prosecution

The prosecution's version of the facts is summarized by the Office of the Solicitor General as follows:6 

"On February 28, 1996 around 7:30 in the evening, appellant and his cousins, Sheila Guilayan and Merwin
Ledesma, were at their house in Luyahan, Pasonanca, Zamboanga City when their neighbor Wilfredo Tolentino
called them. When asked what was it all about, Wilfredo simply motioned to them to come to his house located
just across the road. Once they were inside the house, Wilfredo immediately revealed his plan to kill Hernan
Sagario, Sheila's stepfather. Wilfredo explained that it was the only way to free Sheila's mother - appellant's aunt
- of the sufferings being caused by Hernan. Wilfredo then instructed Merwin to go back to the house and get the
bolo of Hernan. Merwin obliged, got the bolo, and gave it to Wilfredo. Thereafter, they were told by Wilfredo to go
home and wait for Hernan.1âwphi1.nêt

"Around 8:30 in the evening, Hernan arrived. He went directly to the kitchen and fixed the bag of rice he was
carrying. Meanwhile, appellant, together with Sheila and Merwin, just stayed quiet in the living room. Moments
later, Wilfredo with a 2"x2" piece of wood in his hand entered the house. He then followed Hernan towards the
kitchen. When about an armslength away from Hernan, Wilfredo, without saying a word, immediately walloped
Hernan on the right side of the neck sending the latter unconscious and falling face down to the ground. Wilfredo
immediately instructed appellant and Merwin to help him bring Hernan out of the house. Lifting Hernan out of the
house, Wilfredo held him by the neck while both appellant and Merwin grasped his feet. They then carried
Hernan towards the creek about seven meters away from the house.

"Upon reaching the creekside, the three stopped and moved closer to the water. At this juncture, Wilfredo
successively stabbed Hernan on different parts of the body causing the latter's instant death. After throwing the
victim's lifeless body in the creek, the three immediately left.

"The post-mortem examination on the victim's cadaver disclosed that the cause of his death was cardio-
respiratory arrest due to shock and hemorrhage secondary to [a] stab wound penetrating the chest." (Citations
omitted)

Version of the Defense

Appellant, on the other hand, presented the following version of the facts:7 

"Accused Jonathan Fabros and Wilfredo Tolentino both denied killing the victim. Instead, they pointed to each
other as the one who killed Hernan Sagario. Fabros pointed to Tolentino as the assailant and the latter also
fingered the former as the killer of Sagario.

"Relying on his lone testimony and corroborating the testimony of prosecution witness Sheila Guilayan, accused
Fabros narrated that he is a resident of Luyuhan, Pasonanca, particularly in the house of his auntie Amparo
Guilayan (the common-law wife of Hernan Sagario), together with his cousins Merwin Ledesma and Sheila
Guilayan.

"On 28 February 1996, at around 7:00 p.m., he returned home to Luyahan after his work at Astoria Hotel as a
waiter. Sheila was at home when he arrived. Shortly thereafter, their neighbor, accused Tolentino, came over and
called for Sheila. Sh[ei]la stood up and went to the house of Tolentino, leaving behind Fabros and Merwin
Ledesma. After a while, he and Ledesma heard Sheila crying and the two went to the house of Tolentino. At the
house of Tolentino, Fabros and Ledesma asked Sheila why she cried. [She] disclosed Tolentino's plan to kill her
stepfather Hernan Sagario. When asked for his motive to kill Hernan Sagario, Tolentino merely reasoned that he
just wanted to help their auntie Amparo get rid of her problems. When they expressed apprehension [about]
being implicated and tried to prevent Tolentino from pursuing his plan, the latter told them not to worry; for he will
take care.

"When Tolentino saw their uncle Hernan coming towards the house, he ordered them to go home and they
obeyed. As he arrived, Hernan ordered Fabros to boil water. Afterwards, Hernan went out of the house to buy
Ovaltine. When Hernan returned, Tolentino approached him and they talked for about two minutes. Afterwards,
Tolentino went to his house while their uncle Hernan told him (Fabros) to check if the water was already boiling.
Jonathan went to the kitchen while their uncle placed the rice he brought in a container. At that instance,
Jonathan heard the sound 'pok', and saw Tolentino holding a piece of wood (2" x 2"). Then, he saw his uncle
f[a]ll down slowly, his chest hitting the corner edge of a table. Tolentino approached his uncle and kicked him.
Then he ordered Fabros to come near him and carry Hernan by his feet. Afraid that Tolentino will hit him with the
piece of wood, Fabros held his uncle by the feet while Tolentino pulled Hernan by the shirt and he just followed
Tolentino. Tolentino brought Hernan near the river. When Jonathan noticed that his uncle regained
consciousness, he ran away towards a banana plantation and from there he saw Tolentino [stab] Sagario on the
chest. After stabbing the victim, Tolentino pushed and waded him into the water. Scared, Jonathan ran home.
About twenty minutes later, Tolentino arrived and with thumbs up sign, he said, 'Okey na!'. Jonathan also
observed that there was blood on the shoulder of Tolentino. The latter then called the three (3) and warned them
that if they will tell other people, he will kill them. Out of fear, they just followed whatever Tolentino told them.

"By reason of fear of Tolentino's threat, Jonathan told the police that he did not know what happened. On 01
March 1996, however, he was arrested for the death of Hernan Sagario on account of an information received by
the police identifying him as the assailant. He was brought to the Sta. Maria Police Station and thereat he was
told by the police that if he will not admit, they will show him the witness, which the police later did by showing
to him his co-accused Tolentino. On seeing Tolentino, he declared that he (Tolentino) was the one who killed the
victim.

"However, on 14 July 2000, long after the trial court's decision had become final and executory on his part,
Wilfredo Tolentino, apparently conscience-stricken, executed an affidavit admitting sole responsibility for the
death of Hernan Sagario and retracted his testimony implicating accused-appellant Jonathan Fabros. His
affidavit is herein reproduced as follows:

'I, WILFREDO TOLENTINO y ESPERAT, 65 years old, widower, Filipino, a convicted prisoner with the San Ramon
Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City, after having been duly sworn to in accordance with law hereby
depose and state:

'That I was convicted for the crime of Murder in Criminal Case No. 13698 entitled 'The People of the Philippines,
Plaintiff, versus, Wilfredo Tolentino y Esperat and Jonathan Fabros y Castro, accused,' which Decision was
promulgated on May 30, 1999 and ha[s] become final;

'That of the four years I have been in prison, I have contemplated on the consequences of my acts and have
been conscience stricken causing me sleepless nights and deep pity [for] my co-accused Jonathan Fabros
whom I have wrongfully imputed to be the killer of the victim Hernan Sagario y Cuesta. As he appealed the
Decision, [maybe] I still have the chance to rectify the wrong I have done to him and tell the Honorable Court
what actually happened [o]n the night of February 28, 1996, as hereunder narrated;

'That I had known Hernan Sagario earlier in 1994 when he was still a security guard and he attempted to shoot
me with his service firearm and although we had amicably settled the matter between us, when he came to be
my neighbor, I would remember that incident and my old grudge against him would be rekindled;

'That earlier that night of February 28, 1996, I came home quite drunk [after] my drinking spree with my relatives
across the river and one of the topics we discussed was about the incident when Hernan Sagario attempted to
shoot me. As I recalled that incident, my old grudge against him resurfaced and I resolved right then and there to
take my revenge on Hernan. So when he came home and he was in the kitchen, I took hold of a piece of wood
and hit him with it and when he fell down unconscious, I dragged his body outside of the house, ordering
Jonathan Fabros who was then in the kitchen to help me carry the body of Hernan outside or else he would also
become my victim. Jonathan unwillingly assisted me carry the body of Hernan outside and upon my direction,
we dragged the body of Hernan towards the river where to finish him off, I stabbed [him] in the chest and pushed
him down into the water to hide his body. For his part, Jonathan left me when the body reached the river;

'That after [the] killing, I threatened Jonathan Fabros, Neneng (the daughter of Hernan's live-in-partner) and
Weng-weng, a cousin of Neneng and Jonathan[,] never to report the incident to any one or else they could
become my next victim;

'That during the investigation of the killing, I pointed to Jonathan as the killer of Hernan, thinking that I would not
be implicated. Even when I was also charged for the killing, I was confident that I would be acquitted if I would
point to Jonathan as the killer. During the trial of the case, I bribed Jonathan and even gave P20,000.00 to a
middle man to effect the pay off but Jonathan returned the money to me saying he could not admit what he did
not commit;

'That my conscience ha[d] been greatly troubled by denying Jonathan his future by [my] own evil acts and by this
affidavit hopes to correct the wrongs I had done to Jonathan Fabros;

'That I am executing this affidavit [to] attest to the truth of the foregoing narration of facts and to appeal to the
Court authorities to rectify the wrongs I had done to Jonathan Fabros and I am willing to testify in court o[n]
these statements narrated.'"

Ruling of the Trial Court

The trial court held that the prosecution's evidence positively identified Wilfredo Tolentino as the person who had
hit the victim with a piece of wood and later stabbed him with a bolo. It also ruled that the killing was qualified by
treachery and attended by the aggravating circumstance of dwelling.

The court a quo observed that overt and positive acts of appellant manifested his approval of the killing and the
concurrence of his acts with those of the other accused.8  Thus, the RTC concluded that Fabros was a co-
conspirator and should be held equally responsible for the murder.

Hence, this appeal.9 

The Issue

In his Brief, appellant assigns the following alleged errors for our consideration:

"The Court  a quo  gravely erred in convicting herein Accused-appellant Jonathan Fabros of the crime charged
notwithstanding the categorical statement of Prosecution Witness Sheila Guilayan that it was Accused Wilfredo
Tolentino who actually killed the victim, Hernan Sagario. 

II

"The Court a quo gravely erred in convicting accused-appellant notwithstanding Wilfredo Tolentino's categorical
admission of guilt [of] the crime charged."10 

The errors boil down to the sufficiency of the prosecution evidence.

This Court's Ruling

The appeal is meritorious; appellant should be acquitted.

Main Issue:

Sufficiency of Prosecution Evidence

The RTC held that the assistance of appellant in bringing the body of the victim from the house to the river bank
where the latter was allegedly stabbed to death positively showed that the former had conspired in the
commission of the crime.11  In its abbreviated nine-page Brief, the Office of the Solicitor General agrees that
conspiracy has been duly proven. On the other hand, appellant argues that his "fleeting participation" in helping
carry the victim's body to the river bank did not indicate unity of purpose or design. We agree with him.

An appeal in a criminal action opens the whole case to review. This implies that the Court may pass upon every
circumstance favorable to the accused. In People v. Manambit,12 the Court explained thus:

"Indeed, the Supreme Court is clothed with ample authority to review matters, even those not raised on appeal, if
it finds that their consideration is necessary in arriving at a just disposition of the case. It is a matter of justice
that the two other appellants be exonerated of the charges. This we do because an appeal in a criminal action
opens the whole case for review and this includes the review of the penalty and indemnity. Every circumstance in
favor of the accused shall be considered."13 

No Conspiracy

Even the Office of the Solicitor General admits that appellant did not directly kill the victim. It, however, urges us
to convict him on the basis of conspiracy.

In theory, conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a
felony and decide to commit it.14  To prove conspiracy, the prosecution must establish the following three
requisites: (1) two or more persons came to an agreement, (2) the agreement concerned the commission of a
crime, and (3) the execution of the felony was decided upon.15 Once conspiracy is established, the act of one
becomes the act of all.16 

Well-settled is the rule that the existence of conspiracy cannot be presumed.17 Quite the contrary, the evidence
for it must be shown beyond reasonable doubt.18 As this Court has repeatedly stated, criminal conspiracy must
be founded on facts, not on mere surmises or conjectures.19 Prior agreement or assent is usually inferred from
the acts of the accused showing concerted action, common design and objective, actual cooperation, and
concurrence of sentiments or community of interests.20  Mere presence at the scene of the crime or even
knowledge of the plan or acquiescence thereto are not sufficient grounds to hold a person liable as a conspirator.
21  Therefore, the task in every case is to determine whether the particular acts established by the requisite
quantum of proof reasonably yield that inference.22 

In the case before us, we agree that the culpability of Tolentino was clearly established, but we are also
convinced that the evidence fails to show the culpability of appellant beyond reasonable doubt.23  Because,
unquestionably, the latter did not personally inflict any of the fatal flows, he can be held liable as a principal, only
if conspiracy is proven.24  To recall, Sheila Guilayan, the prosecution eyewitness, narrated the circumstances
surrounding the killing of Hernan Sagario as follows:

"Q       On February 28, this year, 1996, at around 7:30 o'clock in the evening, can you still remember where were
you?

A       Yes, I could still remember, I was in our house.

Q       You were in your house, are you referring to your house in Pasonanca, Luyahan?

A       Yes. 

Q            Can you also remember who were with you in that evening of February 28, 1996 in your house at
Pasonanca, Luyahan?

A       Yes, I can still remember, my companions were Jonathan Fabros and Melwin Ledesma.

x x x      x x x      x x x

Q       And you said while you were in the sala sitting down, writing, there was an incident that transpired, will you
please tell us what transpired?

ATTY. JIMENEZ:

That will ask for narration, what transpired?

COURT:

Be more specific on that.

PROSECUTOR ORILLO:

Q       What happened?

A       I was called by Tolentino and he requested me to go to their house.

Q       You are referring to Wilfredo Tolentino?

ATTY. JIMENEZ:

Leading, Your Honor.

COURT:

Sustained.

PROSECUTOR ORILLO:

Q       What did you do after you were called by this Tolentino?

A       So I went with him to their house.

Q       Where is his house?

A       Just beside our house or near our house.

COURT:

Q       Where was Tolentino when he called you to go with him?

A       He was by the door of our house although he was still outside but he was at the door of our house when he
called me.

COURT:

Continue.

PROSECUTOR ORILLO:

Q       And you said you went with him to his house, now what happened there in his house?

A       There in their house he told me just to keep quiet because he [was] going to kill my step-father.

Q       And what did you do next after he told you about that?

A       After he told me that I cried and I told him not to do that because we will be implicated.

Q            What else did you do aside from crying and telling him not to do it because we will be implicated, what
else did you do?

A       Well, I just cried until my two cousins heard me and they, the two, also went to the house of Tolentino.

Q       While your two cousins were already in the house of Tolentino, what happened next?

A       My cousins asked me why I was crying.

Q       And then?

A       They asked Tolentino why I was crying.

Q       What did you do next?

A       I just cried and kept on telling him not to do it because we will be implicated and also my mother [was] not
[t]here.

Q       And how about Tolentino, what did he do?

A       Well, he again told me just not to tell it to anybody because if I [was] going to tell it to anybody, he will also
kill us.

Q       How about your two cousins, what did they do?

A       My cousins also told him not to do it because they said they [were] the only persons [t]here and for sure we
will be implicated.

Q       And thereafter, what happened next?

A       Tolentino said he will just take care.

Q       So what happened next after that?

A       And then Tolentino asked Melwin Ledesma to get the bolo of my stepfather in our house.

Q       And what did your cousin Melwin Ledesma do after he was ordered by Tolentino to get the bolo?

A       Then Melwin Ledesma went to the house and got the bolo and brought the same to the house of Tolentino.

Q       And after bringing the bolo to the house of Tolentino, what happened next?

A       Then when my step-father was on his way to our house, Tolentino told us to go home."25 

"Q       What happened next after you said your step-father went out to buy ovaltine?

A       Then several minutes thereafter my stepfather again arrived in our house then he got inside the house and
he went directly to the kitchen.

Q       And what did your step-father do?

A            After that he transferred the rice he brought which was placed on a plastic cellophane to another plastic
container.

Q       And what else happened?

A       And then after that Tolentino entered our house and went directly to the kitchen and there he hit my step-
father.

Q       And what instrument did Tolentino use in hitting your step-father?

A       A piece of wood.

Q       Will you please describe this piece of wood?

A       A round piece of wood.

Q       How about the length of this piece of wood?

A       (Witness extended her both hands to demonstrate the length which when measured gave us twenty inches
in length).

Q       You said it was a round piece of wood, can you more or less tell us the diameter of this piece of wood?

A       (Witness again made a circle to demonstrate the diameter which [was] three and a half inches x x x).

PROSECUTOR ORILLO:

Q       And where was your step-father hit by that piece of wood used by Tolentino?

A       He was hit on the right side of his neck x x x extending to his right jaw.

Q       Will you please tell this Honorable Court your particular position when you saw Tolentino hit with the piece
of wood your step-father?

A       I was in a sitting position in the sala but you know in our house even if you are seated in the sala you can
see the kitchen from there.

Q       Before you saw that, where did Tolentino come from?

ATTY. JIMENEZ:

Witness is incompetent, Your Honor.

PROSECUTOR ORILLO:

If she knows, Your Honor.

ATTY. JIMENEZ:

She was seated in the sala, how can [she] know?

COURT:

According to her she went home and she was in the sala. If she went to the sala, probably she will know. If she
knows she may answer.

A I did not know where he came from but I just saw him getting inside our house and [going] directly to the
kitchen.

PROSECUTOR ORILLO:

Q       When you saw Tolentino hit your step-father, where was your step-father facing?

A       He was facing forward while Tolentino came from behind him.

Q       And what happened next after your step-father was hit by that piece of wood used by Tolentino?

A       After he was hit he fell [face] down x x x, he fell down first on the table and after that to the ground. From
the table he continued to fall to the ground.

Q       And while your step-father was already on the ground, what if any did Tolentino do?

A       Then when my step-father was already at the cemented pavement Tolentino stepped on his head several
times.

Q       And then what happened next?

A       After that I cried but he told me to keep quiet because if I [was] not going to keep quiet he will also kill us.

Q       After that, what happened?

A       And then he asked my cousins to help him to bring the body of my step-father outside of the house.

Q       And then?

A       Then they brought my step-father outside of the house and Tolentino held him on the collar of his shirt and
my cousins held him on his feet.

Q       And while already outside the house, towards what direction did they bring your step-father?

ATTY. JIMENEZ:

Witness is incompetent, we object, Your Honor.

COURT:

Sustained.

PROSECUTOR ORILLO:

Q       What else happened after you saw your cousins Jonathan Fabros and Tolentino carrying your step-father?

ATTY. FABIAN:

Objection, Your Honor, there was no mention of any Jonathan Fabros in her testimony.

COURT:

Cousin only.

ATTY. FABIAN:

Yes, Your Honor, cousin only, no mention of Jonathan Fabros.

COURT:

I do not know if it was cousin or cousins.

ATTY. JIMENEZ:

I heard cousins, Your Honor.

COURT:

Cousins, with 'S'. She may answer. Yes, according to her it was only her cousins who were with her.

ATTY. FABIAN:

I heard the name Jonathan Fabros being mentioned by the prosecution, Your Honor.

COURT:

That is why I told the prosecutor to change it to cousins.

ATTY. FABIAN:

Yes, Your Honor.

A       It was only Jonathan and Tolentino who carried him.

Q       So what happened next after you saw them carrying your step-father?

A       They brought my step-father to the creek.

Q       How far is this 'sapa' or creek from your house?

A       Maybe from here (witness again by the use of the witness stand as reference point, pointed to the fourth
bench from the front,) about 6.5 meters, because from the witness stand to the main door is measured 7.5
meters, so if it is from here, it is only 6.5 meters.

ATTY. JIMENEZ:

That is about 7 to 8 meters.

COURT:

That is about 7 meters already from the witness stand to the fourth bench, more or less 7 meters.

PROSECUTOR ORILLO:

Q            This 'sapa' or creek that you are referring to, please describe to this Honorable Court this creek which
according to you is only 7 meters more or less away from your house?

A       This is a wide creek.

Q       And what else did you see?

A            Well, since it was clear from our house although I stayed inside our house and since the walling of our
house, the portion of this is made of screen, I saw Tolentino when they were carrying my step-father in the act of
stabbing my step-father (witness demonstrated as if she was holding something and thrust[ing it] forward).

Q       What else did you see?

A       And then after that, I only saw Tolentino [place] the body of my step-father on the water and there I did not
see my cousin anymore.

Q       And then what transpired next?

A       Then a few minutes thereafter my cousin returned to the house.

Q       And what did you do when your cousin returned to the house?

A            And then when he arrived home I just cried and I told him, because his nickname is Nonong, so I said:
'Nonong, we will be really implicated and he said nothing and instead he just went to his previous position and
sat down.

Q       How about the other cousin of yours Melwin Ledesma, where was he?

A       He was also beside me and he was embracing me from behind.

Q       What happened next?

A       Then another few minutes after, Tolentino arrived in our house.

Q       And when he arrived at your house, what did he do?

A       And then there inside our house he flashed a thumb's up and he said it is already okey.

Q       What else did he do?

A            Then he approached me and told me not to report [t]his incident because if I [was] going to report [it] he
[was] going to kill me.

Q            And that particular time when he arrived at your house, what if any did you notice from his person, this
Tolentino?

ATTY. JIMENEZ:

Leading, Your Honor.

COURT:

Sustained.

PROSECUTOR ORILLO:

What if any have you noticed from Tolentino?

COURT:

Will you please be more specific with your question.

PROSECUTOR ORILLO:

At the time when Tolentino arrived at your house and told you 'okey na', with thumb's up, that particular time,
what if any have you noticed on his person?

ATTY. JIMENEZ:

It is [a] very general question, Your Honor.

COURT:

Anything she noticed, she may answer.

A       I noticed that his shortpants was wet and there [were] bloodstains on his shirt."26 

The above testimony shows that Tolentino attacked Hernan Sagario. The assault was carried out without the
participation of appellant,27 who did not personally hit or stab the victim, but only subsequently helped carry the
latter from the house to the nearby creek.28 Nothing in the testimony conveyed a coordinated action, concerted
purpose or community of design to commit the criminal act.29 It must be emphasized that Tolentino's plan to kill
the victim was concocted in the absence of appellant.30  The latter's participation, as shown by the foregoing
testimony, was made when the decision to kill was already a fait accompli.31 

Further, conspiracy cannot be inferred from the overt acts of appellant.32 He did nothing to assist Tolentino in
the actual commission of the murder.33  Neither did the former bear any weapon, much less use one to inflict
injury on the victim.34 In fact, appellant, showing clearly his lack of support for the criminal intent of Tolentino,
even tried to prevent the latter from hacking the victim, according to the eyewitness.35 

Indeed, the trial court based its finding of conspiracy on mere presumptions, not on solid facts indubitably
indicating a common design to commit murder.36 Such suppositions do not constitute proof beyond reasonable
doubt.37 

Because of the lack of a united purpose, appellant cannot be considered a principal by indispensable
cooperation.38  Absent a conspiracy, his responsibility, as well as that of his co-accused, is individual -- not
collective -- and each is to be punished only for his own separate acts.39 

Not an Accomplice

Neither can appellant be convicted as an accomplice. Article 18 of the Revised Penal Code
defines  accomplices  as "those persons who, not being included in Article 17,40  cooperate in the execution of
the offense by previous or simultaneous acts." To be convicted as an accomplice, it is necessary that the
accused be aware of the criminal intent of the principal and then cooperate knowingly or intentionally by
supplying material or moral aid for the efficacious execution of the crime.41 

To consider a person an accomplice in the commission of the offense, the following must concur: (1) community
of design -- knowing the criminal design of the principal by direct participation, one concurs therein; (b)
cooperation in the execution of the offense by previous or simultaneous acts, with the intention of supplying
material and moral aid in the execution of the crime in an efficacious way; and (c) a relation between the acts
done by the principal and those attributed to the person charged as accomplice.42 

To be deemed an accomplice, one needs to have had both knowledge of and participation in the criminal act.
43 In other words, the principal and the accomplice must have acted in conjunction and directed their efforts to
the same end.44 Thus, it is essential that both were united in their criminal design.45 

In the case before us, appellant did not concur in or lend support to the nefarious intent of Tolentino.46 The mere
fact that the former had prior knowledge of the latter's criminal design did not automatically make him an
accomplice.47 This circumstance, by itself, did not show his concurrence in the principal's criminal intent.48 

That appellant helped Tolentino carry the victim from the house to the creek did not necessarily demonstrate
concurrence of wills or unity of purpose or action.49  Quite the contrary, the former's attempt to dissuade the
latter from killing Sagario was attested to by the prosecution witness.50 With the nominal role appellant played in
the drama that had been thrust upon him, we cannot declare that he was an accomplice in the crime charged.51 

Not an Accessory Either

Appellant cannot be convicted as an accessory either. Article 19 of the Revised Penal Code defines an
accessory as one who had knowledge of the commission of the crime and did not participate in its commission
as principal or accomplice, yet took part subsequent to its commission by any of three modes: (1) profiting
oneself or assisting the offender to profit by the effects of the crime; (2) concealing or destroying the body of the
crime, or the effects or instruments thereof, in order to prevent its discovery; and (3) harboring, concealing, or
assisting in the escape of the principals of the crime, provided the accessory acts with abuse of his public
functions or when the offender is guilty of treason, parricide, murder, or an attempt to take the life of the Chief
Executive, or is known to be habitually guilty of some other crime. To convict an accused as an accessory, the
following elements must be proven: (1) knowledge of the commission of the crime and (2) subsequent
participation in it by any of the three above-cited modes.52 

Under paragraph 2 of said codal provision, the concealment or the destruction of the body of the crime or of the
effects or the instruments thereof must have been done in order to prevent the discovery of the crime.53 That,
precisely, is wanting in the present case.54 

In his testimony,55 appellant stated that because he was afraid his co-accused would hurt him if he refused, he
agreed to assist the latter in carrying the victim towards the river. The fact that appellant left thereafter likewise
indicated his innocence of the charge.56  Verily, he adequately explained his conduct prior to the stabbing
incident as one born of fear for his own life.57  It is not incredible for an eyewitness to a crime, especially if
unarmed, to desist from assisting the victim if to do so would put the former's life in peril.58 

Thus, in People v. Verzola,59 we explained as follows:

"x x x. It must be noted that Josefina testified that she helped her co-appellant bring the body of the deceased
down the stairs because of fear. Even if she assisted her co-appellant without duress, simply assisting Verzola in
bringing the body down the house to the foot of the stairs and leaving said body for anyone to see, cannot be
classified as an attempt to conceal or destroy the body of the crime, the effects or instruments thereof, must be
done to prevent the discovery of the crime."60 

The presumption of innocence in favor of appellant has not been overcome by proof beyond reasonable doubt.
61 Thus, he must be acquitted.62 

WHEREFORE,  the appeal is  GRANTED  and the assailed Decision  SET ASIDE. Appellant is  ACQUITTED  on
reasonable doubt. He is ordered RELEASED from custody immediately, unless legally held for another cause. In
this regard, the director of the Bureau of Corrections is directed to report to this Court his compliance with this
Decision within five (5) days from receipt hereof. 

SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

G.R. No.134847               December 6, 2000

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff- appellee, 



vs.

RUBY MARIANO y LARA and RUTH MARIANO y LARA, accused-appellants.

D E C I S I O N

PER CURIAM:

Heinous crimes are grievous, odious and hateful offenses which, by reason of their inherent wickedness,
viciousness, atrocity and perversity, are repugnant to the common standards and norms of decency and morality
in a just, civilized and ordered society.1 To this genre belong the acts charged in the instant case - a bizarre and
nauseating tale of outrageous cruelty and brutality. The Court is now called upon to determine whether the
accused are responsible therefor.

Driven by grinding poverty in her home province and lured by the prospect of a lucrative employment in the big
city, Michelle Priol, then only sixteen (16), left home for Manila in January 1996 to work as a domestic help. Soon
enough Michelle found herself hired at the household of the sisters Ruth Mariano and Ruby Mariano in Bambang,
Pasig City.

Jenny Priol, Michelle's older sister, testified that she often visited Michelle at the Mariano.residence. However,
whenever she would visit Michelle, she and her sister could not freely talk as Ruth and Ruby were always
hovering about.2 Apparently unhappy with the manner she was allowed to visit Michelle - they being constantly
watched by the Mariano sisters and denied their privacy - Jenny never went to her sister again after her last visit
in November 1996.3 Sometime afterwards, Ruth and Ruby brought Michelle to her sister Jenny to complain to
her that their rice cooker no longer functioned and heaped the blame on Michelle. On that occasion Jenny
noticed that Michelle's hair was unevenly cut to the scalp. When asked what happened, Michelle told her that it
was Ruby who gave her the ugly haircut.4  Concerned with the condition of her sister, Jenny confronted Ruby.
But the latter angrily replied: "Why are you so bold to ask me that question; why don't you ask your
sister!"5  Jenny then told Ruby that she was going to take her sister back from them but the furious Ruby
hurriedly left with Ruth, taking Michelle with them. That was the last time Jenny saw her younger sister alive.

On 17 August 1997 at around 6:00 o'clock in the evening, SPO2 Edgardo Hernandez of the Pasig Police Station
received an anonymous call reporting that a woman was seen in Bambang, Pasig City, carrying a rectangular box
with a human leg protruding. The caller further informed SPO2 Hernandez that the woman then placed the box
inside the compartment of a car bearing plate number UPR-561.6  On the basis of this information SPO2
Hernandez together with SPO1 Ruben Fidelino immediately conducted a "stake-out and surveillance operation"
in the vicinity of Bambang as reported. After a couple of minutes, the police officers spotted two (2) women
boarding a car with the reported plate number. They turned out to be accused-appellants Ruth Mariano y Lara
and Ruby Mariano y Lara.7 The vehicle was owned and driven by Ruby. The law enforcers, riding in their patrol
car with SPO1 Fidelino on the wheels, followed the vehicle. But the women, perhaps sensing that they were
being trailed, drove fast. Alarmed by the suspects' reaction to their presence, the policemen sounded their siren.
After a brief chase, the officers overtook the suspects' vehicle and blocked its path. SPO2 Hernandez and SPO1
Fidelino alighted, from their patrol car and introduced themselves as police officers. They ordered Ruth and Ruby
to alight from their vehicle.8 

The lawmen then announced that they would be conducting a visual search of the luggage compartment of the
vehicle. Initially, Ruby refused saying that only dirty clothes were in the compartment but later relented the police
officers insisted.9  Upon opening the compartment, SPO2 Hernandez was greeted by a putrid odor emanating
from a decomposing body inside the box. Ruth and Ruby identified the body as that of their maid Michelle Priol.
10  Ruth and Ruby were then arrested and taken to the Pasig Police Station. Their vehicle was driven to the
station by SPO2 Hernandez.

Senior Police Inspector Emmanuel L. Aranas, Medico-legal Officer of the PNP Crime laboratory, conducted an
autopsy on the cadaver of Michelle. The result was appalling and beyond belief. The body was found to be
poorly nourished and already in a state of decomposition. The skin and underlying soft tissues on the chest
appeared to have been gnawed by rats apparently attracted to the exposed scalded flesh resulting from the
repeated splashing of boiling water, and that the victim had died two (2) to three (3) days prior to the autopsy.
The autopsy findings were: (a) healed and healing lacerated wounds on the upper lip caused by hard blunt object
or fist blows healed lacerated wound on the lower lip; (c) multiple lacerated swelling wounds on the right and left
ear; (d) two (2) healing wounds on the left illiac region; and, (e) the cause of death was multiple traumatic
wounds, and first and second degree scalding burns on the head, trunk, upper and lower extremeties comprising
about 72% of the body surface, caused by hot liquid within the range of boiling point inflicted at various times
prior to the death of the victim.11 

With the foregoing findings, Ruth and Ruby were charged with murder. Ruth denied the charge claiming that the
victim "died because she got sick, and not because I mauled her."12  Nevertheless, by her own narration and
admission during the trial, Ruth described in lurid details what really happened to Michelle. According to Ruth,
Michelle was kind, industrious and respectful at first. However, sometime November 1996 she and her sister
Ruby caught Michelle stealing money and jewelry from their bedroom. Thus, they brought her to the police but
later desisted from prosecuting Michelle when she pleaded for a second chance and promised that she would
not do it again.13 After that incident, Michelle's attitude changed completely. Ruth claimed that she often caught
her stealing money from them and destroying the appliances whenever she cleaned the house, and that
whenever she scolded Michelle she would answer back, triggering a fight between them.14 

Ruth confessed in her testimony that she doused boiling water on Michelle several times whenever she was
angry.15  In those occasions, according to her, they were quarrelling and Michelle would fight back.16  Ruth
further said that only by pouring boiling water on Michelle could she (Ruth) "pacify her (and stop her) from
fighting back."17 

Ruth likewise admitted having pulled Michelle's hair and banged her head (inuumpog ang ulo),18 and that in the
month of July 1997 alone they fought at least six (6) times. She added that she was remorseful afterwards for
what she had done and treated Michelle's seared flesh with antibiotics and washed her wounds with guava
leaves. As if explaining the fresh-looking wounds on the body of Michelle, Ruth said that Michelle sometimes
scratched her wounds thereby removing the scabs and exposing the fresh wounds. But by August 1997 Michelle
lost her appetite and her condition started to deteriorate. Not long thereafter, she died. Ruth further testified, that
when she was about to wake Michelle up in the morning of 17 August 1997 she discovered Michelle's body
already bent and flexed forward (nakabaluktot) lying in bed, lifeless.19 So she panicked and hurriedly placed the
body in a box, which she then loaded inside the luggage compartment of Ruby's car. According to Ruth, she was
afraid that her 74-year old mother who was suffering from a heart ailment would see the body, thus she
concealed the corpse in the trunk of the vehicle.20 When Ruby arrived that evening, Ruth met her at the gate of
their house and told her that she had a problem. Ruth then asked Ruby to drive and promised to tell her about it
on the way. It was then that they were apprehended by elements of the Pasig Police force.

On 22 June 1998 Ruth arid Ruby were convicted of murder by the trial court. Accordingly, Ruth was sentenced to
death while Ruby was found guilty as an accomplice and sentenced to  reclusion temporal.  The trial court
explained its Decision -

With such evidence on record, there is no doubt that Ruth was responsible for the death of Michelle Priol and the
killing was aggravated with (sic) cruelty making it a crime of murder. Splashing boiling water six (6) times a
month, even when the previous injuries were not yet healed, is cruelty of the highest order. Splashing boiling
water while the previous scalding burns were not yet healed was deliberately done. Such act was inhumanly
augmenting the suffering of the victim. Ruth Mariano admitted this in her oral testimony and in her counter-
affidavit x x x x therefore, Ruth Mariano should be held to answer for the crime of murder as defined and
penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code x x x x

As to the liability of Ruby Mariano, the evidence appears to be circumstantial. [She] knew of the death of
Michelle Priol prior to the time her body was put in a box and loaded in the car x x x x she [was] living with Ruth
in the same apartment and as such, that place is not too big not to see or know that a member of the household
is (sic) dead.

Moreover, as admitted by Ruth Mariano in her testimony in Court that she poured boiling water on Michelle Priol
six (6) times a month. That alone must have been known to Ruby Mariano. For her failure to prevent Ruth from
pouring boiling water on Michelle Priol, which according to Dr. Aranas was the cause of Priol's death, that
constitute cooperation on her part in killing Michelle Priol.

All the foregoing circumstances taken together constitute violation of Article 18 of the Revised Penal Code,
hence, Ruby Mariano is liable as an accomplice.

Considering that the act of putting the cadaver of victim Michelle Priol in a box and loading it in the baggage
compartment of a car is an outraging act, or, an act of scoffing at her person or corpse which is an aggravating
circumstance coupled with evident premeditation and taking advantage of superior strength, the fact that the
accused Ruth Mariano is a big buxom matured woman while the victim Priol was a slim teenager, such
aggravating circumstances, and there being no mitigating circumstance, the imposition of the death penalty
would be proper as against accused Ruth Mariano y Lara.21 

Hence, this automatic review of the death penalty imposed by the trial court.

The errors assigned by accused-appellants in their brief may be subsumed under the basic contention that the
trial court erred in convicting them as principal and accomplice to the crime of murder notwithstanding the fact
that the prosecution evidence was grossly insufficient to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Aware that the life of a human being is here at stake, we have carefully examined every piece of evidence on
record as well as the arguments raised by accused-appellants in their pleadings no matter how specious and
ridiculous they may appear to be, but we fail to find any compelling reason to overturn the findings of fact and
conclusions of the court a quo, except as may be stated hereunder.

First, on the criminal liability of Ruth Mariano. The defense at once crumbles in the face of accused-appellant's
own admission in open court that she employed violence on Michelle, dousing her with boiling water and
battering her into insensibility in the course of their supposed quarrels. She virtually painted in her testimony a
harrowing portrait of the barbaric episode culminating in the death of the victim, thus -

A: Whenever I scolded her, she became angry and told me that I'm (sic) not the one who is (sic) paying her salary
and I am (sic) "masungit." 

Q: And what else transpired, if any?

A: We have (sic) exchanges of word and that started our quarrel.

Q: When you said quarrel, what do you mean quarrel, just by exchanging words or what? You have any physical
contact?

A: We were engaged in physical fight.

Q: What else happened, if any?

A: If she fought back and I'm (sic) being hurt and if I'm (sic) already angry, I splashed (nasasabuyan) her
with boiling water x x x x22 

Q: When for the first time did you have any occasion of splashing hot water on the person of Priol?

A: July 1997.

Q: When was the second time?

A: I cannot remember.

Q: Also in the month of July?

A: Every time she fought against me.

Q: When was the third time?

A: I cannot remember anymore.

Q: More or less, how many times did you splash her with hot water?

COURT: Hot or boiling water?

PROSECUTOR LEONARDO: Boiling water.

A: Twice (2x) x x x x23 

Q: You splashed her frontally?

A: Yes, Ma'am.

Q: Facing each other?

A: Yes, Ma'am xxxx

Q: She does not run away when you saw her holding the airpot?

A: When I splashed her she told me, that is (sic) enough, I will (sic) not fight anymore.24 

Q: Just answer my question.

A: No, your honor.

Q: She waits (sic) until you poured the boiling water on her?

A: Yes, your honor.

Q: And when she tried to pull your hair, what do you do?

A: I pulled her hair also and sometimes banged (inuumpog) her head.25 

Accused-appellant's brutality was confirmed by Dr. Emmanuel L. Aranas who concluded in his autopsy report
that the cause of death of the victim was "multiple traumatic wounds, and first and second degree scalding
burns covering 72% of the body surface," which were the very  same  injuries accused-appellant admitted she
had inflicted on the victim. Dr. Aranas testified -

Q: And after conducting the examination, what was the cause of death that you found?

A: Well, the cause of death Ma'am, is the multiple traumatic injuries, as well as the scalding burns, first to second
degree recovering 72% of the surface area.

Q: Combined together?

A: Yes, your honor. All these are contributory to the death of the deceased.26 

These medical findings when combined with accused-appellant's judicial admission, certainly wove a tight web
of evidence as to accused-appellant's culpability. They clearly established her guilt to a moral certainty, for which
she could not escape punishment.

Accused-appellant however, by way of avoidance, maintains that she did not kill the victim, insisting that the
latter "died because she got sick, and not because I mauled her."

The Court is not persuaded. It is evident that the death of the victim was the direct, natural and logical
consequence of the injuries she sustained in the hands of accused-appellant Ruth Mariano. The wounds inflicted
on the victim were of extremely dangerous nature, i.e., calculated to destroy life, although they did not
immediately result in the victim's death. A person is to be held to contemplate and be responsible for the natural
consequences of her own acts. If she inflicts wounds of such gravity as to put the life of the victim in jeopardy,
and death follows as a consequence of her felonious and wicked acts, it does not alter the nature nor diminish
the criminality of the acts to prove that other causes cooperated in producing the fatal result. Es que es causa de
la causa es causa del mal causado. He who is the cause of the cause is the cause of the evil caused.

Accused-appellant further asserts that (a) her acts of'pouring boiling water on Michelle were accidental; (b) she
was unaware of the effects or danger of pouring boiling water on a human being; and, (c) she treated the wounds
and burns of the victim with antibiotics (Bactrim Forte) and washed it with guava leaves until she got well.

The artificiality of these assertions is self-evident. They are but fabrications to explain away the numerous mortal
wounds of the victim. As to the alleged accidental pouring of boiling water, the physical evidence shows that the
victim suffered first and second degree scalding burns covering 72% of the body surface, caused by accused-
appellant's repeated acts of pouring boiling water on the victim while they were allegedly embroiled in a quarrel.
Clearly, the sheer number, and severe nature and extent of the wounds suffered by the victim attest to their
deliberate infliction.

As regards her claim that she was unaware of the effects or danger of pouring boiling water on a human being,
accused-appellant must have seen how the boiling water she poured the first time on Michelle seered the flesh
of the victim, permanently disfiguring her body even as she agonized in pain. Accused-appellant, who was thirty-
four (34) years old then, was not shown to be a person of diminutive intelligence as not to realize the lethal
effects of  repeatedly  dousing boiling water on a human being. Neither can we attach any importance to her
pretension that she administered antibiotics and herbal medicine on the burns of Michelle until she recuperated,
for it is contrary to the findings of Dr. Aranas who observed that there was no evidence of medical intervention
notwithstanding the character and number of the victim's injuries.27 

To compound accused-appellant Ruth Mariano's woes, her confessed act of putting the lifeless body of Michelle
in a box and loading it in the luggage compartment of a car is obviously inconsistent with her profession of
innocence. As observed by the Solicitor General, to which we agree, "an innocent person would have lost no
time in reporting to the police her discovery, right in her own house, of the death of a household member instead
of taking pains in concealing it."28 

Quite obviously, accused appellant exceeded the limits of her credibility, as she was plainly incredible. Her
attempts to lessen the impression of sadism and viciousness of her crime only assault the intelligence of this
Court. We are not that naive and gullible as the defense perhaps thought.

Second, on the complicity of accused-appellant Ruby Mariano. There is no solid evidence on record effectively
linking accused-appellant Ruby Mariano to the gruesome killing of Michelle Priol. There is no showing that she
ever laid hands on the deceased nor was she ever seen helping her sister Ruth on those occasions when Ruth
reportedly manhandled Michelle, nor was there any positive act of assent or cooperation on her part with Ruth
ever satisfactorily established or proved by the prosecution. All that can be gathered from evidence are: (a) Ruth
and Ruby were staying with Michelle in the same apartment, together with their 74-year old mother and Ruby's
children; (b) the victim had been dead for two (2) to three (3) days when placed in the car; and, (c) Ruby owns the
vehicle where the body of the victim was concealed and was in fact driving the vehicle when the police
intercepted them and found the body of Michelle in the trunk of their vehicle. While these circumstances strongly
indicate that Ruby had knowledge of what her sister Ruth did to Michelle, they are too insufficient to support a
finding that Ruby had something to do with the crime so that she should likewise be answerable. With her
nominal role, we cannot conscientiously declare that Ruby was a principal or even an accomplice in the crime.
The presumption of innocence in her favor has not been overcome by proof beyond reasonable doubt.

We cannot agree with the Solicitor General that Ruby should have been convicted as an accessory after the fact
-

x x x x since her act of driving the car where the corpse of Michelle was hidden, her resistance to stop the car
when chased by the police and to immediately open the luggage compartment as requested by the police, her
act of lying to the police by claiming that the box in the compartment contained only dirty clothes, and her
refusal to open said box sufficiently indicate knowledge of the crime and assistance to Ruth Mariano in
concealing the corpus delicti to prevent its discovery.

Accused-appellant Ruby Mariano is the sister of accused-appellant Ruth Mariano. As such, their relationship
exempts appellant Ruby Mariano from criminal liability under Art. 20 of The Revised Penal Code -

Art. 20. Accessories who are exempt from criminal liability. - The penalties prescribed for accessories shall not
be imposed upon those who are such with respect to their spouses, ascendants, descendants, legitimate,
natural and adopted brothers and sisters, or relatives by affinity within the same degrees, with the single
exception of accessories falling within the provisions of paragraph 1 of the preceding article  (underscoring
supplied).

The reason for exemption is obvious; it is based on ties of blood and the preservation of the cleanliness of one's
name, which compels one to conceal crimes committed by relatives so near as those mentioned in the above-
quoted article. This Court is thus mandated by law to acquit accused-appellant Ruby Mariano.

Third,  the crime committed by accused-appellant Ruth Mariano was evidently murder, the killing of the victim
being qualified by cruelty. The autopsy report of Dr. Aranas abundantly shows irrefutable evidence of cruelty -

FINDINGS: Poorly nourished, fairly developed female cadaver, in the beginning stage of decomposition.
Embalmed. The skin and underlying soft tissues on the chest gnawed by small animals. HEAD, TRUNK AND
EXTREMITIES: Healed lacerated wound, upper lip, measuring 1 by 0.7 cm., 1.5 cm., right of the anterior midline;
Healing lacerated wound, upper lip, measuring .07 by .3 cm., left of the anterior midline; Healed lacerated
wound, non-coaptated, lower lip, measuring 1 by 1 cm., just left of the anterior midline; Multiple lacerated
wounds, right ear, with multiple contusions and swelling; Multiple lacerated wounds, left ear, with multiple
contusions and swelling.

CONCLUSION: Cause of death is multiple traumatic injuries and scalding burns, 1st and 2nd degrees, 72% of
the body surface area.

The wounds and scalding burns listed in the autopsy report were inflicted at different times but did not
immediately result in death, as some of the wounds were still in the process of healing at the time of the autopsy.
This clearly suggests that the victim was still alive even after those injuries were sadistically and inhumanly
inflicted on her. The nature and extent of those injuries undoubtedly caused terrible sufferings on the victim for a
long period of time resulting in a slow, painful death. Explaining his medical findings on the cadaver of the victim,
Dr. Aranas testified -

Q: In such a situation where there are several injuries, would you tell the Court how long after the infliction of
those injuries will the victim die?

A: Well, your Honor, there is evidence of a slow regression of the physical condition of the deceased, so, the
moment that injuries were inflicted on her a few days or may be a week prior to death, there is already a
regression of the body of the deceased considering the presence or the observation of a collapsed lung and the
presence of yellowish fluid on the lungs. This only means that there was already a slow regression on the
physical condition.

COURT: In a layman's language, what do you mean by slow regression?

A: Well, your Honor, there is an evidence of the process of weakening of the system of the body and slowing
down the function of the vital organs of the deceased.

Q: In other words, you would like to tell the Court that the victim has suffered for a long time before she actually
died?

A: Precisely, your Honor.

Q: Can you tell the Court, with the injuries that you have found in the body of the victim, how long did that victim
suffer before she died?

A: Well, your Honor, there are healed wounds and these would have been inflicted a week or more prior to the
death; and there are healing wounds and these were inflicted within a week prior to the death; there were fresh
wounds which were inflicted may be a few hours or day prior to the death. So, she has been suffering for quite a
long time prior to the death.29 

Indeed, to the trained eye of medico-legal specialists, the inanimate remains of the dead give an eloquent
testimony of their own, and that is true even of the young victim, Michelle, who in life could not have been as
articulate. The test in appreciating cruelty, as a qualifying circumstance is whether the accused deliberately
augmented the wrong by causing another wrong not necessary for its commission, or inhumanly increased the
victim's sufferings or outrage, or scoffed at his person or corpse.30 The prosecution evidence surmounted this
test beyond any peradventure of doubt.

We also find that the circumstance of abuse of superior strength aggravated the killing of the victim.
1âwphi1  There was gross physical disparity between the age, built and strength of accused-appellant Ruth
Mariano viz-a-viz the victim Michelle. The former is a big and burly matured woman in her thirties, several inches
taller than the victim, and "who could subdue her [victim] even without a weapon."31 While the latter was merely
a teenager, five (5) feet tall, slim and poorly nourished and weighed less than 100 pounds according to Dr.
Aranas.32 The records also show that accused-appellant Ruth Mariano pulled the victim's hair, banged her head,
and repeatedly doused boiling water on her. On those occasions, the victim was not shown to be equipped with
reasonable means of defense. Abuse of superior strength depends upon the age, size and strength of the
parties. To take advantage of superior strength is to purposely use excessive force out of proportion to the
means of defense available to the person attacked.33 

Abuse of superior strength is a generic aggravating circumstance which is capable of being proved and taken
into consideration in imposing the sentence, even if it was not alleged in the information. The evidence of its
existence merely forms part of the proof of the actual commission of the offense and does not violate the
constitutional right of the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.

We are not in accord with the trial court, however, in appreciating evident premeditation as an aggravating
circumstance. The essential elements of evident premeditation are: (a) the time when the offender determined to
commit the crime; (b) an act manifestly indicating that the culprit had clung to his determination; and, (c) a
sufficient interval of time between the determination and execution of the crime to allow him to reflect upon the
consequences of his act.34 These requisites must be established with equal certainty and clarity as the criminal
act itself before it can be appreciated as an aggravating circumstance.35  In the instant case, the records are
bereft of any evidence to show the nature of accused-appellant Ruth Mariano's planning and preparation to slay
her victim, or how much time had elapsed before it was carried out. Evident premeditation must be based on
external facts which are evident, not merely suspected, and which indicate deliberate planning. Mere
presumptions and inferences, no matter how logical or probable they might be, would not be enough to sustain a
finding of this aggravating circumstance.36 

Article 248 of  The Revised Penal Code,  as amended by Sec. 6, RA 7659, punishes murder with  reclusion
perpetua  to death. The presence of the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength warrants the
imposition of the higher penalty of death on accused-appellant Ruth Mariano in accordance with Art. 63 of The
Revised Penal Code.37 In addition, the same accused-appellant should be made to pay the heirs of the victim
₱50,000.00 for civil indemnity, comformably with prevailing jurisprudence,38 P35,000.00 for actual damages, and
P300,000.00 for moral damages. Moreover, since there is present an aggravating circumstance, and considering
the peculiar circumstances of this case, an award of P50,000.00 for exemplary damages is proper.

Finally, we cannot write finis to this case without expressing our abhorrence to the manner by which the crime
was perpetrated. Accused-appellant Ruth Mariano's atrocious character, which transfixes the soul with such
horror and revulsion, truly merits the severest condemnation of this Court. By her savagery and ruthlessness - by
a woman to another woman - she forfeits her rightful place in civilized society. Michelle, even in death, is entitled
no less to the full measure of justice as any other victim of a gruesome and senseless killing.

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the court a quo of 22 June 1998 is MODIFIED. Accused-appellant Ruth Mariano
is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of MURDER qualified by extreme cruelty and is sentenced
to DEATH. She is further ORDERED to pay the heirs of victim Michelle Priol y Beronio the following amounts:
P50,000.00 for civil indemnity, P35,000.00 for actual damages, P300,000.00 for moral damages, another
P50,000.00 for exemplary damages, and to pay the costs.

As for accused-appellant Ruby Mariano, the Court finds the evidence insufficient to establish beyond reasonable
doubt her guilt as an accomplice in the commission of the said crime. Neither can she be held liable as an
accessory after the fact, as she is exempt from criminal liability by reason of her relationship with her co-accused
pursuant to Art. 20 of The Revised Penal Code. Consequently, she is ACQUITTED of the crime charged and her
immediate release from custody is ordered unless she is being detained for some other lawful cause. The
Director of Prisons is DIRECTED to report to this Court the action taken hereon within five (5) days from receipt
hereof.

Four (4) members of the Court, although maintaining their adherence to the view that RA 7659, insofar as it
prescribes the death penalty, is unconstitutional, nevertheless, bow to the ruling of the Court, by a majority vote,
that the law is constitutional and that the death penalty should accordingly be imposed. In accordance with Sec.
25 of RA 7659, amending Art. 83 of The Revised Penal Code, upon the finality of this Decision, let the records of
this case be forthwith forwarded to the Office of the President for the possible exercise of his pardoning power.

SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 13352728. December 13, 1999]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. JEANETTE (GINETTE) YANSON-DUMANCAS, POL. COL.


NICOLAS TORRES, POL. INSP. ADONIS ABETO, POL. OFFICER MARIO LAMIS Y FERNANDEZ, DOMINADOR
GEROCHE Y MAHUSAY, JAIME GARGALLANO, ROLANDO R. FERNANDEZ, EDWIN DIVINAGRACIA, TEODY
DELGADO, CESAR PECHA, CHARLES DUMANCAS (Acquitted), POL. OFFICER JOSE PAHAYUPAN (Acquitted),
VICENTE CANUDAY, JR. (Acquitted), accused.

JEANETTE (GINETTE) YANSON-DUMANCAS, POL. COL. NICOLAS TORRES, POL. INSP. ADONIS ABETO,
POL. OFFICER MARIO LAMIS Y FERNANDEZ, DOMINADOR GEROCHE Y MAHUSAY, JAIME
GARGALLANO, ROLANDO R. FERNANDEZ, EDWIN DIVINAGRACIA, TEODY DELGADO, CESAR
PECHA, accused-appellants.

D E C I S I O N

MELO, J.:

Accused-appellants were charged with Kidnapping for Ransom with Murder under two Informations which
pertinently read:

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 94-15562

The undersigned hereby accuses JEANETTE YANSON-DUMANCAS, CHARLES DUMANCAS, (BOTH AS


PRINCIPALS BY INDUCTION), POLICE COL. NICOLAS M. TORRES (AS PRINCIPAL BY INDUCTION AND BY
DIRECT AND/OR INDISPENSABLE COOPERATION), POLICE INSPECTOR ADONIS C. ABETO, POLICE
OFFICERS MARIO LAMIS Y FERNANDEZ, JOSE PAHAYUPAN, VICENTE CANUDAY, JR. DOMINADOR
GEROCHE Y MAHUSAY, JAIME GARGALLANO, ROLANDO R. FERNANDEZ, EDWIN DIVINAGRACIA, TEODY
DELGADO, ALL AS PRINCIPALS BY PARTICIPATION, CESAR PECHA, and EDGAR HILADO, BOTH AS
ACCESSORIES, of the crime of KIDNAPPING FOR RANSOM WITH MURDER, committed as follows:

That during the period beginning in the late morning of August 6, 1992 and ending the late evening of the
following day in Sitio Pedrosa, Barangay Alijes, Bacolod City, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and concurring in a common criminal
intent and execution thereof with one another, save for the accessories, for the purpose of extracting or extorting
the sum of P353,000.00, did, then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously, to wit:

Acting upon the inducement of spouses Jeanette Yanson-Dumancas and Charles Dumancas, under the direction
cooperation and undue influence, exerted by P/Col. Nicolas M. Torres, taking advantage of his position as the
Station Commander of the Philippine National Police, Bacolod City Station, with the direct participation and
cooperation of Police Inspector Adonis C. Abeto, other police officers Vicente Canuday, Jr., Jose Pahayupan,
Mario Lamis, civilian (police) agents Rolando R. Fernandez, Edwin Divinagracia, Teody Delgado, Jaime
Gargallano, also taking advantage of their respective positions, and Dominador Geroche, concurring and
affirming in the said criminal design, with the use of motor vehicle abduct, kidnap and detain one RUFINO
GARGAR, JR. and shortly thereafter at around 11 oclock in the evening of August 7, 1993 (1992), failing in their
aforesaid common purpose to extort money and in furtherance of said conspiracy, with evident premeditation
and treachery nocturnity and the use of motor vehicle, did then and there shot and kill the said victim, while
being handcuffed and blindfolded; that accused Cesar Pecha and Edgar Hilado, with knowledge that said Gargar
was victim of violence, did then and there secretly bury the corpse in a makeshift shallow grave or the purpose of
concealing the crime of murder in order to prevent its discovery for a fee of P500.00 each; aforesaid act or acts
has caused damage and prejudice to the heirs of said victim, to wit:

P50,000.00 as indemnity for death;

50,000.00 actual damages;

300,000.00 compensatory damages (lost income);

100,000.00 moral damages;

50,000.00 exemplary damages.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

(pp. 1-3, Record Vol. I)

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 94-15563

The undersigned hereby accused JEANETTE YANSON-DUMANCAS, CHARLES DUMANCAS (BOTH AS


PRINCIPALS BY INDUCTION), POLICE COL. NICOLAS M. TORRES (AS PRINCIPAL BY INDUCTION AND BY
DIRECTION AND/OR INDISPENSABLE COOPERATION), POLICE INSPECTOR ADONIS C. ABETO, POLICE
OFFICERS MARIO LAMIS Y FERNANDEZ, JOSE PAHAYUPAN, VICENTE CANUDAY, JR., DOMINADOR
GEROCHE Y MAHUSAY, JAIME GARGALLANO, ROLANDO B. FERNANDEZ, EDWIN DIVINAGRACIA, TEODY
DELGADO, ALL AS PRINCIPALS BY PARTICIPATION, CESAR PECHA and EDGAR HILADO, BOTH AS
ACCESSORIES, of the crime of KIDNAPPING FOR RANSOM WITH MURDER, committed as follows:

That during the period beginning in the late morning of August 6, 1992 and ending the late evening of the
following day in Sitio Pedrosa, Barangay Alijes, Bacolod City, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and concurring in a common criminal
intent and execution thereof with one another, save for the accessories, for the purpose of extracting or extorting
the sum of P353,000.00, did, then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously, to wit:

Acting upon the inducement of spouse Jeanette Yanson-Dumancas and Charles Dumancas, under the direction,
cooperation and undue influence, exerted by P/Col. Nicolas M. Torres, taking advantage of his position as the
Station Commander of the Philippine National Police, Bacolod City Station, with the direct participation and
cooperation of Police Inspector Adonis C. Abeto, other police officers Vicente Canuday, Jr., Jose Pahayupan,
Mario Lamis, civilian (police) agents Rolando R. Fernandez, Edwin Divinagracia, Teody Delgado, Jaime
Gargallano, also taking advantage of their respective positions, and Dominador Geroche, concurring and
affirming in the said criminal design, with the use of motor vehicle abduct, kidnap and detain one DANILO
LUMANGYAO and shortly thereafter at around 11 oclock in the evening of August 7, 1993 (1992), failing in their
aforesaid common purpose to extort money and in furtherance of said conspiracy, with evident premeditation
and treachery nocturnity and the use of motor vehicle, did then and there shot and kill the said victim, while
being handcuffed and blindfolded, that accused CESAR PECHA and EDGAR HILADO, with knowledge that said
Lumangyao was victim of violence, did then and there secretly bury the corpse in a makeshift shallow grave for
the purpose of concealing the crime of murder in order to prevent its discovery for a fee of P500.00 each;
aforesaid act or acts has caused damage and prejudice to the heirs of said victim, to wit:

P50,000.00 as indemnity for death;

50,000.00 actual damages;

300,000.00 compensatory damages (lost income);

100,000.00 moral damages;

P50,000.00 exemplary damages.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

(pp. 1-3, Record Vol. I-A)

All thirteen accused (excluding Edgar Hilado, who was then still at large) entered pleas of NOT GUILTY upon
arraignment conducted on February 14, 1994 (per Certificates of Arraignment, Record Vol. I-A, pp.
372-384). After a joint trial (excluding accused Edgar Hilado, who upon arraignment on April 11, 1994, pleaded
NOT GUILTY [Record, Vol. II, p. 866], was tried separately), judgment was rendered acquitting Charles
Dumancas, Police Officers Jose Pahayupan and Vicente Canuday, Jr., but convicting the rest of the accused for
the crime charged, to wit:

Wherefore, finding the first nine (9) Accused herein 

1. JEANNETTE (GINNETTE) YANSON DUMANCAS

2. POL. COL. NICOLAS TORRES

3. POL. INSP. ADONIS ABETO

4. POL. OFFICER MARIO LAMIS Y FERNANDEZ

5. DOMINADOR GEROCHE Y MAHUSAY

6. JAIME GARGALLANO

7. ROLANDO R. FERNANDEZ

8. EDWIN DIVINAGRACIA

9. TEODY DELGADO and

10.CESAR PECHA

GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT AS PRINCIPALS and CESAR PECHA as accessory in the two (2)
informations filed in these cases, JUDGMENT is hereby rendered against them, as follows:

1. In CRIMINAL CASE NO. 94-15562, each of the Accused charged as principal is hereby sentenced to suffer the
penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, with all the accessories of the law; to indemnify, jointly and severally, the
Heirs of Rufino Gargar Jr. in the amount of P50,000.00 as indemnity for death; P25,000.00 as actual
damages; P300,000.00 for compensatory damages (lost income); P100,000.00 in moral damages
and P50,000.00 as exemplary damages; and to pay the cost. Accused CESAR PECHA who is charged as an
accessory is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of two (2) years four (4) months and one (1)
day of Prision Correccional as minimum to eight years and one day of Prision Mayor as maximum and to pay
one-tenth of the cost;

2. In CRIMINAL CASE NO. 94-15563, each of the Accused charged as principal is hereby sentenced to suffer the
penalty of Reclusion Perpetua, with all the accessories of the law, indemnify jointly and severally, the Heirs of
DANILO LUMANGYAO in the amount of P50,000.00 as indemnity for death; P25,000.00 as actual
damages; P100,000.00 as compensatory damages (lost income); P100,000.00 as moral damages; P50,000.00 as
exemplary damages; and to pay the cost. Accused CESAR PECHA who is charged as an accessory is hereby
sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of two (2) years four (4) months and one (1) day of prision
correccional as minimum to eight (8) years and one (1) day of Prision Mayor as maximum and to pay one-tenth of
the cost.

Accused CHARLES DUMANCAS, Police Officers JOSE PAHAYUPAN and VICENTE CANUDAY JR. are hereby
Acquitted of the crime charged for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt, with
cost de officio.

SO ORDERED.

(pp. 272-273, Rollo.)

All ten accused filed their respective notices of appeal, and are now before us on review. After going through the
voluminous record of the case, the Court adopts the following summary of facts by the court a quo, to wit:

February 20, 1992

Jeanette Yanson Dumancas was swindled in a fake gold bar transaction losing P352,000 to Danilo Lumangyao
and his cohort.

10:30 A.M. August 5, 1992 present in the house of Rolando Fernandez were:

a) Dominador Geroche

b) Rolando Fernandez

c) Jaime Gargallano

d) Edwin Divinagracia

e) Teody Delgado

f) Mario Lamis and

g) Moises Grandeza

On this occasion Mario Lamis brought out the plan to abduct Danilo Lumangyao and Rufino Gargar, Jr. because
they swindled the Dumancas family.

4:30 P.M. August 5, 1992

The group of:

a) Dominador Geroche

b) Mario Lamis

c) Rolando Fernandez

d) Jaime Gargallano

e) Edwin Divinagracia

f) Teody Delgado

g) Moises Grandeza

went to the office of Col. Nicolas Torres at PNP Headquarters where they met the colonel who told them that if
you find these two people (referring to Lumangyao and Gargar) to bring and hide them at Dragon Lodge Motel.

8:30 A.M., August 6, 1992

State witness Moises Grandeza went to the house of Helen Tortocion to invite Danilo Lumangyao and Rufino
Gargar Jr. to Tinolahan Eatery at Shopping Center Terminal but found only Gargar Jr. as Lumangyao went to the
house of a certain Bardot at BBB Avenue, this City.

Moises Grandeza together with Gargar Jr. proceeded to the house of Bardot where they found Lumangyao and
thereafter the three of them went to Tinolahan Eatery.

9:00 10:00 A.M. August 6, 1992

The three arrived at Tinulahan Eatery. Waiting for them were:

a) Dominador Geroche

b) Jaime Gargallano

c) Edwin Divinagracia

d) Rolando Fernandez

e) Teody Delgado; and

f) Mario Lamis

Then a) Fernandez b) Geroche and c) Lamis entered Tinulahan and handcuffed Lumangyao and Gargar.

Waiting in the red Toyota Land Cruiser (Plate No. 689) were:

a) Gargallano

b) Divinagracia; and

c) Delgado

10:30 A.M. August 6, 1992

Lumangyao and Gargar were brought to the Office of Jeanette at Ceres Compound on board red toyota land
cruiser by:

a) Moises Grandeza

b) Gargallano

c) Lamis

d) Geroche

e) Divinagracia

f) Delgado, and

g) Fernandez

It was there that a) Divinagracia and b) Fernandez manhandled Lumangyao and Gargar. Jeanette then
investigated the two victims on the whereabouts of the money that they swindled from her and the two answered
that it was already spent.

It was then that Jeanette ordered Doming (Geroche) to take care of the two (Lumangyao and Gargar).

3:00 P.M. August 6, 1992

From Ceres Compound and while the group, together with the two victims, were already at Dragon Lodge Motel,
thereafter,

a) Abeto

b) Pahayupan, and

c) Canuday

arrived and investigated the two victims regarding the whereabouts of the gold bar and the two replied that it
was with Helen Tortocion.

4:00 P.M. August 6, 1992

a) Moises Grandeza

b) Fernandez, and

c) Geroche

went to the office of Col. Torres to inform him that Lumangyao and Gargar were already captured. So Col. Torres
ordered them to keep the two victims so that nobody would see them. After receiving this instructions they went
back to Dragon Lodge. Meanwhile, Geroche again interrogated the victims on where the money was if there was
still any let and Geroche received the same negative reply.

Past 6:00 p.m. August 6, 1992

The group, with the two captives transferred to DHacienda Motel.

9:00 P.M. August 6, 1992

At DHacienda Motel, Jeanette and Charles Dumancas, together with Rose Ines arrived. Jeanette and Rose Ines
investigated the victims where they kept the money that they swindled and the two gave the same reply that it
was already gone. Jeanette then reiterated her order to Geroche to take care of the two.

9:30 P.M. August 6, 1992

The group transferred to Moonlight Inn Motel.

3:00 A.M. August 7, 1992

The group transferred again to Casamel Lodge Motel.

10:00 A.M. August 7, 1992

The group returned to DHacienda Motel and it was there that the plan was pursued to liquidate the two victims at
12:00 midnight.

The persons who conceived of this plan were:

a) Geroche, and

b) Fernandez

4:30 P.M. August 7, 1992

1) Canuday

2) Abeto

3) Dudero

4) Lesaca, and

5) Arollado

searched the residence of Helen Tortocion for the gold dust and simulated gold bar per search warrant 014-92
(Exh. D) but the search was fruitless.

7:30 P.M. August 7, 1992

The group, including the victims, partook of supper which was charged to Roy Yanson.

Then a) Abeto

b) Canuday, and

c) Pahayupan

entered the room and asked Fernandez what they are going to do with the two victims to which Fernandez,
replied that he will be responsible for the two.

11:00 P.M. August 7, 1992

a) Geroche

b) Lamis

c) Fernandez, and

d) Moises Grandeza

rode on the red Toyota Land Cruiser to conduct Geroche to his house. The victims were left behind.

From his house Geroche took an armalite rifle and the group then went back to DHacienda Motel.

12:00 P.M. August 7, 1992

a) Fernandez, and

b) Lamis

blindfolded and handcuffed Lumangyao and Gargar (Exh. A and A-1) and have them board a vehicle, with

a) Gargallano the driver

b) Geroche sitting in front, and with

c) Moises Grandeza also seated inside.

From DHacienda Motel, the group rode on the red toyota land cruiser. They proceeded to Hda. Pedrosa in Brgy.
Alijis. When they arrived there the two victims were ordered to alight and sit by the side of the road. Geroche
then asked Moises Grandeza to hold the hands of Lumangyao and then Gargar behind their backs. After that 

a) Gargallano was the first to shoot. He shot Gargar at the back of his head (Exh. K) using a baby armalite. Then

b) Geroche followed suit by shooting Lumangyao with a .45 cal. Pistol at his right lower jaw (Exh. L).

Thereafter, the two dead bodies were loaded on board the land cruiser and brought to Hda. Siason where Pecha
and Hilado buried them in the shallow grave they dug.

August 8, 1992

In Sitio Cabalagnan were recovered

a) Three (3) empty shells of armalite rifle and one .45 cal. Empty shell (Exh. G, G-2)

In Hda. Siason were recovered

a) the dead bodies of Rufino Gargar, Jr. and Danilo Lumangyao

b) Both of the two victims hands were handcuffed (Exh. A and A-1).

August 9, 1992

The same group again went to see Col. Torres in his office and reported the extermination of the two and Col.
Torres promptly gave the instruction that you who are here inside, nobody knows what you have done but you
have to hide because the NBI are after you.

August 10, 1992

a) Lamis

b) Geroche

c) Fernandez

d) Divinagracia

e) Gargallano

f) Delgado, and

g) Moises Grandeza

went back to the office of Col. Torres and this time he told the group to hide because the NBI are now
investigating.

4:00 P.M. August 12, 1992

The same group that liquidated Lumangyao and Gargar again went back to the office of Col. Torres where they
were asked by Col. Torres to escort him to Ceres Compound because he would like to borrow money from
Ricardo Yanson as Col. Torres said that he has huge debts to pay. Col. Torres was able on this occasion, to meet
Ricardo Yanson.

On this same day,

a) Moises Grandeza

b) Lamis, and

c) Geroche

were picked up in a land cruiser by the driver of the Yansons to go to the house of Fernandez where Geroche will
give the money to the group. Each member of the group, after the check, which was drawn by Yanson, was
encashed were given the amount of P1,700.00 each.

August 13, 1992

Nenita Bello went to the office of Col. Torres to plead for his help in regard to the death of her relatives
Lumangyao and Gargar but was promptly turned down by Colonel Torres with the curt remark that her case was
very difficult because it involves the military and some big times.

The Sangguniang Panlungsod of Bacolod City also passed, on this day, Resolution No. 328, series of 1992
urging the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct an investigation on the death of salvage victims
Danilo Lumangyao and Rufino Gargar, Jr. as soon as possible (Exh. I).

September 24, 1992

The bodies of Rufino Gargar Jr. and Danilo Lumangyao were exhumed at Brgy. Buenavista Cemetery,
Balintawak, Escalante, Negros Occidental and autopsies were conducted (Exhs. M and N) by Dr. Ricardo
Jaboneta, Medico Legal Officer of the NBI.

a) Found on the body of Rufino Gargar, Jr. (per examination report, Exh. M) among others, were ligature marks,
wrist joint, right side (Exh. M-2, and

b) Gunshot wound (Exh. M-1)

As to Danilo Lumangyao, the exhumation report (Exh. N disclose

a) Ligature marks, right wrist (Exh. N-2) and among others, and

b) Gunshot wound (Exh. N-1)

After the National Bureau of Investigation, Bacolod Office, conducted its investigation, the State Prosecutors of
the Department of Justice took over and the result were the filing of these two criminal cases of Kidnapping with
Murder against the above-named accused.

(pp. 73-85, Decision; pp. 202-214, Rollo.)

After a thorough review of the factual findings of the trial court vis--vis the evidence on record, we find ourselves
unable to agree with the conclusions arrived at by the trial court convicting all 10 accused-appellants; rather, we
concur in the suggestion of the Solicitor General, that accused-appellants Jeanette Yanson-Dumancas and
Police Inspector Adonis Abeto should be acquitted. Too, by reason of his supervening death, accused-appellant
Police Col. Nicolas Torres is acquitted. The judgment of conviction of the rest of the accused-appellants is to be
affirmed.

A. Jeanette (Ginette) Yanson-Dumancas

On the case of accused-appellant Jeanette Yanson-Dumancas (Jeanette, for short), the information charged her
of the crime of kidnapping for ransom with murder as principal by induction together with her husband, Charles,
who was found by the trial court not guilty of the crime.

Article 17, Revised Penal Code, provides:

Art. 17. Principals.  The following are considered principals:

1. Those who take a direct part in the execution of the act;

2. Those who directly force or induce others to commit it.

3. Those who cooperate in the commission of the offense by another act without which it would not have been
accomplished.

What the Court now has to examine is whether or not sufficient evidence was adduced by the prosecution to
prove beyond reasonable doubt that Jeanette indeed performed any of the following acts: (a) directly forcing the
killers to commit the crime, or (b) directly inducing them to commit the crime.

There are 2 ways of directly forcing another to commit a crime, namely: (i) by using irresistible force, or (ii) by
causing uncontrollable fear. Upon review of the testimony of all the witnesses of the prosecution, we find nothing
to conclude that Jeanette used irresistible force or caused uncontrollable fear upon the other accused-
appellants. From the factual findings of the trial court, it is patent that the plan to abduct and liquidate the victims
was hatched on August 5, 1992 (10:30 A.M.) without Jeanettes involvement or participation whatsoever (p.
202, Rollo). The record is entirely bereft of any evidence to show that Jeanette directly forced the participants of
the said meeting to come up with such plan, by either using irresistible force or causing uncontrollable fear. The
only basis relied upon by the trial court in arriving at its conclusion that Jeanette is guilty of the crime as principal
by inducement, is the supposed commands or order given by her to accused-appellant Dominador Geroche on
two occasions (one inside the Ceres Compound: p. 205, Rollo, and the other in DHacienda Motel: p.
207, Rollo). By no stretch of the imagination may these so-called commands, standing alone, be considered as
constituting irresistible force or causing uncontrollable fear.

Likewise, there are 2 ways of directly inducing another to commit a crime, namely: (i) by giving a price, or
offering reward or promise, and (ii) by using words of command. The Court finds no evidence, as did the trial
court, to show that Jeanette offered any price, reward, or promise to the rest of accused-appellants should they
abduct and later kill the victims in this case. If at all, the prosecution witness mentioned the name of Ricardo
Yanson as having lent money to accused-appellant Col. Torres to be used for paying the latters debts or
obligations. But definitely, no money ever came from Jeanette herself. The trial courts surmise that the money
delivered by Ricardo Yanson to the group was with the knowledge and approval of Jeanette in completely
baseless.

The only matter left for consideration is whether the order supposedly given by Jeanette to accused-appellant
Geroche to take care of the two constitutes words of command which may be considered sufficient basis to
convict Jeanette as principal by inducement.

In order that a person may be convicted as principal by inducement, the following must be present: (1) the
inducement be made with the intention of procuring the commission of the crime, and (2) such inducement be
the determining cause of the commission by the material executor (U.S. vs. Indanan, 24 Phil. 203 [1913]). To
constitute inducement, there must exist on the part of the inducer the most positive resolution and the most
persistent effort to secure the commission of the crime, together with the presentation to the person induced of
the very strongest kind of temptation to commit the crime.

By the foregoing standards, the remark of Jeanette to take care of the two does not constitute the
command required by law to justify a finding that she is guilty as a principal by inducement. As we held in U.S.
vs. Indanan, supra, a chance word spoken without reflection, a wrong appreciation of a situation, an ironical
phrase, a thoughtless act, may give birth to a thought of, or even a resolution to crime in the mind of one for
some independent reason predisposed thereto without the one who spoke the word or performed the act having
any expectation that his suggestion would be followed or any real intention that it produce the result. In such
case, while the expression was imprudent and the results of it grave in the extreme, he (the one who spoke the
word or performed the act) would not be guilty of the crime committed (p. 219).

Furthermore, the utterance which was supposedly the act of inducement, should precede the commission of the
crime itself (People vs. Castillo, July 26, [1966]). In the case at bar, the abduction, which is an essential element
of the crime charged (kidnapping for ransom with murder) has already taken place when Jeanette allegedly told
accused-appellant Geroche to take care of the two. Said utterance could, therefore, not have been the
inducement to commit the crime charged in this case.

Most importantly, it was duly proven by no less than the prosecution witness himself, Moises Grandeza, that the
intention of Jeanette was but to allow the law to its course, when in his cross-examination, the following
transpired:

ATTY. PARREO:

Q. And according to your testimony this morning, Jeanette Dumancas said, what more can we do that swindling
transpired four months ago, definitely that money could nowhere be around. Would you confirm that you testified
that this morning before this Court? Is that correct?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Mr. Witness, this is very important. Please make a vivid recall. When Danilo Lumangyao made that answer
that the money was not around and Jeanette Dumancas said whats the use, the money is now nowhere to be
found as four months have already transpired, did not Jeanette Dumancas tell Doming: Doming, bring these two
to the PC or police and I will call Atty. Geocadin so that proper cases could be filed against them? Kindly make a
recall on that.

A. Yes, sir.

(pp. 54-55, tsn Feb. 14, 1994)

Thus, even the veracity of the allegation that Jeanette uttered the words: take care of the two is put to some
reasonable doubt by the prosecution witness himself. The remark, if made at all, cannot by any stretch of the
imagination, be basis for the conviction of Jeanette.

People vs. Manambit (271 SCRA 344 [1997]) finds apt application, to wit:

In criminal law, the quantum of evidence for conviction is that which produces moral certainty in an unprejudiced
mind that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. But, if the evidence is susceptible of two
interpretations, one consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt,
the accused must be acquitted.

(p. 385)

B. Police Inspector Adonis Abeto

With respect to accused-appellant Abeto, we quote with approval the observations of the Solicitor General as
follows:

Police Inspector Adonis C. Abetos appeal is meritorious. Be it remembered that Abetos only participation was to
serve the search warrant on Helen Tortocions residence and the subsequent interrogation of the two victims at
the Hacienda Motel. He was never part of the conspiracy to abduct and liquidate the two victims. He is similarly
situated as that of Canuday and Pahayupan.

The trial court, in acquitting Canuday and Pahayupan had this to say:

The evidence against Officer CANUDAY, JR. shows that in the afternoon of August 6, 1992, together with
Officers ABETO and PAHAYUPAN, they went to Dragon Lodge Motel to investigate LUMANGYAO and GARGAR,
JR. as to the whereabouts of the gold (fake) bar used in swindling JEANETTE. The two captives answered that it
is with HELEN TORTOCION. A subsequent search of Tortocions house led by Officer ABETO yielded no fake
gold bar. Meanwhile, in the evening of August 7, 1992, Officers ABETO, CANUDAY, JR., and PAHAYUPAN
showed up at DHacienda Motel to inquire from FERNANDEZ what he is going to do with the two.

Like Officer Pahayupan, his being in the company of Officers Abeto, on the two occasions can not give rise, to
without proof of previous agreement, a conspiracy. Thus, being present at the scene of the crime is not by itself
sufficient to establish conspiracy, as already averted to previously. So does mere companionship.

(p. 1720-1721, Rollo.)

After due consideration of accused-appellant Abetos constitutional right to the presumption of innocence,
coupled with the presumption of regularity in the performance of his official functions having simply followed the
order of his superior officers, much is left to be desired before the Court can sustain the trial courts conviction of
accused-appellant Abeto. The two presumptions negate the inadequate proof adduced against accused-
appellant Abeto, who must perforce be acquitted, in much the same manner that accused Canuday, Jr. and
Pahayupan, who being similarly situated, were cleared and absolved.

C. Police Col. Nicolas M. Torres

As for accused-appellant Col. Torres, who passed away during the pendency of this appeal, the following rule
laid down by this Court in People vs. Bayotas (236 SCRA 239 [1994]) applies:

1. Death of the accused pending appeal of his conviction extinguishes his criminal liability as well as the civil
liability based solely thereon. As opined by Justice Regalado, in this regard, the death of the accused prior to
final judgment terminates his criminal liability and only the civil liability directly arising from and based solely on
the offense committed, i.e., civil liability ex delicto in senso strictiore.

2. Corollarily, the claim for civil liability survives notwithstanding the death of accused, if the same may also be
predicated on a source of obligation other than delict. Article 1157 of the Civil Code enumerates these other
sources of obligation from which the civil liability may arise as a result of the same act or omission:

a) Law

b) Contracts

c) Quasi-contracts

d) xxx xxx xxx

e) Quasi-delicts

3. Where the civil liability survives, as explained in Number 2 above, an action for recovery therefor may be
pursued but only by way of filing a separate civil action and subject to Section 1, Rule 111 of the 1985 Rules on
Criminal Procedure as amended. This separate civil action may be enforced either against the executor/
administrator of the estate of the accused, depending on the source of obligation upon which the same is based
as explained above.

4. Finally, the private offended party need not fear a forfeiture of his right to file a separate civil action by
prescription, in cases where during the prosecution of the criminal action and prior to its extinction, the private-
offended party instituted together therewith the civil action. In such case, the statute of limitations on the civil
liability is deemed interrupted during the pendency of the criminal case, conformably with provisions of Article
1155 of the Civil Code, that should thereby avoid any apprehension on possible privation of right by prescription.

(pp. 255-256)

With the application of the above set of rules to accused-appellant Torres, we hold that his death extinguished
his criminal liability and the civil liability solely based thereon. Accordingly, the appeal of accused-appellant
Torres is forthwith dismissed, such dismissal having the force and effect of an acquittal.

D. Pol. Officer Mario Lamis y Fernandez, Dominador Geroche y Mahusay, Jaime Gargallano, Rolando R.
Fernandez, Edwin Divinagracia, Teody Delgado, and Cesar Pecha

Now, in regard to the other accused-appellants, after a careful review of the evidence, we find the same sufficient
to affirm their conviction.

These accused-appellants assail the credence given by the trial court to the eyewitness account of Moises
Grandeza. Even after a thorough perusal of their main appellants brief (pp. 327-498, Rollo), plus the separate
briefs of accused-appellants Geroche (pp. 1453-1627) and Pecha (pp. 828-1009, Rollo), we find no cogent
reason to depart from the well settled rule that when it comes to the issue of credibility of witnesses, the factual
findings of the trial court is generally accorded great weight. In People vs. Taedo (266 SCRA 34 [1997]) the Court
had occasion to reiterate the ruling that findings of fact of the trial court pertaining to the credibility of witnesses
command great respect since it had the opportunity to observe their demeanor while they testified in court. The
briefs of accused-appellants Lamis, et al. are replete with generalities and legal principles relating to the issue,
but are utterly wanting in relevant particulars which may be the basis to rule that indeed, the trial court erred in
lending full credence to the testimony of witness Grandeza on the matter. As held in People vs. Ramirez 266
SCRA 335 [1997]), unless the trial judge plainly overlooked certain facts of substance and value which, if
considered, might affect the result of the case, his assessment on credibility must be respected.

In an attempt to buttress the contention that witness Grandezas testimony should not have been given credence
by the court a quo, accused-appellants referred to supposed inconsistencies between Grandezas sworn
statements before investigators vis--vis his testimony in court (pp. 349-359, Rollo; and 1465-1468, Rollo). The
Court, however, is not impressed. This will not be the first occasion for us to hold that discrepancies between the
statements of the affiant in his affidavit and those made by him on the witness stand do not necessarily discredit
him since ex-parte affidavits are generally incomplete affidavits are generally subordinated in importance to open
court declarations (People vs. Padao, 267 SCRA 64 [1997]). A contradiction between a witness affidavit and his
testimony in open court may almost be explained by the fact that, being taken ex parte, an affidavit is often
incomplete and inaccurate, sometimes from partial suggestions, and sometimes from the want of suggestions
and inquiries (Sumalpong vs. Court of Appeals, 268 SCRA 764 [1997]). Grandezas perceived failure to mention
anything in his 3 affidavits pertaining to the supposed meetings where the criminal plot was hatched, does not
necessarily render his testimony in court unworthy of credit.

In his brief, accused-appellant Geroche cites Grandezas failure to identify one of their co-accused, Charles
Dumancas, in open court, and the variance on the alleged instructions given by Jeanette, and the failure by
Grandeza to mention the supposed meetings in his previous affidavits, as grounds to totally disregard Grandezas
entire testimony for being unworthy of credence (pp. 1461-1469, Rollo). Indirectly, accused-appellant Geroche
wants this Court to apply the maxim falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. In this regard, we held in People vs.
Pacis (130 SCRA 540 [1984]):

The maxim of falsus in uno falsus in omnibus, however, is not a positive rule of law. Neither is it an inflexible one
of universal application. If a part of a witness testimony is found true, it cannot be disregarded entirely. The
testimony of a witness may be believed in part and disbelieved in part.

(p. 546)

Also in People vs. Li Bun Juan (17 SCRA 934 [1966]) we ruled:

. . . In this connection it must be borne in mind that the principle falsus in uno falsus in omnibus is not an
absolute one, and that it is perfectly reasonable to believe the testimony of a witness with respect to some facts
and disbelieve it with respect to other facts. In People vs. Keller, 46 O.G. No. 7, pp. 3222-3223, the following was
quoted with approval by the Court of Appeals from 1 Moore on Facts, p. 23:

18. Testimony may be partly credited and partly rejected.  Trier of facts are not bound to believe all that any
witness has said; they may accept some portions of his testimony and reject other portions, according to what
seems to them, upon other facts and circumstances to be the truth . . . Even when witnesses are found to have
deliberately falsified in some material particulars, the jury are not required to reject the whole of their
uncorroborated testimony, but may credit such portions as they deem worthy of belief.

(p. 945)

The grounds relied upon by accused-appellant Geroche do not, therefore, constitute cogent reasons to discredit
the testimony of eyewitness Grandeza in its entirety.

As regards accused-appellant Geroches defense of alibi, it is settled that alibi cannot prevail over positive
identification (People vs. Garma, 271 SCRA 517 [1997]). Being easy to fabricate and difficult to disprove, alibi
cannot prevail over and is worthless in the face of the positive identification of the accused-appellant (People vs.
Datun, 272 SCRA 380 [1997]). Besides, the record is bereft of strong and convincing evidence that accused-
appellant could not have been at the scene of the crime because the certification proffered in support thereof
stated that he was in Mt. Calandog only after the commission of the crime. And, as aptly stated by the Solicitor
General in the Peoples brief, the trial court expressed puzzlement why this supposed fact was not mentioned in
his July 3, 1993 affidavit . . . The first impulse of an innocent man when accused of a wrongdoing is to express
his innocence at the first opportune time. The People can only conclude that Geroches defense of alibi is but an
afterthought (p. 1723, Rollo).

As to accused-appellant Cesar Pechas case, the Court finds it difficult to believe that he had no knowledge that
the 2 victims he was burying were victims of violence. The deceased were surely bloodied from their gunshot
wounds and were in fact still handcuffed when exhumed from their shallow grave. It becomes almost impossible
for accused-appellant Pecha not to at least, entertain doubts as to the absence of foul play in this case. He is
thus guilty as an accessory to the crime committed under Paragraph 2, Article 19, of the Revised Penal Code, to
wit:

ART. 19. Accessories.  Accessories are those who, having knowledge of the commission of the crime, and
without having participated therein, either as principals or accomplices, take part subsequent to its commission
in any of the following manners:

1. By profiting themselves or assisting the offender to profit by the effects of the crime;

2. By concealing or destroying the body of the crime or the effects or instruments thereof, in order to prevent its
discovery;

3. By harboring, concealing, or assisting in the escape of the principal of the crime, provided the accessory acts
with abuse of his public functions or whenever the author of the crime is guilty of treason, parricide, murder, or
an attempt to take the life of the Chief Executive, or is known to habitually guilty of some other crime.

All told, there are only reasons to affirm, and none to reverse, the trial courts conviction of accused-appellants
Pol. Officer Mario Lamis y Fernandez, Dominador Geroche y Mahusay, Jaime Gargallano, Rolando R. Fernandez,
Edwin Divinagracia, and Teody Delgado as principals by direct participation of the crime of kidnapping for
ransom with murder, and that of Cesar Pecha as accessory thereto.

Under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, when the crime of kidnapping is committed for the purpose of
extorting ransom from the victims, the penalty is death. However, since the crime was committed before the re-
imposition of the death penalty, only reclusion perpetua is imposable upon all the accused-appellant found guilty
of the crime as principals. Accused-appellant Pechas penalty, as accessory is 2 degrees lower, which is prision
mayor.Applying the indeterminate sentence law, the penalty to be imposed is 6 months and 1 day (the minimum
of prision correccional), as minimum, up to 8 years (within the minimum period of prision mayor), as the
maximum.

On the civil liabilities, accused-appellants who are herein convicted of the crime as principals are held solidarily
liable for the amount of P50,000.00 to the heirs of each of the victims, as indemnity for their death. The amount
of P50,000.00, each, by way moral damages and P25,000.00, each, as exemplary damages are already deemed
sufficient. Accused-appellant Cesar Pecha is held liable for one-tenth of the above amounts. The appealed
judgment is silent as to any justification for the other damages awarded and can therefore not be sustained on
appeal.

WHEREFORE, accused-appellants JEANETTE YANSON-DUMANCAS and ADONIS ABETO are hereby


ACQUITTED and forthwith ordered released from detention unless there may be reason for their further detention
on other criminal cases. The case and appeal of NICOLAS TORRES is DISMISSED by reason of his death. The
convictions of all the other accused-appellants for each case filed are AFFIRMED except for the modification that
accused-appellant CESAR PECHA is sentenced for each case to an indeterminate prison term of six (6) months
and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum up to eight (8) years of prision mayor, as maximum. Joint
and several civil liability for the accused-appellants found guilty as principals, is reduced to P50,000.00 for each
case, as indemnity for the death of each victim, P50,000.00 for each case, by way moral damages,
and P25,000.00 for each case, by way of exemplary damages. The civil liability of accused-appellant Cesar
Pecha is maintained at one-tenth of the above amount.

No special pronouncement is made as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

Vitug, Panganiban, Purisima, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.

Republic of the Philippines



SUPREME COURT

Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 134298           August 26, 1999

RAMON C. TAN, petitioner, 

vs.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

PARDO, J.:

The case before the Court is an appeal via certiorari from a decision of the Court of Appeals * affirming that of the
Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 19, ** convicting petitioner of the crime of fencing.

Complainant Rosita Lim is the proprietor of Bueno Metal Industries, located at 301 Jose Abad Santos St., Tondo,
Manila, engaged in the business of manufacturing propellers or spare parts for boats. Manuelito Mendez was one
of the employees working for her. Sometime in February 1991, Manuelito Mendez left the employ of the company.
Complainant Lim noticed that some of the welding rods, propellers and boat spare parts, such as bronze and
stainless propellers and brass screws were missing. She conducted an inventory and discovered that propellers
and stocks valued at P48,000.00, more or less, were missing. Complainant Rosita Lim informed Victor Sy, uncle
of Manuelito Mendez, of the loss. Subsequently, Manuelito Mendez was arrested in the Visayas and he admitted
that he and his companion Gaudencio Dayop stole from the complainant's warehouse some boat spare parts
such as bronze and stainless propellers and brass screws. Manuelito Mendez asked the complainant's
forgiveness. He pointed to petitioner Ramon C. Tan as the one who bought the stolen items and who paid the
amount of P13,000.00, in cash to Mendez and Dayop, and they split the amount with one another. Complainant
did not file a case against Manuelito Mendez and Gaudencio Dayop.

On relation of complainant Lim, an Assistant City Prosecutor of Manila filed with the Regional Trial Court, Manila,
Branch 19, an information against petitioner charging him with violation of Presidential Decree No. 1612 (Anti-
Fencing Law) committed as follows:

That on or about the last week of February 1991, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, did then and
there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously knowingly receive, keep, acquire and possess several spare parts and
items for fishing boats all valued at P48,130.00 belonging to Rosita Lim, which he knew or should have known to
have been derived from the proceeds of the crime of theft.

Contrary to law.

Upon arraignment on November 23, 1992, petitioner Ramon C. Tan pleaded not guilty to the crime charged and
waived pre-trial. To prove the accusation, the prosecution presented the testimonies of complainant Rosita Lim,
Victor Sy and the confessed thief, Manuelito Mendez.
On the other hand, the defense presented Rosita Lim and Manuelito Mendez as hostile witnesses and petitioner
himself. The testimonies of the witnesses were summarized by the trial court in its decision, as follows:

ROSITA LIM stated that she is the owner of Bueno Metal Industries, engaged in the business of manufacturing
propellers, bushings, welding rods, among others (Exhibits A, A-1, and B). That sometime in February 1991, after
one of her employees left the company, she discovered that some of the manufactured spare parts were missing,
so that on February 19, 1991, an inventory was conducted and it was found that some welding rods and
propellers, among others, worth P48,000.00 were missing. Thereafter, she went to Victor Sy, the person who
recommended Mr. Mendez to her. Subsequently, Mr. Mendez was arrested in the Visayas, and upon arrival in
Manila, admitted to his having stolen the missing spare parts sold then to Ramon Tan. She then talked to Mr. Tan,
who denied having bought the same.1âwphi1.nêt

When presented on rebuttal, she stated that some of their stocks were bought under the name of Asia Pacific, the
guarantor of their Industrial Welding Corporation, and stated further that whether the stocks are bought under the
name of the said corporation or under the name of William Tan, her husband, all of these items were actually
delivered to the store at 3012-3014 Jose Abad Santos Street and all paid by her husband.

That for about one (1) year, there existed a business relationship between her husband and Mr. Tan. Mr. Tan used
to buy from them stocks of propellers while they likewise bought from the former brass woods, and that there is no
reason whatsoever why she has to frame up Mr. Tan.

MANUELITO MENDEZ stated that he worked as helper at Bueno Metal Industries from November 1990 up to
February 1991. That sometime in the third week of February 1991, together with Gaudencio Dayop, his co-
employee, they took from the warehouse of Rosita Lim some boat spare parts, such as bronze and stainless
propellers, brass screws, etc. They delivered said stolen items to Ramon Tan, who paid for them in cash in the
amount of P13,000.00. After taking his share (one-half (1/2) of the amount), he went home directly to the province.
When he received a letter from his uncle, Victor Sy, he decided to return to Manila. He was then accompanied by
his uncle to see Mrs. Lim, from whom he begged for forgiveness on April 8, 1991. On April 12, 1991, he executed
an affidavit prepared by a certain Perlas, a CIS personnel, subscribed to before a Notary Public (Exhibits C and
C-1).

VICTORY [sic] SY stated that he knows both Manuelito Mendez and Mrs. Rosita Lim, the former being the
nephew of his wife while the latter is his auntie. That sometime in February 1991, his auntie called up and
informed him about the spare parts stolen from the warehouse by Manuelito Mendez. So that he sent his son to
Cebu and requested his kumpadre, a police officer of Sta. Catalina, Negros Occidental, to arrest and bring
Mendez back to Manila. When Mr. Mendez was brought to Manila, together with Supt. Perlas of the WPDC, they
fetched Mr. Mendez from the pier after which they proceeded to the house of his auntie. Mr. Mendez admitted to
him having stolen the missing items and sold to Mr. Ramon Tan in Sta. Cruz, Manila. Again, he brought Mr.
Mendez to Sta. Cruz where he pointed to Mr. Tan as the buyer, but when confronted, Mr. Tan denied the same.

ROSITA LIM, when called to testify as a hostile witness, narrated that she owns Bueno Metal Industries located at
301 Jose Abad Santos Street, Tondo, Manila. That two (2) days after Manuelito Mendez and Gaudencio Dayop
left, her husband, William Tan, conducted an inventory and discovered that some of the spare parts worth
P48,000.00 were missing. Some of the missing items were under the name of Asia Pacific and William Tan.

MANUELITO MENDEZ, likewise, when called to testify as a hostile witness, stated that he received a subpoena in
the Visayas from the wife of Victor Sy, accompanied by a policeman of Buliloan, Cebu on April 8, 1991. That he
consented to come to Manila to ask forgiveness from Rosita Lim. That in connection with this case, he executed
an affidavit on April 12, 1991, prepared by a certain Atty. Perlas, a CIS personnel, and the contents thereof were
explained to him by Rosita Lim before he signed the same before Atty. Jose Tayo, a Notary Public, at Magnolia
House, Carriedo, Manila (Exhibits C and C-1).

That usually, it was the secretary of Mr. Tan who accepted the items delivered to Ramon Hardware. Further, he
stated that the stolen items from the warehouse were placed in a sack and he talked to Mr. Tan first over the
phone before he delivered the spare parts. It was Mr. Tan himself who accepted the stolen items in the morning at
about 7:00 to 8:00 o'clock and paid P13,000.00 for them.
RAMON TAN, the accused, in exculpation, stated that he is a businessman engaged in selling hardware (marine
spare parts) at 944 Espeleta Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila.

He denied having bought the stolen spare parts worth P48,000.00 for he never talked nor met Manuelito Mendez,
the confessed thief. That further the two (2) receipts presented by Mrs. Lim are not under her name and the other
two (2) are under the name of William Tan, the husband, all in all amounting to P18,000.00. Besides, the incident
was not reported to the police (Exhibits 1 to 1-g).

He likewise denied having talked to Manuelito Mendez over the phone on the day of the delivery of the stolen
items and could not have accepted the said items personally for everytime (sic) goods are delivered to his store,
the same are being accepted by his staff. It is not possible for him to be at his office at about 7:00 to 8:00 o'clock
in the morning, because he usually reported to his office at 9:00 o'clock. In connection with this case, he executed
a counter-affidavit (Exhibits 2 and 2-a).1

On August 5, 1996, the trial court rendered decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the accused RAMON C. TAN is hereby found guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of violating the Anti-Fencing Law of 1979, otherwise known as Presidential Decree No. 1612, and
sentences him to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of SIX (6) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY to TEN (10) YEARS
of prision mayor and to indemnify Rosita Lim the value of the stolen merchandise purchased by him in the sum of
P18,000.00.

Costs against the accused.

SO ORDERED.

Manila, Philippines, August 5, 1996.

(s/t) ZENAIDA R. DAGUNA



Judge

Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals.

After due proceedings, on January 29, 1998, the Courts of Appeals rendered decision finding no error in judgment
appealed from, and affirming the same in toto.

In due time, petitioner filed with the Court of Appeals a motion for reconsideration; however, on June 16, 1998, the
Court of Appeals denied the motion.

Hence, this petition.

The issue raised is whether or not the prosecution has successfully established the elements of fencing as against
petitioner.2

We resolve the issue in favor of petitioner.

"Fencing, as defined in Section 2 of P.D. No. 1612 is "the act of any person who, with intent to gain for himself or
for another, shall buy, receive, possess, keep, acquire, conceal, sell or dispose of, or shall buy and sell, or in any
manner deal in any article, item, object or anything of value which he knows, or should be known to him, to have
been derived from the proceeds of the crime of robbery or theft."3

"Robbery is the taking of personal property belonging to another, with intent to gain, by means of violence against
or intimidation of any person, or using force upon things."4

The crime of theft is committed if the taking is without violence against or intimidation of persons nor force upon
things.5
"The law on fencing does not require the accused to have participated in the criminal design to commit, or to have
been in any wise involved in the commission of, the crime of robbery or theft."6

Before the enactment of P.D. No. 1612 in 1979, the fence could only be prosecuted as an accessory after the fact
of robbery or theft, as the term is defined in Article 19 of the Revised Penal Code, but the penalty was light as it
was two (2) degrees lower than that prescribed for the principal.7

P.D. No. 1612 was enacted to "impose heavy penalties on persons who profit by the effects of the crimes of
robbery and theft." Evidently, the accessory in the crimes of robbery and theft could be prosecuted as such under
the Revised Penal Code or under P.D. No. 1612. However, in the latter case, the accused ceases to be a mere
accessory but becomes a principal in the crime of fencing. Otherwise stated, the crimes of robbery and theft, on
the one hand, and fencing, on the other, are separate and distinct offenses.8 The State may thus choose to
prosecute him either under the Revised Penal Code or P.D. No. 1612, although the preference for the latter would
seem inevitable considering that fencing is malum prohibitum, and P.D. No. 1612 creates a presumption of
fencing9 and prescribes a higher penalty based on the value of the property.10

In Dizon-Pamintuan vs. People of the Philippines, we set out the essential elements of the crime of fencing as
follows:

1. A crime of robbery or theft has been committed;

2. The accused, who is not a principal or accomplice in the commission of the crime of robbery or theft, buys,
receives, possesses, keeps, acquires, conceals, sells or disposes, or buys and sells, or in any manner deals in
any article, item, object or anything of value, which has been derived from the proceeds of the said crime;

3. The accused knows or should have known that the said article, item, object or anything of value has been
derived from the proceeds of the crime of robbery or theft; and

4. There is on the part of the accused, intent to gain for himself or for another.11

Consequently, "the prosecution must prove the guilt of the accused by establishing the existence of all the
elements of the crime charged."12

Short of evidence establishing beyond reasonable doubt the existence of the essential elements of fencing, there
can be no conviction for such offense.13 "It is an ancient principle of our penal system that no one shall be found
guilty of crime except upon proof beyond reasonable doubt (Perez vs. Sandiganbayan, 180 SCRA 9)."14

In this case, what was the evidence of the commission of theft independently of fencing?

Complainant Rosita Lim testified that she lost certain items and Manuelito Mendez confessed that he stole those
items and sold them to the accused. However, Rosita Lim never reported the theft or even loss to the police. She
admitted that after Manuelito Mendez, her former employee, confessed to the unlawful taking of the items, she
forgave him, and did not prosecute him. Theft is a public crime. It can be prosecuted de oficio, or even without a
private complainant, but it cannot be without a victim. As complainant Rosita Lim reported no loss, we cannot hold
for certain that there was committed a crime of theft. Thus, the first element of the crime of fencing is absent, that
is, crime of robbery or theft has been committed.

There was no sufficient proof of the unlawful taking of another's property. True, witness Mendez admitted in an
extra-judicial confession that he sold the boat parts he had pilfered from complainant to petitioner. However, an
admission or confession acknowledging guilt of an offense may be given in evidence only against the person
admitting or confessing.15 Even on this, if given extra-judicially, the confessant must have the assistance of
counsel; otherwise, the admission would be inadmissible in evidence against the person so admitting.16 Here, the
extra-judicial confession of witness Mendez was not given with the assistance of counsel, hence, inadmissible
against the witness. Neither may such extra-judicial confession be considered evidence against accused.17 There
must be corroboration by evidence of corpus delicti to sustain a finding of guilt.18 Corpus delicti means the "body
or substance of the crime, and, in its primary sense, refers to the fact that the crime has been actually
committed."19 The "essential elements of theft are (1) the taking of personal property; (2) the property belongs to
another; (3) the taking away was done with intent of gain; (4) the taking away was done without the consent of the
owner; and (5) the taking away is accomplished without violence or intimidation against persons or force upon
things (U.S. vs. De Vera, 43 Phil. 1000)."20 In theft, corpus delicti has two elements, namely: (1) that the property
was lost by the owner, and (2) that it was lost by felonious taking.21 In this case, the theft was not proved because
complainant Rosita Lim did not complain to the public authorities of the felonious taking of her property. She
sought out her former employee Manuelito Mendez, who confessed that he stole certain articles from the
warehouse of the complainant and sold them to petitioner. Such confession is insufficient to convict, without
evidence of corpus delicti.22

What is more, there was no showing at all that the accused knew or should have known that the very stolen
articles were the ones sold him. "One is deemed to know a particular fact if he has the cognizance, consciousness
or awareness thereof, or is aware of the existence of something, or has the acquaintance with facts, or if he has
something within the mind's grasp with certitude and clarity. When knowledge of the existence of a particular fact
is an element of an offense, such knowledge is established if a person is aware of a high probability of its
existence unless he actually believes that it does not exist. On the other hand, the words "should know" denote
the fact that a person of reasonable prudence and intelligence would ascertain the fact in performance of his duty
to another or would govern his conduct upon assumption that such fact exists. Knowledge refers to a mental state
of awareness about a fact. Since the court cannot penetrate the mind of an accused and state with certainty what
is contained therein, it must determine such knowledge with care from the overt acts of that person. And given two
equally plausible states of cognition or mental awareness, the court should choose the one which sustains the
constitutional presumption of innocence."23

Without petitioner knowing that he acquired stolen articles, he can not be guilty of "fencing".24

Consequently, the prosecution has failed to establish the essential elements of fencing, and thus petitioner is
entitled to an acquittal.

WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. C.R. No.
20059 and hereby ACQUITS petitioner of the offense charged in Criminal Case No. 92-108222 of the Regional
Trial Court, Manila.1âwphi1.nêt

Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.