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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC

G.R. No. L-21325 October 29, 1971
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
P!LEO "RM#O, PTERNO ECU!IN, PRIOLO !ILLON, FRNCISCO
!ILLON, MO"ESTO RON$UILL, CRESCENCIO S%N"L &'( SE%ERO
S%N"L, (e)e'(&'t*+ P!LEO "RM#O &'( PTERNO ECU!IN,
defendants-appellant.
Office of the Solicitor General Felix V. Makasiar, Assistant Solicitor General Arturo G.
Ibarra and Solicitor Conrado T. Licaoco for !laintiff"a!!ellee.
Arturo #. $albastro for defendants"a!!ellants.

FERNN"O, J.:
There is an element of inenuit! as "ell as of novel in the plea made b! counsel de
oficio in this appeal of the accused Pableo #rama!o and Paterno Ecubin, "ho "ere
sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Estelito Noali$a. The claim is
viorousl! pressed that because the information alleed conspirac! on the part of
seven defendants, "ith onl! the t"o appellants bein convicted, t"o havin been
utili$ed as state "itnesses and the other three havin been ac%uitted on the round
of insufficienc! of evidence as to their culpabilit!, the &udment of conviction aainst
the appellants cannot stand, there bein a reasonable doubt as to their uilt. To
bolster such a contention, certain alleed deficiencies in the proof offered b! the
prosecution "ere noted. A careful stud! of the evidence of record "ould leave no
other rational conclusion but that the deceased met his death at the hands of the
appellants in the manner as found b! the lo"er court. 'ence the appeal cannot
prosper. (e affirm.
The or! incident "hich "as attended b! a fatalit! started on the mornin of )anuar!
*, +*,-. The t"o accused, no" appellants, Pableo #rama!o and Paterno Ecubin, in
the compan! of the deceased Estelito Noali$a, all of Barrio Masa!sa!, of the
Municipalit! of .apao, .uriao del Norte, sa" its chief of police. Their purpose "as to
shed liht on a robber! committed in the house of the deceased five da!s before b!
bein available as "itnesses. The response "as decidedl! in the neative as the!
themselves "ere prime suspects, havin been implicated b! at least t"o individuals
"ho had confessed. At about /011 o2cloc3 of the same da!, "hile the! "ere in the
house of their co-accused Priolo Billona, the accused #rama!o invited all those
present includin the other accused 4rancisco Billons, Modesto Ron%uilla.
Crescencio and .evero .avandal, for a drin3in session at a place at the bac3 of the
school house. 5t "as on that occasion that #rama!o brouht up the idea of 3illin
Estelito Noali$a so that he could not testif! in the robber! case. The idea "as for
#rama!o and Ecubin to ambush Estelito, "ho "as returnin from .apao. The others
"ere to station themselves nearb!.
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.oon the unfortunate victim "as sihted. 'e "as accosted b! #rama!o "ith a
re%uest for a ciarette. 5t "as then that Ecubin hit him "ith a piece of "ood on the
side of the head near the riht ear. #rama!o2s participation consisted of repeated
stabs "ith a short pointed bolo as he la! prostrate from the blo" of Ecubin. 5t "as the
former also, "ho "arned the rest of the roup to 3eep their mouths sealed as to "hat
had &ust happened. 'is e%uanimit! appeared undisturbed for earl! the ne6t mornin,
he "ent to the house of the deceased and informed the, latter2s "ido" Cora$on that
he had &ust seen the cadaver of Estelito. The barrio lieutenant and the chief of police
"ere dul! notified. The latter, upon noticin blood stains on the trousers of #rama!o,
as3ed him to e6plain. The ans"er "as that a s3in ailment of his dauhter "as the
cause thereof.
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The death "as due to the "ounds inflicted, t"o in the epiastric
reion, one in the riht lumbar reion, and another in the left breast.
5t "as on the basis of the above testimon! offered b! the prosecution that the lo"er
court reached its decision. 5ts dispositive portion found the accused, no" appellant
Pableo #rama!o and Paterno Ecubin, uilt! be!ond reasonable doubt, of the crime
of 7murder8, defined and penali$ed under Art. 9-: of the Revised Penal Code,
%ualified b! the circumstance of evident premeditation aravated b! niht time, and
imposes upon each of the said accused, Pableo #rama!o and Paterno Ecubin, the
penalt! of 7reclusion !er!etual8.;
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Reference "as li3e"ise made in such decision as
to "h! the other co-accused "ere not convicted, t"o of them, Crescencio .avandal
and .evero .avandal bein utili$ed as state "itnesses, and the others three, Priolo
Billona, 4rancisco Billona and Modesto Ro%uilla ac%uitted.
(h! the! should not be found uilt! "as e6plained in the appealed decision thus0
;4rom the beinnin the accused Modesto Ron%uilla maintained that he "as not "ith
the roup but that he "as fishin in the sea durin the niht in %uestion. These facts
that is, that none of the prosecution "itnesses has testified that an! of these three
accused actuall! helped in the 3illin of the deceased, Estelito Noali$a< that these
three accused "ere included in the case onl! much later after the filin of this case
aainst Pableo #rama!o and Paterno Ecubin< the consistent contention of the
accused Modesto Ron%uilla that he "as out in the sea fishin durin the niht in
%uestion< and the testimonies of the accused Priolo Billona 7and8 4rancisco 7and their
"itnesses,8 )uan Billona, Esperan$a =posa Billona, >uillerma Ponce, and Anselmo
?isondra, iven in a straiht-for"ard manner, "ithout hesitation, revealin a clear
conscience, and the fact that the testimonies of these "itnesses have not been
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refuted b! the PC soldiers @"hom the! accused of maltreatment8 "hen the! "ere
available to the prosecution, cause the Court to entertain a ver! serious doubt as to
the uilt of the said accused.;
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The lo"er court "as hardl! impressed "ith the defense of alibi interposed b! no"
appellants #rama!o and Ecubin, and it must have been their lac3 of persuasive
character that must have led to the able brief of counsel de oficio, Att!. Arturo E.
Balbastro, stressin the absence of evidence sufficient to convict, there still bein a
reasonable doubt to be implied from the fact that "hile conspirac! "as alleed, onl!
t"o of the seven accused "ere held culpable. To repeat, a meticulous appraisal of
the evidence &ustifies a findin of the uilt of the appellants for the offense chared,
thus callin for the affirmance of the decision.
+. 5t is to be admitted that the startin point is the Presumption of innocence. .o it
must be, accordin to the Constitution.
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That is a riht safeuarded both appellants.
Accusation is not, accordin to the fundamental la", s!non!mous "ith uilt. 5t is
incumbent on the prosecution demonstrate that culpabilit! lies. Appellants "ere not
even called upon then to offer evidence on their behalf. Their freedom is forfeit onl! if
the re%uisite %uantum of proof necessar! for conviction be in e6istence. Their uilt be
sho"n be!ond reasonable doubt. To such a standard this Court has al"a!s been
committed. There is need, therefore, for the most careful scrutin! of the testimon! of
the state, both oral and documentar!, independentl! "hatever defense is offered b!
the accused. =nl! if &ude belo" and the appellate tribunal could arrive at a
conclusion that the crime had been committed precisel! b! the person on trial under
such an e6actin test should sentence be one of conviction. 5t is thus re%uired that
circumstance favorin his innocence be dul! ta3en into count. The proof aainst him
must survive the reason< the stronest suspicion must not be permitted to s"a! a"a!
&udment. The conscience must be satisfied that on the defendant could be laid the
responsibilit! for the offense chared< that not onl! did he perpetrate the act but that
it amounted to a crime. (hat is re%uired then is moral certaint!.
.o it has been held from the +*1A decision of %nited States &. 'e(es.
-
%nited States
&. Lasada,
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decided in +*+1, !ields this e6cerpt0 ;B! reasonable doubt is meant that
"hich of possibilit! ma! arise, but it is doubt enendered b! an investiation of the
"hole proof and an inabilit!, after such investiation, to let the mind rest eas! upon
the certaint! of uilt. Absolute certain of uilt is not demanded b! the la" to convict of
an! carnal chare but moral certaint! is re%uired, and this certaint! is re%uired as to
ever! proposition of proof reular to constitute the offense.;
.
To the same effect is an
e6cerpt from the opinion of the late )ustice Tuason in )eo!le &. #s*ui&el.
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Thus0 ;5n
this connection it ma! not be out of place to brin to the attention of prosecutin
attorne!s the absolute necessit! of la!in before the court the pertinent facts as their
disposal "ith methodical and meticulous attention, clarif!in contradictions and fillin
up aps and loopholes in their evidence, to the end that the court2s mind ma! not be
tortured b! doubts, that the innocent ma! not suffer and the uilt! not escape
unpunished. =bvious to all, this is the prosecution2s prime dut! to the court, to the
accused, and to the state.;
1/

5t is understandable "h! the stress should be on the absence of sufficient evidence
to establish the uilt of appellants be!ond reasonable doubt, the defense of alibi
interposed hardl! meritin an! further discussion. 5t cannot be denied thouh that the
credible and competent evidence of record resulted in moral certaint! bein
entertained not onl! b! the trial &ude but b! us as to the culpabilit! of appellants. The
force of the controllin doctrines, on the other hand, re%uired that the other three
accused be ac%uitted precisel! because, unli3e in the case of appellants, the
re%uisite %uantum of proof to sho" uilt be!ond reasonable doubt "as not present.
There is no %uestion as to the other t"o "ho testified for the state bein li3e"ise no
lon sub&ect to an! criminal liabilit!. The reference then to opinion of the late )ustice
?aurel, stressin the need for adherin to the fundamental postulate that a findin of
uilt is allo"able onl! "hen no reasonable doubt could be entertained, is unavailin.
This is evident from the ver! citation in the brief of appellants of the opinion of )ustice
?aurel in )eo!le &. Mano+i.
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Thus0 ;Bpon the other hand there are certain facts
"hich if ta3en toether are sufficient to raise in the mind of the court a rave doubt as
to the uilt of the defendant-appellant, 2that doubt enendered b! an investiation of
the "hole proof and an inabilit! after such investiation, to let the mind rest eas!
upon the certaint! of uilt.2 @B... v. ?asada 7+*+18, +: Phil. *1, *,.C The findin of the
t"o old teeth of the deceased the suitcase of Maradani, and the testimon! of Era&io
Ello that he ave the hat ... to Maradani not onl! enender serious doubt in our
minds as to the uilt of the appellant but also seems to sustain the theor! of the
defense and strenthen the suspicion of the trial court, that Maradani and .alupudin
are not forein to, or entirel! inorant of, the 3illin of .ei&in 5e. 5n the liht of the
facts and circumstances of record, "e feel that it is better to ac%uit a man upon the
round of reasonable doubt, even thouh he ma! in realit! be uilt!, than to confine
in the penitentiar! for the rest of his natural life a person "ho ma! be innocent. ...;
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The facts of the present case certainl! do not fit "ithin the above mold. Reliance on
the part of appellants on the above decision is therefore futile.
The &udment of conviction should not have occasioned an! surprise on the part of
the t"o appellants, as from the evidence deservin of the fullest credence, their uilt
had been more than ampl! demonstrated. The presumption of innocence could not
come to their rescue as it "as more than sufficientl! overcome b! the proof that "as
offered b! the prosecution. (hat "ould have been a blot on the la" is that if, on the
facts as established, no reasonable doubt bein entertained, the t"o appellants
"ould have been ac%uitted li3e"ise &ust because the other five defendants, for the
reasons above stated, "ere not similarl! sentenced. The principal contention raised
is thus clearl! untenable. 5t must be stated li3e"ise that "hile s%uarel! advanced for
the first time, there had been cases "here this Court, not"ithstandin a ma&orit! of
the defendants bein ac%uitted, the element of conspirac! li3e"ise bein alleedl!
present, did hold the part! or parties, responsible for the offense uilt! of the crime
chared, a moral certaint! havin arisen as to their capabilit!.
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9. The brief for appellants did see3 to fortif! the alleation as to their uilt not havin
been sufficientl! demonstrated "ith the contention that the lo"er court overloo3ed or
did not properl! consider material and sinificant facts of record that ouht to have
substantiall! affected or altered the &udment. Even the most careful readin of such
brief, ho"ever, "ith due reconition of the vior in "hich this particular point is
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pressed, "ould not destro! the credibilit! of the facts as testified to concernin the
manner in "hich the deceased "as 3illed and the motive that prompted appellants to
put an end to his life. That such a version could not have been concocted is sho"n
b! the undeniable fact that the t"o appellants "ere dul! convicted of robber!, "ith
the deceased as the offended part!. 5t "as understandable then "h! the! "ould "ant
to do a"a! "ith the principal "itness aainst them. There "as thus a stron
inducement for the appellants to have committed this crime of murder. (ith the
testimon! of record pointin to no other conclusion e6cept the perpetration of the
3illin b! them, the effort of their counsel, "hile to be e6pected from an advocate
$ealous in defense of his clients2 rihts, certainl! should not be attended "ith
success. 5t suffices to reiterate the "ell-settled principle that this Court has invariabl!
respected the findins of facts of a trial &ude "ho "as in a position to "eih and
appraise the testimon! before him e6cept "hen, as "as not sho"n in this case,
circumstances "eiht or influence "ere inored or disrearded b! him.
1,

('ERE4=RE, the &udment of .eptember :, +*,D affirmed "ith the modification
that the indemnification to the heirs of Estelito Noali$a should be in the sum
P+9,111.11. (ith costs.
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