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SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 132926. July 20, 2001]

ELVIRA AGULLO, petitioner, vs. SANDIGANBAYAN and PEOPLE OF THE


PHILIPPINES, respondents.
DECISION
BUENA, J.:

Charged with, tried and convicted in Criminal Case No. 13579 for malversation of public
funds, herein petitioner Elvira Agullo, erstwhile Disbursing Officer of the then Ministry of
Public Works and Highways (MPWH), Regional Office No. VIII, Candahug, Palo, Leyte, now
comes before the High Court to assail the Decision [1] of the Sandiganbayan promulgated on 16
March 1992, and its Resolution dated 11 March 1998, denying petitioners motion for
reconsideration[2] but reducing the penalty imposed on petitioner as follows:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused Elvira S. Agullo guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of Malversation of Public Funds, defined and penalized
under Article 217, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code. [There being neither
mitigating nor aggravating circumstances, no evidence having been adduced
respecting partial or full restitution of the amount malversed,] Considering the
absence of any aggravating circumstances and her full restitution by salary
deduction, the accused Elvira S. Agullo should be, as she is, hereby sentenced to the
indeterminate penalty of, from TEN (10) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY of PRISION
MAYOR, as MINIMUM; to [EIGHTEEN (18) YEARS, EIGHT (8) MONTHS AND
ONE (1) DAY OF RECLUSION TEMPORAL] SEVENTEEN (17) YEARS, FOUR
(4) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY of RECLUSION TEMPORAL, AS
MAXIMUM, with the accessory penalties of the law; to pay a fine in the sum of
P26,404.26 without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency; to suffer the
penalty of Perpetual Special Disqualification and to pay the costs. (Emphasis ours)
In an information[3] dated 30 September 1988, herein petitioner was charged with the crime
of malversation of public funds, committed as follows:

That on or about the period October 22, 1985 to July 14, 1986, inclusive or within
said dates in the Municipality of Palo, Province of Leyte, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being then the
disbursing officer of then Ministry of Public Works and Highways, Regional Office

No. VIII, Candahug, Palo, Leyte, charged with the official custody of public funds
thus paid, collected and received by her in her official capacity, and by reason of
which duties she is accountable thereof, taking advantage of her official position, did
then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, convert and misappropriate
for her own personal use and benefit the public funds she had in her possession in the
amount of Twenty Six Thousand Four Hundred Four Pesos and 26/100 (P26,404.26),
belonging to the government of the Republic of the Philippines, to the damage and
prejudice of the latter in the aforestated amount.
Contrary to law.
Upon arraignment, herein petitioner Agullo, assisted by counsel de officio Antonio
Manzano, pleaded not guilty[4] to the charge, after which the Sandiganbayan conducted a pre-trial
on 11 February 1990 and issued the following Pre-Trial Order:[5]

When this case was called for pre-trial, the accused personally and through her
counsel Atty. Antonio Manzano of the CLAO readily entered into stipulations insofar
as her official position in government as well as the fact of audit of her
accounts are concerned, including therewith the admission that, in all respects the
Cash Production Notice and the Examination of her Cash and Accounts which the
government marked as Exhibit A was faithful reproduction of the original, and insofar
as the contents thereof are concerned, are correct. The accused likewise admitted that
she had received a letter of demand, said letter dated July 14, 1986 marked as exhibit
B. With this the accused stated that her defense was premised on her having
suffered a stroke on October 22, 1985 as a result of which the amount subject of
the shortage found in her audit had been lost.
The accused also indicated that not only had she immediately replied to the letter by
various communications by her or in her behalf protesting the witholding of various
amounts due her by way of salaries on the premise that the loss of the amount subject
matter of the Information was not chargeable to her as a personal liability. The
accused has likewise informed the Court that prior to the incident on October 22,
1985, she had been audited on May 27, 1985 and, after the incident, on December
23, 1985 although she concedes she was also audited on July 14, 1986.
Considering that all the documents necessary for the defense of the accused are still to
be organized, Atty. Manzano is given ten (10) days from today within which to
prepare a proposal for stipulations of facts and, if that is not possible, at least a
complete outline of his case together with the marking of the documents he wishes to
present which the prosecution might not admit as to the substance thereof though the
genuineness of the documents presented might be conceded.

With the above, the prosecution may now rest its case and the presentation of the
evidence for the defense may take place on April 5 and 6, and May 17 and 18, 1990,
at 8:00 o clock in the morning and 2:00 o clock in the afternoon.
The setting for tomorrow is cancelled.
SO ORDERED. (Emphasis ours)
As borne by the records, the charge of malversation against petitioner germinated from an
audit conducted on 14 July 1986 by Ignacio Gerez, Auditing Examiner III, as a result of which a
P26,404.26 cash shortage was discovered on petitioners accountability. On the same date, Gerez
informed petitioner of said finding of cash shortage and required the latter, through a letter of
demand,[6] to produce immediately the missing funds. Further, petitioner was required to submit
within 72 hours from receipt a written explanation of the cash shortage.
In a letter[7] dated 25 August 1986, addressed to the Resident Auditor of the MPWH,
petitioner complied with the directive by explaining that the cash shortage was, in effect, due to a
fortuitous event where the amount could have been stolen/taken by somebody on the day she
suffered a stroke on 22 October 1985, near the corner of Juan Luna Street and Imelda Avenue,
Tacloban City.
In the course of the pre-trial, petitioner Agullo conceded the fact of audit and admitted [8] the
findings in the Report of Cash Examination and the facts set forth in the Letter of Demand. In
effect, she admitted the fact of shortage in the amount stated in the Information.
Notwithstanding, petitioner Agullo, at all stages of the criminal indictment, persistently professed
her innocence of the charge and categorically denied having malversed or converted the public
funds in question for her own personal use or benefit.[9]
With petitioners admission of the fact of cash shortage, the prosecution then rested its case.
For its part, the defense, in its bid to overturn the presumption of malversation and shatter the
prima facie evidence of conversion, offered the testimony of the following witnesses: petitioner
Elvira Agullo; Rene Briones Austero, Cashier III of the Department of Public Works and
Highways (DPWH), Region VIII; and Engracia Camposano-Camaoy, Barangay Captain of
Hinabuyan, Dagame, Leyte.
[10]

During trial, the defense offered to present the testimony of witness Austero for the purpose
of proving that an amount equal to P26,722.05[11] was withheld from the salary and other
compensation of petitioner Agullo. Further, the defense offered the testimony of witness
Barangay Captain Camaoy for the purpose of establishing that the accused suffered a heart attack
(stroke) on October 22, 1985; that on June 30, 1986, the accused informed her that the accused
lost the money for which she (was being) subjected to criminal prosecution x x x; and that
between October 22, 1985 and June 30, 1986, there had been no demand upon the accused to
produce the money for which she was declared short.[12]
Additionally, the defense presented the following documentary evidence, [13] all of which
were admitted by the Sandiganbayan:

Exhibit 1 - Letter dated 25 August 1986 by accused to the Resident Auditor


MPWH, Regional Office No. 8, Candahug, Palo, Leyte;
Exhibit 2 - Letter dated 22 August 1987 by accused to Engr. Alfredo P. Torres,
Regional Director;
Exhibit 3- Medical Certificate dated 05 August 1986, issued by Dr. Juan T.
Abando, M.D., St. Pauls Hospital, Tacloban City;
Exhibit 3-A Verified Medical Certificate dated 19 January 1986, issued by Dr.
Juan Abando, notarized on page 02;
Exhibit 4- Letter dated 26 December 1986 by accused to the Regional Director;
Exhibit 5 Letter dated 19 February 1987 to the Regional Director by Atty. Eric T.
De Veyra;
Exhibit 6 Letter dated 15 April 1987 by accused to the Regional Director;
Exhibit 7 Letter dated 01 September 1987 of Director Alfredo Torres of DPWH to
the Regional Director COA;
Exhibit 8 Letter of Accused dated 26 November 1987;
Exhibit 9 Affidavit of accused Elvira Agullo;
Exhibit 10- Affidavit of witness Engracia Camaoy;
Exhibit 11 Letter-Request dated 04 May 1988 of accused to the Regional
Director;
Exhibit 12 Certification by Mauricio Pacatang;
Exhibit 13 Protest of accused against the appointment of Sylvia de la Rosa;
Exhibit 14- Letter dated 25 February 1987 to the Manager, Employees
Compensation Department, GSIS, Metro Manila;
Exhibit 15 Initial Approval of the Employees Compensation Department, GSIS;
Exhibit 16 Hospitalization Claim for payment of accused;

Exhibit 17 Report of Injury signed and approved by Pablo P. Burgos, Regional


Engineering Coordinator and Head of Office;
Exhibit 18 Certification issued by PNB Tacloban, thru its Asst. Manager B.L.
Telmo;
Exhibit 19 Memorandum to accused dated 02 April 1984;
Exhibit 20 Memorandum dated 05 May 1990.
At the witness stand, petitioner Agullo unrelentingly maintained her innocence and
vehemently denied the accusation against her. Thus, according to petitioner, in the morning of 21
October 1985, she reported for work and prepared an inventory of her cash accountability [14] as
Disbursing Officer[15] of the MPWH Regional Office, Candahug, Palo, Leyte. On the same day,
petitioner received around thirteen (13) checks in the form of cash advances in her name
totaling P26,076.87,[16] which amount represented salaries of MPWH officials and employees.
Around 1:30 PM, petitioner, together with Benjamin Veridiano, driver of MPWH Finance
and Management Division, proceeded to the Philippine National Bank (PNB) Tacloban City
Branch, on board the MPWH official vehicle, to encash the aforesaid checks. Upon encashment
of the checks, petitioner then put the money inside a PNB envelope which she further placed in
her bag. From the PNB, petitioner-- who boarded the official vehicle driven by Veridiano for the
purpose of proceeding further to the MPWH Regional Officefelt dizziness, chest pain and
nausea. As a result of her condition, petitioner Agullo requested driver Veridiano to drop her off
at petitioners residence located at 109 Juan Luna Street-- about half a kilometer away from the
PNB.[17]
In the morning of the following day, 22 October 1985, petitioner upon realizing that it was
then the third-week payday of the month, and burdened with the thought that she failed to give
the salary of the permanent employees strove to report for work despite her weak physical
condition. Petitioner Agullo testified that she left her residence alone and brought with her the
bag containing the money which she encashed the previous day from the PNB.[18]
Upon leaving the house with the money inside her bag, she walked the stretch of Juan Luna
Street and was able to reach almost the corner of Juan Luna and Imelda Avenue [19] a distance of
around 50 meters away from her residence[20] when she was stricken with deep chest pain[21] and
experienced dizziness; her vision blurred and the right part of (her) body (became) heavy to the
point that she could not move anymore. At this point, she collapsed and lost consciousness.[22]
In the afternoon of the same day, she found herself in a hospital bed of St. Pauls Hospital
located about a block away from petitioners residence. Upon inquiry, she was informed that a
certain Metro Tacloban Aide by the name of Teresa Lorenzo came to her rescue when she
fainted, assisted in rushing her to the hospital, and informed her family about Agullos dire
condition and the unfortunate event that befell her.[23] Petitioner was confined in St. Pauls
Hospital for over a week from 22 October 1985 to 01 November 1985 [24] - under the care of her
attending physician, Dr. Juan Abando, who issued the corresponding Medical Certificate
pregnant with the following findings:

X X X Hypertension complicated with Cerebro Vascular Accident (CVA), Rt.


Hemiparesis and Urinary Infection.
Condition started apparently 20 hrs. before admission as moderate headache and
dizziness, associated with blurring of vision and nausea. Fifteen hrs. prior to
admission, she felt weakness of her right half of her body and slurring of speech. Had
history of high blood pressure taken last April 1985. B/P= 190/120. On admission
B/P= was 230/120; PR= 83/min.; RR= 20/min.
Pertinent findings: conscious, coherent, slurred speech, rt. Hemiplegia.
Diagnosis: = Malignant hypertension.
= CVA with Right Hemiplegia.
= Urinary Tract Infection.
As to petitioners medical history and physical condition after her stroke, the Sandiganbayan,
in its decision, observed from the records:

X X X In the past, the accused had likewise suffered a stroke and had undergone
medical treatment. A medical certificate, marked as Exhibits 3 and 3-A, attest(s) to the
fact that she had a history of high blood pressure and had been undergoing treatment
for the said malady. Since her sudden breakdown on October 22, 1985, the right part
of her body became paralyzed and her speech has been impaired. She was advised by
her doctor to undergo physical therapy and to take medicine regularly. She was
advised not to report for work during such time that she was under recuperation. Only
on February 2, 1986 did she start to report for work, although at irregular intervals,
until the date of the audit, July 14, 1986.
Striking down the defense as incredible and without basis, the Sandiganbayan rendered its
assailed decision, convicting petitioner Agullo of the crime of malversation of public funds,
ratiocinating principally that no evidence has been presented linking the loss of the government
funds with the alleged sudden heart attack of the accused (herein petitioner).
We do not agree.
By and large, the pieces of evidence presented against petitioner in this case do not fulfill the
test of moral certainty and may not be deemed sufficient to support a conviction. [25] Records
reveal that evidence for the prosecution consisted solely of the Report of Cash Examination,[26] dated
14 July 1986, which was presented by the prosecution to prove the cash shortage in the amount
of P26,404.26, on petitioner Agullos accountability as Disbursing Officer of the then
MPWH. Likewise, the prosecution presented the Letter of Demand[27] dated 14 July 1986 signed by
Auditing Examiner III Ignacio Gerez.

Aside from the aforementioned documents, the prosecution opted not to present a single
witness to buttress its bid for conviction and relied merely on the prima facie evidence of
conversion or presumption of malversationunder Article 217, paragraph (4) of the Revised
Penal Code, to wit:

ART. 217. Malversation of public funds or propertyPresumption of malversation


X X X The failure of a public officer to have duly forthcoming any public funds
or property with which he is chargeable, upon demand by any duly authorized
officer, shall be prima facie evidence that he has put such missing funds or
property to personal uses.
Stated otherwise, the evidence for the prosecution, upon which the Sandiganbayan riveted
its judgment of conviction, was limited to documents to wit, the Report of Cash Examination and
Letter of Demand. As could be readily gleaned from the assailed decision, the verdict adjudging
herein petitioner guilty of the crime of malversation was anchored solely on the presumption
provided under Article 217, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code, which prima facie evidence,
in turn, was rooted loosely on the documentary evidence presented by the prosecution, to wit; the
Report of Cash Examination and Letter of Demandpieces of evidence which the defense
concededly admitted, but which, to our mind, do not suffice to convict the petitioner beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime charged.
Thus, in a string of categorical pronouncements, this Court has consistently and
emphatically ruled that the presumption of conversion incarnated in Article 217, paragraph (4) of
the Revised Penal Code is by its very nature rebuttable. To put it differently, the presumption
under the law is not conclusive but disputable by satisfactory evidence to the effect that the
accused did not utilize the public funds or property for his personal use, gain or benefit.
Accordingly, if the accused is able to present adequate evidence that can nullify any
likelihood that he had put the funds or property to personal use, then that presumption would
be at an end and the prima facie case is effectively negated. This Court has repeatedly said that
when the absence of funds is not due to the personal use thereof by the accused, the
presumption is completely destroyed; in fact, the presumption is never deemed to have existed at
all.[28]
Applying the foregoing principle, the prosecution in the instant case upon whose burden, as
in Diaz vs. Sandiganbayan,[29] was laden the task of establishing by proof beyond reasonable
doubt that petitioner had committed the offense charged, mainly relied on the statutory
presumption aforesaid and failed to present any substantial piece of evidence to indicate that petitioner
had used the funds for personal gain.

Worth noting is that the Sandiganbayan, in its impugned decision, admitted that conversion
or the placing of malversed government funds to personal uses has, indeed, not been proven
in the case at bar.[30] Perhaps realizing such gaping hole, the Sandiganbayan nonetheless leaped
into the conclusion, albeit erroneous, that herein petitioner was just the same guilty of
malversation invoking the prima facie evidence stated in Article 217, paragraph (4) of the
Revised Penal Code.

On this score, the rule of general application is that the factual findings of the
Sandiganbayan are conclusive on this court. However, such rule admits of settled exceptions,
among others: (1) the conclusion is a finding grounded entirely on speculation, surmise and
conjectures; (2) the inference made is manifestly mistaken; (3) there is grave abuse of discretion;
(4) the judgment is based on misapprehension of facts; and (5) the findings of fact of the
Sandiganbayan are premised on a want of evidence and are contradicted by evidence on record.
[31]

On this matter, the Sandiganbayans conclusion that there is no evidence to show that the
accused was then carrying the sum of P26,404.26 in her person when she allegedly collapsed at
Juan Luna Street, Tacloban City, is to say the least, without factual basis and not duly supported
by evidence. On the stark contrary, the records are extant, as petitioner Agullo, in fact, testified
on the witness stand that she had the money with her when she suffered a stroke and collapsed on
the streets of Tacloban City on 22 October 1985. Records likewise reveal that the amount of
P327.39, which is the difference between P26,404.26[32] and P26,076.87,[33] represents the salary
of Mr. Alcober, Jr., Administrative Officer of the DPWH in Candahug, who made a telephone
call to petitioner for the latter to bring the sum of P327.39, together with the payroll.
In the case before us, the Sandiganbayan undoubtedly disregarded or overlooked certain
evidence of substance which, to a large extent, bear considerable weight in the adjudication of
petitioners guilt or the affirmation of her constitutional right to be presumed innocent until
proven otherwise.
Upon thorough scrutiny of the evidence adduced by both prosecution and defense, we hold
that petitioner Agullo has satisfactorily overcome and rebutted by competent proof, the prima
facie evidence of conversion so as to exonerate her from the charge of malversation. To this end,
petitioner presented evidence that satisfactorily prove that not a single centavo of the missing
funds was used for her own personal benefit or gain.
True enough, the evidence adduced by the defense reveals sufficient circumstances to
establish the strongest degree of probability that the public funds subject of the criminal
indictment for malversation was lost during that fateful day of 22 October 1985, where petitioner
Agullo suffered a stroke on the streets of Tacloban City as she was then on her way to the
MPWH Regional Office.
In fact, the records though insensate, clearly reveal that the prosecution admitted that
petitioner suffered a stroke on the streets of Tacloban on 22 October 1985. As to the prosecutions
allegation that no evidence exists regarding loss of the public funds, this postulation is belied by
the records as petitioner herself testified on the stand that she had the money subject of inquiry
when she collapsed and lost consciousness as a result of the stroke.
To us, this circumstance coupled with the other peculiarities attendant in the instant case and
further considering the palpable failure of the prosecution to adduce other evidence to clearly
establish conversion suffice to make the mind uneasy as to Agullos guilt, notwithstanding the
prima facie evidence established by law against herein petitioner, which by no means dispenses
with the need of proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt." [34] After all, mere absence of funds is
not sufficient proof of conversion. Neither is the mere failure of the accused to turn over the
funds at any given time sufficient to make even a prima facie case. Conversion must be

affirmatively proved, either by direct evidence or by the production of facts from which
conversion necessarily follows.[35]
Truly, these serve as strong considerations that seriously impair the basis upon which is
founded the legal presumption of personal misappropriation of money or property of accountable
officers who fail to have forthcoming, such money or property when so demanded by a duly
authorized official.[36] Verily, a finding of prima facie evidence of accountability does not shatter
the presumptive innocence the accused enjoys because, before prima facieevidence arises,
certain facts [have still to be] proved; the trial court cannot depend alone on such an evidence,
because precisely, it is merely prima facie. It must still satisfy that the accused is guiltybeyond
reasonable doubtof the offense charged. Neither can it rely on the weak defense the latter may
adduce.[37]
Notably, the Sandiganbayan, in convicting petitioner, obviously relied more on the flaws and
deficiencies in the evidence presented by the defense, not on the strength and merit of the
prosecutions evidence.[38] This course of action is impermissible for the evidence of the
prosecution clearly cannot sustain a conviction in an unprejudiced mind.[39]
All told, this Court, through the scholarly ponencia of Mr. Justice Isagani Cruz in People vs.
De Guzman,[40] inked in vivid prose the premium accorded to the right of an accused to be
presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, to wit:

The constitutional presumption of innocence is not an empty platitude meant only to


embellish the Bill of Rights. Its purpose is to balance the scales in what would
otherwise be an uneven contest between the lone individual pitted against the People
of the Philippines and all the resources at their command. Its inexorable mandate is
that, for all the authority and influence of the prosecution, the accused must be
acquitted and set free if his guilt cannot be proved beyond the whisper of doubt.
Hence, in light of the satisfactory explanation proffered by the defense and in view of the
impotency of the prosecutions evidence, petitioners constitutional right to be presumed innocent
necessarily thrives. Corollarily, the prima facie evidence of conversion in the instant case,
withers, so to speak, like a petrified twig wilted in the scorching heat of the noonday sun.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is granted. ACCORDINGLY, the
decision of respondent Sandiganbayan dated 16 March 1992 and its Resolution dated 18 March
1998,
are
hereby REVERSED andSET ASIDE.
Petitioner
Elvira
Agullo
is
hereby ACQUITTED on grounds of reasonable doubt.
MOREOVER, the DPWH is hereby directed to refund petitioner the sum of Three Hundred
Seventeen Pesos and Seventy Nine Centavos (P317.79) representing the amount overdeducted
from petitioners salary, cost of living allowance and other emoluments.
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo (Chairman), Mendoza, and De Leon, JJ., concur.
Quisumbing, J., on official business.

[1]

Decision of Sandiganbayan, 1st Division, promulgated on 16 March 1992; Rollo, pp. 39-56.

[2]

Motion for Reconsideration dated 27 March 1992; Rollo, pp. 57-63.

[3]

Records, pp. 1-2.

[4]

Certificate of Arraignment dated 03 August 1989; Records p. 19.

[5]

Records, pp. 36-37.

[6]

Exhibit B.

[7]

Exhibit 1.

[8]

Rollo, p. 73; Rollo, p. 75.

[9]

Ibid, p. 76.

[10]

Ibid, p. 85.

[11]

Ibid, p. 93; Exhibit 12, Certification dated 09 May 1988 issued by Mauricio Pacatang.

[12]

Decision, pp.5-6; Rollo, pp. 43-44.

[13]

Rollo, pp. 41-43.

[14]

Rollo, p. 109.

[15]

At the time of trial, petitioner Agullo was employed as Clerk III at the Department of Public Works and
Highways; TSN, 06 April 1990, p. 5; Rollo, p. 107.
[16]

Exhibit 18, Certification dated 18 August 1986 signed by Philippine National Bank Tacloban City Branch
Assistant Manager B.L. Telmo.
[17]

Rollo, p. 113.

[18]

TSN, 06 April 1990, p. 11; Rollo. P. 114.

[19]

Around six (6) meters from the corner of Juan Luna Street and Imelda Avenue; TSN, 06 April 1990, p.
11; Rollo, p. 114.
[20]

Ibid.

[21]

A: X X X Masakit na masakit, the chest pain, very mabigat dito (witness pointing to her chest) X X X; TSN 06
April 1990, p. 10; Rollo, p. 113.
[22]

Rollo, p. 114.

[23]

TSN, 06 April 1990, p. 12; Rollo, p. 115.

[24]

Exhibit 3.

[25]

Alvarez vs. Sandiganbayan, 201 SCRA 557 [1991].

[26]

Exhibit A.

[27]

Exhibit B.

[28]

Diaz vs. Sandiganbayan, 302 SCRA 118 [1999] citing U.S. vs. Catolico, 18 Phil. 504, U.S. vs. Elvina, 24 Phil
230, Quizo vs. Sandiganbayan, 149 SCRA 108 [1987], Mahinay vs. Sandiganbayan, 173 SCRA 237 [1989].
[29]

302 SCRA 118 [1999].

[30]

Rollo, p. 54.

[31]

Diaz vs. Sandiganbayan, 302 SCRA 118 [1999]; Bugayong vs. People, 202 SCRA 762 [1991] citing
Cesar vs. Sandiganbayan, 134 SCRA 105 [1985].
[32]

The amount of cash shortage alleged in the Information.

[33]

Amount encashed at the Philippine National Bank.

[34]

Gali vs. Court of Appeals, 98 SCRA 268 [1980].

[35]

U.S. vs. Catolico, 18 Phil. 504 [1911] cited in Bugayong vs. People, 202 SCRA 762 [1991].

[36]

Gali vs. Court of Appeals, 98 SCRA 268 [1980].

[37]

Babida vs. People, 178 SCRA 204 [1989] citing People vs. Mingoa, 92 SCRA 856 [1953].

[38]

Bugayong vs. People, 202 SCRA 762 [1991].

[39]

Section 2, Rule 133, Rules of Court provides, Proof beyond reasonable doubt. In a criminal case, the accused
is entitled to an acquittal, unless his guilt is shown beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does
not mean such a degree of proof as, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute certainty. Moral certainty only
is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind.
[40]

194 SCRA 601, 606 [1991].

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 113804. January 16, 1998]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. SERGIO BATO


and ABRAHAM BATO, accused,
ABRAHAM BATO, accused-appellant.
DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:

In the absence of an eyewitness, the guilt of an accused may be established by


circumstantial evidence.Such evidence, however, must still pass the test of moral
certainty. When inadequate and uncorroborated, circumstantial evidence cannot sustain
a conviction. Specifically, where the states evidence does not constitute an unbroken
chain leading beyond reasonable doubt to the guilt of the accused, the constitutional
presumption of innocence prevails and the accused is entitled to an acquittal.
The Case
This postulate is applied by this Court in reversing the Decision of the Court of
Appeals finding Sergio and Abraham Bato guilty of murder and sentencing them
to reclusion perpetua.
[1]

In an Information dated July 7, 1989, Leyte Provincial Prosecutor Joventino P. Isidro


charged the brothers Bato with murder allegedly committed as follows.

That on or about the 9th day of May, 1988 in the Municipality of Pastrana,
Province of Leyte, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually

helping each other, with intent to kill, with treachery and evident premeditation
and taking advantage of superior strength, did then and there wilfully,
unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, stab and wound one Ernesto Flores,
Sr. with deadly weapons locally known as sundang which the accused had
provided themselves for the purpose, thereby hitting and inflicting upon said
Ernesto Flores, Sr. several wounds on the different parts of his body which
wounds caused his death.
[2]

Contrary to law.
On January 15, 1990, the accused were arraigned in the Waray dialect which they
understood and spoke. Assisted by Counsel Benjamin Pore, both pleaded not guilty.
After due trial, the trial court rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of which
reads:
[3]

[4]

[5]

WHEREFORE, this Court finds each of the accused Abraham and Sergio,
both surnamed Bato GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder
penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code.With the abolition of
the capital punishment in 1987 Constitution, the penalty of Murder should now
be Reclusion Temporal in its maximum period to Reclusion Perpetua. In the
absence of any modifying circumstances, the penalty imposable is in its
medium period or from EIGHTEEN (18) YEARS, EIGHT (8) MONTHS and
ONE (1) DAY TO TWENTY (20) YEARS.
Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, they are each imposed the penalty
of TEN (10) YEARS AND ONE (1) DAY OF Prision Mayor as minimum to
EIGHTEEN (18) YEARS, EIGHT (8) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY of Reclusion
Temporal as maximum with all the accessory penalties provided by law, to
indemnify jointly and severally the heirs of the deceased Ernesto Flores, Sr. in
the sum of P50,000 and to pay the corresponding costs.
[6]

Both accused appealed to the Court of Appeals. On January 26, 1994, the said
Court promulgated the assailed Decision affirming their guilt but increasing the penalty
to reclusion perpetua in view of this Courts rulings in People vs. Benitez, Jr.
and People vs. Muoz . Pursuant to Section 13, Rule 124 of the Rules of Court, the
appellate court, instead of entering judgment, certified the case to the Supreme Court in
this wise:
[7]

[8]

[9]

WHEREFORE, since the crime for which the appellants were charged, tried
and convicted is Murder, the penalty provided for by law is reclusion
perpetua, within the power of the Supreme Court to review, revise, reverse,
modify or affirm on appeal or certiorari (sec. 5-(2)-(d), Art. 8, 1987 Const.), this
criminal case is hereby certified to the Supreme Court.
[10]

In a Resolution dated June 29, 1994, this Court (First Division) informed the parties
that they may file additional briefs. Conformably, the parties complied with said
Resolution within the extended period granted them.
[11]

On July 28, 1994, during the pendency of the appeal, Sergio Bato died at the Leyte
Regional Prison due to cardio-respiratory arrest secondary to acute beri-beri. Death
before a final judgment extinguishes both the criminal and civil liability (ex delicto) of an
accused. Hence, this Decision pertains only to the appeal of Abraham Bato.
[12]

[13]

The Facts Version of the Prosecution


The prosecution presented two witnesses, namely: Ernesto Flores, Jr., son of the
victim who was with the latter immediately prior to the killing; and Dr. Virisimo Opiniano,
who conducted the autopsy on the victims body. The prosecutions version of the facts
was summarized by the solicitor general as follows:
[14]

[15]

On May 9, 1988 at about three oclock in the afternoon, Ernesto Flores, Jr.
together with his father Ernesto Flores, Sr., were going home from Barangay
Tingib, Pastrana, Leyte to San Agustin, Jaro, Leyte. While passing by
Barangay Hibucawan, they were called by the two appellants, Abraham and
Sergio, both surnamed Bato, to join them in a drinking spree in the house of
Paran Lescabo, which Ernesto, Sr. accepted.Ernesto, Jr. sat about two (2)
meters away from his father while the latter joined appellants for two hours
drinking tuba. When his father was already drunk, appellants tied him (father)
with his hands placed at the back. Later, he saw appellants bring his father to
somewhere else. Seeing his father being held, he ran away, as he was afraid
he would also be taken by appellants (tsn, 6-18-90, pp. 3-10).
It was only the following morning that they found his father already dead at the
Binaha-an River, five kilometers away from the place where he last saw him in
the previous afternoon. He immediately reported the incident to the Barangay
Captain of Barangay Tingib. The latter informed the police department about
the incident. Many policemen responded and the dead body of his father was
brought to the Municipal Building of Pastrana, Leyte (tsn, 6-18-0, pp. 10-11).
At the Municipal Building of Pastrana, Leyte, the Municipal Health Officer, Dr.
Virisimo Opiniano, conducted the autopsy on the body of the deceased
Ernesto Flores, Sr. He found that the deceased sustained five hacking and
seven stab wounds. The cause of death is shock, secondary to a hacking and
almost decapitating wound (Exhibit A and B).
[16]

Version of the Defense


On the other hand, appellants raised the defense of denial. They maintained that
their identification as the alleged perpetrators of Ernestos murder is merely an
afterthought, necessitated by a death of strong evidence on the part of the
prosecution. They presented as witness Pfc. Benjamin Montanejos, who affirmed that
the entry he made in the police blotter did not mention the accused as suspects to the
crime. He further testified that it was the barangay captain who reported the incident to
the police, contradicting the claim of Ernesto Jr. that he did so.
[17]

[18]

[19]

Ruling of the Trial and Appellate Courts


The trial court ruled that the prosecution witness, Ernesto, Jr., positively identified
the accused who invited him and his father for a drink. He witnessed how they tied the
hands of Ernesto Sr. before they took him away. That the police blotter failed to state
the names of the assailants did not negate appellants participation in the
slaying. Further, the entry was based on the information relayed not by the witness
himself but by the barangay chairman, who had not witnessed the incident. The trial
court further appreciated the aggravating circumstance of treachery.
[20]

The Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of the trial court and further declared that
the totality of the prosecution evidence constitute[d] more than sufficient incriminatory
and inculpatory circumstances to reach the conclusion that the appellants killed the
victim. The appellate court declared:

Ernestos testimony is clear. He pointed to and positively identified Abraham


Bato and Sergio Bato as the persons who invited his father to drink with them
while he and his father passed by Barangay Hibucawan.His father accepted
the invitation and[,] with them for two hours[,] drank tuba at the house of
Lescabo. All the while, Ernesto sat there about two meters away from his
father. He saw his father drunk, and, under that condition, also saw Abraham
and Sergio tied [sic] his fathers hand with a rope and placed [sic] them at the
back, then they brought him away with them, to what direction, I do not know
because I ran as I was also afraid as they might bring me also. He learned of
his fathers death on the following day, that they found him at the Binaha-an
River, about 5 kilometers away from the house of Paran Lescabo. Ernesto
added on cross-examination that after his father was taken by the duo, he
went homeward, arrived there at about 6:00 p.m., told the incident to his
mother, then they slept and that it was only the following morning when they
look for his father; that he and his mother reported the incident to the
Barangay Captain of Tingib, and together with the barangay captain, they

found his father dead at the Binaha-an River, and then they reported the
incident to the police authorities.
[21]

Like the trial court, the appellate court found that Ernesto Jr. positively identified the
Bato brothers as the killers of his father and could not have been mistaken, as he had
known them long before the commission of the offense, a fact not rebutted by the
defense.
The Court of Appeals further opined that it was a natural human behavior for
Ernesto Jr. to get frightened and to wait for daybreak before looking for his father and
reporting the incident to the authorities. The appellate court noted that it was nighttime
when Ernesto Jr. reached home, and that he did not know where to look for his father.
Assignment of Errors
In their brief before the Court of Appeals, appellants assigned the following errors:
[22]

[23]

I. The lower court erred in finding that there was positive identification of the
accused-appellants.
II. The lower court erred in finding that accused-appellants employed
treachery in the commission of the offense.
In his additional brief submitted before this Court, Appellant Abraham Bato further
contends that the appellate tribunal gravely erred in increasing to reclusion perpetua the
penalty imposed by the trial court
[24]

This Courts Ruling


Pursuant to the doctrine that appeals involving reclusion perpetua are subject
review de novo,this Court pored over the entire records of both lower courts
concluded, after careful deliberation, that the appellant is entitled to an acquittal.
circumstantial evidence adduced by the prosecution fails to evoke moral certainty
appellants is guilty.

to a
and
The
that

Circumstantial Evidence Palpably Insufficient


The conviction of Appellant Abraham Bato is based on circumstantial evidence
gleaned from the sole testimony of the son of the deceased. True, in the absence of
direct proof, a conviction may be based on circumstantial evidence, but to warrant
[25]

such conviction, the following requisites must concur: (1) there is more than one
circumstance, (2) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven, and (3)
the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond
reasonable doubt.
[26]

Hence, it has been held that a judgment of conviction based on circumstantial


evidence can be upheld only if the circumstances proven constitute an unbroken chain
leading to one fair and reasonable conclusion that the defendants are guilty, to the
exclusion of any other conclusion. The circumstances proved must be concordant with
each other, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty and, at the same
time, inconsistent with any hypothesis other than that of guilt. As a corollary to the
constitutional precept that the accused is presumed innocent until the contrary is
proved, a conviction based on circumstantial evidence must exclude each and every
hypothesis consistent with his innocence.
[27]

[28]

Prosecutions Main Evidence Circumstantial


Aside from the doctor who conducted the post mortem examination on the cadaver
of the deceased, the only other witness for the prosecution was Ernesto Jr., who
testified mainly as follows:
[29]

Q What happened since you said you were at Tingib at about 3:00 oclock in the afternoon of
May 9, 1988?
A When we passed by Hibucawon, they called my father for a drink.
Q This Brgy. Hibucawon belongs to what municipality?
A Jaro, Leyte.
PROSECUTOR DAGANDAN:
Q You said that they called your father, who is this they you referred to?
A Abe Bato and Sergio Bato.
Q Where were Abraham Bato and Sergio Bato when they called your father?
A They were drinking in the house of Paran.
Q Do you know the real name of this Paran?
A I only know him as Paran.
Q What is his family name?
A Loscabo.
Q Where is this house of Paran Loscabo located?
A Barangay Hibucawon, Jaro, Leyte.
Q In what manner was your father called by Abe Bato and Sergio Bato?
A They called my father to a drink.

Q What did your father do?


A He approached Sergio Bato and Abe Bato, and he drank because he was offered to drink.
Q Where were you when your father was called by Sergio Bato and Abe Bato?
A I was near.
PROSECUTOR DAGANDAN:
Q Where were you when your father was called, at what distance were you to your father?
A About two (2) meters (from the witness stand).
Q Did you come to know if there were other persons present aside from your father and the
two accused?
A Yes, but I do not know them.
Q Approximately, how many persons were present who were gathered?
A They were many persons.
Q Approximately, how many?
A More than ten (10).
Q Since you said you were near your father when you approached them, what did Abraham
Bato and Sergio Bato got to do with your father when your father approached them?
A They first offered my father a drink.
Q Whay drink was offered?
A Tuba.
Q Did your father accept the offer?
A Yes, maam
Q For how long did he stay in that group?
A He stayed long.
Q How about you, where did you stay while your father was drinking?
A I was at a certain distance but I did not get near them.
Q At about what time did the drinking spree last?
A Two (2) hours.
Q After two hours, what happened, if any?
A When my father was already drank, they tied my father.
Q Who tied your father?
A Abe Bato and Sergio Bato.
Q With what object or material was your father tied?
A Rope.

Q How was your father tied with the rope?


A They tied him with a rope and both hands were placed at the back.
Q After that, what happened?
A They brought my father.
Q Who is this they who brought your father?
A Abe Bato and Sergio Bato.
Q How did you come to know that your father was brought somewhere?
A I saw them bringing my father.
Q To what directions was your father brought?
A I do not know because I ran away as I was afraid.
Q Immediately before you ran away, where was your father.
A They were bringing and holding my father.
Q You said you were afraid, why were you afraid?
A I was afraid because they might bring me also.
Q Did you come to know what happened to your father?
A I learned the following day that my father died because they brought him.

In sum, therefore, the witness established only the following circumstances


surrounding the crime: (1) that the Bato brothers invited the victim and his son for a
drink; (2) after two hours of drinking, said brothers suddenly tied the hands of the older
Flores and took him away; (3) the following day, the body of the victim, which sustained
several hack and stab wounds, was recovered at the Binaha-an River, about five
kilometers away from where he was last seen by the witness.
After a careful perusal of the evidence adduced by the prosecution, we believe that
appellants authorship of the crime was not established beyond reasonable doubt.
Lapses in the Prosecution Evidence
Ernesto Jr. admitted that there was no enmity or bad blood between his father and
the accused. He further asserted that there was no altercation during the drinking
spree. Likewise, he made no statement that any of the Bato brothers, at the time,
carried any bladed weapon which could have been used in his fathers
murder. Moreover, he did not see where the appellants brought his father after they had
tied his hands. More significantly, he failed to testify on how his father was killed, who
killed him, or even when he was killed. These lacunae in the prosecution account
necessarily spawn doubts in the mind of a reasonable person. Because the appellants
tied the victims hands, can it be inferred that they also intended to kill him, and actually
killed him? Where did the accused take him? What happened between the time the

accused tied the victim and the following morning when his lifeless body was found?
There is absolutely no evidence of what transpired during that interval. The prosecution,
in effect, asked the courts merely to guess or to surmise that the accused must have
killed the victim during such interregnum. But conjectures, surmises and suspicions
cannot take the place of evidence, particularly where as in this case contrary
suspicions, surmises and queries can also be floated and believed.
It is also noteworthy that Ernesto Jr. did not attempt to attract the attention of other
people who were nearby at the time, or to seek their aid. Instead, he ran home and
related the events to his mother. Oddly, he and his mother reacted not by reporting the
matter to the police, or even just to their barangay chairman, their council members or
their neighbors. They simply slept the night away!
Notwithstanding the presence of other who were nearby when the appellants tied
the hands of the victim, the prosecution failed to present any other witnesses to
corroborate Ernesto Jr.s testimony. As it was, his testimony was grossly insufficient and
sorely in need of corroboration. It has been held that circumstantial evidence which has
not been adequately established, much less corroborated, cannot by itself be the basis
of conviction.
[30]

Comparable Cases
In People vs. Roluna, the trial courts conviction of the appellant for kidnapping with
murder was based merely on the testimonies of two witnesses -- one of whom allegedly
saw the appellant tie the hands of the victim before taking him away, and the other
purportedly saw the victim walking with hands tied and the appellant following him.
Declaring that the said circumstances were insufficient to convict the appellant, this
Court held that the conviction of accused-appellant for the serious crime of kidnapping
with murder cannot be allowed to rest on the vague and nebulous facts established by
the prosecution. x x x [T]he evidence presented by the prosecution surrounding the
events of that fateful day are grossly insufficient to establish the alleged liability of
accused-appellant for the death of Moronia.
[31]

In People vs. Argawanon, appellant therein was charged and convicted with
murder by the trial court. In acquitting the appellant, the Court explained:
[32]

Furthermore, if indeed the two (2) Castro brothers were watching the cockfight
when the alleged four (4) persons attacked Pat. Castro, it is quite difficult to
comprehend that, considering that he (witness) was only six (6) meters away
from his brother, nothing was done to him as he was able to run and hide. It
seems out of the ordinary that the assailants, allegedly, two (2) of them armed
with .45 caliber pistols would let Jennis Castro (an eye witness to the killing)
loose and not put him out of the way. It is also quite unbelievable that despite
his said distance, he (Jennis Castro) was able to identify the accusedappellant and was able to hear one of the assailants shout x x x.

In addition to the above extrajudicial statements of Jennis Castro, the trial


court considered the following circumstantial evidence in convicting the
appellant Lambujon, to with: his presence at the house of one of the accused
during the raid, the revolver of Pat. Castro which was allegedly found in
accused-appellants possession during the raid; positive testimony of Jennis
Castro that the one who fired the second shot was the one wearing a blue Tshirt. We do not agree with the trial courts conclusion that the aforecited
evidence are corroborative of Jennis Castros incriminating testimony against
the accused-appellant.Circumstantial evidence may be characterized as that
evidence which proves a fact or series of facts from which the facts in issue
may be established by inference. This Court cannot infer from said evidence,
the identity of the victims assailant nor the actual participation of the appellant
Lambujon in the crime charged.
[33]

In People vs. Ragon there was no actual witness to the killing of a tricycle driver,
but appellant therein, with two others, was identified as the last passenger of the victim
before the cadaver was found hours later. Relying on purely circumstantial evidence,
the trial court convicted the appellant of murder. On appeal, this Court acquitted him.
Holding that there was no sufficient evidence to establish his actual participation in the
killing, we concluded:
[34]

Circumstantial evidence is akin to a tapestry made up of strands which create


a pattern when interwoven, and cannot be plucked out and considered one
strand at a time independently of the others. If the picture does not point to the
accused as the perpetrator of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt,
conviction based thereon will not weather judicial scrutiny. A painstaking
review of the records of this case convinces us that the story pieced together
by the trial court from the evidence of the prosecution provides no moral
certainty of appellants guilt. x x x.
[35]

Presumption of Innocence Not Overturned


In the instant case, the totality of the prosecution evidence does not constitute an
unbroken chain leading beyond reasonable doubt to the guilt of the accused
The Constitution mandates that an accused shall be presumed innocent until the
contrary is proven beyond reasonable doubt. Where the State fails to meet the
quantum of proof required to overcome the constitutional presumption, the accused is
entitled to an acquittal regardless of the weakness or even the absence of his defense.
By constitutional fiat, the burden of proof is accordingly vested on the prosecution.
[36]

[37]

[38]

In acquitting the herein appellant, this Court is not decreeing that he did not
participate in the killing. It is merely ruling that the state failed to present sufficient
evidence to overturn the constitutional presumption of innocence.
WHEREFORE, the appeal is GRANTED and the assailed Decision is
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Appellant Abraham Bato is ACQUITTED on
reasonable doubt. His RELEASE from confinement is immediately ORDERED, unless
he is being detained for some other legal cause. The director of prisons
is DIRECTED to inform this Court, within five days from receipt of this Decision, of the
actual date the appellant is released. No costs.
SO ORDERED.
Narvasa, C.J., (Chairman), Romero, Melo and Francisco, JJ., concur.

Sixth Division, composed of J. Artemon D. Luna, ponente; and JJ. Arturo J. Buena and Alfredo J.
lagamon, concurring.
[1]

[2]

Records, p. 1.

[3]

See Certificate of Arraignment, CA Rollo, p. 6; and RTC Order dated January 15, 1990, records, p. 73.

[4]

Presided by Executive Judge Lolita O. Gal-lang.

[5]

CA Rollo, pp. 12-17.

[6]

RTC Decision, p. 6; CA Rollo, p. 17.

[7]

202 SCRA 478, October 4, 1991.

[8]

170 SCRA 107, February 9, 1989.

[9]

Section 13, Rule 124 reads in part:

Whenever the Court of Appeals should be of the opinion that the penalty of reclusion perpetua or higher
should be imposed in a case, the Court after discussion of the evidence and the law involved, shall render
judgment imposing the penalty ofreclusion perpetua or higher as the circumstances warrant, refrain from
entering judgment and forthwith certify the case and elevate the entire record thereof to the Supreme
Court for review.
[10]

CA Decision, p. 10; CA Rollo.

The case was deemed submitted for resolution upon receipt by this Court on February 20, 1996 of the
letter of Geriberto N. Navat, Superintendent IV of the Bureu of Corrections , certifying that Appellant
Abraham Bato was received (at) the Leyte Regional Prison on December 15, 1995.
[11]

[12]

See letter sent by OIC Frederick Q. Garces of the Leyte Regional Prison in Abuyog, Leyte; Rollo, p. 21.

People vs. Bayotas, 236 SCRA 239, 255, September 2, 1994, per Romero, J. See also Article 89 of the
Revised Penal Code.
[13]

[14]

TSN, June 18, 1990, pp. 2-22.

[15]

TSN, June 19, 1990, pp. 3-7.

[16]

Brief for the Appellee, pp. 2-3; CA Rollo, pp. 56-57.

[17]

TSN, Nov. 6, 1990, pp. 2-9.

[18]

Records, p. 131. It reads:

Brgy. Capt. Alfredo Samson, of Brgy, Tinib, this MPLTY reported to the Office that person was found dead
in the Binaha-an River, Brgy Tingib. A Patrol lead [sic] by OIC Pfc B. Montanejos, Pat F. Sales and Pat
Arnulfo Tan, proceeded to the crime scene and said dead person was identified by the Brgy. inhabitants to
be one Ernesto Flores 60 years of age, married and a resident of Brgy. San Agustin, Jaro, Leyte, subject
was killed w/ the use of long bolos, suspects was still unknown. (Page no. 007; Entry No. 1259; Dated
May 10, 1988, and Time 1153H)
[19]

TSN, November 6, 1990, p. 5.

[20]

RTC Decision, p. 5; CA Rollo, p. 16.

[21]

CA Decision, p. 7; CA Rollo.

[22]

Brief for Accused-Appellant, pp. 1-7; CA Rollo, pp. 36-42.

[23]

Brief for Accused-Appellant, p. 1; CA Rollo, p. 36. All caps in the original.

[24]

Rollo, pp. 8-12.

[25]

People vs. Yip Wai Ming, 264 SCRA 224, 243, November 14, 1996.

[26]

People vs. Ragon et al, G.R. No. 100593, People vs. De Guzman, 250 SCRA 118, November 16, 1995.

People vs. Adofina, 239 SCRA 67, 76-77, December 8, 1994 and People vs. Tiozon, 198 SCRA 368,
June 19, 1991.
[27]

[28]

People vs. Yip Wai Ming, 264 SCRA 224, 243, November 14, 1996.

[29]

TSN, June 18, 1990, pp. 6-11.

People vs. Parel, 261 SCRA 720, 736, September 16, 1996; People vs. Ilaoa, 233 SCRA 231, 235,
June 16, 1994.
[30]

[31]

231 SCRA 446, March 24, 1994, per Puno, J.

[32]

215 SCRA 652, November 13, 1992, per Padilla, J..

[33]

Ibid., pp. 664-665.

[34]

G.R. No. 100593, November 18, 1997, per Panganiban, J.

[35]

Ibid., pp. 16-17.

[36]

Section 14 of Article III of the 1987 Constitution.

[37]

People vs. Alcantara, 240 SCRA 122, 130, January 17, 1995.

[38]

People vs. Austria, 195 SCRA 700, 709, April 8, 1991.

THIRD DIVISION
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
Appellee,

G.R. No. 186498


Present:
CORONA, J.,
Chairperson,
VELASCO, JR.,
NACHURA,
PERALTA, and
MENDOZA, JJ.

- versus -

Promulgated:
RONALDO DE GUZMAN y DANZIL,
Appellant.

March 26, 2010

x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION

NACHURA, J.:
Before this Court is an appeal by Ronaldo de Guzman y Danzil, accused in
Criminal Case No. V-1118, filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Villasis,
Pangasinan. He was charged with Illegal Sale of Dangerous Drugs, punishable
under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9165.[1] In a decision[2] dated December 5, 2006, the
trial court found De Guzman guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged.
His conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA) in a Decision [3] dated
June 26, 2008.
On June 10, 2003, a confidential informant reported De Guzmans drug
pushing activities to Alcala, Pangasinans Chief of Police, Sotero Soriano, Jr.
Soriano immediately formed a team to conduct a buy-bust operation.[4] After a
short briefing, the team proceeded to De Guzmans house. Once there, the
confidential informant introduced appellant to Senior Police Officer (SPO)1 Daniel
Llanillo, who was designated as poseur-buyer. Llanillo tried to buy P200 worth of
shabu. He handed two marked P100 bills to De Guzman, and the latter, in turn,
gave him two heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing what was
suspected as shabu. Thereafter, Llanillo gave the prearranged signal to the rest of
the team. Appellant was arrested and frisked. The team recovered from De Guzman
two packs of empty transparent sachets, three disposable lighters, and P3,380.00 in
cash, which included the marked money paid by SPO1 Llanillo. The team then
brought De Guzman to the police station in Alcala, Pangasinan.[5]
At the police station, De Guzman and the items seized during the buy-bust
operation were turned over to the police investigator, SPO3 Eduardo Yadao. SPO3
Yadao entered the incident in the police blotter. He then placed his initials on the
packets of suspected shabu, which were later submitted to the Philippine National
Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory in Urdaneta City.[6] Confirmatory tests revealed
that the substance in the packets that appellant handed to SPO1 Llanillo was indeed
shabu.[7]
At the trial, appellant denied the charges against him. He claimed that, on
the morning of June 10, 2003, he was on the second floor of his house watching

television when he was informed by his wife that police officers were looking for
him. He claimed that SPO1 Llanillo informed him about a report that he (De
Guzman) was repacking shabu, which he denied. Thereafter, the police officers
frisked him and took the P3,000.00 from his pocket. The police officers also
searched the cabinet, where his television was, and found a lighter. Then, he was
handcuffed and brought to the police station.[8]
After trial, the RTC rendered a decision, finding De Guzman guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of violating R.A. No. 9165. He was sentenced to life
imprisonment and to pay a fine ofP500,000.00.[9]
De Guzman appealed his conviction to the CA, which affirmed the RTC
decision in toto.[10]
De Guzman now comes to this Court on a Petition for Review. He argues
that the prosecution failed to show that the police officers complied with the
mandatory procedures under R.A. No.9165.[11] In particular, he points to the fact
that the seized items were not marked immediately after his arrest; that the police
officers failed to make an inventory of the seized items in his presence or in the
presence of his counsel and of a representative from the media and from the
Department of Justice (DOJ); and that no photographs were taken of the seized
items and of appellant.[12]Appellant also claims that the unbroken chain of custody
of the evidence was not established.[13] Further, appellant contends that the failure
of the police officers to enter the buy-bust operation in the police blotter before the
said operation, the lack of coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement
Agency (PDEA), and the failure to observe the requirements of R.A. No. 9165
have effectively overturned the presumption of regularity in the performance of the
police officers duties.[14]
The findings of fact of the trial court are accorded great respect, even finality
when affirmed by the CA, in the absence of any clear showing that some facts and
circumstances of weight or substance that could have affected the result of the case
have been overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied.[15]
Although the question of whether the degree of proof has been met is largely
left for the trial courts to determine, an appeal throws the whole case open for

review.[16] Thus, the factual findings of the trial court may be reversed if, by the
evidence or the lack of it, it appears that the trial court erred.[17]
A review of the records of this case reveals that circumstances warrant a
reversal of the trial courts decision.
The Constitution mandates that an accused in a criminal case shall be presumed
innocent until the contrary is proven beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution is
laden with the burden to overcome such presumption of innocence by presenting
the quantum of evidence required.
Consequently, courts are required to put the prosecution evidence through
the crucible of a severe testing, and the constitutional right to presumption of
innocence requires them to take a more than casual consideration of every
circumstance or doubt favoring the innocence of the accused.[18]
When the circumstances are capable of two or more inferences, as in this
case, one of which is consistent with innocence and the other is compatible with
guilt, the presumption of innocence must prevail, and the court must acquit.[19]
The duty to prove the guilt of an accused is reposed in the State. Law enforcers and
public officers have the duty to preserve the chain of custody over the seized drugs.
This guarantee of the integrity of the evidence to be used against an accused goes
to the very heart of his fundamental rights.[20]
In a prosecution for illegal sale of dangerous drugs, the following elements
must be proven: (1) that the transaction or sale took place; (2) that the corpus
delicti or the illicit drug was presented as evidence; and (3) that the buyer and
seller were identified.[21] What is material is the proof that the transaction or sale
actually took place, coupled with the presentation in court of the prohibited or
regulated drug. The delivery of the contraband to the poseur-buyer and the receipt
of the marked money consummate the buy-bust transaction between the entrapping
officers and the accused.[22]The presentation in court of the corpus delicti the body
or the substance of the crime establishes the fact that a crime has actually been
committed.[23]

Contrary to De Guzmans contention, the trial court correctly found that the
buy-bust transaction took place. The buyer (SPO1 Llanillo) and seller (De
Guzman) were both identified and the circumstances of how the purported sale of
the illegal drugs took place were clearly demonstrated. Thus, the prosecution
successfully established the first and third elements of the crime. However, there is
a problem in the prosecutions effort to establish the integrity of the corpus delicti.
In a prosecution for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act, the existence of
the dangerous drug is a condition sine qua non for conviction. The dangerous drug
is the very corpus delicti of the crime.[24]
The identity of the prohibited drug must be established with moral certainty.
Apart from showing that the elements of possession or sale are present, the fact
that the substance illegally possessed and sold in the first place is the same
substance offered in court as exhibit must likewise be established with the same
degree of certitude as that needed to sustain a guilty verdict.[25] Thecorpus
delicti should be identified with unwavering exactitude.[26]
The chain of custody requirement performs this function in that it ensures
that unnecessary doubts concerning the identity of the evidence are removed.
[27]
Section 21 of R.A. No. 9165 states:
Section 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or
Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled
Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or
Laboratory Equipment. The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all
dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and
essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory
equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the
following manner:
(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs
shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and
photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from
whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative
or counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of Justice
(DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the
copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof.

On the other hand, the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No.
9165 provides:
SECTION 21. Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or
Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled
Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or
Laboratory Equipment. The PDEA shall take charge and have custody of all
dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and
essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory
equipment so confiscated, seized and/or surrendered, for proper disposition in the
following manner:
(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody
and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and
confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the
presence of the accused or the person/s from whom such items
were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or
counsel, a representative from the media and the Department of
Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required
to sign the copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof:
Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall be
conducted at the place where the search warrant is served; or at the
nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending
officer/team, whichever is practicable, in case of warrantless
seizures; Provided, further, that non-compliance with these
requirements under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and
the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by
the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid
such seizures of and custody over said items.

The Court finds that the apprehending officers failed to comply with the
guidelines set under R.A. No. 9165 and its IRR.
SPO1 Llanillo himself admitted that the marking of the seized items was
done in the police station and not immediately after the buy-bust operation. He
testified:
Q: What did you do after you said you bought P200.00 worth of shabu?
A: In return, he handed to me two (2) heat sealed transparent plastic sachet
containing a suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu), sir.

Q: After that what did you do next?


A: The team made a frisking on [Ronaldo] de Guzman to see if there are other
things he is keeping in his body, sir.
Q: And what was the result of your frisking [Ronaldo] de Guzman?
A: We recovered from him 2 packs of empty transparent plastic sachets, 3
disposable lighters, sir.
Q: Aside from those items, what else did you recover from [Ronaldo] de
Guzman?
A: Money, sir, amounting to P3,380.00 including the marked money.
Q: What did you do with those things that you were able to confiscate from
[Ronaldo] de Guzman?
A: We brought it to the police station for investigation and the specimen
were (sic) brought to the crime laboratory for examination, sir.[28]

It is true that the IRR of R.A. No. 9165 provides that the physical inventory
of the seized items may be done at the nearest police station, if the same cannot be
done at the place where the items were seized. However, it must be emphasized
that the IRR also provides that non-compliance with these requirements under
justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized
items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render
void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items.[29]
The failure to follow the procedure mandated under R.A. No. 9165 and its
IRR must be adequately explained. The justifiable ground for non-compliance
must be proven as a fact. The court cannot presume what these grounds are or that
they even exist.
Accordingly, non-compliance with the procedure shall not render void and
invalid the seizure and custody of the drugs only when: (1) such non-compliance is
attended by justifiable grounds; and (2) the integrity and the evidentiary value of
the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending team. There must be
proof that these two (2) requirements were met before such non-compliance may
be said to fall within the scope of the proviso.[30]
In this case, it was admitted that it was SPO3 Yadao, the assigned
investigator, who marked the seized items, and only upon seeing the items for the

first time at the police station. Moreover, there was no physical inventory made or
photographs of the seized items taken under the circumstances required by R.A.
No. 9165 and its IRR. There was also no mention that representatives from the
media and from the DOJ, and any elected official, were present during this
inventory. The prosecution never explained the reasons for these lapses. On crossexamination, SPO1 Llanillo admitted:
Q: Do you know if your team or any member of your team issued an Inventory
receipt of those confiscated items?
A: I could not remember, sir.
Q: And you have not seen any, right?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Do you know if there were pictures taken on (sic) the confiscated items?
A: I dont know, sir.
Q: And you have not seen pictures taken?
A: Yes, sir.[31]

Thus, we find no justifiable ground for such non-compliance.


Readily apparent in the prosecutions evidence, likewise, is a gaping hole in
the chain of custody of the seized illegal drugs. SPO3 Yadao, in his testimony,
narrated how the evidence was handled, thus:
Q: You did not place or put your initials on the buy-bust money, the 2 pieces
of P100.00 bil (sic) that was used in the buy-bust operation, you did
not (sic)?
A: I did not maam (sic).
Q: Is it not that this is the standard operating procedure (SOP) as police
investigator that after your receipt of the specimens or items allegedly
confiscated in the buy-bust operation that you should place your initials
after you signed the same?
A: Unless there is a directive from our Chief of Police, maam (sic).
Q: So you are telling this Court that it is not your SOP, you should wait for your
Chief of Police to direct you to place your initials on the specimens you
received in the buy-bust operation, is that what you mean?
A: Yes, maam (sic).

Q: So you are telling us now that there was no instruction from your Chief of
Police in this particular case that you will place your initials on the 2
pieces of P100.00 bill, thats why you did not put your initials thereof (sic),
is that what you mean?
A: Yes, maam (sic).
Q: Likewise, you did not place your initials on the transparent plastic sachets,
disposable lighters and the P3,380.00 that were allegedly confiscated from
the accused?
A: I was directed to place my initials before submitting it to the PNP Crime
Laboratory, Urdaneta City.
Q: So the directive in this particular case is only limited or focused on the
suspected plastic sachets containing shabu, is that what you mean?
A: Yes, maam (sic).
Q: But you submitted likewise to the PNP Crime Laboratory, Urdaneta City, the
empty transparent plastic sachets and disposable lighters, is it not, Mr.
Witness?
A: Yes maam (sic).
Q: For laboratory examination?
A: Yes, maam (sic).
Q: But there was no instruction from your Chief of Police to place your initials on
the specimens?
A: There was instruction maam (sic).
Q: But you did not place your initials on the disposable lighters and transparent
plastic sachets?
A: I dont know if I put my initials on the disposables lighters maam (sic).
Q: You are now certain that you placed your initials on the suspected shabu but
you are not sure if you placed your initials on the transparent plastic
sachets and the disposable lighters?
A: Yes, maam (sic).
Q: What time on June 10, 2003 did you receive the specimens allegedly
confiscated from the accused?
A: On the same date maam.
Q: You earlier said that at around 10:35 a.m. you conducted a buy bust
operation and the specimens were turned over to you by your Chief of
Police. My question is, what time did your Chief of Police turn over to
you the specimens that were allegedly confiscated from the accused?
A: 2:00 p.m. when I recorded the incident in the police blotter.

Q: My question is, what time did the Chief of Police turn over to you the alleged
specimens or items?
A: 2:00 p.m. on June 10, 2003 and that was the time I immediately recorded the
incident in the police blotter.
Q: And you immediately prepared a request for laboratory examination?
A: Yes, maam (sic).
Q: What time did you finish preparing the request?
A: I cant remember, maam (sic).
Q: You said that you immediately prepared it, how long did you prepare that
request for laboratory examination?
A: Until the following day because it was on the following day that the specimens
were submitted.
Q: What was submitted the following morning?
A: If I remember it right, it was on June 11, 2003 when we submitted and
received by (sic) the PNP Crime Laboratory and that was on June 11,
2003.[32]

The length of time that lapsed from the seizure of the items from De
Guzman until they were given to the investigating officer for marking is too long to
be inconsequential. The buy-bust operation took place at about 10:30 a.m. From
the accounts of SPO1 Llanillo and another member of the buy-bust team, SPO1
Romeo Manzano, De Guzmans house was very near the police station and the team
could easily walk to it. Likewise, the transaction took place rather quickly and
appellant was brought to the police station immediately thereafter. All told, it
should not have taken 3 1/2hours, or until 2:00 p.m., for the seized items to be
turned over to the investigating officer. There was no explanation why it took the
Chief of Police that long to turn over the seized items.
From the time SPO3 Yadao took custody of the seized items, it took yet more time
before the same were submitted to the PNP Crime Laboratory, and without any
clear explanation on who had custody in the meantime. This vacuum in the chain
of custody of the seized items cannot simply be brushed aside.
These circumstances cast a strong shadow of doubt on the identity and
integrity of the evidence presented before the court.

As a method of authenticating evidence, the chain of custody rule requires


that the admission of an exhibit be preceded by evidence sufficient to support a
finding that the matter in question is what the proponent claims it to be. [33] It would
include testimony about every link in the chain, from the moment the item was
picked up to the time it is offered in evidence, in such a way that every person who
touched the exhibit would describe how and from whom it was received, where it
was and what happened to it while in the witness possession, the condition in
which it was received and the condition in which it was delivered to the next link
in the chain. These witnesses would then describe the precautions taken to ensure
that there had been no change in the condition of the item and no opportunity for
someone not in the chain to have possession of the same.[34] Indeed, it is from the
testimony of every witness who handled the evidence that a reliable assurance can
be derived that the evidence presented in court and that seized from the accused are
one and the same.[35]
While testimony about a perfect chain is not always the standard, because it
is almost always impossible to obtain, an unbroken chain of custody becomes
indispensable and essential when the item of real evidence is not distinctive and is
not readily identifiable, or when its condition at the time of testing or trial is
critical, or when a witness has failed to observe its uniqueness. The same standard
likewise obtains in case the evidence is susceptible to alteration, tampering,
contamination, and even substitution and exchange.[36]
A unique characteristic of narcotic substances is that they are not readily
identifiable as, in fact, they are subject to scientific analysis to determine their
composition and nature. The Court cannot simply close its eyes to the likelihood,
or at least to the possibility, that, at any point in the chain of custody, there could
have been tampering, alteration or substitution of substances from other casesby
accident or otherwisein which similar evidence was seized or in which similar
evidence was submitted for laboratory testing. Hence, in authenticating the same, a
standard more stringent than that applied to cases involving objects that are readily
identifiable must be applied, a more exacting standard that entails establishing a
chain of custody of the item with sufficient completeness, if only to make it
improbable that the original item has either been exchanged with another or been
contaminated or tampered with.[37]

Accordingly, the failure to establish, through convincing proof, that the integrity of
the seized items has been adequately preserved through an unbroken chain of
custody is enough to engender reasonable doubt on the guilt of an accused.
Reasonable doubt is that doubt engendered by an investigation of the whole proof
and an inability after such investigation to let the mind rest upon the certainty of
guilt. Absolute certainty of guilt is not demanded by the law to convict a person
charged with a crime, but moral certainty is required as to every proposition of
proof requisite to constitute the offense. [38] A conviction cannot be sustained if
there is a persistent doubt on the identity of the drug.[39]
Indeed, the prosecutions failure to prove that the specimen submitted for
laboratory examination was the same one allegedly seized from appellant is fatal to
the prosecutions case.[40]
Finally, the prosecution cannot find solace in its invocation of the presumption of
regularity in the apprehending officers performance of official duty.
The presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty cannot by
itself overcome the presumption of innocence nor constitute proof beyond
reasonable doubt.[41] Moreover, thefailure to observe the proper procedure negates
the operation of the presumption of regularity accorded to police officers. As a
general rule, the testimonies of the police officers who apprehended the accused
are accorded full faith and credit because of the presumption that they have
performed their duties regularly. But when the performance of their duties is
tainted with failure to comply with the procedure and guidelines prescribed, the
presumption is effectively destroyed.[42]
Thus, even if the defense evidence is weak, the prosecutions whole case still
falls. The evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own weight and
cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the defense.[43]
WHEREFORE, the foregoing premises considered, appellant RONALDO
DE GUZMAN y DANZIL is hereby ACQUITTED of the crime charged. The
Director
of
the
Bureau
of
Prisons
is
ordered
to
cause
the IMMEDIATE RELEASE of appellant from confinement, unless he is being

held for some other lawful cause, and to REPORT to this Court compliance
herewith within five (5) days from receipt of this Decision.
SO ORDERED.
ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice
Chairperson

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA


Associate Justice

AT T E S TAT I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation
before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Third Division

C E R T I F I C AT I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division
Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had
been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the
opinion of the Courts Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Acting Chief Justice

[1]

Rollo, pp. 2-3.


Penned by Judge Manuel F. Pastor, Jr.; CA rollo, pp. 63-75.
[3]
Penned by Associate Justice Rebecca de Guia-Salvador, with Associate Justices Vicente S.E. Veloso and
Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr., concurring; rollo, pp. 2-17.
[4]
CA rollo, p. 63.
[5]
Id. at 64.
[6]
Id.
[7]
Id.
[8]
Id. at 64-65.
[9]
Id. at 75.
[10]
Rollo, p. 16.
[11]
Supplemental Brief; rollo, p. 30.
[12]
Id.
[13]
Id. at 32.
[14]
Id. at 34.
[15]
Valdez v. People, G.R. No. 170180, November 23, 2007, 538 SCRA 611, 621-622.
[16]
Zarraga v. People, G.R. No. 162064, March 14, 2006, 484 SCRA 639, 646, citing Eusebio-Calderon v. People,
441 SCRA 137 (2004).
[17]
People v. Santos, Jr., G.R. No. 175593, October 17, 2007, 536 SCRA 489, 500, citing People v. Tan, 432 Phil.
171, 182 (2002).
[18]
Id. at 504, citing People v. Tan, supra at 198.
[19]
Id. at 505-506, citing People v. Batoctoy, 449 Phil. 500, 521 (2003).
[20]
Valdez v. People, supra note 15, at 631.
[21]
People v. Orteza, G.R. No. 173051, July 31, 2007, 528 SCRA 750, 757, citing People v. Bandang, 430 SCRA
570, 579 (2004).
[22]
People v. Nazareno, G.R. No. 174771, September 11, 2007, 532 SCRA 630, 636-637; id. at 758.
[23]
People of the Philippines v. Nicolas Gutierrez Licuanan, G.R. No. 179213, September 3, 2009, citing People v.
Del Mundo, 510 SCRA 554, 562 (2006).
[24]
People v. Kimura, 471 Phil. 895, 909 (2004).
[25]
People of the Philippines v. Elsie Barba y Biazon, G.R. No. 182420, July 23, 2009.
[26]
People v. Dela Cruz, G.R. No. 181545, October 8, 2008, 568 SCRA 273, 282.
[27]
People of the Philippines v. Rosemarie R. Salonga, G.R. No. 186390, October 2, 2009; Malillin v. People, G.R.
No. 172953, April 30, 2008, 553 SCRA 619, 632.
[28]
TSN, May 4, 2004, p. 7; records, p. 68.
[2]

[29]

Section 21(a), Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 9165. (Emphasis supplied.)
People v. Dela Cruz, G.R. No. 177222, October 29, 2008, 570 SCRA 273.
[31]
TSN, May 4, 2004, p. 18; records, p. 79.
[32]
TSN, November 8, 2005, pp. 16-19; records, pp. 196-199.
[33]
Malillin v. People, supra note 27, at 632.
[34]
Guido Catuiran y Nicudemus v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 175647, May 8, 2009; id. at 632-633.
[35]
Guido Catuiran y Nicudemus v. People of the Philippines, supra, citing People v. Obmiranis, 574 SCRA 140
(2008).
[36]
Malillin v. People, supra note 27, at 633 (citations omitted); see also People v. Dela Cruz, supra note 26.
[37]
Malillin v. People, supra note 27, at 633, 634; Guido Catuiran y Nicudemus v. People of the Philippines, supra
note 34.
[38]
People v. Santos, Jr., supra note 17, at 499, citing People v. Uy, 392 Phil. 773, 782-783 (2000).
[39]
People of the Philippines v. Elsie Barba y Biazon, supra note 25.
[40]
See Valdez v. People, supra note 15.
[41]
People v. Santos, Jr., supra note 38, at 503.
[42]
People v. Dela Cruz, supra note 30, citing People v. Santos, Jr., supra note 38.
[43]
People v. Sanchez, G.R. No. 175832, October 15, 2008, 569 SCRA 194, 222.
[30]

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. L-32888 August 12, 1983
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
ELOY MAGSI ET AL., defendants, TEODORO DEL ROSARIO, defendant- appellant.
That Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.
Felicisimo A Buendia for defendant-appellant.

MAKASIAR, J:
This is a mandatory review of a death sentence.
information dated January 10, 1968 filed with the Court of First Instance of La Union, Second
Judicial District, charged:
That on or about the 14th day of January, 1968 in the Municipality of San Fernando,
La Union, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused, namely ELOY MAGSI, JUAN PONCE y BILLON alias JOHNNY,
PERFECTO ARCE alias PEPING, conspiring and confederating with their fellow
accused GERARDO FLORES alias GERRY, OPRING OLAZO DORO DOE and
PETER DOE, the latter four being still at large, and mutually helping one another with
intent to kill and with treachery, while the said accused were armed with carbine
pistols and revolvers did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniusly enter the
house where JESUS GALLARDO and his family live and once inside the said house,
attack, assault and shoot one JESUS GALLARDO, inflicting upon the said offended
party JESUS GALLARDO multiple gunshot wounds on the different parts of his body
which caused the instantaneous death of the said JESUS GALLARDO.
That the following aggravating circumstances were attendant in the commission of
the offense: (1) abuse of superior strength; (2) use of a motor vehicle; (3) the offense
was committed in the dwelling place of the offended party; and (4) that the offense
was committed by a band.
CONTRARY TO ARTICLE 248 in relation to Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code. (p.
2, rec.).
xxx xxx xxx

"Doro Doe," subsequently Identified as Teodoro del Rosario, was arraigned on


October 19, 1970 and an unqualified plea of guilt was entered. The next day, October
20, 1970, the court rendered its judgment, the dispositive part of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the Court finds TEODORO DEL ROSARIO guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime of MURDER as charged in the information and hereby sentences
him to suffer the penalty of DEATH ... (pp. 4-5, rec.).
In his brief, defendant-appellant assailed the aforesaid decision and alleged that:
I. The Trial Court erred in imposing upon the accused the DEATH penalty son a pleas
of GUILTY without ascertaining that the accused fully understood the charges against
him and the character of the penalty that may be imposed upon him notwithstanding
his plea of guilty.
II. The Trial Court erred in not making inquiry as to the extent of the force applied by
Eloy Magsi and his companions upon the accused Teodoro del Rosario, when they
ordered him to kill Jesus Gallardo
III. The Trial Court erred in appointing as attorney de officio for the accused a lawyer
who is the "compared" of the person killed by said accused and who, because of the
special relationship with the deceased, reluctantly discharged his duties as
attorney de officio, after the Court had denied his repeated petition to be relieved of
his appointment as such (p. 46, rec.).
The Solicitor General recommended the affirmation of the decision, and refuted the allegations of the
defendant appellant, but said recommendation is negated by the facts that actually transpired during
the proceedings.
Records show that soon after defendant-appellant was apprehended on August 20, 1970, his
arraignment was scheduled before the Criminal Circuit Court of San Fernando, La Union, presided
over by Judge Lino Anover
Altogether, this case was actually set and rescheduled for six (6) times, first of which was on August
1, 1970. On that date, despite appointment by the court of Atty. Mario Rivera as de officio counsel for
the accused, hearing was re-set to September 8, 1970 on motion of Atty. Rivera, who was prompted
to ask for it because of accused desire to be represented by a de parte counsel. Prior to the next
hearing, Atty. Rivera moved to withdraw as de officio counsel and it was favorably acted on by the
court on September 7, 1970. At the second hearing on September 8, 1970, for failure of the de
officio and de parte counsels to appear, despite a second call of the case, the hearing was re-set for
the next day and the court appointed Atty. Dominador Cariaso de officio counsel for the accused. On
the third hearing date, neither the de parte nor the de officio counsel was in Court, so Atty. Rivera
was reappointed that day as de officio counsel for arraignment purposes only. The accused del
Rosario entered a plea of guilty but qualified it with the allegation that he committed the crime out of
fear of his co-accused Eloy Magsi and the other coaccused. Hearing conducted that day showed, to
wit:

Court seems that nobody wants to defend you. They probably think that you are
guilty. "Del Rosario have not yet talked personally to the lawyer, ... (p. 4, t.s.n., Sept.
9, 1970).
Court to Interpreter-Will you call Atty. Rivera? ... Atty. Rivera, do not be afraid to
assist the accused ... (To the accused): This is for arraignment only, Do not expect
Atty. Cariaso to come here and be your lawyer nor the top bracket lawyers of Manila.
Del Rosario want to enter the plea of guilty (pp. 5-6, t.s.n., Sept. 9,1970).
Court ... ... All right, arrange the accused. (Interpreter Mariano Lete reads the
information before accused Teodoro del Rosario).
Interpreter Lete-The accused prays that before he pleads, he be given a chance to
say something in court.
Court Can your lawyer not say that for you?
Atty. Rivera-Your Honor, he wants to manifest to the Court what I have already
manifested regarding the mitigating circumstance and the extent of his participation
(pp. 10-11, t.s.n., Sept. 9, 1970).
Accused's allegation of' duress prompted Atty. Rivera to move for the re- setting of the case for the
study and presentation of possible mitigating circumstances. The case was accordingly re-set for
September 14, 1970. On the fourth hearing date. the presentation of mitigating circumstances was
not held as scheduled, but de officiocounsel Atty. Cariaso's explanation regarding his close ties with
the deceased and his family was heard, and his motion to be relieved as counsel by reason thereof,
and be replaced by one who can attend to the defense of the accused with candor, was denied by
the court. however, per the note presented to the Court by Atty. Cariaso presumably from Atty.
Baterina, de parte counsel for the accused, the contents of which sought the re-setting of the case
for the first week of October, the case was again re-set for October 6, 1970. The Court motu
propriochanged accused's plea of guilty to not guilty. At the fifth hearing, Atty. Cariaso who appeared
in court only after a warrant for his arrest was issued, informed the Court that those interested in the
conviction of the accused opposed his appearance, as de officio counsel, and at the same time, also
turned over another note, the contents of which asked for another resetting. The Court denied the
motion of Atty. Cariaso to withdraw as counsel. but re-set the case for October 19, 1970.
At the outset of the sixth hearing held on October 19, 1970. Atty. Cariaso outrightly informed the
Court that the accused was ready to enter an unqualified plea of guilty. Hearing conducted that day
showed. to wit:
Court Witnesses for the prosecution?
Atty. Cariaso Before we proceed, may I inform the Court that I have just been
conferring with the accused and he wants to be rearraigned because the order of this
Court the last tune 'is that his plea of guilty be disregarded and a plea of not guilty
was entered. Now he says he wants to be re-arraigned and I believe he will not offer
any qualifying circumstance,

Court Let me see the record. Now he wants to be rearraigned


(Court issued an order.)
Court to accused Your attorney informed the court that you are willing to be rearraigned and Chat this time you will enter an unqualified plea of guilty is that true
Del Rosario admit,
Court All right, rearraigned the accused.
Interpreter Lete-After reading the information the accused Del Rosario pleaded guilty
(pp. 311-33, t.s.n., October 19, 1970).
Based on accused's plea of guilty without any evidence for "he prosecution on anyof the alleged
aggravating circumstances nor -Accused's evidence on duress the Court rendered its decision the
next. day October 20, 97(),
Of The six hearing dates held relative to the case, accused at two instances entred a qualified plea
of guilty
Recorded proceedings at the first instance on September 9, 1970 reproduced Previously showed
that, de officiocounsel Atty. Rivera and accused were hardly afforded by the Court any opportunity to
discuss the case together, and the qualified plea of guilty resulted from the Courts proddings rather
than from accused's spontaneous volition.
At the second i instance the Court knew accused's prior plea of was guilty be alleged duress
employed on him by the other accused. It behooved the Court to allow the accused an opportunities
qqqt present evidence on the alleged duress, as well as discover for itself the reasons for accused
change of mind regarding his plea.
But more importantly, the Court could have complied, as it failed to do so the first time, with its
bounden duty to apprise and advise the accused of the seriousness of the charges, the meaning of
the qualifying and modifying circumstances, and gravity of the penalty that may be imposed on him
despite the plea of guilty, as well as received prosecution's evidence on the alleged aggravating
circumstances attendant to the commission of the offense charged. But these considerations
notwithstanding, sans any evidence whatsoever from the prosecution nor from the defense, after
Atty. Cariaso's manifestation, and its trite queries addressed to the accused whether he confirmed
the same or not, the Court proceeded to decide the case.
WE have consistently enjoined strict and substantial adherence to Our rulings in cases where
defendants are charged with capital offenses. Mere pro-forma appointment of de officio counsel, who
fails to genuinely protect the interests of the accused, resetting of hearing by the court for alleged
reception of evidence when in fact none was conducted, perfunctory queries addressed to the
accused whether he understands the charges and the gravity of the penalty, are not sufficient
compliance with Our qqqinjunctions
On the appointment of reluctant de officio counsels, We have commented in the case of People vs.
Valera (43 SCRA 207-211), thus:

In the absence of an explanation why Atty. Ansaldo Jr. asked to be released as


counsel de officio as soon as he was appointed by the trial court; why he failed to
appear for the trial on July 2, 1968 when the court ordered his arrest and on July 3,
1968 when the Court had to appoint another (the third) counsel de officio and that
when Ansaldo appeared on July 16, 1968 he informed the Court that his client, upon
his advice wished to change his previous plea of not guilty to one of guilty, this Court
is forced to conclude that counsel was not disposed to discharge his duties as
counsel de officio and it was naive for the court to have proceeded to re-arraign the
accused with a counsel of such disposition and expect that the rights of the accused
would be amply protected...
In the case of People vs. Simeon (47 SCRA 141, 142), We brought to fore the court's obligation to
the accused, and We said:
The court a quo cannot plead ignorance of the injunction directed towards trial judges
to exercise the patience and circumspection in explaining the meaning of the
accusation and the full import of the plea of guilty to the accused, who should
likewise be granted all the chances to acquaint his counselde officio with his version
of the incident and to conduct his own investigation at the locale of the crime as
much as practicable, more than just examining the records of the case. This Court in
numerous cases as early as October 29, 1906 in U.S. vs. Talbanos (6 Phil. 541, 543)
enunciated that 'while there is no law requiring it, yet in every case under the plea of
guilty where the penalty may be death, it is advisable for the court to call witnesses
for the purpose of establishing the guilt and the degree of culpability of the
defendant. This was reiterated over a year later on December 21, 1907 inU.S vs.
Rota et al. ( Phil. 426, 431) wherein this Court added that 'in all cases, and especially
in cases where the punishment to be inflicted is severe, the Court should be sure that
the defendant fully understands the nature of the charges preferred against him and
the character of the punishment to be imposed before sentencing him...
Focusing attention on the trial court's duties to the accused, We have again said in People vs.
Domingo (55 SCRA 243-244):
WE enunciated times without number in Our injunctions addressed to the trial courts
that they should exercise solicitous care before sentencing the accused on a plea of
guilty especially in capital offenses by first insuring that the accused fully
understands the gravity of the offense, the severity of the consequences attached
thereto as well as the meaning and significance of his plea of guilty; and that the
prudent and proper thing to do in capital cases is to take testimony, to assure the
court that the accused has not misunderstood the nature and effect of his plea of
guilty (People vs. Villafuerte,supra; People vs. Alamada L-34594-5, July 13, 1973;
People vs. Busa L-32047, June 25, 1973; People vs. Silvestre, L2-1821, June 22,
1973; People vs. Simeon, L-33730, Sept. 28, 1972; People vs. Espina L-33028, June
20, 1972; People vs. Bulalake 106 Phil. 760: U.S. vs. Jamad, 37 Phil. 305.
WE continued to stress lengthily the same injunctions in the case of People vs. Baluyut (L-32752-3,
Jan. 31, 1977, 75 SCRA 153-55):

To start with, the court a quo did not even ascertain for itself whether the accused
completely understood the precise nature of the charge and the meaning of the
aggravating circumstances of nighttime, craft and abuse of superior strength as
having attended the commission of the crime, so as to obviate any doubt as to the
possibility that they have mis understood the nature and gravity of the charge to
which they were pleading guilty. The trial court did not conduct a dialogue with the
accused on their educational attainment, especially considering that a cursory
perusal of their signatures on the statements they have to the Malolos Police Force
(Exhs. A, B and C) tends to show that they have very little or scanty education.
Moreover, from the transcript, We have noted that after the arraignment, trial was
held on three dates and on each day the accused were assisted by three different
counsel de officio. In the hearing of October 7, 1970-the day the decision under
review was rendered the counsel de officio who assisted the accused was
designated by the trial court only after the case was designated for trial, i.e., after the
accused had informed the trial court that they did not have a lawyer. Under these
circumstances, it is not unreasonable to assume that said counsel de
officio proceeded to trial without first fully investigating the facts of the case and that
his interview with the accused, even if it lasted for twenty (20) minutes as the record
insinuates, was not, and could not have been sufficient to enable him to acquire a
fairly good grasp, much less a comprehensive knowledge, of the relevant facts of the
case. Incidentally, under the Rules of this Court, whenever an attorney de officio is
employed or assigned by the court to defend the accused at the trial, he shall be
given a reasonable time to consult with the accused and prepare his defense before
proceeding further in the case, which shall not be less than two (2) days in case oil
trial (Sec. 5, Rule 116, Revised Rules of Court). The record, incidentally, does not
show the existence of a 'good cause' to justify the trial court in shortening the trial
fixed by the Rules.
xxx xxx xxx
WE deeply lament this attitude of the court a quo. Be that as it may, however, We
only hope that hereafter trial courts would strictly comply with the rigid standard set in
the following cases of Apduhan, Arpa and Solacito, all of which have invariably,
consistently and firmly established and stressed the duty of trial courts before
accepting the plea of guilty of an accused to a capital offense,
xxx xxx xxx
In the recent case of People vs. Regular (L-38674, Sept. 30, 1981, 108 SCRA 23, 32-33), the
injunction is reiterated:
At the outset, it must be stated that the plea of guilty by the two accused were
improvidently laid. During the arraignment, the trial judge did not adhere strictly to the
doctrine laid down in People vs.Apduhan (24 SCRA 798) where We postulated the
guideline in cases where there is a plea of guilty by the accused. In the instant cases
under review, We observe that the trial judge failed to explain fully to the two accused
the meaning and the far-reaching effect of their plea. It was not explained to them the
meaning of the term 'treachery,' an aggravating circumstance which qualified the
crime to murder and frustrated murder respectively. Neither did the judge explain the

terms 'evident premeditation' and 'recidivism,' both aggravating circumstances


alleged in the information which had legal significance and consequences not
ordinarily understandable to a layman.
The trial judge asked the appellants whether they were aware that the court had no
other alternative except to impose the capital punishment on them without explaining
why it had to be so. In People vs. Solacito (L-29209, August 25, 1969, 29 SCRA 61),
We had the occasion to say that, judges are duty-bound to be extra solicitous in
seeing to it that when an accused pleads guilty, he understands fully the meaning of
his plea and the import of an inevitable conviction,
xxx xxx xxx
The desire to speed up the disposition of cases should not be effected at the
sacrifice of the basic rights of the accused (People vs. Simeon, 47 SCRA 141).
The conduct of the court a quo taken in the light of the foregoing decisions clearly established the
fact that it had been remiss in its duties to the herein accused, who was convicted on an improvident
plea of guilty.
WHEREFORE, THE JUDGMENT CONVICTING ACCUSED TEODORO DEL ROSARIO IS HEREBY
SET ASIDE AND THE CASE IS HEREBY REMANDED TO THE COURT A QUO FOR
REARRANGEMENT AND FURTHER PROCEEDINGS, NO COSTS.
Teehankee, Aquino, Concepcion Jr., Abad Santos, Melencio-Herrera, Plana, Escolin Relova and
Gutierrez, JJ., concur.
Guerrero and Vasquez, JJ., took no part.
Fernando, C.J., De Castro, are on leave.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 139180. July 31, 2001]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


RIVERA, accused- appellant.

vs. ROLANDO

DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:

This is a review pursuant to Rule 122, 10 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure of the decision,
dated June 22, 1999, of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 49, Guagua, Pampanga, finding
accused-appellant Rolando Rivera guilty of rape and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of
death and to pay the offended party, Erlanie Rivera, the sum of P75,000.00 as compensatory
damages and P50,000.00 as moral damages.
[1]

The information against accused-appellant charged

That sometime in the month of March 1997, in barangay Santiago, municipality of


Lubao, province of Pampanga, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused ROLANDO RIVERA, by means of
violence, threat and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously, and maliciously succeeded in having carnal knowledge [of] his 13 year
old daughter, Erlanie D. Rivera, against the latters will and without her consent.
Contrary to law.[2]

When the information was read to him in the local dialect (Pampango) during his
arraignment on September 30, 1997, accused-appellant, duly assisted by counsel de oficio,
pleaded not guilty to the crime charged,[3] whereupon trial was held.
The prosecution presented as its witnesses complainant Erlanie Rivera, her aunt, Marietta
Pagtalunan, and Dr. Demetria Barin, who conducted the physical examination of complainant.
Complainant Erlanie Rivera testified that sometime in March 1997, her younger sister, Zaira,
was taken by their parents to the Escolastica Romero Memorial Hospital in Lubao, Pampanga.
Complainants mother stayed with her sister in the hospital, but her father, herein accusedappellant, went back home to Santiago, Lubao, Pampanga. At around 11 oclock in the evening of
the same day, complainant was awakened as accused-appellant started kissing her and fondling
her breasts. Complainant tried to resist by kicking and pushing accused-appellant, but her efforts
were to no avail. Accused-appellant removed her shorts and panty, touched her private parts, and
then had sexual intercourse with her. After he was through with her, accused-appellant told
complainant not to tell anyone what had happened or he would kill complainants mother and
sister. Hence, when her mother came home the following day, Erlanie did not tell her what had
happened because she was afraid of accused-appellant.
[4]

On April 9, 1997, however, Erlanie, in the presence of her mother, told her aunt, Marietta
Pagtalunan, and her grandmother, Maxima Payumo, that she had been raped by accusedappellant. For this reason, she was referred to Dr. Barin for physical examination. She also
executed a sworn statement before the police of Lubao, Pampanga.[5]
Erlanie testified that she became pregnant as a result of the rape committed against her by
accused-appellant, but the pregnancy was aborted.[6] On cross-examination, she said she was 13
years old at the time of her testimony, the second child in the family. She said that her parents
were not on good terms with each other and that she knew that her father had a mistress. Atty.
Mangalindan, then defense counsel, questioned Erlanie about other supposed acts of molestation
committed by accused-appellant against her previous to the rape subject of the present case, but,
upon objection of the prosecution, the trial court disallowed the question on the ground that it
concerned matters not covered by her direct examination.[7]
Erlanie testified that her mother, grandmother, aunt, and a certain Nora Baluyut were present
when she made her sworn statement before the police. She said that her father raped her only
once, sometime in March 1997. She could not remember the exact date when she was raped by
accused-appellant, but she did remember that the same took place in March as her sister, Zaira,
was hospitalized at the time. When the rape occurred, her younger brother and sister were in their
house asleep. She did not tell her mother after the latter had returned home that she had been
raped by accused-appellant because she was afraid of her father who had threatened her. After
the rape, accused-appellant would only come home on Sundays.[8]
Questioned further on cross-examination, Erlanie said that she gave her sworn statement
before the police and that her answers to questions asked during her direct examination were
freely given without coaching by anyone. She could understand Tagalog, the language used in
her sworn statement. She told the court that she struggled against accused-appellant, kicking and
pushing him, but she was overpowered by her father. At that time, Erlanies younger sister,
Corazon, was lying beside her, but Erlanie did not shout even when her father succeeded in
penetrating her. Erlanie could not remember how long the sexual act took place, but she felt

something like urine come out of her fathers penis after he was finished with her. Erlanie
testified that she was 12 years old when she was raped by her father.[9]
On re-direct examination, when asked about the discrepancy between her testimony that her
mother returned home only the day after the rape and her statement in her affidavit that accusedappellant slept beside her mother after the rape, Erlanie replied that she made a mistake as the
incident narrated in her affidavit referred to a different occasion when no rape was committed
against her by accused-appellant.[10]
The next witness for the prosecution was Marietta Pagtalunan, complainants aunt and the
sister of complainants mother, Evangeline. Marietta corroborated Erlanies testimony that the
latter told her sometime in April 1997 that she had been raped by accused-appellant. Marietta
said she took complainant to Dr. Barin, who examined complainant.[11]
Dr. Demetria Barin was Chief Physician of the Escolastica Romero District Hospital. Her
findings are as follows:

P.E. FINDINGS:
- No signs of external Physical Injuries
I.E. FINDINGS:
HYMEN - healed laceration at 3:00 oclock
VAGINA - Admits one finger with ease two fingers with difficulty
UTERUS - not enlarged
LMP - March 3, 1997
Pregnancy Test (+)[12]
Dr. Barin testified that on April 10, 1997, she examined complainant Erlanie Rivera and
found that the victim had an injury in the hymen at the 3 oclock position which could possibly
have been caused by the insertion of a hard object, such as a male organ. Dr. Barin testified that
complainant Erlanie went back to see her on May 2, 1997 because she suffered from vaginal
bleeding indicative of a threatened abortion. She said that she found that complainant was then
pregnant. Upon examination of the patient at that time, Dr. Barin found that abortion had not yet
taken place and prescribed medicines for the complainant. Erlanie was subjected to another
pregnancy test on May 13, 1997, but the result was negative. Dr. Barin stated that the vaginal
bleeding suffered by complainant could have caused the abortion of the fetus.[13]
Thereafter, the defense presented its evidence. Accused-appellant, his sister, Concepcion
Sayo, and Natividad Pinlac, Records Officer of the Escolastica Romero District Hospital, were
presented as witnesses.

Accused-appellant denied that he raped Erlanie Rivera. He alleged that the rape charge was
filed against him because his wife, Evangeline, had a paramour and resented him because he hurt
her. He explained that he saw his wife talking with another man in their house and beat her up on
April 1, 1997 because he heard that she had a lover. He also said that his wife was angry with
him because he had a mistress who stayed in their house for three weeks. He further stated that
his wifes relatives were likewise angry with him because he caused the lot owned by his fatherin-law in Santiago, Lubao, Pampanga to be registered in his name. He said that he was
compelled to sign a waiver of his rights over the land owned by his parents-in-law.[14] The defense
presented a letter to accused-appellant written by his wife, who was asking him to sign a
document so that she could attend to it before he got out of prison.[15]
The defense also offered as evidence a document, designated as Waiver of Rights, [16] signed
by accused-appellant, in which he acknowledged that he was a tenant of a parcel of land and that
he waived and voluntarily surrendered his right over the said landholding to the SMPCI,
recommending that a certain Ponciano Miguel be given the land to work on the same. The
document was identified by accused-appellant in open court. He said that Ponciano Miguel was a
first cousin of his wife and that he signed the document because his wifes relatives promised him
that he would get out of prison after signing the document.[17]
Another witness for the defense was Concepcion Sayo, accused-appellants sister, who
testified that in March 1997, accused-appellant lived with her family in Malawak, Bustos,
Bulacan, to help her husband operate a fishpond.She said that accused-appellant stayed in their
house during the entire month of March, except in March 19, 1997 when he stayed with their
sister, Perla, in Tibagan, Bustos, Bulacan.[18]
The last defense witness was Natividad Pinlac, Records Officer of the Escolastica Romero
District Hospital, who identified[19] a certification, dated April 29, 1999, in which it was stated
that Zaira Rivera was confined at that hospital from March 1 to March 2, 1997.[20]
On June 22, 1999, the trial court rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of which stated:

WHEREFORE, the court finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of rape as charged. For having violated Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code,
as amended by Republic Act 7659, with the attendant circumstances that the victim is
under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is the father of the victim and absent
any circumstance that could mitigate the commission thereof, accused is hereby
sentenced to suffer the supreme penalty of death by lethal injection.
In line with established jurisprudence, said accused is also ordered to indemnify the
offended party Erlanie Rivera in the sum of P75,000.00 as compensatory damages
and P50,000.00 as moral damages.
SO ORDERED.[21]
Hence, this appeal. Accused-appellant contends that:
1. The lower court failed to observe the constitutional right of the Accused-Appellant to due
process and right to counsel;

2. The lower court failed to consider the evidence of the Accused-Appellant. [22]

I. Accused-appellant invokes his right to due process of law. He claims that he was denied
the same because: (a) the trial judge disallowed his lawyer from cross-examining Erlanie Rivera
concerning the latters sworn statements on the ground of irrelevance and immateriality; (b) the
trial court denied the motion made by accused-appellants counsel de oficio to postpone the crossexamination of Dr. Barin, the examining physician, because of which the said counsel
consequently waived the cross-examination of Dr. Barin; (c) the judge propounded numerous
questions to accused-appellant during his cross-examination by the prosecutor; and (d) the trial
courts decision was promulgated just one day after accused-appellant submitted his
memorandum.
Procedural due process simply means that a person must be heard before he is
condemned. The due process requirement is a part of a persons basic rights, not a mere formality
that may be dispensed with or performed perfunctorily.[23] Considering both the evidence and the
law applicable to this case, we hold that accused-appellant has been accorded his right to due
process.
A. One basis for accused-appellants contention that he was denied due process is the refusal
of the trial judge to allow Atty. Mangalindans questions concerning the other alleged acts of
molestation committed by accused-appellant against complainant. Accused-appellant argues that
no legal ground exists for the trial courts ruling.
The transcript of stenographic notes concerning this incident shows the following:
ATTY. MANGALINDAN:
Q You mentioned in your testimony that you were molested by your father since 1996.
COURT:
Are you referring to a chain of events because police station you are referring is something there are
two places this girl testified that she was raped, you referred to us Acts of Lasciviousness and she
did not testified about that, that is another case with another Court, we are only trying here a rape
case that is only they you never mention. Only on the matters that she testified (sic).
ATTY. MANGALINDAN:
But this is also related to the rape case your Honor because I will confront it with another form of a
question.
ATTY. MANGALINDAN:
Q Prior to this incident, were you molested by your father?
PROSECUTOR SANTOS:
Immaterial, your Honor, whatever acts w[ere] done by the accused is not a subject of the case at bar.
COURT:
Let us confine [questioning] to the complaint at bar which is a rape case.
ATTY. MANGALINDAN:
This is related to the incident because we are here your Honor to prove, we are trying to discredit her
testimony. We will just direct our question touching on the direct examination.

COURT:
Only on the matters that she only testified that is only thing you can cross-examine. Only matters
testified which is only a rape case let us not dwell the Court knows there are other cases Acts of
Lasciviousness pending in the lower Court at the proper Court otherwise if I will allow you to ask
questions on other matters specially I know you are pinpointing the Acts of Lasciviousness you
are prolonging this case here (sic).
ATTY. MANGALINDAN:
I am trying to discredit the witness as one where the credibility as witness here your Honor is very
important. I stated before our main cross-examination is the accused is not a plan in such case,
although I do sympathize (sic). We would like to propound question that will discredit her as
witness and a complainant not with her testimony alone. Our center of cross-examination is to
discredit her as complaining witness that is why our question may not be limited to be accepted
under the rule of cross-examination your Honor the cross-examination your Honor the crossexaminer is not limited on the direct-testimony of the witness but he can propound questions
which may petition or destroy the credibility of the witness that is our view point (sic).
PROSECUTOR SANTOS:
We cannot dispute the right of accused to discredit or to adopt our credibility of our witness, but it
should be done in the proper way, not to ask immaterial questions which are not related.
ATTY. MANGALINDAN:
The rule for cross-examination insofar as to destroy the credibility of the witness is not only limited to
what the Honorable Fiscal we came approach of so many cross-examinations goes allow your
Honor under the rules of Court insofar as this case is related to the present case we are trying, this
is very related because even the witness I have transcript in my hand, testified not only the rape
case your Honor she had testified by direct-examination the preparatory acts before the testimony
of rape that she was been molested early, finger of the father, this were testified through by the
witness, it is here direct-testimony it is not limited (sic).
PROSECUTOR SANTOS:
Prior to this incident were you molested by your father, obviously your Honor the question is not
relevant.
ATTY. MANGALINDAN:
Your Honor please Im very disagreeable (sic), I have not with me the transcript but I have read that
you [can] ask questions concerning the rape case.
COURT:
A question referring to events prior to the complaint at bar.[24]

The trial court later issued an order, dated December 9, 1997, the pertinent parts of which
provided:

After private complainant testified on direct-examination, counsel for accused


attempted to cross-examine her on matters relevant to the complaint for Acts of
Lasciviousness which was objected to by Asst. Provincial Prosecutor Arturo G. Santos
on the ground that private complainant did not testify on that matter but limited her

testimony on the rape case only. Counsel for the accused argued that although that is
correct nonetheless because [of] the sworn statement executed by private complainant
identified by said witness in her direct examination and marked as Exhibit C for the
prosecution, he is at liberty to cross-examine the witness on all matters stated in her
sworn statement including that portion touching on the acts of lasciviousness subject
matter of another case before another court.
The Court sustained the objection. Section 6, Rule 132, Revised Rules on Evidence
provides that the witness may be cross-examined by the adverse party as to any
matters stated in the direct examination, or connected therewith, with sufficient
fullness and freedom to test his accuracy and truthfulness and freedom from interest
or bias or the reverse, and to elicit all important facts bearing upon the issue.
The witness testified only on the rape case. She did not testify anything about acts of
lasciviousness committed upon her person. She may not therefore be questioned on
this matter because it is not connected with her direct testimony or has any bearing
upon the issue. To allow adverse party to cross-examine the witness on the acts of
lasciviousness which is pending trial in another court and which the witness did not
testify is improper.
Questions concerning acts of lasciviousness will not in any way test the accuracy and
truthfulness and freedom from interest or bias or the reverse. On the contrary such
questions, if allowed, will unduly burden the court with immaterial testimonies. [25]
In another order, dated January 13, 1998, the trial court gave accused-appellants counsel 20
days within which to elevate its ruling to the appellate court. [26] The records reveal, however, that
no such petition was filed by Atty. Mangalindan as regards this particular matter.
The question, therefore, is whether the trial court correctly disallowed accused-appellants
counsel from questioning complainant as regards the other supposed acts of lasciviousness
contained in her sworn statement. On this point, Rule 132, 6 of the Revised Rules on Evidence
provides:

Upon the termination of the direct examination, the witness may be cross-examined
by the adverse party as to any matters stated in the direct examination, or connected
therewith, with sufficient fullness and freedom to test his accuracy and truthfulness
and freedom from interest, bias or the reverse and to elicit all important facts bearing
upon the issue.
The right of a party to cross-examine a witness is embodied in Art. III, 14(2) of the
Constitution which provides that the accused shall have the right to meet the witnesses face to
face and in Rule 115, 1(f) of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which states that, in all
criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have the right to confront and cross-examine the
witnesses against him.[27] The cross-examination of a witness is essential to test his or her

credibility, expose falsehoods or half-truths, uncover the truth which rehearsed direct
examination testimonies may successfully suppress, and demonstrate inconsistencies in
substantial matters which create reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused and thus give
substance to the constitutional right of the accused to confront the witnesses against him.[28]
The right of the accused to cross-examine a witness is, however, not without limits but is
subject to the rules on the admissibility and relevance of evidence. Thus, in People v. Zheng Bai
Hui,[29] this Court upheld the ruling of the trial judge disallowing the questions propounded by the
accuseds counsel on the ability of the arresting officer to distinguish
between tawas and shabu without a laboratory examination, the academic degree of his training
instructor, and the officers authorship of books on drug identity and analysis for being irrelevant,
improper, and impertinent.
In this case, accused-appellants counsel argued that his questions to Erlanie on the other acts
of lasciviousness supposedly committed by accused-appellant against her were for the purpose of
testing her credibility. There was, however, no showing on his part how these questions had any
bearing on complainants credibility or on the truth of her claims. One is led to suspect that the
purpose of these questions was to confuse complainant into committing mistakes in her answers
during cross-examination that accused-appellants counsel could later use to possibly put
complainants credibility, not to mention her character, in question.
Accused-appellant insists that his counsel should have been allowed to ask questions in
relation to the sworn statement executed by complainant. He cites Rule 132, 17 of the Revised
Rules of Evidence which provides that:

When part of an act, declaration, conversation, writing or record is given in evidence


by one party, the whole of the same subject matter may be inquired into by the other.
Neither can this rule be invoked to justify the questioning of complainant which the trial
court did not allow. As the above provision states, this rule applies to parts of an act, declaration,
conversation, writing or record which is given in evidence.
Indeed, the records show that after Erlanie had finished with her direct examination on
November 25, 1997, the trial judge granted the motion made by Atty. Anselmo Mangalindan,
accused-appellants private counsel, to postpone Erlanie Riveras cross-examination to allow him
time to secure copies of the transcript of stenographic notes of Erlanies testimony and thus
enable him to fully question complainant. [30] Erlanie was first cross-examined on December 2,
1997, but several postponements, namely, on January 13, 1998, [31] February 10, 1998,[32] March
12, 1998,[33] March 31, 1998,[34] April 7, 1998,[35] May 12, 1998,[36] May 26, 1998,[37] May 28, 1998,
[38]
and June 11, 1998,[39]on Erlanies cross-examination took place because of the failure of Atty.
Mangalindan to appear on the said trial dates. Erlanies cross-examination was continued on July
14, 1998 and July 23, 1998. Her cross-examination by accused-appellants counsel was thorough
and covered various subjects, such as the nature of the relationship between her parents, who
were present during the execution of her sworn statement, whether the same had been executed
by her voluntarily, the date when she was raped by accused-appellant the reason for her delay in
reporting the rape committed by accused-appellant, her understanding of Tagalog, who were with
her in the house at the time of the rape, the details surrounding the rape committed against her,

and her age. It is evident that accused-appellant and his counsel were given ample opportunity to
conduct the cross-examination of Erlanie Rivera in order to test her truthfulness.
B. The record shows that because accused-appellants private counsel was not present when
Dr. Barin testified, Atty. Eddie Bansil was appointed by the trial court as accused-appellants
counsel de oficio for that particular hearing.Atty. Bansil moved for the postponement of the
witness cross-examination, but the trial court denied his request because, on the one hand,
accused-appellant was a detention prisoner and Dr. Barin was a very busy person, while, on the
other hand, Atty. Bansil had heard the testimony of the said witness. Atty. Bansil then decided
not to cross-examine Dr. Barin.[40]
Accused-appellant now contends that the trial judge denied the motion of Atty. Bansil for
postponement because he was biased against him. Accused-appellant claims that the counsel de
oficio was not familiar with the facts of his case and was thus in no position to cross-examine Dr.
Barin.
While the Constitution recognizes the accuseds right to competent and independent counsel
of his own choice, his option to secure the services of a private counsel is not absolute. For
considering the States and the offended partys right to speedy and adequate justice, the court may
restrict the accuseds option to retain a private counsel if the accused insists on an attorney he
cannot afford, or if the chosen counsel is not a member of the bar, or if the attorney declines to
represent the accused for a valid reason.[41]
The trial court appointed Atty. Bansil a counsel de oficio to represent accused-appellant on
October 6, 1998 because his regular counsel, Atty. Anselmo Mangalindan, was absent without
any explanation. Atty. Mangalindan had previously been granted several postponements. As this
Court ruled in another case:

. . . Courts are not required to wait indefinitely the pleasure and convenience of the
accused as they are also mandated to promote the speedy and orderly administration
of justice. Nor should they countenance such an obvious trifling with the
rules. Indeed, public policy requires that the trial continue as scheduled, considering
that appellant was adequately represented by counsels who were not shown to be
negligent, incompetent or otherwise unable to represent him. [42]
Atty. Bansil was present and heard the testimony of Dr. Barin, the prosecution witness, on
that day. Dr. Barins testimony on direct examination was simple, containing primarily a
discussion of her findings on the hymenal laceration sustained by complainant. Her testimony
did not require considerable study and extraordinary preparation on the part of defense counsel
for the purpose of cross-examination. It seems Atty. Bansil no longer found it necessary to crossexamine Dr. Barin.
Moreover, beyond stating that Dr. Barin was a vital witness, accused-appellant has not
indicated what questions his counsel wanted to ask from Dr. Barin. It may well be that these
questions do not exist at all and that the importance given by accused-appellant to counsel de
oficios failure to cross-examine the witness is exaggerated. Indeed, a medical examination of the
victim, together with the medical certificate, is merely corroborative and is not an indispensable

element of rape.[43] The primordial issue in this case remains to be whether the complainants
testimony, not Dr. Barins, established beyond reasonable doubt the crime of rape.
C. Accused-appellant likewise points to the trial judges questions propounded to him during
his cross-examination as an indication of the latters partiality for the prosecution.
We find no merit in this contention. Where the trial court is judge both of the law and of the
facts, it is oftentimes necessary in the due and faithful administration of justice for the presiding
judge to re-examine a witness so that his judgment, when rendered, may rest upon a full and
clear understanding of the facts.[44] Our reading of the transcript of stenographic notes in this case
shows that the trial judge merely wanted to clarify certain points relating to the defense of
accused-appellant and not to establish his guilt. It is a judges prerogative to ask questions to
ferret out the truth.[45] It cannot be taken against him if the questions he propounds reveals certain
truths which, in turn, tend to destroy the theory of one party.[46] As this Court held:

In any case, a severe examination by a trial judge of some of the witness for the
defense in an effort to develop the truth and to get at the real facts affords no
justification for a charge that he has assisted the prosecution with an evident desire to
secure a conviction, or that he had intimidated the witnesses for the defense. The trial
judge must be accorded a reasonable leeway in putting such questions to witnesses as
may be essential to elicit relevant facts to make the record speak the truth. Trial judges
in this jurisdiction are judges of both the law and the facts, and they would be
negligent in the performance of their duties if they permitted a miscarriage of justice
as a result of a failure to propound a proper question to a witness which might develop
some material bearing upon the outcome. In the exercise of sound discretion, he may
put such question to the witness as will enable him to formulate a sound opinion as to
the ability or the willingness of the witness to tell the truth. A judge may examine or
cross-examine a witness. He may propound clarificatory questions to test the
credibility of the witness and to extract the truth. He may seek to draw out relevant
and material testimony though that testimony may tend to support or rebut the
position taken by one or the other party. . .[47]
D. We also find no merit in accused-appellants argument that he was denied due process
considering the speed with which the trial court rendered judgment against him, which judgment
was promulgated one day after he filed his memorandum.
The decision rendered by the trial court gives a clear account of the facts and the law on
which it is based. It discusses in full the courts findings on the credibility of both the prosecution
and defense witnesses and its evaluation of the evidence of both parties. What we said in the
analogous case of People v. Mercado[48] applies to this case:

. . . A review of the trial courts decision shows that its findings were based on the
records of this case and the transcripts of stenographic notes during the trial. The
speed with which the trial court disposed of the case cannot thus be attributed to the
injudicious performance of its function. Indeed, a judge is not supposed to study a

case only after all the pertinent pleadings have been filed. It is a mark of diligence and
devotion to duty that a judge studies a case long before the deadline set for the
promulgation of his decision has arrived. The one-day period between the filing of
accused-appellants memorandum and the promulgation of the decision was sufficient
time to consider their arguments and to incorporate these in the decision. As long as
the trial judge does not sacrifice the orderly administration of justice in favor of a
speedy but reckless disposition of a case, he cannot be taken to task for rendering his
decision with due dispatch. . .
II. Coming now to the merits of this case, we find that the evidence proves beyond
reasonable doubt the guilt of accused-appellant. In reviewing rape cases, we have been guided by
the following principles: (a) An accusation for rape is easy to make, difficult to prove, and even
more difficult to disprove; (b) In view of the intrinsic nature of the crime, the testimony of the
complainant must be scrutinized with extreme caution; and (c) The evidence for the prosecution
must stand on its own merits and cannot draw strength from the weakness of the evidence for the
defense.[49]
A. Well-settled is the rule that the lone testimony of a rape victim, by itself, is sufficient to
warrant a judgment of conviction if found to be credible. It has likewise been established that
when a woman declares that she has been raped she says in effect all that is necessary to mean
that she has been raped, and where her testimony passes the test of credibility the accused can be
convicted on the basis thereof. This is because from the nature of the offense, the sole evidence
that can usually be offered to establish the guilt of the accused is the complainants testimony.[50]
Considering complainants tender age, her shy demeanor, and manner of testifying in court,
the trial court found Erlanies testimony to be straightforward, natural, and convincing and
accorded the same full faith and credit.[51]
Complainant told the court how she was awakened because accused-appellant kissed her and
fondled her breasts. She narrated that she tried to resist accused-appellants advances by pushing
and kicking him, but the latter succeeded in ravishing her. She told of how her father threatened
to kill her mother and her siblings if she reported the incident. Despite the lengthy crossexamination of accused-appellants counsel, she remained firm and steadfast in her story of how
she was raped by her father. Her narration not only rings true and sincere but is consistent and
unshaken on its material points. Complainants testimony is fully corroborated by the medical
findings of Dr. Barin who examined complainant shortly after she had been raped. She found
complainant to have suffered a hymenal laceration at the 3 oclock position which could have
been caused by the penetration of a hard object, such as a male organ.
Complainants failure to remember the date of the commission of the rape cannot be taken
against her. The exact date when complainant was sexually abused is not an essential element of
the crime of rape.[52] Nor does the fact that complainant was sleeping beside her sister when the
rape occurred detract from her credibility. The possibility of rape is not negated by the fact that
the presence of even the whole family of the accused inside the same room produced the
possibility of discovery. For rape to be committed, it is not necessary for the place to be ideal, for
rapists respect neither time nor place for carrying out their evil designs.[53]

In sum, accused-appellant failed to show any reason why this Court should disbelieve
complainants testimony. Indeed, the gravity of filing a case for incestuous rape is of such a
nature that a daughters accusation must be taken seriously. It is against human experience for a
girl to fabricate a story which would drag herself and her family to a lifetime of dishonor, unless
it is the truth. More so when her charge could mean the execution of her own father, as in this
case.[54]
Accused-appellants counsel on cross-examination made much of the discrepancy between
complainants sworn statement where she stated that accused-appellant slept beside her mother
after the rape[55] and her testimony that her mother returned home from the hospital only the day
after the rape took place.[56] It must be pointed out, however, that discrepancies between a witness
affidavit and his testimony in open court does not necessarily impair his credibility. Affidavits,
which are taken ex parte, are often incomplete or inaccurate for lack of or absence of searching
inquiries by the investigating officer.[57]
Moreover, whether accused-appellant slept alone or with complainants mother after
committing the rape of complainant is of no moment as it is a minor point that does not reflect on
the commission of the crime itself. The rule is that discrepancies and inconsistencies on minor
matters neither impair the essential integrity of the prosecution evidence as a whole nor reflect
on the witness honesty. Such inconsistencies may in fact strengthen rather than weaken the
credibility of the witness as they erase any suspicion of rehearsed testimony.[58]
Accused-appellant contends that complainant could not have been raped on March 1 or 2,
1997, the dates when her sister Zaira was hospitalized, because she had her last menstrual period
on March 3, 1998 and thus she could not have gotten pregnant as a result of the rape. He argues
that a woman who had her monthly period cannot be impregnated as a result of sexual
intercourse five days before or five days after her last menstruation.[59]
Accused-appellant does not, however, cite any legal or medical authority for his thesis,
except what he claims to be common knowledge. On the other hand, we have previously held
that it is hard to ascertain the exact date of fertilization inasmuch as more than two weeks is
considered to be the life span of the spermatozoa in the vaginal canal. [60] Hence, even granting
that complainant could not have been impregnated by accused-appellant during the period
alleged by him, it remains possible for complainant to have gotten pregnant afterwards. More
importantly, it must be emphasized that pregnancy is not an element of the crime of rape and is,
therefore, totally immaterial to the question of accused-appellants guilt. [61] In other words,
accused-appellant being the cause of complainants pregnancy is a non-issue in the prosecution of
the crime of rape. What should not be lost sight of is the fact that complainants testimony
constitutes proof beyond reasonable doubt that accused-appellant had carnal knowledge of her
without her consent, and such fully established the crime of rape.
B. Accused-appellant imputes ill motive on the part of complainants mother and her
relatives for bringing charges against him. He claims that complainants mother resented the fact
that he used to beat her up out of jealousy and that he had several paramours in the past. He
further asserts that his wifes relatives were angry with him because of the land which he caused
to be registered in his name to the prejudice of the latter.
This allegation is without merit. Accused-appellant makes it appear that complainants
mother was responsible for the filing of this case against him. This is not so. For that matter, his

wife did not testify against him. It was his daughter, complainant, alone who denounced him in
court.
Accused-appellants claim that the motivation for the filing of this case was the animosity of
his wifes relatives towards him caused by his land-grabbing of their land is likewise without any
basis. It may be that his wifes relatives took advantage of his incarceration and made him sign
his waiver of rights over the land. [62] But this does not necessarily mean they conspired to
persecute him. It is noteworthy that accused-appellant never claimed that the document which he
signed (Exh. 3) existed before the filing of the criminal complaint against him or that his wifes
relatives fabricated the charge against him because of his failure to sign the same.
Indeed, what accused-appellants defense cannot explain is the hymenal laceration sustained
by complainant or the steadfastness she has exhibited in pursuing the charge against her own
father. It is doubtful that complainant would let herself be embroiled in a petty family dispute in
exchange for her honor and dignity. We cannot believe that a young girl, like complainant, would
invent a sordid tale of sexual abuse by accused-appellant unless it was the truth. [63] Where there is
no evidence to show a doubtful reason or improper motive why a prosecution witness should
testify against the accused or falsely implicate him in a crime, her testimony is trustworthy.[64]
Accused-appellant also raises the defense of denial and alibi. But the bare denial of accusedappellant cannot overcome the positive declarations of complainant. Denial, when
unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, constitutes negative self-serving evidence
which deserves no greater evidentiary value than the testimony of a credible witness who
testified on affirmative matters.[65]
Accused-appellants sister, Concepcion Sayo, testified that accused-appellant lived with her
family in Bulacan at the time of the rape. No other witness not related to accused-appellant,
however, was called to corroborate her claim. We have already held that the defense of alibi
cannot prosper if it is established mainly by the accused and his relatives, and not by credible
persons. It is not improbable that these witnesses would freely perjure themselves for the sake of
their loved ones.[66] Accused-appellants defense thus fails to convince this Court.
C. The foregoing discussion notwithstanding, we think that the imposition of the death
penalty by the trial court is erroneous. It is settled that to justify the imposition of the death
penalty, both the relationship of the victim and her age must be alleged and proved. [67] Thus,
in People v. Javier,[68] where the victim was alleged to be 16 years old at the time of the
commission of the rapes, it was held:

. . . Although the victims age was not contested by the defense, proof of age of the
victim is particularly necessary in this case considering that the victims age which was
then 16 years old is just two years less than the majority age of 18. In this age of
modernism, there is hardly any difference between a 16-year old girl and an 18-year
old one insofar as physical features and attributes are concerned. A physically
developed 16-year old lass may be mistaken for an 18-year old young woman, in the
same manner that a frail and young-looking 18-year old lady may pass as a 16-year
old minor. Thus, it is in this context that independent proof of the actual age of a rape
victim becomes vital and essential so as to remove an iota of doubt that the victim is
indeed under 18 years of age as to fall under the qualifying circumstances enumerated

in Republic Act No. 7659. In a criminal prosecution especially of cases involving the
extreme penalty of death, nothing but proof beyond reasonable doubt of every
fact necessary to constitute the crime with which an accused is charged must be
established by the prosecution in order for said penalty to be upheld.
A duly certified certificate of live birth showing complainants age, or some other official
document on record, such as a school record, has been recognized as competent evidence.[69]
In this case, although complainants minority has been alleged in the information, no
independent evidence was presented by the prosecution to prove the same. Complainant did not
even state her age at the time of the rape during direct examination; it was only during her crossexamination when she stated that she was 12 years old at the time she was raped by her father.[70]
Nor was her birth certificate or baptismal certificate or any school record presented by the
prosecution to prove the age of Erlanie at the time of the rape. Not even her mother, whose
testimony could have been sufficient to prove the age of complainant, [71] testified in this
case. What was relied upon by the trial court was that fact that the age of the victim was
undisputed by the defense.[72] It also took judicial notice of the victims minority on account of her
appearance.[73]
We do not agree with this conclusion. The trial court can only take judicial notice of the
victims minority when the latter is, for example, 10 years old or below. Otherwise, the
prosecution has the burden of proving the victims age at the time of the rape and the absence of
denial on the part of accused-appellant does not excuse the prosecution from discharging its
burden.[74] In a similar case, People v. Tundag,[75] in which the trial court took judicial notice of the
minority of the victim who was alleged to be 13 years old, we ruled:

In this case, judicial notice of the age of the victim is improper, despite the defense
counsels admission, thereof acceding to the prosecutions motion. As required by
Section 3 of Rule 129, as to any other matters such as age, a hearing is required before
courts can take judicial notice of such fact. Generally, the age of the victim may be
proven by the birth or baptismal certificate of the victim, or in the absence thereof,
upon showing that said documents were lost or destroyed, by other documentary or
oral evidence sufficient for the purpose.
The prosecution having failed to present evidence as to complainants age, accused-appellant
can be convicted only of simple rape, for which the penalty is reclusion perpetua.
Consequently, the award of civil indemnity in the amount of P75,000.00 made by the trial
court cannot be sustained. Such amount can only be awarded if the crime of rape was effectively
qualified by any of the circumstances under which the death penalty is authorized by the
applicable amendatory laws.[76] Accordingly, the civil indemnity awarded to complainant must be
reduced to P50,000.00 in consonance with current rulings.[77]
The award of moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00 to complainant is correct. Moral
damages is awarded in rape cases without need of showing that the victim suffered from mental,

physical, and psychological trauma as these are too obvious to require recital by the victim
during trial.[78]
In addition to the damages given by the trial court, exemplary damages in the amount
of P25,000.00 should likewise be awarded in favor of complainant. Accused-appellant being the
father of complainant, such relationship can be appreciated as a generic aggravating
circumstance warranting the award of exemplary damages. In rapes committed by fathers against
their daughters, such award may be imposed to serve as a deterrent to other parents similarly
disposed to commit the same crime.[79]
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 49, Guagua, Pampanga,
finding accused-appellant guilty of the crime of rape is AFFIRMED with the modification that
accused-appellant is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay complainant
Erlanie Rivera the amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages,
and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages.
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Quisumbing, Pardo, Gonzaga-Reyes, YnaresSantiago, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Melo, Panganiban, and Buena, JJ., abroad on official business.
Sandoval-Gutierrez J., on leave.

[1]

Per Judge Rogelio C. Gonzales.

[2]

Records, p. 2.

[3]

Id., p. 15.

[4]

Also referred to as Shaira.

[5]

TSN, pp. 4-14, Nov. 4, 1997.

[6]

TSN, pp. 2-3, Nov. 25, 1997.

[7]

TSN, pp. 2-10, Dec. 2, 1997.

[8]

TSN, pp. 4-10, July 14, 1998.

[9]

TSN, pp. 2-16, July 23, 1998.

[10]

TSN, pp. 2-6, Aug. 27, 1998.

[11]

TSN, pp. 3-6, Sept. 3, 1998.

[12]

Exh. C.

[13]

TSN, pp. 3-10, Oct. 6, 1998.

[14]

TSN, pp. 2-15, Oct. 29, 1998.

[15]

Exh. 2.

[16]

Exh. 3.

[17]

TSN, pp. 4-7, Feb. 11, 1997.

[18]

TSN, pp. 3-5, March 30, 1999.

[19]

TSN, pp. 3-6, April 29, 1999.

[20]

Exh. 4.

[21]

Decision, p. 11; Records, p. 142.

[22]

Brief for the Accused-Appellant, p. 1; Rollo, p. 54.

[23]

People v. Santocildes, Jr., 321 SCRA 310 (1999).

[24]

TSN, pp. 5-8, Dec. 2, 1997.

[25]

Records, pp. 26-27.

[26]

Records, p. 30.

[27]

People v. Suplito, 314 SCRA 493 (1999).

[28]

People v. Nadera, Jr., 324 SCRA 490 (2000).

[29]

G.R. No. 127580, Aug. 22, 2000.

[30]

TSN, pp. 3-4, Nov. 25, 1997.

[31]

Id., p. 30.

[32]

Id., p. 32.

[33]

Id., p. 37.

[34]

Id., p. 42.

[35]

Id., p. 47.

[36]

Id., pp. 56-57.

[37]

Id., p. 58.

[38]

Id., pp. 59-60.

[39]

Id., p. 65.

[40]

TSN, p. 11. Oct. 6, 1998.

[41]

People v. Serzo, Jr., 274 SCRA 553 (1997).

[42]

Id., p. 568.

[43]

People v. Segui, G.R. Nos. 131532-34, Nov. 28, 2000.

[44]

People v. Aquino, 314 SCRA 543 (1999) citing People v. Manalo, 148 SCRA 98 (1987).

[45]

People v. Cabiles, G.R. No. 125005, Oct. 3, 2000.

[46]

People v. Docena, 322 SCRA 820 (2000) citing People v. Edualino, 271 SCRA 189 (1997).

[47]

People v. Zheng Bai Hui, supra.

[48]

G.R. No. 116239, Nov. 29, 2000.

[49]

People v. De Guzman, G.R. No. 124368, June 8, 2000.

[50]

People v. Aloro, G.R. No. 129208, Sept. 14, 2000.

[51]

Decision, pp. 4-5; Records, pp. 135-136.

[52]

People v. Garcia, G.R. No. 117406, Jan. 16, 2001.

[53]

People v. Watimar, G.R. Nos. 121651-52, Aug. 16, 2000 citing People v. Antonio, G.R. No. 122473, June 8,
2000.
[54]

People v. Elpedes, G. R. Nos. 137106-07, Jan. 31, 2001.

[55]

Exh. C; Exh. 1.

[56]

TSN, p. 10, Nov. 4, 1997.

[57]

People v. Perez, 319 SCRA 622 (1999).

[58]

People v. Villanueva, G. R. No. 135330, Aug. 31, 2000.

[59]

Brief for the Accused-Appellant, pp. 9-10; Rollo, pp. 62-63.

[60]

People v. Sta. Ana, 291 SCRA 188 (1998).

[61]

Id. See also People v. Perez, 307 SCRA 276 (1999) and People v. Adora, 275 SCRA 441 (1997).

[62]

Exh. 3.

[63]

People v. Segui, supra.

[64]

People v. Aloro, supra.

[65]

People v. Quilata, G.R. No 132725, Sept. 28, 2000.

[66]

People v. Gopio, G. R. No. 133925, Nov. 29, 2000.

[67]

People v. Francisco, G.R. Nos. 134566-67, Jan. 22, 2001.

[68]

311 SCRA 122, 140-141 (1999).

[69]

People v. Marquez, G. R. Nos. 137408-10, Dec. 8, 2000.

[70]

TSN, p. 12, July 23, 1998.

[71]

People v. Dela Cruz, G.R. Nos. 131167-68, Aug. 23, 2000.

[72]

Decision, p. 10; records, p. 141.

[73]

Id., p. 4; id., p. 135.

[74]

People v. Tipay, 329 SCRA 52 (2000); People v. Cula, 329 SCRA 101 (2000).

[75]

G.R. Nos. 135695-96, Oct. 12, 2000.

[76]

People v. Rafales, 323 SCRA 13 (2000).

[77]

People v. Lomibao, G.R. No. 135855, Aug. 3, 2000; People v. Mendez, G.R. No. 132546, July 5, 2000.

[78]

People v. Docena, supra.

[79]

People v. Lopez, G. R. Nos. 135671-72, Nov. 29, 2000; People v. Tundag, supra.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 138335

May 20, 2004

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee,


vs.
OSCAR ALCANZADO, appellant.
DECISION
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:
Before this Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court assailing
the decision1dated April 5, 1999 issued by the Regional Trial Court (Branch 66) of Makati City (RTC
for brevity) in Criminal Case No. 98-1634, the dispositive portion of which reads:
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused OSCAR
ALCANZADO y ORQUEZA GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of MURDER, with the
qualifying circumstance of treachery, and the Court hereby sentences him to suffer the
penalty of Reclusion Perpetua and to pay the heirs of the unidentified victim the sum
of P50,000.00 as moral damages.

SO ORDERED.
Makati City, Metro Manila, April 5, 1999.2
However, a careful examination of the records reveals that the assailed decision will have to be set
aside and the records remanded back to the RTC for reception of evidence for the defense.
Appellant pleaded not guilty during his arraignment on July 30, 1998. Trial on the merits ensued. The
prosecution rested its case on October 13, 1998.3 Upon motion of appellant, the RTC issued an
Order dated November 10, 1998 allowing appellant to file a demurrer to evidence. 4 On November
19, 1998, appellant filed his Demurrer to Evidence5 which was opposed by the prosecution.6 On April
22, 1999, the RTC promulgated herein assailed decision convicting appellant. 7
The RTC committed a very serious error in promulgating a decision after denying the demurrer to
evidence filed by appellant upon prior leave of court, without first giving appellant the opportunity to
present his evidence.
Section 15, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court provides:
SEC. 15. Demurrer to evidence. After the prosecution has rested its case, the court may
dismiss the case on the ground of insufficiency of evidence: (1) on its own initiative after
giving the prosecution an opportunity to be heard; or (2) on motion of the accused filed with
prior leave of court.
If the court denies the motion for dismissal, the accused may adduce evidence in his defense. When
the accused filed such motion to dismiss without express leave of court, he waives the right to
present evidence and submits the case for judgment on the basis of the evidence for the
prosecution.
Contrary to the RTCs assertion in its decision that the demurrer to evidence was denied, 8 the
records of the case do not reveal that there was any prior order denying appellants demurrer to
evidence before the rendition of the assailed judgment. Evidently, the trial court violated the
aforequoted provisions of Section 15, Rule 119. Appellant had filed a motion for leave to file a
demurrer to evidence which was granted by the RTC and therefore upon denial of his demurrer, if
indeed it was denied, the trial court should have given appellant the opportunity to present his
evidence. Equally astonishing is the fact that appellants counsel did not raise said irregularity as an
issue in the RTC or in this Court. In effect, appellant has not been accorded due process.
Due to the procedural unfairness and complete miscarriage of justice in the handling of the
proceedings in the RTC,9 a remand of the case for reception of defense evidence is warranted. The
constitutional right of the accused to be heard on his defense has been violated. 10
So that appellant may be spared from further delay, the Court deems it necessary to treat the herein
assailed judgment as a mere resolution denying the demurrer to evidence and ascertain whether the
RTC has committed grave abuse of discretion in not granting the same.
The RTC made the following findings of fact and law, viz:

In brief, the evidence for the prosecution show that on the early morning of June 17, 1998,
the Barangay Tanods of Bel-Air, while on duty, which is adjacent to TGIF American Bar,
heard two (2) shots; when they investigated they found a dead body of the victim with two (2)
gunshot wounds inside the storeroom of TGIF being guarded by the accused. The accused,
who was the security guard of the TGIF, surrendered his service firearm (Exhibit "D") to
policeman Bagon which was found to have spent two (2) spent shells. The ballistic report
states that the two (2) spent shells were fired from the gun surrendered by the accused to
policeman Bagon.
The accused opted to file demurrer to evidence which was denied by the Court, instead of
testifying and could have explained what really happened and why he surrendered his
service firearm.
The Court finds the presence of a qualifying circumstance of treachery, when the accused
fired at the victim one on his shoulder and another at his head in close range (TSN dated
October 13, 1998, p. 36).11
There was no eye-witness to the shooting incident. The RTC relied principally on the admission of
appellant to the police officer that he shot the unknown victim when he surrendered his service
firearm.
In his demurrer to evidence, appellant pointed out the following:
I. There is no evidence that the firearm marked and offered as Exhibit D belonged or was
assigned to the accused.
II. There is no evidence that the accused had recently fired a gun in the early morning of
June 17, 1998.
III. There is no evidence that the firearm marked and offered as Exhibit D was the same
firearm that killed the unknown victim in this case.
IV. There is reasonable doubt that the body examined by the medico-legal witness was the
same body recovered from the scene of the killing.
V. The extrajudicial admission made by the accused to the police officer and his alleged
voluntary surrender of the .38 caliber revolver cannot be admitted in evidence against the
accused for having been obtained in violation of his constitutional rights.
VI. Without any admission on the part of the accused or an unbroken chain of incriminating
circumstances, the accused is entitled to acquittal since the prosecution failed to prove his
culpability for the death of the unknown victim here beyond a reasonable doubt. 12
Considering that the first four items as above enumerated involve questions of fact, the Court will not
pre-empt the RTC in rendering its findings of fact after it shall have received the defense evidence
as well as rebuttal and sur-rebuttal evidence, if parties find it necessary.
However, the Court is constrained to resolve the question arising from the fifth and sixth claims of
appellant, which is: Whether or not the admission made by appellant to the police officer is

admissible in evidence. It is the only link that would positively connect appellant to the shooting of
the victim, for the service gun may belong to him and it may have been used in the shooting of the
victim, but the missing link is the ascertainment of whether he was the one who shot the victim.
Without the testimony of the police officer that appellant had verbally acknowledged to him having
shot the victim, the herein-before quoted circumstantial evidence enumerated by the RTC do not
support the conviction of appellant beyond reasonable doubt.
Section 12 (1) and (3), Article III of the 1987 Constitution provides:
Section 12. (1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have
the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent
counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he
must be provided with one. The rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the
presence of counsel.
...
(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be
inadmissible in evidence against him.
The rights of the accused as provided therein may be invoked only when a person is under
"custodial investigation" or is "in custody investigation" 13 which has "been defined as the "questioning
initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise
deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way" [People vs. Caguioa, G.R. No. L-38975,
January 17, 1980, 95 SCRA 2, 9 citing Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436].14
SPO1 Rolando Bagon, the police officer of Precinct 9, Makati City, who responded to the report of
the shooting incident, testified as follows:
Q: What time did you arrive there at TGI Fridays Restaurant?
A: When we arrived there it was at around 5:15 to 6:00.
Q: A.M.?
A: June 17, Sir.
Q: When you arrived there, what did you do, Mr. Witness?
A: The barangay tanod present at that time pointed to us and turned over to us the alleged
suspect who is the security guard of the said establishment then we went to the security
guard and he voluntarily surrendered himself to us, together with the firearm, a .38 caliber.
Q: What did he tell you when he surrendered and gave to you his .38 caliber Mr. Witness?
...
WITNESS:

A: That he allegedly hold (sic) a robber inside "while stealing" according to him a cash
register of the bar and some assorted goods.
COURT:
Q: Who told you that?
WITNESS:
A: The security guard, the alleged suspect Sir.
FISCAL FLORES:
Q: What else did he tell you?
A: Nothing Sir, he fired his gun at the victim.
...
FISCAL FLORES:
Q: After the said accused surrendered himself and his firearm, what else did you do at the
said bar?
A: Sir, we invited him to our precinct to shed light or to answer what he
committed.15 (Emphasis supplied).
and, on his cross-examination, he testified as follows:
Q: Is it not true that when the accused Oscar Alcanzado in this case approached you, he was
not evasive and that he voluntarily turned over the firearm and his person to you?
A: Yes, Sir.16
The cross-examination of homicide investigator PO2 Rio S. Bucalan who proceeded to the shooting
incident, revealed the following:
Q: Mr. Witness, when you arrived at the scene of the incident in questioned in this case, is it
correct to say that you conducted the investigation right there and then?
Witness:
A: Yes sir.
Atty. Alikpala:
And at that scene at that time was the accused in this case, Osca Alcanzado, is that correct?

Witness:
Yes sir.
...
Atty. Alikpala:
Mr. Witness, isnt it also true that at that time you conducted an investigation you spoke with
the accused in this case?
Witness:
Yes sir.
Atty. Alikpala:
And when you spoke to the accused, did you tell him about his right to remain silent and his
right to counsel?
Witness:
He is not still turn-over to me by the police officer.
...
Atty. Alikpala:
Mr. Witness, so at that time that you conducted your investigation, you spoke to the
accused?
Witness:
Yes sir.
Atty. Alikpala:
And did you tell him about his right to remain silent and his right to counsel?
Witness:
In fact I dont know that he is the accused during my initial inquiry.
Atty. Alikpala:
But you knew that he was a Security Guard?
Witness:

Yes sir.
Atty. Alikpala:
And so could you tell us what happened when you talked to him?
Witness:
During the initial inquiry he claimed that . . . . he verbally claimed that he shot the
victim because of self-defense.
...
COURT:
He claimed that he shot the victim?
Witness:
Yes, Your Honor.
Atty. Alikpala:
And this was in the course of your investigation, correct?
Witness:
Yes sir.
Atty. Alikpala:
And the accused in this case, did not execute any written waiver of his right to remain silent,
is that correct?
Witness:
No sir.
Atty. Alikpala:
And also the accused in this case did not execute any written waiver of his right to counsel,
is that correct?
Witness:
No sir.
COURT:

What do you mean no?


Witness:
He did not execute, sir.
Atty. Alikpala:
And it is also correct that the time he was talking to you there was no lawyer present
assisting the accused, is that correct?
Witness:
Yes sir.17
Under the above circumstances, the Court finds that while the admission made by appellant to PO2
Bucalan may not be admitted in evidence considering that the alleged verbal admission made by
appellant before him as homicide investigator was made without appellant being informed of his right
to remain silent and right to counsel and after appellant had been established as the suspect by the
police officers who had arrived at the scene of the crime before PO2 Bucalan came.
However, the Court cannot disregard the testimony of SPO1 Bagon who, together with his co-police
officers, responded to the call of the barangay tanod and immediately upon his arrival, appellant
spontaneously told him that he had shot the victim. This particular admission was made when
appellant has not been taken into custody by the police officers and therefore admissible in
evidence. The constitutional procedures on custodial investigation do not apply to a spontaneous
statement not elicited through questioning by the authorities but given in an ordinary manner
whereby the accused readily admitted having committed the crime.18
Consequently, for purposes of determining whether the demurrer to evidence should have been
granted, the connection between the service gun and appellant as the perpetrator of the shooting,
without any countervailing evidence, had been sufficiently established. Thus, the RTC did not
commit any grave abuse of discretion in denying the demurrer to evidence BUT it committed grave
abuse of discretion in outrightly convicting appellant of the crime of murder and sentencing him to
suffer reclusion perpetua when appellant has not been given the opportunity to adduce evidence in
his defense, pursuant to Section 15, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court.
Further, the attendant justifying, mitigating or aggravating circumstance such as self-defense,
treachery and voluntary surrender could only be ascertained fully after the defense evidence,
rebuttal and sur-rebuttal, if any, shall have been adduced and evaluated by the RTC in the rendition
of its judgment on the case.
Had Presiding Judge Rosario, Jr. not compulsorily retired from the Judiciary, he could have been
admonished to be more circumspect in the performance of his duties.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The decision dated April 5, 1999 of the Regional Trial
Court (Branch 66), Makati City is SET ASIDE for being null and void. Let the records of Criminal
Case No. 98-1634 be remanded to said trial court for reception of defense evidence and further

proceedings. The presiding judge is directed to conduct the trial of the case and render judgment
thereon with immediate dispatch.
SO ORDERED.
Puno*, Quisumbing, Callejo, Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur.

EN BANC
[G.R. No. 127845. March 10, 2000]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff and appellee, vs. LODRIGO


BAYYA, defendant and appellant.
DECISION
PURISIMA, J.:

For automatic review here is a judgment handed down by Branch 16 of the Regional
Trial Court in Ilagan, Isabela, finding appellant Lodrigo Bayya guilty of incestuous rape
and sentencing him to the ultimate penalty of DEATH.
[1]

[2]

Filed on October 9, 1995 by Asst. Provincial Prosecutor Pacifico Paas and docketed as
Criminal Case No. 2467, the accusatory portion of the Information indicting appellant,
alleges:
"That on or about the year 1994 and for sometimes (sic) thereafter in the
municipality of Burgos, province of Isabela, Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused armed with a knife,
did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, by means of force,
intimidation and with lewd designs, have carnal knowledge with his own
daughter ROSIE S. BAYYA for several times against the latters (sic) will
and consent.
CONTRARY TO LAW."

[3]

After appellant pleaded Not Guilty upon arraignment on Nov. 22, 1995 , trial ensued.
[4]

From the decision of Nov. 15, 1996 under review, it can be gleaned that:
"This is a case of a father raping his own daughter, a minor, aged 12 when
she was first sexually assaulted up to July 12, 1995, the last molestation
having done on her on said date (sic).
xxx xxx xxx
xxx it appears that Rosie Bayya, a minor, revealed to her aunt, Trinidad
Garcia, her horrible tale at the hands of her father, the accused herein, six
(6) days after the last sexual assault on her when Rosie was asked by her
to baby-sit for another aunt of hers at Santiago, Isabela. She was
compelled to reveal what befell her when she was informed that her father
asked her to go back home but never wanted to (sic), knowing that her
father would continue raping her. She told her aunt Trining that she does
not like to go home because her father used to have sexual intercourse
with her.
With the revelation made by Rosie Bayya, her aunt Trining went back to
Malasin, Burgos, Isabela to inform Melquiades Bayya, Rosies granduncle
who in turn informed a certain Major Turingan of the PNP what the
accused did to his daughter (sic). The girl was brought to the PNP station
of Burgos to give her statement which she did where she divulged what
her father did to her.

The gist of her testimony in court is that sometime in 1994 when she was
still 12 years old, her father, the accused, forced her at the point of a knife
to have sexual intercourse with her in the family house at Malasin, Burgos,
Isabela. Being afraid as he threatened her, the accused succeeded in
undressing the young daughter and he inserted his penis into her vagina.
She felt pain as a result and just kept to herself what her father did fearing
that her father would make good his threats if she squealed on him. She
just cried helplessly.
The first sexual molestation happened at an unholy hour at noon time (sic)
when her mother and the rest of the siblings were out, her mother working
in the field at the time. Her father repeated this bestial act in their house
about twice a week when her mother was not at home; at times only a
sister six years of age was present but probably did not know what her
father was doing to her elder sister. Then later, he used her four (4) times
a month and the last that she remembered was on July 12, 1995. After
she was advised to file a complaint at her behest, she was brought to the
PNP station at Burgos to continue and wind up her ordeal with a physical
examination of her by a public physician, Dr. Elvie Amurao of the Roxas
District Hospital at Roxas, a nearby town of Burgos.
[5]

Dr. Amurao found old lacerations compatible with the claim of the
complainant that she was raped months before her examination."

[6]

Appellant and his wife, Cecilia Bayya, took the witness stand for the defense.
Appellant unhesitatingly admitted having carnal knowledge of his daughter, Rosie
Bayya, twice but theorized that he was "out of his mind" when he did the lecherous
acts on her. He traced his criminal behavior to a childhood that was neglected and
forlorn in the mountains of Isabela, let alone the maltreatment endured in the hands of
his very own parents.
[7]

[8]

On the other hand, Cecilia Bayya, mother of the victim and wife of appellant, manifested
on the witness stand her "neutral" stance in the case. Nonetheless, she disclosed that
she had forgiven her husband for his salacious conduct since they are poor and she
cannot eke out a living without appellant as breadwinner.
[9]

[10]

Finding the facts established by the evidence falling squarely under Article 335 of the
Revised Penal Code as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, the lower court, after trial
on the merits, rendered a judgment of conviction, sentencing appellant to suffer the
ultimate penalty of DEATH, disposing thus:
"WHEREFORE, finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
offense charged, the court hereby sentences the accused LODRIGO
BAYYA to suffer the supreme penalty of death without award to any form
of damages for obvious reasons.

SO ORDERED."

[11]

At the outset, it bears stressing that having admitted authorship of the offense charged,
appellant does not dispute the trial courts finding of guilt. However, appellant questions
the penalty imposed below, contending that since the information made no reference to
Republic Act No. 7659, it was a reversible error to convict thereunder. And because the
only penal provision relied upon by the prosecution is Article 335 of the Revised Penal
Code, he could only be sentenced to the maximum penalty of reclusion perpetua in
accordance therewith.
Therefore, the only issue raised by appellant is whether there was a transgression of his
right to be informed of the nature and cause of accusation against him, in view of the
fact that the Information is silent about the applicability of R.A. No. 7659.
While departing from appellants strained reasoning, the Court nonetheless agrees with
and adopts his submission that the trial court erred in imposing the capital punishment
on him.
A careful perusal of the Information indicting appellant reveals a crucial omission in its
averments of the minority of the victim, Rosie S. Bayya.
Instructive in this regard is Section 6, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court, which reads:
SEC. 6. Sufficiency of complaint or information. A complaint or information
is sufficient if it states the name of the accused; the designation of the
offense by the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as constituting
the offense; the name of the offended party; the approximate time of the
commission of the offense, and the place wherein the offense was
committed.
When an offense is committed by more than one person, all of them shall
be included in the complaint or information.
The purpose of the above-quoted rule is to inform the accused of the nature and cause
of the accusation against him, a right guaranteed by no less than the fundamental law of
the land. Elaborating on the defendants right to be informed, the Court held in Pecho
vs. People that the objectives of this right are:
[12]

[13]

1. To furnish the accused with such a description of the charge against


him as will enable him to make the defense;
2. To avail himself of his conviction or acquittal for protection against a
further prosecution for the same cause; and
3. To inform the court of the facts alleged, so that it may decide whether
they are sufficient in law to support a conviction, if one should be had.

It is thus imperative that the Information filed with the trial court be complete - to the end
that the accused may suitably prepare his defense. Corollary to this, an indictment must
fully state the elements of the specific offense alleged to have been committed as it is
the recital of the essentials of a crime which delineates the nature and cause of
accusation against the accused.
[14]

The Court held recently that to sustain a conviction under Article 335 of the Revised
Penal Code as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, the prosecution must allege and
prove the basic elements of: 1) sexual congress; 2) with a woman; 3) by force and
without consent, and in order to warrant the imposition of the death penalty, the
additional elements that 4) the victim is under 18 years of age at the time of the
rape;and 5) the offender is a parent (whether legitimate, illegitimate or adopted) of the
victim.
[15]

In the case under scrutiny, the information does not allege the minority of the victim,
Rosie S. Bayya, although the same was proven during the trial as borne by the records.
The omission is not merely formal in nature since doctrinally, an accused cannot be held
liable for more than what he is indicted for. It matters not how conclusive and convincing
the evidence of guilt may be, but an accused cannot be convicted of any offense, not
charged in the Complaint or information on which he is tried or therein necessarily
included. He has a right to be informed of the nature of the offense with which he is
charged before he is put on trial. To convict an accused of an offense higher than that
charged in the Complaint or information on which he is tried would constitute
unauthorized denial of that right.
[16]

The Information under consideration charges nothing more than simple rape defined
and penalized in the first and second paragraphs of Article 335 of the Revised Penal
Code, that is - having carnal knowledge of a woman by means of force and intimidation
and against her will. The additional allegation that the offender is a parent of the
offended party can only be deemed a generic aggravating circumstance. The failure of
the prosecution to allege the age of the victim has effectively removed the crime from
the ambit of Section 11 of Republic Act No. 7659 prescribing the death penalty "when
the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent, ascendant,
step-parent, guardian, relative by consaguinity or affinity within the third civil degree, or
the common-law spouse of the parent of the victim".
Previously, this Court had occasion to hold that the death penalty may be imposed only
If the information alleges and the evidence has proven both the age of the victim and
her relationship to the offender. This theory of "concurring allegations" finds support in
the earlier case of People vs. Ramos where the Court enunciated that the concurrence
of the minority of the victim and her relationship with the offender gives a different
character to the rape defined in the first part of Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code,
having, as it does, the effect of raising the imposable penalty for rape from reclusion
perpetua to the higher and supreme penalty of DEATH.
[17]

[18]

The Court explained in Ramos that relationship and minority must be alleged jointly if
the death penalty is sought to be imposed because the same partakes of the nature of a
special qualifying circumstance which has the effect of increasing the prescribed penalty
by degrees. When either one of the said circumstances is omitted or lacking, that which
is pleaded in the information and proven by the evidence may be considered merely as
a generic aggravating circumstance in accordance with the general principles of criminal
law. But since the penalty for simple rape under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code
is the single indivisible penalty of reclusion perpetua, the generic aggravating
circumstance cannot effectively augment the criminal liability of appellant, it being
required that the single indivisible penalty prescribed by law is to be applied regardless
of any modifying circumstance in attendance.
Since the appellant had been informed of the elements of simple rape under the
information indicting him and nothing more, he could only be convicted of simple rape
and sentenced to reclusion perpetua as prescribed by law.
[19]

In conclusion, the Court also takes note of the fact that the trial court failed to award an
indemnity ex delicto to the victim pursuant to Article 100 in relation to Article 104 of
the Revised Penal Code. In line with prevailing jurisprudence, moral damages should
also be awarded to the victim in such amount as the court deems just . The award of
exemplary damages is also indicated considering that the relationship between the
offender and the victim aggravates the crime of rape, such as in the present case.
[20]

[21]

[22]

WHEREFORE, the judgment of conviction under review is AFFIRMED with the


MODIFICATION that appellant LODRIGO BAYYA is adjudged guilty of simple rape and
is sentenced to suffer the penalty ofreclusion perpetua. He is further ordered to pay the
victim, ROSIE S. BAYYA, P50,000.00 as indemnity ex delicto, apart from P50,000.00 as
moral damages and P 25,000.00 as exemplary damages. Costs against the appellant.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza,
Panganiban, Quisumbing, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, Ynares-Santiago, and De Leon, Jr.,
JJ., concur.
Pardo, J., on official leave.

Presided by Judge Teodulo E. Mirasol.


Also referred to as "Rodrigo" in the records.
[3]
Rollo, p. 4.
[4]
Certificate of Arraignment, Original Records, p. 29.
[5]
Also referred to as "Elvis" in the records.
[6]
Rollo pp. 12-14.
[7]
TSN, August 27, 1996, p.4.
[8]
Ibid., pp. 5 & 7.
[1]
[2]

TSN, July 12, 1996, p. 28.


Ibid., p. 29.
[11]
Rollo, p. 17.
[12]
Article III, Section 14 (2), 1987 Constitution.
[13]
262 SCRA 518.
[14]
People vs. Ramos, 296 SCRA 559.
[15]
People vs. Silvano, G.R. No. 127356, June 29, 1999.
[16]
People vs. Ramos, supra p. 576 citing: Matilde, Jr. vs. Jabson, 68 SCRA 456.
[17]
People vs. Tabion ,G.R. No. 132715, October 20, 1999; see also: People vs. Maglente, G.R. No. 124559-66, April
30, 1999; People vs. Acala, G.R. Nos. 127023-25, May 19, 1999.
[18]
People vs. Ramos, supra.
[19]
Article 335, par. 2, Revised Penal Code.
[20]
Art. 100. Civil liability of a person guilty of a felony.- Every person criminally liable for a felony is civilly liable.
[9]

[10]

Art. 104. What is included in civil liability.- The civil liability established in Articles 100, 101, 102 and 103 of this
Code includes:
[21]

1. Restitution;
2. Reparation of damage caused;
3. Indemnification for consequential damages.
[22]
People vs. Prades, 293 SCRA 411.

EN BANC

[G.R. Nos. 131736-37. March 11, 2002]

PEOPLE
OF
THE
PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs.
JOEY
MANLANSING y AMBROSIO, and MARIO MANLANSING y
AMBROSIO, accused-appellants.
DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:

For automatic review is the joint decision[1] dated May 2, 1997, of the Regional Trial Court
of Cabanatuan City, Branch 27, in Criminal Cases No. 6150-AF and No. 6151-AF, convicting
appellants of two counts of murder and sentencing them to suffer the penalty of death for each
count. Appellants were also ordered to pay the heirs of the victims P250,000 for actual damages
and P500,000 as moral damages for each count of murder.
Appellants are brothers. For four years they were tenants of the spouses Magin [2] and Jorja
Soriano.
In an amended information dated December 30, 1994, appellants were charged with the
murder of Jorja Soriano allegedly committed as follows:

That on or about the 27th day of December, 1994, in the City of Cabanatuan, Republic
of the Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused, conspiring together and mutually aiding one another, with intent to
kill and with evident premeditation, treachery and taking advantage of night time and
with the use of bolo, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack,
assault and use personal violence upon the person of JORJA SORIANO y Rigor by
hacking the latter, thereby inflicting upon the latter serious injuries which directly
caused her death.
CONTRARY TO LAW.[3]
In an amended information also dated December 30, 1994, and similarly worded except for
the victims name, appellants Joey and Mario Manlansing were likewise charged with the murder
of Magin Soriano.[4]
Inasmuch as the two cases were interrelated, having arisen from the same incident, the two
cases were consolidated.
On arraignment, Joey Manlansing pleaded not guilty to both charges, while Mario
Manlansing pleaded guilty to two counts of murder. After they waived pre-trial, both cases were
heard on the merits.
For the prosecution, SPO2 CASTILLONES of the Philippine National Police (PNP),
testified that at around 8:00 A.M. on December 28, 1994, a concerned citizen informed the
Cabanatuan City Police Station of an alleged killing in a house at Bitas, Cabanatuan City.
Immediately, a team composed of P/Insp. Bienvenido Padua, SPO2 Castillones, and SPO1
Edgardo Pangilinan went to the place.[5] When they arrived at the Soriano residence, they spotted
bloodstains on the ceiling. Before they entered the house, they waited for Nestor Villa of the
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) who was tasked to take fingerprints at the crime scene.
[6]
In the stockroom on the first floor, they found the lifeless body of 70-year-old Magin in a pool
of blood.[7] There were several wounds on his hands and arms, as well as cuts on his head. They
took pictures of the corpse.[8] Upstairs, they found the corpse of his 68-year-old spouse, Jorja, on
the floor, her throat slit and her neck hacked. [9] Her throat was stuffed with a small towel and
bloodstains covered her stomach.[10] The investigators also took photos of the deceased. When
they turned her body over, they found a six-inch bloodstained knife, with the initials JF carved in
the handle.[11] The police made rough sketches[12] and took more photographs,[13] while Villa lifted

fingerprints from the scene and the knife. [14]These were sent to the NBI office in Manila. The
cadavers were brought to the City Health Office for autopsy.
DR. JUN CONCEPCION, medical officer of Cabanatuan City, who autopsied the bodies,
testified that Magins death was due to hypovolemic shock secondary to multiple hacking wounds
on the head and nape.[15] Jorjas death was the result of hypovolemic shock secondary to hacking
wound on the neck, right side.[16] They died between 10:00 P.M. on December 27, 1994 to 3:00
A.M. of December 28, 1994. Dr. Concepcion testified that from the nature of the injuries
sustained, the wounds could have been inflicted by more than one person, since two different
weapons were used.[17] He declared that the weapon used to inflict the hacking wounds was not
pointed, while the stab wounds were caused by a sharp and pointed instrument.[18]
Two carpenters constructing a chapel for the Sorianos said that appellants frequented the
house of the victims even at night. They reported seeing appellants enter the Sorianos house on
the night of December 27, 1994. Thus, the police ordered a manhunt for the Manlansing
brothers.
On December 28, 1994, appellant Joey Manlansing was arrested in Sta. Clara, Cuyapo,
Nueva Ecija and brought back to Cabanatuan City for questioning. During custodial
investigation, Atty. Edgardo Villarin, the city legal officer, advised him not to talk.
[19]
Nevertheless, he named his brother, Mario, as the killer. He denied participation in the killing,
but he admitted boxing Jorja in the face to prevent her from shouting, while Mario was
assaulting her husband.[20]
SPO3 CAMPOS declared that on December 29, 1994, the police were tipped that appellant
Mario Manlansing was hiding in Paniqui, Tarlac. Accompanied by Enrique Manlansing,
appellants father, they went to Paniqui and apprehended Mario. [21] During the custodial
investigation, assisted by counsel, he confessed.[22] He said he hid the bolo at his sister-in-laws
house in Sta. Clara, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija. [23] It was recovered and sent to the NBI in Manila for
examination.
NBI forensic chemist ALICIA LIBERATO testified that she examined a bolo and a knife and
found human bloodstains on them.[24]
On December 30, 1994, a re-enactment of the crime was done at the crime scene. Mario said
that after he killed the spouses, he and Joey ransacked bags in the house but found neither money
nor jewelry. He told Joey to change his clothes so they could go. Mario then got some rags and
tried to clean up the place. He went to the bathroom downstairs to wash the bolo and the rags.
NBI fingerprint expert NESTOR VILLA took the fingerprints from the crime scene and sent
them to the office in Manila for examination.
BAYANI[25] PALAD, a dactyloscopy expert, testified that a comparison of the prints from the
crime scene showed that two prints matched the left middle and ring fingerprints of appellant
Joey Manlansing.[26]
For the defense, MARIO MANLANSING claimed he alone was responsible for the
deaths. In open court, Mario affirmed his confession and insisted that his brother had nothing to
do with the deaths.[27] He claimed that Joey woke up only after he killed Magin [28] and that Joey
tried to unsuccessfully stop him from attacking Jorja. He said he killed the couple out of anger

after Jorja told him that he was going to be ejected as a tenant. Mario said Joey knew nothing of
his motive.[29]
On the stand, appellant JOEY MANLANSING affirmed his sworn statement naming Mario
as the person solely responsible for killing the spouses. He denied any participation in it, [30] but
admitted hitting Jorja because she was shouting and he did not want his brother to hear her, lest
he attack her too.[31]
The defense also presented ENRIQUE MANLANSING, the father of the appellants. He
testified that he fetched Mario from Paniqui, Tarlac, in order to surrender him to the authorities.
[32]

Finally, the prosecution presented a balut vendor, MARIO BARTOLOME, as its rebuttal
witness. He testified that on the night of the killings, he was plying his trade at Cynthias Eatery,
right across the Sorianos residence. At around 11:00 P.M. he offered his wares to two persons
who came out of the Sorianos house. He noticed that both had bloodied shirts. When he inquired
about the bloodstains, they answered they had just killed a pig and threatened he could be next.
Scared, he shut up. The following day, he heard about the killings on the radio but did not inform
the police about his encounter with the appellants. It was only after his conscience bothered him
that he reported it to the police.[33]
After trial, appellants were convicted, thus:

WHEREFORE, this Court holds that the guilt of both accused had been proven
beyond reasonable doubt and therefore sentences them (to):
1) Death in Criminal Case No. 6150;
2) Death in Criminal Case No. 6151;
3) In both cases to pay the heirs of the deceased:
a) P250,000.00 by way of funeral and other expenses and actual damages.
b) P500,000.00 as moral damages.
SO ORDERED.[34]
Hence, this automatic review. Appellants allege in their brief that the trial court committed
the following errors:
I

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT ACQUITTING ACCUSEDAPPELLANT JOEY MANLANSING IN CRIMINAL CASE NO. 6150-AF
AND 6151-AF DESPITE THE FACT THAT HIS GUILT WAS NOT
PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.

II

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN APPRECIATING THE


QUALIFYING AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCE OF EVIDENT
PREMEDITATION.
III

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN APPRECIATING THE AGGRAVATING


CIRCUMSTANCE OF ABUSE OF SUPERIOR STRENGTH AND TAKING
ADVANTAGE OF NIGHTTIME.
IV

THE TRIAL COURT LIKEWISE ERRED IN APPRECIATING THE


AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCE OF TREACHERY.
V

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN IMPOSING THE DEATH


PENALTY UPON ACCUSED-APPELLANTS MARIO MANLANSING
AND JOEY MANLANSING.
Two principal issues are for resolution: (1) Did the trial court err in convicting both
appellants Mario Manlansing and Joey Manlansing for alleged conspiracy to kill the Sorianos?
(2) Did the trial court err in imposing the death penalty upon appellants?
On the first issue, appellants contend that since there were no other witnesses, nothing can
be clearer than the confession of appellant Mario Manlansing that he alone killed the couple and
that his brother Joey had nothing to do with the incident. They submit that a confession if freely
and voluntarily given is deserving of the highest credit. Inasmuch as Marios confession was
freely and voluntarily given and was reiterated by him during trial, the lower court erred in not
giving credit to said confession.
Appellants also aver that the trial court likewise erred in finding Joey guilty of conspiring
with Mario notwithstanding Marios categorical confession that Joey had no participation in the
killings. Appellants contend that the mere fact that they are siblings does not mean that Marios
testimony was not credible. According to appellants, an accused in a criminal case may
competently testify for or against any of his co-accused.
For the appellee, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) avers that the guilt of appellant
Joey Manlansing as a conspirator has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. First, he admitted
boxing Jorja in the face. However, he explained that he only did this out of fear that Mario might
hear her shout and attack her. But, as stressed by the OSG, the medico-legal evidence contradicts
Joeys statement that he boxed Jorja only once. The autopsy report showed that Jorja sustained
hematoma on her face and chest, an indication that she was struck several times. Second, the city
medical officer, Dr. Concepcion, testified that from the nature and types of wounds found on the

bodies of the victims, one person alone could not have inflicted the fatal injuries. The police
recovered two different types of weapons, namely, a bolo and a knife. Third, a comparison of the
fingerprints taken from the crime scene and Joeys standard fingerprints showed that two of his
fingerprints were recovered from the crime scene. Fourth, Mario admitted during the reenactment of the incident that he and Joey ransacked the place looking for cash and
jewelry. Fifth, rebuttal witness Mario Bartolome testified that he saw appellants step out of the
Sorianos house on the night of the killings wearing bloodstained shirts. Finally, Joeys flight from
Cabanatuan City belies his innocence regarding the killing of the Sorianos. Flight is an indication
of guilt, for a truly innocent person would normally stand his ground, and grasp the first
opportunity to defend himself and clear his name.
While giving credence to the confession of Mario Manlansing that he killed the couple, the
trial court disbelieved appellants claim that he alone did both killings and that Joey had no
participation therein. Instead, it relied on a chain of circumstances to show that appellants
conspired to kill the Sorianos, and committed the crimes pursuant to that conspiracy.
The conviction of Joey Manlansing is thus anchored on the premise that there was
conspiracy between the brothers. Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an
agreement concerning the commission of a crime and decide to commit it. [35] Conspiracy does not
require a previous plan or agreement to commit an assault. It is sufficient that at the time of the
aggression all the accused manifested by their acts a common intent or desire to attack.
[36]
Jurisprudence tells us consistently that the conduct of the accused before, during, and after the
commission of the crime may be considered to show an extant conspiracy.[37] The testimonial and
physical evidence on record reveals that Joeys conduct during and after the attack of his brother
on the spouses was conspiratorial. Most significant of these pieces of evidence is the finding of
Dr. Concepcion, that from the depth and nature of the victims wounds, the weapon used for
hacking could not be the same as the one used for stabbing. The discovery of the two weapons, a
bolo recovered in Tarlac where Mario hid and which he admitted was his, and a knife recovered
underneath Magins corpse, confirms the finding that the wounds were inflicted by two different
weapons. If indeed, as Mario confessed, he did the killings single-handedly, he would then be
using a bolo and a knife either simultaneously, alternatively, or successively in killing Magin. As
Dr. Concepcion opined, simultaneously hacking and stabbing by using a long weapon and
another short bladed weapon was impossible. That Mario would use both the bolo and the knife
alternatively or successively is unlikely to be true and contrary to the nature of reality. The
logical conclusion would then be that, considering the two weapons, there were at least two
attackers, each using one deadly instrument.
There are other reasons for us to discount the story of the brothers that only Mario singlehandedly killed the spouses. For one, we find inconsistencies in their testimonies. In Joeys sworn
statement, which he executed in front of witnesses and in the presence of counsel, he said he
punched Jorja , . . . para walang makarinig . . . .[38] In his testimony in court he said, Because she
might be heard by my brother and he might attack her.[39] Again, Mario said that Joey tried to stop
him from hurting Jorja and while trying to grapple the bolo from him, Joey got wounded.[40] Yet,
Joey in his sworn statement does not mention getting wounded and said that he was merely
elbowed by his brother when he tried to stop the latter from harming Jorja. [41] And, in his
testimony in open court, he merely said Mario hurled insulting words at him as they struggled
over the bolo.[42] He does not say anything about being wounded. A major variation in Joeys
statements that gives his reason for assaulting a victim and an omission of an important detail,

i.e. his being wounded, together cast doubt on Marios disavowal that Joey did not participate in
the killings. His story was obviously an afterthought to absolve his younger sibling. Testimonies
to be believed must not only come from the mouth of credible witnesses but should by
themselves be credible, reasonable and in accord with human experience.[43]
In addition, the brothers footprints and fingerprints were lifted from the crime scene. Before
they fled they both tried to wipe out traces of their foot and handprints. Both admitted that they
ransacked the place for valuables after the spouses were slain. Lastly, on their way out of the
compound, a witness whom they threatened to be butchered like a hog, saw them with their shirts
bloodstained.
All the foregoing details presented as evidence by the prosecution more than suffices to
show that the brothers were united and had cooperated in a conspiracy to attack the spouses. In a
conspiracy, the act of one conspirator is the act of the other co-conspirator. Thus, Joey is equally
responsible as his brother, Mario for the death of the Sorianos.
Mario and Joey were convicted on the basis of Marios sworn statements confessing to the
killing of the spouses, the testimonies of the witnesses for the prosecution, as well as on
circumstantial evidence addressed before the trial court. To sustain a conviction on circumstantial
evidence, the following requisites must concur: (1) there is more than one circumstance; (2) the
facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (3) the combination of all the
circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. [44] The circumstances
themselves, taken together, should point to overt acts of the accused that would logically point to
the conclusion, and no other, that the accused is guilty of the crime charged and at the same time
inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent.[45]
We agree with the trial court and the OSG that the chain of circumstances, all of which have
already been discussed, can only lead to the conclusion that Joey and Mario cooperated to
commit the killings. To summarize, they are: (1) the medico-legal officers testimony that two
different bladed weapons were used, (2) his finding that one person alone could not have
inflicted the wounds simultaneously, (3) the recovery of two distinct bladed weapons, (4) Joeys
admission that he boxed Jorja (4) both appellants admission that they searched the victims
belongings for cash and valuables, (5) the presence of Joeys fingerprints at the scene of the
crime, and (6) the testimony of the balutvendor that he saw the brothers with bloodstained shirts
leaving the locus criminis together. Thus, we find no error committed by the trial court in holding
that both appellants had conspired and are guilty beyond reasonable doubt of killing Magin and
Jorja Soriano.
However, we are unable to agree now with the trial court that the offenses committed by
appellants could be qualified as murder. They are guilty only of double homicide. Hence, it is
improper now to impose the death penalty on each of them.
A review of the informations filed against appellants, in relation to prevailing law and
jurisprudence as well as the newly adopted revisions of the Rules of Court favorable to the
accused will show that the crimes of the brothers could not be qualified as murder. Only recently
in People vs. Gario Alba alias Mario Alba, G.R. No. 130523, promulgated January 29, 2002, we
ruled that pursuant to Sections 8 and 9 of Rule 110 of the Revised Rules on Criminal
Procedure[46]which took effect on December 1, 2000, the information should state not only the
designation of the offense and the acts and omissions constituting it but shall also specify its

qualifying and aggravating circumstances.[47] We noted in Gario Alba, that although the
circumstance of treachery was stated in the information, it was not alleged with specificity as
qualifying the killing to murder. Since the information in Gario Alba, failed to specify treachery
as a circumstance qualifying the killing to murder, treachery was considered only a generic
aggravating circumstance, hence, we said that the crime committed in Gario Alba was homicide
and not murder.
So is it with the present case. None of the aggravating circumstances were alleged in the
informations nor in the amended informations with specificity as a qualifying circumstance
elevating either killing to murder. Thus, conformably with Gario Alba, the offenses committed
by appellants only constitute two counts of homicide and not murder. Since the penalty for
homicide under 249 of the Revised Penal Code is reclusion temporal, it is incorrect to sentence
both appellants to death.
In evaluating the circumstances that qualified the crimes to murder, the trial court
considered, aside from evident premeditation, treachery, nighttime, and use of a deadly weapon,
the aggravating circumstances of abuse of superior strength and dwelling.
We note that abuse of superior strength and dwelling were not alleged in the informations. In
accordance then with Section 8 of Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, abuse
of superior strength and dwelling may not be appreciated to convict the brothers. Further, should
there be a finding of treachery, then abuse of superior strength is absorbed by the former. We are
thus left to review only the allegation that the aggravating circumstances of evident
premeditation, treachery, and nocturnity were present in the commission of the crimes.
At the outset, we shall discount nocturnity as an aggravating circumstance, since in this case,
the darkness of the night was not purposely sought by the offenders to facilitate the commission
of the crime nor to ensure its execution with impunity.
The element of evident premeditation is manifested by the planning and preparation
undertaken by the offender prior to the commission of the crime. [48] It is not presumed from the
mere lapse of time[49] nor can it be deduced from sheer speculation. [50] An intangible matter,
evident premeditation is exhibited from these circumstances --- (1) the time when the offender
has appeared determined to commit the crime; (2) the act evidently indicating that the offender
has clung to his determination; (3) sufficient lapse of time between the determination to commit
the crime and the execution thereof during which the offender could have reflected upon the
consequences of his act.[51] In the present case, all three circumstances are present and clear from
the testimony alone of Mario. The TSN reads:
Q: That conversation about the seedling, how long did it take?
A: Only about fifteen minutes also, and then they went upstairs.
Q: How long did you stay there after they left you watching the TV?
A: When they went up, my brother Joey also retired for the night and I continued watching the TV and
I turned off the TV at round 10:00 oclock.
Q: After turning off the TV, what else did you do?
A: And then, I planned the method by which I could kill.
Q: Sino? (Literally: Who?)

Atty. Jackie A. Garcia:


Pinlano mo bang patayin sila? (Literally: Did you plan to kill them?)
A: I did not plan. It was only after hearing the words of Mrs. Soriano that she will have us killed.
Fiscal Amis:
When you switch off the TV at 10:00 oclock, how long did you stay here in the sala before you went
up?
A: After switching off the TV, I stayed for ten minutes here and planning how to have them out of
their room and I thought of the telephone.
Q: After deciding about the method by which you can have them out of the room, what did you do?
A: I got the bolo from my bag which was then placed on a chair. (witness pointing to a chair beside the
door) I went upstairs and I placed it beside the laundry basket.
Q: What time was that?
Atty. Jackie A. Garcia:
May I request of clarification. Maybe the time element be clarified as to how long from the time to
turn the TV off?
Fiscal Amis:
7:15 when they brought the matter up, saka lang sila na-scold and then again, they watched the TV
until 10:00 oclock.
Q: Do you have a watch?
A: None, Maam.
Q: What time approximately do you think was it when you went upstairs?
A: It took me ten minutes, after 10:00 oclock when I stayed in sala and it took me around five minutes
to position the bolo and the telephone before I knock at their door.
Q: How did you know that it was already 10:00 oclock when you switched off the TV?
A: I was watching and there was no clock there. (witness pointing to the TV)
Q: You said that you intended to kill the victim with the use of bolo. Was that reason why you brought
the bolo with you?
A: I have no intention to use the bolo to kill them initially, it was only that I thought of the bolo when
we were scolded.
Q: Was Majen Soriano able to shout for help?
A: Only at the time when I first hacked him.
Q: Was he still able to shout for help again?
A: No more.
Q: When he fell down the stairs, was he able to shout for help?
A: He moaned when he fell down.[52]

Earlier, during the re-enactment, Mario testified,


Q: What did you do when you went upstairs?
A: The phone was ringing and I told them that there was somebody calling, so I knocked. When I
knocked, the door was opened by the old man who came out of the room.
Q: Who was that old man?
A: Majen.
Q: You are referring to Majen Soriano?
A: Yes, Maam.
Q: When he went out of the room, what happened?
A: He went by the telephone which is near the staircase and he told me that theres nobody in the
telephone.
Fiscal Ignacio E. Domingo:
Talaga bang nagriring ang telepono? (Literally: Was the telephone ringing really?)
A: The telephone was not really ringing. It was just my alibi.
Fiscal Amis:
At this juncture, PO3 Enrico Campose is posing as the old man Majen Soriano. PO2 Soriano is
positioning himself upon instruction of the respondent Mario Manlansing beside a small table
where the telephone was supposedly stationed.
Q: Then what happened?
A: I gave a telephone to Majen Soriano and then I took two steps backward and I got the bolo which
was placed beside the laundry basket. When he saw that I was holding a bolo, he sprang from his
chair and I immediately hacked him hitting his head and I saw blood from his head, then he made
several steps and again, I hacked his head and he fell down the stairs.
Q: Where did you get the bolo?
A: I placed it there.
Q: When did you place it there?
A: When I planned to kill him and before I knock at their door, I placed the bolo beside the laundry
basket. When he fell down the stairs, I followed him there. (witness pointing to the place where
the body was then lying down) Majen rolled down the stairs and his head was near the
refrigerator (which is located at the bottom of the stairs). (witness positioning himself with his
left foot on the first step and the right foot on the second step and demonstrating that he again
hacked the victim Majen Soriano)
Q: Saan-saan tinamaan ang victim? (Literally: Where was the victim hit?)
A: I hacked the old man on his head and then I went down and dragged him.
Q: Saan mo hinawakan? (Literally: Where did you hold him?)
A: I placed my handkerchief in his mouth and dragged him by his mouth toward the room while my
other hand was holding his clothes. I dragged him inside the room and with the handkerchief
stuffed in his mouth was boiling with blood (kumukulo ng dugo).

Q: Was he still alive when you dragged inside the room?


A: Buhay siya at nanginginig pa siya at doon na siya nalagutan ng hininga. [53] (Literally: He was alive
and still shaking and only then did his breathing stop.) (Underscoring ours.)

Based on these testimonies on record, we have no hesitation in concluding that there was
evident premeditation in the commission of the crimes. Likewise, treachery therein attendant was
duly proved.
The essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack by an aggressor on an
unsuspecting victim, depriving the latter of any real chance to defend himself, thereby ensuring
its commission without any risk to the aggressor, without the slightest provocation on the victims
part.[54] While mere suddenness of attack does not automatically mean treachery,[55] in these cases
the narration of events before and during the commission of the attacks clearly indicate the
presence of treachery. Appellants were allowed inside the house of the couple. They were even
given supper after which the elderly couple went upstairs to their bedroom. Appellants remained
downstairs and continued watching television. As the OSG correctly points out, the victims in
extending their hospitality to their tenants, had neither hint nor suspicion of the fate that Mario
had in store for them. When Mario lured Magin to the phone, the latter was unaware he would be
attacked.
In Jorjas case, Joey claims he had boxed Jorja before Mario hacked her to death. But
according to Mario, she was asleep when he entered the bedroom. He said she shouted, but not
loud, before he stuffed her mouth with a towel and slashed her neck. The attack on Jorja then
was also without warning and was treacherous.
We must reiterate at this juncture, however, that the evident premeditation and the treachery
in the present cases may only be considered as generic aggravating circumstances.
Coming now to the consideration of mitigating circumstances in the commission of the
offense, Mario contends that the trial court failed to take into account the mitigating
circumstances of his voluntary surrender and plea of guilty.
For voluntary surrender to be a mitigating circumstance, the following must concur: (1) the
offender has not actually been arrested; (2) the offender surrendered himself to a person in
authority; and (3) the surrender was voluntary.[56] Recall that after the killings, Mario went into
hiding in Paniqui, Tarlac and only surrendered after the Cabanatuan City police were tipped on
his whereabouts and sent a team to arrest him. He did not spare the authorities the trouble and
expense necessary to search and capture him. Clearly, Marios surrender was neither spontaneous
nor voluntary. Thus, the OSG was correct when it said that Mario did not voluntarily surrender.
However, the trial court did err when it failed to appreciate Marios plea of guilty to the two
charges against him. Under Article 13 (7) [57] of the Code, a plea of guilty on arraignment is a
mitigating circumstance.
Insofar as Joey is concerned, there was no voluntary surrender and no voluntary plea of
guilt, thus no circumstance is available to him to mitigate his crime.
The rule is that when both mitigating and aggravating circumstances attend the commission
of the crime, the court shall reasonably allow them to offset one another in consideration of their
number and importance, for the purpose of applying the penalty.[58]

In the case of Mario, the aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation is offset by his
spontaneous and voluntary admission of guilt. Thus, there is only treachery, treated as a generic
aggravating circumstance, left to consider against him. Applying Article 64, par. 3, [59] of the
Revised Penal Code, the penalty imposable is reclusion temporal in its maximum period. Further
applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum penalty is imprisonment within the
range of prision mayor as minimum and the maximum of reclusion temporal as maximum.
In Joeys case, no mitigating circumstance could be appreciated in his favor for unlike his
brother he did not plead guilty. Two generic aggravating circumstances, evident premeditation
and treachery, are thus to be considered against him. Applying Article 64, par. 6, of the Revised
Penal Code,[60] and the Indeterminate Sentence Law Joey shall serve the same indeterminate
sentence as Mario.
A final word on damages. The trial court awarded the surviving heirs of the
victims P250,000 by way of funeral and other expenses and as actual damages. In these cases,
the prosecution failed to present any receipts to substantiate their claims for expenses allegedly
incurred. To be entitled to such damages, it is necessary to prove the actual amount of loss with
reasonable degree of certainty, premised upon competent proof and on the best evidence
available to the injured party.[61] However, as the heirs of the victims did actually incur funeral
expenses, we are justified in awarding P10,000 not for purposes of indemnification, but by way
of temperate damages, in each case.[62]
We also find the award of P500,000 in moral damages excessive. Moral damages are not
meant to enrich an injured party. In line with prevailing jurisprudence, [63] the award in each case
should be reduced to P50,000. In addition, P50,000 as civil indemnity in each of these cases is
mandatory and is granted to the heirs of the victims without need of further proof other than the
commission of the crime.[64]
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 27 in Cabanatuan City in
the consolidated cases, Criminal Case No. 6150-AF and Criminal Case No. 6151-AF, finding
both Joey Manlansing and Mario Manlansing, guilty of murder beyond reasonable doubt for the
death of both Magin Soriano and Jorja Soriano, is hereby MODIFIED. Appellants Mario
Manlansing and Joey Manlansing are each declared GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of two
counts of HOMICIDE defined in Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code. Each appellant is
sentenced to suffer imprisonment for an indefinite period of 17 years, and 4 months as minimum
to twenty (20) years as maximum for each count of homicide, with accessory penalties provided
by law. Further, each appellant is ORDERED to pay the heirs of each victim P50,000 as civil
indemnity, P50,000 as moral damages, and P10,000 as temperate damages. Costs de officio.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Buena,
Ynares-Santiago, De Leon, Jr., Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Carpio, JJ., concur.

[1]

Records, Criminal Case No. 6150-AF, pp. 181-193.

[2]

Also spelled Magen or Majen in the records.

[3]

Records, Criminal Case No. 6150-AF, p. 8.

[4]

Records, Criminal Case No. 6151-AF, p. 12.

[5]

TSN, October 18, 1995, pp. 4-6.

[6]

Id. at 7.

[7]

Id. at 11.

[8]

See Exhibits WW-2, WW-2-1, WW-2-4, and WW-2-8, Exhibits Folder 1, pp. 38-41; TSN, October 18, 1995, p.
11.
[9]

TSN, October 18, 1995, pp. 13-14.

[10]

Id. at 14, 21.

[11]

Exhibit FF-2, Exhibits Folder 1, p. 20.

[12]

Exhibits LL and sub-markings, MM and sub-markings, Exhibits Folder 1, pp. 26-27.

[13]

See Exhibits WW-2-2, WW-2-3, WW-2-5, WW-2-6, WW-2-7, WW-2-10, and WW-2-11, Exhibits Folder 1, pp.
39-42.
[14]

See Exhibits C to Q, Id. at 3-7.

[15]

Exhibit HH, Exhibits Folder 1, p. 37.

[16]

Exhibit EE, Id. at 35.

[17]

TSN, March 1, 1995, p. 44.

[18]

Id. at 44-45.

[19]

TSN, February 29, 1996, pp. 4-7.

[20]

Exhibit QQ and sub-markings, Records, Criminal Case No. 6151-AF, pp. 6-7.

[21]

TSN, July 2, 1996, pp. 5-8.

[22]

Exhibit NN and sub-markings, Exhibits Folder 1, pp. 28-29; TSN, October 18, 1995, pp. 25-34.

[23]

Supra, note 21 at 8-9.

[24]

TSN, August 20, 1995, pp. 12-14.

[25]

Benjamin in the Decision.

[26]

TSN, March 1, 1995, p. 21.

[27]

TSN, January 22, 1997, pp. 3-5.

[28]

Id. at 4.

[29]

TSN, February 4, 1997, pp. 3-4.

[30]

TSN, October 30, 1996, p. 18.

[31]

Id. at 17.

[32]

Id. at 4-6.

[33]

TSN, February 18, 1997, pp. 3-7.

[34]

Records, Criminal Case No. 6150-AF, pp. 192-193.

[35]

People v. Albao, G.R. No. 117481, 287 SCRA 129, 155 (1998).

[36]

People v. Robedillo, G.R. No. 95355, 286 SCRA 379, 385 (1998).

[37]

People v. Gungon, G.R. No. 119574, 287 SCRA 618, 633 (1998).

[38]

Records, Criminal Case, No. 6151-AF, p.7.

[39]

TSN, Vol. I October 30, 1996, p. 17.

[40]

Supra, note 3 at 11; TSN, January 22, 1997, p. 4.

[41]

Supra, note 3 at 6-7.

[42]

Id. at 7.

[43]

People v. Lavapie, et al, G.R. No. 130209, March 14, 2001, p. 24, citing People v. Atad, G.R. No. 114105, 266
SCRA 262, 275-276 (1997).
[44]

People v. Mercado, G.R. No. 116239, 346 SCRA 256, 283-84 (2000).

[45]

People v. Abillar, G.R. No. 134606, 346 SCRA 433, 435 (2000).

[46]

Sec. 8. Designation of the offense.- The complaint or information shall state the designation of the offense given
by the statute, aver the acts or omissions constituting the offense, and specify its qualifying and aggravating
circumstances. If there is no designation of the offense, reference shall be made to the section or subsection of the
statute punishing it.
Sec. 9. Cause of the accusation.- The acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense and the qualifying
and aggravating circumstances must be stated in ordinary and concise language and not necessarily in the language
used in the statute but in terms sufficient to enable a person of common understanding to know what offense is being
charged as well as its qualifying and aggravating circumstances and for the court to pronounce judgment.
[47]

People vs. Alba, supra, at 10.

[48]

People vs. Morin, G.R. No. 101794, 241 SCRA 709, 716 (1995).

[49]

People vs. Silvestre, G.R. No. 109142, 244 SCRA 479, 495 (1995).

[50]

People vs. Ganzagan, Jr., G.R. No. 113793, 247 SCRA 220, 235 (1995).

[51]

People vs. De la Cruz, G.R. No. 111568, 242 SCRA 129, 142 (1995).

[52]

TSN, Re-enactmment, December 30, 1994, pp. 13-17.

[53]

TSN, Re-enactment, December 30, 1994, pp. 3-5.

[54]

People v. Cirilo, G.R. No. 134245, 346 SCRA 648, 660-61 (2000), citing People v. Macuha, 310 SCRA 14, 23-24
(1999).
[55]

People v. Alo, G.R. No. 125533, 348 SCRA 702, 711 (2000), citing People v. Magallanes, 275 SCRA 222, 234
(1997).
[56]

People v. Alo, supra, note 54 at 712, citing People v. Sumalpong, 284 SCRA 464, 468 (1998).

[57]

Art. 13. Mitigating circumstances. The following are mitigating circumstances:

7. That the offender had voluntarily surrendered himself to a person in authority or his agents. Or that he had
voluntarily confessed his guilt before the court prior to the presentation of the evidence for the prosecution.
[58]
[59]

Rev. Pen. Code, art. 63 (4).

Art. 64. Rules for the application of penalties with three periods._ In cases in which the penalties prescribed by
law contain three periods, whether it be a single divisible penalty or composed of three different penalties, each one
of which forms a period in accordance with the provisions of Article 76 and 77, the court shall observe for the
application of the penalty the following rules, according to whether there are or there are no mitigating or
aggravating circumstances:

xxx
3. When only an aggravating circumstance is present in the commission of the act, they shall impose the penalty in
its maximum period.
xxx
6. Whatever may be the number and nature of the aggravating circumstances, the court shall not impose a greater
penalty than that prescribed by law, in its maximum period.
[60]

Ibid.

[61]

People v. Samolde, G.R. No. 128551, 336 SCRA 632, 654 (2000), citing People v. Suelto, G.R. No. 126097, 325
SCRA 41, 59 (2000).
[62]

People v. Anivado, G.R. Nos. 131022, 146048-49, 348 SCRA 74, 94 (2000), citing People v. Gopio, G.R. No.
133925, 346 SCRA 408, 431 (2000); People v. Carillo, G.R. No. 129528, 333 SCRA 338, 353 (2000), citing
Sumalpong v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 123404, 268 SCRA 764, 775 (1997).
[63]

People v. Casturia, G.R. No. 128819, 345 SCRA 206, 212 (2000).

[64]

People v. Torres, Jr., G.R. No. 138046, 347 SCRA 526, 540 (2000), citing People v. Adoc, G.R. No. 132079, 330
SCRA 626 (2000).

THIRD DIVISION
G.R. No. 110995 September 5, 1994
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ALVARO SAYCON y
BUQUIRAN,Accused-Appellant.
The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.

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Francisco S. Garcia and Marcelo G. Flores for accused-appellant.

FELICIANO, J.:
Alvaro Saycon was charged with violating Section 15, Article III of R.A. No. 6425 as amended,
the Dangerous Drugs Act, in an information which read as follows:
That on or about the 8th day of July 1992, in the City of Dumaguete, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, not being then authorized by law, did, then
and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, deliver and transport[-] from Manila to
Dumaguete City approximately 4 grams of methamphetam[ine] hydrochloride commonly known
as "shabu," a regulated drug.
Contrary to Sec. 15, Art. III of R.A. 6425 (Dangerous Drugs Act) as amended. 1(Brackets
supplied)
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At arraignment, Alvaro Saycon entered a plea of not guilty.

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After trial, the trial court rendered, on 15 June 1993, a judgment of conviction. The court found
Saycon guilty beyond reasonable doubt of having transported four (4) grams of metamphetamine
hydrochloride ("shabu") and sentenced him to life imprisonment and to pay a fine of
P20,000.00. 2
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The relevant facts as found by the trial court were gleaned from the testimonies of the arresting
officers Senior Police Officers Winifredo S. Noble and Ruben Laddaran of the Narcotics
Command, PNP; Police Officer Emmanuelito C. Lajot of the Philippine Coastguard Office in
Dumaguete City; and Forensic Analyst N.G. Salinas of the PNP Crime Laboratory. The trial
court summarized the facts in the following manner:
. . . that on or about 8 July 1992, at about 6:00 in the morning, the Coastguard personnel received
information from NARCOM agent Ruben Laddaran that a suspected "shabu" courier by the
name of Alvaro Saycon was on board the MVDoa Virginia, which was arriving at that moment
in Dumaguete City. Upon receipt of the information, the Coastguard chief officer CPO Tolin,
instructed them to intercept the suspect. A combined team of NARCOM agents and Philippine
Coastguard personnel consisting of CPO Tolin, a certain Miagme, and Senior Police Officers
Ruben Laddaran and Winifredo Noble of NARCOM posted themselves at the gate of Pier 1.
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The MV Doa Virginia docked at 6:00 a.m. that same morning at Pier 1 in Dumaguete City.
Alvaro Saycon alighted from the boat carrying a black bag and went through the checkpoint
manned by the Philippine Coastguard where he was identified by police officer Winifredo Noble
of NARCOM. Saycon was then invited to the Coastguard Headquarters at the Pier area. He
willingly went with them. At the headquarters, the coastguard asked Saycon to open his bag, and
the latter willingly obliged. In it were personal belongings and a maong wallet. Inside
thatmaong wallet, there was a Marlboro pack containing the suspected "shabu". When police
officer Winifredo Noble asked Saycon whether the Marlboro pack containing the suspected
"shabu" was his, Saycon merely bowed his head. Then Saycon, his bag and the suspected

"shabu" were brought to the NARCOM office for booking. When Alvaro Saycon was arrested,
the NARCOM agents did not have a warrant of arrest. 3
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After the arrest of Saycon, the suspected drug material taken from him was brought to the PNP
Crime Laboratory in Cebu City for chemical examination.
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The PNP's Forensic Analyst declared in court that she had conducted an examination of the
specimens which had been taken from appellant Saycon and submitted to the Crime Laboratory
on 9 July 1992. Her findings were, basically, that the specimens she examined weighing 4.2
grams in total, consisted of the regulated drug methamphetamine hydrochloride, more widely
known as
"shabu." 4
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For his part, appellant Saycon denied ownership of the "shabu" taken from his black bag. He
claimed that upon disembarking from the ship at the pier in Dumaguete City, he was met by two
(2) unfamiliar persons who snatched his bag from him. Thereafter, he was taken to the office of
the port collector, at gunpoint, and there his bag was searched by four (4) men despite his
protests. The four (4) persons were later identified by appellant Saycon as Noble, Sixto, Edjec
and Ruben Laddaran. When appellant Saycon asked why his belongings were being searched, the
four (4) answered that there was "shabu" inside his bag. After the search of his bag, appellant
continued, he was shown a small wallet purportedly taken from his black bag which contained
"shabu." Appellant Saycon was then detained at the Dumaguete City Jail. 5
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In his appeal before this Court seeking reversal of the decision of the court a quo finding him
guilty of the crime charged, Saycon contends that the search of his bag was illegal because it had
been made without a search warrant and that, therefore, the "shabu" discovered during the illegal
search was inadmissible in evidence against him.
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It is not disputed that the arresting officers were not armed with a search warrant or a warrant of
arrest when they searched Saycon's bag and thereafter effected his arrest.
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The relevant constitutional provisions are set out in Sections 2 and 3 [2], Article III of the 1987
Constitution which read as follows:
Sec. 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against
unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable,
and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issued except upon probable cause to be
determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the
complainant and the witness as he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be
searched and the persons or things to be seized.
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Sec. 3. xxx xxx xxx

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(2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for
any purpose in any proceeding.
The general rule, therefore, is that the search and seizure must be carried out through or with a
judicial warrant; otherwise, such search and seizure becomes "unreasonable" within the meaning
of the above constitutional provisions. 6The evidence secured in the process of search and seizure
- i.e., the "fruits" thereof - will be inadmissible in evidence "for any purpose in any
proceeding. 7
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The requirement that a judicial warrant must be obtained prior to the carrying out of a search and
seizure is, however, not absolute. "There are certain exceptions recognized in our law," the Court
noted in People v. Barros. 8The exception which appears most pertinent in respect of the case at
bar is that relating to the search of moving vehicles. 9InPeople v. Barros, the Court said:
Peace officers may lawfully conduct searches of moving vehicles -automobiles, trucks, etc. without need of a warrant, it not being practicable to secure a judicial warrant before searching a
vehicle, since such vehicle can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the
warrant may be sought. (People v. Bagista, supra; People v. Lo Ho Wing, supra) In carrying out
warrantless searches of moving vehicles, however, peace officers are limited to routine checks,
that is, the vehicles are neither really searched nor their occupants subjected to physical or body
searches, the examination of the vehicles being limited to visual inspection. In Valmonte v. De
Villa (178 SCRA 211 [1989]), the Court stated:
[N]ot all searches and seizures are prohibited. Those which are reasonable are not forbidden. A
reasonable search is not to be determined by any fixed formula but is to be resolved according to
the facts of each case.
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Where, for example, the officer merely draws aside the curtain of a vacant vehicle which is
parked on the public fair grounds, or simply looks into a vehicle, or flashes a light therein, these
do not constitute unreasonable search. (Citations omitted)
When, however, a vehicle is stopped and subjected to an extensive search, such a warrantless
search would be constitutionally permissible only if the officers conducting the search have
reasonable or probable cause to believe, before the search, that either the motorist is a lawoffender or the contents or cargo of the vehicle are or have been instruments or the subject matter
or the proceeds of some criminal offense. (People v. Bagista, supra; Valmonte v. de Villa, 185
SCRA 665 [1990]).
While the analogy is perhaps not perfect, we consider that appellant Saycon stands in the same
situation as the driver or passenger of a motor vehicle that is stopped by police authorities and
subjected to an extensive search. In this situation, the warrantless search and arrest of appellant
Saycon would be constitutionally permissible only if the officer conducting the search had
reasonable or probable cause to believe, before the search, that Saycon who had just disembarked
from the MV Doa Virginia upon arrival of that vessel at 6:00 a.m. of 8 July 1992 at Pier I of

Dumaguete city, was violating some law or that the contents of his luggage included some
instrument or the subjects matter or the proceeds of some criminal offense.
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It is important to note that unlike in the case of crimes like, e.g., homicide, murder, physical
injuries, robbery or rape which by their nature involve physical, optically perceptible, overt acts,
the offense of possessing or delivering or transporting some prohibited or regulated drug is
customarily carried out without any external signs or indicia visible to police officers and the rest
of the outside world. Drug "pushers" or couriers do not customarily go about their enterprise or
trade with some external visible sign advertising the fact that they are carrying or distributing or
transporting prohibited drugs. Thus, the application of the rules in Section 5 (a) and (b), Rule 133
of the Rules of Court needs to take that circumstance into account. The Court has had to resolve
the question of valid or invalid warrantless arrest or warrantless search or seizure in such cases
by determining the presence or absence of a reasonable or probable cause, before the search and
arrest, that led the police authorities to believe that such a felony (possessing or transporting or
delivering prohibited drugs) was then in progress. In Barros, the Court listed the kinds of causes
which have been characterized as probable or reasonable cause supporting the legality and
validity of a warrantless search and a warrantless arrest in cases of this type:
This Court has in the past found probable cause to conduct without a judicial warrant an
extensive search of moving vehicles in situations where (1) there had emanated from a package
the distinctive smell of marijuana (People v. Claudio, 160 SCRA 646 [1988]); (2) agents of the
Narcotics Command ("Narcom") of the Philippine National Police ("PNP") had received a
confidential report from informers that a sizeable volume of marijuana would be transported
along the route where the search was conducted (People v. Maspil, 188 SCRA 751 [1990]); (3)
Narcom agents were informed or "tipped off" by an undercover "deep penetration" agent that
prohibited drugs would be brought into the country on a particular airline flight on a given date
(People v. Lo Ho Wing, supra); (4) Narcom agents had received information that a Caucasian
coming from Sagada, Mountain Province, had in his possession prohibited drugs and when the
Narcom agents confronted the accused Caucasian, because of as conspicuous bulge in this
waistline, he failed to present his passport and other identification papers when requested to do
so (People v. Malmstedt, 198 SCRA 401 [1991]); and (5) Narcom agents had received
confidential information that a woman having the same physical appearance as that of the
accused would be transporting marijuana (People v. Bagista, supra.).
Close examination of the record of the case at bar shows that there did exist reasonable or
probable cause to believe that appellant Alvaro Saycon would be carrying or transporting
prohibited drugs upon arriving in Dumaguete City on the MV Doa Virginia on 8 July 1992.
This probable cause in fact consisted of two (2) parts. Firstly, Senior Police Officer Winifredo
Noble had testified in court that the NARCOM Agents had, approximately three (3) weeks
before 8 July 1992, conducted a test-buy which confirmed that appellant Saycon was indeed
engaged in transporting and selling "shabu." The police authorities did not, on that occasion,
arrest Alvaro Saycon, but what should be noted is that the identity of Saycon as a drug courier or
drug distributor was established in the minds of the police authorities. 10Secondly, the arresting
officers testified that they had received confidential information that very early morning of 8 July

1992, Alvaro Saycon would probably be on board the MV Doa Virginia which was scheduled to
arrive in Dumaguete City at 6:00 a.m. on 8 July 1992, probably carrying "shabu" with him.
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In respect of the first element of the probable cause here involved, the testimony of Police
Officer Winifredo Noble had not been denied or rebutted by the defense; as it happened, Officer
Noble was not even cross-examined on this point by defense counsel.
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In respect of the second element of the probable cause here involved, appellant Saycon
contended that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses showed that the NARCOM Agents
knew three (3) weeks before 8 July 1992 that the MV Doa Virginia would be arriving and that
the would probably be on board that vessel. It was argued by Saycon that the police authorities
should have procured, and had the time to procure, the necessary judicial warrants for search and
arrest. Saycon also sought to underscore a supposed confusion in the testimonies of NARCOM
Officer Winifredo Noble and Coastguard Officer Lajot relating to who, as between the
NARCOM agent and the Coastguard elements, had informed the other that appellant would
probably be arriving on board the MV Doa Virginia. The relevant portion of NARCOM Agent
Winifredo Noble's testimony includes the following:
Q: Despite the lapse of three (3) weeks, more or less, from acquiring knowledge through this
informant, did you not secure the necessary search warrant and warrant of arrest on the effect(s)
and person of the subject Alvaro Saycon?
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A: All the time we were only informed by the Coastguard that this certain fellow in the name of
Alvaro Saycon is travelling through and through from Manila to Dumaguete will be carrying
shabu from Manila to Dumaguete and we could not ascertain (with) the time when he will be at
the pier area.
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Q: You have not answered my question. My question is: Despite the lapse of more than three (3)
weeks upon being informed by your informer that this Alvaro Saycon, the accused in this
case, has been acourier from time to time of prohibited drugs, did you not bother to secure the
necessary warrant: search as well as the arrest?
A: As I said earlier, we could not obtain the necessary search warrant to that effect because we
do not know or ascertain when Alvaro Saycon will arrive [from] Manila. On that particular
morning, we were informed by the Coastguard that Doa Virginia would be arriving and they
told us that probably this suspect will be among the passengers, so you better come over and (to)
identify the subject. 11(Emphasis supplied)
Upon the other hand, Coastguard Police Officer Emmanuelito Lajot, Jr. testified in the following
way:
Q: What time were you in your office?
A: Before 6:00 o'clock, I was there.

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xxx xxx xxx


Q: While you were there, did you receive any communication?

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A: Yes.

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Q: What communication was that?

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A: That a certain Alvaro Saycon was on board MV Doa Virginia arriving at 6:00 o'clock in the
morning?
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Q: Who gave you that information?

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A: Ruben Laddaran(a).

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Q: Who is this Ruben Laddaran?

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A: NARCOM Agent. 12(Emphasis supplied)


If there was any confusion or uncertainty in the testimonies of NARCOM Officer Noble and
Coastguard Officer Lajot, that confusion was a minor detail. It was in any case clarified by
NARCOM Officer Noble's explanation that after the NARCOM Command had received
information appellant Saycon would be transporting drugs from Manila to Dumaguete City, they
advised the Coastguard that they (the Narcotics Command) wanted to set up a checkpoint at Pier
I at Dumaguete City because appellant Saycon could be on board one of the vessels arriving in
Dumaguete City. The Coastguard in turn informed the NARCOM Officers of the arrival of the
MV Doa Virginia and assisted the NARCOM Officers in their operation that morning of 8 July
1992.
The record shows that the NARCOM Officers were uncertain as to the precise date and time
appellant Saycon would arrive from Manila; all they knew was that Saycon would be taking a
boat from Manila to Dumaguete City Pier. 13The MV Doa Virginia docked at the Port of Pier I
of Dumaguete City between 6:00 and 6:30 in the morning of 8 July 1992. Earlier on that same
morning, the NARCOM Officers received more specific information that appellant Saycon could
be on board the MV Doa Virginia which was arriving that morning.14Clearly, the NARCOM
Agents had to act quickly but there was not enough time to obtain a search warrant or a warrant
of arrest. It was realistically not possible for either the NARCOM Agents or the Coastguard
Officers to obtain a judicial search warrant or warrant of arrest in the situation presented by the
case at
bar. 15
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The Court considers, therefore, that a valid warrantless search had been conducted by the
NARCOM and Coastguard Officers of the "black bag" of appellant Saycon that morning of 8
July 1992 at the checkpoint nearby the docking place of the MV Doa Virginia and at the office

of the Coastguard at Dumaguete City. It follows that the warrantless arrest of appellant Saycon
which ensued forthwith, was also valid and lawful, since the police had determined, he was in
fact carrying or transporting "shabu." The further consequence is that the four (4) grams of
"shabu" obtained from his maong wallet found inside his black bag was lawfully before the
court a quo. We agree with the court a quo that the evidence before the latter proved beyond
reasonable doubt that appellant Saycon had been carrying with him "shabu" at the time of his
search and arrest and his guilt of the offense charged was established beyond reasonable
doubt.
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In view of the foregoing, the decision of the trial court dated 15 June 1993, in Criminal Case No.
10325, should be affirmed, but the penalty properly impassable upon appellant Alvaro Saycon
must be reduced to imprisonment for an indeterminate period ranging from six (6) months
of arresto mayor as minimum to six (6) years of prision correctional as maximum, and the fine
of P20,000.00 must be deleted. This reduction of penalty is required by the provisions of Section
20, Article IV of R.A. NO. 6425, as last amended by Section 17, of R.A. No. 7659 (effective 13
December 1993) as construed and given retroactive effect in People v. Martin Simon (G.R. No.
93028, 29 July 1994) considering that the amount of "shabu" here involved (four [4] grams) is
obviously less than the 200 grams of "shabu" cut-off quantity established in the amended Section
20 of the Dangerous Drugs Act.
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WHEREFORE, for all the foregoing, the decision of the trial court in Criminal Case No. 10325,
is hereby AFFIRMED, with the MODIFICATIONS, however, that appellant shall suffer
imprisonment for an indeterminate period ranging from six (6) months of arresto mayor as
minimum to six (6) years of prision correctional as maximum, and that the fine of P20,000.00
shall be DELETED. No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Romero, Melo, and Vitug, JJ., concur.

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Bidin, J., is on leave.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 154182. December 17, 2004]

EDGAR Y. TEVES and TERESITA Z. TEVES, petitioners, vs. THE


SANDIGANBAYAN, respondent.
DECISION
DAVIDE, JR., C.J.

The pivotal issue in this petition is whether a public official charged with violation of
Section 3(h) of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft
and Corrupt Practices Act, for unlawful intervention, in his official capacity, in the
issuance of a license in favor of a business enterprise in which he has a pecuniary
interest may be convicted, together with his spouse, of violation of that same provision
premised on his mere possession of such interest.
Edgar Y. Teves, former Mayor of Valencia, Negros Oriental, and his wife Teresita Z.
Teves seeks to annul and set aside the 16 July 2002 Decision of the Sandiganbayan in
Criminal Case No. 2337 convicting them of violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft
Law for possessing direct pecuniary interest in the Valencia Cockpit and Recreation
Center in Valencia.
[1]

The indictment reads:

[2]

The undersigned Special Prosecution Officer II, Office of the Special Prosecutor,
hereby accuses EDGAR Y. TEVES and TERESITA TEVES of violation of Section
3(h) of Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt
Practices Act, committed as follows:
That on or about February 4, 1992, and sometime subsequent thereto, in Valencia,
Negros Oriental, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court,
accused Edgar Y. Teves, a public officer, being then the Municipal Mayor of
Valencia, Negros Oriental, committing the crime-herein charged in relation to, while
in the performance and taking advantage of his official functions, and conspiring and
confederating with his wife, herein accused Teresita Teves, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and criminally cause the issuance of the appropriate business
permit/license to operate the Valencia Cockpit and Recreation Center in favor of

one Daniel Teves, said accused Edgar Y. Teves having a direct financial or pecuniary
interest therein considering the fact that said cockpit arena is actually owned and
operated by him and accused Teresita Teves.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Upon their arraignment on 12 May 1997, the petitioners pleaded not guilty. Pre-trial
and trial were thereafter set.
The petitioners and the prosecution agreed on the authenticity of the prosecutions
documentary evidence. Thus, the prosecution dispensed with the testimonies of
witnesses and formally offered its documentary evidence marked as Exhibits A to V.
[3]

On 23 February 1998, the petitioners filed their Comment/Objections to the


evidence offered by the prosecution and moved for leave of court to file a demurrer to
evidence. On 29 July 1998, the Sandiganbayan admitted Exhibits A to S of the
prosecutions evidence but rejected Exhibits T, U, and V. It also denied petitioners
demurrer to evidence, as well as their motion for reconsideration. This
notwithstanding, the petitioners filed a Manifestation that they were, nonetheless,
dispensing with the presentation of witnesses because the evidence on record are
inadequate to support their conviction.
[4]

[5]

[6]

[7]

On 16 July 2002, the Sandiganbayan promulgated a decision (1) convicting


petitioners Edgar and Teresita Teves of violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law;
(2) imposing upon them an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of nine years and
twenty-one days as minimum to twelve years as maximum; and (3) ordering the
confiscation of all their rights, interests, and participation in the assets and properties of
the Valencia Cockpit and Recreation Center in favor of the Government, as well as
perpetual disqualification from public office. The conviction was anchored on the
finding that the petitioners possessed pecuniary interest in the said business enterprise
on the grounds that (a) nothing on record appears that Mayor Teves divested himself of
his pecuniary interest in said cockpit; (b) as of April 1992, Teresita Teves was of record
the owner/licensee of the cockpit; and (c) since Mayor Teves and Teresita remained
married to each other from 1983 until 1992, their property relations as husband and
wife, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, was that of the conjugal partnership of
gains. Hence, the cockpit is a conjugal property over which the petitioners have
pecuniary interest. This pecuniary interest is prohibited under Section 89(2) of R.A. No.
7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991, and thus falls
under the prohibited acts penalized in Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law.
[8]

[9]

The Sandiganbayan, however, absolved the petitioners of the charge of causing the
issuance of a business permit or license to operate the Valencia Cockpit and Recreation
Center on or about 4 February 1992 for not being well-founded.
On 26 August 2002, the petitioners filed the instant petition for review
on certiorari seeking to annul and set aside the 16 July 2002 Decision of the
Sandiganbayan.
[10]

At first, we denied the petition for failure of the petitioners to sufficiently show that
the Sandiganbayan committed any reversible error in the challenged decision as to
warrant the exercise by this Court of its discretionary appellate jurisdiction. But upon
petitioners motion for reconsideration, we reinstated the petition.
[11]

[12]

[13]

The petitioners assert that the Sandiganbayan committed serious and palpable
errors in convicting them. In the first place, the charge was for alleged unlawful
intervention of Mayor Teves in his official capacity in the issuance of a cockpit license in
violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law. But they were convicted of having a direct
financial or pecuniary interest in the Valencia Cockpit and Recreation Center prohibited
under Section 89(2) of the LGC of 1991, which is essentially different from the offense
with which they were charged. Thus, the petitioners insist that their constitutional right to
be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against them was transgressed
because they were never apprised at any stage of the proceedings in the
Sandiganbayan that they were being charged with, and arraigned and tried for, violation
of the LGC of 1991. The variance doctrine invoked by the respondent is but a rule of
procedural law that should not prevail over their constitutionally-guaranteed right to be
informed of the nature and cause of accusation against them.
Second, according to the petitioners, their alleged prohibited pecuniary interest in
the Valencia Cockpit in 1992 was not proved. The Sandiganbayan presumed that since
Mayor Teves was the cockpit operator and licensee in 1989, said interest continued to
exist until 1992. It also presumed that the cockpit was the conjugal property of Mayor
Teves and his wife, and that their pecuniary interest thereof was direct. But under the
regime of conjugal partnership of gains, any interest thereon is at most inchoate and
indirect.
Also assigned as glaring error is the conviction of Teresita Teves, who is not a public
officer. In the information, only Mayor Teves was accused of having a direct financial or
pecuniary interest in the operation of the Valencia Cockpit and Recreation Center in
Negros Oriental. His wife was merely charged as a co-conspirator of her husbands
alleged act of while in the performance and taking advantage of his official functions,
willfully, unlawfully and criminally caus[ing] the issuance of the appropriate business
permit/license to operate the said cockpit arena. Teresita Teves could not be convicted
because conspiracy was not established. Besides, the Sandiganbayan had already
absolved the petitioners of this offense.
On the other hand, the Sandiganbayan, through the Office of the Special Prosecutor
(OSP), insists that the uncontroverted documentary evidence proved that petitioner
Edgar Teves had direct pecuniary interest over the cockpit in question as early as 26
September 1983. That interest continued even though he transferred the management
thereof to his wife Teresita Teves in 1992, since their property relations were governed
by the conjugal partnership of gains. The existence of that prohibited interest is by itself
a criminal offense under Section 89(2) of the LGC of 1991. It is necessarily included in
the offense charged against the petitioners, i.e., for violation of Section 3(h) of the AntiGraft Law, which proscribes the possession of a direct or indirect financial or pecuniary
interest in any business, contract, or transaction in connection with which the person
possessing the financial interest intervenes in his official capacity, or in which he is

prohibited by the Constitution or any law from having any interest. The use of the
conjunctive word or demonstrates the alternative mode or nature of the manner of
execution of the final element of the violation of the provision. Although the information
may have alleged only one of the modalities of committing the offense, the other mode
is deemed included in the accusation to allow proof thereof. There was, therefore, no
violation of the constitutional right of the accused to be informed of the nature or cause
of the accusation against them in view of the variance doctrine, which finds statutory
support in Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 120 of the Rules of Court.
The petition is not totally devoid of merit.
Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law provides:

Section 3. Corrupt practices of public officers. In addition to acts or omissions of


public officers already penalized by existing law, the following shall constitute corrupt
practices of any public officer and are hereby declared to be unlawful:
(h) Directly or indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in any business,
contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his
official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from
having any interest.
The essential elements set out in the afore-quoted legislative definition of the crime
of violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law are as follows:

1. The accused is a public officer;


2. He has a direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any business,
contract, or transaction;
3. He either
a. intervenes or takes part in his official capacity in connection with such
interest; or
b. is prohibited from having such interest by the Constitution or by any law.
There are, therefore, two modes by which a public officer who has a direct or
indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract, or transaction may
violate Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law. The first mode is if in connection with his
pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction, the public officer intervenes
or takes part in his official capacity. The second mode is when he is prohibited from
having such interest by the Constitution or any law.
We quote herein the Sandiganbayans declaration regarding petitioners culpability
anent the first mode:

[T]hat portion of the Information which seeks to indict the spouses Teves
for his causing the issuance of a business permit/license to operate the Valencia
cockpit on or about February 4, 1992 is not well-founded.
Mayor Edgar Teves could not have issued a permit to operate the cockpit in the year
1992 because as of January 1, 1992 the license could be issued only by the
Sangguniang Bayan. He may have issued the permit or license in 1991 or even before
that when he legally could, but that is not the charge. The charge is for acts committed
in 1992. [Emphasis supplied].
[14]

The Sandiganbayan found that the charge against Mayor Teves for causing the
issuance of the business permit or license to operate the Valencia Cockpit and
Recreation Center is not well-founded. This it based, and rightly so, on the additional
finding that only the Sangguniang Bayan could have issued a permit to operate the
Valencia Cockpit in the year 1992. Indeed, under Section 447(3) of the LGC of 1991,
which took effect on 1 January 1992, it is the Sangguniang Bayan that has the authority
to issue a license for the establishment, operation, and maintenance of cockpits. Unlike
in the old LGC, Batas Pambansa Blg. 337, wherein the municipal mayor was the
presiding officer of the Sangguniang Bayan, under the LGC of 1991, the mayor is not
so anymore and is not even a member of the Sangguniang Bayan. Hence, Mayor Teves
could not have intervened or taken part in his official capacity in the issuance of a
cockpit license during the material time, as alleged in the information, because he was
not a member of the Sangguniang Bayan.
[15]

[16]

[17]

A fortiori, there is no legal basis to convict Teresita Teves as a co-conspirator in the


absence of a finding that Mayor Teves himself is guilty of the offense charged. In short,
the Sandiganbayan correctly absolved the petitioners of the charge based on the first
mode. And there is no need to belabor this point.
The Sandiganbayan, however, convicted the petitioners of violation of Section 3(h)
of the Anti-Graft Law based on the second mode. It reasoned that the evidence
overwhelmingly evinces that Mayor Teves had a pecuniary interest in the Valencia
Cockpit, which is prohibited under Section 89(2) of the LGC of 1991.
The information accuses petitioner Edgar Teves, then Municipal Mayor of Valencia,
Negros Oriental, of causing, while in the performance and taking advantage of his
official functions, and conspiring and confederating with his wife the issuance of the
appropriate business permit/license to operate the Valencia Cockpit and Recreation
Center in favor of one Daniel Teves. The last part of the dispositive portion of the
information states that said accused Edgar Y. Teves having a direct financial or
pecuniary interest therein considering the fact that said cockpit arena is actually owned
and operated by him and accusedTeresita Teves.
A careful reading of the information reveals that the afore-quoted last part thereof is
merely an allegation of the second element of the crime, which is, that he has a direct or
indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction. Not by
any stretch of imagination can it be discerned or construed that the afore-quoted last

part of the information charges the petitioners with the second mode by which Section
3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law may be violated. Hence, we agree with the petitioners that the
charge was for unlawful intervention in the issuance of the license to operate the
Valencia Cockpit. There was no charge for possession of pecuniary interest prohibited
by law.
However, the evidence for the prosecution has established that petitioner Edgar
Teves, then mayor of Valencia, Negros Oriental, owned the cockpit in question. In his
sworn application for registration of cockpit filed on 26 September 1983 with the
Philippine Gamefowl Commission, Cubao, Quezon City, as well as in his renewal
application dated 6 January 1989 he stated that he is the owner and manager of the
said cockpit. Absent any evidence that he divested himself of his ownership over the
cockpit, his ownership thereof is rightly to be presumed because a thing once proved to
exist continues as long as is usual with things of that nature. His affidavit dated 27
September 1990 declaring that effective January 1990 he turned over the management
of the cockpit to Mrs. Teresita Z. Teves for the reason that [he] could no longer devote a
full time as manager of the said entity due to other work pressure is not sufficient proof
that he divested himself of his ownership over the cockpit. Only the management of the
cockpit was transferred to Teresita Teves effective January 1990. Being the owner of the
cockpit, his interest over it was direct.
[18]

[19]

[20]

[21]

[22]

Even if the ownership of petitioner Edgar Teves over the cockpit were transferred to
his wife, still he would have a direct interest thereon because, as correctly held by
respondent Sandiganbayan, they remained married to each other from 1983 up to 1992,
and as such their property relation can be presumed to be that of conjugal partnership
of gains in the absence of evidence to the contrary. Article 160 of the Civil Code
provides that all property of the marriage is presumed to belong to the conjugal
partnership unless it be proved that it pertains exclusively to the husband or to the wife.
And Section 143 of the Civil Code declares all the property of the conjugal partnership
of gains to be owned in common by the husband and wife. Hence, his interest in the
Valencia Cockpit is direct and is, therefore, prohibited under Section 89(2) of the LGC of
1991, which reads:

Section 89. Prohibited Business and Pecuniary Interest. (a) It shall be unlawful for
any local government official or employee, directly or indirectly, to:
(2) Hold such interests in any cockpit or other games licensed by a local
government unit. [Emphasis supplied].
The offense proved, therefore, is the second mode of violation of Section 3(h) of the
Anti-Graft Law, which is possession of a prohibited interest. But can the petitioners be
convicted thereof, considering that it was not charged in the information?
The answer is in the affirmative in view of the variance doctrine embodied in Section
4, in relation to Section 5, Rule 120, Rules of Criminal Procedure, which both read:

Sec. 4. Judgment in case of variance between allegation and proof. When there is a
variance between the offense charged in the complaint or information and that proved,
and the offense as charged is included in or necessarily includes the offense proved,
the accused shall be convicted of the offense proved which is included in the offense
charged, or of the offense charged which is included in the offense proved.
Sec. 5. When an offense includes or is included in another. An offense charged
necessarily includes the offense proved when some of the essential elements or
ingredients of the former, as alleged in the complaint or information, constitutes the
latter. And an offense charged is necessarily included in the offense proved when the
essential ingredients of the former constitute or form part of those constituting the
latter.
The elements of the offense charged in this case, which is unlawful intervention in
the issuance of a cockpit license in violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law, are

1. The accused is a public officer;


2. He has a direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any business,
contract, or transaction, whether or not prohibited by law; and
3. He intervenes or takes part in his official capacity in connection with such
interest.
On the other hand, the essential ingredients of the offense proved, which is
possession of prohibited interest in violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law, are as
follows:

1. The accused is a public officer;


2. He has a direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any business,
contract or transaction; and
3. He is prohibited from having such interest by the Constitution or any law.
It is clear that the essential ingredients of the offense proved constitute or form part
of those constituting the offense charged. Put differently, the first and second elements
of the offense charged, as alleged in the information, constitute the offense proved.
Hence, the offense proved is necessarily included in the offense charged, or the offense
charged necessarily includes the offense proved. The variance doctrinethus finds
application to this case, thereby warranting the conviction of petitioner Edgar Teves for
the offense proved.

The next question we have to grapple with is under what law should petitioner
Edgar Teves be punished. It must be observed that Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law is
a general provision, it being applicable to all prohibited interests; while Section 89(2) of
the LGC of 1991 is a special provision, as it specifically treats of interest in a cockpit.
Notably, the two statutes provide for different penalties. The Anti-Graft Law, particularly
Section 9, provides as follows:

SEC. 9. Penalties for violations. (a) Any public official or private person committing
any of the unlawful acts or omissions enumerated in Sections 3, 4, 5, and 6 of this Act
shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than six years and one month nor more
than fifteen years, perpetual disqualification from public office, and confiscation or
forfeiture in favor of the Government of any prohibited interest.
On the other hand, Section 514 of the LGC of 1991 prescribes a lighter penalty;
thus:

SECTION 514. Engaging in Prohibited Business Transactions or Possessing Illegal


Pecuniary Interest. Any local official and any person or persons dealing with him who
violate the prohibitions provided in Section 89 of Book I hereof shall be punished
with imprisonment for six months and one day to six years, or a fine of not less than
Three thousand pesos (P3,000.00) nor more than Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00),
or both such imprisonment and fine at the discretion of the court.
It is a rule of statutory construction that where one statute deals with a subject in
general terms, and another deals with a part of the same subject in a more detailed
way, the two should be harmonized if possible; but if there is any conflict, the latter shall
prevail regardless of whether it was passed prior to the general statute. Or where two
statutes are of contrary tenor or of different dates but are of equal theoretical application
to a particular case, the one designed therefor specially should prevail over the other.
[23]

[24]

Conformably with these rules, the LGC of 1991, which specifically prohibits local
officials from possessing pecuniary interest in a cockpit licensed by the local
government unit and which, in itself, prescribes the punishment for violation thereof, is
paramount to the Anti-Graft Law, which penalizes possession of prohibited interest in a
general manner. Moreover, the latter took effect on 17 August 1960, while the former
became effective on 1 January 1991. Being the earlier statute, the Anti-Graft Law has to
yield to the LGC of 1991, which is the later expression of legislative will.
[25]

In the imposition on petitioner Edgar Teves of the penalty provided in the LGC of
1991, we take judicial notice of the fact that under the old LGC, mere possession of
pecuniary interest in a cockpit was not among the prohibitions enumerated in Section
41 thereof. Such possession became unlawful or prohibited only upon the advent of
the LGC of 1991, which took effect on 1 January 1992. Petitioner Edgar Teves stands
charged with an offense in connection with his prohibited interest committed on or about
4 February 1992, shortly after the maiden appearance of the prohibition. Presumably,
he was not yet very much aware of the prohibition. Although ignorance thereof would
[26]

not excuse him from criminal liability, such would justify the imposition of the lighter
penalty of a fine of P10,000 under Section 514 of the LGC of 1991.
Petitioner Teresita Teves must, however, be acquitted. The charge against her is
conspiracy in causing the issuance of the appropriate business permit/license to
operate the Valencia Cockpit and Recreation Center. For this charge, she was
acquitted. But as discussed earlier, that charge also includes conspiracy in the
possession of prohibited interest.
Conspiracy must be established separately from the crime itself and must meet
same degree of proof, i.e., proof beyond reasonable doubt. While conspiracy need
be established by direct evidence, for it may be inferred from the conduct of
accused before, during, and after the commission of the crime, all taken together,
evidence must reasonably be strong enough to show community of criminal design.

the
not
the
the

[27]

Certainly, there is no conspiracy in just being married to an erring spouse. For a


spouse or any person to be a party to a conspiracy as to be liable for the acts of the
others, it is essential that there be intentional participation in the transaction with a view
to the furtherance of the common design. Except when he is the mastermind in a
conspiracy, it is necessary that a conspirator should have performed some overt act as
a direct or indirect contribution in the execution of the crime planned to be committed.
The overt act must consist of active participation in the actual commission of the crime
itself or of moral assistance to his co-conspirators.
[28]

[29]

Section 4(b) of the Anti-Graft Law, the provision which applies to private individuals,
states:

SEC. 4. Prohibitions on private individuals.


(b) It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to induce or cause any public
official to commit any of the offenses defined in Section 3 hereof.
We find no sufficient evidence that petitioner Teresita Teves conspired with, or
knowingly induced or caused, her husband to commit the second mode of violation of
Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law.
As early as 1983, Edgar Teves was already the owner of the Valencia Cockpit.
Since then until 31 December 1991, possession by a local official of pecuniary interest
in a cockpit was not yet prohibited. It was before the effectivity of the LGC of 1991, or on
January 1990, that he transferred the management of the cockpit to his wife Teresita. In
accordance therewith it was Teresita who thereafter applied for the renewal of the
cockpit registration. Thus, in her sworn applications for renewal of the registration of the
cockpit in question dated 28 January 1990 and 18 February 1991, she stated that
she is the Owner/Licensee and Operator/Manager of the said cockpit. In her renewal
application dated 6 January 1992, she referred to herself as the Owner/Licensee of the
cockpit. Likewise in the separate Lists of Duly Licensed Personnel for Calendar Years
1991 and 1992, which she submitted on 22 February 1991 and 17 February 1992,
respectively, in compliance with the requirement of the Philippine Gamefowl
[30]

[32]

[33]

[34]

[31]

Commission for the renewal of the cockpit registration, she signed her name as
Operator/Licensee.
The acts of petitioner Teresita Teves can hardly pass as acts in furtherance of a
conspiracy to commit the violation of the Anti-Graft Law that would render her equally
liable as her husband. If ever she did those acts, it was because she herself was an
owner of the cockpit. Not being a public official, she was not prohibited from holding an
interest in cockpit. Prudence, however, dictates that she too should have divested
herself of her ownership over the cockpit upon the effectivity of the LGC of 1991;
otherwise, as stated earlier, considering her property relation with her husband, her
ownership would result in vesting direct prohibited interest upon her husband.
In criminal cases, conviction must rest on a moral certainty of guilt. The burden of
proof is upon the prosecution to establish each and every element of the crime and that
the accused is either responsible for its commission or has conspired with the
malefactor. Since no conspiracy was proved, the acquittal of petitioner Teresita Teves is,
therefore, in order.
[35]

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the 16 July 2002 Decision of the


Sandiganbayan, First Division, in Criminal Case No. 2337 is hereby MODIFIED in that
(1) EDGAR Y. TEVES is convicted of violation of Section 3(h) of Republic Act No. 3019,
or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for possession of pecuniary or financial
interest in a cockpit, which is prohibited under Section 89(2) of the Local Government
Code of 1991, and is sentenced to pay a fine of P10,000; and (2) TERESITA Z. TEVES
is hereby ACQUITTED of such offense.
Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, SandovalGutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Azcuna, ChicoNazario, and Garcia, JJ., concur.
Callejo, Sr., J., on leave, but left his oath of concurrence with the dissent of J. Tinga.
Tinga, J., dissenting opinion.

[1]

Rollo, 30-47.

[2]

Id., 52-53.

[3]

Id., 56-63.

[4]

Rollo, 69-71.

[5]

Id., 80-81.

[6]

Id., 72-79.

[7]

Id., 82-90, 93.

[8]

Id., 30-47.

[9]

Id., 46.

[10]

Rollo, 8-29.

[11]

Id., 139.

[12]

Id., 152-169.

[13]

Id., 194.

[14]

Rollo, 43.

[15]

Section 447. Powers, Duties, Functions and Compensation. (a) The sangguniang bayan, as the
legislative body of the municipality, shall enact ordinances, approve resolutions and appropriate
funds for the general welfare of the municipality and its inhabitants pursuant to Section 16 of this
Code and in the proper exercise of the corporate powers of the municipality as provided for under
Section 22 of this Code, and shall

(3) Subject to the provisions of Book II of this Code, grant franchises, enact ordinances authorizing the
issuance of permit or licenses, or enact ordinances levying taxes, fees and charges upon such
conditions and for such purposes intended to promote the general welfare of the inhabitants of
the municipality, and pursuant to this legislative authority shall:
(v) Any law to the contrary notwithstanding, authorize and license the establishment, operation, and
maintenance of cockpits, and regulate cockfighting and commercial breeding of gamecocks:
Provided, that existing rights should not be prejudiced. [Emphasis supplied].
[16]

Section 146 (1), B.P. Blg. 337.

[17]

Section 446. Composition (a) The sangguniang bayan, the legislative body of the municipality, shall be
composed of the municipal vice mayor as the presiding officer, the regular sanggunian members,
the president of the municipal chapter of the liga ng mga barangay, the president of the
pambayang pederasyon ng mga sangguniang kabataan, and the sectoral representatives, as
members.

[18]

Exh. R, Rollo, 317.

[19]

Exh. A, Rollo, 298.

[20]

Exh. B, Rollo, 299.

[21]

Section 3 (ee), Rule 131, Rules on Evidence.

[22]

Exh. E, Rollo, 302.

[23]

Laxamana v. Baltazar, 92 Phil. 32, 35 (1952).

[24]

Wil

[25]

City of Naga v. Agna, No. L-36049, 31 May 1976, 71 SCRA 176.

[26]

SEC. 41. Officials not to Engage in Business Transactions or Possess Pecuniary Interest.It shall be
unlawful for any local government official, directly or indirectly, individually or as a member of a
firm:

Wilhemsen, Inc v. Baluyut, Nos. L-27350-51, 11 May 19778, 83 SCRA 38,


Leveriza v. Intermediate Appellate Court, No. L-66614, 25 January 1988, 157 SCRA 282.

53;

(1) To engage in any business transaction with the local government unit of which he is an official or over
which he has power of supervision, or with any of its authorized officials, boards, agents, or
attorneys, whereby money is to be paid, or property or any other thing of value is to be
transferred, directly or indirectly, out of the resources of the local government unit to such person
or firm;
(2) To purchase any real estate or other property forfeited in favor of such unit which shall be sold for
unpaid taxes or assessment, or by virtue of legal process at the suit of said unit;

(3) To be a surety for any person having contract or doing business with the local government unit for the
performance of which surety may be required.
[27]

Lecaroz v. Sandiganbayan, 364 Phil. 890, 911 (1999), citing Magsuci v. Sandiganbayan, 310 Phil.
14,19 (1995).

[28]

Id.

[29]

Pecho v. Sandiganbayan, 331 Phil. 6 (1996).

[30]

Exh. F, Rollo, 303.

[31]

Exh. J, Rollo, 306.

[32]

Exh. M, Rollo, 311.

[33]

Exh. I, Rollo, 307.

[34]

Exh. N, Rollo, 312.

[35]

Timbal v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 136487, 14


358 citing People v. Quindipan, 323 Phil. 497, 507 (1996).

December

2001,

372

SCRA