Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 141

CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

1. 266 A- RAPE

G.R. No. 211166

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee


vs
PORFERIO CULAS y RAGA, Accused-Appellant

RESOLUTION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

In a Resolution1 dated July 18, 2014, the Court adopted the Decision2 dated July 25,
2013 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CEB-CR HC No. 00380 finding accused-
appellant Porferio Culas y Raga (accused-appellant) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
the crime of Statutory Rape, the pertinent portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court ADOPTS the findings of fact and conclusions of law in the July
25, 2013 Decision of the CA in CA-G.R. CEB-CR HC No. 00380 and AFFIRMS said Decision
finding accused-appellant Porferio Culas y Raga GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of
Statutory Rape under paragraph 1 (d), Article 266-A in relation to Article 266-B (1) of the
Revised Penal Code, sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without
eligibility for parole, with MODIFICATIONS as to the amounts of civil indemnity and
damages awarded. Thus, [accused-appellant] is ordered to pay the following
amounts: (a) ₱l 00,000.00 as civil indemnity; (b) ₱l 00,000.00 as moral damages; and (c)
₱l00,000.00 as exemplary damages, plus legal interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per
annum on the monetary awards from the dated of the finality of this judgment until
fully paid. 3

However, before an Entry of Judgment could be issued in the instant case, the Court
received a Letter 4 dated September 16, 2014 from the Bureau of Corrections informing
the Court of accused-appellant's death on February 8, 2014, as evidenced by the
Certificate of Death 5 attached thereto.

As will be explained hereunder, there is a need to reconsider and set aside said
Resolution dated July 18, 2014 and enter a new one dismissing the criminal case against
accused-appellant.

Under prevailing law and jurisprudence, accused-appellant's death prior to his final
conviction by the Court renders dismissible the criminal case against
him.1âwphi1 Article 89 (1) of the Revised Penal Code provides that criminal liability
is totally extinguished by the death of the accused, to wit:

Article 89. How criminal liability is totally extinguished. - Criminal liability is totally
extinguished:

1. By the death of the convict, as to the personal penalties; and as to pecuniary


penalties, liability therefore is extinguished only when the death of the offender occurs
before final judgment;

x x xx

In People v. Layag, 6 the Court thoroughly explained the effects of the death of an
accused pending appeal on his liabilities, as follows:

From this lengthy disquisition, we summarize our ruling herein:

Page 1 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

1. Death of the accused pending appeal of his conviction extinguishes his criminal
liability [,] as well as the civil liability [,] based solely thereon.1âvvphi1 As opined by
Justice Regalado, in this regard, "the death of the accused prior to final judgment
terminates his criminal liability and only the civil liability directly arising from and based
solely on the offense committed, i.e., civil liability ex delicto in senso strictiore."

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

a) Law

b) Contracts

c) Quasi-contracts

d) x x x

e) Quasi-delicts

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

4. Finally, the private offended party need not fear a forfeiture of his right to file this
separate civil action by prescription, in cases where during the prosecution of the
criminal action and prior to its extinction, the private-offended party instituted together
therewith the civil action. In such case, the statute of limitations on the civil liability is
deemed interrupted during the pendency of the criminal case, conformably with
provisions of Article 1155 of the Civil Code, that should thereby avoid any apprehension
on a possible privation of right by prescription. 7

Thus, upon accused-appellant's death pending appeal of his conviction, the criminal
action is extinguished inasmuch as there is no longer a defendant to stand as the
accused; the civil action instituted therein for the recovery of the civil liability ex
delicto is ipso facto extinguished, grounded as it is on the criminal action. However, it is
well to clarify that accused-appellant's civil liability in connection with his acts against
the victim, AAA, may be based on sources other than delicts; in which case, AAA may file
a separate civil action against the estate of accused-appellant, as may be warranted by
law and procedural rules. 8

WHEREFORE, the Court resolves to: (a) SET ASIDE the Court's Resolution dated July 18,
2014 in connection with this case; (b) DISMISS Crim. Case No. BN-01-02-3754 before the
Regional Trial Court of Burauen, Leyte, Branch 15 by reason of the death of accused-
appellant Porferio Culas y Raga; and (c) DECLARE the instant
case CLOSED and TERMINATED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

2. 266 A(a)

June 5, 2017

Page 2 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

G.R. No. 216937

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee


vs.
TITO AMOC y MAMBATALAN, Accused-Appellant

DECISION

TIJAM, J.:

Accused-appellant Tito Amoe y Mambatalan challenges before Us the December 9, 2014


Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA)1 , which affirmed his conviction for two counts of
rape, with modification as to the award of damages, rendered against him by the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 2, Tagum City, Davao Del Norte, in its July 23, 2012
Decision. 2

Accused-appellant was charged with two counts of rape in violation of Article 266-A of
the Revised Penal Code (RPC), in two separate Informations, the accusatory portions of
which read as follows:

For Criminal Case No. 16705:

That on or about July 12, 2009, in the Municipality of Talaingod, Province f (sic) Davao
del Norte, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-
named accused, by means of force and intimidation, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of one AAA', his step-daughter, a
thirteen (13) year old minor, against her will.

For Criminal Case No. 16961:

That sometime in April 2009, in the Municipality of Talaingod, Province of Davao del
Norte, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, by means of force and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously have carnal knowledge of one AAA, his step-daughter, a thirteen (13) year
old minor, against her will. 4

During arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty to both accusations. Trial


ensued thereafter.

Version of the Prosecution

Prosecution witness and victim AAA narrated her tragic experience which happened in
April 2009 at around 6 o'clock in the morning, when she was only thirteen years old.
Accused-appellant brought her into their bedroom, took off all her clothes, tied her legs
with a rope, undressed himself, and proceeded to have carnal knowledge of her.
Accused-appellant covered AAA's mouth to prevent her from asking help. Accused-
appellant pointed a knife at her and tried to stab her. AAA could not tell her mother
what happened because accused-appellant was always tailing her. 5

AAA also testified that the second sexual abuse happened on July 12, 2009. Accused-
appellant even warned AAA not to say anything about the incident. 6

AAA's mother, BBB, noticed that AAA's stomach had a slight bulge and conducted a
pregnancy test, which yielded a positive result. AAA later on divulged that accused-
appellant had been raping her and that he is the father of her baby. AAA gave birth to a
baby girl sometime in December 2009. 7

Page 3 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Accused-appellant admitted that he had sexual congress with AAA but argued that the
same was consensual. Accused-appellant claimed that it was an accepted practice
among the Ata-Manobo; an indigenous cultural group, to take one's daughter as a
second wife. 8

The RTC found accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of rape
in a Decision dated July 23, 2012. Accused-Appellant was sentenced to suffer the
penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count of rape, and ordered to pay AAA the
following indemnity: Php 75,000 as civil indemnity; Php 75,000 as moral damages; and,
Php 25,000 as exemplary damages. The dispositive portion of the RTC Decision provides:

WHEREFORE, by his own admission, there being proof beyond reasonable doubt,
accused TITO AMOC Y MAMBATALAN is hereby found GUILTY of the rape of AA (sic) as
charged in both of the above entitled cases and is:

1. Sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count of rape; and 2.
Likewise for each count of rape, he is ordered to pay the victim ₱75,000.00 as civil
indemnity, ₱75,000.00 as moral damages, and ₱25,000.00 as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED 9

On appeal, the CA in a Decision dated December 9, 2014, affirmed the RTC's Decision
with modification as to the award of damages. The awards for civil indemnity and moral
damages were decreased to Php 50,000 for each count of rape. The CA
Decision's fallo reads:

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The Judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Tagum
City, Branch 2, dated 23 July 2012 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS.

The award of civil indemnity is decreased to ₱50,000.00 and the award of moral
damages is likewise decreased to ₱50,000.00, for each count of rape.

Appellant Tito Amoc is also ordered to support the offspring born as a consequence of
the rape. The amount of support shall be determined by the trial court after due notice
and hearing, with support in arrears to be reckoned from the date the appealed decision
was promulgated by the trial court.

SO ORDERED. 10

Hence, this appeal.

Accused-appellant questions the CA Decision and argues the following: 1) that the
prosecution failed to prove the element of force and intimidation; and, 2) that his
admission of carnal knowledge of AAA does not amount to rape.

The appeal lacks merit.

There is no cogent reason to deviate from the CA ruling affirming the RTC's factual
finding that the accused-appellant is guilty of two counts of· rape. The issues raised are
factual in nature. The trial court's evaluation shall be binding on this Court unless it is
shown that certain facts of substance and value have been plainly overlooked,
misunderstood, or misapplied. 11 None of the exceptions is present in this case.

Even if We consider the factual issues raised, the findings of fact of the RTC and the CA
still sufficiently support the conviction of and imposition of the penalty of reclusion
perpetua on the accused-appellant for the crime of rape against AAA.

Page 4 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Article 266-A of the RPC pertinently reads:

ART. 266-A. Rape, When and How Committed. - Rape is committed-

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

a. Through force, threat or intimidation;

xxx xxx xxx

For a charge of rape under the above-mentioned provision to .prosper, the following
elements mus't be present: (1) accused-appellant had carnal knowledge of AAA; and, (2)
he accompanied such act by force, threat or intimidation.

The first element of carnal knowledge is present because accused appellant, in fact,
admits that he had carnal knowledge of AAA.1âwphi1 The point of contention is
whether there was force, or intimidation, or threat in the said act.

We find that the evidence on record sufficiently established that the accused-appellant
employed force, intimidation and threat in carrying out his sexual advances on AAA. The
CA correctly found that the accused-appellant employed force upon the person of AAA.
Accused-appellant tied AAA's legs with a rope, climbed on top of her, and covered her
mouth to prevent her from asking for help. Accused-appellant also threatened AAA
when he · pointed a knife at her and tried to stab her. Clearly, contrary to the accused-
appellant's contention, the element of force and intimidation is present in this case.

And even assuming arguendo that AAA failed to resist, the same does not necessarily
amount to consent to accused-appellant's criminal acts. It is not necessary that actual
force or intimidation be employed; as moral influence or ascendancy takes the place of
violence or intimidation. Jurisprudence holds that the failure of the victim to shout for
help does not negate rape. Even the victim's lack of resistance, especially when
intimidated by the offender into submission, does not signify voluntariness or consent.
12 In the cases of People v. Ofemaniano 13 and People v. Corpuz 14 , it has been
acknowledged that even absent any actual force or intimidation, rape may be
committed if the malefactor has moral ascendancy over the victim. Considering that
accused-appellant was the common-law spouse of AAA's mother, and as such, he was
exercising parental authority over AAA. Indeed, in this case, moral ascendancy is
substituted for force and intimidation.

As to the alleged inconsistencies in the testimony of AAA (that accused-appellant


inserted his penis when AAA's legs were tied together, AAA pressed her hands on the
back, and her prior statement that she tried to push him), this can hardly affect the
credibility of AAA.

As a general rule, on the question of whether to believe the version of the prosecution
or that of the defense, the trial court's choice is generally viewed as correct and entitled
to the highest respect because it is more competent to conclude so, having had the
opportunity to observe the witnesses' demeanor and deportment on the witness stand
as they gave their testimonies. The trial court is, thus, in the best position to weigh
conflicting testimonies and to discern if the witnesses were telling the truth. Without
any clear showing that the trial court and the appellate court overlooked,
misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance, the
rule should not be disturbed. 15

It is settled in this jurisdiction that as long as the testimony of the witness is coherent
and intrinsically believable as a whole, discrepancies of minor details and collateral

Page 5 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

matters do not affect the veracity, or detract from the essential credibility of the
witnesses' declarations. 16

Also, in prosecuting a crime of rape, the accused may be convicted solely on the basis of
the testimony of the victim that is credible, convincing, and consistent with human
nature and the normal course of things. 17

Moreover, accused-appellant's defense of denial and alibi cannot stand against the
prosecution's evidence. Alibi is an inherently weak defense because it is easy to
fabricate and highly unreliable. 18 To merit approbation, he must adduce clear and
convincing evidence that he was in a place other than the situs criminis at the time
when the crime was committed, such that it was physically impossible for him to have
been at the scene of the crime when it was committed. 19 Accused-appellant failed in
this regard.

Lastly, the Informations alleged that the accused-appellant was the stepfather of AAA.
The evidence, however, shows that the accused-appellant was merely the common-law
spouse of AAA's mother, BBB. There was no evidence adduced to prove that accused-
appellant was legally married to BBB. Thus, notwithstanding the fact that it was proven
during trial that accused-appellant was the common-law spouse of AAA's mother, the
same cannot be appreciated as a qualifying circumstance for it was not specifically
alleged in the Informations. The circumstances of relationship and minority must be
both alleged in the Informations and proved during trial to be convicted of the crime of
qualified rape. Therefore, We find no cogent reason to disturb the findings of the R TC
and the CA for the conviction of accused-appellant for two counts of simple rape as they
were sufficiently supported by the evidence on record.

The CA properly imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua in conformity with Article
266-B of the RPC. However, to conform to prevailing jurisprudence, We deem it proper
to modify the amount of damages awarded in this case. The Court modifies the award
of damages as follows: PhP 75,000 as civil indemnity, and PhP 75,000 as moral
damages. 20

We note that exemplary damages in the amount of PhP 25,000 was awarded to AAA. In
accordance with the case of People v. Jugueta 21 , exemplary damages in rape cases are
awarded for the inherent bestiality of the act committed, even if no aggravating
circumstance attended the commission of the crime, and so We hereby increase the
award of exemplary damages to PhP 75,000 for each count of rape.

In addition, all damages awarded shall earn legal interest at the rate of 6% per
annum from the date of finality of judgment until fully paid. 22

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is DISMISSED. The Court of Appeals'


Decision dated December 9, 2014, finding accused-appellant Tito Amoe y Mambatalan
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of rape and sentencing him to suffer the
penalty of reclusion perpetua is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. The civil indemnity,
moral damages and exemplary damages awarded are all modified to PhP 75,000.
Likewise, the award of damages shall earn interest at the rate of 6% per annum from the
date of finality of judgment until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

3. ACTS OF LASCIVIOUSNESS and Qualified rape a d

June 5, 2017

Page 6 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

G.R. No. 218114

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee


vs.
SALVADOR AYCARDO, Accused-Appellant

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision 1 dated April 24, 2014 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in
CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 05752, which affirmed with modification the Consolidated
Judgment2 dated July 16, 2012 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Legazpi City, Albay,
Branch 8, finding accused-appellant Salvador Aycardo guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
Acts of Lasciviousness under Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code, (RPC) as amended,
in Criminal Case No. FC-08-0272, and Qualified Rape under Art. 266-A, paragraph l(d) of
the RPC, in Criminal Case No. FC-08-0273.

Accused-appellant Salvador Aycardo was initially charged in two (2) separate


Informations dated July 7, 2008 with the crimes of Rape as defined under Article 266-A,
par. 2 in relation to par. l(d) of the RPC, and Rape as defined under Article 266-A, par.
l(d) thereof. Later on, the said charges against Aycardo were amended. The accusatory
portions of the Amended Informations dated December 2, 2008 read:

Criminal Case No. FC-08-0272

That sometime in the evening of September 2007, at Barangay Tinapian, of the


Municipality of Manito, Province of Albay, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of the
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, an adult, taking advantage of his influence
being the uncle and relative by affinity within the 3rd civil degree of [AAA]3 as well as
the tender age of the said [AAA], with lewd and unchaste design, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously committed an act of sexual assault by inserting his
finger into the genital orifice upon the person of the said minor [AAA], an eleven (11)
year old girl, against her will and consent, to her damage and prejudice.

ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.4

Criminal Case No. FC-08-0273

That sometime in the evening of September, 2007, at Barangay Tinapian, of the


Municipality of Manito, Province of Albay, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of the
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, an adult, taking advantage of his influence
being the uncle and relative by affinity within the 3rd civil degree of [AAAI as well as the
tender age of the said [AAAI, with lewd and unchaste design, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge upon the person of said
minor [AAA], an eleven (11) year old girl, against her will and consent, to her damage
and prejudice.

ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.5

Upon arraignment, Aycardo, duly assisted by counsel, pleaded "not guilty" to both
charges. After the pre-trial conference was terminated, a joint trial on the merits
ensued.

The prosecution presented three (3) witnesses, namely: AAA, the victim; BBB, her
mother; and Dr. James M. Belgira, a forensic physician and Medical Officer of the
Philippine National Police Forensic Service, who conducted the medical examination on

Page 7 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

AAA. The facts established by the conducted the medical examination on AAA. The facts
established by the evidence of the prosecution, as summed up by the CA, are as follows:

In 2007, private complainant AAA, then 11 years old, was residing in Manito, Albay, at
the house of her Tiya Tess and the latter's husband "Tiyu Buddy," herein accused-
appellant, as AAA's mother, BBB, who was based in Batangas, entrusted her to Tiya Tess,
BBB's sister.

Sometime in September 2007, at around one o'clock in the afternoon, AAA was in a
room inside the house of accused-appellant, when the latter entered, attempted to
remove her shorts and panties and tried to insert his finger into her vagina. Accused-
appellant failed to undress AAA because she resisted his advances, but accused-
appellant was able to touch her vagina with his finger. AAA then ran to the house of her
cousin Joy. Later in the evening that same day, accused-appellant came by to fetch her,
telling her she needed to prepare his and Tiya Tess' meal. AAA yielded and returned to
accused-appellant's house.

Back at accused-appellant's house, AAA prepared supper as instructed and had dinner
with accused-appellant and his son Bongbong, his (sic) cousin. After supper, AAA sought
accused-appellant's permission to spend the night at the house of Tiya Ening (another
sister of her mother) but accused-appellant denied her request. As told, AAA just went
to the sala to watch TV, and thereafter, slept on a mat where Bongbong lay between her
and accused-appellant. In the middle of the night, AAA was roused from her sleep when
she felt somebody removing her panties and shorts, who turned out to be accused-
appellant. AAA resisted but accused-appellant told her he would do it slowly. Accused-
appellant then undressed and inserted his penis into her vagina. Gripped with fear, she
just wept, with accused-appellant warning to kill her if she tells anyone of the incident.

On 26 March 2008, while sleeping with her mother BBB, AAA yelled in her sleep
"Enough Tiyo Buddy! I do not want anymore!" Alarmed, BBB immediately asked the
latter why she mentioned accusedappellant' s name in her dream, but AAA did not
respond. The following day, or on 27 March 2008, BBB again asked AAA why the latter
uttered accused-appellant's name in her dream and this time, AAA told BBB that
accused-appellant had raped her.

BBB and AAA reported the incident to the barangay then to the police station, after
which she was medically examined by forensic physician Dr. James M. Belgira. Dr.
Belgira's examination (Medico-Legal Report No. MLB-34-08) revealed the following:

GENITAL:

There is absence of growth of pubic hair. The labia majora are full, convex and
coaptated with the dark brown labia minor presenting in between. On separating the
same disclosed a markedly dilated and redundant fleshy type hymen. The posterior
fourchette is sharp. The external vaginal orifice offers strong resistance to the
introduction of the examining index finger. The vaginal canal is narrow with prominent
rugosities. The cervix is firm and closed. CONCLUSION: Findings show clear sign of blunt
vaginal penetrating trauma. There are no extra genital signs of application of any form
of physical trauma. 6

To substantiate its claims of denial and alibi, on the other hand, the defense presented
as witnesses Aycardo himself and Odilon Trilles, the barangay captain of Tinapian,
Manito, Albay.The facts established by the evidence of the defense, as stated by the CA,
are as follows:

Accused-appellant is engaged in handicrafts and farming. He works at the farm owned


by his wife in Tinapian, Manito, Albay. He knows AAA to be the daughter of his wife's
sister who is also from Tinapian, Manito, Albay. AAA lives with her mother at a place

Page 8 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

which is 100 meters away from his house. In September 2007, he accompanied his wife
on three occasions to his sister's house to treat AAA. He denied AAA to have worked in
his house as a helper in September 2007 and further denied to have raped her during at
the (sic) time. Accused-appellant testified that he only learned of the case when he was
arrested at the police station to inquire about the charges. 7

After trial, the RTC convicted appellant of the crimes of Acts of Lasciviousness and
Qualified Rape. The dispositive portion of the RTC Consolidated Judgment dated July 16,
2012 states:

WHEREFORE, in Criminal Case No. FC-08-0272, this Court finds accused Salvador
Aycardo GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Acts of Lasciviousness defined
and penalized under Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code, and there being no
aggravating or mitigating circumstance alleged and proved, applying the Indeterminate
Sentence Law, this Court imposes upon him a penalty of six months of arresto mayor, as
minimum, to four years and two months ofprision correccional, as maximum.

Likewise, in Criminal Case No. FC-08-0273, this Court finds accused Salvador
Aycardo GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape as defined under Article
266-A 1 (d) and penalized under Article 266-B thereof. The qualifying circumstances of
the victim's minority and her relationship with the accused as the latter's relative by
affinity within the 3rd degree being properly alleged in the information and proven
during the trial, this Court, in view of Republic Act No. 9346 which prohibits the
imposition of the death penalty, hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of reclusion
perpetua without eligibility for parole.

Accused is likewise ordered to pay the victim [AAA] the amount of Php75,000.00 as civil
indemnity, Php50,000.00 as moral damages and to pay the further sum of Php25,000.00
as exemplary damages plus costs.

SO ORDERED. 8

With respect to the first charge, the RTC held that since Aycardo was not actually able to
insert his finger inside AAA's vagina, he cannot be convicted of the crime of rape by
sexual assault. Still, he can be convicted of acts of lasciviousness, because it is
necessarily included in the offense charged in the first Information, and it was proved in
court. The R TC noted that, while appellant failed to insert his finger inside AAA's vagina,
he was nonetheless able to touch the same, thereby consummating the crime of acts of
lasciviousness.

As to the second charge, the RTC found that the prosecution successfully proved the
elements of statutory rape, qualified by the circumstances of relationship and minority
under Article 266-B of the RPC, namely: that Aycardo, a relative by affinity within the
3rd civil degree, had carnal knowledge of his niece, AAA, a child below 12 years of age.
The R TC also ruled that Aycardo's self-serving denial cannot prevail over AAA's positive,
straightforward, and credible testimony, which was supported by the medico-legal
findings of markedly dilated hymen and blunt vaginal penetrating trauma.

Aggrieved by the RTC decision, Aycardo filed an appeal before the CA, arguing that the R
TC gravely erred in convicting him of the crimes of Acts of Lasciviousness and Rape,
despite the prosecution's failure to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.9

In a Decision dated April 24, 2014, the CA affirmed with modification the Consolidated
Judgment of the RTC, thus:

WHEREFORE, the assailed Consolidated Judgment dated 16 July 2012 of Branch 8,


Regional Trial Court of Legazpi City, Albay, is AFFIRMED but with MODIFICATION to read
as follows:

Page 9 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

WHEREFORE, in Criminal Case No. FC-08-0272, this Court finds the accused Salvador
Aycardo GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Acts of Lasciviousness defined
and penalized under Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code, and there being no
aggravating or mitigating circumstance alleged and proved, applying the Indeterminate
Sentence Law, this Court imposes upon him a penalty of six months of arresto mayor, as
minimum, to four years and two months of prision correccional, as maximum. Accused is
also ordered to pay the victim (AAA) the amount of Php20,000.00, as civil indemnity and
Phpl5,000.00 as moral damages.

Likewise, in Criminal Case No. FC-08-0273, this

Court finds accused Salvador Aycardo GUILTY beyond

reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape as defined under

Article 266-A par. 1 (d) of the Revised Penal Code and penalized under Article 266-B
thereof. The qualifying circumstances of the victim's minority and her relationship with
the accused as the latter's relative by affinity within the 3rd degree being properly
alleged in the Information and proven during the trial, this Court, in view of Republic Act
No. 9346 which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty, hereby sentences him to
suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole. Accused is likewise
ordered to pay the victim (AAA) the amount of seventy-five thousand (Php75,000.00)
pesos as civil indemnity, seventy-five thousand (Php75,000.00) pesos as moral damages
and to pay the further sum of thirty thousand (Php30,000.00) pesos as exemplary
damages plus costs. The victim is also entitled to an interest on all damages awarded at
the legal rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the date of finality of this judgment.

SO ORDERED.

SO ORDERED. 10

Citing Section 4, 11 Rule 120 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure, the CA agreed with the
RTC that while Aycardo may not be convicted of the charge of rape by sexual assault, he
may still be held liable for acts of lasciviousness, because such crime is necessarily
included in the said rape charge which was duly proved in court. The CA gave credence
to the testimony of AAA that Aycardo failed in his attempt to remove her shorts and
underwear, but was still able to touch her vagina with his finger. Contrary to Aycardo's
contention, the CA ruled that AAA's belated disclosure of sexual abuse, as well as her act
of returning to his house, do not weaken or discredit her straightforward testimony. The
CA stressed that the delay in reporting of such abuse does not imply that the charge is
untrue, because the victim may prefer to bear the ignominy of pain in silence rather
than reveal her harrowing experience to the shame of the world. Besides, AAA did not
have much choice but to return to Aycardo's house, since she was then residing therein
and was dependent on him for support.

Dissatisfied with the CA Decision, Aycardo filed a notice of appeal. In compliance with
the Court's Resolution dated June 22, 2015, notifying the parties to file their respective
supplemental briefs, both Aycardo12 and the Office of the Solicitor General 13 (OSG)
manifested that they will no longer file such briefs, considering that they have argued
exhaustively all the relevant issues in their respective appeal briefs.

In the Appellant's Brief, Aycardo argued that AAA's behavior after the alleged first
sexual assault in September 2007 was inconsistent with the crime of acts of
lasciviousness. He pointed out that AAA testified clearly that his finger was never
inserted into her vagina, and that he only tried or attempted to remove her shorts and
panties, but was unable to do so because she resisted his indecent act. He claimed that
AAA's conduct after the alleged first act of sexual abuse negates the possibility that he
committed the second rape charge against him. He noted that despite AAA's claim that

Page 10 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

she ran to the house of her cousin, Joy, to seek refuge, she failed to tell anybody what
he supposedly did to her. He found it perplexing that she still went with him when he
fetched her from Joy's house in the evening of the same day when he allegedly abused
her. He also observed that AAA was too nonchalant about her first harrowing
experience, considering that when they arrived home, she immediately prepared food,
ate dinner with him and his son, Bongbong, prepared the bed, watched television and
slept with Bongbong beside her.

Aycardo further contended that he cannot be convicted of rape because AAA's


testimony shows that his private part touched her vagina slightly only; thus, it did not
enter the labia of the pudendum of the female organ. He also noted that the forensic
physician who examined AAA did not clearly say that it was his penis, which caused the
findings in the medicolegal report that showed that there is a markedly dilated and
redundant flesh· type hymen and a sign of blunt vaginal penetrating trauma. He then
stressed that no laceration was found on AAA' s vagina, and that her medical
examination was conducted six (6) months after the alleged sexual abuse, hence, the
possibility that she had sexual experience with someone else cannot be discounted.
Finally, he posited that it is incredible that the alleged rape incident would go unnoticed
by Bongbong, considering the close proximity between them while they were sleeping,
which would have easily roused the latter from his sleep.

In the Appellee's Brief, the OSG argued that Aycardo's guilt for the crimes of Qualified
Rape and Acts of Lasciviousness were proved beyond reasonable doubt. It also rejected
as inherently weak his defenses of denial and alibi that he was staying in Batangas in
September 2007.

The appeal lacks merit, but a modification of the penalty imposed and the damages
awarded, is in order.

It is well settled that in criminal cases, an examination of the entire records of a case
may be explored for the purpose of arriving at a correct conclusion, as an appeal in
criminal cases throws the whole case open for review, it being the duty of the appellate
court to correct such error as may be found in the judgment appealed from, whether
they are made the subject of the assignment of errors or not. 14 After a careful review
of the records, the Court finds no cogent reason to depart from the findings of both the
RTC and the CA that the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt all the
elements of the crimes of Acts of Lasciviousness and Qualified Rape.

With respect to Criminal Case No. FC-08-0272, both the RTC and the CA ruled correctly
that Aycardo cannot be convicted of the charge of rape by sexual assault, as he was
unable to insert his finger inside AAA's vagina, but he can still be convicted of acts of
lasciviousness because its elements are necessarily included in the offense charged, and
were proved in court. The rulings of the RTC and the CA are consistent with Section 4, in
relation to Section 5, of Rule 120 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure which provide for
the "variance doctrine," viz.:

SEC. 4. Judgment in case of variance between allegation and proof -When there is
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, constitute the
latter. And an offense charged is necessarily included in the offense proved, when the
essential ingredients of the former continue or form part of those constituting the
latter.

Page 11 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

In Navarrete v. People, 15 the Court noted that, under Section 5(b ), Article III of Republic
Act (R.A.) No. 7610, 16when the victim is under 12 years old, the accused shall be
prosecuted under either Article 335 (for rape) or Article 336 (for acts of lasciviousness)
of the RPC. Accordingly, although an accused is charged in the information with the
crime of statutory rape (i.e., carnal knowledge of a woman under twelve years of age),
the offender can be convicted of the lesser crime of acts of lasciviousness, which is
included in rape.

In People v. Bon, 17 the Court ruled that even if the statutory rape charge against the
accused was not proved beyond reasonable doubt, he can still be held liable for the
crime of acts of lasciviousness, as defined and penalized under Article 336 of the RPC, in
relation to R.A. No. 7610, since all the elements of this offense were established. It
cannot, therefore, be successfully argued that the accused's constitutionally-protected
right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him was violated
when he was found guilty under Section 5 of R.A. No. 7610. 18

Applying the variance doctrine to this case, Aycardo, who was charged with one (1)
count of rape by sexual assault, can still be convicted of acts of lasciviousness under
Section 5(b), Article III of R.A. No. 7610 even though he was unable to insert his finger
into the victim's vagina, because the prosecution has proved that he intentionally
touched the same - an act which is deemed a lascivious conduct.

Acts of lasciviousness committed against a child19 is defined and penalized under Section
5 (b), Article III of R.A. No. 7610, as follows: 20

Section 5. Child Prostitution and Other Sexual Abuse. - Children, whether male or
female, who for money, profit, or any other consideration or due to the coercion or
influence of any adult, syndicate or group, indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious
conduct, are deemed to be children exploited in prostitution and other sexual abuse.

xxxx

(b) Those who commit the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct with a child
exploited in prostitution or subject to other sexual abuse; Provided, That when the
victims is under twelve (12) years of age, the perpetrators shall be prosecuted under
Article 335, paragraph 3, for rape and Article 336 of Act No. 3815, as amended, the
Revised Penal Code, for rape or lascivious conduct, as the case may be: Provided, That
the penalty for lascivious conduct when the victim is under twelve (12) years of age shall
be reclusion temporal in its medium period. (Emphasis ours)

Section 5 (b), Article III of R.A. No. 7610 punishes sexual intercourse or lascivious
conduct not only with a child exploited in prostitution, but also with a child subjected to
other sexual abuses.21 It covers not only a situation where a child is abused for profit,
but also where one - through coercion, intimidation or influence - engages in sexual
intercourse or lascivious conduct with a child. Thus, a child is deemed subjected to other
sexual abuse when he or she indulges in lascivious conduct under the coercion or
influence of any adult. 22

In Quimvel vs. People of the Philippines 23 (Quimvel), the Court held that it is immaterial
whether or not the accused himself employed the coercion or influence to subdue the
will of the child for the latter to submit to his sexual advances for him to be convicted
under Section 5(b) of R.A. No. 7610. The first paragraph of Section 5 thereof even
provides that the offense can be committed by "any adult, syndicate or group," without
qualification. The clear language of the law does not preclude the prosecution of
lascivious conduct performed by the same person who subdued the child through
coercion or influence. 24

Page 12 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Moreover, it is inconsequential that the sexual abuse occurred only once. As stressed
in Quimvel, the very definition of "child abuse" under Section 3(b) of R.A. No. 7610 does
not require that the victim suffer a separate and distinct act of sexual abuse aside from
the act complained of, for it refers to the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the
child. Thus, a violation of Section 5(b) of the same law occurs even though the accused
committed sexual abuse against the child victim only once, even without a prior sexual
affront.25

To be sure, Article III of R.A. No. 7610 is captioned as "Child Prostitution and Other
Sexual Abuse" because Congress really intended to cover a situation where the minor
may have been coerced or intimidated into lascivious conduct, not necessarily for
money or profit, hence, the law covers not only child prostitution but also other forms
of sexual abuse.26

However, before an accused can be convicted of child abuse through lascivious conduct
committed against a minor below 12 years of age, the requisites for acts of
lasciviousness under Article 336 of the RPC must be met in addition to the requisites for
sexual abuse under Section 5 of R.A. No. 7610.27 Acts of Lasciviousness, as defined in
Article 336 of the RPC, has the following elements:

(1) That the offender commits any act of lasciviousness or lewdness;

(2) That it is done under any of the following circumstances:

a. By using force or intimidation; or

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

c. When the offended party is under 12 years of age; and

(3) That the offended party is another person of either sex.

On the other hand, the following elements of sexual abuse under Section 5, Article III of
R.A. No.7610 must be established:

1. The accused commits the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct.

2. The said act is performed with a child exploited in prostitution or subjected to other
sexual abuse.

3. The child, whether male or female, is below 18 years of age.

As correctly found by the CA, all the elements of acts of lasciviousness under Article 336
of the RPC, as amended, in relation to Section 5(b), Article III of R.A. No. 7610, are
present in Criminal Case No. 08-0272 because the evidence of the prosecution showed
that Aycardo, an adult, took advantage of his influence as the uncle and a relative by
affinity within the 3rd civil degree of AAA, and was able to touch her vagina, while he
forcibly removed her shorts and panties, viz.:

PROS. SARMIENTO:

xxxx

q - You have stated awhile ago that your Tiyu Buddy got inside the room while you were
inside because you were getting the clothes that you are going to wash, kindly repeat
what did Tiyu Buddy do while you were inside the room?

Page 13 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

a - While I was inside the room and Tiyu Buddy on September 2007 at around 1:00
o'clock in the afternoon Tiyu Buddy forcibly removed my short and pant[ies] and tried to
insert his finger inside my vagina.

q - Was he able to insert his finger inside your vagina?

a - Not that time, but late in the evening.

q - But the finger, as you have demonstrated, did it touch the vagina?

a - Yes. But later in the evening, his finger inserted (sic) inside my vagina and tried to
rotate the same inside.

x x x28

Intentional touching, either directly or through clothing, of the genitalia of any person,
with intent to abuse or gratify sexual desire falls under the definition of "lascivious
conduct"29 under Section 2 (h) of the rules and regulations of R.A. No. 7610. As such,
Aycardo's act of touching AAA's vagina after forcibly removing her shorts and panties,
and trying to insert his finger into it, satisfies the first element of acts of lasciviousness
under Article 336 of the RPC, in relation to Section S(b) of R.A. No. 7610.

Anent the second and the third elements thereof, Aycardo, admitted that he is the uncle
of AAA, who is the daughter of his wife's sister, BBB.30 AAA31 and BBB32 confirmed such
relationship when they both testified that BBB and Aycardo's wife are sisters. That AAA
was an 11-year-old female at the time of the commission of the offense in September
2007 is evidenced by her birth certificate.33 Besides, AAA is deemed a child subjected to
other sexual abuse, because she indulged in lascivious conduct under the influence of
Aycardo who is an adult.34

With regard to Criminal Case No. FC-08-0272, the Court finds no compelling reason to
disturb the factual findings of both the RTC and the CA that Aycardo is guilty of Qualified
Rape.

Article 266-A of the RPC, as amended by R.A. No. 8353, defines statutory rape, and
Article 266-B thereof imposes the death penalty if, among others, the victim is under
eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a relative by affinity within the third (3rd)
civil degree, to wit:

Article 266-A. Rape, When and How Committed. - Rape is committed-

1) By a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman ... :

xxxx

d) When the offended party is under twelve (12) years of ageor is demented, even
though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present;

xxxx

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

xxxx

The death penalty shall also be imposed if the crime of rape is committed with any of
the following aggravating/qualifying circumstances:

Page 14 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

1) When the victim is under eighteen (18) years of age and the offender is a parent,
ascendant, step-parent, guardian, relative by consanguinity or affinity within the third
civil degree, or the common-law spouse of the parent victim;

xxxx

Two elements must be established to hold the accused guilty of statutory rape, namely:
(1) that the accused had carnal knowledge of a woman; and (2) that the woman is below
twelve years of age or demented. Proof of force, intimidation andconsent is
unnecessary, since none of these is an element of statutory rape as the only subject of
inquiry is the age of the woman and whether carnal knowledge took place.35 Here, the
prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt the said two elements, as well as the
victim's relationship with the offender. First, the prosecution has presented in evidence
the birth certificate36 of AAA showing that she was only 11 years old when Aycardo had
carnal knowledge of her sometime in September 2007, as she was born on October 22,
1995. Second, the prosecution has established through the "positive, straightforward
and credible"37 testimony of AAA that Aycardo, her uncle - a relative by affinity within
the 3rd civil degree - had carnal knowledge of her:

xxxx

PROS. SARMIENTO:

q - After the said incident when your Tiyu Buddy tried to insert his finger into your
vagina and able to touch it, what happened next? a - I ran towards the house of Joy but
later in the evening Tiyu Buddy [fetched] me.

xxxx

q - When he [fetched] you, did you go with him?

WITNESS:

a- Yes, ma'am.

PROS. SARMIENTO:

q - Why did you join despite the fact that he already did a bad thing to you?

a - Because he told me that my Tiya Tess is already coming and I have to prepare the
meal.

q - And so when you arrived in the house of Tiyu Buddy, what did you do?

a - I immediately [prepared] the food.

q - What time did you eat your dinner?

a - After cooking the rice.

q - Who joined you in eating?

a- Tiyu Buddy, Bongbong and myself.

xxxx

q - After you had eaten your dinner, what did you do next?

Page 15 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

a - I asked permission from Tiyu Buddy to stay for a night at Tiya Ening.

PROS. SARMIENTO:

q - Who is this Tiya Ening?

a - Another sister of my mother.

xxxx

q - When you had asked your Tiyu Buddy to permit (sic) you to stay at Tiya Ening, did he
permit (sic) you to sleep there?

a- No, he did not permit me.

q- So, after that, what did you do next?

a- I went to the kitchen to try to open the door.

q- And after that, what happened next?

a- Tiyu Buddy tried to struggle and told me to go to the sala and sleep.

xxxx

q - And after following his request, what did you do next?

a - I lay the mat on the floor and watched TV for a while.

q - And during that time, where was Tiyu Buddy?

a - He was already lying down.

PROS. SARMIENTO:

q - How about Bongbong, where was he at that time?

a - Bong bong was also in the sala watching TV.

q- And what time did you sleep?

a- After watching Going Bulilit.

q - How about Tiyu Buddy and Bongbong, what time did they sleep?

a - I do not know, ma' am.

q - So, while you were sleeping who was beside you?

a - Bongbong was beside me.

q - How about Tiyu Buddy where did he sleep, if you know?

a - He slept beside Bongbong.

xxxx

Page 16 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

q - [AAA], if you can recall, what time did you wake up?

a - Midnight. I cannot exactly recall. Middle of the night.

q - Why was it that you were able to wake up in the middle of the night.

a - I was awakened because I felt somebody removing my panty and shorts.

xxxx

q - And who was that person?

a - It's Tiyu Buddy.

q - Why were you able to say that it was your Tiyu Buddy who removed your shorts and
panty?

a - Because I saw him.

q - After Tiyu Buddy removed your shorts and panty, what happened next?

a - I offered some resistance but he told me that he will do it slowly.

q - So, what did he exactly do?

a - After that he removed his brief and he tried to insert his penis into my vagina.

q - Did the private part of Tiyu Buddy get inside your vagina?

a - It touched my vagina slightly only.

PROS. SARMIENTO:

q - While all these things were done to you by Tiyu Buddy, what was your reaction?

a - I was afraid.

q - Why did you not shout or kick Tiyu Buddy?

a - Because of fear I just cried.

q - Aside from that, what did Tiyu Buddy do to you?

a - He showed me the white substance coming out from his penis.

q - Why were you able to say that it was nighttime?

a - Because I was able to see its color because at that time the TV is open (sic).

q - During this incident that happened where was Bongbong?

a - Bong bong was just beside me.

q - Why did you not ask help from Bongbong?

a - Because Bongbong at that time he was covered with blanket.

Page 17 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

q - After the incident in question, after the things done to you by your Tiyu Buddy, what
did he tell you, if any?

a - He told me not to narrate the incident to anybody because if I will do it he will kill
me.

PROS. SARMIENTO

q - Why was it that you were staying in the house of Tiyu Buddy?

a - Because my mother left me to them.

q - Where was your mother on that September 2007?

a - She is (sic) in Batangas.

PROS. SARMIENTO:

I just want to make of record that the witness is crying while testifying.

x x x 38

The fact that AAA stated that Aycardo's private part touched her vagina "slightly only"
hardly means that there was no penetration at all, since her testimony was
corroborated by the findings of the examining physician, showing a "clear sign of blunt
vaginal penetrating trauma."39 Further, as aptly noted by the CA, Dr. Belgira testified
that he found AAA's hymen to be dilated or "very wide" which was abnormal,
considering that a normal hymen opening for a young girl her age should be very small,
and that such condition could have been caused by the protrusion into her vagina of a
blunt hard object such as a finger or penis.40 In People of the Philippines v. Padit, 41 the
Court explained why the slightest penetration of the female genitalia consummates the
rape. Carnal knowledge is defined as the act of a man having sexual bodily connections
with a woman; as such, a mere touching of the external genitalia by the penis capable of
consummating the sexual act already constitutes consummated rape.42

In seeking his acquittal of the crimes charged, Aycardo raised the defenses of denial
and alibi. AAA's positive and credible testimony, coupled with the medical findings,
deserves more persuasive weight than Aycardo's bare denial and alibi, which are self-
serving defenses that cannot be given greater weight than the declaration of a credible
witness who testified on affirmative matters43 and positively identified him as the
perpetrator of the crimes. Anent AAA's credibility and indifferent behavior shortly after
her sexual abuse in the hands of Aycardo, the Court finds that the CA has exhaustively
addressed such issues, as follows:

It is not disputed that accused-appellant failed to completely undress AAA on that


occasion since she was unable to fend off his advances.1âwphi1 This, however, does not
necessarily negate accused-appellant's act of having successfully touched AAA's vagina
with his finger in his struggle to remove her clothes.

Neither can her belated disclosure of the sexual abuse nor her act of returning to
accused-appellant's house weaken her testimony and render the same unworthy of
credence. AAA could not be blamed for not immediately reporting the incident to her
cousin Joy whose house she ran to after the first incident of molestation since she
distrusted Joy, [for] being a "gossiper." It has been held that delay in the reporting of
sexual abuse does not imply that the charge was not true, as the victim may prefer to
bear the ignominy of pain in silence rather than reveal her harrowing experience and

Page 18 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

expose her shame to the world. Such delay is not unusual, especially when the victim is
a minor.

If AAA eventually chose to return to accused-appellant's house despite the first incident,
it was not because she welcomed his overtures but more in deference to accused-
appellant's moral ascendancy as her uncle. In her direct testimony, she said that despite
the first incident, AAA still returned to accused-appellant's house in obedience to his
order for AAA to prepare dinner since according to accused-appellant, her Tiya Tess,
accused-appellant's wife, was coming home that evening. AAA did not have much of a
choice but to return to accused-appellant's house since she was, at that time,
dependent on accused-appellant in whose house she resided.44

As regards the claim that Dr. Belgira's medico-legal report is unreliable because he did
not clearly attribute that AAA's markedly dilated hymen and blunt vaginal penetrating
trauma was caused by Aycardo's penis, and the fact that AAA was medically examined
only six (6) months after the sexual abuse incident, the Court upholds the CA's correct
ruling, to wit:

Accused-appellant has not adduced any evidence showing Dr. Belgira's lack of
qualification as to render his testimony unworthy of belief. Neither did he present any
evidence showing any ill motive on the part of Dr. Belgira to testify falsely against him.
More[ over], it has been held that expert testimony is merely corroborative in nature
and not essential to conviction. Hence, an accused can still be convicted of rape on the
basis of the sole testimony of the private complainant. Hence, even if We were to
disregard Dr. Belgira's medico-legal report and testimony, accused-appellant's
conviction may still be sustained on the basis of AAA's testimony who categorically
testified that accused-appellant inserted his penis into her vagina and even
subsequently showed her his semen spurting out of his organ after satiating his lust.
Meanwhile, accused-appellant's claim that the belated medical examination of AAA
raised the possibility that she may have had sexual intercourse with some other person
is purely speculative and cannot be given credence. We, in fact, do not find any reason
to disbelieve the account of AAA, a girl who had been sexually molested at the tender
age of eleven, who spontaneously shed tears while narrating her sordid experience with
accused-appellant. It has been held that the crying of the victim lends credence to her
charge of rape for the display of such emotion indicates the pain she feels when asked
to recall her harrowing experience.45

There is also no merit in Aycardo' s claim that the absence of laceration on AAA's vagina
belies the rape charge against him. As held in People v. Pangilinan46 "[p]roof of hymenal
laceration is not an element of rape. An intact hymen does not negate a finding that the
victim was raped. Penetration of the penis by entry into the lips of the vagina, even
without laceration of the hymen, is enough to constitute rape, and even the briefest of
contact is deemed rape." In this case, Dr. Belgira's finding of "a clear sign of blunt
vaginal penetrating trauma,"47 bolstered AAA's credible testimony that Aycardo raped
her.

Regarding the claim that the rape incident would not go unnoticed by Bongbong, who
was just sleeping between Aycardo and AAA, the CA aptly stressed that rapists are not
deterred by the presence of people nearby, such as members of their own family, inside
the same room, considering that lust respects no time, place or circumstance.48Neither
the smallness of the room, nor the presence of other people therein, nor the high risk of
being caught, has been held efficient to deter the commission of rape.49

The imposable penalty for acts of lasciviousness under Article 336 under the RPC, in
relation to Section 5(b), Article III of R.A. No. 7610, when the victim is under twelve (12)
years of age, shall be reclusion temporal in its medium period, the range of which is
from Fourteen (14) years, Eight (8) months and One (1) day to Seventeen (17) years and
Four (4) months. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, and with the presence of

Page 19 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

the aggravating circumstance of relationship, the maximum term of the sentence to be


imposed shall be taken from the maximum of the imposable penalty, which is reclusion
temporal medium in its maximum period, the range of which is from Sixteen (16) years,
Five (5) months and Ten (10) days to Seventeen (17) years and Four (4) months, while
the minimum term shall be taken from the penalty next lower in degree, which
is reclusion temporal minimum, the range of which is from twelve (12) years and one (1)
day to fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months.50 Accordingly, Aycardo is sentenced to
suffer the indeterminate penalty of Twelve (12) years and One (1) day of reclusion
temporal minimum, as minimum, to Sixteen (16) years, Five (5) months and Ten (10)
days of reclusion temporal medium in its maximum period, as maximum.

It is not amiss to stress that the alleged and proved modifying circumstances that the
victim is under 12 years old and the offender is a relative by affinity within the third
(3rd) civil degree, are insufficient in order for the maximum period to be imposed
against the perpetratorpursuant to Section 31,51 Article XII of R.A. No. 7610, because
the same provision requires that such collateral relative must be within the second
(2nd) civil degree. At any rate, the said relationship of the offender with the child victim
can be considered as an aggravating circumstance for purposes of increasing the period
of imposable penalty for acts of lasciviousness under Article 336 of the RPC, in relation
to Section 5(b), Article III of R.A. No. 7610. As one of the elements of the same crime,
however, the minority of the victim cannot be cited again as an aggravating
circumstance in order to increase the period of the imposable penalty.

On the matter of Aycardo's civil liabilities for acts of lasciviousness, the CA properly
awarded AAA civil indemnity in the amount of ₱20,000.00 and moral damages in the
amount of ₱15,000.00, but exemplary damages in the amount of ₱l5,000.00 should also
be awarded, in line with current jurisprudence.52 A fine in the amount of ₱15,000.0053 is
likewise imposed against Aycardo in accordance with Section 3 l(f),54 Article XII of R.A.
No. 7610.

On the other hand, the imposable penalty for Qualified Rape under Article 266-A(l )(d),
in relation to Article 266-B(l) of the RPC, is death. In view of R.A. No. 934655 and A.M.
No. 15-08-02-SC,56 the CA properly sustained the RTC in imposing the penalty
of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole, in lieu of death. On Aycardo's civil
liabilities for Qualified Rape, the awards of ₱75,000.00 each as civil indemnity and moral
damages, and ₱30,000.00 as exemplary damages, should all be increased pursuant
to People v. Jugueta,57 where it was held that where the penalty imposed is death but
reduced to reclusion perpetua because of R.A. No. 9346, the civil indemnity ex
delicto, moral damages, and exemplary damages shall be in the amount of ₱100,000.00
each. Finally, the six percent (6%) legal interest per annum imposed on all the amounts
awarded reckoned from the date of finality of the judgment until the damages are fully
paid, is likewise upheld for being consistent with current Jurisprudence. 58

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMSSED, and the Decision dated April 24, 2014 of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 05752 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION, thus:

1. In Criminal Case No. FC-08-0272, accused-appellant Salvador Aycardo is found guilty


beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Acts of Lasciviousness as defined under Article
336 of the Revised Penal Code and penalized under Section 5(b), Article III of R.A. No.
7610. There being an aggravating circumstance of relationship that was alleged and
proved, Aycardo is sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of Twelve (12) years
and One (1) day of reclusion temporal minimum, as minimum, to Sixteen (16) years, Five
(5) months and Ten (10) days of reclusion temporal medium in its maximum period, as
maximum. He is also ordered to pay AAA the amount of ₱20,000.00 as civil indemnity,
₱l5,000.00 as moral damages, and ₱l5,000.00 as exemplary damages, as well as the fine
of ₱15,000.00.

Page 20 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

2. In Criminal Case No. FC-08-0273, accused-appellant Salvador Aycardo is found guilty


beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape as defined under Article 266-A (1)(d) and
penalized under Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code. In view of the presence of the
qualifying circumstances of the victim's minority and her relationship with the appellant
as the latter's relative by affinity within the 3rd degree, Aycardo is sentenced to suffer
the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole, in accordance with
Section 3 of Republic Act No. 9346.59 He is, likewise, ordered to pay AAA the amount of
₱l00,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱l00,000.00 as moral damages, and ₱l00,000.00 as
exemplary damages.

All damages awarded shall incur legal interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per
annum from the date of finality of this judgment until fully paid. Costs of suit against
accused-appellant Aycardo.

SO ORDERED.

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

4. FORCIBLE ABDUCTION WITH RAPE

June 7, 2017

G.R. No. 225743

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee


vs.
SANDY DOMINGO y LABIS, Accused-Appellant

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

There is no complex crime of forcible abduction with rape if the primary objective of the
accused is to commit rape.

The Case

The accused appeals the affirmance by the Court of Appeals (CA) of his conviction for
forcible abduction with rape under the decision promulgated on September 24,
2015,1 viz.:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Appeal is DENIED. Accordingly, the Decision
dated 6 September 2013 of the Regional Trial Court, Fourth Judicial Region, Branch 17,
Cavite City in Criminal Case No. 39-04 is hereby AFFIRMED. Appellant is hereby ordered
to pay the private offended party interest on all damages awarded at the legal rate of
6% per annum from the date of finality of this judgment until fully paid. SO ORDERED. 2

Antecedents

The factual and procedural antecedents as summarized by the CA follow:

Page 21 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

On 26 January 2004, an Information was filed charging appellant with the crime of
Forcible Abduction with Rape in this wise: That on or about the period between January
24 and 25, 2004, in the Municipality of Rosario, Province of Cavite, Philippines and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, motivated by
lust and with lewd designs, and by means of force, violence and intimidation, did then
and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, abduct and take away one AAA, against
her will and consent, and thereafter, by means of force, violence and intimidation, with
the use of [a] bladed weapon and actuated by lust and lewd designs, have carnal
knowledge of said victim, against her will and consent, to the damage and prejudice of
said AAA.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

Upon arraignment on 2 March 2004, appellant, assisted by counsel entered a plea of


NOT GUILTY.

Thereafter, trial ensued. The Prosecution presented AAA, SP03 Felipe Gomez, Jr., and
Elmer Marquez. The defense on the other hand presented Sandy Domingo and Jocelyn
Mariano as witnesses.

xxxx

People's Version

AAA is a saleslady in a public market in Rosario, Cavite. On 24 January 2004, at around


8:00 in the evening, private complainant was waiting for her cousin to fetch her, when
appellant, who worked in a fish stall in the market, approached her. Appellant asked if
he could accompany private complainant to her aunt's home, where she resided. Since
AAA's cousin was not around to fetch her, she agreed for appellant to accompany her
home.

The two boarded a tricycle. As they were about to leave, appellant brought out a bladed
weapon and poked the same on AAA's right waist. Struck with fear, AAA was unable to
ask for help. Along the way, AAA realized that they were no longer proceeding to her
aunt's house because the tricycle made a different turn. They stopped at a place that
was not familiar to her. Thereafter, the two of them alighted after appellant paid the
tricycle driver. The entire time, however, appellant was holding the knife and poking it
against AAA's side.

With appellant still holding the knife and poking it against AAA's waist, the two walked
toward a house, appellant knocked on the door, and a man came out. Appellant and
AAA were allowed entry inside the house. The man did not say anything and
immediately went inside a room.

Appellant ordered AAA to enter another room. Once inside, appellant who was still
holding the knife, undressed himself. Appellant ordered AAA to undress next, but AAA
did not obey. Appellant, still holding the knife, forcibly undressed AAA until the latter
was completely naked.

Appellant ordered AAA to lie down on the wooden bed. While still holding the knife,
appellant inserted his penis into private complainant's vagina. AAA felt pain in her
private part. Appellant also kissed AAA's neck and lips. Appellant made a pumping
motion while his penis was inserted in AAA's vagina. Afterwards, appellant pulled out
his penis, kissed AAA, and played with the knife on the latter's face. They did not sleep.
After a while, appellant again inserted his penis inside her vagina and kissed her. After
removing his penis, he inserted it again for the fourth time. Thereafter, appellant
dressed up and ordered her to put on her clothes. While he was helping her put on her
clothes, she told him that she wants to go home. He answered that he will let her go

Page 22 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

home if she will not tell anybody what happened. At around 3:00 in the morning, they
went out of the house and headed towards the tricycle terminal. She went home and
told her Aunt what happened. Thereafter, they went to the police station to report the
incident.

Defense's Version:

AAA was appellant's girlfriend. On 24 January 2004 at around 10:00 o'clock in the
evening, he and AAA eloped and went to the house of his brother-in-law in Sapa II,
Cavite. They spent the night there and agreed that they will go to her Aunt's house and
get her things and will proceed to Bicol. When they reached her aunt's house, AAA went
inside while he waited. After a few minutes, a man came out and chased him with a
bolo which prompted him to run. At around 7:00 o'clock in the morning, he was at his
sister's house when the policemen arrived and informed him that there was a complaint
filed against him. He went with them to the police station. 3

On September 6, 2013, the RTC rendered judgment finding the accused-appellant guilty
as charged, decreeing thusly:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused Sandy


Domingo y Labis @ Bitoy GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of forcible
abduction with rape, defined and penalized under Article 342, in relation to Article 266-
A (as amended by R.A. 8353) and Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code, and hereby
sentences him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. Further, accused Sandy
Domingo is hereby ordered to pay AAA: (1) the amount of ₱50,000.00, as civil
indemnity ex delicto, and (2) the amount of ₱50,000.00, as moral damages; and to pay
the costs.

SO ORDERED.4

Judgment of the CA

On September 24, 2015, the CA affirmed the RTC, holding that AAA's testimony
categorically describing how the appellant had abducted and ravaged her was credible;
that her failure to shout for help or to offer tenacious resistance did not make her
submission to him voluntary; that his use of the knife was sufficient to compel her to
submit to his demands; that the presentation of the examining physician as a witness
was not indispensible in proving the rape; that his "sweetheart theory" could not be
given weight as a defense because he did not thereby establish that such relationship
had really existed.1âwphi1

Issue

In his appeal, the appellant submits that:

THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY OF


THE CRIME CHARGED DESPITE THE PROSECUTION'S FAILURE TO PROVE HIS GUILT
BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT5

The appellant contends that AAA's testimony was incomplete and incredible, and as
such did not substantiate the charges against him; that she had not thereby elaborated
how she was forced, coerced or intimidated into submitting to him; that she had
voluntarily gone with him, and had consented to the sexual congress;6 that her conduct
before, during and immediately following the crime belied her allegations against him;
that her testimony was uncorroborated because the Prosecution did not present the
examining physician; and that on the other hand his own witness, Jocelyn Mariano,
corroborated his having a romantic relationship with AAA. 7

Page 23 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

In other words, the appellant submits that the CA committed serious reversible errors in
finding him guilty of forcible abduction with rape despite (a) the incredible testimony of
AAA; (b) the failure of the Prosecution to present the examining physician to explain the
findings; and (c) the "sweetheart theory" advanced by him.

Ruling of the Court

We affirm the CA's decision with modification of the characterization of the crime
committed.

We note at the outset that the RTC and the CA both found AAA's testimony to be
credible. Consequently, it became incumbent upon the appellant to present clear and
persuasive reasons to persuade the Court to reverse their unanimous determination of
her credibility as a witness in order to resolve the appeal his way. Alas, he did not
discharge his burden, and, consequently, we declare that the CA aptly held that:

Our review of the records reveals that AAA's testimony was candid and straightforward.
During cross-examination, she remained steadfast, consistent and unwavering in her
testimony. She categorically described how appellant took advantage of her. She
narrated that appellant offered to accompany her home. However, when they boarded
the tricycle, appellant poked a bladed weapon on her right waist. Paralyzed with fear,
she was unable to shout or ask for help. x x x x [W]hile it appears that AAA initially
agreed for appellant to accompany her home, her willingness ceased when appellant
pointed a bladed weapon at her right waist. Overcome by fear, she was not able to react
when the tricycle proceeded to an unfamiliar place. Considering the foregoing
circumstances, AAA's failure to shout for help does not give less credit to her testimony.
Time and again, it has been held that physical resistance is not an element in the crime
of rape and need not be established when intimidation is exercised upon the victim. The
victim's failure to shout or offer tenacious resistance did not make voluntary her
submission to the criminal acts of her aggressor. Appellant's use of a knife was enough
for AAA to submit to his demands. Not every victim can be expected to act with reason
or in conformity with the usual expectations of everyone. The workings of a human
mind placed under emotional stress are unpredictable; people react differently.8

We remind the appellant that the trial court's evaluation and conclusion on the
credibility of witnesses in rape cases are generally accorded great weight and respect,
and at times even finality, especially after the CA as the intermediate reviewing
tribunals has affirmed the findings, unless there is a clear showing that the findings were
reached arbitrarily, or that certain facts or circumstances of weight, substance or value
were overlooked, misapprehended or misappreciated that, if properly considered,
would alter the result of the case. In this case, the appellant has not made such
showing. Indeed, we have no reason to reverse the well-considered findings and
observations of the lower courts.

We do not find the non-presentation of the physician who had examined AAA to affect
in any significant manner the credibility of the victim's testimony. After all, the medical
findings have never been considered indispensable in supporting convictions for rape. In
contrast, we reiterate that the rape victim's testimony, standing alone, can be made the
basis of the successful prosecution of the culprit provided such testimony meets the test
of credibility.9

Anent the sweetheart defense of the appellant, the CA and the trial court justly rejected
it. Such defense, being uncorroborated and self-serving, deserved scant consideration.
Nonetheless, that the appellant and the victim had been sweethearts was no excuse in
the eyes of the law for him to employ force and intimidation in gratifying his carnal
desires. 10

Was the complex crime of forcible abduction with rape committed?

Page 24 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Under Article 342 of the Revised Penal Code, the elements of forcible abduction are: (1)
the taking of a woman against her will; and (2) with lewd designs. The crime of forcible
abduction with rape is a complex crime that occurs when the abductor has carnal
knowledge of the abducted woman under the following circumstances: (1) by using
force or intimidation; (2) when the woman is deprived of reason or otherwise
unconscious; and (3) when the woman is under 12 years of age or is demented.

Although the elements of forcible abduction obtained, the appellant should be


convicted only of rape. His forcible abduction of AAA was absorbed by the rape
considering that his real objective in abducting her was to commit the rape. Where the
main objective of the culprit for the abduction of the victim of rape was to have carnal
knowledge of her, he could be convicted only of rape. 11

The penalty of reclusion perpetua was properly imposed pursuant to Article 266(B)12 of
the Revised Penal Code. 13

To accord with jurisprudence, 14 the awards of damages are increased as follows: (1)
₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity; (2) P75,000.00 as moral damages; and (3) ₱75,000.00 as
exemplary damages. Moreover, the CA correctly imposed interest of 6% per annum on
all such items of civil liability reckoned from the finality of judgment until fully paid.15

WHEREFORE, we AFFIRM the decision promulgated on September 24, 2015, with


the MODIFICATION that accused SANDY DOMINGO y LABIS is: (a) DECLARED GUILTY
BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT of SIMPLE RAPE as defined under Article 266- A of
the Revised Penal Code and penalized with reclusion perpetua; and (b) ORDERED TO
PAY to AAA ₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱75,000.00 as moral damages, and
₱75,000.00 as exemplary damages, plus interest of 6o/o per annum on all the items of
civil liability reckoned from the finality of judgment until fully paid. The accused shall
pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

5. KIDNAPPING WITH SERIOUS ILLEGAL DETENTION

June 7, 2017

G.R. No. 200512

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner


vs.
ELMER AVANCENA Y CABANELA, JAIME POPIOCO Y CAMBAYA1 and NOLASCO TAYTAY
Y CRUZ, Accused-Appellant

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision dated September 17, 20102 of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 03928 affirming the Joint Decision dated December 22, 20083 and
Order dated March 5, 20094 of Branch 62, Regional Trial Court of Makati City. The
assailed judgments found Elmer Avancena y Cabanela (Avancena), Jaime Popioco y
Cambaya (Popioco), and Nolasco Taytay y Cruz (Taytay) guilty of kidnapping with serious
illegal detention and robbery.

On August 10, 2004, two (2) Informations were filed charging Avancena, Popioco,
Taytay, Generoso Jaymalin y Conde (Jaymalin), Eric Nazareno y Bonita (Nazareno), and

Page 25 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Gil Grefaldeo y Lasin (Grefaldeo) with the crimes of Kidnapping for Ransom and
Robbery/Extortion.5 The Informations were subsequently amended on February 28,
2005 to exclude Jaymalin and Grefaldeo.6 The Amended Informations read:

Crim. Case No. 04-2817

That on or about August 1, 2004 in Barangay Bangkal, Makati City and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, being then private
individuals and armed with handguns, conspiring, confederating. and mutually helping
one another, did then and there, with the use of force, threat, violence and
intimidation, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, kidnap and deprive Rizaldo
Policarpio y Legaspi of his liberty against his will for purposes of extorting money in the
amount of One Hundred Fifty Thousand (₱l50,000.00) as a condition for his release;
That said Rizaldo Policarpio y Legaspi was in fact only released after he was illegally
detained for almost seven hours and after his father had paid the amount of Four
Thousand Pesos (₱4,000.00) to the accused to the damage and prejudice of Rizaldo
Policarpio y Legaspi in whatever amounts that may be awarded him under the
provisions of the New Civil Code.

CONTRARY TO LAW.7

Crim. Case No. 04-2818

That on or about August 9. 2004 along Evangelista St., Barangay Bangkal, Makati City
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, then
armed with handguns, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another,
with intent of gain, did then and there, by means of threat and intimidation,· willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously take from Alfonso Policarpio the amount of SIX THOUSAND
PESOS (₱6,000.00) against his will and to the damage and prejudice of said Alfonso
Policarpio in whatever amounts that may be awarded him under the provisions of the
New Civil Code.

CONTRARY TO LAW. 8

On April 26, 2005, Avancena, Popioco, Nazareno, and Taytay were arraigned where they
entered the plea of not guilty. Trial on the merits ensued. 9

Rizaldo Policarpio (Rizaldo) testified that at around 12:30 a.m. of August 1, 2004, "he
went to [a] 7/11 convenience store located at the comer of Evangelista St., Pasay City to
buy [a] sandwich." He boarded his Tamaraw FX and as he drove, he noticed a vehicle
tailing him; it was a gray Isuzu Crosswind with no headlights and plate number. 10

Rizaldo decided to head to the nearest police precinct on Evangelista Street. Upon
alighting from his vehicle, he heard someone call his name. A man, whom he later
identified as Avancena, alighted from the gray Isuzu Crosswind across the street. Rizaldo
recognized him because they lived in the same barangay. Avancena told Rizaldo that
one (1) of his companions in the Isuzu Crosswind noticed that Rizaldo received illegal
drugs. Rizaldo denied Avancena's accusations. Avancena instructed Rizaldo that they
should board Rizaldo's vehicle because Avancena was going to introduce him to the
group's team leader, Tony Abalo (Abalo). 11

While they were boarding Rizaldo's vehicle, he noticed Avancena calling over his
companions in the Isuzu Crosswind. Avancena's companions alighted from their vehicle
and approached them. One (1) of them, who introduced himself as Abalo, boarded the
backseat of Rizaldo's vehicle. Upon Avancena's request, they distanced themselves
about 50 meters away from the police precinct and went to the comer of Kaiga Street
where Avancena asked him again about a certain person that Rizaldo did not know.

Page 26 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Avancena suggested again that "they should talk five [5] blocks away from the
precinct."12

At the comer of Lacuna Street and Evangelista Street, Avancena alighted from Rizaldo's
Tamaraw FX and talked to his companions in the Isuzu Crosswind. Avancena returned to
Rizaldo's vehicle, opened the driver's side door, and told Rizaldo to move over to the
passenger's side. Rizaldo could not complain because Avancena had a gun. He moved to
the passenger's side but was surprised when another person, later identified as Taytay,
opened the passenger's side door, boarded the vehicle, and handcuffed him. He
demanded Avancena to explain what was happening but 13 . Avancena did not respond.

Avancena drove to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency parking lot on Adriatico
Street, Malate, Manila. Upon arriving, Rizaldo's handcuffs were removed and he was
boarded on the Isuzu Crosswind. He was handcuffed again by Taytay whom he asked for
an explanation but the latter did not answer. 14

Avancena, Taytay, and Abalo, together with the rest of their group, boarded the Isuzu
Crosswind and drove through Taft, Libertad and went around going to Makati. Abalo
alighted when they reached Roxas Boulevard and Tambo Road. Then, they drove
through Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue on the way to Makati. Once parked along Makati
Avenue in front of Landmark Department Store, "Avancena and one [1] of his
companions alighted from the vehicle." After 30 minutes, they came back to the vehicle
and the group drove through Pasay Road again to return to the Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency parking lot. While onboard, Rizaldo was asked again about other
people he might knew. The group started hurting him; Taytay was strangling him on his
left side, Nazareno was holding him on his right side, and Popioco was punching him.
Rizaldo pleaded with them to no avail. 15

Upon arriving at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency parking lot, Avancena told
Rizaldo that they would release him if his father would pay them ₱l50,000.00. Rizaldo
replied that his father did not have that amount of money and asked what it was for,
since "he did not do anything illegal." Avancena removed his handcuffs and they
alighted from the vehicle to have coffee on the sidewalk. After having coffee, Avancena
commanded Rizaldo to call his father through a mobile phone. Rizaldo spoke to his
father and told him to come over to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency since
there were people demanding ₱l50,000.00 for his release even though "he did not do
anything wrong." Avancena grabbed the phone to talk to Rizaldo 's father. Rizaldo,
however, did not hear their conversation. They boarded the Isuzu Crosswind again and
waited for an hour and a half for Rizaldo's father to arrive. 16

At around 5:00 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., Rizaldo's father, Alfonso Policarpio (Alfonso), arrived.
Alfonso alighted from his vehicle and boarded the IsuzuCrosswind on the passenger's
side. Rizaldo recalled that his father was angry and told Avancena that he did not have
the money requested. Alfonso invited Avancena for breakfast at Jollibee at the comer of
Vito Cruz and Taft Avenue so they could talk. At Jollibee, everyone except Rizaldo
alighted. The group invited Rizaldo for breakfast but he begged off since his body was
aching. "[Rizaldo] waited for them for about 30 [to] 45 minutes."17

After breakfast, the group came back and one (1) of them took off Rizaldo's handcuffs.
Alfonso followed the group and approached Avancena to hand him money,
saying, "Pare, this is the only money I have, just call me by cellphone and I will give the
remaining balance later." They returned to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency
parking lot to get Rizaldo's vehicle. Then, Rizaldo drove home with his father following
him. 18

At around 1:00 p.m., Avancena called Rizaldo on his mobile phone to ask for the balance
but Rizaldo told him to just ask his father. He then turned off his phone. "He claimed
that he was traumatized by the incident." 19

Page 27 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Alfonso, on the other hand, testified that on August 1, 2004, at around 4:00 a.m. to 5:00
a.m., his son Rizaldo called him on his mobile phone. He could not understand what
Rizaldo was saying at first but noticed that his son was afraid and seemed to be already
crying. Rizaldo informed him that he was abducted (dinukot) by Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency, through Avancena's group. Alfonso wondered why the Philippine
Drug Enforcement Agency would arrest his son when its Task Force Hunter under
Director Reynaldo Jaylo (Director Jaylo) had already been dissolved since July 2004.
Their conversation was disrupted but his mobile phone rang again showing his son's
number. The man on the other line introduced himself as Avancena who told him to
proceed to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency parking lot to talk about his son and
to bring him any amount of money. 20

Alfonso brought a borrowed amount of P5,000.00 to the Philippine Drug Enforcement


Agency. At the parking lot, he saw Avancena in the driver's seat waving to him.
Avancena instructed him to sit at the passenger's side and to talk to Rizaldo first. His
group then alighted from the vehicle.21

Rizaldo informed him that "[Avancena's group] was linking him to drug-related cases."
Alfonso told his son that "[Avancena's group] was no longer connected with [the
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency]" and that they were asking for ₱l50,000.00 for his
release.22

After talking, Alfonso alighted from the vehicle and invited Avancena to breakfast at
Jollibee. When they entered Jollibee, Avancena asked him, "Pare, did you bring with you
the ₱l50,000.00?" Alfonso answered, "Pare, I did not bring with me that amount, it is
too big." Avancena inquired how much money he was able to bring. He replied that he
only brought ₱4,000.00 as he was paying for breakfast. Avancena said, "Okay pare, you
could bring your son home but don't forget that you still have a balance." He was also
told that if he did not pay, his son would be abducted again. 23

After breakfast, Avancena told Alfonso to follow him outside. Avancena's group boarded
the Isuzu Crosswind. Alfonso went to Avancena's window and handed him ₱4,000.00.
They then drove back to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency with Alfonso following
in his car. At the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Avancena gave Alfonso his son's
car keys. He also noticed that Avancena gave one (1) of his companions a small key to
unlock his son's handcuffs. When they went home to rest, Rizaldo told him that during
this time, "Avancena called him twice. 24

On August 2, 2004, at around 10:00 a.m., Rizaldo and Alfonso went to the Anti-Illegal
Drugs Special Operations Task Force (AIDSOTF) at Camp Crame to report the incident.
While Alfonso was talking to a certain Colonel Aguilar, Avancena called on his cellphone.
He answered and pointed to it to inform Colonel Aguilar that Avancena was on the
other line. Avancena asked him for the balance of ₱l50,000.00. Alfonso told him that he
could not afford that amount and asked if he could just pay ₱40,000.00. Avancena
countered with ₱50,000.00 but eventually agreed to ₱40,000.00.25

Colonel Aguilar went with them to the National Anti-Kidnapping Task Force (NAKTAF)
where investigations were conducted. Colonel Aguilar instructed Alfonso to produce the
money but Alfonso told him he did not have that amount. Colonel Aguilar told him to
just bring any amount of money he could so the money could be brought to the
laboratory to be marked. Alfonso was able to give ₱6,000.00 in ₱20.00 bills.26

The pay-off was scheduled on August 6, 2004, but it did not push through. On August 7,
2004, Alfonso received a call from Abalo who claimed to be Avancena's team leader.
They decided that Alfonso would deliver the money on August 9, 2004 in the afternoon.
After the phone call, Alfonso called NAKTAF to disclose his agreement with Abalo. 27

Page 28 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

At around 11:00 a.m. on August 9, 2004, NAKTAF deployed 20 operatives to Alfonso's


place on Evangelista Street, Barangay Bangkal. A briefing was conducted and Alfonso
was given a plastic bag containing the marked money and was instructed to hand it to
Avancena's group.28

At around 12:00 noon, NAKTAF directed Alfonso to go to Evangelista Street and advised
him of the operatives present in the vicinity. He went in front of the Iglesia ni Cristo
Church, the pre-arranged pay-off place. At around past noon, Avancena's group, along
with two (2) other companions, arrived in a white Revo. Avancena approached him and
retrieved the plastic bag with the marked money. The group boarded their vehicle and
entered Gen. Mojica Street. Suddenly, Alfonso heard a gunshot and sirens and a
commotion followed.29

After the commotion, Alfonso entered Gen. Mojica Street and asked around what
happened. He was told that people were injured during the commotion. A NAKTAF
operative approached and asked him to fetch his son and to follow them to the NAKTAF
office where they were asked who was responsible for the abduction. Alfonso executed
a sworn statement to detail his account of events.30

Several police officers from the NAKTAF and AIDSOTF were also called to testify on the
circumstances surrounding the planning and coordination for the entrapment
operation.31 Captain Jeffrey Villarosa, commander of the Anti-Kidnapping Special
Operations Group, testified that he personally witnessed Alfonso give the marked
money to Avancena.32 Police Senior Inspector Juanita Darlucio Sioson, a forensic officer,
testified that Avancena's group tested positive for the presence of yellow ultraviolet
powder on their faces. 33 Police Inspector Zosima Nabor (Police Inspector Nabor) of the
Human Resource Service of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency likewise attested that
members of Avancena's group were not employees of Philippine Drug Enforcement
Agency. She further affirmedthat Task Force Hunter led by Director Jaylo was
deactivated on July 30, 2004 and that she was unaware of the documentation of any of
its volunteer agents.34

In the defense's version of the facts, Nazareno testified that he was with Avancena's
group on the night of August 1, 2004 conducting surveillance operations on Rizaldo as
volunteer agents for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. He alleged that they
followed Rizaldo's vehicle along Evangelista Street and that when Rizaldo noticed he
was being tailed, he parked in front of the police precinct, alighted from his vehicle, and
approached them to ask why he was being followed. Avancena told him that he noticed
Rizaldo hand something to someone on Villaruel Street. Rizaldo volunteered to return to
Villaruel Street so Avancena boarded Rizaldo's vehicle.35

Nazareno claimed that the group followed Rizaldo's vehicle supposedly to Villaruel
Street but the vehicle proceeded to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Office in
Vito Cruz, Manila. Rizaldo allegedly offered them "work regarding drugs" but that he
had to ask his father's permission first. Alfonso, Rizaldo's father, arrived and talked to
Avancena. He then invited them to eat at Jollibee. After eating, Alfonso gave them
₱4,000.00 which they refused to accept. Alfonso insisted and even "threw it on top of
the taxi."36 Alfonso asked for the number of Avancena who had no mobile phone, so he
was given Popioco's number instead. They parted ways and the group headed to the
office.37

Nazareno recalled that on August 9, 2004, Alfonso invited them to eat at his house on
Evangelista Street and to tell them that the information Rizaldo gave them was already
available. The group only stayed in the garage. Alfonso insisted on giving the ₱20.00 bills
to Avancena but the latter refused to accept so Alfonso threw the money at them and
said, "mga walanghiya kayo nadali ko rin kayo." Alfonso fired his gun upwards then shot
Popioco on his left arm. AIDSOTF and NAKTAF operatives then entered the premises,

Page 29 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

pointed their guns at them, and brought them to Camp Crame. 38 Taytay and Popioco
gave substantially the same account as Nazareno.39

Avancena corroborated Nazareno's testimony and added that at midnight on August 1,


2004, they were conducting surveillance on a certain Rene Belmonte, a drug pusher,
upon instructions of Director Jaylo. He saw a Tamaraw FX approach and told the group
that he recognized the driver as Rizaldo. He noticed a man give something to Rizaldo so
they alighted from the vehicle to approach the man but he had gone to an alley. He told
the group that they should follow the Tamaraw FX because he knew it was involved in
drugs. When confronted, Rizaldo said that it was nothing and challenged Avancena to
talk to the person who allegedly handed him something. Avancena boarded Rizaldo's
vehicle for them to go back and look for the person but Rizaldo changed his mind and
offered to give him information on persons selling drugs instead. 40

Avancena likewise denied that there was kidnapping since "Rizaldo knew him and
voluntarily went with them in their [Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency] office." He
insisted that his group was directed to go to the Policarpio residence on August 9, 2004
to get information about selling of drugs.41

On December 22, 2008, Branch 62, Regional Trial Court of Makati City rendered a Joint
Decision42 finding Avancena, Popioco, and Taytay (accused-appellants )43 guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of kidnapping with serious illegal detention and robbery.

The dispositive portion of the Joint Decision read: WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing
facts established, finding the accused, ELMER AVANCENA y CABANELA, JAIME POPIOCO
y CAMBAYA, and NOLASCO TAYTAY y CRUZ GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the
felony of kidnapping with serious illegal detention defined and penalized under Article
267 of the Revised Penal Code, this Court hereby sentences the foregoing individual to
suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA without eligibility for parole under the
Indeterminate Sentence Law pursuant to Section 3 of Republic Act No. 9346.

On charge of robbery defined and penalized under Article 294 (5) of the Revised Penal
Code, finding the accused ELMER AVANCENA y CABANELA, JAIME POPIOCO y CAMBAYA,
and NOLASCO TAYTAY y CRUZ GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the offense charged,
they are all required to suffer the indeterminate penalty of four (4) years of prision
correccional medium as minimum to six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor
minimum, as maximum ..

The Jail Warden of the Makati City Jail is hereby ordered to commit the persons of the
foregoing accused to the National Bilibid Prisons immediately and to submit his Report
of the actions he has taken within ten (10) days from notice hereof.

The firearms seized in connection with this case, to wit: one (1) cal. 9 mm Llama
Parabellum with serial number 10763-95, one (1) cal. .45 ACP Norinco with serial
number 600187 and one (1) 9 mm Pietro Beretta with serial number M03095Z are
hereby confiscated in favor of the government and if still in Court's custody, be
immediately turned-over to the Firearms and Explosives Division, PNP.

SO ORDERED.44

Accused-appellants filed a Motion for Reconsideration of this Joint Decision but it was
denied in an Order45 dated March 5, 2009. Thus, they appealed to the Court of
Appeals.46

On September 17, 2010, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Regional Trial Court's Joint
Decision.47 The Court of Appeals found that the evidence established the accused-
appellants' "concerted and collective efforts" in handcuffing and detaining Rizaldo inside
their vehicle and that his father had to negotiate his release.48 The Court of Appeals

Page 30 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

likewise affirmed the finding that they were also guilty of robbery since "they were
caught in flagrante delicto in a planned, coordinated and legitimate entrapment
operation. "49

Accused-appellants filed a Notice of Appeal50 manifesting their intention to appeal to


this Court, which was given due course by the Court of Appeals.51 The Office of the
Solicitor General manifested to this Court that it was no longer filing a supplemental
brief and would be adopting the brief it filed before the Court of Appeals. 52 Accused-
appellants, on the other hand, submitted a Memorandum, 53 which this Court
considered as their Supplemental Brief. 54

In their Memorandum, accused-appellants allege, among others, that the trial court
chose to convict Nazareno despite his death. They claim that this case is the "revenge"
of Alfonso, who sought the help of his friends in NAKTAF and AIDSOTF to fabricate the
charges against them. 55 They argue that "Jabalo," Jaymalin, and Grefaldeo were initially
charged with the offense but that Alfonso surprisingly withdrew the case against
them. 56

Accused-appellants maintain that Rizaldo could have sought help from the nearby police
precinct if he was in danger and that the Policarpio family did not seek police
assistance. 57 They likewise insist that Rizaldo admitted that he was caught (hinuli), not
abducted (dinukot), by legitimate Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency
operatives. 58They also point out that forensic examination found ultra-violet powder on
their faces, not their hands, which proves their testimony that Alfonso threw the
marked money at them.59

The sole issue to be resolved is whether accused-appellants are guilty beyond


reasonable doubt of kidnapping and serious illegal detention under Article 267 of the
Revised Penal Code and robbery under Article 294(5) of the Revised Penal Code.

Article 26760 of the Revised Penal Code states:

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

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

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

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

4. If the person kidnapped or detained shall be a minor, exceptwhen the


accused is any of the parents, female or a public officer.

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

When the victim is killed or dies as a consequence of the detention or is raped, or is


subjected to torture or dehumanizing acts, the maximum penalty shall be imposed.

In kidnapping for ransom, the prosecution must be able to establish the following
elements: "[first,] the accused was a private person; [second,] he [or she] kidnapped or

Page 31 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

detained or in any manner deprived another of his or her liberty; [third,] the kidnapping
or detention was illegal; and [fourth,] the victim was kidnapped or detained for
ransom."61

Accused-appellants claim that they were agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement
Agency's Task Force Hunter but were unable to present any evidence to substantiate
their claim. The prosecution, however, was able to present Police Inspector Nabor of the
Human Resource Service of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, who testified that
accused-appellants"[were] not in any manner connected with [Philippine Drug
Enforcement Agency]."62 It also submitted to the trial court a letter sent by P/Supt.
Edwin Nemenzo of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to Philippine National
Police P/Sr. Supt. Allan Purisima stating that the accused-appellants were not agents of
the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. 63

Nonetheless, even if they were employed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency,
detaining any private person for the purpose of extorting any amount of money could
not, in any way, be construed as within their official functions. If proven, they can be
guilty of serious illegal detention.64 Their badges or shields do not give them immunity
for any criminal act.

The prosecution was likewise able to prove that Rizaldo was illegally deprived of his
liberty. The undisputed facts establish that on August 1, 2004, around midnight, Rizaldo
was in his vehicle being followed by accused-appellants along Evangelista Street. When
he alighted from his vehicle near the police station, accused-appellant Avancena
approached him and implied that he was involved in the sale of illegal drugs.
Accusedappellant boarded his vehicle and told Rizaldo to drive, with the rest of the
accused-appellants following in their vehicle. Upon reaching the comer of Lacuna and
Evangelista Streets, accused-appellant Avancena took over the steering wheel. Accused-
appellant Taytay boarded the vehicle and handcuffed Rizaldo and they drove to the
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency parking lot in Malate. Accused-appellant Popioco
and Nazareno also boarded the vehicle. They drove around for a while in the Manila and
Makati areas but eventually returned to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency
parking lot. While on board, accused-appellant Taytay tried to strangle Rizaldo while
accused-appellant Popioco punched him. 65

In order to prove kidnapping, the prosecution must establish that the victim was
"forcefully transported, locked up or restrained."66 It must be proven that the accused
intended "to deprive the victim of his liberty."67 The act of handcuffing Rizaldo and
physically harming him to prevent escape falls under this definition. Accused-appellants,
however, claim that Rizaldo was not kidnapped because he voluntarily went with the
accused-appellants.

"[T]he fact that the victim voluntarily went with the accused [does] not remove the
element of deprivation of liberty [if] the victim went with the accused on a false
inducement without which the victim would not have done so."68 Rizaldo would not
have gone with the accused-appellants had they not misrepresented themselves as
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency agents who allegedly caught him selling illegal
drugs.

Accused-appellants also told Rizaldo that he would only be released if Alfonso paid them
₱150,000.00. "The act of holding a person for a proscribed purpose necessarily implies
an unlawful physical or mental restraint against the person's will, and with a willful
intent to so confine the victim."69 If Rizal do was indeed free to leave, there would have
been no reason for Alfonso to come rushing to his son's aid. Rizaldo was also able to
come home only after Alfonso negotiated his release.

Taken together, the prosecution was able to establish the elements of kidnapping for
ransom, which is punishable under the Revised Penal Code with

Page 32 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

death.1âwphi1 Considering the suspension of the death penalty, 70 the proper penalty
is reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole.71

II

Accused-appellants, however, were also charged with robbery under Article 294(5) of
the Revised Penal Code,72which states:

Article 294. Robbery with Violence Against or Intimidation of Persons - Penalties. - Any
person guilty of robbery with the use of violence against or intimidation of any person
shall suffer:

5. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its
medium period in other cases.

The elements of simple robbery are "a) that there is personal property belonging to
another; b) that there is unlawful taking of that property; c) that the taking is with intent
to gain; and d) that there is violence against or intimidation of persons or force upon
things."73

Rizal do 's ordeal did not end with his release from captivity. While reporting the crime
to AIDSOTF in Camp Crame, Alfonso received a call from accused-appellant Avancena
demanding the payment of ₱l50,000.00. Because of the continued demands for
payment, NAKTAF had the opportunity to set up an entrapment operation.74 Alfonso
gave AIDSOTF ₱6,000.00, which NAKTAF prepared as marked money and placed in a
plastic bag. 75

During the entrapment operation, accused-appellants arrived in the designated place in


a white Toyota Revo. Accused-appellant Avancena approached Alfonso and received the
marked money from him. When they drove away, NAKTAF agents followed them and
were able to apprehend them. NAKTAF was able to recover the marked money from
them. 76

In this instance, there was a taking of personal property belonging to Alfonso by means
of intimidation. "Taking is considered complete from the moment the offender gains
possession of the thing, even if [the offender] has no opportunity to dispose of the
[thing]."77 The marked money was recovered from the accused-appellants when they
were arrested, which proves that they were able to gain possession of Alfonso's money.

Accused-appellants, however, counter that the ultraviolet powder dusted on the


marked money was found on their faces, not their hands. This detail is irrelevant. A
number of events could have transpired from the time NAKTAF agents apprehended the
Toyota Revo up to the time the accused- appellants were handcuffed and brought to
Camp Crame,78 including the possibility that the accused-appellants simply wiped their
hands clean. What is essential is that the prosecution was able to establish that at the
time of their arrest, the marked money was recovered from the accused-appellants.

Accused-appellants likewise allege that this case was Alfonso's "revenge" against them.
They, however, failed to substantiate any of these allegations. This Court does not find
any merit to accused-appellants' other allegations, such as Nazareno's conviction even
after his death and that Alfonso requested the dropping of charges against "Jabalo,"
Jaymalin, and Grefaldeo. A reading of the first page of the trial court's Joint Decision
shows that Nazareno's criminal liability was extinguished by his death.79 There was also
no "Jabalo" charged and the dropping of charges against the other accused was the
result of a reinvestigation by the Department of Justice.80

Considering the weight of evidence presented by the prosecution, accused-appellants


are found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of robbery under Article 294(5) of the

Page 33 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Revised Penal Code. The proper penalty is prision correccional maximum to prision
mayor medium.

Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum penalty shall be within the
range of the penalty next lower in degree, arresto mayor maximum to prision
correccional medium or four (4) months and one (1) day to four (4) years and two (2)
months. There being no aggravating or mitigating circumstances, the maximum of the
penalty shall be within the range of the penalty in its medium period, prision
mayor minimum, or from six (6) years and one (1) day to eight (8) years.81 Thus, the trial
court did not err in imposing the indeterminate penalty of four (4) years of prision
correccional medium, as minimum to six (6) years and one (1) day of prision
mayor mm1mum, as maximum.82

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision dated September 17, 2010 of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 03928 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

6. 6 COUNTS OF ESTAFA

June 7, 2017

G.R. No. 198795

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee


vs.
MERCEDITAS MATHEUS DELOS REYES, Accused-Appellant

DECISION

TIJAM, J.:

In this appeal, accused-appellant Merceditas Matheus y Delos Reyes assails the March 7,
2011 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR. H.C. No. 03737, which
affirmed the November 26, 2008 Joint Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Branch 218 of Quezon City, in Criminal Case Nos. Q-03-119663-69, finding accused-
appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of five counts of Estafa and one count of
Large Scale Illegal Recruitment under Republic Act (RA) No. 8042 or the Migrant
Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995.

The antecedent facts are as follows:

Accused-appellant was charged with six counts of Estafa under Article 315 (2) (a) of the
Revised Penal Code (RPC) and one count of Large Scale Illegal Recruitment under RA
8042, based on the affidavit-complaints made by the following: Thelma N. Suratos
(Suratos); Glenda R. Guillarte (Guillarte); Merly 0. Alayon (Alayon); Celso J. Bagay, Jr.
(Bagay, Jr.); Rogelio Duldulao (Duldulao); and Doriza P. Gloria (Gloria).

The identical Information for six counts of Estafa, save for the names of the
complainants, the amounts involved, and the dates of their commission, read as follows:

Crim. Case No. Q-03-1196633

That on or about the period comprised from February 19, 2003 to February 26, 2003, in
Quezon City, Philippines, the said accused conspiring together, personal circumstances
have not as yet been ascertained and mutually helping each other, did, then and there

Page 34 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

willfully, unlawfully and feloniously defraud THELMA SURATOS y NARAG, in the


following manner, to wit: the said accused, by means of false manifestations and
fraudulent representation which they made to Thelma Suratos to the effect that they
had the power and capacity to recruit and employ Thelma Suratos for employment
abroad, and could facilitate the processing of the pertinent papers if given the necessary
amount to meet the requirements thereto, and by means of other similar deceits,
induced and succeeded in inducing said Thelma Suratos to give and deliver, as in fact
gave and delivered to said accused the amount of P55,000.00, Philippine Currency, on
the strength of said manifestations and representations, said accused well knowing that
the same were false and fraudulent and were made solely to obtain, as in fact they did
obtain the amount of ₱55,000.00, which amount once in possession, with intent to
defraud Thelma Suratos willfully, unlawfully and feloniously misappropriated,
misapplied and converted to their own personal use and benefit, to the damage and
prejudice of said Thelma Suratos y Narag in the aforesaid amount of ₱55,000.00
Philippine Currency.

Crim. Case No. 0-03-1196644

a) Glenda R. Guillarte

b) ₱55,000.00

c) From April 1, 2003 -May 13, 2003

Crim. Case No. 0-03-119665 5

a) Merly 0. Alayon

b) ₱l5,000.00

c) April 10, 2003

Crim. Case No. 0-03-1196666

a) Celso J. Bagay, Jr.

b) ₱30,000.00

c) June 11, 2003

Crim. Case No. Q-03-1196677

a) Doriza P. Gloria

b) ₱27,500.00

c) June 18, 2003

Crim. Case No. Q-03-1196688

a) Rogelio L. Duldulao

b) ₱29,000.00

c) January 31 -March 12, 2003.

The Information for violation of RA 8042 recited the felonious acts in this wise:

Page 35 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Crim. Case No. 0-03-1196699

That on or about the period comprised from January 31, 2003 to June 18, 2003, in
Quezon City, Philippines, the said accused conspiring together, confederating with
another person whose true name, identity and personal circumstances have not as yet
been ascertained and mutually helping each other, by representing themselves to have
the capacity to contract, enlist and recruit workers for employment abroad, did, then
and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously for a fee, recruit and promise
employment/job placement abroad to THELMA SURA TOS y NARAG; GLENDA
GUILLARTE y RONDILLA; MERL Y ALA YON y ORO; CELSO BAGA Y y JORGE, JR.; DORIZA
GLORIA y PUJEDA; and ROGELIO DULDULAO y LE, without first securing the required
license and authority from the Department of Labor and Employment, in violation of
said law.

That the crime described above is committed in large scale as the same was perpetrated
against three (3) or more persons individually or as a group.

After the pre-trial, the trial ensued.

On January 15, 2003, Suratos went to an office in Cubao, Quezon City where she met
the accused-appellant, who promised her a job in Cyprus as a caretaker. She returned to
the accused-appellant's office a month later. The accused-appellant gave her a machine
copy of her visa to prove that there was a good job waiting for her in Cyprus and that
she would leave in three months upon payment. Suratos gave the accused-appellant an
amount totaling to PhP55,000, inclusive of her passport and medical examination
report. After three months, Suratos became suspicious. She demanded the return of her
money, but the accused-appellant simply told her to wait. A month later, Suratos
learned that the accused-appellant was already detained and could no longer deploy
her abroad. She filed a complaint for illegal recruitment docketed as Criminal Case No.
Q-03-119663. Suratos identified the accused-appellant in open court as well as the entry
permit and receipts she had issued her.

Sometime in the third week of March 2003, Alayon met the accusedappellant at the All
Care Travel Agency located at 302 Escueta Bldg., Cubao, Quezon City. Accused-appellant
offered her a job in Cyprus as a part of the laundry staff and asked her to pay the total
amount of PhP55,000, to submit her resume and transcript of records, among others,
and promised to deploy her abroad by June. On April 10, 2003, Alayon initially paid
PhP15,000 to the accused-appellant. When she returned to accusedappellant's office to
pay the balance, she learned that accused- appellant had been picked up by the police.
Alayon proceeded to the police station and demanded from the accused-appellant the
return of her money. She filed a complaint against accused-appellant, docketed as
Criminal Case No. Q-03-119665.

During the first week of December 2012, Duldulao, through his wife's friend, was
introduced to the accused-appellant. When Duldulao mentioned that she had a sister
working in Spain, accused-appellant promised a tourist visa for him in exchange for PhP
45,000. In the first week of January 2003, he gave the accused-appellant PhP l 1,000 as
partial payment for the processing of his documents. The accused-appellant only took
PhP l0,000 and gave back PhPl,000 for him to open an account with Land Bank, Cubao
branch. Upon the request of accused-appellant, Duldulao deposited the amount of PhP
8,000 to the BPI account of accused-appellant. When he was required by the accused-
appellant to complete the payment of PhP 45,000 for his tourist visa, Duldulao obtained
a bank loan of PhP l1,000 and gave it to the accused-appellant. Altogether, Duldulao
paid the accused-appellant a total of PhP 29,000. When he discovered that accused-
appellant was arrested in April 2003, Duldulao went to Camp Panopio and demanded
that accusedappellant return his money but to no avail. He subsequently filed a
complaint against accused-appellant, docketed as Criminal Case No. Q-03-119668.

Page 36 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Bagay, Jr. went to the office of the accused-appellant who offered him a job as a dentist
in London. Accused-appellant assured him that with an initial payment of PhP30,000, he
would leave in three months. After paying the said amount, Bagay, Jr. gave the accused-
appellant his resume, transcript of records, diploma, passport, and I.D. pictures.
Unfortunately, he was not able to leave for London because in less than three months,
Bagay, Jr. learned that accused-appellant was detained at Camp Panopio for illegal
recruitment. Despite her promise to Bagay, Jr., accused-appellant failed to return the
amount to him. The complaint filed by Bagay, Jr. against the accused-appellant was
docketed as Criminal Case No. Q-03-119666.

Sometime in the third week of March 2003, Guillarte went to the office of the accused-
appellant who promised her work as a hotel staff member in Cyprus. She gave accused-
appellant an amount totaling PhP 55,000 as full payment for her deployment abroad.
But the promise of deployment never materialized. Guillarte's demand for the return of
her money from the accused-appellant went unheeded. She filed a complaint against
accused-appellant docketed as Criminal Case No. Q-03-119664.

Private complainant Doria, however, did not testify.

For her part, the accused-appellant admitted that she was the Overseas Marketing
Director of All Care Travel & Consultancy (Hongkong), with All Care Travel & Consultancy
(Philippines) as its affiliate. She said that sometime in 1990, she was issued a
professional license as an Electronics Communication Engineer. She left the country in
2003 and was not in the Philippines from January 2003 to February 2003. She returned
to the country on June 4, 2003 and left the country in the same month. She claimed that
she did not know Suratos, Guillarte, Alayon, Bagay, Jr., and Gloria. Although she knew
Duldulao, she did not promise him any job. She likewise claimed that she neither signed
nor issued any receipt using the name "Manzie delos Reyes" in favor of the
complainants. She further claimed that she was not engaged in any recruitment and
placement activities. During the pre-trial, she admitted that she had no license to recruit
workers for overseas employment.

On rebuttal, prosecution witness Perla D. Sayana, Chief, Registration Division of the


Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), testified that the name of accused-appellant,
"Merceditas Matheus" does not appear in the books of PRC's database. She issued a
certification to the effect that "Merceditas Matheus" is not a Licensed Electronics
Communication Engineer.

Confidential agent of the Bureau of Immigration (BOI), Rustico B. Romero, whose main
task was to verify travel records, also appeared for the prosecution. He testified that
based on the BOI's database, the name "Merceditas Matheus" did not leave the country
from January 31, 2003 to June 18, 2003.

On November 26, 2008, the RTC rendered its Decision, 10 convicting accused-appellant
of the crime of large scale illegal recruitment and five counts of estafa. The complaint
docketed as Criminal Case No. Q-03- 119667 filed by Doriza P. Gloria (Gloria), however,
w<;ts dismissed due to Gloria's failure to testify and the prosecution's failure to prove
appellant's guilt for the crime of estafa.

On appeal before the CA, the CA affirmed the RTC's Decision. 11

Hence, the instant appeal.

In this Court's February 6, 2012 Resolution,12 We noted the accused-appellant and the
Office of the Solicitor General's (OSG) respective Manifestations stating in essence that
they are dispensing with their supplemental briefs, and thus, adopting their respective
briefs which they filed with the CA.1awp++i1

Page 37 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

The Issue

THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY


BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIMES OF ILLEGAL RECRUITMENT AND
ESTAFA.13

The appeal lacks merit.

On the one hand, accused-appellant maintains that she could not be held liable for the
crimes of illegal recruitment and Estafa since she never made any promise or gave the
impression of having the ability to send the complc;tinants abroad. She avers that the
cash vouchers and letters acknowledging receipt of complainants' payments were not
signed by her, but by a certain Manzie Delos Reyes. She likewise avers that she did not
engage in recruitment activities as defined by law since All Care Travel & Consultancy
(Philippines)is engaged in visa applicatfons. She further avers that she did not know
complainants Suratos, Guillarte, Alayon, and Bagay, Jr.

On the other hand, the OSG counters14 that the RTC correctly convicted the accused-
appellant of Large Scale Illegal Recruitment and Estafa, the prosecution having adduced
sufficient evidence to established her guilt thereof beyond reasonable doubt.

Illegal Recruitment in Large Scale –

The offense of illegal recruitment in large scale has the following elements: 15 (l} the
person charged undertook any recruitment activity as defined under Section 6 of RA
8042; 16 (2) accused did not have the license or the authority to lawfully engage in the
recruitment of workers; and, (3) accused committed the same against three or more
persons individually or as a group.

These elements are obtaining in this case.

First, the RTC found accused-appellant to have undertaken recruitment activity when
she promised the private complainants overseas employment for a fee.1avvphi1 This
factual finding was affirmed by the CA. As consistently adhered to by this Court, the
matter of assigning values to declarations on the witness stand is best and most
competently performed by the trial judge, who had the unmatched opportunity to
observe the witnesses and to assess their credibility by the various indicia available but
not reflected on the record. 17 And when his findings have been affirmed by the CA,
these are generally binding and conclusive upon this Court. 18 As correctly pointed out
by the CA:

xxx xxx x x x Appellant, in fact, had stipulated at pre-trial that not only did
she know private complainants, she also received money from them for their
deployment abroad, as she even issued receipts to them. At any rate, absence of
receipts cannot defeat a criminal prosecution for illegal recruitment. 19 Private
complainants positively identified appellant as the person who asked money from them
in consideration for their deployment abroad. She impressed on complainants that she
had the power or ability to send them abroad for employment so much so that the
latter got convinced to part with their money in exchange therefor.20 Illegal recruiters
need not even expressly represent themselves to the victims as persons who have the
ability to send workers abroad. It is enough that these recruiters give the impression
that they have the ability to enlist workers for job placement abroad in order to induce
the latter to tender payment of fees. 21

Second, the March 1, 2004 Certification issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration unmistakably reveals that the accused-appellant neither had a license
nor authority to recruit workers for overseas employment.22 Notably, instead of

Page 38 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

assailing the certification, she admitted during the pre-trial that she did not have a
license or authority to lawfully engage in recruitment and placement of workers.23

Third, it was established that there were five complainants, i.e., Suratos, Guillarte,
Alayon, Bagay, Jr., and Duldulao.

The CA observed that:

x x x x complainants came forward and charged appellant with illegal recruitment.


Appellant's claim that she never met private complainants before was belied by her own
admission at pre-trial. xxx

x x x xxx Private complainants' individual testimonies were so replete with details on


how appellant convincingly, albeit deceptively, enticed them to pay all her demands in
case, how she provided for their fake documents, and how she manipulated their
thoughts and dreams for a better life, ending up in the cruel realization that she was
nothing but a fraud.24

Indeed, the existence of the offense of illegal recruitment in large scale was duly proved
by the prosecution.

Estafa under under Article 315(2)(a) of the RPC of the RPC

We likewise affirm accused-appellant's conviction for five counts of estafa under Article
315(2)(a) of the RPC. It is settled that a person, for the same acts, may be convicted
separately of illegal recruitment under RA 8042 or the Labor Code, and estafa under
Article 315 (2) (a) of the RPC.25

The elements of estafa are: (1) the accused defrauded another by abuse of confidence
or by means of deceit; and (2) the offended party or a third party suffered damage or
prejudice capable of pecuniary estimation.26

Here, the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that accused-appellant


deceived private complainants into believing that she had the authority and capability
to send them abroad for employment, despite her not being licensed by the POEA to
recruit workers for overseas employment.1âwphi1 Because of the assurances given by
accused-appellant, the private complainants parted with their hard-earned money for
the payment of the agreed placement fee, for which accused-appellant issued petty
cash vouchers and used fictitious names evidencing her receipt of the payments. As
aptly pointed out by the CA:

In this case, appellant committed estafa by using fictitious names, i.e., 'Manzie Delos
Reyes', 'Manzie Matheus' in her transactions with private complainants, falsely
pretending that she possessed power, influence, capacity to employ abroad or procure
visas for them, making it appear that she had made transactions to acquire their entry
permits and visas, thus, successfully inducing them to part with their money, albeit,
knowing full [sic] well she had no authority or license to do so.27

Clearly, these acts of accused-appellant constitute estafa punishable under Article 315
(2)(a) of the RPC.

It must be noted, however, that both the R TC and the CA failed to award interest on the
money judgment on the charge of five counts of estafa and one count of Illegal
Recruitment in Large Scale. Following prevailing jurisprudence,28 the Court, therefore,
imposes a legal interest at the rate of 6% per annum, from the time of demand, which

Page 39 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

shall be deemed as the same day the Informations were filed against appellant, until the
amounts are fully paid.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the March 7, 2011 Decision of the Court of Appeals
in CA-G.R. CR. H.C. No. 03737, which affirmed the November 26, 2008 Joint Decision of
the Regional Trial Court, Branch 218 of Quezon City, in Criminal Case Nos. Q-03-119663-
69, finding appellant Merceditas Matheus y Delos Reyes GUILTY beyond reasonable
doubt of five counts of Estafa and one count of Large Scale Illegal Recruitment under
R.A. No. 8042, otherwise known as Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995 is
hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION, to read as follows:

1. In Criminal Case No. Q-03-11966.2, appellant Merceditas Matheus y Delos


Reyes is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of Large Scale Illegal
Recruitment punishable under Sec. 7 (b) of RA 8042. She is sentenced to suffer
the penalty of life imprisonment and is ordered to pay a fine of One Million
Pesos (PhPl,000,000).

2. In Criminal Case No. Q-03-119663, appellant Merceditas Matheus y Delos


Reyes is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of estafa, as defined and
penalized in Article 315 (2) (a) of the Revised Penal Code. She is sentenced to
suffer the indeterminate penalty of one year, eight months and twenty-one
days of prision correccional as minimum to eleven years of prision mayor as
maximum. She is ordered to indemnify private complainant Thelma N. Suratos
the amount of PhP55,000 as actual damages, with legal interest of 6%
per annum from August 4, 2003, until the said amount is fully paid.

3. In Criminal Case No. Q-03-119664, appellant Merceditas Matheus y Delos


Reyes is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of estafa, as defined and
penalized in Article 315 (2) (a) of the Revised Penal Code. She is sentenced to
suffer the indeterminate penalty of one year, eight months and twenty-one
days of prision correccional as minimum to eleven years of prision mayor as
maximum. She is ordered to indemnify private complainant Glenda R. Guillarte
in the amount of PhP55,000 as actual damages, with legal interest of 6%
per annum from August 4, 2003, until the said amount is fully paid.

4. In Criminal Case No. Q-03-119665, appellant Merceditas Matheus y Delos


Reyes is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of estafa, as defined and
penalized in Article 315 (2) (a) of the Revised Penal Code. She is sentenced to
suffer the indeterminate penalty of one year, eight months and twenty-one
days of prision correccional as minimum to six years and eight months of prision
mayor as maximum. She is ordered to indemnify private complainant Merly 0.
Alayon in the amount of PhP15,000 as actual damages, with legal interest of 6%
per annum from August 4, 2003, until the said amount is fully paid.

5. In Criminal Case No. Q-03-11966.Q, appellant Merceditas Matheus y Delos


Reyes is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of estafa, as defined and
penalized in Article 315 (2) (a) of the Revised Penal Code. She is sentenced to
suffer the indeterminate penalty of one year, eight months and twenty-one
days of prision correccional as minimum to eight years of prision mayor as
maximum. She is ordered to indemnify private complainant Celso Bagay in the
amount of PhP30,000 as actual damages, with legal interest of 6%
per annum from August 4, 2003, until the said amount is fully paid.

6. In Criminal Case No. Q-03-119667, appellant Merceditas Matheus y Delos


Reyes is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of estafa, as defined and
penalized in Article 315 (2) (a) of the Revised Penal Code. She is sentenced to
suffer the indeterminate penalty of one year, eight months and twenty-one
days of prision correccional as minimum to eight years of prision mayor as

Page 40 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

maximum. She is ordered to indemnify private complainant Rogelio L. Duldulao


in the amount of PhP29,000 as actual damages, with legal interest of 6%
per annum from August 4, 2003, until the said amount is fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

NOEL GIMENEZ TIJAM


Associate Justice

7. DIRECT ASSAULT UPON AGENT OF AUTHORITY WITH HOMICIDE

June 19, 2017

G.R. No. 177000

NESTOR GUELOS, RODRIGO GUELOS, GIL CARANDANG and SP02 ALFREDO


CARANDANG y PRESCILLA,Petitioners
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent

DECISION

REYES, J.:

Before this Court is a petition for review on certiorari1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of
Court assailing the Decision2dated November 17, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in
CA-G.R. CR No. 27021, affirming in toto the conviction of Nestor Guelos (Nestor),
Rodrigo Guelos (Rodrigo), Gil Carandang (Gil) and Senior Police Officer 2 Alfredo
Carandang y Prescilla (Alfredo) (petitioners) rendered by the Regional Trial Court (RTC)
of Tanauan City, Batangas, Branch 83 in its Decision3 dated January 24, 2003 in Criminal
Cases Nos. P-204 and P-205. The CA Resolution4dated March 6, 2007 denied the motion
for reconsideration thereof.

The Facts

On December 5, 1995, two separate Informations5 were filed with the RTC against the
petitioners for Direct Assault Upon an Agent of a Person in Authority with Homicide,
defined and penalized under Articles 148 and 249, in relation to Article 48, of the
Revised Penal Code (RPC). The accusatory portions of the two Informations state:

Criminal Case No. P-204

That on or about the 4th day of June, 1995, at about 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon, at
Barangay Boot, Municipality of Tanauan, Province of Batangas, Philippines, and within
the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and
confederating together, acting in common accord and mutually helping one another,
[Nestor]' while armed with an Armalite Rifle, with intent to kill and without any
justifiable cause, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault
and shoot with the said firearm one SP02 Estelito Andaya, a bonafide member of the
Philippine National Police assigned at Tanauan Police Station, while engaged in the
performance of his official duties as peace officer, and while the latter is being held
from the back by [Gil] and other companions, whose identities and whereabouts are still
unknown, thereby hitting and inflicting· upon the said SP02 Estelito Andaya gunshot
wounds on his body which caused his instantaneous death.

Contrary to law. 6

Page 41 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Criminal Case No. P-205

That on or about the 4th day of June, 1995, at about 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon, at
Barangay Boot, Municipality of Tanauan, Province of Batangas, Philippines, and within
the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and
confederating together, acting in common accord and mutually helping each other,
[Nestor] while armed with an Armalite Rifle, with intent to kill and without any
justifiable cause, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault
and shoot with the said firearm, one P/Chief Inspector Rolando M. Camacho, a bonafide
member of the Philippine National Police and concurrently the Chief of Police of
Tanauan, Batangas, while engaged in the performance of his official duties as peace
officer, and while the latter is being held at the back including his two arms by [Alfredo]
and the barrel of his armalite rifle is being held by [Rodrigo], thereby hitting and
inflicting upon the said P/Chief Inspector Rolando M. Camacho gunshot wounds on his
head which caused his instantaneous death.

Contrary to law. 7

The petitioners pleaded not guilty to the foregoing charges. Thereafter, the joint trial of
the two cases ensued. The prosecution and the defense presented their respective
versions of the case. 8

The prosecution presented the following witnesses: P02 Edgardo Carandang (P02
Carandang), Alex Malabanan, P02 Pastor Platon Castillo, Ruel Ramos, Ricardo Jordan,
SPOl Anacleto Garcia (SPOl Garcia), Dr. Olga Bausa, Rowena Rios, Police Inspector Loma
Tria, Dr. Hermogenes Corachea, P03 Eugenio Llarina, Marilou Reyes Camacho and
Teodora Torres Andaya. 9

On the other hand, the defense presented: Cancio Angulo (Angulo), Juana Precilla and
herein petitioners Nestor, Alfredo and Rodrigo as its witnesses.

The version of the prosecution is as follows:

In the morning of June 4, 1995, Police Chief Inspector Rolando M. Camacho (P/C Insp.
Camacho), SP02 Estelito Andaya (SP02 Andaya), P02 Carandang and SPO 1 Garcia set off
for Sitio Mahabang Buhangin in Tanauan, Batangas to conduct their routine as peace
officers of the area. It was already 10:00 a.m. when they left Tanauan Police Station on
board a patrol car driven by SPO 1 Garcia. While they were in Barangay Gonzales waiting
for a boat that would bring them to Sitio Mahabang Buhangin, they heard successive
gunshots apparently coming from Barangay Boot. P/C Insp. Camacho then decided to
proceed to Barangay Boot to check and to apprehend those who were illegally
discharging their firearms. Upon arrival at the place, they were invited for lunch in the
house of Angulo. Thereafter, they stayed at the house of the incumbent Barangay
Captain, Rafael Gonzales. 10

At around 2:45 p.m., P/C Insp. Camacho instructed SP02 Andaya and P02 Carandang to
join the religious procession to monitor those who will indiscriminately fire guns. As
they were moving on with the procession, they heard successive gunshots, which they
determined to have emanated from the backyard of Silveria Guelos (Silveria). They went
back to the house of the Barangay Captain to report to P/C Insp. Camacho what they
found out. Acting upon their report, P/C Insp. Camacho decided to go with them to the
place of Silveria. In going to the house, they rode a passenger jeepney in order to
conceal their purpose. SPOl Garcia drove their patrol car and followed them. 11

Upon reaching the place of Silveria who let them in, P/C Insp. Camacho, P02 Carandang
and SP02 Andaya then proceeded to the back of the house where they saw around 15
persons drinking liquor. They also noticed empty shells of armalite rifle scattered on the
ground. P/C Insp. Camacho then introduced himself as the Chief of Tanauan Police

Page 42 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Station and told the group that he and his men were verifying who fired the shots.
Someone from the group of drinking men asked him: "Who are you going to pick-up
here?" Before P/C Insp. Camacho was able to respond to the taunting question, P02
Carandang pointed to him the "empty shells" near the comfort room located at the right
side from where the group was drinking. Consequently, P/C Insp. Camacho instructed
him to collect the scattered empty shells. 12

When P02 Carandang was about to follow P/C Insp. Camacho's orders, the former
noticed a person, whom he identified as Nestor, wearing a white sando and blue
walking shorts stand up. While P02 Carandang was collecting the empty shells,
somebody hit him on his nape which caused him to drop his armalite. When he tried to
retrieve his firearm, someone hit his hand. 13

As he was trying to stand up, he saw Alfredo tightly holding (yapos-yapos) P/C Insp.
Camacho from behind while Rodrigo grabbed the former's baby armalite. As soon as
P02 Carandang was able to stand up, he was hit by Nestor on his left jaw, even as he
received a blow to his left eye. Thereafter, as P/C Insp. Camacho was in a helpless and
defenseless position, he was shot by Nestor causing him to fall to the ground and later
die. 14

While P02 Carandang was retreating, he saw SP02 Andaya being tightly held by the neck
by Gil. He then saw Nestor shoot at SP02 Andaya, who then fell to the ground and
died. 15

P02 Carandang retreated and started to run but Nestor went after him and shot at him.
It was at this juncture when SPO 1 Garcia arrived at the scene and returned fire at
Nestor, hitting the latter with three out of six shots. 16

For the defense, petitioners Nestor, Alfredo and Rodrigo took the witness stand and
denied the accusations. They narrated a different story. 17

Nestor testified that at around 3:00 p.m. on June 4, 1995, he was inside the house of his
mother when he heard several gunshots. He told his children to lie flat on the floor until
it stopped. Thereafter, he went out of the house and saw four persons lying on the
ground; he identified two of them as Gil and Alfredo. He also saw an old man standing
nearby and asked the latter what happened, but the old man did not reply. Just when he
heard that people were rushing towards his mother's house, the old man asked him to
pick up the gun laying on the ground. He followed and picked up the same with the
intention of surrendering it to a police officer but as he was on his way towards the
gate, SPO 1 Garcia shot him instead. He was hit three times: on his stomach, his left
side, and on his left hand. 18

Alfredo, on the other hand, testified that as they were drinking, P/C Insp. Camacho
together with two other police officers came. They entered one after the other but P/C
Insp. Camacho came in first. They were wearing civilian clothes, although he noticed
that P/C Insp. Camacho was also wearing a vest where extra ammunition-magazines
were kept. P/C Insp. Camacho was armed with a baby-armalite, while his companions
were carrying M-16 rifles. The police officers asked who among them fired a gun to
which somebody answered, "We do not know who fired the shot." At this point, Alfredo
introduced himself as a fellow-member of the Philippine National Police (PNP); he even
saluted P/C lnsp. Camacho, but the latter merely ignored the former. Instead, P/C Insp.
Camacho pointed the nozzle of his baby armalite at Alfredo's stomach and used it to lift
hist-shirt, as the former asked the latter if he had a gun. Alfredo answered that he had
none. While P/C Insp. Camacho was frisking three other men, Rodrigo approached him
to ask if he can be of help to the former. P/C Insp. Camacho did not answer Rodrigo's
query. Rather, while he was in "port-hand position," P/C Insp. Camacho pushed Rodrigo
with his firearm; the latter was out-balanced and fell on his back. While P/C Insp.
Camacho was pushing Rodrigo with the use of the nozzle of his "armalite rifle", the

Page 43 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

latter swiped the said firearm as he told the former, "Baka pumutok iyan." Thereupon,
the firearm of P/C Insp. Camacho fired; a bullet hit Alfredo's thigh. Thereafter, the latter
lost consciousness and awakened only when being transported to a nearby hospital. 19

Rodrigo testified that in the afternoon of June 4, 1995, he was watching a religious
procession in front of the gate of his parents' house when P/C Insp. Camacho and two
others, all in civilian clothes and each bearing a long firearm, entered the premises of his
parents' house. The group went directly to the area where people were drinking liquor.
P/C Insp. Camacho introduced himself as the Chief of Police of Tanauan, and asked who
among them fired a gun. He poked his gun at the people there and then started frisking
some of them. Alfredo stood up and introduced himself as a fellow-member of the PNP,
to which P/C Insp. Camacho responded by poking his gun at the former, asking him ifhe
had a gun. Answering "none," Alfredo pulled-up his t-shirt to show he had no gun. His t-
shirt was lifted by P/C Insp. Camacho with the nozzle of his gun. Rodrigo approached
P/C Insp. Camacho and offered to assist the latter, but instead, P/C Insp. Camacho
pointed the gun at his face. Rodrigo swayed the gun away from his face, but he was, in
tum, pushed back by P/C Insp. Camacho with the use of the barrel of the same gun
causing him to fall to the ground. Then he heard several gunshots, so he covered his
head with his hands. When the gunshots stopped, he saw two persons lying, one by his
left side and the other, by his right. He then ran for help but on his way out of the
premises, he saw a wounded person whom he offered to help. The wounded person
ignored him and continued to walk towards a jeepney. Rodrigo proceeded to approach
a Barangay Tanod and asked him to report the incident to the Barangay Captain. Soon
thereafter, the Barangay Captain arrived; police officers from Tanauan also came and
Rodrigo was invited to the Police Station for investigation.20

On January 24, 2003, the RTC issued a Joint Decision,21 the dispositive portion of which
reads:

WHEREFORE, in Criminal Case No. P-204, this Court finds accused [NESTOR] and [GIL]
GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT of Direct Assault Upon an Agent of a Person in
Authority with Homicide, defined and penalized under Articles 148 and 249, in relation
to Article 48, of the [RPC], for killing [SP02 Andaya], and hereby sentences each of the
accused to suffer the penalty of eleven (11) years of prision correccional maximum, as
minimum, up to eighteen (18) years of reclusion temporal maximum, as maximum, and
a fine of One Thousand Pesos (Phpl,000.00). The accused are directed to pay the heirs of
victim [SP02 Andaya] an indemnity of Fifty Thousand Pesos (Php50,000.00), actual
damages in the amount of One Million Pesos (Phpl,000,000.00), and moral damages of
Fifty Thousand Pesos (Php50,000.00).

In Criminal Case No. P-205, the Court finds accused [NESTOR], [RODRIGO] and
[ALFREDO] GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT of Direct Assault Upon an Agent of a
Person in Authority with Homicide, defined and penalized under Articles 148 and 249, in
relation to Article 48, of the [RPC], for killing [P/C Insp. Camacho], and hereby sentences
each of the accused to suffer the penalty of eleven (11) years of prision correccional
maximum, as minimum, up to eighteen (18) years of reclusion temporal maximum, as
maximum, and to pay a fine of One Thousand Pesos (Phpl,000.00) each. The accused are
directed to pay the heirs of victim [P/C Insp. Camacho] an indemnity of Fifty Thousand
Pesos (Php50,000.00), actual damages in the amount of One Million Six Hundred
Thousand Pesos (Phpl,600,000.00), and moral damages of Fifty Thousand Pesos
(Php50,000.00).

SO ORDERED.22

The RTC found that between the conflicting versions of the parties, that of the
prosecution is more credible; the positive declarations of the police officers who
testified for the prosecution, particularly that of eyewitness P02 Carandang, were not
impeached.23 Further, the RTC did not find any reason for any of the prosecution

Page 44 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

witnesses to falsely testify against the accused. The trial court observed that said
witnesses, with special reference to P02 Carandang, testified in a straightforward
manner and showed signs of candor, as compared to the accused, who were smart-
alecky and did not sound truthful. 24 The petitioners appealed to the CA.

On November 17, 2006, the CA affirmed in toto the petitioners' conviction in its
Decision25 as follows:

WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.

SO ORDERED.26

Hence, this petition for review with the following assignment of errors:

A. THE CA GRAVELY ERRED IN RELYING ON THE UNSUBSTANTIATED TESTIMONY


OF THE ALLEGED EYEWITNESS P02 CARANDANG AND HOLDING THE
PETITIONERS GUILTY OF THE CRIME CHARGED.

B. THE CA ERRED IN AFFIRMING IN TOTO THE JUDGMENT OF THE LOWER


COURT NOTWITHSTANDING THE GLARING INSUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE TO
WARRANT THE CONVICTION OF THE PETITIONERS.

C. THE CA GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THERE IS CONSPIRACY BETWEEN


THE PETITIONERS DESPITE FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION TO PROVE THE
SAME.27

Forthwith, the petitioners fault the CA for affirming their conviction, contending that the
testimonies of the prosecution witnesses were uncorroborated by evidence sufficient to
establish the petitioners' guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Specifically, the petitioners
allege the following, to wit:

1. There is no direct assault of a person in authority to speak of because the group of


P/C Insp. Camacho was not in the performance of their duties. The prosecution failed to
present the alleged mission order supporting the intelligence operation conducted by
P/C Insp. Camacho and his men in Barangay Boot. Further, while the police officers were
in civilian attire (shorts, slippers and t-shirts) to go undercover, they were carrying rifles
that were not concealed;28

2. The injuries suffered by P02 Carandang, as a result of the assault upon his person
while he was in the act of collecting the empty bullet shells, are also unsupported by
evidence. The trial court simply took the testimony of P02 Carandang as the "biblical
truth;"29 and

3. The narration of P02 Carandang on how P/C Insp. Camacho and SP02 Andaya were
killed cannot stand the test of logic. He could not have possibly witnessed the entire
event at the precise moment that he was also assaulted and injured.30

Notably, in their Reply,31 the petitioners incorporated a motion for new trial based on
alleged new and material evidence impugning the credibility of P02 Carandang. They
averred that in the case for Direct Assault with Attempted Homicide which P02
Carandang also filed against Nestor, docketed as Criminal Case No. 95-401 and pending
before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Tanauan, Batangas, his testimony therein
given from October 10, 2007 to July 30, 2008 was different from his testimony in the
case at bar. 32

Ruling of the Court

Page 45 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

It is clear that the petitioners basically raise only questions of fact. Nonetheless, the
Court gave due course to the instant petition due to the following reasons:

Firstly, pursuant to the settled rule that in a criminal case an appeal throws the whole
case open for review, 33 the Court, however, finds that this case actually presents a
question of law; specifically, on whether or not the constitutional right of the accused to
be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against them was properly
observed.

Secondly, the petitioners, in the Reply, invite the Court's attention to the subsequent
testimony of P02 Carandang in the later case filed against Nestor.1âwphi1 The
petitioners assert that said testimony should be considered as new and material
evidence which thereby makes the findings of the trial court in the instant case as
manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible. Thus, the petitioners moved for a new trial
on the ground of alleged newly discovered evidence without, however, necessarily
withdrawing their petition.

At the outset, the petitioners' motion for new trial is denied.

Clearly, the Rules of Court proscribe the availment of the remedy of new trial on the
ground of newly discovered evidence at this stage of appeal. Section 1 of Rule 121
states:

At any time before a judgment of conviction becomes final, the court may, on motion of
the accused or at its own instance but with the consent of the accused, grant a new trial
or reconsideration.

Under Section 14 of Rule 124, a motion for new trial on the ground of newly discovered
evidence may be filed at any time after the appeal from the lower court has been
perfected and before the judgment of the CA convicting the appellant becomes final.
Further, Rule 45, Section 1 clearly provides that a motion for new trial is not among the
remedies which may be entertained together with a petition for appeal on certiorari.

More importantly, the alleged newly discovered evidence is not worthy of the Court's
consideration.

The petitioners allege that in the MTC proceedings, P02 Carandang failed to positively
identify who actually hit him and/or the persons involved in the killing of P/C Insp.
Camacho and SP02 Andaya which is a complete tum-around from his testimony in the
case at bar where he positively identified the petitioners as the perpetrators. At any
rate, aside from this alleged glaring inconsistency of P02 Carandang's testimony, said
subsequent testimony is marred by inconsistencies in itself For instance, in his cross-
examination on May 14, 2008, he stated that when he came to his full consciousness
after being unconscious or dizzy for about two minutes, he saw P/C Insp. Camacho and
SP02 Andaya lying down; then, during his re-cross examination on July 30, 2008, he
stated that when he regained consciousness after being unconscious or dizzy for about
five minutes, he did not see where P/C Insp. Camacho or his other teammates were.
Still, on numerous occasions, he failed to categorically answer questions as he could not
recall. Considering the value of P02 Carandang's testimony, he being the only
eyewitness to the said fateful event, there would have been no sufficient evidence to
prove the guilt of the petitioners.34

However, the Court cannot agree with the petitioners' contention that the testimony of
P02 Carandang before the MTC effectively cast doubt upon his previous testimony or
makes it a falsity. The MTC testimony was given after 10 years from the time P02
Carandang testified in the case at bar. Considering the length of time that had elapsed
and the frailty of human memory, the Court gives more credence to P02 Carandang's
testimony in the instant case which was given after a year and 10 months from the

Page 46 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

incident testified upon. In fact, the drama. of the fateful incident appeared so fresh to
P02 Carandang that in the course of his direct examination on April 22, 1997 and while
he was demonstrating how Alfredo embraced P/C Insp. Camacho, he became
'emotional' when asked about the next thing that happened to P/C Insp. Camacho.35

Jurisprudence dictates that even if a witness says that what he had previously declared
is false and that what he now says is true is not sufficient ground to render the previous
testimony as false. No such reasoning has ever crystallized into a rule of credibility. The
rule is that a witness may be impeached by a previous contradictory statement not that
a previous statement is presumed to be false merely because a witness now says that
the same is not true. Indeed, it is a dangerous rule to set aside a testimony which has
been solemnly taken before a court of justice in an open and free trial and under
conditions precisely sought to discourage and forestall falsehood simply because one of
the witnesses who had given the testimony later on changed his mind. Such a rule will
make solemn trials a mockery and place the investigation of the truth at the mercy of
unscrupulous witnesses.36

Thus, the Court finds no reason to give merit to the petitioners' contentions of alleged
new evidence.

In Sison v. People of the Philippines,37 the Court has held that:

[W]hen the decision hinges on the credibility of witnesses and their respective
testimonies, the trial court's observations and conclusions deserve great respect and are
often accorded finality, unless there appears in the record some fact or circumstance of
weight which the lower court may have overlooked, misunderstood or misappreciated
and which, if properly considered, would alter the result of the case. The trial judge
enjoys the advantage of observing the witness' deportment and manner of testifying, x x
x all of which are useful aids for an accurate determination of a witness' honesty and
sincerity. The trial judge, therefore, can better determine if such witness were telling
the truth, being in the ideal position to weigh conflicting testimonies. Unless certain
facts of substance and value were overlooked which, if considered, might affect the
result of the case, its assessment must be respected for it had the opportunity to
observe the conduct and demeanor of the witnesses while testifying and detect if they
were lying. The rule finds an even more stringent application where said findings are
sustained by the [CA].38

For this reason alone, the petition must fail.

However, the Court cannot totally affirm the rulings of the courts below. As forthwith
stated, an appeal in a criminal case opens the entire case for review; the Court can
correct errors unassigned in the appeal. The Court finds that the Informations in this
case failed to allege all the elements which constitute the crime charged.

The petitioners are being charged with the complex crime of Direct Assault Upon an
Agent of a Person in Authority with Homicide, defined and penalized under Articles 148
and 249, in relation to Article 48, of the RPC.

The RPC provides:

Art. 148. Direct assaults. -Any person or persons who, without a public uprising, shall
employ force or intimidation for the attainment of any of the purpose enumerated in
defining the crimes of rebellion and sedition, or shall attack, employ force, or seriously
intimidate or resist any person in authority or any of his agents, while engaged in the
performance of official duties, or on occasion of such performance, shall suffer the
penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods and a fine not
exceeding ₱l,000.00 pesos, when the assault is committed with a weapon or when the
offender is a public officer or employee, or when the offender lays hands upon a person

Page 47 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

in authority. If none of these circumstances be present, the penalty of prision


correccional in its minimum period and a fine not exceeding ₱500.00 pesos shall be
imposed.

Art. 249. Homicide. - Any person who, not falling within the provisions of Article 246,
shall kill another without the attendance of any of the circumstances enumerated in the
next preceding article, shall be deemed guilty of homicide and be punished by reclusion
temporal.

Art. 48. Penalty for complex crimes. - When a single act constitutes two or more grave or
less grave felonies, or when an offense is a necessary means for committing the other,
the penalty for the most serious crime shall be imposed, the same to be applied in its
maximum period.

While the elements constituting the crime of Homicide were properly alleged in the two
Informations and were duly established in the trial, the said Informations, however,
failed to allege all the elements constitutive of the applicable form of direct assault. To
be more specific, the Informations do not allege that the offenders/petitioners knew
that the ones they were assaulting were agents of a person in authority, in the exercise
of their duty.

Direct assault, a crime against public order, may be committed in two ways: first, by
"any person or persons who, without a public uprising, shall employ force or
intimidation for the attainment of any of the purposes enumerated in defining the
crimes of rebellion and sedition"; and second, by any person or persons who, without a
public uprising, "shall attack, employ force, or seriously intimidate or resist any person
in authority or any of his agents, while engaged in the performance of official duties, or
on occasion of such performance."39 (Citation omitted)

Indubitably, the instant case falls under the second form of direct assault. The following
elements must be present, to wit:

1. That the offender (a) makes an attack, (b) employs force, (c) makes a serious
intimidation, or (d) makes a serious resistance;

2. That the person assaulted is a person in authority or his agent;

3. That at the time of the assault, the person in authority or his agent (a) is engaged in
the actual performance of official duties, or (b) is assaulted by reason of the past
performance of official duties;

4. That the offender knows that the one he is assaulting is a person in authority or his
agent in the exercise of his duties; and

5. That there is no public uprising.

In the instant case, the Informations40 alleged the following, to wit:

1. That on or about the 4th day of June 1995, at about 5:00 p.m., in Barangay Boot,
Municipality of Tanauan, Province of Batangas, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of
this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating
together, acting in common accord and mutually helping one another, Nestor while
armed with an armalite rifle, with intent to kill and without any justifiable cause, did
then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and shoot with the
said firearm the victims, SP02 Andaya/P/C Insp. Camacho;

Page 48 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

2. That the said victims are bona fide members of the PNP assigned at Tanauan Police
Station, and one of them was the current Chief of Police ofTanauan, Batangas; and

3. That at the time of the incident, they were engaged in the performance of their
official duties.

In the course of the trial, the evidence presented sufficiently established the foregoing
allegations including the fact that the petitioners came to know that the victims were
agents of a person in authority, as the latter introduced themselves to be members of
the PNP.

Nevertheless, the establishment of the fact that the petitioners came to know that the
victims were agents of a person in authority cannot cure the lack of allegation in the
Informations that such fact was known to the accused which renders the same
defective. In addition, neither can this fact be considered as a generic aggravating
circumstance under paragraph 3 of Article 14 of the RPC for acts committed with insult
or in disregard of the respect due the offended party on account of his rank to justify the
imposition of an increased penalty against the petitioners.

As the Court held in People v. Rodil:41

While the evidence definitely demonstrated that appellant knew because the victim,
who was in civilian clothing, told him that he was an agent of a person in authority, he
cannot be convicted of the complex crime of homicide with assault upon an agent of a
person in authority, for the simple reason that the information does not allege the fact
that the accused then knew that, before or at the time of the assault, the victim was an
agent of a person in authority. The information simply alleges that appellant did "attack
and stab PC Lt. Guillermo Masana while the latter was in the performance of his official
duties, ... " Such an allegation cannot be an adequate substitute for the essential
averment to justify a conviction of the complex crime, which necessarily requires the
imposition of the maximum period of the penalty prescribed for the graver offense. Like
a qualifying circumstance, such knowledge must be expressly and specifically averred in
the information; otherwise, in the absence of such allegation, the required knowledge,
like a qualifying circumstance, although proven, would only be appreciated as a generic
aggravating circumstance. Applying this principle, the attack on the victim, who was
known to the appellant as a peace officer, could be considered only as aggravating,
being "in contempt of/or with insult to public authorities" (Par. [2], Art. XIV of the [RPC],
or as an "insult or in disregard of the respect due the offended party on account of his
rank, ... "(Par. 3, Art. XIV, [RPC]).

It is essential that the accused must have knowledge that the person attacked was a
person in authority or his agent in the exercise of his duties, because the accused must
have the intention to offend, injure, or assault the offended party as a person in
authority or agent of a person in authority.42

"The Constitution mandates that the accused, in all criminal prosecutions, shall enjoy
the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. From
this fundamental precept proceeds the rule that the accused may be convicted only of
the crime with which he is charged. "43 This right is accorded by the Constitution so that
the accused can prepare an adequate defense against the charge against him.
Convicting him of a ground not alleged while he is concentrating on his defense against
the ground alleged would plainly be unfair and underhanded. 44 It must be noted that
said constitutional right is implemented by the process of arraignment45 in which the
allegations in the document charging an offense is read and made known to the
accused. Accordingly, a Complaint or Information which does not contain all the
elements constituting the crime charged cannot serve as a means by which said
constitutional requirement is satisfied. Corollarily, the fact that all the elements of the

Page 49 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

crime were duly proven in trial cannot cure the defect of a Complaint or Information to
serve its constitutional purpose.

Pursuant to the said constitutional precept, the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal
Procedure requires that every element of the offense must be alleged in the complaint
or information so as to enable the accused to suitably prepare his defense. Corollarily,
qualifying circumstances or generic aggravating circumstances will not be appreciated
by the Court unless alleged in the Information. This requirement is now laid down in
Sections 8 and 9 of Rule 110, to wit:

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 om1ss1ons 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.

The 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure explicitly mandates that qualifying and
aggravating circumstances must be stated in ordinary and concise language in the
complaint or information. When the law or rules specify certain circumstances that can
aggravate an offense or that would attach to such offense a greater penalty than that
ordinarily prescribed, such circumstances must be both alleged and proven in order to
justify the imposition of the increased penalty.46 Due to such requirement being pro
reo, the Court has authorized its retroactive application in favor of even those charged
with felonies committed prior to December 1, 2000 (i.e., the date of the effectivity of
the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure that embodied the requirement).47

In People v. Flores, Jr., 48 as reiterated in the more recent cases of People v.


Pangilinan49 and People v. Dadulla,50the Court ruled that the constitutional right of the
accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him cannot be
waived for reasons of public policy. Hence, it is imperative that the complaint or
information filed against the accused be complete to meet its objectives. As such, an
indictment must fully state the elements of the specific offense alleged to have been
committed. For an accused cannot be convicted of an offense, even if duly proven,
unless it is alleged or necessarily included in the complaint or information.51 In other
words, the complaint must contain a specific allegation of every fact and circumstance
necessary to constitute the crime charged, the accused being presumed to have no
independent knowledge of the facts that constitute the offense. 52 Under Section 9 of
Rule 117 of the 2000 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, an accused's failure to raise
an objection to the insufficiency or defect in the information would not amount to a
waiver of any objection based on said ground or irregularity.

Section 9 of Rule 117 of the 2000 Revised Rules on Criminal procedure reads:

Sec. 9. Failure to move to quash or to allege any ground therefor.-The failure of the
accused to assert any ground of a motion to quash before he pleads to the complaint or
information, either because he did not file a motion to quash or failed to allege the
same in said motion, shall be deemed a waiver of any objections EXCEPT THOSE based
in the grounds provided for in paragraphs (a), (b), (g), and (i) of Section 3 of this Rule.

Indeed, the foregoing provision provides that if an accused fails to assert all the grounds
available to him under Section 3 of Rule 117 in his motion to quash, or if he, altogether,

Page 50 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

fails to file i motion a quash - any I objection based on the ground or grounds he failed
the raise through a motion to quash shall be deemed waived, except the following, thus:

SEC. 3. Grounds. - x x x: I

(a) That the facts charged do not constitute an offense;

(b) That the court trying the case has no jurisdiction over the offense charged;

x x xx !

(g) That the criminal action or liability has been extinguished; [and] x x xx

(i) That the accused has been previously convicted or acquitted of the offense
charged, or the case against him was dismissed or otherwise terminated
without his express consent.

Therefore, the petitioners can only be convicted of the crime of Homicide instead of the
complex crime of Direct Assault Upon an Agent of a Person in Authority with Homicide
due to the simple reason that the Informations do not sufficiently charge the latter.

[T]he real nature of the criminal charge is determined not from the caption or preamble
of the information nor from the specification of the provision of law alleged to have
been violated, they being conclusions of law, but by the actual recital of facts in the
complaint or information ... it is not the technical name given by the Fiscal appearing in
the title of the information that determines the character of the crime but the facts
alleged in the body of the Information. 53

Nevertheless, by reason of the fact that the presence of the aggravating circumstance
of acts committed with insult or in disregard of the respect due the offended party on
account of his rank was proven in the course of the trial, exemplary damages should be
awarded in each case in addition to such other damages that were already awarded by
the courts below. Exemplary damages are justified regardless of whether or not the
generic or qualifying aggravating circumstances are alleged in the information. The grant
in this regard should be in the sum of ₱30,000.00.54 In the case of People v.
Catubig,55 the Court elucidated on the nature of exemplary damages, thus:

Also known as "punitive" or "vindictive" damages, exemplary or corrective damages are


intended to serve as a deterrent to serious wrong doings, and as a vindication of undue
sufferings and wanton invasion of the rights of an injured or a punishment for those
guilty of outrageous conduct. x x x In common law, there is preference in the use of
exemplary damages when the award is to account for injury to feelings and for the
sense of indignity and humiliation suffered by a person as a result of an injury that has
been maliciously and wantonly inflicted, the theory being that there should be
compensation for the hurt caused by the highly reprehensible conduct of the defendant
- associated with such circumstances as willfulness, wantonness, malice, gross
negligence or recklessness, oppression, insult or fraud or gross fraud - that intensifies
the injury. The terms punitive or vindictive damages are often used to refer to those
species of damages that may be awarded against a person to punish him for his
outrageous conduct. In either case, these damages are intended in good measure to
deter the wrongdoer and others like him from similar conduct in the future. 56 (Citations
omitted and emphasis ours)

Accordingly, since the petitioners are all found to be principally liable for the crimes
committed as conspiracy was duly proven, exemplary damages in the amount of
₱30,000.00 should be awarded against each of them.

Page 51 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

WHEREFORE, the judgment is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioners Nestor


Guelos, Rodrigo Guelos, Gil Carandang and SP02 Alfredo Carandang y Prescilla are
hereby found GUILTY of Homicide and sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of EIGHT
(8) YEARS and ONE (I) DAY of prision mayor, as minimum, to FOURTEEN (14) YEARS and
ONE (1) DAY of reclusion temporal, as maximum. The fine of ₱ l,000.00 is DELETED. In
addition to the amount of damages and civil indemnity that were already awarded by
the courts below to the respective heirs of Police Chief Inspector Rolando Camacho and
Senior Police Officer 2 Estelito Andaya, each of the petitioners are also directed to pay
the amount of ₱30,000.00 as exemplary damages to each of the victims.

SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

8. HOMICIDE

June 19, 2017

G.R. No. 220977

PO1 CELSO TABOBO III y EBID, Petitioner


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent

RESOLUTION

REYES, J.:

This is a petition for review 1 under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure seeking
to nullify and set aside the Decision2 dated January 23, 2015 and the Resolution3 dated
October 12, 2015 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 35948, affirming the
Decision4 dated May 15, 2013 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 41,
convicting Police Officer 1 Celso Tabobo III y Ebid (petitioner) of the crime of Homicide
in Criminal Case No. 06-248576.

On January 19, 2005, at around 7:00 a.m., Manuel Zachary Escudero y Araneta
(Escudero) was walking along P. Ocampo Street, Manila whentwo men riding on a
motorcycle in tandem suddenly approached him and grabbed his cellphone. The back
rider then fired a shot at Escudero, resulting to his death. The incident was reported to
Police Station 9 (PS-9) of the Manila Police District. Station Commander Police
Superintendent Marcelino DL Pedrozo, Jr. (P/Supt. Pedrozo) dispatched a team of police
officers to the crime scene. After conducting a manhunt operation, the team arrested
two suspects who fit the description given by witnesses, namely, Victor Ramon Martiny
Ong (Martin) and Leopoldo Villanueva. They were directly brought to PS-9 for
investigation and both were detained at the detention cell of the PS-9 located at the
rooftop. 5

On January 20, 2005, at around 4:00 a.m., Police Officer 2 Jesus De Leon (P02 De Leon)
was interviewing 1\1artin at the second floor of PS-9 when the latter requested to
remove his handcuffs to answer the call of nature. When P02 De Leon removed the
handcuffs, Martin suddenly grabbed his service firearm. A scuffle ensued and the gun

Page 52 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

went off. The petitioner, who was then at the ground floor, heard the gunshot and
proceeded to the second floor. After seeing P02 De Leon almost subdued by Martin, the
petitioner fired his gun twice and hit Martin on the chest. Martinto was rushed the
Ospital ng Maynila but he was declared dead upon arrival. 6

Consequently, the petitioner was charged with the crime of Homicide for Martin's death
before the RTC of Manila. 7

The prosecution presented Dr. Ravell Ronald R. Baluyot (Dr. Baluyot), the physician who
conducted the autopsy on Martin's body. 8 He testified that Martin bore two gunshot
wounds on the chest.9 Considering that the exit wounds were higher than the entrance
wounds, it was possible that Martin was shot by someone who was positioned lower
than him. 10 Dr. Baluyot also testified that Martin had various injuries that could have
been caused by forceful contact with hard, blunt objects. 11

On the other hand, the defense presented P/Supt. Pedrozo who testified that when he
was informed of a robbery incident, he dispatched a team of police officers to
investigate. On the same day, he learned that the suspects were arrested. However, he
had no personal knowledge of the incident surrounding Martin's death. 12

P02 De Leon initially took the witness stand for his direct examination. However, he was
not able to complete his testimony prompting the R TC to order his direct testimony to
be stricken off the records. Accordingly, the case was considered submitted for
decision. 13

Ruling of the RTC

On May 15, 2013, the RTC rendered a Decision 14 convicting the petitioner of the crime
charged. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding the [petitioner]


guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of Homicide and sentencing him to suffer
the penalty of reclusion temporal, imposed in its medium period. However, for lack of
basis, no civil liability is adjudged. x x xx

SO ORDERED. 15

In so ruling, the RTC held that the petitioner failed to prove that all the elements of
justifying circumstance of defense of a stranger are present in this case. 16

On July 1, 2013, the petitioner filed a Very Urgent Motion to allow accused to avail of
the remedy of appeal by accepting his justification and further allow him temporary
liberty under his original bond. He later filed an Extremely Urgent Motion for
Reconsideration and New Trial. The petitioner alleged that his counsel's gross mistake
and negligence deprived him of his right to due process. 17

The RTC issued an Order allowing the petitioner to post cash bail in the amount of
₱150,000.00. However, the RTC deferred the resolution of the motion for new trial and
informed the petitioner that should he choose to avail of the remedy of appeal, the
entire records would be forwarded to the CA. Hence, the petitioner appealed to the
CA. 18

Ruling of the CA

The CA in its Decision 19 dated January 23, 2015, affirmed the decision of the RTC, to wit:

Page 53 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Decision datedMay 15, 2013 rendered by the
RTC of Manila, Branch 41, in Criminal Case No. 06-248576, is AFFIRMED, with
the MODIFICATION that the [petitioner] is sentenced to suffer the indeterminate
penalty of imprisonment ranging from eight (8) years and one (1) day
of prisionmayor, as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day
of reclusion temporal, as maximum, and to pay heirs of the victim, [Martin], Fifty
Thousand Pesos (PS0,000.00) as civil indemnity.

SO ORDERED.20 (Citation omitted)

The CA reasoned that the prosecution need not prove the elements of homicide
considering that the burden of proof in this case has shifted to the petitioner for
interposing the justifying circumstance of defense of a stranger.21However, it concurred
with the findings of the RTC that the defense failed to prove the existence of all the
elements of defense of a stranger.22

The petitioner moved for reconsideration 23 of the CA decision, but the motion was
denied in a Resolution 24 dated October 12, 2015. Hence, the present petition.

The petitioner argues that he was denied due process in court due to the gross
negligence and incompetence of his counsel before the trial court. Moreover, he asserts
that the CA should have considered the stipulations Made the by parties respecting the
that Crime Report Senior Police Officer 2 Edmundo C. Cabal (SP02 Cabal) executed to
the effect that the petitioner acted in defense of P02 De Leon when he shot the victim,
which consequently relieves him of his duty to prove the elements of the justifying
circumstance of defense of a stranger.25

Issue

Whether or not the CA erred in affirming the petitioner's conviction for the crime of
homicide.

Ruling of the Court

The petition is partly meritorious.

"Let it be underscored that appeal in criminal cases throws the whole case open for
review and it is the duty of the appellate court to correct, cite and appreciate errors in
the appealed judgment whether they are assigned or unassigned."26 This rule is strictly
observed, particularly where the liberty of the accused is at stake, as in the extant case.
Thus, while the Court generally firmly adheres to the principle that factual findings of
the RTC, when affirmed by the CA, are entitled to great weight and respect by this Court
and are deemed final and conclusive when supported by the evidence on record, 27 the
same is not ironclad and applicable at all times.

In convicting the petitioner, the RTC and the CA primarily relied on the testimony of the
prosecution witness, SP02 Cabal's Crime Report, and the petitioner's declarations in his
Sworn Statement, Counter-Affidavit, and Joint Rejoinder. The CA held that the
petitioner admitted shooting Martin as stated in his Sworn Statement dated January 26,
2006, Counter-Affidavit dated March 21, 2006 and Joint Rejoinder dated April 25, 2006.
It further noted that in his Appellant's Brief, the petitioner relied on the "defense of a
stranger" as justification for his act. Thus, the CA concluded that the petitioner admitted
that he killed the victim. 28

However, the fact that the petitioner may have admitted shooting Martin in the said
documents does not necessarily establish his guilt for the crime charged. An admission
of fact is starkly different from, and is not tantamount to, a confession of guilt. In People
of the Philippines v.Buntag, 29 the Court elucidated that:

Page 54 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

In criminal cases, an admission is something less than a confession. It is but a statement


of facts by the accused, direct or implied, which do not directly involve an
acknowledgment of his guilt or of his criminal intent to commit the offense with which
he is bound, against his interests, of the evidence or truths charged. It is an
acknowledgment of some facts or circumstances which, in itself, is insufficient to
authorize a conviction and which tends only to establish the ultimate facts of guilt. A
confession, on the other hand, is an acknowledgment, in express terms, of his guilt of
the crime charged. 30 (Citations omitted)

In this case, the Court notes that while the Sworn Statement, Counter-Affidavit, and
Joint Rejoinder may be considered as the petitioner's admission as to the fact of the
killing, the same were never identified by the petitioner in court since he never took the
witness stand, and is thus, hearsay as regards to him. As elucidated in Republic of
thePhilippines v. Marcos-Manotoc, et al.,31 affidavits are considered as hearsay evidence
unless the testify affiants themselves thereon:

Basic is the rule that, while affidavits may be considered as public documents if they are
acknowledged before a notary public, these Affidavits are still classified as hearsay
evidence. The reason for this rule is that they are not generally prepared by the affiant,
but by another one who uses his or her own language in writing the affiant's
statements, parts of which may thus be either omitted or misunderstood by the one
writing them. Moreover, the adverse party is deprived of the opportunity to cross-
examine the affiants. For this reason, affidavits are generally rejected for being hearsay,
unless the affiants themselves are placed on the witness stand to testify
thereon. 32 (Citation omitted)

The RTC, therefore, should not have readily relied on the said documents to establish
the petitioner's admission of the killing, more so when the admission was not
corroborated by evidence, except for the Crime Report.

The Court observes that the petitioner pleaded not guilty to the killing during
arraignment and invoked the justifying circumstance of defense of a stranger under
Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code. One who invokes self-defense admits responsibility
for the killing. Accordingly, the burden of proof shifts to the accused who must then
prove the justifying circumstance. He must show by clear and convincing evidence that
he indeed acted in self-defense, or in defense of a relative or a stranger. With clear and
convincing evidence, all the following elements of self-defense must be established: (1)
unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the means
employed to prevent or repel it; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the
person claiming self-defense. 33

In People v. Patrolman Belbes,34 the Court ruled:

It is well settled in this jurisdiction that once an accused had admitted that he inflicted
the fatal injuries on the deceased, it was incumbent upon him, in order to avoid criminal
liability, to prove the justifying circumstance claimed by him with clear, satisfactory and
convincing evidence. He cannot rely on the weakness of the prosecution but on the
strength of his own evidence, "for even if the evidence of the prosecution were weak it
could not be disbelieved after the accused himself had admitted the killing."35(Citations
omitted)

Thus, the petitioner must establish with clear and convincing evidence that the killing
was justified, and that he incurred no criminal liability therefor. However, the petitioner
was deprived of such opportunity to effectively present his evidence and to defend
himself due to the gross and palpable negligence and incompetence of his counsel. Such
deprivation amounts to a denial of the petitioner's due process, vitiating the integrity of
the proceedings before the trial court.

Page 55 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Evidently, the trial was marked by gross negligence and incompetence of the
petitioner's counsel due to numerous delays and postponements. The Court notes that
the petitioner's counsel failed to attend the hearings set on September 21, 2011,
October 17, 2011, November 16, 2011, November 5, 2012, November 26, 2012, and
March 18, 2013 despite notice, all of which were crucial for the defense. As a result, the
R TC ordered the initial testimony of P02 De Leon, the sole witness to the shooting, to
be stricken off the records and to consider the presentation of the defense's evidence
waived.36

Moreover, the petitioner's counsel failed to ask for reconsideration of the RTC order,
knowing fully well that P02 De Leon's testimony of what transpired in the police station
is crucial to the petitioner's defense. Likewise, no formal offer of exhibit was filed for the
defense. Thus, the petitioner's counsel can hardly be considered to have defended the
petitioner at all.

It is, however, an oft-repeated ruling that the negligence and mistakes of counsel bind
the client.1âwphi1 A departure from this rule would bring about never-ending suits, so
long as lawyers could allege their own fault or negligence to support the client's case
and obtain remedies and reliefs already lost by the operation of law. 37 The only
exception would be where the lawyer's gross negligence would result in the grave
injustice of depriving his client of the due process of law.38 The Court finds that the
exception applies in this case.

The petitioner is, without doubt, entitled to competent legal representation from his
counsel. In Sanico v. People,39the Court held that:

If the incompetence of counsel was so great and the error committed as a result was so
serious that the client was prejudiced by a denial of his day in court, the litigation ought
to be reopened to give to the client another chance to present his case. The legitimate
interests of the petitioner, particularly the right to have his conviction reviewed by the
RTC as the superior tribunal, should not be sacrificed in the altar of technicalities.40

Furthermore, in Reyes v. CA,41 the Court held that in cases where the counsel is grossly
negligent as to deprive the accused of his constitutional right to be heard, the conviction
should not be based solely on the evidence of the prosecution, thus:

It was Atty. Tenorio's absences, then, rather than petitioner's, which appear to be the
cause for the defense's failure to present its evidence. Atty. Tenorio's negligence did not
consist in error of procedure or even a lapse in strategy but something as basic as failing
to appear in court despite clear warning that such failure would amount to waiver of her
client's right to present evidence in her defense.

Keeping in mind that this case involves personal liberty, the negligence of counsel was
certainly so gross that it should not be allowed to prejudice petitioner's constitutional
right to be heard. The judicial conscience certainly cannot rest easy on a conviction
based solely on the evidence of the prosecution just because the presentation of the
defense evidence had been barred by technicality. Rigid application of rules must yield
to the duty of courts to render justice where justice is due - to secure to every individual
all possible legal means to prove his innocence of a crime with which he or she might be
charged. 42 (Citation omitted).

In the Reyes case, the Court resolved to remand the case to the R TC for further
reception of the accused's evidence. Hence, in accordance with the Court's
pronouncement in Reyes, and in view of the irregularities prejudicial to the rights of the
petitioner that attended the trial, the case calls for a new trial pursuant to Section 243of
Rule 121 of the Rules of Court. The case should be remanded to the trial court to enable
the petitioner to effectively defend himself and present evidence.

Page 56 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

WHEREFORE, the petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. TheDecision dated January 23, 2015
and Resolution dated October 12, 2015 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 35948
and the Decision dated May 15, 2013 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 41 in
Criminal Case No. 06-248576 are hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The case
is REMANDED to the Regional Trial Court of Manila for a new trial for the purpose of
allowing Police Officer 1 Celso Tabobo III y Ebid to present evidence in his defense with
directive to the court thereafter to decide the case with all deliberate speed.

SO ORDERED.

9. MURDER

June 19, 2017

G.R. No. 227306

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee


vs.
ROBERTO ESPERANZA JESALVA alias "ROBERT SANTOS", Accused-Appellant

DECISION

JARDELEZA, J.:

This appeal seeks to reverse and set aside the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision1 dated
September 28, 2015 in CA-G.R. CR-HC-06823. The CA upheld the Decision2 dated April
14, 2014 of the Regional Trial Court (R TC) of Quezon City, Branch 80, in Criminal Case
No. Q-08-152149, which found accused-appellant Roberto Esperanza Jesalva alias
"Robert Santos" (accused-appellant) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
murder.

An Information dated March 31, 2008 was filed charging accused-appellant,

Ryan Menieva y Labina3 (Menieva) and Junie Ilaw (Ilaw) for the

murder of Arnel Ortigosa y Cervana4 (Ortigosa), committed as follows:

That on or about the 16th day of September 2007, in Quezon City, Philippines, the
above-named accused, conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping
one another did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously with intent to kill
with evident premeditation, treachery and taking advantage of superior strength,
attack, assault and employ personal violence upon the person of Amel [O]rtigosa y
Cervana, by then and there stabbing him with a sharp bladed instrument hitting him on
the chest, thereby inflicting upon him serious and grave wounds which were the direct
and immediate cause of his untimely death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of
said Arnel [O]rtigosa y Cervana.

That the crime was committed with qualifying aggravating circumstance of treachery
when the offended party was not given opportunity to make a defense as the attack
was sudden, unexpected and without warning.

That the crime was committed with abuse of superior strength for whereas the accused
were armed with a knife and firearm of unknown caliber, the victim was unarmed.

Contrary to law. 5

Page 57 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

A warrant of arrest was issued against accused-appellant, Menieva and Ilaw. 6 However,
only accused-appellant was arrested. Upon arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded not
guilty to the offense charged. 7 Trial ensued.

The facts of the case are as follows:

On September 16, 2007, at around 1:00 a.m., Ortigosa, his cousin Renato B. Flores
(Flores) and Manny Boy Ditche were drinking in Dupax Street, Old Balara, Quezon City.
Later, they decided to go to a store to buy cigarettes.8 On their way to the store, Flores
noticed accused-appellant standing in a comer near the store and staring at them. Then,
accused-appellant walked away and disappeared. Later, accused-appellant reappeared,
accompanied by Menieva and Ilaw, and followed Ortigosa and his group to the
store.9 When accused-appellant and his companions were already in front of Ortigosa,
Menieva uttered, "Ne!, ano ba yan?" and proceeded to stab Ortigosa twice with an
icepick. Menieva stabbed Ortigosa first on the right portion of his chest, then on his left
armpit. As Menieva stabbed Ortigosa, Ilaw pointed a sumpak at Ortigosa while accused-
appellant pointed at Ortigosa' s group and left. 10

After the stabbing, Ortigosa and his group tried to run back to where they were
drinking. Before they reached the place, Ortigosa fell on the ground. His companions
rushed him to East Avenue Medical Center where he died. 11

The prosecution and defense stipulated on the testimony of Dr. Filemon C. Porciuncula,
Jr. (Dr. Porciuncula), the medico-legal assigned with the Central Police District Crime
Laboratory on September 16, 2007. Dr. Porciuncula conducted a post-mortem
examination on Ortigosa's cadaver, detennined the cause of death as stab wounds on
Ortigosa's trunk and prepared Medico-Legal Report No. 599-07 and Ortigosa's death
certificate. 12

For its part, the defense presented accused-appellant. Accused-appellant denied any
participation in Ortigosa's stabbing. He claimed that on the night of the incident, he was
waiting for his sister on the corner of Dupax Street. While waiting, he saw and heard
people running and shouting which caused him to leave the place. 13

On April 14, 2014, the RTC of Quezon City, Branch 80 rendered a Decision holding that
accused-appellant conspired with Menieva and Ilaw to kill Ortigosa. 14 The RTC held that
Flores positively identified accused-appellant in open court as the person who stabbed
Ortigosa twice with an icepick. 15 As treachery attended the killing, the crime is murder.
The RTC convicted accused-appellant, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the court finds accused ROBERTO ESPERANZA JESAL
VA alias ROBERT SANTOS guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder
defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code as amended and is
hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua and to indemnify the heirs
of Amel Ortigosa the amounts of ₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱24,000.00 as actual
damages, ₱50,000.00 as moral damages and ₱30,000.00 as exemplary damages.

Let an alias warrant of arrest be issued against accused RYAN MENIEBA y LABINA and
JUNIE ILAW, the same to remain standing until their apprehension.

SO ORDERED.16

On September 28, 2015, the CA affirmed with modification the trial court's Decision and
held that conspiracy was evident from the coordinated movements of the three
accused. 17 The CA, however, differed with the RTC's findings regarding accused-
appellant's participation in the crime. It determined that it was Menieva who stabbed
Ortigosa and that accused-appellant' s participation before, during and after the
incident was confined to the following: (1) accompanying Menieva and Ilaw to the store

Page 58 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

where Ortigosa and his group were; and (2) pointing at the group while Ortigosa was
stabbed. 18 The CA also held that the damages awarded shall earn interest at 6% per
annum from finality of judgment until fully satisfied. 19

Hence, this appeal.

On February 9, 2017, accused-appellant filed a Manifestation In Lieu of Supplemental


Brief20 requesting that his appellant's brief be adopted as his supplemental brief. On
February 13, 2017, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) also filed its Manifestation
and Motion In Lieu of Supplemental Brief 21 stating that it would no longer file a
supplemental brief as it has already substantially and exhaustively responded to and
refuted accused-appellant's arguments in its appellee' s brief.

The appeal is meritorious.

As a general rule, we accord respect to the factual findings of the trial court as it is in a
better position to evaluate the testimonial evidence.22 The rule finds an even more
stringent application where the said findings are sustained by the CA.23 This rule,
however, admits of exceptions, to wit:

But where the trial court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or
circumstances of weight and substance which can affect the result of the case, this
Court is duty-bound to correct this palpable error for the right to liberty, which stands
second only to life in the hierarchy of constitutional rights, cannot be lightly taken away.
x x x24

In this case, we find that the prosecution failed to prove that accused-appellant
conspired with Menieva and Ilaw in committing the crime of murder.

Conspiracy is said to exist where two or more persons come to an agreement


concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. The essence of
conspiracy is the unity of action and purpose. Its elements, like the physical acts
constituting the crime itself, must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. 25 We explained
the reason for the rule, thus:

As a facile device by which an accused may be ensnared and kept within the penal fold,
conspiracy requires conclusive proof if we are to maintain in full strength the substance
of the time-honored principle of criminal law requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt
before conviction.

x x x26

Direct proof is not essential to prove conspiracy for it may be deduced from the acts of
the accused before, during and after the commission of the crime charged, from which
it may be indicated that there is a common purpose to commit the crime.27 It is not
sufficient, however, that the attack be joint and simultaneous for simultaneousness
does not of itself demonstrate the concurrence of will or unity of action and purpose
which are the bases of the responsibility of the assailants. It is necessary that the
assailants be animated by one and the same purpose. 28 We held:

. "To be a conspirator, one need not participate in every detail of the execution; he need
not even take part in every act xxx. Each conspirator may be assigned separate and
different tasks which may appear unrelated to one another but, in fact, constitute a
whole collective effort to achieve their common criminal objective. Once conspiracy is
shown, the act of one is the act of all the conspirators. The precise extent or modality of
participation of each of them becomes secondary, since all the conspirators are
principals."29

Page 59 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Both the RTC and the CA ruled that conspiracy was duly established. In particular, the
CA concluded:

In the present case, conspiracy was evident from the coordinated movements of the
three (3) accused. From the prosecution's evidence, [Flores] saw accused-appellant at
the comer of the street, who initially disappeared and reappeared with co-accused
[Menieva and Ilaw]. While [Menieva] was stabbing the victim, [Ilaw] was pointing a
"sumpak" at the latter, with the accused-appellant pointing his finger at them before
leaving.

[Flores] positively identified the accused-appellant as the person who accompanied his
co-accused [Menieva and Ilaw]. He described accused-appellant's participation before
the incident, during the incident, i.e., while the victim was being stabbed by his co-
accused [Menieva], and after the incident. Evidently, the accused-appellant and
company all acted in confabulation in furtherance of their common design and
purpose, i.e. to kill the victim. Thus, the court a quo correctly held that conspiracy is
present.30 (Citation omitted.)

We disagree.

To determine if accused-appellant conspired with Menieva and Ilaw, the focus of the
inquiry should necessarily be the overt acts of accusedappellant before, during and after
the stabbing incident.31

On accused-appellant's acts before the stabbing incident, the OSG argues that
conspiracy to kill Ortigosa is evident considering the proximity in time between accused-
appellant's walking away and re-appearing accompanied by Menieva and Ilaw. To the
OSG, it can be reasonably inferred that when accused-appellant disappeared, he sought
the help of Menieva and Ilaw to carry out the evil plan against Ortigosa or that
accusedappellant signaled the arrival of the victim for his group to execute their criminal
design. 32

This argument is speculative and remains unsubstantiated. More, it falters as there is no


evidence that accused-appellant and his co-accused had any enmity or grudge against
the deceased. In the absence of strong motives on their part to kill the deceased, it
cannot safely be concluded that they conspired to commit the crime. 33 Likewise, there
is no evidence showing that accused-appellant was purposely waiting for Ortigosa at the
time and place of the incident and that Menieva and Ilaw were on standby, awaiting for
accused-appellant's signal. Surely, accused-appellant could not have anticipated that on
September 16, 2007, at around 1:00 a.m., Ortigosa and his group would pass by and go
to the store to buy cigarettes.

During and after the stabbing incident, Flores testified that what accused-appellant did
during the stabbing was to point at them before walking away. On cross, Flores
admitted that accused-apellant did not inflict any injury on Ortigosa:

CROSS EXAMINATION OF ATTY. BANDAO

Atty. Bandao to Witness

Q A while ago, Mr. Witness, you testified that in the early morning of September 16,
2007, you were in the company of one Arnel Ortigosa, is that correct?

CROSS EXAMINATION OF ATTY. BANDAO

Witness

Page 60 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

A Yes, sir.

Atty. Bandao

Q Now, you claimed that while you were in the company of Arnel Ortigosa, it was then
that Ryan Menieba stabbed him, is that correct?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, as far as the accused Robert Santos is concerned, you would agree with me that
he never inflicted any physical injuries or whatever kind of injury to Arnel Ortigosa?

A Yes, sir. 34 (Emphasis in the original.)

Accused-appellant's act of pointing to the victim and his group is not an overt act which
shows that accused-appellant acted in concert with his coaccused to cause the death of
Ortigosa. We stress that mere knowledge, acquiescence or approval of the act, without
the cooperation and the agreement to cooperate, is not enough to establish conspiracy.
Even if the accused were present and agreed to cooperate with the main perpetrators
of the crime, their mere presence does not make them parties to it, absent any active
participation in the furtherance of the common design or purpose.35 Likewise, where
the only act attributable to the other accused is an apparent readiness to provide
assistance, but with no certainty as to its ripening into an overt act, there is no
conspiracy.36 In this case, while accused-appellant's presence and act of pointing at the
victim and his group may mean he approved of the crime or that he was ready to assist
his co-accused, absent any other overt act on his part, there is no conspiracy.

We emphasize that the prosecution must establish conspiracy beyond reasonable


doubt. A conviction premised on a finding of conspiracy must be founded on facts, not
on mere inferences and presumption. 37 We repeat:

Conspiracy is not a harmless innuendo to be taken lightly or accepted at every tum. It is


a legal concept that imputes culpability under specific circumstances. As such, it must be
established as clearly as any element of the crime. The quantum of evidence to be
satisfied is, we repeat, beyond reasonable doubt. 38 (Citation omitted.)

In the absence of conspiracy, accused-appellant is responsible only for the


consequences of his own acts.39 In this case, all that accused-appellant did was to stare
and point at the victim and his companions.1âwphi1 These, however, are not crimes.

Neither can accused-appellant be considered a principal by indispensable cooperation


nor an accomplice in the crime of murder. The cooperation that the law punishes is the
assistance knowingly or intentionally rendered which cannot exist without previous
cognizance of the criminal act intended to be executed. Thus, to be liable either as a
principal by indispensable cooperation or as an accomplice, the accused must unite with
the criminal design of the principal by direct participation.40 In this case, nothing in the
records shows that accused-appellant knew Menieva was going to stab Ortigosa, thus
creating a doubt as to accused-appellant's criminal intent.

Indeed, absent any evidence to create the moral certainty required to convict accused-
appellant, we cannot uphold the trial court's finding of guilt. Our legal culture demands
the presentation of proof beyond reasonable doubt before any person may be
convicted of any crime and deprived of his life, liberty, or even property. The hypothesis
of his guilt must flow naturally from the facts proved and must be consistent with all of
them.41 Moral certainty, not mere possibility, determines the guilt or innocence of the
accused.42

Page 61 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accused-
appellant ROBERTO ESPERANZA JESAL VA alias "Robert Santos" is ACQUITTED on
reasonable doubt of the crime charged. Accordingly, he is ordered immediately released
from custody unless he is lawfully held for another cause.

10. Rape 266 a (d)

June 28, 2017

G.R. No. 212201

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee


vs.
RODOLFO DENIEGA y ESPINOSA, Accused-Appellant

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

Before the Court is an ordinary appeal filed by accused-appellant Rodolfo Deniega y


Espinosa assailing the Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals (CA), dated September 27,
2013, in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 05348, which affirmed in toto the November 15, 2011
Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Pedro, Laguna, Branch 31, in Criminal
Case No. 6185- SPL, finding accused-appellant guilty of the crime of statutory rape and
imposing upon him the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole and
ordering him to pay the amounts of ₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱75,000.00 as moral
damages, and ₱30,000.00 as exemplary damages.

The antecedents are as follows:

AAA3 was a young lass suffering from mental retardation. Around 7 o'clock in the
evening of May 2, 2007, AAA who, was then sixteen years old4 but with a mental
capacity of a six (6)-year-old child, went out of their house with some neighbors to
watch a basketball game in a nearby basketball court. Upon returning home at
approximately 11 o'clock in the evening of the same date, BBB, AAA's mother noticed
that the latter's pants were wet. When BBB asked AAA what caused the wetting of her
pants, the latter simply dismissed her mother's query and said that it was nothing (wala
lang). Prompted by suspicion, BBB asked AAA to remove her pants, thereupon, she
smelled her underwear which emitted the scent of semen. When quizzed by her
mother, AAA eventually admitted that herein accused-appellant, whom she calls
Dodong, and who was known to them as a delivery boy in their neighborhood, invited
her to go to another basketball court where they could talk with each other but,
instead, upon arriving at the said place, he undressed her and made her lie down. Upon
acquiring such information, BBB put AAA's underwear in a plastic bag and immediately
reported the incident to the barangay authorities. AAA later revealed that, at the said
basketball court, accused-appellant undressed her, made her lie down, removed his
pants and underwear, went on top of her, inserted his penis in her vagina and made
"up-and-down" movements." The barangay authorities, with the help of some police
officers, then proceeded to arrest accused-appellant who was then found in a
neighbor's house. At the time of his apprehension, accused-appellant was very drunk.
Thus, the authorities waited until the next morning for him to become sober before
interrogating him. Upon questioning by the authorities, accused-appellant admitted in
front of his employer and BBB that he had sex with AAA and that he loves AAA and he
offered to marry her. He also requested BBB and the barangay authorities not to file a
case against him. BBB, however, refused accused-appellant's offer and request. Instead,
she brought AAA to a doctor in Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba, Laguna for medical
examination. Subsequently, a criminal complaint for rape was filed against accused-
appellant.5

Page 62 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

In an Amended Information dated July 9, 2007, accused was charged with the crime of
statutory rape before the RTC of San Pedro, Laguna, as follows:

The undersigned Assistant Provincial Prosecutor of Laguna accuses Rodolfo Deniega @


"DONG" of the crime of Statutory Rape in relation to Republic Act No. 7610, as follows:

That on or about May 2, 2007, in the Municipality of San Pedro, Province of Laguna,
Philippines, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused did then
and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, have carnal knowledge with a minor (16
years old) [AAA], whose mental age is only six (6) years old. Said carnal knowledge with
the said [AAA] is detrimental to her normal growth and development.

That accused knew fully well that the said [AAA] is suffering from mental disability
and/or disorder.

CONTRARY TO LAW.6

Accused-appellant was arraigned on August 14, 2007 where he pleaded not guilty. 7

In his defense, accused-appellant denied the allegations of the prosecution and also
raised the defense of alibi. He contended that between the hours of 8 o'clock in the
morning and 12 o'clock midnight of May 2, 2007, he busied himself by painting the
house of a neighbor, then he went to GMA Cavite to have his electric fan repaired and,
subsequently, had a drinking session with his friend at the latter's house. He also
admitted that he and the victim were residing at the same place and, at the time of the
incident, he has known the victim for one month.

Pre-trial was conducted on September 12, 2007.8 Thereafter, trial ensued.

On November 15, 2011, the RTC rendered its Decision finding accused-appellant guilty
as charged, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, the court finds the accused Rodolfo Deniega y Espinosa GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt of statutory rape and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty
of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole.

The accused is ordered to pay the victim the following sums: In 5,000.00 as civil
indemnity; ₱75,000.00 as moral damages; and ₱30,000.00 as exemplary damage.

SO ORDERED. 9

The RTC held that the prosecution was able to establish through clinical and testimonial
evidence that AAA is suffering from moderate mental retardation, with an IQ of 43 and
with a mental age of a six-year-old child. The trial court also noted that, as admitted by
accused-appellant, he knew of the condition of the victim. The RTC ruled that the
prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that accused-appellant had
sexual intercourse with the victim. The RTC gave full credence to the testimony of AAA
holding that she testified on the rape that happened to her in a straightforward and
categorical manner. The trial court did not give weight to accused-appellant's defense of
alibi because the place where he claims to be at the time of the rape is just three streets
away from the scene of the crime, hence, it is not physically impossible for him to be at
the said scene at the time of the commission of the rape. The RTC also noted that
accused-appellant failed to account for his whereabouts between 8 o'clock and 10
o'clock in the evening of May 2, 2007, which is the approximate time that AAA was
raped. The RTC further held that AAA positively identified accused-appellant as the one
who raped her.

Page 63 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Accused-appellant appealed the RTC Decision with the CA. 10

On September 27, 2013, the CA promulgated its assailed Decision affirming the
judgment of the RTC in toto.

The CA held, among others, that: the observation of the trial judge, coupled with the
evidence of the prosecution, confirms the mental retardation of the victim; AAA's
narration of the rape incident is consistent; and accused-appellant's denial is
unsubstantiated, thus, cannot overcome the categorical testimony of the victim.

On October 10, 2013, accused-appellant, through counsel, filed a Notice of


Appeal 11 manifesting his intention to appeal the CA Decision to this Court.

In its Resolution12 dated October 30, 2013, the CA gave due course to accused-
appellant's Notice of Appeal and directed its Judicial Records Division to elevate the
records of the case to this Court.

Hence, this appeal was instituted.

In a Resolution13 dated July 7, 2014, this Court, among others, notified the parties that
they may file their respective supplemental briefs, if they so desire.

In its Manifestation and Motion 14 dated September 4, 2014, the Office of the Solicitor
General (OSG) prayed that it be excused from filing a supplemental brief because it had
already adequately addressed in its brief filed before the CA all the issues and
arguments raised by accused-appellant in his brief.

In the same manner, accused-appellant filed a Manifestation15 (in Lieu of Supplemental


Brief) dated September 10, 2014, indicating that he no longer intends to file a
supplemental brief and is adopting his brief, which was filed with the CA, as his
supplemental brief had adequately discussed all the matters pertinent to his defense.

In his Brief, accused-appellant contends that he was wrongly convicted because the
prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He questions the
credibility of the victim and insists that the trial court erred in not giving due
consideration to his defense of alibi.

The appeal lacks merit. The Court finds no cogent reason to reverse accused-appellant's
conviction.

Accused-appellant was charged with statutory rape under Article 266- A, paragraph 1
(d) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended by Republic Act No. 8353 16 (RA
8353), in relation to Republic Act No. 761017 (RA 7610).

The pertinent provisions of Articles 266-A of the RPC, as amended, provide:

Art. 266-A Rape; When And How Rape is Committed

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

a) Through force, threat, or intimidation;

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

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

Page 64 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

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

xxx

Statutory rape is committed when: (1) the offended party is under twelve years of age;
and (2) the accused has carnal knowledge of her, regardless of whether there was force,
threat or intimidation, whether the victim was deprived of reason or consciousness, or
whether it was done through fraud or grave abuse of authority. 18 It is enough that the
age of the victim is proven and that there was sexual intercourse. 19

This Court has consistently held that rape under Article 266-A(l)(d) of the Revised Penal
Code, as amended, is termed statutory rape as it departs from the usual modes of
committing rape.20 What the law punishes in statutory rape is carnal knowledge of a
woman below twelve (12) years old.21 Thus, force, intimidation and physical evidence of
injury are not relevant considerations; the only subject of inquiry is the age of the
woman and whether carnal knowledge took place.22 The law presumes that the victim
does not and cannot have a will of her own on account of her tender years; the child's
consent is immaterial because of her presumed incapacity to discern good from evil. 23

It is also a settled rule that sexual intercourse with a woman who is a mental retardate,
with a mental age below 12 years old, constitutes statutory rape. 24 In People v.
Quintas, 25 this Court held that if a mentally-retarded or intellectually-disabled person
whose mental age is less than 12 years is raped, the rape is considered committed
under paragraph 1 (d) and not paragraph l(b), Article 266-A of the RPC. In holding as
such, this Court differentiated the term "mentally-retarded" or "intellectually disabled"
from the terms "deprived of reason" and "demented" as used under Article 266-A,
paragraphs 1 (b) and 1 (d) of the RPC. The Court ruled that:

xxxx

The term, "deprived of reason," is associated with insanity or madness. A person


deprived of reason has mental abnormalities that affect his or her reasoning and
perception of reality and, therefore, his or her capacity to resist, make decisions, and
give consent.

The term, "demented," refers to a person who suffers from a mental condition called
dementia. Dementia refers to the deterioration or loss of mental functions such as
memory, learning, speaking, and social condition, which impairs one's independence in
everyday activities.

We are aware that the terms, "mental retardation" or "intellectual disability," had been
classified under "deprived of reason." The terms, "deprived of reason" and "demented",
however, should be differentiated from the term, "mentally retarded" or "intellectually
disabled." An intellectually disabled person is not necessarily deprived of reason or
demented. This court had even ruled that they may be credible witnesses. However, his
or her maturity is not there despite the physical age. He or she is deficient in general
mental abilities and has an impaired conceptual, social, and practical functioning
relative to his or her age, gender, and peers. Because of such impairment, he or she
does not meet the "socio-cultural standards of personal independence and social
responsibility."

Thus, a person with a chronological age of 7 years and a normal mental age is as capable
of making decisions and giving consent as a person with a chronological age of 35 and a
mental age of 7. Both are considered incapable of giving rational consent because both
are not yet considered to have reached the level of maturity that gives them the
capability to make rational decisions, especially on matters involving sexuality. Decision-
making is a function of the mind. Hence, a person's capacity to decide whether to give

Page 65 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

consent or to express resistance to an adult activity is determined not by his or her


chronological age but by his or her mental age. Therefore, in determining whether a
person is "twelve (12) years of age" under Article 266-A(l)(d), the interpretation should
be in accordance with either the chronological age of the child if he or she is not
suffering from intellectual disability, or the mental age if intellectual disability is
established.

x x x 26

In the present case, the Information alleged that the victim, at the time of the
commission of the crime, was 16 years old but with a mental age of a 6-year-old child.
The prosecution was able to establish these facts through AAA's Birth
Certificate,27 Clinical Abstract prepared by a medical doctor who is a psychiatrist from
the National Center for Mental Health,28 as well as the testimonies of the said
doctor29 and the victim's mother, BBB.30

In the present appeal, accused-appellant's main line of argument is anchored on his


attack on the credibility of the victim, AAA. He posits that AAA's mental state profoundly
affects her perception of reality causing her to forget things or details. Accused-
appellant also claims that AAA has a very limited understanding of her choices and
actions and their consequences and is prone to making up and telling stories, thus,
putting int0 question her credibility as a witness.

Both the RTC and the CA, however, found AAA's testimony, that accused-appellant had
sexual intercourse with her, to be steadfast, unwavering and consistent, and the Court
finds no reason to disturb this finding. Thus, in People v. Pareja,31 this Court reiterated
the established rule that:

xxxx

When the issue of credibility of witnesses is presented before this Court, we follow
certain guidelines that have over time been established in jurisprudence. In People v.
Sanchez (G.R. No. 197815, February 8, 2012, 665 SCRA 639, 643), we enumerated them
as follows:

First, the Court gives the highest respect to the RTC's evaluation of the testimony of the
witnesses, considering its unique position in directly observing the demeanor of a
witness on the stand. From its vantage point, the trial court is in the best position to
determine the truthfulness of witnesses.

Second, absent any substantial reason which would justify the reversal of the RTC's
assessments and conclusions, the reviewing court is generally bound by the lower
court's findings, particularly when no significant facts and circumstances, affecting the
outcome of the case, are shown to have been overlooked or disregarded.

And third, the rule is even more stringently applied if the CA concurred with the RTC.
(Citations omitted)

The recognized rule in this jurisdiction is that the "assessment of the credibility of
witnesses is a domain best left to the trial court judge because of his unique opportunity
to observe their deportment and demeanor on the witness stand; a vantage point
denied appellate courts-and when his findings have been affirmed by the Court of
Appeals, these are generally binding and conclusive upon this Court." While there are
recognized exceptions to the rule, this Court has found no substantial reason to
overturn the identical conclusions of the trial and appellate courts on the matter of
AAA's credibility.

x x x 32

Page 66 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

In the present case, it is true that based on the medical and psychiatric evaluation of
AAA, she has moderate mental retardation and that she has the mental age of a six-
year-old child. Accused-appellant makes much of this fact to discredit the testimony of
AAA. This Court has, nonetheless, held that competence and credibility of mentally
deficient rape victims as witnesses have been upheld where it is shown that they can
communicate their ordeal capably and consistently. 33 Rather than undermine the
gravity of the complainant's accusations, it even lends greater credence to her
testimony, that, someone as feeble-minded and guileless could speak so tenaciously
and explicitly on the details of the rape if she has not in fact suffered such crime at the
hands of the accused.34 The basic rule is that when a victim's testimony is credible and
sufficiently establishes the elements of the crime, it may be enough basis to convict an
accused of rape. 35

What makes the case stronger for the prosecution is that the testimony of AAA is
corroborated by the medical findings of the presence of a "deep healing laceration" in
her hymen which was caused by a blunt object.36 Such medico-legal findings bolsters the
prosecution's testimonial evidence. Together, these pieces of evidence produce a moral
certainty that accused-appellant indeed raped the victim.

Accused-appellant also questions AAA's credibility by contending that it is very hard to


believe that no one could have seen or noticed him having sexual intercourse with AAA
in the nearby basketball court, considering that AAA herself testified that the said
basketball court, was near the one where people were watching the ongoing game.

The Court is not persuaded. There is no evidence to show that there were people
present at the basketball court where the crime was committed. Moreover, it is
probable that people did not notice accused-appellant having sexual intercourse with
AAA because there was then an ongoing basketball game at another court and the
attention of the persons present were directed at the said game. Besides, as testified by
the victim, it only took a minute for accused-appellant to consummate his carnal desire,
after which they immediately went back.37 In any case, as correctly cited by the OSG,
this Court has held that lust is no respecter of time and place and that rape can be
committed even in places where people congregate, in parks, along the roadside, within
school premises, inside a house where there are other occupants and even in the same
room where other members of the family are also sleeping. 38

Aside from interposing the defense of denial, accused-appellant also argues that the
trial court erred in giving scant consideration of his defense of alibi, especially of the fact
that given the state of intoxication that he was found in at the time of the said incident,
it would be physically impossible for him to have committed the crime charged.
Countless times, this Court has declared that alibi is an inherently weak defense. Unless
supported by clear and convincing evidence, it cannot prevail over the positive
declaration of a victim who, in a natural and straightforward manner, convincingly
identifies the accused-appellant.39 Positive identification, where consistent and without
any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying on the matter, prevails
over denial.40 On the other hand, denial - if not substantiated by clear and convincing
evidence - is negative, self-serving and undeserving of any weight in law.41 In the
present case, the OSG correctly echoed the trial court's observation that accused
appellant failed to account for his whereabouts between 8 o'clock in the evening and 10
o'clock of the same night, which is the approximate time that AAA was raped.
Moreover, the place where the crime was committed was a mere three streets away
from where accused-appellant and his friend were having a drinking session. This leads
to the conclusion that it is not impossible for accused-appellant to be at the scene of the
crime at the approximate time that it was committed, after which, he would still have
enough time to go back to their drinking session and get himself extremely drunk.

All told, the prosecution was able to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that accused-
appellant was guilty of raping AAA.

Page 67 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Statutory rape, penalized under Article 266-A, paragraph l (d) of the RPC, as amended,
carries the penalty of reclusion perpetua under Article 266-B of the same Code, unless
attended by qualifying circumstances defined therein, among which is "when the
offender knew of the mental disability, emotional disorder and/or physical handicap of
the offended party at the time of the commission of the crime," in which case the death
penalty shall be imposed.

In the instant case, as discussed above, the victim, AAA, is considered below twelve (12)
years old at the time of the commission of the crime.1âwphi1 Moreover, it was alleged
in the Information and established by the prosecution that accused-appellant had
knowledge of her mental disability. In fact, accused-appellant never denied knowledge
of such fact. Thus, because of the presence of this qualifying circumstance, the
imposable penalty is death. However, the passage of Republic Act No. 934642 prohibits
the imposition of the death penalty without, nonetheless, declassifying the crime of
qualified rape as heinous. Thus, the trial court correctly reduced the penalty from death
to reclusion perpetua, without eligibility for parole.

Anent the award of damages, to conform to this Court's ruling in People v. Ireneo
Jugueta,43 which is the prevailing jurisprudence on the matter, the award of damages
are modified as follows: ₱l00,000.00 as civil indemnity, Pl 00,000.00 as moral damages,
and ₱l00,000.00 as exemplary damages. Moreover, also in consonance with prevailing
jurisprudence,44 the amount of damages awarded shall earn interest at the rate of six
percent (6%) per annum from the finality of this judgment until said amounts are fully
paid.

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The September 27, 2013 Decision of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 05348 is AFFIRMED with the
following MODIFICATIONS:

1) Accused-appellant is ORDERED to PAY the increased amounts of ₱l00,000.00 as civil


indemnity, ₱l00,000.00 as moral damages and ₱l00,000.00 as exemplary damages.

2) Accused-appellant is additionally ORDERED to PAY the victim, AAA, interest at the


rate of six percent (6%) per annum on all damages awarded from the date of finality of
this Decison until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

11. libel

July 5, 2017

G.R. No. 170341

MANILA BULLETIN PUBLISHING CORPORATION AND RUTHER BATUIGAS, Petitioners


vs.
VICTOR A. DOMINGO AND THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents

DECISION

MARTIRES, J.:

Page 68 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Through their petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, petitioners plead
that the Court nullify and set aside the 30 March 2005 decision1 and 25 October 2005
xesolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA), Eighteenth Division in CA-G.R. CR. No. 19089
affirming the joint decision3 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, Tacloban City, in Civil
Case No. 91- 02-23 and Criminal Case No. 91-03-159.

THE FACTS

Petitioner Ruther D. Batuigas (Batuigas) was a writer of the widely circulated


tabloid Tempo, published by the Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation (Manila
Bulletin).

On 20 December 1990, Batuigas wrote an article in his Bull's Eye column in Tempo
titled "Crucial task for JoeCon's successor." The article dealt with the letter-complaint of
the Waray employees of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Region VIII on the
"[m]ismanagement, low moral[e], improper decorum, gross inefficiency, nepotism, etc."
in the office. One of the public officials complained of was petitioner Regional Director
Victor Domingo (Domingo) who was accused of dereliction of official duties, among
others.4 The "JoeCon" referred to was the outgoing DTI Secretary, Jose Concepcion.

On 4 January 1991, Batuigas wrote in his column titled "A challenge to Sec.
Garrucho" about the alleged "lousy perfoRMance of Regional Director R.D. Domingo in
DTI Region 8," among others.5 Peter Garrucho was the newly appointed DTI Secretary
who took over from Jose Concepcion.

Offended by these two articles, Domingo filed, on 18 January 1991, a complaint for libel
against Ba.tuigas before the Provincial Prosecutor of Palo, Leyte.6

On 7 February 1991, Domingo likewise filed a complaint for Damages before the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Palo, Leyte, against Batuigas and the Manila Bulletin. The
complaint, docketed as Civil Case No. 91-02-23, was raffled to the RTC, Branch 6, Palo,
Leyte.7

On 18 March 1991, the Provincial Prosecutor terminated the preliminary investigation


with the filing of an Information for Libel8 against Batuigas, viz:

That on or about the 20th day of December 1990, and the 4th day of January 1991, the
above-named accused, with malice afterthought and with intent to damage, ruin and
discredit the good name and reputation of one VICTOR A. DOMINGO of Tacloban City,
Leyte, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously wr[o]te and publish[ed] in
the TEMPO Publication in Manila, the following, to wit:

December 20, 1990

But whoever will succeed JoeCon (Mr. Jose Concepcion, then the Secretary of the
Department of Trade and Industry), will inherit a brewing problem at the Eastern
Visayas office of the Department of Trade and industry.

Eastern Visayas in Region 8 is made up of two Leyte and three Samar provinces.

In their letter to this comer, the Waray employees of DTI-8 say they are disgusted over
how things are being run and handled in the regional office in Tacloban City.

Mismanagement, low morale, improper decorum, gross inefficiency, nepotism, etc.

"These complaints, they say, were brought last year to the attention of DTI Makati. Civil
Service Commission and Ombudsman.

Page 69 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Wala raw nangyari sa reklamo nila.

Kaya kami lumapit sa inyo, Gg. Batuigas, dahil nagbibigay ng resulta ang kolum ninyo,"
his letter said.

To JoeCon's successor, here are the specifics:

Regional Director V. Domingo is accused of dereliction of official duties.

PECS are allegedly mismanaged, the Kalakalan program not given any direction arid non-
implementation of the rules on product standards.

The complainants charge that Director Domingo is more interested in night[-]clubbing


the female members of his staff.

He also brings out the staff to seminars and conferences because he enjoys the pleasure
of their company and his being out of his region, they aver.

A provincial director has organized his staff composed of clan members. Only his house
pets were not included.

A couple are in the same office holding sensitive positions.

P. Caludac, a division chief, has hired an aunt to assume a vital post.

On the pretext that they are on fieldwork, time cards of ass-kissers are punched to the
detriment of those loyal to the public service.

And these spoiled brats are led by no less than Director Domingo's secretary.

This corner is also told that the director's personal secretary is more often seen in the
city hotels and beauty parlors than in her office.

The civil status of the media specialist is officially recorded as 'single' although her three
children were sired by different fathers.

And Director Domingo has full knowledge of such immorality.

The Leyte provincial director has neglected to perform his functions causing a downfall
in business.

This outright neglect is detrimental to DTI and the region's progress.

These national employees should be commended for bringing into the open this
garbage that has piled in their own backyard.

To JoeCon's successor, the chopping board is ready.

All you need is a Muslim kris.

Palakulin mo, Pare ko!

January 4, 1991 issue:

Newly appointed Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry Peter Garrucho has
a difficult job ahead of him.

Page 70 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

He is like sailing in turbulent waters.

If he fails the exception (sic) of the public, it is not only his name: at stake, but of Tita
Cory, too,

He must perform something extraordinary to surpass what JoeCon did at DTI.

One problem that he should give priority [to] is the lousy perfom1ance of Regional
Director (sic) Domingo in DTI Region 8.

There is a serious breakdown of morale of DTI employees in that region because of


Domingo's mismanagement.

After we exposed the alleged shenanigans of Domingo and his minions in our Dec. 20
column, the guy reportedly went on the air over PR TV 12 and radio station

DYXL (sic) in Tacloban City and announced that he would sue this columnist with a
'multi-million pesos' libel [case].

But why should Domingo threaten us with libel suits instead of presenting his side is
something that we can't understand.

We have volumes of documents against you, Mr. Domingo, furnished us by your people
there at DTI Region 8.

Maybe you should answer them point by point instead of issuing threats against us.

Ms. Lilia Bautista, DTI Undersecretary for personnel and administration should know all
the charges against you by this time.

Your people there have been sending her documented complaints long time ago, before
I exposed your kalokohan in my Dec. 20 column.

You will be reading more about them soon.

Abangan!"

thereby injuring the good name, integrity and honor of said Victor A. Domingo and
causing and exposing him to public hatred, ridicule and contempt.9

The Information, docketed as Criminal Case No. 91-03-159, was raffled to the RTC,
Branch 6, Palo, Leyte. The criminal case was subsequently consolidated with Civil Case
No. 91-02-23.

When called to the witness stand, Domingo, then the DTI Director for Region VIII,
denied the allegations against him which were contained in the 20 December 1990 and
4 January 1991 articles of Batuigas.10 He claimed that he felt like he had been
assassinated because of these articles, while his family members were emotionally
upset and traumatized.11

To support his claim that the allegations against him were not true, Domingo presented
the following: (a) his sworn statement12 for the filing of a libel case against
Batuigas;13 (b) the Joint Affidavit14 of all the employees of the DTI Provincial Office
denying that they had sent a letter of complaint to Batuigas as mentioned in the 20
December 1990 article and as to the allegations contained therein;15 (c) the 8 January
1991 letter16 of Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chairman Patricia Sto. Tomas (Chairman
Sto. Tomas) to Batuigas in response to the 20 December 1990 article on the alleged

Page 71 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

"mismanagement, low morale, gross inefficiency and nepotism" pervading at the DTI
Region VIII;17 (d) the CSC Indorsement18 of Region VIII Director Eliseo Gatchalian relative
to the findings and recommendations on the complaint of R. De Paz and company;19 (e)
the 7 November 1990 letter20 of Victoria E. Valeriano (Valeriano) to the CSC Regional
Director with reference to her investigation on the complaint of R. De Paz and company
against him, among others, and which contained Valeriano' s recommendaion that the
complaint be dismissed and be considered closed and terminated21; (f) the CSC Region
VIII Report of Investigation22 where the complaint of immorality against him and
Jacqueline G. Aguiles was dismissed;23 (g) his draft letter24 to Batuigas protesting the
inaccuracies and the ill motivation of the 20 December 1990 column but which letter he
no longer sent to Batuigas;25 (h) the 28 September 1989 letter26 of the DTI Director of
Legal Affairs transmitting the 7 August 1989 resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman
in OSP-88-02282 dismissing the complaint of Arturo Salvacion against him, among
others;27 (i) the 7 August 1989 resolution28 of the Office of the Ombudsman in OSP-88-
02282;29 (J) the 21 August 1989 memorandum.30 of the Office of the Ombudsman on the
qomplaint against him by Jose Amable;31(k) the 14 January 1991 resolution32 of the
Regiona1 Development Council expressing its support and confidence in him;33 (l) the 4
January 1991 resolution34 of the Leyte Private Media, Inc. where he was commended for
being a clean public official and a model family man;35 (m) the respective affidavits of
DTI Assistant Secretary Jose Mari S. Yu36 and DTI Director Zafrullah G.
Masahud37 vouching for his integrity and morality;38 (n) the DTI certification39 of
Amando T. Alvis stating that the DTI Region VIII has no employee by the name of R. de
Paz or Meillin dela Cruz either in the past or at present; (o) the resolution40 of Provincial
Prosecutor Joventino P. Isidro on the libel complaint he filed against Batuigas;41 and, (p)
the affidavit42 of the DTI Region VIII employees denying the statements of Batuigas in his
column.43

Domingo stated that his friends who knew him well knew that the articles were
fabrications; those who did not know him that well would think him guilty of these
charges, some of whom made hurtful comments. He quantified the mental anguish,
sleepless nights, and wounded feelings that he suffered as a result of the false and
malicious charges against him by Batuigas in the amount of ₱2 million. He asked that he
be paid Pl million and ₱500,000.00 for moral and exemplary damages, respectively. He
claimed to have paid ₱l0,000.00 as filing fee for his complaint against Batuigas and that
he agreed to pay his lawyer ₱200.00 per appearance.44

Domingo claimed that after his exoneration by the CSC no other charges were filed
against him before any court or body. On the complaint of immorality, similar charges
were filed against him but these were also dismissed.45

Atty. Imelda Nartea,46 a resident of Tacloban; Gilene Sta. Maria Advincula,47 an


employee of the DTI Region VIII during the time that Domingo was the Regional
Director; and Jose Nicolasora,48 a businessman from Tacloban, testified to deny the
allegations against Domingo.

Batuigas took the witness stand for his defense. As the chief reporter and a columnist of
Tempo, he described his work as an expose, a product of investigative work. He claimed
that he exposes anomalies and other shenanigans in the government and even of
private individuals in the hope that corruption in the government might be minimized.
As a result of his exposes, he was able to cause the dismissal of some officials in the
government, although cases were also filed against him by officials of the government.
At the time he testified, he had not been convicted in any of the cases filed against
him.49

He stated that he met Domingo for the first time during the previous hearing of the
cases. He only came to know of Domingo when he received several letters of complaint
against the Regional Director. He presumed that the copies of the complaints were
those filed against Domingo before the CSC and the Office of the Ombudsman. Thus, he

Page 72 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

wrote the questioned articles because he found the complaints to be of public interest
as these involved the shenanigans committed by Domingo in his office. He no longer
had copies of the complaints claiming he lost these when he left the Manila Bulletin.50

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

In a joint decision51 dated 2 December 1994, the RTC resolved Civil Case No. 91-02-23
and Crim. Case No. 91-03-159 as follows:

Wherefore, finding accused Ruther Batuigas guilty beyond reasonable doubt and
principal of the crime of Libel defined by Article 353 in relation to Article 354 of the
Revised Penal Code, and penalized under Article 355 of the same Code, hereby imposes
upon accused Ruther Batuigas a fine of Six Thousand (₱6,000.00) Pesos with subsidiary
imprisonment in case of insolvency.

In Civil Case No. 91-02-23, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff and
against the defendants:

1. Ordering defendants Ruther Batuigas and the Manila Bulletin Corporation to


solidarily pay plaintiff moral damages in the amount of One Million
(₱l,000,000.00) Pesos;

2. Ordering the same defendants to solidarily pay the same plaintiff the sum of
Five Hundred Thousand (₱500,000.00) Pesos exemplary damages;

3. Ordering the same defendants to solidarily pay the same plaintiff the sum of
Two Hundred Thousand (₱200,000.00) Pesos attorney's fees; litigation expenses
in the sum of Ten Thousand (₱l0,000.00) Pesos; and

4. Ordering the same defendants to solidarily pay the costs of this suit.52

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

Batuigas and the Manila Bulletin raised the decision of the RTC via an appeal, docketed
as CA-G.R. CR. No. 19089, to the CA, Cebu City. On 30 March 2005, the CA Eighteenth
Division53 rendered its decision the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the joint decision rendered by the Regional
Trial Court, Branch 6, Tacloban City in criminal case no. 91-03159 for libel and in civil
case no. 91-02-23 for damages is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.

Costs against appellant.54

Undeterred, Batuigas and the Manila Bulletin sought a reconsideration of the decision
which was denied by the CA in its resolution55 promulgated on 25 October 2005.

Hence, this petition for review on certiorari.

Issues

Batuigas and the Manila Bulletin anchored their unanimous plea for the reversal of the
CA's decision and resolution on the following grounds:

I.

WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN ITS DECISION IN
DISREGARDING, CONTRARY TO LAW, CONTROLLING JURISPRUDENCE, WHICH WOULD

Page 73 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

HA VE COMPELLED THE COURT TO CONCLUDE THAT (1) THE ARTICLES IN QUESTION


WERE QUALIFIEDLY PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATION; (2) IT WAS INCUMBENT UPON THE
PROSECUTION AND PRIVATE RESPONDENT TO PROVE THE FACT OF "ACTUAL MALICE,"
WHICH BURDEN WAS NOT DISCHARGED BY THE LATTER IN THESE CASES; AND (3) THERE
WAS NO "ACTUAL MALICE" IN THE SUBJECT ARTICLES, THEREBY REQUIRING THE
DISMISSAL OF THE COMPLAINT A QUO AND THE ACQUITTAL OF PETITIONER BATUIGAS.

II.

WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, EVEN ASSUMING FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT THAT LIBEL
WAS PRESENT IN THIS CASE, THE COURT OF APPEALS AND THE RTC EGREGIOUSLY AND
GRAVELY ERRED IN THEIR DECISIONS IN AWARDING UNWARRANTED AND EXCESSIVE
MORAL AND EXEMPLARY DAMAGES AND ATTORNEY'S FEES TO PRIVATE RESPONDENT
VICTOR DOMINGO, CONTRARY TO LAW AND JURISPRUDENCE. ACCORDINGLY, THE AW
ARD OF MORAL DAMAGES SHOULD CONSIDERABLY BE REDUCED, AND THE A WARD OF
EXEMPLARY DAMAGES AND ATTORNEY'S FEES BE DELETED AND SET ASIDE.56

THE RULING OF THE COURT

We grant the petition.

The petition under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court

Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court explicitly provides that a petition for review
on certiorari shall raise only questions of law, which must be distinctly set forth.57 In a
case,58 the Court reiterated its earlier rulings on the distinction between a question of
law from a question of fact, as follows:

A question of law arises when there is doubt as to what the law is on a certain state of
facts, while there is a question of fact when the doubt arises as to the truth or falsity of
the alleged facts. For a question to be one oflaw, the same must not involve an
examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants or any of
them. The resolution of the issue must rest solely on what the law provides on the given
set of circumstances. Once it is clear that the issue invites a review of the evidence
presented, the question posed is one of fact. Thus, the test of whether a question is one
of law or of fact is not the appellation given to such question by the party raising the
same; rather, it is whether the appellate court can determine the issue raised without
reviewing or evaluating the evidence, in which case, it is a question of law; otherwise it
is a question of fact.59

Under Rule 45, the Court is not required to examine and evaluate all over again the
evidence which had already been passed upon by the lower courts. Findings of fact
made by a trial court are accorded the highest degree of respect by an appellate
tribunal and, absent a clear disregard of the evidence before it that can otherwise affect
the results of the case, those findings should not be ignored.60 This becomes even more
significant when the factual findings of the lower court had been sustained by the CA.
Thus, the rule that factual findings of the trial court, affirmed by the CA, are final and
conclusive and may not be reviewed on appeal.61 This is the rule in which Domingo finds
refuge in opposing the plea of Batuigas and the Manila Bulletin in their quest before the
Court to reverse the findings of the RTC and the CA. Domingo asserted that the findings
of the RTC had been rendered as conclusive upon this Court because these had been
adopted by the CA.62

We must be reminded, however, that the general rule that the factual findings of the
lower courts are conclusive is not cast in stone since accruing jurisprudence
continuously reiterate the exceptions to the limitation of an appeal by certiorari to only
questions of law, viz: (1) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation,
surmises, or conjectures; (2) when the interference made is manifestly mistaken,

Page 74 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

absurd, or impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the
judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) when the findings of fact are
conflicting; (6) when in making its findings, the CA went beyond the issues of the case,
or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee; (7)
when the findings are contrary to those of the trial court; (8) when the findings are
conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (9) when the
facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner's main and reply briefs are not
disputed by the respondent; and (10) when the findings of fact are premised on the
supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record.63

An evaluation of the records of these cases, however, prods the Court to apply the
fourth exception above instead of the general rule. As will be discussed later, the RTC
and the CA had misapprehended the facts when these courts concluded that Batuigas
was guilty of libel, and that both he and the Manila Bulletin were liable for damages.

The criminal case of Libel

Under our law, criminal libel is defined as a public and malicious imputation of a crime
or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or
circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or
juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.64 For an imputation to
be libelous under Art. 353 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), the following requisites
must be present: (a) it must be defamatory; (b) it must be malicious; (c) it must be given
publicity; and (d) the victim must be identifiable.65

An allegation is considered defamatory if it ascribes to a person the commission of a


crime, the possession of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission,
condition, status or circumstance which tends to dishonor or discredit or put him in
contempt, or which tends to blacken the memory of one who is dead.66 In determining
whether a statement is defamatory, the words used are to be construed in their entirety
and should be taken in their plain, natural, and ordinary meaning as they would
naturally be understood by persons reading them, unless it appears that they were used
and understood in another sense.67 Moreover, a charge is sufficient if the words are
calculated to induce the hearers to suppose and understand that the person or persons
against whom they were uttered were guilty of certain offenses or are sufficient to
impeach the honesty, virtue or reputation or to hold the person or persons up to public
ridicule.68

Malice connotes ill will or spite and speaks not in response to duty but merely to injure
the reputation of the person defamed, and implies an intention to do ulterior and
unjustifiable harm. Malice is bad faith or bad motive. It is the essence of the crime of
libel.69

There is publication if the material is communicated to a third person. It is not required


that the person defamed has read or heard about the libelous remark. What is material
is that a third person has read or heard the libelous statement, for "a man's reputation
is the estimate in which others hold him, not the good opinion which he has of
himself."70 Simply put, in libel, publication means making the defamatory matter, after it
is written, known to someone other than the person against whom it has been
written.71 "The reason for this is that [a] communication of the defamatory matter to
the person defamed cannot injure his reputation though it may wound his selfe-steem.
A man's reputation is not the good opinion he has of himself, but the estimation in
which others hold him."72

On the other hand, to satisfy the element of identifiability, it must be shown that at
least a third person or a stranger was able to identify him as the object of the
defamatory statement.73 It is enough if by intrinsic reference the allusion is apparent or
if the publication contains matters of description or reference to facts and

Page 75 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

circumstances from which others reading the article may know the person alluded to; or
if the latter is pointed out by extraneous circumstances so that those knowing such
person could and did understand that he was the person referred to.74

The element of publication is clearly not at issue in this case considering that both
articles of Batuigas were published in Tempo, a tabloid widely circulated all over the
country. As to the elements of identifiability, defamatory allegation, and malice, the
Court shall examine the two articles with the following as its guidepost:

For the purpose of determining the meaning of any publication alleged to be libelous
"that construction must be adopted which will give to the matter such a meaning as is
natural and obvious in the plain and ordinary sense in which the public would naturally
understand what was uttered. The published matter alleged to be libelous must be
construed as a whole. In applying these rules to the language of an alleged libel, the
court will disregard any subtle or ingenious explanation offered by the publisher on
being called to account. The whole question being the effect the publication had upon
the minds of the readers, and they not having been assisted by the offered explanation
in reading the article, it comes too late to have the effect of removing the sting, if any
there be, from the word used in the publication.75

a) The 20 December 1990 article

The Court cannot sustain the findings of the R TC and the CA that this article was
libelous. Viewed in its entirety, the article withholds the finding that it impeaches the
virtue, credit, and reputation of Domingo. The article was but a fair and true report by
Batuigas based on the documents received by him and thus exempts him from criminal
liability under Art. 354(2) of the RPC, viz:

Art. 354. Requirement for publicity. - Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be


malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is
shown, except in the following cases:

1. A private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any


legal, moral or social duty; and

2. A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks, of any
judicial, legislative or other official proceedings which are not of confidential nature, or
of any statement, report or speech delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act
performed by public officers in the exercise of their functions.

Noteworthy, the first sentence on the 20 December 1990 article76 warns the successor
of JoeCon of the brewing problem that he will inherit at the DTI Region VIII office. The
immediately following sentences relate that in a letter to Batuigas, the Waray
employees of Region VIII made known their disgust on how DTI Region VIII was being
run and handled. According to the Waray employees, the complaints as to the
"mismanagement, low morale, improper decorum, gross inefficiency, nepotism" in the
office had already been made known to the DTI Makati office, the CSC and the
Ombudsman, only that "[w]ala raw nangyari sa reklamo nila." The letter further
provided that the Waray employees turned instead to Batuigas knowing that his column
produces results, i.e., "Kaya kami lumapit sa inyo Gg. Batuigas dahil nagbibigay ng
resulta ang kolum ninyo."

As culled by Batuigas from the letter, the succeeding sentences in the article merely
enumerated the specifics of the complaints against several employees and officials of
the DTI Region VIII, among whom was Domingo, that had been brought to the attention
of DTI, CSC, and the Office of the Ombudsman, from which the Waray employees
claimed nothing happened.1âwphi1

Page 76 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

The article cannot be considered as defamatory because Batuigas had not ascribed to
Domingo the commission of a crime, the possession of a vice or defect, or any act or
omission9 condition, status or circumstance which tends to dishonor or discredit the
latter. The article was merely a factual report which, to stress, were based on the letter
of the Waray employees reiterating their earlier complaints against Domingo and other
co-workers at the DTI Region VIII. "Where the words imputed [are] not defamatory in
character, a libel charge will not prosper.1âwphi1 Malice is necessarily rendered
immaterial."77

Parenthetically, it was through the evidence, consisting of public


documents,78 presented by Domingo during the hearing of these cases that it was
confirmed that there were indeed complaints filed against him and the other DTI
officials before the CSC and the Office of the Ombudsman relative to "mismanagement,
low morale, improper decorum, gross inefficiency, nepotism." Although, based on these
pieces of evidence, the complaints against Domingo had already been dismissed by the
CSC and the Office of the Ombudsman, the fact remains that there were actual
complaints against him, among others, the particulars of which were those plainly
enumerated in the article. True, it was embarrassing that these complaints were
disclosed to the public; but equally factual was that these were matters clearly
supported by public records.

The CA, however. moored on these statements its resolution that the 20 December
1990 article was libelous, viz:

These national employees should be commended for bringing into the open this
garbage that has piled [up] in their own backyard.

To JoeCon's successor, the chopping board is ready.

All you need is a Muslim kris!

Palakulin mo, Pare ko!79

The CA held that because of the comments or remarks made by Batuigas, the article
would not fall under the exceptions of Art. 354 of the RPC. The CA ruled that the test of
the defamatory character was whether or not the words were calculated to induce
suspicion, a manner more effective to destroy reputation than false charges directly
made, and that the meaning of the writer was even immaterial.80

A plain reading of the statements found by the CA as libelous cannot support a ruling
that these were disparaging to Domingo or calculated to induce suspicion upon his
person. In the statement "[t]hese national employees should be commended for bringing
into the open this garbage that has piled [up] in their own backyard," Batuigas was
merely commending the DTI employees who brought into the open their complaints
which had already been made known to the CSC and the Office of the Ombudsman. It
was a fair remark directed to the DTI employees and made no reference to Domingo or
imputed to him any defamatory allegation.

On the last three sentences, Batuigas explained that this was only a figure of
speech.81 The statements were obviously addressed to the new DTI Secretary suggesting
that he use a chopping board and a Muslim kris to solve the mounting problems at the
DTI office. A plain, natural, and ordinary appreciation of the statements fails to validate
the finding that these ascribed something deprecating against Domingo. The sentences
merely meant that heads should roll at the DTI office but palpably absent were the
identities of those persons. Corollary thereto, the article could not have qualified as
libelous because it is the well-entrenched rule that statements are not libelous unless
they refer to an ascertained or ascertainable person.82

Page 77 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

b) The 4 January 1991 article

The CA ruled that this article contained statements not lifted from another source, as is
true in the 20 December 1990 column, but were the words of Batuigas. According to the
CA, the tenor of the article showed that Batuigas had already formed his conclusions
that Domingo had committed "shenanigans" in his office and that
Domingo's "kalokohan" were supported by voluminous documents but which were
never presented during the hearing of the cases.83 Apparently, it was because of the
words "shenanigans" and "kalokohan" that the CA found the article libelous.

It must be noted that Batuigas qualified as "alleged' the "shenanigans" of Domingo as


referred to in the 20 December 1990 column. By stating that what he had exposed
were "alleged shenanigans," Batuigas unmistakably did not confirm the truth as to the
specifics of the complaints made against Domingo or form a conclusion that Domingo
had actually committed mischiefs or misbehaved in office. Batuigas was merely relying
on the documents furnished him by the employees of DTI Region VIII thus, his mention
that these were "alleged shenanigans." On the other hand,
the "kalokohan" unmistakably had reference to the "alleged shenanigans" mentioned in
the early part of the article considering that both alluded to the exposes in the
December column. It is for this reason that a finding that the "kalokohan" was a
conclusion of Batuigas, as with the "alleged shenanigans," cannot be sustained.

However, when Batuigas made statements referring to the "lousy performance" of


Domingo and his "mismanagement" resulting in the breakdown of morale of the DTI
Region VIII employees, the former was actually impeaching the virtue and reputation of
Domingo as DTI Regional Director. At that instance, Batuigas was relaying to his readers
his comments about Domingo.

In contrast to the 20 December 1990 article where the statement as to the


"mismanagement, low morale, improper decorum, gross inefficiency, nepotism, etc."
were merely lifted by Batuigas from the letter of the DTI Region VIII employees, the
allegation in the 4 January 1991 article as to the "lousy performance" and
"mismanagement" of Domingo amounts to Batuigas' personal remarks about the
Regional Director.

Notwithstanding the defamatory imputation in the 4 January 1991 article of Batuigas,


Art. 354 of the RPC provides for the instances when its author can be exempted from
criminal liability. Evaluated against the exceptions enumerated in Art. 354 of the RPC, it
is beyond doubt that the statements of Batuigas as to the "lousy performance" and
"mismanagement" of Domingo cannot be considered as either private communication
or a report without any comments or remarks. The Court hastens to add, however, that
the exceptions in Art. 354 of the RPC are not exclusive since jurisprudence provides for
the additional exceptions to the privileged communications, viz: in Borja! v. Court of
Appeals,84 where it was held that in view of the constitutional right on the freedoms of
speech and of the press, fair commentaries on matters of public interest are privileged;
and in Guingguing v. Court of Appeals,85 where the remarks directed against a public
figure were ruled as privileged.86

A privileged communication may be classified as either absolutely privileged or


qualifiedly privileged.87 The absolutely privileged communications are those which are
not actionable even if the author has acted in bad faith. This classification includes
statements made by members of Congress in the discharge of their functions as such,
official communications made by public officers in the performance of their duties, and
allegations or statements made by the parties or their counsel in their pleadings or
motions or during the hearing of judicial proceedings, as well as the answers given by
witnesses in reply to questions propounded to them, in the course of said proceedings,
provided that said allegations or statements are relevant to the issues, and the answers
are responsive or pertinent to the questions propounded to said witnesses.88

Page 78 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

The qualifiedly privileged communications are those which contain defamatory


imputations but which are not actionable unless found to have been made without
good intention or justifiable motive, and to which "private communications" and "fair
and true report without any comments or remarks" belong.89 Since the qualifiedly
privileged communications are the exceptions to the general rule, these require proof of
actual malice in order that a defamatory imputation may be held actionable.90 But when
malice in fact is proven, assertions and proofs that the libelous articles are qualifiedly
privileged communications are futile, since being qualifiedly privileged communications
merely prevents the presumption of malice from attaching to a defamatory
imputation.91

The conduct, moral fitness, and ability of a public official to discharge his duties are
undoubtedly matters of public interest for he is, after all, legally required to be at all
times accountable to the people and is expected to discharge his duties with utmost
responsibility, integrity, competence, and loyalty; and to act with patriotism and justice,
lead modest lives, and uphold public interest over personal interest.92 Indeed, as early
as 1918, the Court had already laid down a legal teaching93 recognizing the right to
criticize the action and conduct of a public official, viz:

The interest of society and the maintenance of good government demand a full
discussion of public affairs. Complete liberty to comment on the conduct of public men
is a scalpel in the case of free speech. The sharp incision of its probe relieves the
abscesses of officialdom. Men in public life may suffer under a hostile and an unjust
accusation; the wound can be assuaged with the balm of a clear conscience. A public
officer must not be too thin-skinned with reference to comment upon his official acts.
Only thus can the intelligence and dignity of the individual be exalted. Of course,
criticism does not authorize defamation. Nevertheless, as the individual is less than the
State, so must expected criticism be born[e] for the common good. Rising superior to
any official or set of officials, to the Chief Executive, to the Legislature, to the Judiciary-
to any or all the agencies of Government-public opinion should be the constant source
of liberty and democracy.

It is for this reason that, when confronted with libel cases involving publications which
deal with public officials and the discharge of their official functions, this Court is not
confined within the wordings of the libel statute; rather, the case should likewise be
examined under the constitutional precept of freedom of the press.94 But if the
utterances are false, malicious, or unrelated to a public officer's performance of his
duties or irrelevant to matters of public interest involving public figures, the same may
give rise to criminal and civil liability.95 In contrast, where the subject of the libelous
article is a private individual, malice need not be proved by the plaintiff. The law
explicitly presumes its existence (malice in law) from the defamatory character of the
assailed statement.96

The statements on the "lousy performance" and "mismanagement" of Domingo are


matters of public interest as these relate to his moral conduct, his capacity to lead the
DTI Region VIII employees, and to manage and supervise the affairs of the office. These
statements undoubtedly make it to the grade of qualifiedly privileged communication
and thus, would require actual malice to be actionable. It must be stressed, however,
that once it is established that the article is of a privileged character, the onus of proving
actual malice rests on the plaintiff who must then convince the court that the offender
was prompted by malice or ill will.97

In Disini v. The Secretary of Justice,98 the Court explained "actual malice" as follows:

There is "actual malice" or malice in fact when the offender makes the defamatory
statement with the knowledge that it is false or with reckless disregard of whether it
was false or not. The reckless disregard standard used here requires a high degree of
awareness of probable falsity. There must be sufficient evidence to permit the

Page 79 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

conclusion that the accused in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of the
statement he published. Gross or even extreme negligence is not sufficient to establish
actual malice.99 (citations omitted)

Records cannot sustain a finding that Domingo was able to establish that Batuigas had
actual malice in writing this article. Batuigas testified that sometime in the latter part of
1990 and until 1991, he received letters of complaint denouncing Domingo.100 Although
Batuigas was not able to present these letters during the hearing of these cases it can be
rationally deduced that he was in actual receipt of the complaints against the DTI Region
VIII officials and employees because he was able to cite the specifics of the grievances of
the Waray employees in his 20 December 1990 article. Presumably, too, the letters that
Batuigas received were those complaints that had been dismissed by the CSC and the
Office of the Ombudsman, and with the corresponding resolutions evidencing the
dismissal of these complaints having been presented by Domingo during the hearing of
the cases.

It was evident that the statements as to the "lousy performance" and


"mismanagement" of Domingo cannot be regarded to have been written with the
knowledge that these were false or in reckless disregard of whether these were false,
bearing in mind that Batuigas had documentary evidence to support his statements.
Batuigas merely expressed his opinion based on the fact that there were complaints
filed against Domingo, among others. If the comment is an expression of opinion, based
on established facts, then it is immaterial that the opinion happens to be mistaken, as
long as it might reasonably be inferred from the facts.101

Moreover, these statements were but fair commentaries of Batuigas which can be
reasonably inferred from the contents of the documents that he had received and which
he qualified, in his 20 December 1990 article, to have been brought already to the
attention of the DTI, CSC, and the Ombudsman. Jurisprudence defines fair comment as
follows:

To reiterate, fair commentaries on matters of public interest are privileged and


constitute a valid defense in an action for libel or slander. The doctrine of fair comment
means that while in general every discreditable imputation publicly made is deemed
false, because every man is presumed innocent until his guilt is judicially proved, and
every false imputation is deemed malicious, nevertheless, when the discreditable
imputation is directed against a public person in his public capacity, it is not necessarily
actionable. In order that such discreditable imputation to a public official may be
actionable, it must either be a false allegation of fact or a comment based on a false
supposition. If the comment is an expression of opinion, based on established facts,
then it is immaterial that the opinion happens to be mistaken, as long as it might
reasonably be inferred from the facts.102 (emphasis omitted)

True, the complaints had already been dismissed by the government offices tasked to
resolve these, and of which fact Batuigas had not been informed when he wrote the 20
December 1990 and 4 January 1991 articles; but it must be pointed out that even
assuming that the contents of the articles were false, mere error, inaccuracy or even
falsity alone does not prove actual malice.103

In order to constitute malice, ill will must be personal.104 Domingo testified that he did
not personally know Batuigas or had met him before.105 When Domingo was asked as to
the motive of Batuigas in writing the articles putting his (Domingo's) name in a bad light,
he explained that the employees he had dismissed during the reorganization could have
caused the writing of the articles. Domingo further stated that, likewise, he suspected a
group of loggers in the region he had been very vocal against for the past ten years.106

When cross-examined, Domingo reiterated his earlier testimony that he had no dealings
with Batuigas, or had not personally met or spoken with him. When further probed,

Page 80 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Domingo said that Batuigas could have been (used as) a tool by people who were
interested in going after his neck because he had stepped on them in the discharge of
his duties. When asked to confirm whether Batuigas had a personal grudge against him,
Domingo said: "I do not think he harbors ill will against me."107

The absence of personal ill will of Batuigas against Domingo disavows actual malice and
buttresses the finding that Batuigas was prompted by a legitimate or plausible motive in
writing the articles. It was pointed out that Batuigas characterized his writing akin to an
expose where he revealed anomalies and shenanigans in the government in the hope
that corruption might be minimized.108 Moreover, Batuigas had no reason to doubt that
R. de Paz, the sender of the letter containing the complaints against Domingo, did not
exist considering that the letter was signed by one claiming to be R. de Paz.109

Art. 354 of the RPC provides that good intention and justifiable motives are defenses for
a defamatory imputation even if it be true. Batuigas was able to firmly establish his
defenses of good faith and good motive when he testified that, after he received several
letters of complaint against Domingo, he came up with the said columns because he
found the complaints on the shenanigans by Domingo at the DTI to be of public
interest.110 Batuigas' defense was reinforced by the records bereft of any showing that
the prosecution offered evidence to support a conclusion that Batuigas had written the
articles with the sole purpose of injuring the reputation of Domingo.

In his 16 January 1991 article111 titled "The other side of DTI 8 issue," Batuigas
acknowledged that he might have been used by the detractors of Domingo due to their
failure to establish a prima facie case against the Regional Director. In the same article,
Batuigas quoted portions of the separate letters sent to him by Zaldy Lim and Lions
International Deputy Vice-Governor Prudencio J. Gesta, who both denied the allegations
against Domingo. Additionally, Batuigas had written the 16 January 1991 article before
Domingo could file criminal and civil cases against him and the Manila Bulletin. These
truths evidently refuted malice or ill will by Batuigas against Domingo.

The CA found fault in the failure of Batuigas to check his sources despite the 21
December 2000112 letter of Domingo denouncing the accusations against him, and the 4
January 1991 letter of Chairman Sto. Tomas absolving Domingo of these accusations.
Further to this, the CA ruled that Domingo was not accorded the fair and equal
opportunity to have these letters published in order to balance the issue.113

Domingo admitted that he had drafted a letter114 to Batuigas protesting the inaccuracies
in the 20 December 1990 article. Unfortunately, Domingo eventually changed his mind
and did not send his letter to Batuigas115 as this could have informed Batuigas that the
charges against him (Domingo) had already been dismissed by the CSC and the Office of
the Ombudsman; thus, not having known of the dismissal of the complaints against
Domingo, Batuigas could not have mentioned it in his 4 January 1991 article. In the
same vein, it was implausible that the letter116 of Chaiman Sto. Tomas could have been
included in the 4 January 1991 Bull's Eye article since the letter was dated only 8 January
1991. Additionally, there was nothing from the records that would prove when Batuigas
had received the letter of Chairman Sto. Tomas. Notwithstanding the absence of this
proof, Batuigas unmistakably acknowledged the dismissal of the charges against
Domingo, the main topic of Chairman Sto. Tomas' letter, when he stated in his 16
January 1991 article: "It is indeed unfortunate that we published the charges against
him six weeks after he was cleared by the Civil Service Commission of the same
charges."117

The failure of Batuigas to counter-check the status of the complaints against Domingo
was indeed unfortunate, but such failure cannot be considered as enough reason to
hold him liable. While substantiation of the facts supplied is an important reporting
standard, still, a reporter may rely on information given by a lone source although it
reflects only one side of the story provided the reporter does not entertain a high

Page 81 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

degree of awareness of its probable falsity.118 Domingo, who had the burden of proving
actual malice, was not able to present proof that Batuigas had entertained awareness as
to the probable falsehood of the complaints against him (Domingo). Indeed, on the
basis of the documents in Batuigas' possession, which were actually complaints against
Domingo, Batuigas wrote his comments on Domingo's "lousy performance" and
"mismanagement." The Court thus finds it significant to restate its legal teaching
in Vasquez v. Court of Appeals,119 viz:

A rule placing on the accused the burden of showing the truth of allegations of official
misconduct and/or good motives and justifiable ends for making such allegations would
not only be contrary to Art. 361 of the Revised Penal Code. It would, above all, infringe
on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Such a rule would deter
citizens from performing their duties as members of a self-governing community.
Without free speech and assembly, discussions of our most abiding concerns as a nation
would be stifled. As Justice Brandeis has said, "public discussion is a political duty" and
"the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people."120

For sure, the words "lousy performance" and "mismanagement" had caused hurt or
embarrassment to Domingo and even to his family and friends, but it must be
emphasized that hurt or embarrassment even if real, is not automatically equivalent to
defamation; words which are merely insulting are not actionable as libel or slander per
se, and mere words of general abuse however opprobrious, ill-natured, or vexatious,
whether written or spoken, do not constitute bases for an action for defamation in the
absence of an allegation for special damages.121 If a writer in the course of temperate
and legitimate criticism falls into error as to some detail, or draws an incorrect inference
from the facts before him, and thus goes beyond the limits of strict truth, such
inaccuracies will not cause judgment to go against him, if the jury are satisfied, after
reading the whole publication, that it was written honestly, fairly, and with regard to
what truth and justice require.122 Domingo must remember that one of the costs
associated with participation in public affairs is an attendant loss of privacy.123

It may be well for us to keep in mind that the rule on privileged communications in
defamation cases developed because "public policy, the welfare of society and the
orderly administration of justice" have demanded protection for public
opinion.124 "While the doctrine of privileged communication can be abused, and its
abuse can lead to great hardships, to allow libel suits to prosper strictly on this account
will give rise to even greater hardships. The doctrine itself rests on public policy which
looks to the free and unfettered administration of justice. It is as a rule applied
liberally."125 Equally important is the following pronouncement which this Court had
consistently reiterated, to wit:

A newspaper especially one national in reach and coverage, should be free to report on
events and developments in which the public has a legitimate interest with minimum
fear of being hauled (sic) to court by one group or another on criminal or civil charges
for libel, so long as the newspaper respects and keeps within the standards of morality
and civility prevailing within the general community.

To avoid the self-censorship that would necessarily accompany strict liability for
erroneous statements, rules governing liability for injury to reputation are required to
allow an adequate margin of error by protecting some inaccuracies. It is for the same
reason that the New York Times doctrine requires that liability for defamation of a
public official or public figure may not be imposed in the absence of proof of "actual
malice" on the part of the person making the libelous statement.126

The civil case for Damages

The Court finds that there can be no civil liability in Civil Case No. 91-02-23 because no
libel was committed. The 20 December 1990 article was not libelous because it was only

Page 82 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

a fair and true report by Batuigas using the documents received by him thus relieving
him of criminal liability pursuant to Art. 354 (2) of the RPC. On the one hand, the
privileged nature of the 16 January1991 article and the failure of Domingo to discharge
his burden of proving actual malice on the part of Batuigas failed to support a finding
that there was libel. Clearly, there was no act that exists from which the civil liability
may arise.127

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the 30 March 2005 decision and 25 October 2005
resolution of the Court of Appeals, Eighteenth Division in CA-G.R. CR. No. 19089 are
hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner Ruther Batuigas is ACQUITTED of the
charge against him in Criminal Case No. 91-03-159 while the complaint for damages in
Civil Case No. 91-02-23 is dismissed.

SO ORDERED.

SAMUEL R. MARTIRES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

12. qualified theft

July 5, 2017

G.R. No. 218910

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff -Appellee


vs.
LUTHER SABADO, SATURNINO SABADO y LOMBOY AND HOSPICIO HARUTA y
MARTINEZ, Accused
LUTHER SABADO y PANGANGAAN, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

TIJAM, J.:

Accused-appellant Luther Sabado y Pangangaan assails in this appeal the


Decision1 dated January 13, 2015 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CAG. R. CR-HC No.
05984,' which affirmed the Decision2 dated September 25, 2012 of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Imus, Cavite, Branch 20, in Criminal Case No. 3638-07 convicting accused-
appellant of the crime of Qualified Theft committed against his employer, Diamond
Pawnshop, Dasmariñas, Cavite branch.

The Facts

The Information charging accused-appellant and two other accused of Qualified Theft
reads as follows:

That on or about the 13th day of September 2006, in the Municipality of Dasmariñas,
Province of Cavite, a place within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-
named accused, LUTHER P. SABADO, while employed at Diamond Pawnshop, with intent
to gain and grave abuse of trust and confidence reposed on him, and in conspiracy with
accused SATURNINO L. SABADO and HOSPICIO M. HARUTA who are non-employees of
the said pawnshop, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, steal
and carry away an assortment of jewelry and cellular phones worth FIVE HUNDRED

Page 83 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

THOUSAND PESOS (₱500,000.00) Philippine Currency, belonging to said Diamond


Pawnshop without the owner's knowledge or consent, to his damage and prejudice.

CONTRARY TO LAW.3

Accused-appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge while his co-accused remained at
large.

Roger Alama (Alama) testified that, on September 13, 2006, at around 12:15 p.m., while
he was at Luzviminda 2, Dasmariñas, Cavite doing a regular task as collector of
payments from the stall owners thereat, he saw accused-appellant coming out of the
pawnshop, as well as two unidentified men standing near the pawnshop. He saw
accused-appellant unlock the steel gate and called one of the men who entered the
pawnshop. The other unidentified man, who seemed to be a lookout, stayed outside
and was leaning against the glass window of the pawnshop. Thereafter, the man who
went with the accused-appellant inside the pawnshop came out carrying a small bag
and immediately left the place. Shortly thereafter, accused-appellant also came out, tied
up and with a packing tape plastered to his mouth. When the tape was removed,
accused-appellant declared that he was robbed inside the pawnshop by the two
unidentified men.

Corroborating witness Gina Brogada (Brogada), the auditor and appraiser of Diamond
Pawnshop, confirmed that the pawnshop was robbed, and after the inventory, she
found out that there were missing items valued at PhP 582,200.00.

Meanwhile, Police Chief Inspector Dominador Arevalo (PCI Arevalo) and PO1 Efren
Recare (PO1 Recare) testified that, on September 20, 2006, SPO 1 Antonio Valdez and
SP02 Mario Sanchez arrested the accused-appellant and his co-accused. During the
arrest, accused-appellant and his co-accused were in possession of the following: (1) 18-
K yellow gold necklace with anchor pendant; (2) 18-K yellow gold men's ring with
horseshoe design; and (3) 14-K yellow gold ring with scale design. These items were
turned over to the Dasmariñas Municipal Police Station. During a press briefing called
for the purpose, accused-appellant and his co-accused were presented to PCI Arevalo,
who was then the Chief of the Theft and Robbery Section of the Manila Police District.
The photographs of the accused were also published in a newspaper.

Meanwhile, when the said pieces of jewelry were showed to Brogada, the latter
positively identified the two men's ring and one necklace with pendant as those that
were stolen from the pawnshop.

For his defense, accused-appellant alleged that on September 13, 2006, at around 12:00
noon, he was working alone in the pawnshop. When he was about to go out and
opened the gate, a dark-skinned person wearing a hat blocked his way. He was then
held at gunpoint to go inside the pawnshop. As they were inside, another person
carrying a bag came in. The man with the gun ordered him to open the vault and
threatened to kill him. After he opened the vault, his hands and feet were tied and his
mouth was covered with a tape. Then the two unidentified men took all the contents of
the vault and fled.

Accused-appellant also claimed that he was admitted back to work after the robbery
incident. He was even instructed by the owner of the pawnshop to conduct an inventory
of the contents of the vault and to make a cartographic sketch of the robbers. But after
five or six days, he was invited to the police station for some questioning and,
thereafter, a criminal information was filed against him.

After trial, the RTC found accused-appellant guilty of the crime of Qualified Theft, thus:

Page 84 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

In the case at bar, the amount stolen is Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (Php 500,000.00).
Pursuant to the ruling in Astudillo, the proper penalty is reclusion perpetua.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court finds accused Luther Sabado GUILTY of
the crime of Qualified Theft under the Revised Penal Code and he is hereby sentenced
to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. Accused is likewise ordered to pay the
amount of Php 500,000.00 to private complainant Diamond Pawnshop.

Let the instant case against Saturnina Sabado y Lomboy and Hospicio Haruta y Martinez,
both of whom are still at-large, be sent to the ARCHIVES until such time that they are
apprehended and the Court acquires jurisdiction over their persons.

SO ORDERED.4

On appeal, the CA affirmed accused-appellant's conviction as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed Decision


dated September 25, 2012, issued by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 20, Imus, Cavite,
in Criminal Case No. 3638-07 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.5

Hence, this appeal.

The Issue

Whether or not the guilt of accused-appellant for the crime charged has been proven
beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court's Ruling

The appeal lacks merit.

In Miranda v. People,6 the Court ruled that:

The elements of the crime of theft are as follows: (1) that there be taking of personal
property; (2) that said property belongs to another; (3) that the taking be done with
intent to gain; (4) that the taking be done without the consent of the owner; and (5)
that the. taking be accomplished without the use of violence against or intimidation of
persons or force upon things. Theft becomes qualified when any of the following
circumstances under Article 310 is present: (1) the theft is committed by a domestic
servant; (2) the theft is committed with grave abuse of confidence; (3) the property
stolen is either a motor vehicle, mail matter or large cattle; (4) the property stolen
consists of coconuts taken from the premises of a plantation; (5) the property stolen· is
fish taken from a fishpond or fishery; and (6) the property was taken on the occasion of
fire, earthquake, typhoon, volcanic eruption, or any other calamity, vehicular accident
or civil disturbance.7

The elements aforementioned were all alleged and proved. First, there was a taking of
personal property consisting of pieces of jewelry, i.e. two men's rings and one necklace
with pendant. Second, said pieces of jewelry belong to the Pawnshop. Third, the taking
of said pieces of jewelry was with intent to gain. Intent to gain or animus lucrandi is an
internal act that is presumed from the unlawful taking by the offender of the thing
subject of asportation. Actual gain is irrelevant as the important consideration is the
intent to gain. Fourth, the taking was obviously without the consent of the Pawnshop;
and, Fifth, the taking was accomplished without the use of violence against or
intimidation of persons or force upon things.8

Page 85 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Theft here became qualified because it was committed with grave abuse of
confidence. Grave abuse of confidence, as an element of theft, must be the result of the
relation by reason of dependence, guardianship, or vigilance, between the accused-
appellant and the offended party that might create a high degree of confidence
between them which the accused-appellant abused.9 Accused-appellant, as established
by the prosecution, is an employee of the Pawnshop. Accused-appellant could not have
committed the crime had he not been holding the position of the trusted employee
which gave him not only sole access to the Pawnshop's vault but also control of the
premises. The relevant portion of the RTC's disquisition reads:

Based on the extant records[,] it appears that accused Luther Sabado was a trusted
employee of Diamond Pawnshop.1âwphi1 In fact, the following circumstances show the
trust and confidence reposed on him by the shop owners, to wit: he manages the shop
alone; he has the keys to the locks of the shop; and he has access to the vault and
knows the combination of the same. x x x.10

The management of Diamond Pawnshop clearly had reposed its trust and confidence in
the accused-appellant, and it was this trust and confidence which he exploited to enrich
himself to the damage and prejudice of his employer.

We view with disfavor accused-appellant's plea of acquittal on the ground that there
exists. no evidence which linked him directly to or showed his participation in the
robbery. He underscores in particular that nobody witnessed what transpired inside the
pawnshop during the incident, hence, he must be excused from any criminal liability.
This contention is unmeritorious because even if it was not shown that he personally
took away the pieces of jewelry, his overt act of opening the steel gate, facilitating the
entry of one of his co-accused inside the pawnshop, and opening of the vault despite his
avowal that the vault was controlled by a time delay mechanism, showed his complicity
in the commission of the crime charged.

The CA correctly appreciated conspiracy between accused-appellant and the other


accused. It has already been settled that conspiracy exists when two or more persons
come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit
it.11 Here, conspiracy is inferred from the conduct of accused-appellant and the other
accused before, during, and after the commission of the crime. In particular, accused-
appellant's act of ushering in one of his co-accused inside the pawnshop already
constitutes an overt act of his coordination with and actual participation in the common
purpose or design to commit the felony.

Accordingly, We find no cogent reason to disturb the findings of the RTC which were
affirmed by the CA as they are fully supported by the evidence on record. Time and
again, the Court has held that the facts found by the RTC, as affirmed in toto by the CA,
are as a general rule, conclusive upon this Court in the absence of any showing of grave
abuse of discretion. In this case, none of the exceptions to the general rule on
conclusiveness of said findings of facts are applicable. The Court gives weight and
respect to the RTC's findings in criminal prosecution because the latter is in a better
position to decide the question, having heard the witnesses in person and observed
their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial.

Absent any showing that the RTC and the CA have overlooked substantial facts and
circumstances, which, if considered, would change the result of the case, this Court
gives deference to their appreciation of the facts and of the credibility of witnesses.

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision dated January 13, 2015 of
the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 05984, finding accused-appellant Luther
Sabado y Pangangaan GUILTY of the crime of Qualified Theft is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Page 86 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

13. Robbery with rape

July 5, 2017

G.R. No. 220889

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff -Appellee


vs.
MARLON BELMONTE y SUMAGIT, MARVIN BELMONTE y SUMAGIT, ENRILE GABAY y
DELA TORRE a.k.a "PUNO", and NOEL BAAC y BERG ULA, Accused
MARLON BELMONTE y SUMAGIT, Accused-Appellant.

DECISION

TIJAM, J.:

Accused-appellant Marlon Belmonte y Sumagit assails the Decision1 dated April 22, 2014
of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 05774, affirming his conviction for
Robbery with Rape in Criminal Case No. 135982-H.

The Facts

Accused-appellant and his co-accused, namely, Marvin Belmonte (Marvin), Enrile Gabay
(Enrile), and Noel Baac (Noel) were charged with Robbery with Rape in an Information
dated September 3, 2007 that reads:

The Prosecution, through the undersigned Public Prosecutor, charges Marlon Belmonte
y Sumagit, Marvin Belmonte y Sumagit and Enrile Gabay y Dela Torre @ "Puno" with the
crime of robbery with rape, committed as follows:

On or about September 1, 2007, in Pasig City and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above accused, armed with a gun, conspiring and confederating
together with one Noel Baac who is still at-large and all of them mutually helping and
aiding one another, with intent to gain and by means of force, violence and
intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, steal, and
divest from complainants the following, to wit:

xxxx

x x x [A]nd on the occasion thereof said Noel Baac, by means of force, threats and
intimidation and with the use of a gun, willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously, have carnal
knowledge with AAA,2 against her will and consent, which is aggravated by the
circumstances of nighttime and dwelling, to the damage and prejudice of the said
victim.

Contrary to law.3

The trial of the case proceeded against the accused-appellant, his cohorts, Marvin and
Enrile, who all pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. However, Noel remained at
large.4

The prosecution evidence established that, in the evening of August 31, 2007, Hiroshi
Emmanuel Zorilla (Hiroshi) celebrated his 17th birthday with his friends in the house of
his aunt Teodora and uncle Robert Dela Cruz in Pasig City. When it was already 12:00
midnight, Jolly Pantaleon (Jolly), one of Hiroshi's friends who was present at the
celebration, left the group to buy some beer from a nearby store. At the store, Jolly met
Enrile, who asked him if he could join them in the drinking spree at Hiroshi's place.

Page 87 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Enrile then helped Jolly carry the half case of beer and joined in the drinking spree at
Hiroshi's house.5

At around 2:00 a.m. of September 1, 2007, Jolly left the group and was followed by
Enrile, but the latter soon returned to the party and was accompanied by accused-
appellant and his brother Marvin, and Noel. Armed with guns and a knife,6 the three
men approached and suddenly boxed Enrile, then tied the hands of all the persons
inside the house and ordered them to lie down on the floor as they took their personal
belongings.

Meanwhile, the maids of spouses Teodora and Robert, namely, AAA and Rhea Brioso,
were awakened inside their quarters by the presence of two men, later identified as
accused-appellant and Noel. Upon Noel's order, AAA was left inside the room. Noel
immediately locked the door, and at gunpoint, ordered AAA to remove her pants. He
told AAA to lie down, then he inserted his penis into her vagina.7

Thereafter, Noel and Marvin entered the room of spouses Teodora and Robert through
the window. Teodora was awakened and was surprised, hence, she shouted which
prompted Robert to get up from bed. At gunpoint, Noel and Marvin ordered the
spouses to lie on the bed while they searched . the room; then they took away some
pieces of jewelry, laptop, ATM card, cash amounting to PhP 6,700 and 23 pieces
ofYen.8 Teodora recognized the faces of Noel and Marvin since the room was
illuminated by light coming from a lamp shade.

For his part, Enrile, testified that, at around 1:00 a.m. of September 1, 2007, he and
other bystanders were in front of a. bakery store, about four streets away from Hiroshi's
house when Jolly arrived to buy one and a half cases of beer. He helped Jolly carry the
cases of beer upon the latter's request, and when they arrived at Hiroshi's house, he
was asked to join in the drinking session. Thereafter, some men entered the house and
suddenly ordered them to lie down on the floor and tied their hands. The men took
away his jewelry and cellular phone.9

Accused-appellant and Marvin, on the other hand, proffered alibi and claimed that they
were sleeping in their house when the alleged crime was committed.10

After trial, the RTC convicted accused-appellant, Marvin, and Enrile of the crime of
Robbery with Rape, thus:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds accused Marlon Belmonte y Sumagit, Marvin Belmonte y
Sumagit, and Enrile Gabay y Dela Torre a.k.a. "Puno" guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
the crime of Robbery with Rape and hereby sentences each of them to suffer the
penalty of reclusion perpetua. The accused are also ordered to jointly and severally pay
Hiroshi Emmanuel L. Zorilla the amount of ₱23,000.00, as actual damages; Spouses
Teodora and Robert Dela Cruz, the amount of ₱132,150.00, as actual damages; and
[AAA], the amount of ₱50,000.00, as civil indemnity and ₱50,000.00, as moral damages.

SOORDERED.11

On appeal, the CA modified the trial court's decision as follows:

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision dated June 6, 2012 is modified as follows:

(1) Accused-appellant Enrile Gabay y Dela Torre is acquitted on ground of reasonable


doubt. Unless detained for some other lawful reasons, accused-appellant Emile Gabay y
Dela Torre is hereby ordered released immediately.

(2) Accused-appellant Marvin Belmonte is hereby found guilty beyond reasonable doubt
of the crime of simple robbery and _is sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment

Page 88 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

at 4 years and 2 months of prision correccional medium, as the minimum period, to 10


years of prision mqyor maximum, as the maximum period. As ordered by the trial court,
accused-appellant Marvin Belmonte and accused-appellant Marlon Belmonte should
jointly and severally pay actual damages to Hiroshi Emmanuel Zorilla in the amount of
Php23,000.00, and to spouses Teodora and Robert Dela Cruz in the amount of
Php132,150.00.

(3) The conviction of accused-appellant Marlon Belmonte for robbery with rape is
affirmed. He is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility
for parole. He is also ordered to pay AAA Php75,000.00 as civil indemnity, Php75,000.00
as moral damages and Php30,000.00 as exemplary damages, plus interest at the rate of
six percent (6%) per annum on all damages awarded from the date of finality of
judgment.

SO ORDERED.12

Only accused-appellant appealed to this Court for review.

The Issue

Whether or not accused-appellant's guilt was proven beyond reasonable doubt.

The Court's Ruling

The appeal lacks merit.

The crime of Robbery with Rape is penalized under Article 294 of the · Revised Penal
Code (RPC), as amended by Section 9 of Republic Act No. 7659. Robbery with Rape is a
special complex crime under Article 294 of the RPC. It contemplates a situation where
the original intent of the accused was to take, with intent to gain, personal property
belonging to another and rape is committed on the occasion thereof or as an
accompanying crime.13

In People v. Tamayo,14 the Court ruled that:

For a conviction of the crime of robbery with rape to stand, it must be shown that the
rape was committed by reason or on the occasion of a robbery and not the other way
around. This speci.al complex crime under Article 294 of the RPC contemplates a
situation where the original intent of the accused was to take, with intent to gain,
personal property belonging to another and rape is committed on the occasion thereof
or as an accompanying crime.15

There is no basis to disturb the findings of the trial court as affirmed by the CA
respecting accused-appellant's criminal culpability. The prosecution's evidence
established with certainty that accused-appellant, together with his brother Marvin, and
co-accused Noel, have intruded the house of spouses Teodora and Robert on the
occasion of Hiroshi's birthday celebration thereat. They aided each other in divesting
the guests of Hiroshi of their personal belongings through violence and intimidation. The
evidence disclosed that they were armed with guns and knife, and they tied the hands
of their victims and threatened them with harm if they disobeyed their orders. Noel and
Marvin, on the same occasion, entered the room of spouses Teodora and Robert
through the window and succeeded in taking away from their possession some pieces of
jewelry, laptop, ATM card, and cash.

It behooves Us to rule that the testimonies of prosecution witnesses, Teodora and


Hiroshi, as to the foregoing, are sufficient and credible to sustain the conviction of
accused-appellant. Evidence to be believed, must proceed not only from the mouth of a
credible witness but must be credible in .itself as to hurdle the test of conformity with

Page 89 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

the knowledge and common experience of mankind.16 Here, the prosecution witnesses'
positive identification of the accused-appellant as one of the malefactors in the robbery
that took place on September 1, 2007 defeats accused-appellant's lone defense
of alibi. Absent any showing of ill motive on the part of the witnesses, a categorical,
consistent, and positive identification of the accused-appellant shall prevail over the
latter's alibi and denial. Unless substantiated by clear and convincing proof, alibi and
denial are negative, self-serving and undeserving of any weight in law.17

The evidence further show that, on the occasion of the robbery, AAA · was raped. The
RTC and the CA are correct in their appreciation that the original intent of the accused-
appellant and his cohorts was to take, with intent to gain, the personal effects of their
victims. Rape was committed on the occasion thereof or as an accompanying crime.
Accused-appellant was implicated because he was positively identified as Noel's
companion inside the room where AAA and Rhea were soundly sleeping. The CA,
affirming the RTC's finding ruled, viz.:

The trial court correctly convicted accused-appellant Marlon Belmonte of the special
complex crime of robbery with rape even if he did not rape AAA, as accused-appellant
Marlon Belmonte had the opportunity but did not endeavor to stop accused Noel Baac
from raping AAA.x x x The accused's failure to prevent his co-accused from committing
rape despite an opportunity to do so made him liable for the rape committed. x x
x.18 (Emphasis and underscoring ours)

While the evidence directly points to Noel as AAA's rapist, accused-appellant did not
prevent him from committing the lustful act despite an opportunity to do so.

Pertinently, in People v. Verceles, et al.,19 We held:

In the course of the robbery, one of them, particularly Mamerto Soriano, succumbed to
lustful desires and raped [the victim] while accused-appellants just stood outside the
door and did nothing to prevent Mamerto Soriano. We have previously ruled that once
conspiracy is established between two accused in the commission of the crime of
robbery, they would be both equally culpable for the rape committed by one of them on
the occasion of the robbery, unless any of them proves that he endeavored to prevent
the other from committing the rape. The rule in this jurisdiction is that whenever a rape
is committed as a consequence, or on the occasion of a robbery, all those who took part
therein are liable as principals of the crime of robbery with rape, although not all of
them took part in the rape. (Emphasis ours)

As stated above, once conspiracy is established between several accused in the


commission of the crime of robbery, as in the present case, they would all be equally
culpable for the rape committed by anyone of them on the occasion of the
robbery, unless anyone of them proves that he endeavored to prevent the others from
committing rape.20 The immediately preceding condition is absent in this case. The
factual finding of the trial court as affirmed by the CA is already irreversible holding that
while accused-appellant did not rape AAA, he, however, did not endeavor to stop Noel
despite an opportunity.

The fact that AAA was raped cannot be o:ver-emphasized. The CA made the following
categorical findings:

AAA's testimony was straightforward, candid and consistent on material points detailing
the bestial act of accused Noel Baac in ravishing her.1avvphi1 Besides, her statement
was corroborated by the medical certificate dated September 7, 2007 finding AAA's
genitals to have suffered from deep fresh laceration. No young and decent woman in
her right mind especially of tender age as that of AAA who is 18 years old would concoct
a story of defloration, allow the examination of her private parts and thereafter pervert

Page 90 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

herself by being subjected to a public trial, if she was not motivated solely by her desire
to obtain justice for the wrong committed against her.21

On the face of the evidence against him, accused-appellant's defense consisting merely
of his bare allegation that he and his brother Marvin were · at their house when the
crime was committed does not persuade Us to rule in his favor. By their own admission,
they live at 97 Eastbank Road, Kapitbahayan, Floodway, Sta. Lucia, Pasig City. It was easy
for them to negotiate the distance between their house and the victims' house. Their
place of residence and· the place where the crime was committed are both situated in
Barangay Sta. Lucia, and the distance could be negotiated within 15minutes.

Ergo, his conviction is sustained.

The CA correctly noted that the imposable penalty upon accused-appellant should have
been death considering that the aggravating circumstance of dwelling was alleged in the
Information and proven. However, with the passage of R.A. No. 934622 prohibiting the
imposition of the death penalty, the trial court correctly reduced the penalty of death
to reclusion perpetua, without eligibility for parole.23

Clearly, the imposable penalty against accused-appellant is death. However, by reason


of R.A. No. 9346 as stated above, the penalty was reduced to reclusion perpetua. In view
hereof, the CA's award of civil indemnity in the amount of PhP 75,000, moral damages
in the amount of PhP 75,000, and exemplary damages in the amount of PhP 30,000 to
AAA, must be modified pursuant to the guidelines iaid down in People v. Jugueta,24 to
wit:

II. For Simple Rape/Qualified Rape:

1.1 Where the penalty imposed is Death but reduced to reclusion perpetua because of
RA 9346 :

a. Civil indemnity- PhP 100,000.00

b. Moral damages-PhP 100,000.00

c. Exemplary damages-PhP 100,000.00

Accordingly, accused-appellant shall pay AAA civil indemnity of PhP 100,000, moral
damages of PhP 100,000, and exemplary damages of PhP 100,000.

The CA's order directed against accused-appellant to pay, jointly and severally with
Marvin. Belmonte, actual damages to Hiroshi and spouses Teodora and Robert must
stand. The CA on the matter held that:

The trial court correctly awarded actual damages suffered by Hiroshi Emmanuel L.
Zorilla and spouses Teodora and Robert Dela Cruz in the amounts of ₱23,000.00 and
₱132,150.00, respectively, as they are duly supported by receipts.25 (Emphasis ours)

Truly, actual damages to be compensable must be proven by clear evidence, as in this


case.

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 05774 dated April 22, 2014, finding accused-appellant Marlon
Belmonte GUILTY of the crime of Robbery with Rape is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION
in that the accused-appellant is ORDERED to pay AAA civil indemnity of PhP 100,000,
moral damages of PhP 100,000, and exemplary damages of PhP 100,000. Interest at the
rate of six percent (6%) per annum is imposed on all the damages awarded in this case

Page 91 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

from date of finality of this Decision until fully paid. The rest of the assailed CA Decision
STANDS.

SO ORDERED.

NOEL GIMENEZ TIJAM


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

14. IMPRUDENCE AND NEGLIGENCE

July 5, 2017

G.R. No. 210129

S/SGT. CORNELIO PAMAN, Petitioner


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent

RESOLUTION

REYES, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court seeking to
annul and set aside the Decision2 dated July 4, 2013 and Resolution3 dated October 30,
2013 issued by the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 04542.

On October 14, 2004, at about 1:20 p.m., Ursicio Arambala (Arambala) was on board a
motorcycle traversing Roxas Street, Pagadian City towards the direction of the Southern
Mindanao Colleges Main Campus. When he was nearing the intersection of Roxas and
Broca Streets in Pagadian City, a multicab driven by S/Sgt. Cornelio Paman (Paman), a
military personnel, crossed his path and collided with his motorcycle. Arambala was
thrown from his motorcycle thus hitting his head on the road pavement. Emilda Salabit,
who was then standing beside the road, saw Arambala being thrown away after the
collision; she went to Arambala and hailed a tricycle and rushed him to the hospital.4

A Computed Tomography Scan report shows that Arambala suffered hematoma at the
cerebral portion of his brain. After his confinement at the Mercy Community Hospital on
October 15, 2004, Arambala was again admitted on October 24, 2004 at the Zamboanga
del Sur Provincial Hospital due to erratic blood pressure and slurring speech caused by
the hematoma.5

On February 21, 2005, an Information for the crime of reckless imprudence resulting in
serious physical injuries, docketed as Criminal Case No. 14034, was filed with the
Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) of Pagadian City against Paman. Paman pleaded
not guilty to the offense charged.6

After due proceedings, the MTCC, on February 11, 2010, rendered a Judgment finding
Paman guilty beyond reasonable doubt of reckless imprudence resulting in serious
physical injuries, viz.:

WHEREFORE, [PAMAN], after having been proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt for
the crime charged against him in the instant case, the Court hereby CONVICTS [Paman]
and after applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, hereby imposes and sentences him
to an imprisonment of ONE (1) MONTH AND ONE (1) DAY TO FOUR (4) MONTHS OF

Page 92 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

ARRESTO MAYOR IN ITS MINIMUM AND MEDIUM PERIODS, the same [to be] served by
the accused at the Pagadian City Jail at Lenienza, Pagadian City.

With costs against the accused.7

On appeal, however, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Miguel, Zamboanga del Sur,
Branch 29 in its Decision8dated July 12, 2011, reversed and set aside the MTCC's
Decision dated February 11, 2010, to wit:

WHEREFORE, the foregoing premises considered, the MTCC's judgment of conviction is


hereby REVERSED. Consequently, [Paman] is ACQUITTED.

SO ORDERED.9

In acquitting Paman of the offense charged, the RTC pointed out that Arambala was the
cause of the collision since he already saw the multicab driven by Paman ahead of time;
that he had the opportunity to take precaution to avoid the accident, but he failed to do
so.10 The City Prosecutor filed a motion for reconsideration, but it was denied by the R
TC in its Order11 dated August 16, 2011.

The People of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), then
filed a petition for certiorari with the CA against RTC Presiding Judge Edilberto G. Absin
(Judge Absin) and Paman. The OSG claims that Judge Absin committed grave abuse of
discretion in ruling that it was Arambala who was at fault and in finding that the
prosecution's evidence was insufficient to convict Paman of the offense charged beyond
reasonable doubt.

On July 4, 2013, the CA rendered the herein assailed Decision,12 the decretal portion of
which reads:

WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. The Decision of the [RTC], Branch 29, San
Miguel, Zamboanga del Sur, is hereby SET ASIDE, and another one is rendered holding
[PAMAN] guilty beyond reasonable doubt of reckless imprudence resulting in serious
physical injuries, and sentencing him to suffer an indeterminate penalty of one (1)
month and one (1) day of arresto mayor, as minimum, to 2 years and 4 months
of prision correccional, as maximum.

SO ORDERED.13

Paman sought a reconsideration of the Decision dated July 4, 2013, but it was denied by
the CA in its Resolution14dated October 30, 2013.

In this petition for review on certiorari, Paman insists that Judge Absin did not commit
any abuse of discretion in acquitting him of the offense charged. He claims that a
petition for certiorari is not the proper remedy to assail the RTC's Decision dated July 12,
2011. He likewise maintains that the prosecution's evidence was insufficient to establish
his guilt of the offense charged beyond reasonable doubt. He essentially alleges that the
collision was the fault of Arambala. He points out that the RTC correctly observed that
Arambala, based on his testimony, applied the brakes on his motorcycle when he saw
the multicab; that he should have accelerated his speed instead of hitting the brakes to
avoid the collision.

Ruling of the Court

The petition is denied.

Page 93 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Contrary to Paman's assertion, a petition for certiorari is the proper remedy to assail the
RTC's Decision dated July 12, 2011, which acquitted him of the offense charged. A
petition for certiorari under Rule 65, not appeal, is the remedy to question a verdict of
acquittal whether at the trial court or at the appellate level. Indeed, in our jurisdiction,
the Court adheres to the finality-of-acquittal doctrine, i.e., a judgment of acquittal is
final and unappealable.15 The rule barring an appeal from a judgment of acquittal is,
however, not absolute. The following are the recognized exceptions thereto: (i) when
the prosecution is denied due process of law; and (ii) when the trial court commits grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in dismissing a criminal
case by granting the accused's demurrer to evidence.16

While certiorari may be availed of to correct an erroneous acquittal, the petitioner in


such an extraordinary proceeding must clearly demonstrate that the trial court blatantly
abused its authority to a point so grave as to deprive it of its very power to dispense
justice.17 In this case, the OSG was able to clearly establish that the RTC blatantly and
gravely abused its authority when it ruled that no liability can be attached to Paman
solely based on its finding that it was Arambala who caused the collision. Tersely put,
the RTC, in acquitting Paman of the offense charged, completely disregarded the
evidence on record.

A perusal of the records of this case clearly shows that it was Paman who was at fault
since he was driving at the wrong side of the road when the collision happened. On this
point, the CA's observation is apropos, thus:

After going over the records of the case, this Court is unable to sustain the findings of
fact and conclusion reached by the RTC.1avvphi11avvphi1 The assailed Decision noted
that at the time private complainant Arambala was hit by S/Sgt. Paman's multicab, he
was proceeding to SMC Main to log in for his attendance. Public respondent, as a
consequence, concluded that Arambala may have been in a hurry so he had to over
speed. Also, public respondent correlated the presence of skid marks that Arambala was
driving fast.

However, the evidence indubitably shows that before the collision, Arambala's
motorcycle was cruising along its rightful lane when S/Sgt. Paman's multicab suddenly
crossed his (Arambala) path coming from his left side along Broca Street using the
wrong lane to cross the said intersection. The accident would not have happened had
S/S gt. Paman, the multicab driver, stayed on his lane and did not overtake the vehicle
of the private complainant Arambala. x x x.18 (Citations omitted)

Even the position of the multicab driven by Paman after the incident supports the
conclusion that Paman was indeed on the wrong side of the road, which eventually
caused it to collide with Arambala's motorcycle. The MTCC thus correctly noted that:

Upon perusal and careful scrutiny of the sketch which was prepared by the said witness,
the Court even found out that the vehicle of [Paman] after the incident was parked at
the wrong side of the road which goes to show that the testimony of [Arambala] as well
as that of his witness Emilda Salabit was more plausible that [Paman] in this case was
indeed cruising on the wrong side of the road when the accident happened. xxx

xxxx

In the instant case, to the mind of the Court, the proximate cause is the act of [Paman]
in driving and using the wrong lane of Broca Street in order to cross the intersection of
Roxas Street was employed recklessly by [Paman] in order to overtake the vehicle of
[Arambala] which was already crossing and x x x at the middle portion of the
intersection. Thus, it was the reckless act of [Paman] which caused the incident from
which reason that, had it not been for the bumping incident caused by [Paman], [
Arambala] could not have suffered the injuries that he had sustained, and the

Page 94 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

motorcycle involved would not have also incurred damages. Therefore, taking into
further consideration the point of impact or the point of collision between the two (2)
motor vehicles in the instant case, the Court is inclined towards the evidence presented
by the prosecution and has determined the culpability of [Paman] in the instant case.19

Paman's act of driving on the wrong side of the road, in an attempt to overtake the
motorcycle driven by Arambala, and suddenly crossing the path which is being traversed
by the latter, is sheer negligence. It is a settled rule that a driver abandoning his proper
lane for the purpose of overtaking another vehicle in an ordinary situation has the duty
to see to it that the road is clear and he should not proceed if he cannot do so in safety.
If, after attempting to pass, the driver of the overtaking vehicle finds that he cannot
make the passage in safety, the latter must slacken his speed so as to avoid the danger
of a collision, even bringing his car to a stop if necessary.20 This rule is consistent with
Section 41(a) of Republic Act No. 4136, as amended, otherwise known as the Land
Transportation and Traffic Code, which provides:

Sec. 41. Restrictions on overtaking and passing. (a) The driver of a vehicle shall not drive
to the left side of the center line of a highway in overtaking or passing another vehicle
proceeding in the same direction, unless such left side is clearly visible, and is free of
oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking or passing to
be made in safety.

Under Article 2185 of the Civil Code, unless there is proof to the contrary, a person
driving a vehicle is presumed negligent if, at the time of the mishap, he was violating
any traffic regulation. Here, Paman was violating a traffic regulation, i.e., driving on the
wrong side of the road, at the time of the collision. He is thus presumed to be negligent
at the time of the incident, which presumption he failed to overcome. For failing to
observe the duty of diligence and care imposed on drivers of vehicles abandoning their
lane, Paman, as correctly held by the CA, must be held liable.

Nevertheless, there is a need to modify the penalty imposed by the CA. Article 365 of
the Revised Penal Code (RPC), in part, provides that:

Article 365. Imprudence and negligence. - Any person who, by reckless imprudence,
shall commit any act which, had it been intentional, would constitute a grave felony,
shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in
its medium period; if it would have constituted a less grave felony, the penalty
of arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods shall be imposed; if it would have
constituted a light felony, the penalty of arresto menor in its maximum period shall be
imposed.

x x x x (Emphasis ours)

Less grave felonies are those which the law punishes with penalties which in their
maximum period are correctional.21 Correctional penalties include prision correccional,
arresto mayor, suspension, and destierro.22 The MTCC considered the physical injuries
suffered by Arambala as serious since he required medical attendance for more than a
period of 30 days.23 Under Article 263(4) of the RPC, the penalty for serious physical
injuries, when the injuries inflicted caused incapacity for more than 30 days, is arresto
mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period; the
maximum period of the foregoing penalty - prision correccional in its minimum period -
is merely a correctional penalty and, thus, should be considered a less grave felony.

Accordingly, pursuant to Article 365 of the RPC, Paman should be sentenced to suffer
the penalty of arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods or from one (1) month
and one (1) day to four (4) months. Since the maximum term of imprisonment in this
case, i.e., four (4) months, does not exceed one (1) year, the provisions of the
Indeterminate Sentence Law · find no application and Paman should be meted a straight

Page 95 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

penalty taken from arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods. In view of the
lack of any mitigating or aggravating circumstances in this case, Paman should be made
to suffer the straight penalty of imprisonment of two (2) months and one (1) day
of arresto mayor.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing disquisitions, the petition for review


on certiorari is hereby DENIED. The Decision dated July 4, 2013 and Resolution dated
October 30, 2013 issued by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 04542 are AFFIRMED
with MODIFICATION in that petitioner S/Sgt. Cornelio Paman is hereby sentenced to
suffer the penalty of imprisonment of two (2) months and one (1) day of arresto mayor.

SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO*

15. RAPE AND UNJUST VEXATION

July 17, 2017

G.R. No. 221443

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee


vs.
DOMINADOR LADRA, Accused-Appellant

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

On appeal1 is the Decision2 dated June 30, 2015 rendered by the Court of Appeals (CA)
in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 01160-MIN, which affirmed the Joint Decision3 dated February 6,
2013 of the Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro City, Branch 22 (RTC) in FC Crim.
Case Nos. 2008-426 and 2008-427 finding accused-appellant Dominador Ladra (accused-
appellant) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Rape and Unjust Vexation.

The Facts

Private complainant AAA4 was born on September 3, 19955 and the eldest of five (5)
siblings. At the time material to these cases, she lived with her family in a remote area in
Dumarait, Balingasag, Misamis Oriental.6

On the other hand, it was alleged that accused-appellant was a relative of BBB, AAA's
mother, who allowed him to stay with their family out of pity. He ran errands for them
and attended to the children when BBB was busy washing clothes and her husband,
CCC, was tending to their farm.7

Sometime between 2000 to 2001,8 when AAA was around five (5) years old, she and her
siblings were left at home with accused-appellant. After their meal, accused-appellant
ordered them to sleep. Suddenly, AAA was awakened when she felt accused-appellant,
who was already naked, on top of her, forced his penis into her vagina, and made push
and pull movements, causing her pain. Accused-appellant threatened to kill her if she

Page 96 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

told anyone. Thereafter, accused-appellant repeatedly molested her, each time bringing
his bolo with him.9 The sexual abuse ceased in 2002, when accused-appellant left their
house.10

Years later, or on the evening of April 16, 2008, AAA - who was already twelve (12) years
old at the time - was surprised when she saw accused-appellant in their kitchen. To her
shock, accused-appellant squeezed her vagina and told her that they were going to visit
his house. Scared, AAA cried and told her cousin, DDD, about the incident.11 She also
told DDD about the first rape incident and the subsequent ones committed by accused-
appellant. Eventually, AAA told BBB about her traumatic experiences in the hands of
accused-appellant when she was five (5) years old. Together, they reported the incident
to the barangay and thereafter, had the incident recorded in the police blotter.12 Later,
AAA filed criminal cases against accused-appellant, who was subsequently arrested.13

On April 19, 2008, Dr. Ma. Josefina Villanueva Taleon (Dr. Taleon), Medical Officer III at
the Northern Mindanao Medical Center, conducted a physical examination on AAA and
found the presence of old healed lacerations in her genitalia at the three (3), eigth (8),
and ten (10) o'clock positions.14

Hence, accused-appellant was charged with violation of Section 5 (b) of Republic Act
No. (RA) 7610 in an Information15 that reads:

Sometime in 2000 up to 2001, when the private complainant is about five to six [5 to 6]
years old, at Dumarait, Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, Philippines, within the jurisdiction
of the Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused knowing full well the minority, with
obvious ungratefulness, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously commit
acts of sexual abuse on one [AAA], five to six years old, by inserting his penis into her
vagina, against her will and without her consent, and which act debases, degrades and
demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of [AAA] as a child and as a human being and is
prejudicial to the child's development.

CONTRARY TO and in violation of Section 5 Paragraph B of RA 7610.16

Likewise, accused-appellant was charged with Acts of Lasciviousness in an


Information17 that reads:

On 16 April 2008 at about 8:00 o'clock in the evening in Dumarait, Balingasag, Misamis
Oriental, Republic of the Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court,
the above-named accused, who knew full well the minority of the victim, through force
and intimidation, actuated by lust or lewd design, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously commit a lascivious conduct on twelve-year [12] old [AAA] by
squeezing her vagina against her will and to her damage and prejudice.

CONTRARY TO and in violation of Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code as amended.18

When arraigned, accused-appellant entered a plea of not guilty to the offenses


charged.19

In defense, accused-appellant denied the charges and claimed that AAA' s family were
angry at him when he left their house, leaving no one to attend to their errands. He
asserted that he left them because he could no longer understand what they were
asking him to do for them.20

The RTC Ruling

In a Joint Decision21 dated February 6, 2013, the RTC convicted accused-appellant of:
(a) Rape in FC Crim. Case No. 2008-426, sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion
perpetua and to pay AAA the amounts of ₱50,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱50,000.00 as

Page 97 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

moral damages, and ₱30,000.00 as exemplary damages; and (b) Unjust Vexation in FC
Crim. Case No. 2008-427, sentencing him to suffer the penalty of imprisonment for a
period of 30 days of arresto menor and to pay a fine of ₱200.00 with accessory
penalties.22

In finding accused-appellant guilty of Rape in FC Criminal Case No. 2008-426, the RTC
found that although the allegations in the Information are sufficient to make out a case
for child abuse, it also constitutes Statutory Rape under Article 266-A of the Revised
Penal Code (RPC), as amended. Relative thereto, it found that AAA's narration of her
defloration in the hands of accused-appellant more than sufficiently established the
offense, as well as the identity of the offender. Despite her tender age, she was
straightforward, clear, categorical, and positive in her testimony, indicating that she was
telling the truth. Moreover, her account of the incident was supported by the medical
findings of Dr. Taleon, who testified that there were healed lacerations in AAA' s
genitalia at the 3, 8, and 10 o'clock positions.23

As regards FC Criminal Case No. 2008-427, the RTC found that the prosecution has
established that on the evening of April 16, 2008, when AAA went to their kitchen, she
encountered accused-appellant who, without warning, "just squeezed her vagina."24 The
RTC opined, however, that the prosecution failed to establish the element
of lasciviousness or lewdness as would justify accused-appellant's conviction for the
crime of Acts of Lasciviousness. The overt act of accused-appellant of squeezing AAA's
vagina did not show that he intended to gratify his sexual desires nor was it
demonstrative of carnal lust. Nonetheless, AAA was clearly annoyed by the act;
perforce, the R TC found accused-appellant guilty of Unjust Vexation, defined and
penalized under Article 28725 of the RPC.26

Conversely, the RTC brushed aside the defense proffered by accused-appellant, which it
found insufficient to debunk the positive evidence of the prosecution.27 Dissatisfied,
accused-appellant appealed his conviction.28

The CA Ruling

In its assailed Decision29 dated June 30, 2015, the CA affirmed in toto30 the RTC's Joint
Decision convicting accused-appellant of Rape and Unjust Vexation. Apart from
concurring with the RTC's findings and conclusions, the CA found no merit in accused-
appellant's contention that it was impossible for him to commit the crime as AAA's
younger brother was sleeping beside her at the time of the alleged rape incident.
Disregarding the argument, the CA ruled that the presence of another person at the
scene does not render it impossible for accused-appellant to commit the crime of Rape.
As regards its affirmance of accused-appellant's conviction for Unjust Vexation, the CA
did not proffer any justification.31

Aggrieved, accused-appellant is now before the Court seeking the reversal of his
conviction.32

The Issue Before the Court

The sole issue for the Court's resolution is whether or not the CA erred in affirming
accused-appellant's conviction for Rape and Unjust Vexation.

The Court's Ruling

The appeal has no merit.

Time and again, the Court has held that factual findings of the trial court, especially on
the credibility of witnesses, are accorded great weight and respect and will not be
disturbed on appeal. This rule, however, admits of exceptions such as where there exists

Page 98 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

a fact or circumstance of weight and influence which has been ignored or misconstrued,
or where the trial court has acted arbitrarily in its appreciation of the facts.33

In FC Criminal Case No. 2008-426, the Court accords credence to the RTC's finding, as
affirmed by the CA, that accused-appellant indeed committed the crime of Rape against
then five (5)-year-old AAA. As astutely observed by the R TC, which had the opportunity
to personally scrutinize AAA's conduct and demeanor during trial, she was a credible
witness whose testimony must be given great weight. The trial judge's evaluation, which
the CA sustained, now binds the Court, leaving to the accused-appellant the burden to
bring to the fore facts or circumstances of weight, which were otherwise overlooked,
misapprehended or misinterpreted that would materially affect the disposition of the
case differently if duly considered.34 Unfortunately for accused-appellant, he miserably
failed to discharge this burden, and the Court finds no reason to reverse the CA's
conclusions.

Moreover, the CA correctly disregarded accused-appellant's argument that he could not


have committed the crime in the presence of AAA's younger brother, who slept beside
her.35 It cannot be denied that the presence of AAA' s brother in the room does not
negate the commission of the crime. "Rape can be committed even in places where
people congregate, in parks, along the roadside, within school premises, inside a house
where there are other occupants, and even in the same room where other members of
the family are also sleeping. It is not impossible or incredible for the members of the
victim's family to be in deep slumber and not to be awakened while a sexual assault is
being committed. It is settled that lust is not a respecter of time or place and rape is
known to happen in the most unlikely places."36

In view thereof, the courts a quo correctly found accused-appellant guilty of Rape and
sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. However, the Court modifies
the amounts of damages awarded conformably with prevailing
jurisprudence.37 Accordingly, accused-appellant is ordered to pay AAA the amount of
₱75,000.00 as moral damages, ₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity, and ₱75,000.00 as
exemplary damages.

In FC Criminal Case No. 2008-427, however, the Court disagrees with the CA's
affirmance of the RTC's finding that accused-appellant can only be held guilty of Unjust
Vexation. After a punctilious review of the evidence, the Court finds that he should
instead be convicted of Acts of Lasciviousness, as charged in the information, in relation
to Section 5 (b) of RA 7610.

Acts of Lasciviousness is defined and penalized under Article 336 of the RPC, which
reads:

Article 336. Acts of lasciviousness. - Any person who shall commit any act of
lasciviousness upon other persons of either sex, under any of the circumstances
mentioned on the preceding article, shall be punished by prision correccional.

Conviction for such crime requires the concurrence of the following elements: (a) that
the offender commits any act of lasciviousness or lewdness; (b) that it is done under any
of the following circumstances: (i) through force, threat, or intimidation, (ii) when the
offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious, (iii) by means of
fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority, and (iv) when the offended party is
under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances
mentioned above be present; and (c) that the offended party is another person of either
sex.38

Meanwhile, Section 5 (b) of RA 7610 provides:

Page 99 of 141
CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Section 5. Child Prostitution and Other Sexual Abuse. - Children, whether male or
female, who for money, profit, or any other consideration or due to the coercion or
influence of any adult, syndicate or group, indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious
conduct, are deemed to be children exploited in prostitution and other sexual abuse.

The penalty of reclusion temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua shall be
imposed upon the following:

xxxx

(b) Those who commit the act of sexual intercourse or lascivious

conduct with a child exploited in prostitution or subject to other sexual


abuse; Provided, That when the victim is under twelve (12) years of age, the
perpetrators shall be prosecuted under Article 335, paragraph 3, for rape and Article
336 of Act No. 3815, as amended, the Revised Penal Code, for rape or lascivious
conduct, as the case may be: Provided, That the penalty for lascivious conduct when the
victim is under twelve (12) years of age shall be reclusion temporal in its medium
period; and

Before an accused can be held criminally liable for lascivious conduct under Section 5 (b)
of RA 7610, the requisites of the crime of Acts of Lasciviousness as penalized under
Article 336 of the RPC above-enumerated must be met in addition to the requisites for
sexual abuse under Section 5 (b) of RA 7610, as follows: (1) the accused commits the act
of sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct; (2) the said act is performed with a child
exploited in prostitution or subjected to other sexual abuse; and (3) that the child,
whether male or female, is below 18 years of age.39

A judicious examination of the records reveals that all the elements of the crime of Acts
of Lasciviousness under the RPC and lascivious conduct under Section 5 (b) of RA 7610
have been sufficiently established. The prosecution was able to prove AAA's minority at
the time of the incident through the presentation of her Certificate of Live
Birth40showing that she was born on September 3, 1995. At the time of the commission
of the lascivious act, AAA was then 12 years old. It was likewise established that
accused-appellant, an adult who exercised influence on AAA, committed a lascivious act
by "squeezing" her vagina.

The courts a quo convicted accused-appellant of the crime of Unjust Vexation instead of
Acts of Lasciviousness on the finding that there was no element of lasciviousness or
lewdness in accused-appellant's act. In its Decision, the RTC even pointed out that
accused-appellant could not have intended to lie with AAA at that moment considering
that she still had her underwear on, and the act of "squeezing" her private part was not
demonstrative of carnal lust.41

The Court disagrees.

"Lascivious conduct" is defined in Section 2 of the Rules and Regulations on the


Reporting and Investigation of Child Abuse Cases, as follows:

[T]he intentional touching, either directly or through clothing, of the genitalia, anus,
groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks, or the introduction of any object into the
genitalia, anus or mouth, of any person, whether of the same or opposite sex, with an
intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any
person, bestiality, masturbation, lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a
person.

In Amployo v. People,42 the Court expounded on the definition of the word "lewd," to
wit:

Page 100 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

The term "lewd" is commonly defined as something indecent or obscene; it is


characterized by or intended to excite crude sexual desire. That an accused is
entertaining a lewd or unchaste design is necessarily a mental process the existence of
which can be inferred by overt acts carrying out such intention, i.e., by conduct that can
only be interpreted as lewd or lascivious. The presence or absence of lewd designs is
inferred from the nature of the acts themselves and the environmental circumstances.
What is or what is not lewd conduct, by its very nature, cannot be pigeonholed into a
precise definition. As early as US. v. Gomez we had already lamented that -

It would be somewhat difficult to lay down any rule specifically establishing just what
conduct makes one amenable to the provisions of article 439 of the Penal Code. What
constitutes lewd or lascivious conduct must be determined from the circumstances of
each case. It may be quite easy to determine in a particular case that certain acts are
lewd and lascivious, and it may be extremely difficult in another case to say just where
the line of demarcation lies between such conduct and the amorous advances of an
ardent lover.43

After a careful evaluation, the Court finds that the mere fact of "squeezing" the private
part of a child - a young girl 12 years of age - could not have signified any other
intention but one having lewd or indecent design. It must not be forgotten that several
years prior, accused-appellant had raped AAA in the same house, for which act he was
appropriately convicted. Indeed, the law indicates that the mere touching - more so,
"squeezing," in this case, which strongly suggests that the act was intentional - of AAA's
genitalia clearly constitutes lascivious conduct. It could not have been done merely to
annoy or vex her, as opined by the courts a quo. That AAA was fully clothed at that time,
which led the courts a quo to believe that accused-appellant could not have intended to
lie with her, is inconsequential. "'Lewd' is defined as obscene, lustful, indecent, and
lecherous. It signifies that form of immorality which has relation to moral impurity; or
that which is carried on a wanton manner."44 As such, accused-appellant's act of
squeezing AAA's vagina was a lewd and lascivious act within the definitions set by law
and jurisprudence.

Under Section 5 (b) of RA 7610, the prescribed penalty for lascivious conduct is reclusion
temporal in its medium period to reclusion perpetua. In the absence of mitigating or
aggravating circumstances, the maximum term of the sentence shall be taken from the
medium period45 thereof. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum term
shall be taken within the range of the penalty next lower in degree, which is prision
mayor in its medium and maximum periods to reclusion temporal in its minimum
period.46 Accordingly, accused-appellant is sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty
of imprisonment ranging from ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as
minimum, to 17 years, four (4) months, and one (1) day of reclusion temporal, as
maximum. In addition, and conformably with recent jurisprudence, accused-appellant is
ordered to pay AAA the amounts of ₱20,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱l5,000.00 as moral
damages, ₱l 5,000.00 as exemplary damages, and ₱l 5,000.00 as fine, all of which shall
earn interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the date of finality of this
judgment.47

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated June 30, 2015 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC
No. 01160-MIN is hereby AFFIRMED with the following MODIFICATIONS:

(1) In FC Criminal Case No. 2008-426, accused-appellant Dominador Ladra is


found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape under Article 266-A
of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and, accordingly, sentenced to suffer
the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay private complainant the amounts
of ₱75,000.00 as moral damages, ₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity, and ₱75,000.00
as exemplary damages;

Page 101 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

(2) In FC Criminal Case No. 2008-427, accused-appellant Dominador Ladra is


found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Acts of Lasciviousness
under Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, in relation to Section
5 (b) of Republic Act No. 7610 and, accordingly, sentenced to suffer the
indeterminate prison term of 10 years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as
minimum, to 17 years, four (4), months and one (1) day of reclusion
temporal, as maximum, and to pay private complainant the amounts of
₱20,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱15,000.00 as moral damages, ₱l 5,000.00 as
exemplary damages, and ₱l 5,000.00 as fine;

(3) Accused-appellant Dominador Ladra is ordered to pay the private


complainant interest on all monetary awards at the legal rate of six percent
(6%) per annum from the date of finality of this Decision until full payment.

SO ORDERED.

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justi

16. SERIOUS ILLEGAL DETENTION

July 17, 2017

G.R. No. 208441

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPIES, Plaintiff-Appellee


vs.
ZENAIDA FABRO or ZENAIDA MANALASTAS y VIÑEGAS, Accused-Appellant

DECISION

TIJAM, J.:

This is an appeal from the Decision1 dated February 19, 2013 of the Court of Appeals
(CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 04598, affirming in toto the Decision dated July 16, 2010 of
the Regional Trial Court (RTC),2 Branch 45 of San Fernando, Pampanga, in Criminal Case
No. 1204, which found accused-appellant Zenaida Fabro or Zenaida Viñegas Manalastas
guilty of Serious Illegal Detention.

The Antecedents

In an Information dated March 6, 2006, accused-appellant was charged with Serious


Illegal Detention under Article 2673 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), in relation to
Republic Act No. 7610,4 committed as follows:

That on or about the 2nd day of March 2006, in the municipality of YYY, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, ZENAIDA
FABRO or ZENAIDA V. MANALASTAS, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously and by force take [AAA],5 9 years old, minor, while the latter is in front of the
XXX Elementary School, YYY whom the said accused detained and kept in the house of
Brgy. Capt. Fabro, brother of the accused in Brgy. Villa Viniegas, Llanera, Nueva Ecija
from March 2 to March 5, 2006 or a period of four (4) days under restraint and against
her will.

Page 102 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Contrary to law.

When arraigned, accused-appellant pleaded "not guilty."

During trial, the prosecution presented the testimonies of AAA and SPO1 Elmer
Guevarra who received the report of AAA's abduction. Accused-appellant was the lone
witness for the defense.

The prosecution sought to establish that on March 2, 2006, 9-year old AAA was
attending her Grade IV class at the XXX School in YYY, when accused-appellant suddenly
arrived supposedly to fetch her. Since accused-appellant was AAA's aunt residing just
next to AAA's house, the teacher allowed accused-appellant to take AAA. However,
instead of bringing AAA kept AAA in Nueva Ecija despite the latter's plea to go home.
She refused to let AAA go even after AAA's parents called her via cellular phone begging
her to release their daughter.6

AAA's parents had reported the abduction to the police. After receiving information that
accused-appellant might go to her brother's house in Barangay Villa Viniegas, Nueva
Ecija, the police organized a team and monitored said house. On March 5, 2006, police
operatives, accompanied by AAA's parents, rescued AAA and apprehended the accused-
appellant at her brother's house.7

Denying the charge, accused-appellant declared that she could not have committed the
crime because she loved AAA whom she had known since 1999 and who used to
frequent her house to sleep, eat, and watch television with her siblings. She claimed
that she brought AAA to Nueva Ecija on March 2, 2006 with the consent of AAA's
mother and teacher. She explained that she had intended to bring AAA along to the
Barangay Captain to prove that her husband had taken her luggage and some
documents, given that AAA used to clean their room. The Barangay Captain was not
around so they proceeded to Nueva Ecija after AAA requested to join her. After two
days in Nueva Ecija, or on March 5, 2006, she brought AAA to her brother's house where
she was arrested.8

The RTC convicted accused-appellant of Serious Illegal Detention, disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds the accused ZENAIDA FABRO or
ZENAIDA VIÑEGAS MANALASTAS GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of Serious Illegal
Detention penalized under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code and hereby sentences
the said accused to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, together with all the
accessory penalties provided for by law and to pay the private complainant, AAA, thru
her father BBB, the sum of one hundred thousand pesos (₱l00,000.00) as moral
damages.

The Jailer is hereby ordered to make the proper reduction of the period during which
the accused was under preventive custody by reason of this case in accordance with
law.

SO ORDERED.

Accused-appellant elevated the case to the CA, arguing that the prosecution failed to
prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and faulting the trial court for relying on the
prosecution's version of the events.9 The CA subsequently rendered the assailed
Decision affirming the RTC's Decision in toto. In the present appeal, accused-appellant
further asserts that the prosecution failed to prove her intent to detain the victim.10

Our Ruling

The appeal lacks merit.

Page 103 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

The elements of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention under Article 267 of the
Revised Penal Code, as amended, are: (1) the offender is a private individual; (2) he
kidnaps or detains another or in any other manner deprives the latter of his liberty; (3)
the act of detention or kidnapping must be illegal; and (4) in the commission of the
offense, any of the following circumstances is present: (a) the kidnapping or detention
lasts for more than three days; or (b) it is committed by simulating public authority; or
(c) serious physical injuries are inflicted upon the person kidnapped or detained or
threats to kill him are made; or (d) the person kidnapped or detained is a minor, female,
or a public officer. If the victim of kidnapping and serious illegal detention is a minor, the
duration of his detention is immaterial.11

There is no dispute that accused-appellant is a private individual and that she took AAA
from her school on March 2, 2006, brought her to Nueva Ecija and kept her there until
she was arrested on March 5, 2006.1avvphi1

That AAA was deprived of her liberty is clear from her testimony that despite her pleas
for accused-appellant to let her go home, the latter refused, thus:

Q: How many days did you stay in that house in Nueva Ecija, AAA?

A: Four, Ma'am.

Q: And, in those four days did you ask Tita Zeny to let you go home?

A: Yes Ma'am.

Q: And what did Tita Zeny tell you?

A: "Huwag muna daw po."

Q: At that time AAA, did you want to go home already in those four days?

A: Yes Ma'am.

Q: And do you know if Tita Zeny called your father or your mother thru cellphone in
those four days?

A: Yes Ma'am.

Q: Whom did Tita Zeny call, your father or your mother?

A: "Tatay ko."

Q: How did you know that Tita Zeny called your father?

A: "Sinabi pong kaklase ko na kinipnap (sic) po ako."

Q: AAA, you said that Tita Zeny called your father. Were you able to talk to your father
on the cellphone?

A: No, Ma'am. "Nakausap ko po ang nanay ko."

Q: Were you able to talk to your mother and that was thru the cellphone that was being
used by Tita Zeny?

A: Yes ma'am.

Page 104 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Q: And, what did you tell your mother?

A: "Sya po ang sumabi."

Q: What did your mother tell you?

A: "Sabi po iuwi na niya ako."

Q: Is that the only conversation that you had with your mother?

A: "Ayaw po ako iuwi ni Tita Zeny."12

x x x xxx

Q: Did you again ask her to go home'!

A: Yes Ma'am.

Q: What did she tell you?

A: "Huwag muna daw po."

Q: During those four days AAA, did you cry?

A: Yes, Ma'am.

Q: Why did you cry?

A: "Ayaw po ako iuwi."13 (Emphasis supplied.)

Accused-appellant, however, contends that AAA had not been deprived of liberty while
in her custody. She argues that the records are bereft of any indication that AAA was
physically restrained, or was under her constant control, or was ever prevented from
going home. She claims that during the period she had custody of AAA, the latter was
free to interact with third persons and communicate with her relatives, and was well
taken care of.14

The argument fails. The prevailing jurisprudence on kidnapping and illegal detention is
that the curtailment of the victim's liberty need not involve any physical restraint upon
the victim's person.15 For kidnapping to exist, it is not necessary that the offender kept
the victim in an enclosure or treated him harshly.16

In People v. Bisda,17 the Court upheld the conviction of kidnapping for ransom even
though the abducted five-year old child was, during her detention, free to roam around
the place of detention, to practice on her drawing and to watch television, and was
regularly fed and bathed. Citing United States v. McCabe,18 the Court stated that "to
accept a child's desire for food, comfort as the type of will or consent contemplated in
the context of kidnapping would render the concept meaningless." Should the child
even want to escape, said the Court, she could not do so all by herself given her age; she
was under the control of her abductors and was merely waiting and hoping that she
would be brought home or that her parents would fetch her.

Nine-year old AAA was brought by accused-appellant to a place unfamiliar to her.19 In


fact, she learned that the name of the place was Nueva Ecija only after she was
rescued.20

Page 105 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Leaving a child in a place from which he did not know the way home, even if he had the
freedom to roam around the place of detention, would still amount to deprivation of
liberty. Under such a situation, the child's freedom remains at the mercy and control of
the abductor.21

The RTC, thus, correctly held that even in the absence of evidence that AAA was locked
up, she was still deprived of her liberty because considering her minority and the
distance between her home and Nueva Ecija, she could not possibly go back home to
YYY without accused-appellant's assistance.22

The RTC rightly invoked the Court's pronouncement in People v. Acosta:23

The next question to be determined is whether or not element of restraint is present as


to constitute the crime of kidnapping with which the appellants are charged. On this
point the trial court made this observation: "While it is true that the boy was playing
while he was in the house at Murphy on April 6, 1956, the fact remains that he was
under the control of the accused Consolacion Bravo who left him there, as he could not
leave that house until she shall have returned for him. Because of his tender age and the
fact that he did not know the way back home, he was then and there in a way deprived
of his liberty. It is like putting him in a prison or in an asylum where he may have
freedom of locomotion but not the freedom to leave it at will. The same thing can be
said of his stay in the house at Tondo, where he was left by her on April 7, 1956." In
addition, we may say that because the boy was of tender age and he was warned not to
leave until her return by his godmother, he was practically a captive in the sense that he
could not leave because of his fear to violate such instruction. (Emphasis supplied.)

Accused-appellant also questions AAA's credibility, pointing out that while AAA claimed
to have been taken by force in her Sinumpaang Salaysay,24 she subsequently
testified25 in court that she voluntarily went with accused-appellant.26

The Court is not persuaded.

It is oft-repeated that affidavits are usually abbreviated and inaccurate. Oftentimes, an


affidavit is incomplete, resulting in its seeming contradiction with the declarant's
testimony in court. Generally, the affiant is asked standard questions, coupled with
ready suggestions intended to elicit answers, that later tum out not to be wholly
descriptive of the series of events as the affiant knows them. Worse, the process of
affidavit-taking may sometimes amount to putting words into the affiant's mouth, thus,
allowing the whole statement to be taken out of context.27

Discrepancies between the statements of the affiant in his affidavit and those made by
him on the witness stand do not necessarily discredit him since ex parte affidavits are
generally incomplete.28 Reiterating this principle, the Court, in the recently decided case
of People v. Dayaday,29 declared:

xxx [T]his Court had consistently ruled that the alleged inconsistencies between the
testimony of a witness in open court and his sworn statement before the investigators
are not fatal defects to justify a reversal of judgment. Such discrepancies do not
necessarily discredit the witness since ex parte affidavits are almost always incomplete.
A sworn statement or an affidavit does not purport to contain a complete compendium
of the details of the event narrated by the affiant. Sworn statements taken ex parte are
generally considered to be inferior to the testimony given in open court.

xxxx

The discrepancies in [the witness]'s testimony do not damage the essential integrity of
the prosecution's evidence in its material whole. Instead, the discrepancies only erase

Page 106 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

suspicion that the testimony was rehearsed or concocted. These honest inconsistencies
serve to strengthen rather than destroy [the witness]'s credibility.

We also note that the force allegedly employed by the accused-appellant, as stated in
AAA's Sinumpaang Salaysay, referred to the moment accused-appellant made AAA
board a tricycle after the latter refused to sign a document from the accused-appellant.
This obviously took place when they were already outside the school premises. On the
other hand, when AAA testified to voluntarily going with accused-appellant, it was in
reference to the time accused-appellant came to her classroom to take her. We are,
thus, disinclined to conclude that there exists a glaring and irreconcilable inconsistency
in AAA's declarations that would completely discredit her testimony.

In any event, the essence of the crime of kidnapping is the actual deprivation of the
victim's liberty, coupled with indubitable proof of the intent of the accused to effect the
same.30 In this case, AAA has clearly and consistently declared that accused-appellant
kept her in Nueva Ecija despite her repeated plea for accused-appellant to bring her
home.

In People v. Bisda,31 this Court held:

Appellants must come to grips with case law that testimonies of child victims are given
full weight and credit. The testimony of children of sound mind is likewise to be more
correct and truthful than that of older persons. In People vs. Alba, this Court ruled that
children of sound mind are likely to be more observant of incidents which take place
within their view than older persons, and their testimonies are likely more correct in
detail than that of older persons. Angela was barely six years old when she testified.
Considering her tender years, innocent and guileless, it is incredible that Angela would
testify falsely that the appellants took her from the school through threats and detained
her in the "dirty house" for five days. In People v. Dela Cruz, this Court also ruled that
ample margin of error and understanding should be accorded to young witnesses who,
much more than adults, would be gripped with tension due to the novelty and the
experience in testifying before the trial court.

Furthermore, the basic rule is that the Supreme Court accords great respect and even
finality to the findings of credibility of the trial court, more so if the same were affirmed
by the CA, as in this case.32 We find no reason to depart from this rule.

As consistently adhered to by this Court, the matter of assigning values to declarations


on the witness stand is best and most competently performed by the trial judge, who
had the unmatched opportunity to observe the witnesses and to assess their credibility
by the various indicia available but not reflected on the record.33 The trial court has the
singular opportunity to observe the witnesses through the different indicators of
truthfulness or falsehood, such as the angry flush of an insisted assertion, or the sudden
pallor of a discovered lie, or the tremulous mutter of a reluctant answer, or the
forthright tone of a ready reply; or the furtive glance, the blush of conscious shame, the
hesitation, the sincere, or the flippant or sneering tone, the heat, the calmness, the
yawn, the sigh, the candor or lack of it, the scant or full realization of the solemnity of an
oath, the carriage and mien.34

Thus, when the credibility of a witness is in issue, the findings of fact of the trial court,
its calibration of the testimonies of the witnesses and its assessment of the probative
weight thereof, as well as its conclusions anchored on said findings are accorded high
respect if not conclusive effect. This is more true if such findings were affirmed by the
appellate court, since it is settled that when the trial court's findings have been affirmed
by the appellate court, said findings are generally binding upon this Court. Without any
clear showing that the trial court and the appellate court overlooked, misunderstood or
misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance, the rule should not be
disturbed.35

Page 107 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

It bears stressing, too, that no improper motive has been imputed against AAA or her
parents in filing the case against accused-appellant.1âwphi1 In fact, accused-appellant
testified that she was in good terms with AAA's family before the incident and that
AAA's family was, in fact, "on (her) side because of the maltreatment of (her) other in-
laws."36

It is settled that where there is no evidence to show any dubious or improper motive
why a prosecution witness should bear false witness against the accused or falsely
implicate him in a heinous crime, the testimony is worthy of full faith and credit.37

The Court cannot accept accused-appellant's contention that AAA was not deprived of
liberty based on the RTC's supposed observation that she gave in to AAA's request to go
home after AAA cried. First of all, the RTC's observation38 was prefaced by a statement
that accused-appellant "did not want (AAA) to go home," which explains why AAA had
been crying. Thus, the RTC's observation reinforces rather than diminishes accused-
appellant's culpability for detaining the child against her will. Secondly, a. perusal of
AAA's testimony, upon which the RTC ostensibly based its observation, showed that
accused-appellant did not accede to AAA's request to be returned home; she merely
brought the child to her brother's house in Villa Viniegas where she was subsequently
arrested by police operatives.39 Finally, there is nothing in accused-appellant's testimony
that showed her intent to return AAA to her home.

That accused-appellant had no justification whatsoever to detain AAA is undeniable.

AAA's parents had not given their consent for accused-appellant to take and keep their
child. This is evident from the fact that they reported accused-appellant's taking of AAA
to the police on the same day she was removed from her school.40 It is likewise clear
from the plea of AAA's mother, via cellular phone, for accused-appellant to bring AAA
home.41 We are, thus, hard-pressed to believe accused-appellant's claim,
uncorroborated as it is, that AAA's mother had given her consent for accused-appellant
to take her child to Nueva Ecija.

Furthermore, as the CA correctly held, neither the permission given by AAA's teacher
nor AAA's supposed agreement to go with accused-appellant, justified AAA's detention.

Besides, AAA was just nine (9) years old at the time of her detention, as evidenced by
her Certificate of Live Birth.42Thus, accused-appellant's claim that AAA voluntarily went
with her to Nueva Ecija cannot hold water, as AAA was not in a position to give consent.

Where the victim is a minor, lack of consent is presumed. She is incompetent to assent
to seizure and illegal detention. The consent of such child could place accused-appellant
in no better position than if the act had been done against her will.43

The Court also notes AAA's testimony that she had been deceived by accused-appellant
to go with her. Both on direct and cross-examination, AAA testified that accused-
appellant told her that they would be going to the barangay captain as her husband had
taken her suitcase, but they did not proceed to the barangay captain and accused-
appellant took her instead to Nueva Ecija.44

It has been held that the fact that the victim voluntarily went with the accused did not
remove the element of deprivation of liberty, because the victim went with the accused
on a false inducement. What is controlling is the act of the accused in detaining the
victim against his or her will after the offender is able to take the victim in his custody.45

In this case, the inscrutable fact is that accused-appellant detained AAA despite the
latter's repeated plea to be returned home.1âwphi1

Page 108 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Accused-appellant's defense of denial, uncorroborated by testimony or other evidence,


cannot be sustained in the face of AAA's categorical and consistent testimony that
accused-appellant rejected her pleas to be brought home. Denial is a self-serving
negative evidence, which cannot be given greater weight than that of the declaration of
a credible witness who testifies on affirmative matters. Like alibi, denial is inherently a
weak defense, which cannot prevail over the positive and credible testimonies of
prosecution witnesses who, as in this case, were not shown to have any ill-motive to
testify against accused-appellant.46

Accused-appellant asserts that while the prosecution attempted to show that she had
planned to poison AAA, and that she had made demands for a PhP2 Million ransom and
for AAA's father to kill her estranged husband (his sibling) as conditions for AAA's
release, the RTC found that such purpose, allegedly heard by AAA from a telephone
conversation, had not been sufficiently substantiated, let alone alleged in the
Information. She argues that this negates her intent to kidnap or illegally detain the
victim.

The argument deserves scant consideration.

Suffice it to state that the charge against accused-appellant was for kidnapping of a
minor, committed by taking the victim from her school and detaining her against her
will. In kidnapping, the specific intent is to deprive the victim of his/her liberty.47 If the
victim is a child, it also includes the intention of the accused to deprive the parents with
the custody of the child.48 In this case, the prosecution has established beyond
reasonable doubt that accused-appellant intended to deprive AAA of her liberty, and
her parents, with the custody of their daughter.

The Court notes the RTC's finding that while accused-appellant sought to excuse her
actions by "her desire to be loved" and "to accomplish some family concerns," her
detention of AAA was not justifiable as it already prejudiced a minor.49 Indeed, as the
RTC pointed out, despite the alleged closeness of AAA's family to accused-appellant and
their relationship by affinity, AAA's family still filed and pursued a serious charge against
accused-appellant.50

In fine, considering that the elements of Serious Illegal" Detention have been sufficiently
established in this case, there is no cogent reason for the Court to reverse accused-
appellant's conviction for said offense.

Article 267 of the RPC prescribes the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death for Serious
Illegal Detention. Absent any aggravating or modifying circumstance, the RTC, as
affirmed by the CA, correctly imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua, pursuant to
Article 6351 of the RPC.52

In line with prevailing jurisprudence,53 the Court reduces the award of moral damages
from PhPl00,000 to PhP75,000, and directs accused-appellant to additionally pay AAA a
civil indemnity of PhP75,000 and exemplary damages of PhP75,000. The civil indemnity
and damages are subject to interest at the rate of six percent per annum from the
finality of this Decision until fully paid.

The moral damages awarded by the RTC, as affirmed by the CA, were made payable to
AAA through her father because of her minority. Considering that AAA is no longer a
minor, the civil indemnity and damages shall be paid directly to AAA.

WHEREFORE, the Court of Appeals' Decision dated February 19, 2013 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C.
No. 04598 is AFFIRMED with the following MODIFICATIONS: (a) the award for moral
damages is reduced to PhP75,000; (b) accused-appellant is further ordered to pay a civil
indemnity of PhP75,000 and exemplary damages of PhP75,000; (c) the civil indemnity,
moral damages and exemplary damages so awarded shall be paid by accused-appellant

Page 109 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

directly to AAA, all with interest at the rate of six percent per annum from the time of
finality of this Decision until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

NOEL GIMENEZ TIJAM


Associate Justice

17. ROBBERY WITH HOMICIDE

July 24, 2017

G.R. No. 215332

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plainti.ff-Appellee


vs.
MARK GAMBA y NISSORADA, Accused-Appellant

RESOLUTION

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

On appeal is the June 19, 2014 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR HC
No. 05198 which affirmed with modification the July 29, 2011 Decision2 of the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 41, finding appellant Mark Gamba y Nissorada guilty
of robbery with homicide.

The facts are as follows:

Appellant was charged with the special complex crime of robbery with homicide.3 When
arraigned, he pleaded "not guilty".

During trial, the prosecution adduced evidence showing that at around 1:00 a.m. of June
2, 2006, appellant and three unidentified men boarded a public utility jeepney. When
the vehicle was traversing along Tejeron comer Paco Roman Streets, Sta. Ana, Manila,
they announced a "hold-up". Appellant and one of his companions pulled out their guns
and divested Esteban Sandagan y Tampos (Sandagan) of his cash and possessions in the
amount of ₱l,100.00. John Mark Cerbito (Cerbito), the passenger who was seated beside
the driver, refused to give his cellphone, hence appellant kicked him three to four times.
As a result, Cerbito fell off the jeepney whereupon appellant shot him twice, hitting him
in his chest and abdomen. Thereafter, appellant and his three companions ran away
with their loot. Cerbito died due to his gunshot wounds.

Two days later, police officers brought Sandagan to a hospital where he saw appellant,
who was gunned down in the course of another robbery incident. Sandagan duly
identified appellant as likewise the perpetrator of the June 2, 2006 robbery-homicide.
Thus, appellant was arrested.

Appellant denied the charges against him. He claimed to have been engaged in a
drinking session with a friend in a videoke bar and restaurant at the comer of Callejon
and Tejeron Streets, Sta. Ana, Manila during the June 2, 2006 robbery-homicide
incident.

Ruling of the Regional Trial Court

In its Decision dated July 29, 2011, the RTC found appellant guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of the complex crime of robbery with homicide. It found the testimony of

Page 110 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Sandagan sufficient to prove that appellant and his three companions conspired in
divesting him at gunpoint of his cash and personal belongings, and in shooting Cerbito
to death. The RTC gave full credence to the testimony of Sandagan since he saw
appellant and his companions at close range during the incident. In addition, the
jeepney, as well as the crime scene, was well-lighted. The RTC ruled that the positive
identification of appellant and his companions as the perpetrators of the crime prevails
over his defenses of denial and alibi. Moreover, the RTC noted no improper motive on
the part of Sandagan to testify falsely against appellant or to accuse him of committing a
heinous crime. The RTC thus sentenced appellant to suffer the penalty of reclusion
perpetua, to pay the amount of ₱l0,000.00 to Sandagan as moral damages, and the
amounts of ₱25,000.00 as moral damages, ₱10,000.00 as exemplary damages,
₱66,047.10 as actual damages, and ₱75,000.00 as civil indemnity to the heirs of Cerbito.

Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In the assailed Decision dated June 19, 2014, the CA ruled that the prosecution
successfully established all the elements of the crime of robbery with homicide. It
brushed aside appellant's argument that his identification in the hospital created
prejudice in Sandagan's mind since he was the only person presented by the police. The
CA held that the unwavering testimonies of the prosecution witnesses convincingly
proved that said identification was not manipulated by the police. The CA therefore
affirmed the penalty of reclusion perpetua imposed by the RTC on appellant but with
modification as to the awards of damages. As modified, the award of moral damages to
the heirs of Cerbito and to Sandagan was increased to ₱50,000.00 each. In addition,
appellant was ordered to pay Sandagan temperate damages in the amount of
₱3,000.00. The awards of exemplary damages in the amount of ₱l0,000.00; actual
damages of ₱66,047.10; and civil indemnity of ₱75,000.00 to the heirs of Cerbito were
retained.

Hence, this appeal.

Our Ruling

The appeal lacks merit.

The elements of the special complex crime of robbery with homicide are: "(1) the taking
of personal property belonging to another; (2) with intent to gain; (3) with the use of
violence or intimidation against a person; (4) on the occasion or by reason of the
robbery, the crime of homicide, as used in its generic sense, was committed. x x x The
robbery is the [main] purpose and objective of the malefactor and the killing is merely
incidental to the robbery. The intent to rob must precede the taking of human life but
the killing may occur before, during or after the robbery."4 The prosecution successfully
established these elements. Appellant, together with his three companions, boarded
the public utility jeepney and declared a "hold-up". The passengers, including Sandagan,
were forced at gunpoint to turnover their cash and possessions. When Cerbito refused
to be divested of his cellphone, appellant kicked him three or four times with such force
that he fell off the jeepney. Still dissatisfied with the violence he vented on Cerbito,
appellant fired at him twice, hitting him in his chest and abdomen resulting in his
untimely death. Appellant and his three cohort." then fled together with their loot.
Undoubtedly, their main objective was to rob the passengers of the jeepney; the fatal
shooting of Cerbito was merely incidental, resulting by reason of or on the occasion of
the robbery. Appellant therefore committed the crime of robbery with homicide as
charged in the Information.

Against the prosecution's evidence, appellant's defenses of denial and alibi are
worthless. These are the weakest defenses and are easy to concoct and difficult to
disprove. Besides, appellant's alibi that he was in a videoke bar during the commission
of the crime was not substantiated by evidence. Appellant also failed to prove that it

Page 111 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime when it
occurred.

All told, the appeal must be denied. Appellant's conviction for the complex crime of
robbery with homicide was indeed proved beyond reasonable doubt.1avvphi1 The
imposition of the penalty of reclusion perpetua was therefore warranted. The award of
actual damages in the amount of ₱66,047.10 to the heirs of Cerbito is proper. However,
the awards of civil indemnity, moral damages and exemplary damages for his death
must be increased to ₱75,000.00 each in line with prevailing jurisprudence.5 As regards
Sandagan, the award of ₱50,000.00 as moral damages must be deleted since this kind of
damages can only be given when the criminal offense results in physical injuries.6 In this
case, Sandagan did not suffer any physical injury from the robbery. As regards the award
of ₱3,000.00 as temperate damages, the same must be reduced to ₱l,100.00, which is
equivalent to the amount of the belongings divested from Sandagan. Finally, legal
interest of 6% per annum must be imposed on all the monetary awards, from the date
of finality of the Resolution until fully paid.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The assailed June 19, 2014 Decision of the Court
of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 05198 finding appellant Mark Gamba y Nissorada guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of robbery with homicide and sentencing him to suffer the
penalty of reclusion perpetua, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATIONS that the awards of
moral damages and exemplary damages to the heirs of John Mark Cerbito y Bolisay are
increased to ₱75,000.00 each; the award of moral damages to Esteban Sandagany
Bolisay is deleted while the award of temperate damages is reduced to ₱l,100.00. All
damages awarded shall earn interest at the rate of 6% per annum from date of finality
of this Resolution until full payment.

SO ORDERED.

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


Associate Justice

18. GRAVE ORAL DEFAMATION

November 20, 2017

G.R. No. 226454

DIGNA RAMOS, Petitioner


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari1 are the Decision2 dated March 29, 2016
and the Resolution3 dated August 10, 2016 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR
No. 36970, which affirmed with modification the conviction of petitioner Digna Ramos
(Ramos) for the crime of Grave Oral Defamation, defined and penalized under Article
358 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

The Facts

This case stemmed from an Information4 filed before the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of
Piat-Sto. Niño, Cagayan Province (MCTC) charging Ramos of the crime of Grave Oral
Defamation,5 the accusatory portion of which reads:

Page 112 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

That on about 4:20 o'clock (sic) in the afternoon of 17th September 2003 at barangay
Centro Norte, Sto. Niño, Cagayan and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
above-named accused, with ill motive, did then and there(,) wil(l)fully, unlawfully, and
feloniously, uttered defamatory remarks against the honor and reputation of the
undersigned complaint Mrs. Patrocinia R. Dumaua, the following words and/or phrases
address (sic) to the undersigned complainant "UKININAM, PUTA, AWAN AD-ADAL
MO" which if translated in the English language would mean, "VULVA OF YOUR
MOTHER, PROSTITUTE, ILLITERATE."

CONTRARY TO LAW.6

The prosecution alleged that at around four (4) o'clock of September 17, 2003, private
complainant Patrocinia Dumaua (Dumaua) was watering her plants in her yard, when
suddenly, she noticed five (5) schoolchildren pick up dried leaves and throw them into
her yard. When Dumaua called the attention of the schoolchildren, the latter ran
towards the direction of Sto. Nifio Elementary School, where Ramos works as a public
school teacher. A little later, Ramos arrived, picked up dried banana leaves, and
allegedly threw them into Dumaua's yard, while saying "ta sinnu ti pabasulem nga
agilappak ti bulung, siguro dakayo ta nagpabirthday kayo" which means "Whom do you
blame throwing leaves? Maybe you did because you hosted a birthday party." This
prompted a quarrel between Ramos and Dumaua, during the course of which Ramos
uttered to the latter, "Ukininam, puta, awan ad-adalmo, nagbalay kayo ti nagdakkelan,
magaburan daytoy balay kon" which translates to "Vulva of your mother, prostitute,
illiterate, you built a very big house, it overshadows my house." This was corroborated
by Orlando Baltazar and Babileo Dumaua, who testified that they were watching
television inside Dumaua's house when the commotion ensued. According to them,
when they went out of the house to check the incident, they saw the verbal altercation
between Ramos and Dumaua already at its height, with onlookers observing the same.7

In her defense, Ramos denied making any derogatory remarks against Dumaua,
particularly "ukininam, puta, awan ad-adal mo." She then narrated that on the time and
date in question, she was traversing a pathway located between Dumaua's house and
that of another neighbor when she saw Dumaua standing at her yard. Suddenly,
Dumaua got angry at her, blamed her for the garbage in her yard, and threatened her
not to use the pathway or else something will happen. Irked, Ramos asked Dumaua the
basis for prohibiting her to use the pathway and demanded that she be shown her title
over the pathway, but the latter could not produce anything. Ramos then proceeded to
the Sto. Niño Police Station to report the incident and file a case of grave coercion
against Dumaua. Ramos's testimony was then corroborated by her husband, who stated
that he was waiting for his wife to go home when he noticed a commotion involving her.
Upon arriving thereat, he pulled Ramos away as Dumaua was already armed with two
(2) stones and about to grab his wife.8

The MCTC Ruling

In a Decision9 dated May 15, 2009, the MCTC found Ramos guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime of Grave Oral Defamation, and accordingly, sentenced her to suffer
the penalty of imprisonment of one (1) year and one (1) day, as minimum, to one (1)
year and eight (8) months, as maximum, of prision correccional and ordered to pay
Dumaua the amount of ₱20,000.00 as moral damages, as well as the costs of suit.10

Ramos separately moved for a new trial and for reconsideration, both of which were
denied in Resolutions dated September 28, 2009 and November 16, 2009, respectively.
Aggrieved, she appealed to the Regional Trial Court of Tuao, Cagayan, Branch 11 (RTC).11

The RTC Ruling

Page 113 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

In a Decision12 dated September 4, 2014, the RTC affirmed the MCTC ruling in toto.13 It
found that the prosecution has indeed established the fact that Ramos uttered
defamatory statements of a serious and insulting nature against Dumaua through the
positive testimonies not only of the latter, but also of the latter's corroborative
witnesses. As such, Ramos's bare denial that she did not say anything defamatory
against Dumaua cannot be given any credence for being unsubstantiated and self-
serving.14

Dissatisfied, Ramos filed a petition for review under Rule 42 of the Rules of Court before
the CA.15

The CA Ruling

In a Decision16 dated March 29, 2016, the CA affirmed the rulings of the courts a quo,
with modification, adjusting Ramos' s period of imprisonment to four (4) months
of arresto mayor, as minimum, to one (1) year and eight (8) months of prision
correccional, as maximum, in accordance with the Indeterminate Sentence Law.17

Agreeing with the findings of the courts a quo, the CA ruled that Ramos's bare denials
could not stand against the clear and positive testimony of the witnesses that she
indeed uttered the words "ukininam, puta, awan ad-adal mo"which means "vulva of
your mother, prostitute, illiterate" against Dumaua. In this regard, the CA held that such
words were defamatory and serious in nature as the scurrilous imputations strike deep
into the victim's character.18

Undaunted, Ramos moved for reconsideration19 but the same was denied in a
Resolution20 dated August 10, 2016; hence, this petition.

The Issue Before the Court

The issue for the Court's resolution is whether or not the CA correctly upheld Ramos' s
conviction for the crime of Grave Oral Defamation.

The Court's Ruling

The appeal is partly meritorious.

At the outset, it must be stressed that an appeal in criminal cases opens the entire case
for review and it is the duty of the reviewing tribunal to correct, cite, and appreciate
errors in the appealed judgment whether they are assigned or unassigned.21 "The
appeal confers the appellate court full jurisdiction over the case and renders such court
competent to examine records, revise the judgment appealed from, increase the
penalty, and cite the proper provision of the penal law."22

Moreover, while it is a general rule that a re-examination of factual findings cannot be


done through a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, as
in this case, since petitions of this nature are limited only to questions of law,23 this rule
admits of various exceptions, such as when the judgment is based on a misapprehension
of facts or when the factual findings are contrary to the evidence on record.24

Guided by the foregoing considerations, the Court deems it proper to modify Ramos's
conviction, as will be explained below.

Article 358 of the RPC defines and penalizes the crimes of Serious Oral Defamation and
Slight Oral Defamation, to wit:

Page 114 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Article 358. Slander. - Oral defamation shall be punished by arresto mayor in its
maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period if it is of a serious and
insulting nature; otherwise, the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding
200 pesos.

In De Leon v. People,25 the Court thoroughly discussed the nature of Oral Defamation
and the parameters for classifying the same as either Grave or Slight:

Oral Defamation or Slander is libel committed by oral (spoken) means, instead of in


writing. It is defined as "the speaking of base and defamatory words which tend to
prejudice another in his reputation, office, trade, business or means of livelihood." The
elements of oral defamation are: (1) there must be an imputation of a crime, or of a vice
or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, status or circumstances; (2) made
orally; (3) publicly; (4) and maliciously; (5) directed to a natural or juridical person, or
one who is dead; (6) which tends to cause dishonor, discredit or contempt of the person
defamed. Oral defamation may either be simple or grave. It becomes grave when it is of
a serious and insulting nature.

An allegation is considered defamatory if it ascribes to a person the commission of a


crime, the possession of a vice or defect, real or imaginary or any act, omission,
condition, status or circumstance which tends to dishonor or discredit or put him in
contempt or which tends to blacken the memory of one who is dead. To determine
whether a statement is defamatory, the words used in the statement must be construed
in their entirety and should be taken in their plain, natural and ordinary meaning as they
would naturally be understood by persons reading them, unless it appears that they
were used and understood in another sense. It must be stressed that words which are
merely insulting are not actionable as libel or slander per se, and mere words of general
abuse however opprobrious, ill-natured, or vexatious, whether written or spoken, do
not constitute a basis for an action for defamation in the absence of an allegation for
special damages. The fact that the language is offensive to the plaintiff does not make it
actionable by itself.

xxxx

Whether the offense committed is serious or slight oral defamation, depends not only
upon the sense and grammatical meaning of the utterances but also upon the special
circumstances of the case, like the social standing or the advanced age of the offended
party. "The gravity depends upon: (1) the expressions used; (2) the personal relations of
the accused and the offended party; and (3) the special circumstances of the case, the
antecedents or relationship between the offended party and the offender, which may
tend to prove the intention of the offender at the time. In particular, it is a rule that
uttering defamatory words in the heat of anger, with some provocation on the part of
the offended party constitutes only a light felony."26 (Emphases and underscoring
supplied)

A judicious review of the records of this case reveals that Ramos indeed uttered the
words "ukininam, puta, awan ad-adal mo," which means "vulva of your mother,
prostitute, illiterate," against Dumaua. However, no evidence was presented to show
that Ramos indeed started the altercation by instructing her schoolchildren to throw
leaves into Dumaua's yard, and eventually, throwing dried banana leaves therein as
well. It must be pointed out that Dumaua's claim to that effect was not supported by
her corroborative witnesses whose testimonies only pertain to matters transpiring
during the height of the verbal altercation as they were inside the house when the fight
started. Absent such evidence, the Court is inclined to lend more credence to Ramos's
narration that she was just passing through a pathway adjacent to Dumaua's house
when the latter got mad at her; started blaming her for the garbage in her yard; and
warned her not to use the pathway anymore or else something will happen to her - all
of which resulted in the two of them hurling invectives against one another. Thus, it may

Page 115 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

safely be concluded that while Ramos indeed said defamatory words against Dumaua,
the utterances were made in the heat of anger and were with some sort of provocation
on the part of the latter. As such, the Court is constrained to hold that Ramos is only
guilty of the crime of Slight Oral Defamation.

Since the crime committed is only Slight Oral Defamation which is punishable by arresto
menor or a fine of ₱200.00,27 the Court deems it proper to impose on Ramos the latter
penalty instead, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.28

As to Ramos's civil liability, while Dumaua is still entitled to moral damages pursuant to
Article 2219 (7)29 of the Civil Code, the Court deems it proper to reduce the same to
₱5,000.0030 in light of the downgrading of Ramos's conviction to Slight Oral Defamation.
Further, such amount shall earn legal interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per
annum from the date of finality of this Decision until fully paid.31

WHEREFORE, the petition is PARTLY GRANTED. The Decision dated March 29, 2016 and
the Resolution dated August 10, 2016 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 36970 is
hereby MODIFIED, finding petitioner Digna Ramos GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt
only of the crime of Slight Oral Defamation defined and penalized under Article 358 of
the Revised Penal Code. Accordingly, she is meted with the penalty of a FINE in the
amount of ₱200.00, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency; and ordered to
pay private complainant Patrocinia Dumaua the amount of ₱5,000.00 as moral damages
plus legal interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annumfrom the date of finality of
this Decision until fully paid, and the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA ALFREDO BENJAMIN S. CAGUIOA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

On Official Leave
ANDRES B. REYES, JR.*
Associate Justice

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decisionhad been reached in consultation
before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to the Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division
Chairperson’s Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been

Page 116 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Court’s Division.

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO


Chief Justice

19. ESTAFA THROUGH FALSIFICATION OF PUBLIC DOCUMENTS

November 20, 2017

G.R. No. 205576

MIGUEL D. ESCOBAR, EUGENE L. ALZATE, PERLA C. MAGLINTE, CESAR M. CAGANG, and


VIVENCIA S. TELESFORO, Petitioners
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

Except with respect to civil cases impliedly instituted, the rule of conclusiveness of
judgment has no application in criminal law proceedings. For criminal procedure, it is
not res judicata under Rule 39, Section 47 of the Rules of Court, but res judicata in
prison grey as double jeopardy, under Rule 117, Section 7.

This is a Consolidated Petition for Review on Certiorari1 assailing the August 22, 2012
Decision2 and January 8, 2013 Resolution3 of the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No.
28293. The Sandiganbayan found petitioners Perla C. Maglinte (Maglinte), Eugene L.
Alzate (Alzate), together with Amelia Carmela C. Zoleta (Zoleta), guilty of the crime of
estafa through falsification of public documents, and petitioners Miguel D. Escobar
(Escobar), Vivencia S. Telesforo (Telesforo), and Cesar M. Cagang (Cagang), guilty of
malversation.4

An Information filed before the Sandiganbayan against petitioners read:

That on May 27, 2002, or prior or subsequent thereto in Sarangani, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused public officers Miguel Draculan
Escobar and Felipe Katu Constantino, being then the Governor and Vice-Governor,
respectively, of the Province of Sarangani, Margie Purisima Rudes and Eugene Lariza
Alzate, Provincial Board Members, Perla Cabilin Maglinte, Provincial Administrator,
Cesar Matas Cagang, Provincial Treasurer, Vivencia Sasam Telesforo, Management and
Audit Analyst III, and Amelia Carmela Constantino Zoleta, and Executive Assistant, all
accountable public officials of the Provincial Government of Sarangani, by reason of the
duties of their office[s], conspiring and confederating with one another, while
committing the offense in relation to office, taking advantage of their respective
positions, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, convert, and
misappropriate the amount of THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (₱300,000.00),
Philippine Currency, in public funds under their custody, and for which they are
accountable, by falsifying or causing to be falsified the corresponding Disbursement
Voucher dated May 27, 2002 and its supporting documents, making it appear that
financial assistance had been sought by Nema Tamayo, the alleged Team Leader of
Malungon Market Vendors Association, Malungon, Sarangani, when in truth and in fact,
the accused knew fully well that no financial assistance had been requested by N ema
Tamayo and her association, nor did said Nema Tamayo and her association receive the
aforementioned amount, thereby facilitating the release of the above-mentioned public

Page 117 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

funds in the amount of THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS (₱300,000.00), through the
encashment by the accused of Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) Check No.
282390 dated May 27, 2002, which amount they subsequently misappropriated to their
personal use and benefit, and despite demand, the said accused failed to return the said
amount to the damage and prejudice of the government and the public interest in the
aforesaid sum.

CONTRARY TO LA W.5

During arraignment, petitioners Cagang, Telesforo, Escobar, Alzate, and Maglinte, and
their co-accused Felipe Katu Constantino (Constantino) and Zoleta pleaded not guilty to
the offense charged.6 Co-accused Board Member Margie P. Rudes (Rudes) was still-at-
large.7 Constantino passed away on April 25, 2006; thus, the Sandiganbayan granted the
motion to dismiss his case.8

After pre-trial,9 trial commenced.

The prosecution's version of the events was as follows:

Commission on Audit State Auditor IV Helen M. Cailing (Auditor Cailing), the Team
Leader of a Special Audit Team in Sarangani Province, discovered irregularities in
Sarangani Province's grant of financial assistance, violating COA Circular No. 96-003
dated February 27, 1996.10 An Audit and Observation Memorandum dated June 26,
2003 containing the team's findings was sent to then Sarangani Governor Escobar,
Provincial Accountant Maria D. Camanay, Provincial Treasurer Cagang, Provincial
Engineer Mahmod Panayaman, and Provincial Agriculturist Romeo Miole. Cagang
replied that the transaction was treated as a cash advance; thus, the issuance of official
receipt by the Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and People's Organizations (POs)
was unnecessary.11 The team found that the supporting documents for financial
assistance to the Malungon Market Vendors Association lacked the approval of
Governor Escobar, in violation of COA Circular No. 96-003. However, Governor Escobar
certified on the disbursement voucher that the expense was "necessary, lawful and
incurred under his direct supervision."12 Also on the disbursement voucher was a
certification from Telesforo that the supporting documents were complete, and from
Provincial Treasurer Cagang that there were available funds. The team also found that
the disbursement voucher was not received by the Malungon Market Vendors
Association.13 It was signed received by a "Tita P. Sariño," for whom the team searched,
but failed to locate, in Barangay Malungon.14 This was in violation of COA Circular No.
96-003 because it should have been deposited to the account of the Malungon Market
Vendors Association. Further, Auditor Cailing testified that upon verification with the
bank, she was told that the check had been deposited to the account of the beneficiary
but that the amount was withdrawn the next day.15 The funds for the financial
assistance were sourced from the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF), which was
intended for livelihood projects of Sarangani province.16

Juanilio V. Vegafria (Vegafria) testified that he was the President of the Malungon
Market Vendors Association from 2001 to 2004.17 With the help of the vice-mayor and
the Department of Social Welfare and Development, he was able to obtain financial
assistance from the municipal government of Malungon for their recovery from a fire
that burned down the Malungon public market in 2001.18 He received Commission on
Audit's letter dated July 15, 2003, addressed to "Tita P. Sarifio, Treasurer of the Market
Vendors Association of Malungon," seeking verification on the financial assistance of
₱300,000.00 for the association.19 He executed an affidavit that their association did not
receive this amount. He stated that he received the letter as it was addressed to the
association but there was no officer or member by that name. When he was shown a
document dated May 20, 2002 and a Project Proposal, both signed by a "Nema
Tamayo," purportedly a team leader of the Malungon Market Vendors Association,
Vegafria testified that there was no association member or officer by that name.20

Page 118 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Mary Ann G. Gadian (Gadian) testified that she was employed in the Office of then Vice
Governor Constantino as a Computer Operator and was supervised by Vice Governor
Constantino's daughter, Amelia Carmela Zoleta (Zoleta). Zoleta had her make fake
documents, requests, and proposals to make money.21 In May 2002, she received
instructions from Vice Governor Constantino, Board Member Juanito Purisima, and
Zoleta to prepare supporting documents for the disbursement of funds to be used for
the wedding of Board Member Alzate,22 and to use the name "Tita P. Sarifio" in the
fictitious documents.23 Thus, Zoleta told her to go to the office of Provincial
Administrator Maglinte who, upon Gadian's arrival, immediately told her to ask Zoleta
whether or not "another ₱l0,000.00 for the ... department heads could be added to the
amount to be disbursed."24 Upon hearing this, Zoleta instructed Gadian to "double the
amount so that the processing will be expedited."25 Thereafter, Maglinte told Gadian to
source the ₱300,000.00 from the ₱l,000,000.00 CDF ofMalungon.26 Thus, Gadian
prepared the fictitious letter dated May 20, 2002 and the fictitious Project Proposal
under the fictitious name of "Nema Tamayo."27 She asked her coworker Eleanor Tablani
(Tablani) to sign above the name "Nema Tamayo."28 After Zoleta reviewed the fictitious
documents, she submitted them to Maglinte, who reviewed them and immediately
affixed her initials under the name of Governor Escobar. She and Maglinte then
delivered the disbursement voucher and supporting documents to the office of
Governor Escobar. Gadian waited outside. When Maglinte emerged from Governor
Escobar's office, she handed Gadian the disbursement voucher bearing Governor
Escobar's signature and they returned to Maglinte's office.29 Maglinte imprinted the
rubber stamp signature of Governor Escobar in the duplicate copies of the
voucher30then gave the documents to a clerk at the office of the Provincial Accountant
for logging and processing. Since Provincial Accountant Maria Camanay (Camanay) was
in General Santos City, Telesforo signed over the former's name in the disbursement
voucher and in the Journal Entry Voucher. Thereafter, Maglinte handed the documents
to a clerk in the office of the Provincial Treasurer who wrote "RCI#l/TFMAY2002" on the
voucher and then went to the room of Provincial Treasurer Cagang. While Provincial
Treasurer Cagang reviewed the documents, "he looked at her shaking his head."31 He
signed the voucher. Then, Gadian went to the cashier, who prepared the check.
Thereafter, she presented the check to Cagang, who signed it.1âwphi1 She went back to
the office of Maglinte, who also signed it. Then, Gadian returned all the documents to
the Provincial Treasurer's Office. She called Sheryl Desiree Jane Tangan, also known as
Joy Tangan (Tangan), of the Office of the Vice Governor to advise the status of the
transaction and to receive further instructions from Zoleta. Pursuant to Zoleta's
instructions, Tangan accompanied a woman, who acted as a "dummy," to claim the
check from the office of the Provincial Treasurer and to encash it at the bank. Tangan
gave Gadian the ₱300,000.00, which she delivered to Zoleta. Zoleta gave Gadian
₱l00,000.00 and called Alzate to go to her office.32 When Alzate arrived, Tatang Purisima
(Purisima) gave him ₱200,000.00 for the wedding. Gadian placed the ₱l00,000.00 from
Zoleta in five (5) envelopes with ₱20,000.00 each and brought them to the office of
Maglinte, where she saw Camanay, Lea Dubay Lungsod, Mariter Saison, Sitiwa
Maruhom Sali, and Rose Concon, who were awaiting their shares.

Tangan testified that in 2002, she worked as Local Legislative Assistant Staff I at the
Office of then Vice Governor Constantino.33 She corroborated Gadian's testimony.34

The version of the defense was as follows:

Cagang testified that when the disbursement voucher was brought to his office by
Gadian, it was already signed by Provincial Governor Escobar, "certif[ying] that the
expenses or cash advances covered by the voucher were necessary, lawful and incurred
under his direct supervision," and by Telesforo, signifying the completeness of the
supporting documents.35

Maglinte denied Gadian's allegations regarding her participation in the facilitation of the
transaction. She testified that she had no participation in the falsification of the letter

Page 119 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

request or the Project Proposal, or that they had been forwarded to her office. She
claimed that Vice Governor Constantino had informed her over the phone that these
documents from the Malungon Market Vendors Association would be brought to her
office. She verified the letter request and Project Proposal before signing the
disbursement voucher. Thereafter, separate investigations were initiated for the
reported anomaly. While the transactions were being investigated, former Sarangani
Governor Priscilla Chiongbian ordered for her to come to her residence, where Maglinte
met Congressman Erwin Chiongbian (Congressman Chiongbian). They discussed the
issue of the anomalous financial assistance that had been granted to several People's
Organizations in Sarangani, but Maglinte said she had no knowledge of them. This
enraged Congressman Chiongbian, who said that she would suffer the consequences of
withholding the situation from him.36She said she was not aware of COA Circular No. 96-
003 and was not furnished with a copy of the COA Audit Observation Memorandum, as
it was not addressed to her.37

Renante L. Dialawi, a casual clerk at the office of Board Member Rudes, testified that
Gadian also used to be a staff in that office and that Gadian was in the office of Board
Member Rudes in the morning of May 27, 2002,38 and did not leave the whole
afternoon.39

Escobar denied knowledge of and participation in the crime.40 His only participation in
the transaction was signing the disbursement voucher. However, after he learned of the
anomalies when it was discussed on a radio show, he created a Fact Finding or
Investigation Committee, whose report was included in the report of the Commission on
Audit Special Audit Team. He did not receive any notice of disallowance or demand to
return the ₱300,000.00 and was not asked to explain why he signed the disbursement
voucher before the case against him was instituted.41

Telesforo testified that she signed the disbursement voucher only after verifying that
the supporting documents were complete and in order:42

[S]he affixed her signature on the voucher after she has verified that the attachments
consisting of- (1) the Certificate of Registration issued by the Cooperative Development
Authority, (2) machine copy of the Certificate of Accreditation issued by the Provincial
Board of Sarangani, (3) the Letter Request of the Malungon Market Vendors
Association, (4) Project Proposal of the Malungon Market Vendors Association, (5)
machine copy of the memorandum of agreement executed by and between the
Province of Sarangani and the Malungon Market Vendors Association, and (6) the Board
Resolution issued by the Malungon Market Vendors Association authorizing its treasurer
to receive and encash the check, were complete and in order; that since some of the
attached documents were photo/machine copies, she called Ms. Banderado to go to the
office of the Governor to check the originals of the photo/machine copied documents;
and that it was only after Ms. Banderado informed her that the original documents are
on file in the office of the Governor that she affixed her signature in Box B of the
Disbursement Voucher[.]43

Alzate denied receiving ₱200,000.00 from Zoleta and having participation in the
anomalous transaction.44 He said that the day the check was encashed was on May 29,
2002 and not on May 27, 2002, as shown by the machine validation on the check. He
claimed that on May 29, 2002, he was in Cebu City for the Second Quarter National
Board Meeting of the Provincial Board Members League of the Philippines, held from
May 28, 2002 to May 31, 2002.45 His attendance in this event was attested to by the
Agenda of the League, the Allotment and Obligation Slip for his travel expenses
reimbursement, the disbursement voucher for his reimbursement, his plane tickets, and
the Certificate of Appearance issued by the Department of Interior and Local
Government. Additionally, the Minutes of the First Special Session of the Sangguniang
Panlalawigan of Sarangani on May 29, 2002 indicated that he was absent on official
business.46 He claimed that the case was politically motivated because he refused the

Page 120 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

late Congressman James Chiongbian's offer to run as the Vice Governor of a certain
Governor Dominguez against former Vice Governor Constantino and Governor
Escobar.47 His wedding expenses were defrayed by his relatives, not by the illegal
disbursement.48 During additional direct examination, Alzate testified that his
observation on the date of the machine validation of the check was confirmed by a
Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) Teller. He also stated that he sent a letter
dated April 30, 2009 to the DBP General Santos City Branch requesting a certification on
the encashment date of the check, but the bank refused to issue one without a
subpoena.49

Zoleta denied Gadian's testimony against her.50 She denied seeing Alzate in their office
on May 27, 2002.51 She testified that she did not participate in preparing disbursement
vouchers because the budget of the Office of the Vice Governor was controlled by a
certain Mr. Dela Cruz.52

In its assailed Decision, the Sandiganbayan found that the documents had been falsified
which led to the disbursement of public funds, supposedly to be given as financial
assistance for the Malungon Market Vendors Association, which neither prepared the
documents nor received the financial assistance. It found that all the accused were
public officers at the time material to the case and that Escobar, Telesforo, and Cagang
had custody of the funds which constituted the source of the financial assistance
granted to the Malungon Market Vendors Association.53 The funds were public since
they were withdrawn from the account of the Province of Sarangani.54Escobar,
Telesforo, and Cagang signed the disbursement voucher and the funds were received by
the payee.55 The Sandiganbayan found that Zoleta, Maglinte, and Alzate acted in
conspiracy in the falsification of the letter request dated May 20, 2002 and the Project
Proposal, which were the supporting documents for the disbursement voucher.56 These
falsified documents "led to the malversation of public funds."57

The Sandiganbayan held that petitioners Escobar, Telesforo, and Cagang approved the
disbursement voucher despite the fact that it lacked the documentation required under
COA Circular No. 96-003 dated February 27, 1996:

However, COA Auditor Cailing stated that the said accused approved the disbursement
despite the lack of the needed documentation as provided in COA Circular No. 96-003
dated February 27, 1996, because - (1) the disbursement was not included in the work
and financial plan of the provincial government of Sarangani; (2) the market vendors
association was not accredited by the provincial government of Sarangani; (3) there was
no memorandum of agreement between the market vendors association and the
provincial government of Sarangani; (4) the beneficiary did not submit its financial
statement for a period of at least three (3) years and Certificate of Registration with the
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); (5) the letter request for the grant dated
May 20, 2002, and the accompanying Project Proposal were not approved by the
provincial Governor; (6) DBP Check No. 282390 dated May 27, 2002, was issued in the
name of the alleged Treasurer Tita P. Sarifio instead of the Malungon Market Vendors
Association and it was encashed when it should have been for deposit only; (7) there
was no official receipt attached to the voucher evidencing receipt by the payee or
recipient of the payment; and (8) there was no listing of the officials and members of
the association who will benefit from the financial assistance. Auditor Cailing testified
that the only documents attached to the voucher were the said letter request dated
May 20, 2002, and the Project Proposal that was signed by Nema Tamayo which did not
bear the approval of the Provincial Governor; and that because of said violations, the
financial assistance given to the Malungon Market Vendors Association was illegally and
fraudulently made.58

The Sandiganbayan found that petitioners Escobar, Telesforo, and Cagang should have
asked for documents to show the members' names who would avail of financial
assistance and the authority of "Tita P. Sarifio" to act as the treasurer of Malungon

Page 121 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Market Vendors Association.59 Further, they allowed the misappropriation considering


that when the Commission on Audit Special Audit Team conducted its audit, petitioners
Escobar, Telesforo, and Cagang "failed to account or liquidate the disbursement or to
give reasonable explanation of its disappearance."60 Having failed to observe the
necessary care under the circumstances, they were criminally negligent and liable for
malversation.61

On the issue of conclusiveness of judgment, the Sandiganbayan held that the issue in
Criminal Case No. 28331 was different from the issue in this case. The issue there was
the malversation of ₱375,000.00 as financial assistance to the Kanlaong Fishermen's
Group and covered by Disbursement Voucher No. 101-2002-7-10376 and DBP Check No.
11521401.62

The dispositive portion of the Sandiganbayan Decision read:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows -

1. finding accused PERLA C. MAGLINTE, AMELIA CARMELA C. ZOLETA, and EUGENE


ALZATE, GUILTY as principals of the complex crime of estafa through falsification of
public documents defined and penalized under the provisions of Articles 315 and 1 71 in
relation to Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code and applying the Indeterminate
Sentence Law sentencing each of them to suffer indeterminate penalty of ten (10) years
as minimum, to eleven (11) years and four (4) months of prision mayor as maximum,
with the accessories provided by law, and to pay a fine of PhP5,000.00;

2. finding accused MIGUEL D. ESCOBAR, VIVENCIA S. TELESFORO and CESAR M. CAGANG


GUILTY of malversation and applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law sentencing each
of them to suffer the indeterminate 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, and to pay a fine of PhP300,000.00 and the penalty of perpetual
special disqualification to hold public office and other accessory penalties provided by
law; and

3. ordering all the accused, jointly and severally, to indemnify the Provincial
Government of Sarangani the defrauded/malversed amount of PhP300,000.00, and to
pay the cost.

As for accused MARGIE P. RUDES, who is at-large and beyond the jurisdiction of the
Court, this case is ordered ARCHIVED.

SO ORDERED.63 (Emphasis in the original)

Petitioners filed their respective Motions for Reconsideration, which were denied by the
Sandiganbayan in its January 8, 2013 Resolution. The dispositive portion of the
Resolution read:

IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the respective Motions for Reconsideration of


accused-movants Zoleta, Maglinte, Escobar, Telesforo and Cagang, and the Motion for
New Trial of accused-movant Alzate, are DENIED.

SO ORDERED.64 (Emphasis in the original)

Thus, petitioners filed this petition on March 14, 201365 before this Court. On June 20,
2013, respondent, through the Office of the Ombudsman, filed its Comment.66 On
March 3, 2014, petitioners filed their Reply. On July 7, 2017, petitioner Maglinte filed a
Motion to Travel, which this Court denied.

Page 122 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Petitioners claim that the Sandiganbayan erred in convicting petitioners Maglinte and
Alzate of the crime of Estafa through Falsification of Public Documents, considering that
it was not shown that they acquired juridical possession of the money subject of the
case.67 Even assuming they acquired juridical possession, it was not received "in trust, or
on commission or for administration or under any other obligation involving the duty to
make delivery of or to return the same."68 Likewise, there was no prior demand made
upon petitioners Maglinte or Alzate.69

Respondent argues that all the accused were charged with conspiracy to commit
malversation of public funds through falsification of public documents. However, since
the accountable public officials were convicted only of malversation through negligence,
those who were not accountable for the funds were liable for estafa through
falsification of public documents, a charge that is "necessarily included in a charge of
malversation of public funds through falsification of public documents."70

There was no proof that petitioners Maglinte and Alzate participated in the falsification
of the fictitious documents.71The Sandiganbayan misinterpreted Gadian's testimony
when she said petitioner Maglinte "advised Gadian in the preparation of the voucher
and the falsified supporting documents."72 Gadian did not testify that she informed
Maglinte that she was about to falsify the fictitious documents, or that Maglinte told her
to falsify them, or agreed to the falsification. It was only conjecture on the part of
Gadian that Maglinte was aware of the falsification.73Petitioners quote Gadian's
testimony:

ATTY. LARGO:

Q: Now, be candid to the Court, Ms. Witness. Prior to the giving of instruction to you by
accused Zoleta, you have no knowledge at all of whether accused Zoleta had any
discussion with any of the accused her[ e] with respect to this transaction?

A: I am no longer concerned with that, sir, but I am just told what to do.

Q: Am I correct to say that your answer to my last question is ''yes"?

That you had no knowledge at all if they had any conversation, discussion with respect
to this transaction?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Prior to Zoleta's giving of instruction to you?

A: Yes, sir. That is none of my business.74

Similarly, there was no testimony showing that petitioner Alzate was aware of the
falsification. Tangan testified regarding petitioner Alzate's participation:

Q - What did Mary Ann Gadian do with the money that you gave her?

A - She separated the ₱200,000.00, then the ₱l00,000.00, then the

₱200,000.00 was given to Amelia Carmela Zoleta, Ma'am.

Q - After Ms. Gadian gave the ₱200,000.00 to Amelia Carmela Zoleta, what happened to
that amount?

A - She gave it to her father. Then Amelia Carmela Zoleta called up Board Member
Alzate that the money is ready. Then Board Member Alzate went to our office, Ma'am.

Page 123 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Q - You stated that after receiving the ₱200,000.00 from Mary Ann Gadian, Ms. Zoleta
gave this ₱200,000.00 to the Vice Governor, her father?

A - Yes[,] Ma'am.

Q - And after she gave the ₱200,000.00 to the Vice Governor, she then made a phone
call to Board Member Alzate. What happened after she made this phone call to Board
Member Alzate?

A - Board Member Alzate went to our office, Ma'am.

Q - What happened when Board Member Alzate arrived in that office?

A - Sinabihan sya ni Vice Governor, "To, akin na ang kwarta mo, To."

INTERPRETATION:

He was told by the Vice Governor, "To ... (discontinued)["]

WITNESS:

This is your money.

INTERPRETATION:

To, this is your money, To.

PROSEC. HIDALGO:

Q - After the Vice Governor informed Board Member Alzate that this money was there,
what was the Board Member's response?

A - He said thank you, smiled and went out, Ma'am.75

Petitioner's claim on Gadian's testimony conflicts with this:

Q - What did you do with the money given to you by Joy Tangan?

A - I gave it to Amelia Carmela Zoleta.

Q - You gave the money to Amelia Carmela Zoleta in the amount of?

A – ₱300,000.00. She placed it in her drawer first.

Q- What happened after Amelia Carmela Zoleta placed the cash of ₱300,000.00 in her
drawer?

A - She gave me a bundle of ₱l00,000.00.

Q - What happened to the other ₱200,000.00?

A - She called through the intercom Eugene Alzate to come up.

Q - After accused Zoleta called up accused Alzate to go up to her office, what happened
afterwards, if any?

A - Eugene Alzate arrived with Tatang Purisima.

Page 124 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Q - What did both of them do afterwards, if any?

A - They entered the computer room.

Q - What transpired inside [the] computer room?

A - Tatang gave the money to Eugene.

Q - What is that money that Tatang gave to Eugene?

A - The amount of ₱200,000.00 for wedding expenses.

Q - Why do you know that, that incident transpired in the computer room?

A - Because the place is very near and you can see what they are doing.76

Petitioners argue that to be considered a conspirator, an accused must have performed


an overt act that contributed to the execution of the crime.77 There must be evidence of
actual cooperation in the crime and approval of an illegal act is not sufficient to
establish conspiracy.78 Respondent contends that petitioner Maglinte's complicity to the
crime is evident from her conduct before, during, and after its commission.79 She
instructed Gadian to ask Zoleta whether or not a total of ₱l0,000.00 could be added to
the amount to be disbursed for distribution to several provincial employees and to
source the fund from the CDF allocated to the municipality of Malungon.80 Both
Maglinte and Alzate shared in the proceeds.81 After the encashment of the check issued
pursuant to the falsified documents, Alzate quickly arrived to receive the ₱200,000.00
from Constantino after being informed by Zoleta that the money was ready.82

Petitioners assert that the Sandiganbayan erred in convicting petitioners based on the
uncorroborated testimonies of witnesses who participated in the crime, appeared to be
the most guilty,83 and were motivated to lie by their desire to be made state
witnesses.84 Respondent argues that petitioners are the ones who controlled and
directed the commission of the crime.85 Petitioners claim that petitioner Alzate's
constitutional rights were violated when the Sandiganbayan denied his motion for new
trial and motion to allow him to present additional witnesses.86Respondent points out
that petitioner Alzate was still not ready to present evidence in his defense despite
having four (4) years to prepare for it.87 He only asked for the opportunity to present
additional evidence via a motion for reconsideration after the Sandiganbayan had
already admitted all the formal offers of evidence of the petitioners.88His Motion to
Allow Accused Alzate to Present Additional Witnesses or Motion to Allow Accused
Alzate to Enter into Stipulation of Facts with the Prosecution was filed two (2) years
after he testified. It was also a year and a half after manifesting that he was not
presenting any additional evidence, and a year and two (2) months after the
Sandiganbayan had already ruled on the admissibility of his exhibits.89

Petitioners also argue that petitioners Escobar and Telesforo are not accountable
officers under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.90 To be accountable officers, they
must receive, by reason of their office, government funds or property over which they
acquire custody and for which they are held responsible.91 Under the Local Government
Code, only the Provincial Treasurer is accountable for the funds of a province in relation
to Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.92 Further, petitioners insist that based on the
Government Auditing Code of the Philippines and Arriola and
Radan v. Sandiganbayan,93 what dictates whether or not officers are accountable are
their duties and functions which allow them to receive public property for which they
are required to account.94 Respondent argues that the funds were in the nature of a
trust fund, which was in "the possession of the local government as trustee and for the
management of the local government officials as administrators."95 As a trust fund in
their possession, petitioner "Escobar had ... to certify and approve the validity, propriety

Page 125 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

and legality of expenditures to be charged [to the fund]."96 As a trust fund, petitioner
Telesforo also had to certify and approve the completeness and propriety of the
supporting documents.97

In Arias v. Sandiganbayan,98 this Court held that a head of office can rely on their
subordinates to a reasonable extent, and there has to be some reason shown why any
particular voucher must be examined in detail. Petitioners argue that this case can be
invoked to refute negligence on the part of petitioner Escobar, who relied in good faith
that his subordinates would perform their functions in accordance with the law.99 The
voucher presented to petitioner Escobar for signature appeared to have been prepared
with regularity, and nobody called his attention to any anomalies in the request for fund
assistance. Gadian made sure that her falsification of the fictitious documents would be
undetectable.100 Likewise, in Magsuci v. Sandiganbayan,101 this Court held that if there is
no evidence of conspiracy, the head of an office is not negligent for relying on misplaced
good faith on a subordinate primarily responsible for a particular matter.102 Respondent
argues that the cases of Arias and Magsuci do not apply, considering there were reasons
for petitioner Escobar to closely examine the transaction. The letter request and Project
Proposal were signed by "Nema Tamayo," yet the disbursement voucher was payable to
"Tita P. Sarifio/Treasurer Market Vendors Assoc."103 Escobar did not make any attempt
to ensure the implementation and completion of the project for which the funds were
disbursed, monitor the funds after it was released, make an attempt to accredit the
organization, or enter into a Memorandum of Agreement. This was reckless imprudence
on his part. Petitioner Escobar disputes this and says there was no discrepancy, as both
the check and the disbursement voucher were payable to "Tita P. Sarifio/Treasurer
Market Vendors Association."104 Petitioners further argue that the duty to accredit and
enter into a Memorandum of Agreement does not belong to petitioner Escobar, but
generally, to the government office concerned.105 Moreover, when the transaction was
being investigated, petitioner Escobar lost his bid for governor and stepped down in
2004. He lost track of the investigation, which he later learned had been discontinued
by the elected officials of Sarangani province.106

In Criminal Case No. 28331, which arose from the same COA Audit Report and
Ombudsman Resolution dated August 11, 2004,107 the Sandiganbayan relied on the
testimonies of Gadian and Cailing108 and held that petitioner Escobar is not an
accountable officer for purposes of Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.109 It also held
that there is nothing that shows that petitioner Escobar was aware of the anomalies in
the transaction or that he participated in the falsification of the fictitious
documents.110 The Sandiganbayan also found that petitioner Escobar could not be liable
based only on signing the disbursement voucher and the project proposal after
petitioner Maglinte certified the legal assistance as legitimate and lawful.111 Thus, as
quoted by petitioners, the Sandiganbayan held:

As for accused Escobar, the prosecution evidence does not even attempt to link him to
the anomalous transaction. There is absolutely nothing that would show knowledge on
his part about it. The most that the prosecution did was to rely merely on his signatures
appearing in the project proposal and the disbursement voucher. However, this alone
would not suffice, especially taking into consideration his testimony, which the court
similarly observes, that the documents, taken at face value, do not show any
irregularity. Moreover, the initials of accused Provincial Administrator Maglinte, as the
prior reviewing authority, appear in the disbursement voucher, which is an accepted
common practice or control measure before the approving authority affixes his
signature and expresses his conformity. What is more is that accused Escobar did not
even sign the check. And finally, as Provincial Governor, he does not have custody of the
funds, and neither is he accountable therefor. Instead, as pointed out above, it is
accused Cagang, as the Provincial Treasurer, who has custody and who is accountable
for the public funds of the province.

Page 126 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Accordingly, except for the fact that accused Escobar is a public officer, none of the
elements essential to support a charge for malversation are present. Neither is there
anything to connect him to the fabrication or falsification of the supporting documents
submitted to justify the release of the funds. Similarly, therefore, there is no legal and
factual basis to sustain the position of the prosecution as to his alleged guilt. Again,
unless it can be shown that there was conspiracy, and there is none on record, such
essential elements cannot be deemed to have been established with respect to accused
Escobar.112

Petitioners argue that conclusiveness of judgment bars these determinations of the


Sandiganbayan on material facts from being litigated again.113 Respondent argues that
the principle of conclusiveness of judgment is inapplicable because this case is not a
continuation of Criminal Case No. 28331.114 Petitioners rely on Hacienda Bigaa, Inc. v.
Chavez115 to argue that the rule can be raised under different claims or causes of action
and that it only requires identity of parties and issues to be invoked.116

Petitioners argue that COA Circular No. 96-003 does not apply to fund assistance to
NGOs or POs funded out of a CDF of a congressman117 and that it was not sufficiently
established that the supporting documents for the disbursement were deficient or
incomplete.118 According to petitioners, the disposition of a trust fund is subject to the
provisions of the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO), and not the COA Circular No.
96-003.119

Respondent argues that COA Circular No. 96-003 applies to all releases of fund as
financial assistance to NGOs or POs, based on its text:

1. The subject of the circular is described as a restatement of COA Circular No. 95-003
prescribing accounting and auditing guidelines on the release of fund assistance to
NGOs/POs.

2. In its definition of terms, it defines fund assistance as "government funds entrusted to


the NGO/PO to cover the implementation of a project which is included in the Work and
Financial Plan (WFP) and Budget of the GO release of which is not necessarily limited to
Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MODE), 'Grants, Subsid[i]es and
Contributions (3-10-000).' This may be in the form of training packages, livelihood
projects, interest-free loans, etc."

3. In its guidelines, it states that ". . . if the fund assistance will be charged to savings or
trust receipts received for the purpose, such utilization shall be approved by proper
authorities."120

This Court resolves the following issues:

First, whether or not the Sandiganbayan erred in convicting petitioners Eugene L. Alzate
and Perla C. Maglinte of estafa through conspiracy;

Second, whether or not the Sandiganbayan erred in not applying the case of Arias v.
Sandiganbayan121 to find that petitioner Miguel D. Escobar properly relied on good faith
that his subordinates would perform their functions in accordance with the law;

Third, whether or not the Sandiganbayan denied petitioner Eugene L. Alzate due
process when it denied his motion for new trial and did not allow his presentation of
additional witnesses based on technicalities;

Fourth, whether or not petitioners Miguel D. Escobar and Vivencia S. Telesforo are
accountable public officers;

Page 127 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Fifth, whether or not the Sandiganbayan erred in convicting Miguel D. Escobar, Eugene
L. Alzate, Perla C. Maglinte, Cesar M. Cagang, and Vivencia S. Telesforo based primarily
on the testimony of participants in the commission of the crime; and

Finally, whether or not the principle of conclusiveness of judgment in Criminal Case No.
28331 binds the Sandiganbayan in this case.

This Court denies the Petition.

Although not expressly stated by the Sandiganbayan, petitioners Alzate, Maglinte, and
co-accused Zoleta were convicted of estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2(a), and not
l(b) of the Revised Penal Code as claimed by petitioners. Article 315, paragraph 2(a)
provides that estafa may be committed:

2. By means of any of the following false pretenses or fraudulent acts executed prior to
or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud:

(a) By using fictitious name, or falsely pretending to possess power, influence,


qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions, or by means
of other similar deceits.

Thus, the elements of estafa by means of deceit are:

a. That there must be a false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means.

b. That such false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means must be made or
executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud.

c. That the offended party must have relied on the false pretense, fraudulent act, or
fraudulent means, that is, he was induced to part with his money or property because of
the false pretense, fraudulent act, or fraudulent means.

d. That as a result thereof, the offended party suffered damage.122 (Emphasis in the
original)

The elements of the crime were proved. That the documents were falsified was amply
established by the evidence. The documents were falsified before the disbursement,
which was allowed based on the falsified documents.

The conspiracy among petitioners Alzate, Maglinte, and co-accused Zoleta to commit
the crime was also sufficiently established. Under the Revised Penal Code, there is a
conspiracy "when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the
commission of a felony and decide to commit it."123

It is well established that conspiracy may be inferred. In Alvizo v. Sandiganbayan,124

Direct proof is not essential to show conspiracy. It need not be shown that the parties
actually came together and agreed in express terms to enter into and pursue a common
design. The existence of the assent of minds which is involved in a conspiracy may be,
and from the secrecy of the crime, usually must be, inferred by the court from proof of
facts and circumstances which, taken together, apparently indicate that they are merely
parts of some complete whole. If it is proved that two or more persons aimed by their
acts towards the accomplishment of the same unlawful object, each doing a part so that
their acts, though apparently independent, were in fact connected and cooperative,
indicating a closeness of personal association and a concurrence of sentiments, then a

Page 128 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

conspiracy may be inferred though no actual meeting among them to concert means is
proved. Thus, the proof of conspiracy, which is essentially hatched under cover and out
of view of others than those directly concerned, is perhaps most frequently made by
evidence of a chain of circumstances only.125 (Citations omitted)

In People v. Romualdez,126 this Court explained:

It is alleged in the information that the accused conspired together and acted in
common accord in the commission of the crime. As the Attorney-General says, a
conspiracy can seldom be proved except by circumstantial evidence, but once it is
proved, the acts of one of the conspirators are the acts of all. (U.S. vs. Phil, 27 Phil., 530.)

"The existence of the assent of minds which is involved in a conspiracy may be, from the
secrecy of the crime, usually must be, inferred by the jury from proof of facts and
circumstances which, taken together, apparently indicate that they are merely parts of
some complete whole. If it is proved that two or more persons aimed by their acts
towards the accomplishment of the same unlawful object, each doing a part so that
their acts, though apparently independent, were in fact connected and cooperative,
indicating a closeness of personal association and a concurrence of sentiment, a
conspiracy may be inferred though no actual meeting among them to concert means is
proved. Evidence of actual participation, rather than of passive acquiescence, is
desirable. But proof of acquiescence in, or consent to, the actions of others is relevant
to show the criminal intention of the passive party, and generally the smallest degree of
consent or collusion among parties lets in the act or words of one against the others."
(Underhill on Criminal Evidence, pp. 795, 796.)

For the foregoing reasons, we find that the conclusions of the trial court are fully
justified by the evidence.127

Petitioners claim that the Sandiganbayan only surmised petitioner Maglinte's


involvement based on her advising witness Gadian to source the funds from the CDF of
then Congressman Chiongbian.128 To the contrary, the records amply support the
conclusion that petitioner Maglinte conspired in the scheme in ways in addition to the
instruction regarding the CDF of then Congressman Chiongbian. Gadian testified that
Maglinte instructed for additional money to be requested and given to other officials,
called "suso," to facilitate the approval of the request:

A Madame Perla told me to add ₱10,000.00 each for the "suso".

Q When she said that, what did you reply to her, if any?

A "Okey, I wil[l] tell Ate Beng."

Q Having given that answer, what did you do afterwards?

A I went back to Ate Beng and informed her that Mam Perla requested for additional
amount of ₱l0,000.00 each for the "suso".

Q What was the answer of accused Zoleta, if any?

A "Make it double so that the processing will be expedited."129

Gadian's testimony also shows that petitioner Maglinte checked and reviewed the
falsified documents, then accompanied witness Gadian to bring the falsified documents
to the office of the Vice Governor,130 and that after the disbursed check was signed by
Cagang,131 it was brought to Maglinte's office.132

Page 129 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Likewise, petitioners claim that the Sandiganbayan only surmised petitioner Alzate's
participation because he received most of the illegally disbursed funds.133 To the
contrary, the Sandiganbayan's finding was based on the fact that the illegal
disbursement was set into motion specifically for Alzate's wedding:

Q You mentioned you make fictitious documents, could you inform us why you made
those fake letter requests, fake proposals and fake disbursement vouchers?

A Because I was called by Tatang Purisima to go inside the room where Felipe
Constantino, Juanito Purisima including Amelia Carmela Zoleta were. When I entered
the room, Tatang Purisima said, "anak, magprepare ka ng documents para sa kasal ni
Eugene."

Q Who is this "Eugene" that you mentioned?

A Eugene, the ex-board member of the province, mam."134

Further, Alzate received the ₱200,000.00 without hesitation:

[W]hile there is no direct evidence to show that accused Alzate participated in the
preparation and planning of the illegal/fictitious disbursement, the records, however,
showed that when accused Zoleta called up and informed accused Alzate of the
availability of the money, the latter immediately proceeded to the vice governor's office
and there and then, without any hesitation, received the PhP200,000.00 from the late
Vice Governor Constantino, in the presence of Gadian, Tangan, accused Zoleta and
Board Member Purisima. This act of accused Alzate receiving his share in the
misappropriation, is a clear indication that, true to the plan of the late vice governor, he
was part of the conspiracy in the anomalous transaction for the purpose of financing
accused Alzate's forthcoming wedding and hence, the "biggest" beneficiary thereof.135

As for Zoleta, the prosecution established that she regularly instructed Gadian to make
fictitious documents136 and that she directed Gadian and Tangan to falsify the
documents.137 She gave instructions throughout the process of obtaining the disbursed
cash, such as directing that the amounts to be given to the other officials or "suso" be
doubled for faster processing of the disbursement.138 She reviewed the falsified
documents before they were given to Maglinte.139 She instructed Tangan to accompany
a dummy payee to receive and encash the disbursed check.140Once the cash was
obtained, Zoleta received it from Gadian.141

The foregoing is sufficient to establish the participation of petitioners Alzate and


Maglinte in the conspiracy.

II

Where there are circumstances that should have alerted heads of offices to exercise
more diligence in the performance of their duties, they cannot escape liability by
claiming that they relied on good faith on the submissions of their subordinates. In such
cases, this Court's ruling in Arias v. Sandiganbayan does not apply. In Rivera v.
People,142 this Court held:

Arias v. Sandiganbayan is not


applicable in the present case

Perez invokes the Arias doctrine which states that "[a]ll heads of offices have to rely to a
reasonable extent on their subordinates and on the good faith of those who prepare
bids, purchase supplies, or enter into negotiations." He contends that he merely relied
on the vouchers and reports prepared by his subordinates and released the payments in
good faith.

Page 130 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

To clarify, the Arias doctrine is not an absolute rule. It is not a magic cloak that can be
used as a cover by a public officer to conceal himself in the shadows of his subordinates
and necessarily escape liability. Thus, this ruling cannot be applied to exculpate the
petitioners in view of the peculiar circumstances in this case which should have
prompted them, as heads of offices, to exercise a higher degree of circumspection and,
necessarily, go beyond what their subordinates had prepared. The case of Cruz v.
Sandiganbayan carved out an exception to the Arias doctrine, stating that:

Unlike in Arias, however, there exists in the present case an exceptional circumstance
which should have prodded petitioner, if he were out to protect the interest of the
municipality he swore to serve, to be curious and go beyond what his subordinates
prepared or recommended. In fine, the added reason contemplated in Arias which
would have put petitioner on his guard and examine the check/s and vouchers with
some degree of circumspection before signing the same was obtaining in this
case.143 (Citations omitted)

In Cruz v. Sandiganbayan,144 discrepancy between the names indicated in the checks


and in the disbursement vouchers should have alerted petitioner:

We refer to the unusual fact that the checks issued as payment for construction
materials purchased by the municipality were not made payable to the supplier, Kelly
Lumber, but to petitioner himself even as the disbursement vouchers attached thereto
were in the name of Kelly Lumber. The discrepancy between the names indicated in the
checks, on one hand, and those in the disbursement vouchers, on the other, should
have alerted petitioner - if he were conscientious of his duties as he purports to be -
that something was definitely amiss. The fact that the checks for the municipality's
purchases were made payable upon his order should, without more, have prompted
petitioner to examine the same further together with the supporting documents
attached to them, and not rely heavily on the recommendations of his subordinates.145

Here, there were discrepancies in the voucher and the check, which should have
prodded petitioners Escobar, Telesforo, and Cagang to examine the supporting
documents for the fund disbursement. Thus, as properly held by the
Sandiganbayan, Arias is not applicable, and petitioners Escobar, Telesforo, and Cagang
were properly found guilty of malversation through negligence.

III

This Court has repeatedly held that the essence of due process is an opportum.t y to be
heard.146

As pointed out by respondent, petitioner Alzate had four (4) years to prepare to present
evidence, yet he only asked for the opportunity to present additional evidence via a
motion for reconsideration after the Sandiganbayan had already admitted all the formal
offers of evidence of the accused.147 Thus, the Sandiganbayan properly held:

It should be pointed out that inasmuch as accused-movant Alzate invoked the


significance of said entry and even testified and marked it as his Exhibit "2-A", the
burden of proof is shifted to him to establish the interpretation thereof that he wants to
be appreciated by the Court through the presentation of the said DBP lady teller. Thusly,
his failure to present said DBP lady teller as his witness through the compulsory process
of subpoena, during all the time that he testified for his defense from September 6,
2010, until March 7, 2011, or for a period of six (6) months, militates against his prayer
for a new trial just to present and produce evidence relating to the date of subject
check's encashment. While the records show that accused-movant Alzate filed a Motion
to Allow Accused Alzate to Present Additional Witnesses (With Request for Issuance of
Subpoena or Motion to Allow Accused Alzate to Enter into Stipulation of Facts with the
Prosecution) dated September 16, 2011, this motion was, however, denied by the Court

Page 131 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

in its Resolution of October 17, 2011, on the ground that the motion failed to comply
with the requirement under Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court on notice
and hearing of motions because the motion was not set for hearing.

Moreover, the said machine validated entry appearing on the subject check, marked as
Exhibit "Q", is not a newly discovered evidence considering that said evidence was
already presented by the prosecution and accused-movant Alzate, at the time he took
the witness stand, was already aware of the existence thereof and even marked it as his
Exhibit "2-A" and hence, he is not entitled to the remedy of a new trial pursuant to the
provision of Section 2, Rule 122 of the Rules of [C]ourt which provides as follows-

"SEC. 2. Grounds for a new trial. - The court shall grant a new trial on any of the
following grounds:

(a) That errors of law or irregularities prejudicial to the substantive rights of the accused
have been committed during the trial;

(b) That new and material evidence has been discovered which accused could not with
reasonable diligence have discovered and produced at the trial and which if introduced
and admitted would probably change its judgment."148

Petitioners do not refute the foregoing circumstances and fail to establish that
petitioner Alzate was not afforded ample opportunity to be heard. Thus, the claim that
the Sandiganbayan violated his constitutional right to due process has no legal or factual
basis and must be rejected.

IV

The Local Government Code provides that local officials, other than those considered
accountable officers by reason of their duties, may be held accountable for local
government funds:

Section 340. Persons Accountable for Local Government Funds. - Any officer of the local
government unit whose duty permits or requires the possession or custody of local
government funds shall be accountable and responsible for the safekeeping thereof in
conformity with the provisions of this Title. Other local officers who, though not
accountable by the nature of their duties, may likewise be similarly held accountable
and responsible for local government funds through their participation in the use or
application thereof.

Thus, local government officials, such as petitioners Escobar and Telesforo, may become
accountable officers by reason of their participation in the application of public funds.

Petitioners claim that to be accountable officers, they must receive and acquire custody
or control over government funds or property by reason of their office and they must be
required to account for them.149 Thus, only the Provincial Treasurer is an accountable
officer over the funds disbursed under the Local Government Code. However, this
argument is unmeritorious. In Zoleta v. Sandiganbayan,150 this Court applied Section 340
of the Local Government Code and held officials whose signatures were necessary for
disbursement of funds as accountable officers:

Third, Vice-Governor Constantino and Camanay were accountable public officers. Under
the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines, an accountable public officer is a
public officer who, by reason of his office, is accountable for public funds or property.
The Local Government Code expanded this definition with regard to local government
officials. Section 340 of the [Local Government Code] reads:

Page 132 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Section 340. Persons Accountable for Local Government Funds. - Any officer of the local
government unit whose duty permits or requires the possession or custody of local
government funds shall be accountable and responsible for the safekeeping thereof in
conformity with the provisions of this title. Other local officials, though not accountable
by the nature of their duties, may likewise be similarly held accountable and responsible
for local government funds through their participation in the use or application thereof.
(Emphasis ours.)

Local government officials become accountable public officers either (1) because of the
nature of their functions; or (2) on account of their participation in the use or
application of public funds.

As a required standard procedure, the signatures of, among others, the Vice-Governor
and the Provincial Accountant are needed before any disbursement of public funds can
be made. No checks can be prepared and no payment can be effected without their
signatures on a disbursement voucher and the corresponding check. In other words, any
disbursement and release of public funds require their approval. Thus, Constantino and
Camanay, in their capacities as Vice-Governor and Provincial Accountant, had control
and responsibility over the subject funds.151 (Citation omitted)

In this case, as in Zoleta, as part of standard procedure, it was required that petitioner
Telesforo certify that the supporting documents were complete, and that petitioner
Escobar sign them before a check could be approved for disbursement. Thus, as
in Zoleta, petitioners Escobar and Telesforo are accountable officers.

Well aware of the possibility that the testimonies of Gadian and Tangan would be
impugned, the Sandiganbayan took it upon itself to exercise extreme caution in
evaluating them. Thus, this Court quotes with affirmation the finding of the
Sandiganbayan:

Of course, cognizant that the versions threshed out by the admissions made by Gadian
and Tangan who were particeps criminis or participants in the commission of the crime
charged may be said to emanate from polluted sources, the Court, extra-careful and
exercising extreme caution in assaying their stories, finds no reason to shun or set aside
the said admissions as wholly unbelievable. In fact, their candor in coming forward to
own their complicity in the commission of the crime here charged is, in a way, a
guarantee of their truthfulness. Thus, in People v. Bayona[,] it was stated that -

" ... As a matter of fact, the candid admission of an accused, of his participation in a
crime, is a guaranty that if he will testify in court he will testify truthfully; so that even if
an accused actually participated in the offense charged in the information, he may still
be made a witness. Individuals who are candid enough to admit their guilt are expected
to testify truthfully and it is from that circumstance that all the facts involved shall be
expected to be truthfully disclosed by him."

Moreover, the fact that Gadian and Tangan had participated in the commission of the
crime charged in the information and as such equally guilty thereof, does not disqualify
them to testify in the proceeding or to render their testimony ineffectual if competent
and admissible. Apropos is the ruling of the Supreme Court in People v. Binsol, et al. -

"The fact that a person has not been previously charged or included in the information
even if he appears to have taken part in the commission of the crime does not, and
cannot, prevent the government prosecutor from utilizing him as a witness if he
believes that he is the best witness that can testify as to the commission of the crime. In
the discharge of his duties, a government prosecutor is free to choose the witness or
witnesses he deems more qualified or competent to testify for the prosecution and

Page 133 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

there is nothing either in the law or in the rules that would require him to first include
him in the information and then later secure his discharge before he could present him
as a government witness. The rule therefore relative to the right of the government
prosecutor to utilize a person who has participated in the commission of a crime as a
witness for the prosecution, is as follows: (1) when an offense is committed by more
than one person, it is the duty of the fiscal to include all of them in the complaint or
information ... (2) if the fiscal desires to utilize one of those charged with the offense as
a government witness, the fiscal may ask the court to discharge one of them after
complying with the conditions prescribed by law ... (3) there is nothing in the rule from
which it can be inferred that before a person can be presented as a government witness
in the information that he be first included as a co-accused in the information, for the
fiscal is free to produce as a witness anyone whom he believes can testify to the truth of
the crime charged ... and (4) the failure to follow the requirements of the rule relative to
the use of a person, himself a particeps criminis, as a government witness does not
violate the due process clause of the [C]onstitution, nor render his testimony ineffectual
if otherwise competent and admissible[.]"152 (Emphasis in the original, citations omitted)

Petitioners have not presented any cogent reason to reverse the Sandiganbayan's
appreciation of Gadian's and Tangan's testimonies. In any case, the issue of the
credibility of witnesses Gadian and Tangan are matters of evidence, not proper for a
petition for review on certiorari.

VI

The principle of conclusiveness has no application in criminal cases such as this.

This Court has held that conclusiveness of judgment bars the relitigation of issues
already litigated and settled in litigation between identical parties in different causes of
action,153 and on occasion, has applied this principle in criminal cases.154 However, this
Court takes this occasion to reiterate that the concept of res judicata is a civil law
doctrine, not to be applied in criminal proceedings, except with respect to civil cases
impliedly instituted. This is not novel.

In Tecson v. Sandiganbayan,155 the petitioner maintained that considering the rule


prohibiting the relitigation of matters resolved by competent judicial authority, the
dismissal of an administrative case against him was conclusive and binding upon the
parties. This Court rejected this contention:

[R]es judicata is a doctrine of civil law. It thus has no bearing in the criminal proceedings
before the Sandiganbayan. Second, it is a basic principle of the law on public officers
that a public official or employee is under a three-fold responsibility for violation of duty
or for a wrongful act or omission. This simply means that a public officer may be held
civilly, criminally, and administratively liable for a wrongful doing. Thus, if such violation
or wrongful act results in damages to an individual, the public officer may be held civilly
liable to reimburse the injured party. If the law violated attaches a penal sanction, the
erring officer may be punished criminally. Finally, such violation may also lead to
suspension, removal from office, or other administrative sanctions. This administrative
liability is separate and distinct from the penal and civil liabilities. Thus, the dismissal of
an administrative case does not necessarily bar the filing of a criminal prosecution for
the same or similar acts, which were the subject of the administrative complaint.156

In Asistio y Cansino v. People,157 the petitioner invoked res judicata as a bar for her from
being prosecuted for violation of Section 46 of Republic Act No. 6938, or the Liability of
Directors, Officers and Committee Members, because she had been previously
acquitted in a criminal case for falsification of a private document. This Court held:

The Court also finds no merit in petitioner's new argument that the prosecution of her
case before the RTC for violation of Section 46 of RA 6938 in Criminal Case No. 07-

Page 134 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

197750 is barred by res judicatabecause the MeTC of Manila, Branch 22, in a Resolution
dated August 13, 2012, granted her demurrer to evidence and acquitted her in a
criminal case for falsification of private document in Criminal Case No. 370119-20-CR. In
support of her flawed argument, petitioner points out that the private complainants
[officers and directors of the Cooperative] and the subject matter [unreported sales
profits of Coca-Cola products] of both cases are the same, and that the case for violation
of Section 46 of RA 6938 is actually and necessarily included in the case for falsification
of private documents.

At the outset, res judicata is a doctrine of civil law and thus has no bearing on criminal
proceedings. At any rate, petitioner's argument is incidentally related to double
jeopardy which embraces a prohibition against being tried for any offense which
necessarily includes or is necessarily included in the offense charged in the former
complaint or information.158 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)

Likewise, in Trinidad v. Marcelo,159 this Court reiterated that res judicata is a civil law
doctrine and has no application in criminal proceedings. In that case, this Court rejected
the argument that since the Ombudsman had twice found there was no sufficient basis
to indict petitioner in earlier, similar cases, res judicata barred the reinvestigation.

It may be argued that these cases are not on all fours with the case at hand.
Nonetheless, except with respect to civil cases impliedly instituted, res judicata is not
applicable in criminal proceedings. This Court has expressly stated this rule multiple
times. At most, the applicable concept of res judicata is that of res judicata in prison
grey as double jeopardy under Rule 117, Section 7, which is not in question here.

Indeed, if this Court accepts the argument that conclusiveness of judgment bars this
case considering that the Sandiganbayan already found that Escobar is not an
accountable officer, which was an error of law in light of Zoleta v. Sandiganbayan, it will
lead to an absurd effect. Once a person has been acquitted of a crime, despite the
ground being a question of law resolved erroneously, once that decision is final, that
person can commit the exact same crime against the same party with impunity, under
the claim that even where the subject matter differs, the erroneous application of the
law is forever binding on those parties. Thus, this argument cannot be countenanced.

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari is DENIED. The Sandiganbayan


August 22, 2012 Decision and January 8, 2013 Resolution in Criminal Case No. 28293 are
hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

20. Falsification of Public Document by a Private Individual

November 22, 2017

G.R. No. 227069

HILARIO LAMSEN, Petitioner


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Page 135 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari1 filed by petitioner Hilario Lamsen
(Lamsen) assailing the Decision2 dated January 30, 2015 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in
CA-G.R. CR No. 35283, which affirmed the Decision3 dated March 28, 2012 of the
Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 34 (RTC) in Crim. Case No. 11-288590 sustaining
the Judgment4 dated July 5, 2011 of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila, Branch 21
(MeTC) in Crim. Case No. 400192-CB finding Lamsen guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
the crime of falsification of public documents, as defined and penalized under Article
172 (1) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

The Facts

An Information5 dated September 30, 2003 was filed before the MeTC, charging Lamsen
of the crime of Falsification of Public Documents, the accusatory portion of which reads:

That on or about April 21, 1993, and for sometime prior or subsequent thereto, in the
City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, being then a private individual, did then
and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously commit acts of falsification of
public/official document, in the following manner, to wit: the said accused prepared,
forged and falsified, or caused to be prepared, forged and falsified, a Deed of Absolute
Sale dated April 21, 1993 notarized and acknowledged before Santiago R. Reyes, Notary
Public for and in the City of Manila and docketed in his notarial registry Book as Doc.
No. 88 Book No. 133, Page No. 19 and Series of 1993, and therefore a public document,
by then and there stating therein[,] among others[,] that spouses Aniceta Dela Cruz
and Nestor Tandas, the registered owner of a parcel of land containing an area of 43
square meters, more or less, located in Barrio Malabo, Municipality of Valenzuela,
Metro Manila, covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. V-16641 was sold[,]
transferred and coveyed to the said accused for and in consideration of P150,000.00, by
feigning, simulating and counterfeiting the signatures of said spouses Aniceta Dela Cruz
and Nestor Tandas appearing on the lower left portion of said document[,] above
the typewritten words "ANICETA DELA CRUZ" and "NESTOR TANDAS" thus making it
appear as it did appear that said spouses Aniceta Dela Cruz and Nestor Tandas had
transferred ownership of the said parcel of land subject matter of said deed of sale of
herein accused, and that the said spouses Aniceta Dela Cruz and Nestor Tandas
participated and intervened in the signing of the said document, when in truth and in
fact, as the said accused well knew that such was not the case[,] and that the said
spouses Aniceta Dela Cruz and Nestor Tandas did not sell the said property to the said
accused and that they did not participate and intervene in the signing of the said deed
of sale, much less did they authorized the said accused or anybody else to sign their
names or affix their signatures thereon, to the damage and prejudice of public interest.

Contrary to law.6

The prosecution alleged that Aniceta dela Cruz (Aniceta) owned a parcel of land with an
area of around forty-three (43) square meters located at Barrio Malabo, Valenzuela City,
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. V-16641, and registered under the name of
"Aniceta dela Cruz, married to Nestor Tandas" (subject property).7 On September 7,
2001,8 Aniceta passed away, leaving behind her nieces and surviving heirs, Teresita dela
Cruz Lao (Teresita) and Carmelita Lao Lee (Carmelita).9 After Aniceta's death, Teresita
went to the former's house to look for the owner's duplicate title of the subject
property, but the same was allegedly nowhere to be found. Accordingly, Teresita
executed an affidavit of loss, which was annotated on the title on file with the Registry
of Deeds of Valenzuela City (RD) on October 19, 2001.10 Concurrently, Teresita and
Carmelita executed an extrajudicial settlement of the estate of Aniceta.11 Teresita also
filed a petition for the issuance of second owner's duplicate copy before the Regional
Trial Court of Valenzuela City, Branch 75. The said petition, however, was dismissed on
the basis of the opposition of Lamsen, who claimed that the original copy of the owner's
duplicate title could not have been lost because it was with him. Meanwhile, the RD
informed Teresita through a letter dated May 9, 2002 that somebody requested for the

Page 136 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

registration of a deed of sale (subject deed) involving the subject property. Thus, she
proceeded to the RD but was informed that the requesting party had withdrawn all the
papers; hence, she asked for the Book of the RD to photocopy the withdrawal
aforementioned. Thereafter, she went to the Notarial Section of Manila to get a
certified true copy of the subject deed but was given a mere photocopy thereof, since
the original was no longer on file. She then submitted the photocopy of the deed to the
Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory for examination, as the signatures of
Aniceta and Nestor Tandas (Nestor) thereon appeared to be forged. Upon examination,
Document Examiner II Alex Batiles (Batiles) confirmed that the subject deed was indeed
falsified. He revealed that there were dissimilarities between the questioned and
standard signatures of Aniceta and Nestor (spouses Tandas), and that they were not
written by one and the same person.12

For his part, Lamsen interposed the defense of denial, claiming that while he was
renting the place of his uncle Nestor sometime in 1993, he validly bought and acquired
the subject property from spouses Tandas in the amount of ₱150,000.00. He added that
the subject deed was executed, signed, and notarized by spouses Tandas in the
presence of a certain Nicasio Cruz and Francisco Capinpin in the GSIS Office, Manila. He
averred that he subsequently left a xerox copy of the subject deed at the Notary Public
and took the original with him. Ultimately, he contended that he no longer informed the
relatives of Aniceta about the sale, as they already have a gap.13

The MeTC Ruling

In a Decision14 dated July 5, 2011, the MeTC found Lamsen guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime of Falsification of Public Document and, accordingly, sentenced him
to suffer the indeterminate penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period, as
minimum period of imprisonment i.e., two [2] years and four [4] months), to prision
correccional in its medium and maximum period (i.e., four [4] years, nine [9] months,
and ten [10] days), as maximum period of imprisonment, and to pay a fine of
₱5,000.00.15 It ruled that the prosecution was able to prove that the signatures of
spouses Tandas were forged on account of the expert testimony of Batiles.16 Conversely,
Lamsen failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence the genuineness and
authenticity of Aniceta's signature on the subject deed.17

With the subsequent denial18 of his motion for reconsideration,19 Lamsen filed an
appeal20 before the RTC.

The RTC Ruling

In a Decision21 dated March 28, 2012, the RTC affirmed the MeTC ruling in
toto.22 Prefatorily, it discredited Lamsen's claim that the offense had already prescribed,
given that the ten (10)-year prescriptive period only commenced from the time the
supposed forgery was discovered on May 9, 2002, the date of receipt of the letter of
even date from the RD, and not from the time the Notary Public submitted the Notarial
Report with the Office of the Clerk of Court of Manila sometime in April 1993. The
submission of the Notarial Report is not considered an act of registration which would
operate as a constructive notice to the whole world, since the Office of the Clerk of
Court is not a public registry in the first place.23

Apart from the findings of the handwriting expert, the RTC also relied on the following
circumstantial evidence in convicting Lamsen of the crime charged: (a) the subject deed
was notarized in Manila even if Lamsen and spouses Tandas were residents of
Valenzuela; (b) Lamsen failed to show when the alleged witnesses signed the subject
deed; (c) the subject deed was executed and notarized sometime in April 1993, but was
registered with the RD only after the death of Aniceta sometime in May 2002; (d) the
corresponding capital gains and documentary stamp taxes were paid only on April 11,

Page 137 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

2002; and (e) the original copy of the subject deed, which was purportedly retained by
Lamsen, was neither presented nor produced during trial.24

Undaunted, Lamsen filed a motion for reconsideration,25 which was, however, denied in
an Order26 dated May 31, 2012. Aggrieved, he filed an appeal27 before the CA.

The CA Ruling

In a Decision28 dated January 30, 2015, the CA affirmed the RTC ruling, holding that all
the elements of the crime of falsification of public document were attendant.29

Expectedly, Lamsen filed a motion for reconsideration30 dated February 26, 2015. On
September 7, 2015, Teresita and Carmelita filed a Manifestation31 containing their joint
affidavit of desistance and retraction. On the same day, Lamsen filed a Supplement to
the motion for reconsideration dated February 26, 2015 (Supplement)32 asking the court
to dismiss the case in light of the aforesaid joint affidavit.

In a Resolution33 dated September 4, 2015, the CA denied the motion for


reconsideration dated February 26, 2015. Subsequently, it received the Manifestation
and Supplement and noted the same without action.34

Unyielding, Lamsen filed a motion for new trial35 on October 19, 2015, which was denied
in a Resolution36 dated May 31, 2016. The CA held that the original copy of the subject
deed could not be considered newly discovered evidence, considering that Lamsen had
every opportunity to produce and present it during trial.37

With the subsequent denial of his motion for reconsideration/new trial38 on August 8,
2016,39 Lamsen filed the instant petition40 before the Court.

Issue Before the Court

The issue for the Court's resolution is whether or not Lamsen's conviction for the crime
of falsification of public documents, as defined and penalized under Article 172 (1) of
the RPC, should be upheld.

The Court's Ruling

The petition is meritorious.

At the outset, it must be stressed that an appeal in criminal cases opens the entire case
for review and, thus, it is the duty of the reviewing tribunal to correct, cite, and
appreciate errors in the appealed judgment whether they are assigned or
unassigned.41 "The appeal confers the appellate court full jurisdiction over the case and
renders such court competent to examine records, revise the judgment appealed from,
increase the penalty, and cite the proper provision of the penal law."42

"In every criminal case, the accused is entitled to 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. Only
moral certainty is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an
unprejudiced mind."43

Here, Lamsen was charged of the crime of falsification of public document under Article
172 (1) of the RPC:

Article 172. Falsification by private individual and use of falsified documents. – x x x:

Page 138 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

1. Any private individual who shall commit any of the falsifications enumerated
in the next preceding article in any public or official document or letter of
exchange or any other kind of commercial document;

xxxx

The elements of the said crime are as follows: (a) the offender is a private
individual; (b) the offender committed any of the acts of falsification enumerated in
Article 171; and (c) the falsification was committed in a public document.44

Relatedly, the prosecution must likewise establish the fact of falsification or forgery by
clear, positive, and convincing evidence, as the same is never presumed. Withal, the fact
of forgery can only be established by a comparison between the alleged forged
signature and the authentic and genuine signature of the person whose signature is
theorized to have been forged.45 "Under Rule 132, Section 22 of the Rules of Court, the
genuineness of handwriting may be proved in the following manner: (1) by any witness
who believes it to be the handwriting of such person because he has seen the person
write; or he has seen writing purporting to be his upon which the witness has acted or
been charged; (2) by a comparison, made by the witness or the court, with writings
admitted or treated as genuine by the party, against whom the evidence is offered, or
proved to be genuine to the satisfaction of the judge. Corollary thereto, jurisprudence
states that the presumption of validity and regularity prevails over allegations of forgery
and fraud. As against direct evidence consisting of the testimony of a witness who was
physically present at the signing of the contract and who had personal knowledge
thereof, the testimony of an expert witness constitutes indirect or circumstantial
evidence at best."46

In this case, the prosecution presented an expert witness, Batiles, to prove its allegation
of falsification or forgery.1âwphi1While Batiles testified during cross-examination that
the questioned signatures were not written by one and the same person, and that there
is a certainty that the subject deed was falsified,47 the Court, however, finds this
declaration unreliable and inconclusive, as it is inconsistent with the Questioned
Document Report No. 130-03. In the said Report, which Batiles himself issued after
examining the allegedly falsified subject deed, Batiles found that no definite conclusion
can be rendered because the documents submitted by the prosecution were mere
photocopies of the original, viz.:

1. Scientific comparative examination and analysis of the questioned and the standard
signatures of ANICETA TANDAS reveal dissimilarities in stroke structures, slant, lateral
spacing, a strong indication that they were not by one and the same person. However,
no definite conclusion can be rendered due to the fact the questioned signatures are
photocopies (Xerox) wherein minute details are not clearly manifested.

2. Scientific comparative examination and analysis of the questioned and the standard
signatures of NESTOR TANDAS reveal dissimilarities in stroke structure, slant, lateral
spacing, a strong indication that they were not by one and the same person. However,
no definite conclusion can be rendered due to the fact the questioned signatures are
photocopies (Xerox) wherein minute details are not clearly manifested.48 (Emphases
and underscoring supplied)

Batiles further clarified that there are other handwriting elements which could not be
determined in the photocopy, such as minor details which could not be visibly detected
by the naked eye, i.e., handwriting movement, line quality, and emphasis.49

Notably, the genuineness and due execution of a photocopy could not be competently
established without a copy of the original. Photocopies are considered secondary
evidence which can be rendered inadmissible absent any proof that the original was
lost, destroyed, or in the custody or under the control of the party against whom the

Page 139 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

evidence is offered.50 Here, not only did the prosecution fail to present the original copy
of the subject deed in court, it likewise did not provide ample proof that the same was
lost, destroyed, or in the custody or under the control of Lamsen. Since mere
photocopies of the subject deed were used to examine the questioned and standard
signatures of spouses Tandas, no valid comparison can be had between them, thereby
rendering Batiles' declaration inconclusive to support a finding of guilt beyond
reasonable doubt against Lamsen.

Aside from the findings of Batiles, the courts a quo also relied on circumstantial
evidence to convict Lamsen of the crime of falsification of public document. It was
pointed out that: (a) the subject deed was notarized in Manila even if Lamsen and
spouses Tandas were residents of Valenzuela; (b) Lamsen failed to show when the
alleged witnesses signed the subject deed; (c) the subject deed was executed and
notarized sometime in April 1993, but was registered with the RD only after the death of
Aniceta sometime in May 2002; (d) the corresponding capital gains and documentary
stamp taxes were paid only on April 11, 2002; and (e) the original copy of the subject
deed, which was purportedly retained by Lamsen, was neither presented nor produced
during trial.51 Circumstantial evidence consists of proof of collateral facts and
circumstances from which the main fact in issue may be inferred based on reason and
common experience. It is sufficient for conviction if: (a) there is more than one
circumstance; (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven;
and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction
beyond reasonable doubt. The circumstantial evidence presented must therefore
constitute an unbroken chain which leads one to a fair and reasonable conclusion
pointing to the accused, to the exclusion of the others, as the guilty person. Stated
differently, the test to determine whether or not the circumstantial evidence on record
is sufficient to convict the accused is that the series of circumstances duly proven must
be consistent with each other and that each and every circumstance must be consistent
with the accused's guilt and inconsistent with his innocence.52

While it is true that the courts can rely on circumstantial evidence in order to establish
the guilt of the accused, the circumstantial evidence which the courts a quo relied upon
in this case did not sufficiently create moral certainty, since they appear to be too
insignificant and unconvincing. Firstly, the Notarial Law does not require the parties to
have the subject deed notarized in the place of their residence. Secondly, the issue on
the date when the supposed witnesses signed the subject deed is immaterial. In fact,
Section 30, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court provides that an instrument, such as a
notarized document, may be presented in evidence without further proof, the
certificate of acknowledgment being prima facie evidence of the execution of the
instrument or document involved. Thirdly,having the subject deed registered with the
RD after an unreasonable length of time from its execution and notarization does not
necessarily imply that the subject deed was actually forged. Lastly, the supposed
belated payment of the corresponding capital gains and documentary stamp taxes has
no relevance at all with the supposed act of falsification. By and large, the prosecution
presented no adequate circumstantial evidence which would warrant Lamsen's
conviction for the crime of Falsification of Public Document.

As the Court finds the above-stated reasons already sufficient to grant the present
petition, it is henceforth unnecessary to delve on the other ancillary issues raised
herein.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Decision dated January 30, 2015 of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 35283 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner
Hilario Lamsen is ACQUITTED of the crime of Falsification of Public Document on the
ground of reasonable doubt. The bail bonds posted for his provisional liberty are
consequently cancelled and released.
SO ORDERED.

Page 140 of 141


CRIMINAL LAW BOOK 2 CASES

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice

Page 141 of 141