Criminal Law Digests – March 2001
PEOPLE v. ROBERT NUÑEZ y LAGASCA
G.R. No. 112092. March 1, 2001
Accused was found guilty of Illegal possession of firearm resulting to the death of the victim and pursuant to P.D. 1866 in relation to the 1987 Constitution the court sentences the said accused to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and with costs.
Appellant was convicted of “illegal possession of firearms resulting to the death of the victim.” At the time of the commission of the crime, the existing jurisprudence was People v. Quijada. The SC held then that the use of an unlicensed firearm in a killing results in two separate crimes — one for the aggravated form of illegal possession of firearm and two, for homicide or murder. In the meantime, however, Congress passed Republic Act No. 8294, 27 which lowered the penalties for illegal possession of firearms. Further, Section 1, third par. of R.A. No. 8294 provides — If homicide or murder is committed with the use of an unlicensed firearm, such use of an unlicensed firearm shall be considered as an aggravating circumstance.
In the present case, there were four cases filed against appellant which were all separately tried. Hence, the evidence as to the homicide and frustrated homicide cases were neither adopted nor presented before the trial court trying the illegal possession case. For this reason, there is a dearth of evidence on record to support the finding of homicide and/or frustrated homicide.
The Court held that accordingly, appellant should only be convicted of simple illegal possession of firearms. The lowered penalties as provided in R.A. No. 8294, being favorable to the accused, should be applied retroactively.
PEOPLE v. PEDRO SASPA, ET AL.
G.R. No. 123069 March 1, 2001
The trial court found both Pedro Saspa and Rafael Sumiling principally liable for the murder of Isidro Hayo, and sentenced each of them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, together with its accessory penalties, and ordered them to indemnify the heirs of the victim in the amount of P50,000.00.
The SC affirmed the trial court’s holding that appellants employed superior strength in the execution of the crime, thus qualifying the killing to murder. When appellants attacked the victim, they had the advantage of numerical superiority and were carrying high-powered firearms; whereas the victim was unarmed and utterly defenseless, not to mention that he was taken by surprise by the swiftness of the assault. Clearly, there was a notorious inequality between the strength of the victim and his assailants. The Court, however, did not sustain the trial court’s appreciation of the aggravating circumstances of band and ignominy. A band consists of at least four armed malefactors acting together in the commission of an offense. The prosecution failed to prove that there were at least four armed men — Thelma testified that three of Isidro’s assailants were armed, while Sulpicio did make any declaration as to how many of his son’s attackers were actually armed. Neither did the prosecution prove the existence of ignominy, which is a circumstance that adds disgrace and obloquy to the material injury caused by the crime. There was no showing that appellants deliberately employed means which would cause more suffering or humiliation to the victim.
At the time the crime was committed the penalty for death was reclusion temporal in the maximum period to death. In the absence of any aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the penalty should be imposed in its medium period, or reclusion perpetua. The SC found appellants guilty of the crime of murder, and sentenced them each to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the heirs.
PEOPLE v. MARIO CALDONA y LLAMAS
G.R. No. 126019 March 1, 2001
Accused was found guilty of raping his 15-yr old daughter. He was sentenced to suffer the penalty of death.
The SC found accused guilty, but sentenced him to suffer reclusion perpetua instead of death. The Court said that when a victim of rape says she has been defiled, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that rape has been inflicted on her and so long as her testimony meets the test of credibility, the accused may be convicted on the basis thereof. As in most rape cases, accused-appellant assails the credibility of the victim. However, the SC has consistently held that the trial court’s assessment of the credibility of complainant’s testimony is entitled to great weight, absent any showing that some facts were overlooked which, if considered, would affect the outcome of the case.
Nevertheless, while the guilt of the accused-appellant was proved beyond reasonable doubt, the Court finds the imposition of the death penalty against him unwarranted. The circumstances under the amendatory provisions of R.A. No. 7659, Section 11, are in the nature of qualifying circumstances which can not be proved as such unless alleged in the information. Even if such circumstances are proved, the death penalty can not be imposed where the sane were not properly alleged in the Information.
However, while the qualifying circumstance of relationship has been alleged in the Information, it is devoid of any averment on private complainant’s minority. Since one of the twin requirements mentioned, namely, minority, was not alleged in the Information, accused-appellant can neither be convicted for qualified rape nor could the death penalty be meted upon him because to do so would be to deprive him of the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.
PEOPLE v. RODELIO PERALTA
G.R. No. 131637 March 1, 2001
Accused was found guilty of the crime of murder, qualified by treachery as charged in the Information and sentenced to suffer the penalty reclusion perpetua.
The SC affirmed the decision of the lower court. With regard to the issue of conspiracy, the SC held that it was amply and sufficiently proven in this case. Accused-appellants approached the victim from behind. When accused-appellant Quiambao told Peralta to stab the victim, accused-appellant Peralta yanked the left shoulder of Ramon and immediately stabbed the latter on his chest. After the stabbing, both accused-appellants fled and were apprehended only after more than nine (9) years from the filing of the criminal case in court. These acts taken together, are sufficient to establish the existence of a common design among accused-appellants to commit the offense charged.
With regard to the presence of the aggravating circumstance of treachery, the SC also agreed with the lower court. In crimes against persons, treachery exists when the accused employs, means, methods, and forms which directly and specially ensure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make. To rule that treachery exists in the commission of the crime it must be shown that at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself and accused-appellants consciously and deliberately adopted the particular means, methods or forms of the attack employed by him. In the instant case, the victim was stabbed on his chest. While the stab wound appears frontal, it was shown that accused-appellants came from behind and yanked the victim’s shoulder in order to inflict the fatal blow. The manner of attack was duly proven and the infliction of the stab wound was the result of a deliberate act. At the time of the fatal attack, the victim was standing in front of the parlor while waiting for his wife. The victim, at that moment was unaware of what would befall him and was not given an opportunity to defend himself or retaliate.
PEOPLE v. ALFREDO NARDO
G.R. No. 133888 March 1, 2001
Accused was found guilty of raping his 14-yr old daughter, and was sentenced to suffer the penalty of death. For humanitarian reasons, however, the trial court recommended that the DEATH penalty be commuted to RECLUSION PERPETUA.
The SC found accused guilty, and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of death. The concurrence of the two special qualifying circumstances, namely the victim’s minority and the relationship between the victim and the culprit, increases the penalty of rape to one (1) degree, thus resulting in the imposition of the death penalty. In order to be appreciated as qualifying circumstances, however, these must be properly pleaded in the indictment. In addition, the qualifying circumstances should be duly proved during the trial.
The SC held that these requirements were met in this case. The Information sufficiently alleges that accused-appellant is the father of the victim, and that the latter was fourteen (14) years old at the time of commission of the rape. These elements, furthermore, were categorically affirmed by Elizabeth Nardo, the victim’s mother and the most competent witness. Moreover, the victim’s birth date and her relationship to accused-appellant were shown by her Certificate of Baptism. This was presented by her mother, Elizabeth, in lieu of her Certificate of Live Birth, which was destroyed by fire. The baptismal certificate, coupled by her mother’s testimony, is sufficient to establish victim’s age.
PEOPLE v. JESSIE VENTURA COLLADO
G.R. Nos. 135667-70 1 March 1, 2001
The trial court found accused-appellant guilty of statutory rape and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. Likewise, it found him guilty of three (3) counts of acts of lasciviousness and sentenced him to suffer imprisonment of six (6) years of prision correctional in its maximum period for each count. It also ordered him to indemnify the private complainant in the amount of P50,000.00, and P100,000.00 for moral damages.
The trial court was correct in finding accused-appellant guilty of three (3) counts of acts of lasciviousness. The SC took however to its finding that statutory rape was committed by him on 5 June 1993. A thorough evaluation of the records will show that accused-appellant should only be convicted for acts of lasciviousness and not for consummated rape.
The SC held that absent any showing of the slightest penetration of the female organ, i.e. touching of either the labia of the pudendum by the penis, there can be no consummated rape; at most, it can only be attempted rape, if not acts of lasciviousness.
The SC found accused guilty of 4 counts of acts of lasciviousness, aggravated by obvious ungratefulness. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, accused-appellant was sentenced to an indeterminate prison term of four (4) months and twenty (20) days of arresto mayor maximum as minimum, to four (4) years six (6) months and ten (10) days of prision correccional maximum as maximum, in each count of Acts of Lasciviousness. Accused-appellant was further directed to pay the private complainant P30,000.00 as civil indemnity, P40,000.00 for moral damages, P20,000.00 for exemplary damages, in each of the four (4) counts of Acts of Lasciviousness, and to pay the costs.
PEOPLE v. BALTAZAR AMION y DUGADUGA
G.R. No. 140511. March 1, 2001
Accused was found guilty as Principal by Direct Participation of the crime of Murder, qualified by treachery, defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R. A. 7659. The following ordinary aggravating circumstances were present in the commission of the crime:
1. Abuse of public office due to the use of his service firearm in the killing;
2. Use of motor vehicle which facilitated the commission of the crime; and
3. Aid of armed men in the commission of the crime.
There is present only one (1) mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender.
The accused was sentenced to suffer the MAXIMUM PENALTY OF DEATH.
The SC held that with respect to the attendant circumstances, the use of a motor vehicle cannot be considered as an aggravating circumstance, as the police vehicle used to reach the Sanicas residence was not used directly or indirectly to facilitate the criminal act.
Neither may the aggravating circumstance of aid of armed men be appreciated in this case. The trial court found that during the shooting, an armed companion was on board the patrol car pointing his rifle in the direction of Dejoras. In the first place, this aggravating circumstance contemplates more than one armed man, as the use of the plural form easily suggests. In the second place, the requisites of this aggravating circumstance are: 1) that armed men or persons took part in the commission of the crime, directly or indirectly, and 2) that the accused availed himself of their aid or relied upon them when the crime was committed. Neither circumstance was proven present; it is clear from the evidence that the accused-appellant carried out the killing all by himself and did not rely on his companion for assistance.
The SC also did not agree that the fact that accused-appellant used his service firearm in shooting Vaflor should be considered as an aggravating circumstance as he took advantage of his public position. There is authority to the effect that for public position to be appreciated as an aggravating circumstance, the public official must use his influence, prestige and ascendancy which his office gives him in realizing his purpose. In the absence of proof that advantage was taken by appellant, the aggravating circumstance of abuse of position could not be properly appreciated against him.
In view of the absence of aggravating circumstances and the presence of one mitigating circumstance, the penalty imposed by the trial court should be modified. The penalty for murder Under Article 248 is reclusion perpetua to death. Pursuant to Article 63, in case of two indivisible penalties, when the commission of the act is attended by some mitigating circumstance and there is no aggravating circumstance, the lesser penalty shall be applied. Hence the imposable penalty is reclusion perpetua.
PEOPLE v. MANUEL PEREZ y MAGPANTAY
G.R. No. 113265. March 5, 2001
Accused was found guilty of raping a 12-yr old, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. Appellant is the common-law husband of the victim’s mother.
Having examined the entire record, the SC found that the totality of the evidence presented by the prosecution proved beyond doubt all the elements of rape. Private complainant testified as to how appellant had carnal knowledge of her. The carnal knowledge took place under circumstances of violence and intimidation. Her testimony is supported by the results of the medico-legal examination conducted upon her at the police crime laboratory. Moreover, she positively pointed to appellant in open court as the person responsible for her defilement. Against said positive identification, appellant’s puerile defense of denial will not hold water, for he does not even deny that he was with the offended party at the time of the commission of the crime. Moreover, his attempts to cast ill motive on private complainant or her family for fabricating the charge of rape against him have no evidentiary weight. It would be most unnatural for a young and immature girl to fabricate a story of rape by her mother’s common-law spouse; allow a medical examination of her genitalia; and subject herself to a public trial and possible ridicule, all because her maternal relatives want her mother to separate from her common-law spouse. Perforce, appellant’s conviction must stand.
As to the penalty imposed, the SC held that the trial court correctly sentenced appellant to reclusion perpetua. Note that the rape complained of in this case took place on May 31, 1990 or way before the restoration of the death penalty for cases of qualified rape by virtue of R.A. No. 7659. The death penalty law took effect only on December 31, 1993, as per the Court’s holding in People v. Simon, 234 SCRA 555, 569 (1994).
PEOPLE v. ROQUE “UKING” ELLADO
G.R. No. 124686. March 5, 2001
Appellant was convicted of the crime of murder, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
The SC affirmed the decision of the lower court. The SC held that both of the accused acted in concert in the assault on the victim. They had the same purpose and were united in its execution. Conspiracy exists at the time of the commission of the offense. Their actuation could only point to the existence of a pre-conceived plan to maim and kill the victim. Where the acts of the accused collectively and individually demonstrate the existence of a common design towards the accomplishment of the same unlawful purpose, conspiracy is evident, and all the perpetrators will be liable as principals.
The SC also held that the acts of appellant indicate that he and Bakunawa had planned the attack in a manner that would catch the victim unaware. Their move initially was in the guise of a conciliatory overture. It served to cover their nefarious plot. Even if it was Bakunawa who inflicted the fatal wound, liability also exists on the part of appellant notwithstanding non-participation in every detail in the execution of the crime. The deceptive manner by which the two accused fatally assaulted the victim shows that they had intended to catch him off guard, to insure the success of the attack. An unexpected and sudden attack under circumstances which render the victim unable and unprepared to defend himself by reason of the suddenness and severity of the attack constitutes alevosia.
As treachery attended the killing of the victim, the offense committed by appellant and his co-accused Bakunawa is murder. However, the aggravating circumstances of evident premeditation and abuse of superior strength alleged in the information to be attendant cannot be appreciated, as the elements of the former were not proven, and the latter is deemed absorbed by treachery.
PEOPLE v. JULIO HERIDA, ET AL.
G.R. No. 127158 March 5, 2001
Accused was found guilty of the crime of murder, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. Accused Jamila, on the other hand, was acquitted for failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The SC agreed with appellant that nowhere in the assailed judgment is it shown how the trial court arrived at its conclusion that the killing of the victim was attended by treachery. There was absolutely no showing from the testimony of the witness how the attack commenced; no indicia whether the attack was so sudden and unexpected that it afforded the victim no chance to defend himself. In the absence of this information, treachery cannot be established from the circumstances. Treachery cannot be presumed; it must be proved by clear and convincing evidence as clearly as the killing itself. Where the attack was not treacherous, the number of aggressors would constitute abuse of superior strength. Abuse of superior strength, therefore, qualifies the killing as murder.
In finding the killing aggravated by evident premeditation, the trial court characterized the method of attack as deliberately and consciously adopted by the three attackers. For evident premeditation to be appreciated, the following must be proven: (1) the time when the accused decided to commit the crime; (2) an overt act manifestly indicating that he has clung to his determination; and (3) sufficient lapse of time between the decision and the execution to allow the accused to reflect upon the consequences of his act. In the instant case, however, there is no showing of the time when appellant and his confederates decided to commit the crime. Neither is there proof to show how appellant and the other two assailants planned the killing of the victim. Nor is there any evidence showing how much time elapsed before the plan was executed. Absent all these, the conclusion by the trial court that evident premeditation qualified the killing of Delara is devoid of any factual mooring.
With regard to the issue of conspiracy, there was a transparent manifestation of their common sentiment to inflict harm and injury upon the victim. First, while Rene and Edmund were hacking and stabbing the victim, appellant was with them, pounding him with a concrete hollow block. Evidently, appellant was performing overt acts, which directly or indirectly contributed to the execution of the crime. Second, after the victim somehow managed to fend off his attackers and flee, all three attackers pursued him.
Clearly, the aforementioned acts point to a common purpose, concert of action, and community of interest among the assailants. In conspiracy, it is immaterial who inflicted the fatal blows. A conspirator, no matter how minimal his participation, is as guilty as the principal perpetrator of the crime.
PEOPLE v. ALFREDO IBO
G.R. No. 132353 March 5, 2001
Accused was convicted of the crime of murder, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
The SC affirmed the decision of the lower court. The court found that there was treachery in the taking of the life of the victim as without any warning, accused-appellant suddenly and unexpectedly shot the victim in front of his family right in his own home. Neither the victim nor his family had any opportunity to put up any defense. The mode of attack was executed in such a manner that retaliation was not possible. The victim did not even have an inkling of the danger to his life, the attack against him being sudden and unexpected. The prosecution has effectively shown that the shooting was calculated as to ensure the infliction of the fatal wounds without giving the victim and his family any opportunity to put up a defense. The qualifying circumstance of treachery having been likewise proven beyond reasonable doubt, the accused-appellant is guilty of the crime of murder.
At the time of the commission of the crime in 1995, the penalty for murder was reclusion perpetua to death. There being no aggravating nor mitigating circumstance, the SC held that the trial court correctly sentenced accused-appellants to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
PEOPLE v. JOMER CABANSAY y PALERMO
G.R. No. 138646. March 6, 2001
Accused was found guilty of the crime of murder. After considering in his favor the mitigating circumstance of surrender, the accused was sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua.
The accused admits the killing of the victim but denies any liability by invoking self-defense. Taking into account the version of the prosecution, the theory of self-defense is not tenable. At the outset, we mentioned that for self-defense to prosper, all the essential elements thereof must be adequately proven by the accused. Unlawful aggression, the first of these three essential elements, presupposes an actual, sudden and unexpected attack or imminent danger on the life and limb of the person defending himself. Without this element, there can be no successful invocation of self-defense. When the accused stabbed the victim, the latter and his companions were conversing and sorting “bulang”. They posed no threat or danger to the accused. If there is any aggression present in this case, it would be that authored by the accused which resulted in the death of Castillo. Absent the element of unlawful aggression, the theory of self-defense of the accused collapses. Inevitably, the result would be the conviction of the accused springing from his own admission that he killed the victim.
Anent the qualifying circumstance of treachery, the SC held that it was duly proven by the prosecution. In this case, the qualifying circumstance of treachery was established by the prosecution witness who testified that he and the victim, together with two other companions, were conversing and sorting “bulang” when the accused suddenly and without provocation stabbed the victim. The location of the wound indicates that the victim was stabbed by the accused from the back. After the victim fell to his side, the accused-appellant made a follow-up thrust. The witness, who was shocked by the suddenness of the attack, was likewise stabbed by the accused three times.
The SC held that the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender was properly appreciated by the trial court. Prosecution witness SPO4 Patrocinio Abesia himself testified that the mother of the accused interceded for the latter’s surrender, and subsequently, the accused voluntarily surrendered to him.
PEOPLE v. ANTONIO SAMUDIO
G.R. No. 126168. March 7, 2001
All of the accused-appellants were found guilty of the crime of murder, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
With regard to the claim of self-defense of Samudio, he failed to discharge this burden convincingly for he did not adequately support his allegation of self-defense. No one corroborated his testimony that the aggression was initiated by the victim. Thus, his testimony is self-serving. An accused who invokes self-defense has to rely on the strength of his evidence and not on the weakness of the prosecution’s evidence, for, even if the latter were weak, it could not be disbelieved after his open admission of responsibility for the killing.
It is alleged in the Information that the killing was qualified by treachery, evident premeditation, abuse of superior strength and disregard of respect due to the offended party on account of his rank. However, the SC held that the trial court failed to make a finding as to the existence of any of these qualifying circumstances.
In the instant case, treachery cannot be appreciated considering that the only eyewitness to the actual stabbing, did not see the initial stage and particulars of the attack on the victim. Similarly, the prosecution failed to establish the attendance of evident premeditation. There was no proof or showing of (1) the time when the offender determined to commit the crime; (2) an act manifestly indicating that the offender had clung to his determination; and (3) a sufficient lapse of time between the determination to commit and the execution thereof, to allow the offender to reflect on the consequence of his act. None of these elements of evident premeditation can be fairly inferred from the evidence adduced by the prosecution in the case at bar.
Neither can abuse of superior strength be appreciated. Mere superiority in number is not enough to constitute superior strength. The prosecution did not present any direct proof that there was a deliberate intent on the part of the accused-appellants to take advantage of the obvious inequality of force between the victim and the accused-appellants.
The qualifying circumstance of “disregard of respect due to the offended party on account of his rank, being a barangay captain” alleged in the information is likewise unavailing. The prosecution failed to establish proof of the specific facts demonstrating that Samudio’s act of killing the victim was deliberately intended to disregard or insult the respect due him on account of his rank as a barangay captain.
Absent any of the above qualifying circumstances, the crime committed is not murder, but only homicide under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code which is punishable by reclusion temporal. It appears, however, that the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender should be appreciated in Samudio’s favor. To be thus considered, three (3) requisites must be proven, namely, (a) the offender had not actually been arrested; (b) the offender surrender himself to a person in authority; and (c) the surrender was voluntary.
The acts of Samudio vis-a-vis those of his co-accused failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt the presence of conspiracy. Since the sole prosecution witness to the actual killing, did not see its inception and the details as to how it progressed, the prosecution failed to adduce sufficient evidence to completely establish the existence of conspiracy among the accused. It bears stressing that conspiracy must be proved as convincingly and indubitably as the crime itself. Nonetheless, the failure of the prosecution to prove the existence of conspiracy does not eliminate any criminal liability on the part of the other accused-appellants. Although they could not be convicted as a co-principal, they are liable as accomplices.
PEOPLE v. ERNESTO ICALLA y INES
G.R. No. 136173. March 7, 2001
Accused was found guilty of the crime of murder, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of death.
The SC noted that appellant faults the trial court for its reliance on circumstantial evidence. However, it is well-settled that direct evidence of the commission of a crime is not the only matrix wherefrom a trial court may draw its conclusion and finding of guilt. Conviction may still be proper if factual circumstances duly proven by the prosecution constitute an unbroken chain which lead to a fair and reasonable conclusion that the accused is guilty to the exclusion of all others. To support a conviction based on circumstantial evidence, the concurrence of the following requisites is essential: (a) there must be more than one circumstance; (b) the facts from which the inference of guilt is based must be proved; and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce conviction beyond reasonable doubt. Even if there is no eyewitness to the crime, responsibility therefor can be established by the totality of the duly proven facts that yield an inevitable conclusion consistent with the guilt of the accused.
The offense committed is not murder. Appellant cannot be held liable for the crime of murder as charged in the information, but only for homicide, which was the offense proved. As observed by the OSG, there is no evidence as to the manner in which the assault was made or how the stabbing began and developed. Although the deceased sustained five wounds, some of which were at the back, this fact by itself does not constitute treachery which would qualify the killing to murder. There being no eyewitness to the killing or evidence on the mode of attack adopted by appellant, treachery could not be appreciated in this case as a qualifying circumstance.
Likewise, there is a dearth of evidence to establish evident pre-meditation as either a qualifying or generic aggravating circumstance. While the witnesses may have testified regarding incidents prior to the killing, there is no evidence that appellant had ever conceived or expressed a resolve to kill the victim.
PEOPLE v. CONRADO SALADINO Y DINGLE
G.R. Nos. 137481-83 & 138455 March 7, 2001
Accused was convicted of three (3) counts of rape for raping his 13-yr old niece. Taking into account the qualifying circumstance of the minority of the victim and her relationship to accused-appellant, the lower court meted three (3) death penalties pursuant to RA 7659. The trial court also found accused-appellant guilty of attempted rape, and sentenced him to serve an indeterminate penalty of eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor minimum as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal minimum, as maximum.
The SC said that the victim’s failure to shout or offer tenacious resistance did not make voluntary her submission to the criminal acts of the accused-appellant. They held that the “(i)ntimidation must be viewed in the light of the victim’s perception and judgment at the time of the commission of the crime and not by any hard and fast rule; it is therefore enough that it produces fear — fear that if the victim does not yield to the bestial demands of the accused something would happen to her at that moment or even thereafter as when she is threatened with death if she reports the incident.” The failure to shout or offer resistance was not because she consented to the deed but because she honestly believed she would be killed if she shouted or resisted. Such threat is sufficient intimidation as contemplated by our jurisprudence on rape. And be that as it may, if resistance would nevertheless be futile because of a continuing intimidation, then offering none at all would not mean consent to the assault as to make the victim’s participation in the sexual act voluntary.
However, the lower court erred in imposing the death penalty. In People v. Ramos 20 the concurrence of the minority of the victim and her relationship to the offender, being special qualifying circumstances should be alleged in the information, otherwise, the death penalty cannot be imposed. In the case at bar, although the prosecution did prove complainant’s minority and relationship to accused-appellant, it failed to implead both minority and relationship in the four (4) Informations filed against accused-appellant. It is not enough that the relationship was subsequently proved during the trial. Both relationship and minority must be alleged in the Information to qualify the crime as punishable by death. To hold otherwise would deny accused-appellant’s constitutional right to be informed of the nature and the cause of the accusation against him. Thus, he can only be convicted of simple rape, punishable by reclusion perpetua.
The imposition of an indeterminate penalty of eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor minimum as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal minimum as maximum, in attempted rape is also erroneous. The proper penalty for rape in the attempted stage should be two (2) degrees lower than the penalty for consummated rape, or prision mayor. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the maximum imposable penalty should be taken from prision mayor in its medium period and the minimum from prision correccional.
PEOPLE OF THE PHIL v. EUGENIO MANGOMPIT
G.R. Nos. 139962-66 March 7, 2001
Accused was found guilty for 5 counts of rape, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of death for each count. He was found guilty for raping his 16-yr old niece.
The SC found the accused guilty, but reduced the penalty to reclusion perpetua for each count. In the case at bench, the trial court apparently relied on the 1st special circumstance introduced by R.A. 7659, that of minority of the victim and relationship with the offender, in imposing the death penalty. However, the concurrence of the minority of the victim and her relationship to the offender should be specifically alleged in the information conformably with the right of an accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. Even though the minority of Marites and her relationship with accused-appellant were proven beyond doubt, the death penalty cannot be imposed because both of these qualifying circumstances were not alleged in the information. Therefore, despite the five (5) counts of rape committed by accused-appellant, he cannot be sentenced to the supreme penalty of death. Accordingly, the penalty of death imposed by the trial court should be reduced to reclusion perpetua.
The SC held that the trial court likewise correctly imposed the amount of P25,000 for each count of rape, or a total of P125,000.00, as and by way of exemplary damages. Under Article 2230 of the New Civil Code, “(I)n criminal offenses, exemplary damages as a part of the civil liability may be imposed when the crime was committed with one or more aggravating circumstances.” In the case at bench, the aggravating circumstances of relationship, dwelling, and, for two of the charges, nighttime were proven to have attended the commission of the crime. Relationship, that of uncle and niece, was proven by the testimony of the victim and by the admission of accused-appellant himself. Dwelling was likewise proven as it was shown that the five incidents of rape were all committed inside the house of the family of the victim where accused-appellant was staying as a houseguest. Finally, the aggravating circumstance of nighttime was likewise proven in two of the five rape incidents as it was shown that accused-appellant waited until late in the night when the other family members were in deep slumber before consummating his carnal desire for the victim.
PEOPLE v. ARNEL MATARO
G.R. No. 130378. March 8, 2001
Accused-appellants were found guilty for the crime of murder, and both were sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the heirs of the victim.
The accused appellants invoke the “equipoise” rule because their guilt had not been established beyond reasonable doubt. The SC said that it has enumerated the requisites for credible identification in the case of
People v. Teehankee, Jr., 249 SCRA 54 (1995) as follows:
1) the witness’ opportunity to view the criminal at the time of the crime;
2) witness’ degree of attention at that time;
3) the accuracy of any prior description given by the witness;
4) the level of certainty demonstrated by the witness at the identification;
5) the length of time between the crime and the identification; and
6) the suggestiveness of the identification procedure. 18
The Court held that in their view, these requirements were met. In the instant case, there is no question that both witnesses had the opportunity to view the incident as it unfolded before them with a degree of attention that allowed them to take in the important details and recall them clearly. Moreover, as repeatedly stressed, appellate court should accord to the factual findings of trial courts and their evaluation great weight and respect concerning the credibility of witnesses. The conditions of visibility being favorable and these witnesses not appearing to be biased, the conclusion of trial courts regarding the identity of the malefactors should normally be accepted.
The SC also held that the trial court did not err in qualifying the killing as murder. There was treachery in this case since, as testified to by prosecution witness Fernandez, the victim had already dismissed the appellants after they talked to him. The victim was deliberately allowed to enjoy a false sense of security. They shot the victim when the latter had his hands raised. The SC therefore affirmed the ruling of the lower court, but made modifications with the costs to be paid by the accused.
PEOPLE v. RICKY ROGER AUSTRIA
G.R. No. 134279 March 8, 2001
Accused was found guilty of the crime of murder, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua with all the accessory penalties provided by law, and to pay the costs.
The SC held that the inconsistencies in Rowena Junio’s testimony do not refer to incidental or collateral matters. The basis of her identification of accused-appellant as the victim’s assailant was precisely her purported familiarity with accused-appellant. She did not pick him out of a police line-up nor did she provide the police with a description of the assailant. She pointed to accused-appellant because she allegedly knew him prior to the killing. If the witness was not at all familiar with accused-appellant, the prosecution’s whole case collapses for such familiarity was its very foundation.
In the face of doubts regarding the familiarity of the witness with the alleged assailant, the distance of the witness from the scene and the visibility conditions thereat assume greater significance. The prosecution did not show, however, whether the intensity of the defective lamp was sufficient to enable the witness to see accused-appellant’s face, considering her distance from the scene.
Accused-appellant invoked alibi, which he failed to corroborate with other evidence. Nevertheless, this circumstance would not sustain his conviction. As a rule, alibis should be considered with suspicion and received with caution, not only because they are inherently weak and unreliable, but also because they can easily be fabricated. But equally fundamental is the axiom that evidence for the prosecution must stand or fall on its own merits and cannot be allowed to draw strength from the weakness of the defense. And, where the prosecution’s evidence is weak or just as equally tenuous, alibi need not be inquired into.
The prosecution has also failed to establish any motive on the part of the accused-appellant to kill the deceased. While generally, the motive of the accused is immaterial and does not have to be proven, proof of the same becomes relevant and essential when, as in this case, the identity of the assailant is in question.
Considering the apparent unreliability of the evidence proffered by the prosecution, this Court is constrained to rule for an acquittal. In all criminal cases, all doubts should be resolved in favor of the accused on the principle that it is better to liberate a guilty man than to unjustly keep in prison one whose guilt has not been proven by the required quantum of evidence. Conviction, it is said, must rest on nothing less than a moral certainty of guilt that we find here to be wanting. The SC reversed the decision of the lower court, and acquitted the accused on ground of reasonable doubt.
PEOPLE OF THE PHIL v. RODOLFO VILLADARES
G.R. No. 137649 March 8, 2001
Accused was found guilty of raping a 12-yr old girl, and was sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
Accused assails the credibility of the witness and the supposed inconsistencies in the testimonies. The SC still affirmed the ruling of the lower court.
First. It is doctrinal that the evaluation by the trial court of the testimony of a witness is accorded with highest respect because the trial court had the direct and singular opportunity to observe the facial expression, gesture and tone of voice of a witness while testifying and therefore, competent to determine whether or not the witness is telling the truth.
Second. The alleged inconsistency between the testimony of Eliza (victim) and Emma, that is, that the latter testified that Eliza shouted, is trivial and cannot affect the veracity of their testimonies. Inconsistencies in the testimonies of witnesses which refer to minor and insignificant details do not destroy their credibility. Such minor inconsistencies even manifest truthfulness and candor and erase any suspicion of rehearsed testimony.
Third. The inconsistencies in Emma’s statement before the police authorities and her testimony in open court cannot detract from Eliza’s testimony that she was raped on July 20, 1996 by accused-appellant. Discrepancies and/or inconsistencies between a witness’ affidavit and testimony in open court do not impair credibility as affidavits are taken ex parte and are often incomplete or inaccurate for lack of or absence of searching inquiries by the investigating officer. In any event, we find that Emma’s testimony in court sufficiently corroborates that of Eliza on material points.
Lastly, with or without the medical certificate, the testimony of Eliza, as corroborated by her sister Emma is sufficient to convict. This Court has ruled that a medical examination of the victim is not indispensable in a prosecution for rape; and that a victim’s testimony alone if credible is sufficient to convict the appellant of the crime.
PEOPLE v. EFREN VALEZ
G.R. No. 136738. March 12, 2001
Accused was found guilty of raping a 12-yr old girl, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of death. In the Information that was filed, it was indicated that there was abuse of confidence and trust, the accused being the husband of complainant’s half-sister.
Accused-appellant maintains that he should only be convicted for acts of lasciviousness because there was no sexual intercourse. The SC held that it is well-settled that where the accused tried to insert his penis into his victim’s vagina, that was all that was necessary to commit consummated rape. Full penetration of the victim’s genital organ is not required in order to sustain a conviction for rape. In fact, so long as there was an attempt to insert, even without rupture of the hymen, rape is considered to have already been consummated. In this case, undoubtedly, there is no issue as to whether or not there was insertion or penetration which calls for a fine distinction between mere brushing or “epidermal contact” and actual touching or sliding into the female organ as enunciated in the case of People v. Campuhan.
The SC found the accused guilty, but reduced the penalty to reclusion perpetua. Minority and relationship under the first paragraph are special qualifying circumstances which qualify rape to warrant the mandatory penalty of death. As such, they must both be specifically pleaded in the Information and proven during trial. These two circumstances, minority and relationship, must concur; otherwise, if only one is proven during trial, even if the Information alleged both, the death penalty cannot be imposed. And, as special qualifying circumstances, the same must be proven beyond reasonable doubt as the crime itself.
In the case under review, the SC found that evidence is wanting as to the special qualifying circumstance of minority. The only proof as to the minority of the complainant is her testimony during direct examination that she was 13 years old and a Grade VI student. No other proof, was presented by the prosecution to establish complainant’s minority at the time of the incident. Even complainant’s mother failed to testify as to her daughter’s age on the witness stand.
As to filiation, the Court notes that the circumstance of relationship by affinity within the third civil degree was properly alleged in the Information which stated that accused-appellant “is the husband of complainant’s half-sister and likewise duly proven during trial. Complainant herself declared that accused-appellant was the husband of her elder sister. The mother of the complainant and mother in-law of the accused also testified that accused-appellant is his son-in-law. Moreover, the accused himself admitted that the victim is his sister-in-law. This notwithstanding, for failure of the prosecution to establish minority by proof beyond reasonable doubt, the death penalty cannot be imposed.
People v. Nellie Cabais y Gamuela
G.R. No. 129070. March 16, 2001
Accused was convicted of illegal recruitment committed in large scale by a syndicate, and sentenced to life imprisonment and a fine. She was also convicted for two counts of estafa, and sentenced to (a) in Criminal Case No. 13999-R, to six (6) months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to seven (7) years, eight (8) months and twenty-one (21) days of prision mayor, as maximum, and to indemnify the offended party Joan Merante, in the amount of P40,000.00 as actual damages, and costs; (b) in Criminal Case No. 14000-R, to six (6) months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to six (6) years, eight (8) months and twenty (20) days of prision mayor, as maximum, and to indemnify the offended party, Nancy Oidi, in the amount of P21,000.00 as actual damages, and costs.
The essential elements of illegal recruitment committed in large scale are: (1) that the accused engaged in acts of recruitment and placement of workers as defined under Article 13 (b) or in any prohibited activities under Article 34 of the Labor Code; (2) that the accused had not complied with the guidelines issued by the Secretary of Labor and Employment, particularly with respect to the requirement to secure a license or an authority to recruit and deploy workers, either locally or overseas; and (3) that the accused committed the unlawful acts against three (3) or more persons, individually or as a group.
Accused-appellant contends that she was not involved in recruitment but was merely an employee of a recruitment agency. An employee of a company or corporation engaged in illegal recruitment may be held liable as principal, together with his employer, if it is shown that he actively and consciously participated in illegal recruitment. In this case, accused was the one who informed complainants of job prospects in Korea and the requirements for deployment. She also received money from them as placement fees. All of the complainants testified that they personally met accused-appellant and transacted with her regarding the overseas job placement offers. Complainants parted with their money, evidenced by receipts signed by accused Cabais and accused Forneas. Thus, accused-appellant actively participated in the recruitment of the complainants.
Furthermore, accused-appellant did not possess any license to engage in recruitment activities, as evidenced by a certification from the POEA and the testimony of a representative of said government agency. Her acts constituted recruitment, and considering that she admittedly had no license or authority to recruit workers for overseas employment, accused-appellant is guilty of illegal recruitment. Despite the fact that she was just an ordinary employee of the company, her criminal liability would still stand for being a conspirator with the corporate officers in undertaking illegal recruitment activities. Since the recruitment involves three or more persons, accused-appellant is guilty of illegal recruitment in a large scale punishable under Article 39 of the Labor Code with life imprisonment and a fine of one hundred thousand pesos.
As to the charges of estafa, accused-appellant contends that she is not liable for the offenses charged because she did not appropriate for her own use the money given to her by complainants as placement and passport fees. The elements of estafa are: (a) that the accused defrauded another by abuse of confidence or by means of deceit, and (b) that damage or prejudice capable of pecuniary estimation is caused to the offended party or third person. From the foregoing, the fact that the money was appropriated by accused for her own use is not an element of the crime of estafa. Thus, accused-appellant Cabais’ contention under such ground is untenable. Moreover, accused-appellant misrepresented herself to complainants as one who can make arrangements for job placements in Korea. Complainants were successfully induced to part with their money, causing them damage and prejudice. Consequently, accused-appellant is guilty of estafa.
People v. Edgardo Liad
G.R. Nos. 133815-17. March 22, 2001
Accused-appellants were found guilty as principals by direct participation of the crime of robbery with homicide, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. They were also found guilty of illegal possession of firearms, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of four (4) years, nine (9) months and eleven (11) days to five (5) years, four (4) months and twenty (20) days of prision correctional sic.
The Court finds that the prosecution established beyond reasonable doubt the existence of a conspiracy between accused-appellants and the deceased. In conspiracy, direct proof of a previous agreement to commit a crime is not necessary. It may be deduced from the mode and manner by which the offense was perpetrated, or inferred from the acts of the accused themselves when such point to a joint purpose and design, concerted action and community of interest. Conspiracy may be inferred from the conduct of the accused before, during or after the commission of the crime. In this case, there were several circumstances immediately before, during and after the robbery indubitably which show that the perpetrators were one in their purpose to rob the victim. Where conspiracy is shown, the precise extent of participation of each accused in the crime is secondary and the act of one may be imputed to all the conspirators.
The SC held that the trial court, therefore, did not err in convicting accused-appellants of robbery with homicide. Whenever homicide has been committed as a consequence or on the occasion of the robbery, all those who took part as principals in the robbery will also be held guilty as principals for the special complex crime of robbery with homicide, although they did not actually take part in the homicide.
In cases involving illegal possession of firearm, the requisite elements are: (a) the existence of the subject firearm and (b) the fact that the accused who owned or possessed the firearm does not have the corresponding license or permit to possess. The latter is a negative fact that constitutes an essential ingredient of the offense of illegal possession, and it is the duty of the prosecution not only to allege it but also to prove it beyond reasonable doubt. The Court agrees with accused-appellants and the Solicitor General that the prosecution in this case failed to prove the second element.
The SC does not agree with the contention of the Solicitor General that since a paltik is a homemade gun, is illegally manufactured as recognized in People v. Fajardo, and cannot be issued a license or permit, it is no longer necessary to prove that it is unlicensed. This appears to be, at first blush, a very logical proposition. The Court, however, yield to it because Fajardo did not say that paltiks can in no case be issued a license or a permit, and that proof that a firearm is a paltik dispenses with proof that it is unlicensed.
Criminal Law Digests
Ateneo Central Bar Operations 2001