Challenged in this appeal is the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 60, Cadiz City, Negros Occidental, in Criminal Cases Nos. 272-S and 273-S dated June 4, 1990, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court finds PEDRO ONDALOK y CABAG alias "Pandak" and ISMAEL MAHINAY y GUANZON, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of "Murder" defined and penalized under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code and there being no mitigating nor aggravating circumstances, hereby 1 sentences each of them to suffer a penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA in Criminal Case No. 272-S, to be served successively with Criminal Case No. 273-S but in no case shall exceed FORTY (40) YEARS, together with the accessory penalty provided for by law and each to indemnify the heirs of the deceased Simeon Aransado and Nicolas Moralde, the sum of P30,000.00, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and each to pay proportionate costs.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
SO ORDERED."cralaw virtua1aw library
The following are the antecedent facts:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
On February 13, 1985, appellants Pedro Ondalok and Ismael Mahinay, and co-accused Estelito Comargo were charged with two counts of Murder before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 60, in Cadiz City. The two informations read:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Criminal Case No. 272-S
"The undersigned Provincial Fiscal accuses PEDRO ONDALOK y CABAG alias "Pandak", ISMAEL MAHINAY y GUANZON and ESTELITO COMARGO y VILLARUIZ of the crime of Murder, committed as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"That on or about the 19th day of February, 1984, in the Municipality of Sagay, Province of Negros Occidental, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with bladed weapons, with intent to kill and with evident premeditation, taking advantage of their superior strength, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, hack and stab one SIMEON ARANSADO, thereby inflicting multiple wounds upon the body of the latter, which caused the death of said Simeon Aransado.
"That in the commission of the crime, the aggravating circumstance of excessive cruelty was present, that is, the accused deliberately and inhumanly augmented the suffering of the victim by cutting off the neck of the latter.
CONTRARY TO LAW" 2
Criminal Case No. 273-S
"The undersigned Provincial Fiscal accuses PEDRO ONDALOK y CABAG alias "Pandak", ISMAEL MAHINAY y GUANZON and ESTELITO COMARGO y VILLAQUIZ of the crime of Murder, committed as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
That on or about the 19th day of February, 1984, in the Municipality of Sagay, Province of Negros Occidental, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with bladed weapons, with intent to kill, and with evident premeditation, taking advantage of their superior strength, conspiring, confederating, and mutually helping one another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, hack and stab one NICHOLAS (NICOLAS) MORALDE, thereby inflicting multiple wounds upon the body of the latter, which caused the death of said Nicholas (Nicolas) Moralde.
CONTRARY TO LAW." 3
On arraignment, the accused-appellants pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On June 18, 1987, the prosecution filed a motion to discharge the accused Estelito Omargo, on the following grounds: 1) there was absolute necessity for his testimony; 2) there was no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed except the testimony of the accused; 3) the testimony of the accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points; 4) Said accused did not appear to be the most guilty; and 5) Said accused had not been at any time convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude. This motion was opposed by the accused’ s counsel contending that there was no absolute necessity of Omargo’s testimony, that his testimony cannot be substantially corroborated in its material points, and that he did not appear to be the least guilty. On June 30, 1987, the trial court granted the motion and ordered the discharge of accused Estelito Omargo who would then be used as state witness for the prosecution.
On October 1, 1987, a motion to dismiss either Criminal Case No. 272-S or 273-S was filed by the accused-appellants alleging that there was multiplicity of informations filed against them for one and the same criminal act. The motion was denied on October 30, 1987.
Trial on the merits thereafter ensued. Prosecution witness Estelito Comargo testified that in the evening of February 19, 1984, he was invited by accused Pedro Ondalok and Ismael Mahinay to attend a benefit dance at Sitio Datag, Brgy. Bulanon, Sagay, Negros Occidental. He accepted the invitation and went to Sitio Datag with them together with his wife and in-laws. On their way to the dance, Accused
Ondalok and Mahinay informed him that they were planning to execute Simeon Aransado and Nicolas Moralde since they learned that the latter were hired by one Lolong Aparecio to kill them because of an old feud. It was decided that Comargo and Ondalok would proceed first to the dance hall and Mahinay would stay behind near the hall. Thus, when they reached the dance hall, Accused
Ondalok approached Simeon Aransado and Nicolas Moralde who were then drinking at a stall. After a few drinks, the three went outside, fetched accused Mahinay, and proceeded to Sitio Daro. Comargo followed the group from behind at a distance of fifteen arms length. As they reached the sugarcane field, Accused
Ondalok and Mahinay pulled out their weapons and confronted Aransado and Moralde who admitted that they were hired by Lolong Aparecio to kill the former. Thereafter, Accused
Ondalok hacked Simeon Aransado with a "pinuti" (bolo), severing the head from the neck, and another blow in the abdomen. Accused Mahinay stabbed Nicolas Moralde on his left hip but the latter was able to run away. Accused Ondalok chased Moralde, was able to catch up with him, and then stabbed him to death. Accused Mahinay, on his part, picked the severed head of Aransado and threw it to the sugarcane field. After the incident, Accused
Ondalok told Comargo to just go home with accused Mahinay and ordered him not to tell anybody about what happened.
Another witness for the prosecution was Dr. Diego de Ocampo, Rural Health Physician of Sagay, Negros Occidental, who testified that he conducted post mortem examinations on the cadavers of Moralde and Aransado. Dr. de Ocampo stated that the causes of the victims’ death were shock due to severe hemorrhage secondary to multiple incise and stab wounds. In both cases, the weapon used was a sharp bladed instrument.
The defense presented accused Ismael Mahinay, 43 years old, laborer, and resident of Sitio Daro, Bulanon, Sagay, Negros Occidental. Accused Mahinay claimed to be in his house with his wife and children on the night of the incident. He vehemently denied the story of the witness Comargo. He alleged that he only met his co-accused Pedro Ondalok in November 1984 at the municipal jail of Sagay when they were both detained there. He said that he was apprehended by the police because he was suspected to be with Pedro Ondalok who was caught in possession of a revolver.
Accused Pedro Ondalok was 25 years old, married, and resident of Sitio Tunga, Barangay Vito, Sagay, Negros Occidental. He admitted having met his co-accused Mahinay, who lived about three kilometers away from his house, at a fishpond. On the night of the crime, however, he alleged that he was only in his house. He again saw his co-accused only in the municipal jail after they were both apprehended. He denied that he knew the victims and met them on February 19, 1984.
The defense presented two other witnesses Sergio Acebar and Jimmy Toble to corroborate the testimonies of the two accused. Witness Acebar, a neighbor of accused Ondalok, testified that in the evening of February 19, 1984, he saw the latter in his house taking care of his sick child until 12:00 o’ clock midnight. His house was only three meters away and he claimed to have seen the accused because he was also awake and was taking care of his children who were also sick with flu.
Witness Jimmy Toble, whose house was only five meters away from the house of accused Ismael Mahinay, testified that he saw the latter in his house that night and was heard to be quarreling with his wife. At about 4:00 a.m. the following day, he saw Mahinay went down the house to urinate.
The trial court found the two accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and sentenced them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua
Hence, this appeal before us.
The accused appellants raised the following assignment of errors:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
The court a quo erred in giving weight and credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses and in disregarding the theory of the defense.
The court a quo erred in finding the accused-appellants Pedro Ondalok and Ismael Mahinay guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder despite insufficiency of evidence.
Accused-appellants point out that after Estelito Comargo supposedly witnessed the crime, he never reported the matter to the police authorities and had never even told anyone about it. He was silent for almost nine months and it was only when he was apprehended by the authorities that he narrated his story. There was no justifiable reason on his part for keeping his silence and thus, his failure to report the incident for a considerable length of time rendered him an unreliable witness. He should likewise be deemed a rehearsed witness for he recounted the incident only when he was already under the custody of the authorities. This he did so to ensure the conviction of the accused-appellants and in consideration of his release to freedom. Accused-appellants also posit that the testimony of the prosecution witness Comargo was tainted with inconsistencies. It was testified that appellant Ondalok hacked Aransado twice in the neck and once in the abdomen but it was reported that the latter’s body sustained a total of twelve stab and incise wounds. Comargo also stated that appellant Ondalok picked the head of Aransado and threw it to the sugarcane field. Yet as testified by Dr. Ocampo, the head of the victim was found about twelve feet away from the body.chanrobles.com : virtual law library
Accused-appellants argue that prosecution witness Comargo’s testimony remained uncorroborated and thus, it was not sufficient to support their conviction. Absent any direct evidence and eyewitness against them as the malefactors, they could not be convicted of the crimes of murder.
The appeal is devoid of merit.
Witness Estelito Comargo had categorically stated the events he had seen and had positively identified the accused-appellants as the killers of Simeon Aransado and Nicolas Moralde. His delay in informing the authorities of the crime and his failure to tell others about it was due to the fact that he was threatened to be killed by the appellants if he did so.
"Q. I understand that later on when you arrived at the dance hall, you met your wife together with the two accused at Sitio Darok, Bulanon, Sagay, Negros Occ.?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. I know that you have a plan to talk with your wife during the time when you arrived at Sitio Darok?
A. I did not tell my wife because they have the intention to kill me if I do so.
Q. And that during the time that you have a chance to talk to your wife, you did not tell your wife about their intention to kill Simeon Aransado and Nicolas Moralde?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And you did not tell her also about their threat in case you disclosed their intention to kill the two?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And you did not tell your sister-in-law about the warning that they have given to you while on your way to Sitio Darok?
A. Yes, sir." 4
x x x
"Q. After the chasing, what else happened?
A. After that Pedro Ondalok approached me and told me that they were going home.
Q. Did he say anything to you?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. What did he say?
A. According to Pedro Ondalok they were going home and he told me not to say anything in the dance hall.
Q. So that you went home afterwards, is that correct?" 5
The reason why it took some time for the witness to narrate his story was that he was threatened and he understandably feared for his life. The initial reluctance of witnesses to volunteer information about a criminal case and their unwillingness to be involved in criminal investigations due to fear of reprisal are common and have been judicially declared not to affect credibility. 6 Additionally, delay of witness in reporting to the police authorities the crime he had witnessed, when adequately explained, does not impair the witness’ credibility, neither will it render his testimony biased, nor will it destroy its probative value. 7 The argument of the accused-appellants that the witness was biased and rehearsed is totally unmeritorious and without any basis.
Accused-appellants insist that there were inconsistencies in the witness’ version of the crime. The alleged inconsistencies, however, refer only to minor matters and are inconsequential that they do not impair the credibility of the prosecution witness. The fact that the number of wounds sustained by the victim is different from that testified by the witness did not in any way alter the truth that the accused-appellants were the malefactors. Witness Comargo had seen the crime and had positively identified the Accused-Appellants
The defense of the accused-appellants consisted merely of denials. The accused’s bare denial is a weak defense which becomes even weaker in the face of their positive identification by the prosecution witnesses. 8 Positive identification where categorical and consistent and without any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying on the matter prevails over the alibi and denial which if not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence are negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law. 9 To be candid on this point, a defense based on alibi actually stands on shaky crutches against the clear and positive identification of the accused-appellants as the perpetrators of the sordid crime. Considering that there was no evidence to support accused-appellants’ denial of their commission of the crime, the testimony of the witness should be given more credence. This is the consistent judicial policy. Thus in People v. Ferrer, we ruled that —
"In the absence of any clear showing that it overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight or substance which could have affected the result of the case, the trial court’s findings on the credibility of witnesses are entitled to the highest degree of respect and will not be disturbed on appeal." 10
On the foregoing premises, we sustain the conviction of the accused-appellants as found by the court a quo. The indemnity to the victim’s heirs should, however, be increased from P30,000.00 to P50,000.00 pursuant to prevailing jurisprudence on the matter.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision of the trial court dated June 4, 1990 is hereby AFFIRMED, with the modification as to the indemnity due the heirs of deceased as above stated.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Regalado, Romero, Puno and Mendoza, JJ.
1. Records, pp. 254-255.
2. Records, p. 1.
3. Records 2, p. 1.
4. TSN, March 15, 1988, pp. 8-9.
5. TSN, December 15, 1987, p. 20.
6. People v. Pacapac, 248 SCRA 77.
7. People v. Mandapat, 196 SCRA 157.
8. People v. Torres, 247 SCRA 212.
9. People v. Amania, 248 SCRA 486.
10. G.R. No. 102062, March 14, 1996.