A conviction for the special complex crime of robo con homicidio can be sustained only when robbery is proven as conclusively as the killing itself; otherwise, the offense is only homicide. Furthermore, the findings of a trial court on the credibility of witnesses and the weight it gave their testimonies are, as a rule, accorded respect, even finality, by appellate courts.
Statement of the Case
These doctrines are reiterated as we resolve this appeal from the June 29, 1993 Joint Decision 1 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig, Metro Manila, Branch 156, 2 in Criminal Case Nos. 91327 and 91328 finding appellant guilty of frustrated homicide and robbery with homicide. The dispositive portion of the assailed Decision reads:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court finds the accused WILFREDO G. TEODORO guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of "robbery with homicide" under Article 294 (1) of the Revised Penal Code and hereby sentences said accused to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua
with all its accessory penalties, to indemnify the heirs of Eden M. Cabarubias in the amount of P50,000.00, to pay Margie M. Ganaban the sum of P20,00.00 as moral damages, to pay the heirs of Eden M. Cabarubias the further sum of P25,000.00 by way of reimbursement of the stolen cash money, all without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency and to pay the costs
In the service of his sentence, the accused shall be credited in full with the period of his preventive imprisonment.
Pursuant to the Resolution dated October 15, 1991 of the Supreme Court En Banc in G. R. No. 92560 entitled "People of the Philippines v. Ricardo C. Cortez", the cash bail bond of the accused in Criminal Case No. 91327 entitled "People of the Philippines v. Wilfredo G. Teodoro" is hereby ordered cancelled.
Let a Commitment Order be issued for the confinement of the accused at the New Bilibid Prisons at Muntinlupa, Metro Manila
SO ORDERED."cralaw virtua1aw library
Two Informations, 3 both dated February 11, 1992, were filed by 2nd Assistant Prosecutor Alberto A. Alforte against appellant. In Criminal Case No. 91327 the Information, accusing him of robbery with homicide, reads:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"That on or about the 3rd day of February, 1992 in the Municipality of Pasig, Metro Manila, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a kitchen knife, conspiring and confederating with one Vic Naguit who is still at large and mutually helping and aiding one another, with intent of gain and by means of force, violence and intimidation, did then and there willfully and unlawfully and feloniously take, steal and carry away cash money amounting to P25,000.00 belonging to Eden M. Cabarubias, to the damage and prejudice of the owner thereof in the total amount of P25,000.00; and that by reason and on the occasion of the robbery, the above-named accused, with intent to kill, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously stab said Eden M. Cabarubias on the different parts of her body, thereby inflicting upon her mortal wounds which directly caused her death.
Contrary to law."cralaw virtua1aw library
In Criminal Case No. 91328, he was charged with frustrated homicide allegedly committed as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"That on or about the 3rd day of February, 1992 in the Municipality of Pasig, Metro Manila, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused armed with a kitchen knife, conspiring and confederating with one Vic Naguit who is still at large and mutually helping and aiding one another, with intent to kill, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab one Margie M. Ganaban on her chest, thereby performing all the acts of execution which would have produced the crime of homicide, as a consequence thereof but nevertheless did not produce it by reason of cause, independent of the will, that is, due to the timely and able medical attendance rendered to said Margie M. Ganaban which prevented her death.
Contrary to law."cralaw virtua1aw library
Although the two informations alleged that Appellant Teodoro confederated with a certain Vic Naguit, the records do not show whether Naguit was formally charged. Hence, this case pertains only to Appellant Teodoro.
Arraigned alone on June 16, 1992, appellant, with the assistance of Counsel de Oficio Fernando Fernandez of the Public Attorney’s Office, pleaded not guilty in both cases. 4 In due course, the two cases were tried jointly. Thereafter, the trial court rendered its now assailed Joint Decision. In view of the penalty imposed by the trial court, this appeal was filed directly with this Court.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary:red
Version the Prosecution
The trial court summarized the testimonies of the witnesses for the prosecution, viz.:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
". . . Margie Ganaban, a housemaid of the deceased Eden Cabarubias, said that accused Teodoro and his companion, later identified as Vic Naguit, arrived at the house of Cabarubias in the morning of February 3, 1992. Upon seeing the accused at the door, she informed Cabarubias, who was then taking a bath, of the accused’s presence and she was told to let him in and wait for her. Ganaban did as she was told and let the two (2) men into the house and waited with them in the sala for Cabarubias to finish her bath. When she was finished, Cabarubias went to the sala and talked with the accused while Ganaban took her turn in the bathroom. After she finished bathing, Ganaban went to the adjacent room with her clothes and it was at the door where she was met by Teodoro who told her not to shout as he covered her mouth with his left hand. Ganaban further stated that "sinandal ako sa pader" by Teodoro and she was asked to lie down on a small table where the accused stabbed her three (3) times on her upper right chest with a knife which he held with his right hand. After stabbing her, Teodoro then went to the garage from where she heard Cabarubias pleading "Willy, huwag, maawa ka sa akin." As she pretended to be dead, Ganaban was able to see Teodoro ransack the room of Cabarubias. Ganaban fainted from her wounds and after regaining consciousness, vomited before she was able to crawl out of the house and unto the street where the neighbors found her and brought her to the hospital. At the hospital, Ganaban was able to give a statement (Exh. "A") to Police Officer Matias about the incident.
Police Officer Gagawanan was monitoring traffic when he was approached by one Ferdinand Madjos who reported a stabbing incident that occurred at the house of Gregorio Advincula’s neighbor. Proceeding to the scene, Gagawanan was able to talk to Ganaban who told him that her attacker was a certain "Willy." Gagawanan helped load Ganaban on a vehicle that took the latter to the hospital and then entered the house where he saw Cabarubias lying on the garage floor. Cabarubias was also loaded onto the vehicle so that she could be brought to the hospital. Gagawanan executed a statement (Exh. "B") as to the events he witnessed.
Police Officer Arcigal of the Pasig Police Station was tasked with the investigation of the crime and he learned of the identity of Teodoro when he talked with Ruel Cabarubias, father of Eden Cabarubias, about the incident. Afterwards, Amiga proceeded to the house of Teodoro where he talked with the wife who promised to surrender the accused. The accused surrendered on February 7, 1992 and it was from him that the identity of his companion on the date in question, Vic Naguit, was disclosed to the authorities. Arcigal prepared a statement (Exh. "C") that narrated the facts with which he was acquainted.
Dr. Ruperto Sombilon, Jr. performed the autopsy on the cadaver of Cabarubias and his findings showed that of the six (6) stab wounds suffered by the deceased, number 2 proved to be fatal. The findings also revealed that it was very probable that the stab wounds were inflicted while the deceased and her attacker were facing each other. Dr. Sombilon, Jr. also testified as to the correctness of Autopsy Report No. N-92-312 (Exh. "C") and the Certification of Identification of Dead Body (Exh. "D") which were also given in evidence.
Dr. Agaton Manimtim examined Margie Ganaban and listed her wounds in a Medico-Legal Certificate (Exh. "E") that he prepared. He also testified to the fact that the wounds suffered by Ganaban would have probably taken two (2) weeks to heal at the time of examination and that she would have died had she not received timely medical attention by way of a tube that was inserted to aid her breathing.
Version of the Defense
The version of the defense is summarized in the Appellant’s Brief dated February 14, 1994, as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"The defense presented two witnesses. They are the accused WILFREDO TEODORO and PETER BAGTAS.
WILFREDO TEODORO testified that he is engaged in buy and sell of scrap. There is no truth to the charges of robbery with homicide and frustrated homicide against him. On February 3, 1992 at about 7:30 a.m. he was with a friend named VIC NAGUIT and they proceeded to the house of EDEN CABARUBIAS at No. 113 Edinburg, Green Park, Manggahan, Pasig, Metro Manila. When they arrived at the house the maid named MARGIE GANABAN opened the gate for them. They were to claim the amount of P70,000.00 from EDEN CABARUBIAS a proceed in the buy and sell of used car transaction. He and EDEN CABARUBIAS have a transaction at that time that half of the P70,000.00 he will give it to VIC NAGUIT while the other half to EDEN CABARUBIAS. The three of them have (sic) a conversation at the sala and during the conversation, EDEN, CABARUBIAS and VIC NUGUIT had a misunderstanding as to the model and price of the car they will buy. EDEN CABARUBIAS began uttering unsavory words to VIC NUGUIT by saying "mukhang pera." He tried to pacify the two and EDEN CABARUBIAS drove out VIC NUGUIT from the sala and followed him outside. He was left alone in the sala and stood up with the intention to pacify the two. Outside he saw VIC NAGUIT behind EDEN CABARUBIAS holding a knife with a black handle and saw EDEN CABARUBIAS bloodied. He was shocked of what he saw and lost consciousness. He regained consciousness when VIC NAGUIT pulled him out of the house. They took a tricycle and went home. During the stabbing incident, MARGIE GANABAN was inside the bathroom. She went to take a bath after serving them with softdrinks. At home, he asked money from his wife and told her that he is a suspect in the death of EDEN CABARUBIAS being the person known to her household. He knows the father of EDEN CABARUBIAS named ROBERTO CABARUBIAS and were together engaged in scrap iron business in 1992. On February 7, 1992, he proceeded to the house of a policeman friend and a member of the Pasig Police Station and surrendered to him. To his knowledge VIC NAGUIT just arrived from Saudi Arabia and his family was a former taxi operator. (TSN, pp. 2-7, March 26, 1993).
PETER BAGTAS testified that he is a tricycle driver. On February 3, 1992 at about 7:30 a.m. he was driving a tricycle and has (sic) two passengers going to Edinburgh Street, Green Park, Pasig, Metro Manila. His passengers are (sic) Willy Teodoro and Vikvok. On the way, he heard his passengers talking about the payment they would receive from the owner of the house. He does not know the owner of the house that his passengers were talking about. After arriving at the place, his passengers asked him to wait for them but he replied that he [had] to convey a student to school who is (sic) waiting for him. Vikvok handed him a P100.00 peso bill for their fare and having the P100.00 peso bill change(d) but there was none so he proceeded to a nearby gasoline station and have (sic) it change(d). He returned to the house where his two passengers alighted and he pushed the gate and saw Vikvok holding a woman by the neck and with a bladed weapon on one hand kept stabbing the woman. The woman was bloodied and he saw Willy Teodoro standing by the door in (a) state of shock just in front of a car. He was shocked of what he saw and immediately fled from the place.
On cross-examination, he testified that his two passengers came from San Gabriel Street, Santolan, Pasig, Metro Manila. He did not report the incident to the police because he was scared of Vikvok who is a known tough guy in the place and does (sic) not want to be involved in the case because he has a family. (TSN, pp. 2-14, May 7, 1993)
Appellant assigns the following error:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"The court a quo gravely erred in finding accused-appellant Wilfredo Teodoro guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of robbery with homicide despite the evidence to the contrary and the testimony of (an) eyewitness (in) his favor." 5
The Court’s Ruling
The appeal is partly meritorious.
Credibility of Witnesses
In reviewing the case at bar, the Court is guided by this well-settled rule:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
". . . [When the question is raised as to 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, and the manner in which they gave their testimonies, and therefore could better discern if such witnesses were telling the truth; the trial court is thus in the best position to weigh conflicting testimonies. Therefore, unless the trial judge plainly overlooked certain facts of substance and value which, if considered, might affect the result of the case, his assessment on credibility of witnesses must be respected." 6
Poring over the records of the case, we find that the trial court correctly gave full weight and credence to the testimony of Margie Ganaban. Petitioner has not given us sufficient ground — and indeed we found none — to believe that the trial court overlooked or misappreciated any fact that might warrant appellant’s total exoneration.
Margie Ganaban’s clear, simple and straightforward eyewitness account established the following: that Appellant Teodoro stabbed her; that he then approached Eden Cabarubias; that Eden pleaded with appellant, whom she referred to as "Willy," to spare her life; that appellant stabbed Eden. The salient portions of Ganaban’s testimony are as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Q When somebody knocked at the door did you took who was/outside [sic] the door?
A Yes, sir. I peeped but I did not open at once the door.
Q Did you talk to them?
A No. sir. I went inside the room and I told Ate Eden that Willy was there.
Q What did your employer say?
A She told me to let them in.
Q Did you let them in?
A Yes, sir.
Q What happened next when they were already inside?
A They waited for Ate Eden and Ate Eden went out of the room and they walked with each other.
Q Did your hear any of their conversation?
A No, sir. I was taking a bath at that time.
Q After you have taken a bath, do you remember what happened?
A Yes, sir.
Q Will you narrate before the Court what happened?
A After taking a bath I brought my clothes inside the room. When I came out of the room Willy met me at the door of the room.
Q What happened next when Willy met you at the door?
A He told me, do not shout.
Q Did he do anything?
A When I shout I saw him holding a knife. He covered my mouth and I was and I quote, "sinandal ako sa pader" and I was asked to lie down in a small table.
Q You said he covered your mouth? Can you demonstrate before the Court how he covered your mouth?
A Witness demonstrating with her left hand.
Q While he was covering your mouth with his left hand, did you see if he is holding in his right hand?
A On his left hand, sir.
Q What you mean he covered your mouth with his right hand?
A His left hand was covering my mouth, sir.
Q And he was holding on his right hand?
A Yes, sir.
Q What did he do?
A He stabbed me, sir.
Q How many times did he stab you?
A Three times, sin
Q Will you state before the Court where he stabbed you?
A. Witness pointing to her upper right chest.
Q What other parts of your body. You said you were stabbed three times?
A On the upper right chest, sir. (Witness pointing to her right upper chest).
Q Are you acquainted with the name of the person who stabbed you?
A Yes, sir.
Q Will you state before the Court the name of the person who stabbed you?
A Willy, sir.
Q If this Willy is inside the courtroom can you point to him?
A Yes, sir.
Q Please point to him? (Witness pointing to a person who identified himself as Wilfredo Teodoro, the accused in this case).
Q After stabbing you three times do you remember anything else that happened?
A Yes, sir.
Q What happened next?
A He stabbed Ate Eden who is in the garage and Ate Eden was pleading with him.
Q Can you tell before the Court how Eden was begging. Did she say anything?
A She begged to Willy and saying and I quote, Willy, huwag maawa ka sa akin. For two times she said these words to Willy.
Q After Willy stabbed Eden, what did he do to you?
A He told me to lie down in small table.
Q While you were in the table, did you hear anything else?
A Yes, sir
Q And what did you hear?
A I heard them ransacking the cabinets inside the house.
Q Do you recall whether or not you lost consciousness after you have been stabbed?
A Yes, sir
Q When you woke up, did you know where your were already at the time when you woke up [sic]?
A Yes, sir.
Q And where were you when you woke up?
A Also on the place where I was lying down." 7 (Emphasis supplied
Ganaban’s testimony not only rings true; likewise, it is clearly consistent with the physical evidence. We further observe that appellant had not shown that Margie had ill motive to testify falsely against him. On the contrary, Margie herself was a victim; she would have gained nothing by implicating an innocent man and exonerating the guilty one.
Appellant Wilfredo Teodoro would have this Court believe that Margie Ganaban did not and could not have witnessed the fatal stabbing of Eden Cabarubias. He argues that, at the time, Ganaban "lost consciousness while critically wounded and lying on top of a small table." 8 Appellant further denies stabbing Cabarubias on the ground that he had no motive to do so. 9chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Appellant’s arguments are unpersuasive. Contrary to Teodoro’s claim, the foregoing transcript clearly demonstrates that Margie Ganaban was a competent witness. As shown by her testimony, she did not immediately lose consciousness when stabbed thrice in the chest by appellant; she was still able to observe the subsequent fatal events. Jurisprudence teaches that the serious nature of a victim’s injuries would not necessarily affect his or her credibility as a witness, if such injuries did not cause the immediate loss of his or her ability to perceive and identify the assailant, 10 as in this case. In People v. Amaca, the Court ruled that a declarant of an ante mortem statement who had received two fatal gunshot wounds at the back was a competent witness:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
". . . (’)The question as to whether a certain act could have been done after receiving a given wound,(’) according to Wharton and Stilles (Vol. III, Medical Jurisprudence, p. 212), ‘is always one that must be decided upon the merits of a particular case.’ They cited a case from Vibert’s Precis de Med. Leg., 4th ed., p. 286, where a man after being shot in the chest threw a lamp at his adversary. The lamp started a fire; and to extinguish the fire, the wounded man fetched a pail of water from the court yard. When the fire was extinguished, the man lay down on bed and died. Vibert performed the autopsy, and found that the left ventricle of the heart had been perforated by the revolver’s bullet. It is evident from the foregoing that Dr. Acosta’s assertion that the victim of a gunshot wound would immediately lose consciousness, after infliction of the wound, may not be true in all cases. . . ." 11
Like alibi, Appellant’s self-serving denial of his participation in the killing of Cabarubias is weak; it cannot prevail over Ganaban’s positive and straightforward testimony identifying him as the culprit. 12 Indeed, this defense rests solely on the shaky foundation that appellant allegedly had no motive to kill Cabarubias. It is axiomatic that motive is not an element of robbery with homicide or frustrated homicide.
In any event, the motive of appellant to commit the culpable acts can in fact be gleaned from his own testimony. He testified that he went to the house of Cabarubias that fateful morning to collect half of the amount of P70,000.00 which he had allegedly given to the latter in connection with their business of buying and selling motor vehicles. He allegedly intended to give said amount to Vic Naguit. 13 This is corroborated by a tricycle driver, Peter Bagtas, the other defense witness who testified that he heard Naguit and Teodoro, who were his passengers, speak of their intent to collect a sum of money from the deceased Cabarubias. 14 Thus, it is not at all farfetched that Teodoro was driven to the deep end because of Cabarubias’ refusal to hand the money which he was attempting to collect.
Furthermore, Appellant’s pretense — that he was a harmless bystander who could not stomach violence, and that he fainted from the shock of seeing Cabarubias being stabbed by Vic Naguit — is belied by his own admission in his brief:" (i)f there is any liability of appellant, it is only frustrated homicide and the victim is MARGIE GANABAN." 15
Robbery with Homicide?
The Court, however, disagrees with the conclusion of the trial court that appellant was guilty of robbery with homicide. In holding that the killing was attended by robbery, the trial court relied on (1) Margie’s testimony that she heard the two men ransack the room of the deceased, and (2) Ruel Cabarubias’ assertion that there was money in the house. 16 The trial court reasoned that "it [was] logical to surmise that Teodoro found the money and [took] it with him when he left." 17
We disagree. "Our settled rule is that in order to sustain a conviction for robbery with homicide, robbery must be proven as conclusively as the killing itself; otherwise, the crime would only be homicide or murder as the case may be." 18 Margie merely heard both men ransacking Cabarubias’ room in search of the money; she did not actually see the accused or his companion asport the same. Furthermore, we find no proof that a sum of money was indeed left in the deceased’s room. In this light, Ruel Cabarubias’ testimony contains mere inferences and inconclusive recollections of conversations with the deceased. While the existence of such amount may be granted, it was not adequately shown that Eden Cabarubias had that amount in her house at the time. 19 In fact, there is no evidence on hand that appellant took any money. Even assuming arguendo that there was money taken from the deceased’s premises, there is no proof that this amount was taken by Appellant Teodoro. Prior to the arrival of the police and the bereaved family, other people had access to the crime scene who, in the confusion, could possibly have pocketed the alleged stolen money. Hence, we find no sufficient evidence to justify the lower court’s finding that the killing was attended by asportation of such money.chanroblesvirtual|awlibrary
On the other hand, there is no dispute that appellant is liable for frustrated homicide. Were it not for the timely medical attention accorded Ganaban, she would have died. At any rate, appellant himself concedes that, if at all, he should be convicted only of this offense.
Accordingly, appellant may be held liable only for the crimes of homicide and frustrated homicide. Since there were no mitigating or aggravating circumstances, the penalty for homicide, reclusion temporal, shall be imposed in its medium period; and the penalty for frustrated homicide, one degree lower or prision mayor, shall be imposed in its medium period. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, appellant should suffer, for homicide, prision mayor in its medium period to reclusion temporal, also in its medium period; and, for frustrated homicide, prision correccional in its medium period to prision mayor likewise in its medium period.
Proof of Moral Damages
Moral damages cannot be awarded in the absence of proof of physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock, social humiliation and similar injury. 20 Put differently, there must be factual basis therefor. 21 The assailed Decision awarded to the heirs of Eden Cabarubias the sum of P20,000.00 as moral damages. We pored over the records; however, we found no factual basis for the award. 22
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the questioned Decision is hereby MODIFIED. Appellant is found GUILTY of homicide and frustrated homicide and SENTENCED to an indeterminate penalty of ten (10) years of prision mayor, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months of reclusion temporal, as maximum, for the first crime; and four (4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum, for the second. Appellant is ordered to pay the heirs of Eden Cabarubias P50,000.00 as civil indemnity. The award of P20,000.00 as moral damages and the further sum of P25,000.00 representing the allegedly stolen cash are hereby DELETED. The other portions of the assailed Decision are AFFIRMED. Costs de oficio.
, Romero, Melo and Francisco, JJ.
1. In Criminal Case Nos. 91327-91328; rollo, pp. 14-22.
2. Judge Martin S. Villarama, Jr., presiding.
3. Rollo, pp. 2-5.
4. Joint Decision, p. 2; rollo, p. 15.
5. Appellant’s Brief, p. 1; rollo, p. 34.
6. People v. Obzunar, G. R. No. 92153, p. 11, December 16, 1996, per Panganiban, J., citing People v. Alimon, 257 SCRA 658, 669, June 28, 1996.
7. TSN, pp. 4-7, July 1, 1992.
8. Ibid., p. 11; rollo, p. 44.
10. People v. Amaca, G. R. No. 110129, August 12, 1997, per Panganiban, J .
11. Ibid., p. 8, supra; citing People v. Obngayan, 55 SCRA 465, 474, January 31, 1974, per Antonio, J .
12. People v. Layno, G.R. No. 110833, pp. 16-17, November 21, 1996, per Panganiban, J .
13. TSN, pp. 2-3, March 26, 1993.
14. Ibid., p. 3, May 7, 1993.
15. Appellant’s Brief, p. 12; rollo, p. 45.
16. See Joint Decision, pp. 7-8; rollo, pp. 20-21.
17. Ibid., p. 7; rollo, p. 20.
18. People v. Rubio, 257 SCRA 528, 535, June 20, 1996, per Francisco, J .
19. See TSN, pp. 1-12, July 2, 1992.
20. Article 2217 of the Civil Code.
21. People v. Bienvenido Baydo, G.R. No. 113799, June 17, 1997.
22. People v. Patrolla, Jr., 254 SCRA 467, 477, March 7, 1996.