Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1998 > September 1998 Decisions > G.R. No. 130550 September 2, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ANDRES PEÑAFLORIDA:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 130550. September 2, 1999.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ANDRES PEÑAFLORIDA, Accused-Appellant.


D E C I S I O N


DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:


Accused-appellant Andres Peñaflorida (hereafter ANDRES) appeals from the decision 1 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 19, Malolos, Bulacan, in Criminal Case No. 2683-M-94, dated 12 May 1997, finding him guilty of murder and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and indemnify the heirs of the victim, SPO3 Eusebio Natividad, in the amount of P50,000.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

The information, 2 filed on 13 October 1994, charged ANDRES together with two other persons, whose identities are still unknown, with murder, allegedly committed in this manner:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

That on or about the 5th day of October, 1994, in the municipality of San Ildefonso, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused together with two (2) other persons, whose true names are still unknown and against whom the preliminary investigation has not yet been completed by the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Bulacan, armed with guns, and with intent to kill one SPO3 Eusebio Natividad, conspiring, confederating together and mutually helping one another did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with treachery, evident premeditation and use of superior strength, attack, assault and shoot with guns the said SPO3 Eusebio Natividad, hitting him on different parts of his body, thereby inflicting upon him mortal wounds which directly caused death.

ANDRES pleaded not guilty upon arraignment. 3

At the trial, the prosecution presented its eyewitness, Rodolfo de la Cruz (hereafter RODOLFO). He testified that at around 4:00 p.m. on 5 October 1994, he was resting on the terrace of his house at Pinaod, San Ildefonso, Bulacan, when he noticed an oncoming owner-type jeep. On board were the driver SPO3 Eusebio Natividad, RODOLFO’s former CAFGU trainer and an unknown companion passenger. Suddenly, three men, each armed with a short pistol, blocked and stopped the jeep. One of the three armed men shouted: "Natividad katapusan mo na ito," (Natividad, this is your end). Afterwhich, the three gunmen simultaneously fired upon Natividad. When the assault ceased, one of the gunmen took Natividad’s wallet and gun. The attackers then fled on board a vehicle. 4chanrobles.com:cralaw:red

RODOLFO claimed that the killing took place in a small market (talipapa) about five armslength from his terrace, hence, he was able to see clearly the faces of Natividad’s assailants. 5

RODOLFO also recounted that seven days after the shooting incident or on 12 October 1994, he voluntarily proceeded to the 175th PC Detachment upon the invitation of the police authorities who were conducting the investigation on the matter. There, the police officers presented a man whom RODOLFO instantly recognized as one of NATIVIDAD’s assailants, in particular, the one who took Natividad’s gun and wallet. The police then informed RODOLFO that the man’s name was ANDRES Peñaflorida. Armed with the name to match one of the faces he remembered as one of Natividad’s attackers, RODOLFO voluntarily and promptly executed on that same day, a sworn statement narrating the events pertaining to the attack. 6 In open court, RODOLFO once again specifically pointed to ANDRES as one of the assailants of Natividad who seized the latter’s gun and wallet. 7

After RODOLFO’s testimony, the prosecution formally offered in evidence his aforementioned sworn statement as Exhibit "A" and Exhibit "A-1." 8 It also offered in evidence the death certificate of Natividad as Exhibit "B," 9 which indicated that the cause of his death was massive hemorrhage due to multiple gunshot wounds. The defense raised no objections and admitted the exhibits. The prosecution then rested its case. 10

The defense thereafter presented its witnesses ANDRES and his brother, Roberto Peñaflorida. ANDRES interposed alibi. He claimed that at around 4:30 p.m., on 5 October 1994, he was in the house of his brother, Roberto in Marulas, Bulacan where he assisted the latter in the repair of the chassis of some automobiles. He did not leave Marulas that day hence, he could not be physically present in some other place, much less in San Ildefonso. He left Marulas only on 11 October 1994 upon his cousin’s request to harvest palay at Sapang Palay. He was arrested on said date. 11chanroblesvirtual|awlibrary

ANDRES further denied ever knowing both Natividad and RODOLFO. Natividad certainly was not his enemy hence, ANDRES could not think of any reason why RODOLFO implicated him in the killing of Natividad. 12

Roberto Peñaflorida corroborated the alibi of ANDRES. He maintained that he was working with ANDRES the whole day of 5 October 1994 in the repair of a Motherland bus. Roberto further declared that ANDRES had been living with him since December, 1993. There had been no occasion for ANDRES to leave Marulas except on 11 October 1994 when he was invited by a friend to go to San Ildefonso. A week later, Roberto learned that ANDRES had been arrested. 13

The trial court considered said evidence of the defense as unworthy of belief. It instead gave full faith and credit to the evidence of the prosecution, particularly the testimony of the lone prosecution witness RODOLFO. It is convinced that RODOLFO positively identified ANDRES as one of the culprits who, using a short firearm, riddled the different parts of Natividad’s body with bullets that led to his untimely demise. It assessed the testimony of RODOLFO as "clear, unequivocal, unmistakable and overwhelming leaving no room for doubt as to its veracity and conclusiveness." 14 The trial court then reiterated in its decision, the jurisprudential doctrine that RODOLFO’s positive identification prevails over the uncorroborated and self-serving denial and alibi interposed by the defense. 15

The trial court also appreciated that treachery, evident premeditation and abuse of superior strength attended the killing of Natividad. It then convicted ANDRES of the crime of murder and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the heirs of Natividad in the amount of P50,000. The dispositive portion of the decision 16 reads, as follows:chanroblesvirtual|awlibrary

Wherefore, based on the evidence on record, this Court finds the accused, ANDRES PEÑAFLORIDA, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of MURDER punishable under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code, the killing having been attended with aggravating circumstances of alevosia, evident premeditation and abuse of superior strength, and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua with the accessory penalties provided by law and to indemnify the heirs of SPO3 Eusebio Natividad the sum of P50,000.00 and to pay the costs.

ANDRES seasonably appealed from the decision. In his Appellant’s Brief, ANDRES contends that the trial court erred in convicting him since he was not positively identified by RODOLFO. There was no positive identification because (a) RODOLFO could not have remembered the physical features of the three (3) gunmen, particularly ANDRES, given the short time that he (RODOLFO) had seen them and that previous to the incident he did not know any one of them; 17 (b) RODOLFO did not identify ANDRES from a police line-up but was introduced to him (RODOLFO) alone; 18 and (c) RODOLFO belatedly executed the sworn statement (Exhibit "A" and Exhibit "A-1"), albeit seven days after the shooting incident. With this, ANDRES insinuates that the police authorities "coached" RODOLFO in the identification for he executed the sworn statement, propitiously on 12 October 1994, a day after ANDRES’ arrest. ANDRES additionally points out that he was arrested not by virtue of a warrant of arrest but upon mere invitation by a certain police officer Palarca who brought him immediately to the 175th PC Detachment. 19

In its Appellee’s Brief, the Office of the Solicitor General supports the trial court’s decision and prays that the assailed decision be affirmed in toto.

The appeal is without merit.chanrobles law library

Well settled is the rule that the ascertainment of the credibility of witnesses is best left to the determination of the trial court. This is so because the trial court is in a distinct advantageous position to examine the witnesses’ deportment and manner of testifying. On appeal, its evaluation or assessment of the testimonies of witnesses is accorded great respect and finality in the absence of any indication that it overlooked certain facts or circumstances of weight and influence which, if considered, would alter the results of the case. 20

In this case, no cogent reasons were presented to disturb the factual findings of the trial court particularly on the assessment of the credibility of the prosecution eyewitness. The trial court ascertained that RODOLFO "categorically, unequivocably and repeatedly pointed to" ANDRES as one of the three armed men who ambushed and gunned down Natividad. It declared that RODOLFO positively identified ANDRES. We agree.

RODOLFO had all the opportunity to observe the horrible occurrence as he was only about five armslength from the scene of the crime. He had a good view of the assailants’ physical and facial features. True, he had seen their faces for only a short span of time but that was all RODOLFO needed in order to remember their faces. Even if he did not know any one of the assailants previous to the incident, such a fact would not deter RODOLFO from remembering them. In fact, RODOLFO was so certain of the attackers’ faces that he easily and quickly recognized ANDRES as one of them when he saw the latter at the 175th PC Detachment. It is therefore unnecessary for RODOLFO to have identified ANDRES from the police line-up. Besides, there is no law requiring a police line-up as an essential requisite for proper identification. 21 Further, no proof was adduced indicating that RODOLFO was coached by the police officers or improperly motivated in identifying ANDRES as one of Natividad’s slayers.

As to the alleged delay in the execution of RODOLFO’s sworn statement, it does not and will not impair his credibility as witness. This Court takes judicial notice of the actuality that witnesses in this country are usually reluctant to volunteer information about a criminal case or are unwilling to be involved in or dragged into criminal investigations. 22 Indeed, RODOLFO exhibited a natural human reaction. Although there was delay in the execution of his sworn statement, what matters is RODOLFO overcame his initial reluctance and fear to be involved by voluntarily participating in the police investigation and then openly testifying in court.chanrobles.com:cralaw:red

In sum, RODOLFO’s positive identification of ANDRES as one of the authors of the crime prevails over his defense of alibi. 23 Settled is the rule that alibi is the weakest of all defenses, for it is easy to contrive and difficult to prove. 24 For such a defense to prosper, it is not enough for ANDRES to prove that he was somewhere else when the crime occurred, i.e., at Marulas, Bulacan but he must also demonstrate that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime at San Ildefonso, Bulacan, at the time of its commission. 25 This, ANDRES failed to establish.

We will now discuss the trial court’s assessment that all the aggravating circumstances alleged in the information attended the commission of the crime. We approve the trial court’s correct appreciation of alevosia, but disapprove its determination of evident premeditation and abuse of superior strength.

For treachery to be considered, two elements must concur: (1) the employment of means of execution that gives the person attacked no opportunity to defend himself or retaliate; and (2) the means of execution were deliberately or consciously adopted. 26

Natividad’s assailants unexpectedly appeared from nowhere to ambush him. The assailants were able to immediately establish strategic positions from which vantage point they simultaneously fired upon the victim, taking him by surprise. The stratagem ensured Natividad’s helplessness, defenselessness and immobility. Thus, it can be said that ANDRES and his two (2) still unknown companions employed means of execution which gave Natividad no opportunity at all to defend himself and that the manner of execution was deliberately and consciously adopted. The fact that the attack was preceded by a cry or signal of "Natividad katapusan mo na ito," from ANDRES and his companions did not make such attack less treacherous. In the same vein, the frontal attack did not negate or lessen the presence of treachery. 27chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary:red

Like treachery, evident premeditation should be established by clear and positive evidence. Sifting through the records, we found a dearth of evidence establishing the requisites of evident premeditation, to wit: (1) the time when the accused determined to commit the crime; (2) an act manifestly indicating that the accused has clung to his determination; and (3) sufficient lapse of time between such determination and execution to allow him to reflect upon the consequences of his act. 28 Hence, the finding thereof by the trial court in the absence of any evidentiary basis was but speculation. We have already ruled that mere presumptions and inferences, no matter how logical and probable they might be, would not suffice to establish evident premeditation. 29

For the similar reason that there must exist proof that the attackers deliberately took advantage of their superior strength, their apparent superiority in number vis--vis that of the victim, notwithstanding, 30 the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength cannot be appreciated. Again, the records disclosed no such proof. In any event, even if abuse of superior strength was proved, it would still be absorbed by the qualifying aggravating circumstance of treachery. 31

One final point, ANDRES assails the regularity and validity of his arrest. He claims that his arrest without a warrant circumscribes the conditions for a valid warrantless arrest which are set forth in Section 5, Rule 113 of the Rules of Court, to wit:cralawnad

SECTION 5. Arrest without a warrant when lawful. — A peace officer or a private person may, without a warrant, arrest a person:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

(a) When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense;

(b) When an offense has in fact been committed, and he has personal knowledge of facts indicating that the person to be arrested has committed it; and

(c) When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another.

In Filoteo v. Sandiganbayan, 32 petitioner therein impugned the validity of his arrest on the ground that it was effected not by virtue of a warrant but by mere invitation. We observed therein that the claim was belatedly made, stressed that petitioner should have questioned the validity of his arrest before he entered his plea, and ruled that his failure to do so constituted a waiver of his right against unlawful restraint of liberty. We reiterate herein said ruling. Anyway, even if ANDRES was illegally arrested, it would not affect his culpability since an allegation of a warrantless arrest could not deprive the State of its right to convict the guilty when all the facts on the record pointed to his guilt. 33

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is hereby DISMISSED and the challenged 12 May 1997 decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 19, Malolos, Bulacan, in Criminal Case No. 2683-M-94, finding herein accused-appellant Andres Peñaflorida guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the victim in the sum of P50,000 is hereby AFFIRMED.chanrobles law library : red

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

Puno, Kapunan, Pardo and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Original Record (OR), 132. Per Judge Renato C. Francisco.

2. Id., 2.

3. OR, 9.

4. TSN, 25 January 1995, 1-7.

5. Id.

6. TSN, 25 January 1995, 8-9.

7. Id., 5-6.

8. OR, 5.

9. Id., 142.

10. TSN, 20 May 1996, 5-6.

11. Id.

12. TSN, 28 May 1996, 1-9.

13. TSN, 3 September 1996, 4-6.

14. Rollo, 16.

15. Id., 18-19.

16. Id., 19.

17. Rollo, 41-42.

18. Id., 43.

19. Id., 44.

20. See People v. Gornes, 230 SCRA 270, 275 (1994).

21. People v. Buntan, Sr., 221 SCRA 421, 430 (1993).

22. People v. Landicho, 258 SCRA 1, 37 (1996).

23. See People v. Barlis, 231 SCRA 426, 439 (1994); People v. Pidia, 249 SCRA 687, 703 (1995); People v. Gomez, 251 SCRA 455, 470 (1995); People v. Quijada, 259 SCRA 191, 214 (1996).

24. See People v. Kyamko, 222 SCRA 183, 194 (1993); People v. Abo, 230 SCRA 612, 625 (1994); People v. de Leon, 248 SCRA 609, 623 (1995).

25. See People v. Buka, 205 SCRA 567, 584 (1992); People v. Maqueda, 242 SCRA 565, 592 (1995); People v. Laurente, 255 SCRA 543, 565 (1996); People v. Alshaika, 261 SCRA 637, 646 (1996).

26. See People v. De la Cruz, 207 SCRA 632, 650 (1992); People v. Garcia, 209 SCRA 164, 178 (1992); People v. Tampon, 258 SCRA 115, 132 (1996); People v. Tumaob, Jr., 291 SCRA 133, 138-139 (1998).

27. People v. Tampon, id.; People v. De Manuel, 263 SCRA 49, 58-59 (1996).

28. See People v. Barba, 203 SCRA 436, 458 (1991); People v. Boniao, 217 SCRA 653, 672 (1993); People v. Cordova, 224 SCRA 319, 347-348 (1993); People v. Castillo, 289 SCRA 213, 228 (1998).

29. See People v. Villanueva, 265 SCRA 216, 226 (1996).

30. See People v. Castor, 216 SCRA 410, 421 (1992).

31. 1 Ramon C. Aquino, The Revised Penal Code, 376 (1987 ed.), citing authorities.chanroblesvirtual|awlibrary

32. 263 SCRA 222, 264 (1996).

33. See People v. Briones, 202 SCRA 708, 718-719 (1991); People v. Silan, 254 SCRA 491, 505 (1996). See also De Asis v. Romeo, 41 SCRA 235, 239-240 (1991).chanrobles.com.ph : virtual law library




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  • G.R. No. 135716 September 23, 1998 - FERDINAND TRINIDAD v. COMELEC, ET AL.

  • G.R. Nos. 114299 & 118862 September 24, 1998 - TRADERS ROYAL BANK v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 128874 September 24, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. SAMSON B. BRAGAS

  • G.R. No. 116599 September 27, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. DOMINGO PAGPAGUITAN, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 129304 September 27, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. AVA MA. VICTORIA CARIQUEZ

  • G.R. No. 135691 September 27, 1998 - EMMANUEL SINACA v. MIGUEL MULA, ET AL.

  • G.R. Nos. 105954-55 September 28, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. IRENEO FAJARDO

  • G.R. No. 114323 September 28, 1998 - OIL AND NATURAL GAS COMMISSION v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 126152 September 28, 1998 - PNB v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 128806 September 28, 1998 - KAMS INTERNATIONAL INC, ET AL.. v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 130632 September 28, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. NATY CHUA

  • G.R. No. 131621 September 28, 1998 - LOADSTAR SHIPPING CO. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 132324 September 28, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. NORLITO TAN, and JOSE TAN

  • G.R. No. 136294 September 28, 1998 - MARIA G. BALUYUT, ET AL. v. RODOLFO GUIAO, ET AL.

  • A.C. No. 4017 September 29, 1998 - GATCHALIAN PROMOTIONS TALENTS POOL v. PRIMO R. NALDOZA

  • A.C. No. 5141 September 29, 1998 - PRISCILA L. TOLEDO v. ERLINDA ABALOS

  • A.M. No. CA-99-30 September 29, 1998 - UNITED BF HOMEOWNERS v. ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, ET AL.

  • A.M. No. MTJ-94-904 September 29, 1998 - JOSEPHINE C. MARTINEZ v. CESAR N. ZOLETA

  • G.R. No. 105374 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. MAXIMO (DAGIT) RABANG, JR.

  • G.R. No. 124736 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ROMEO GALLO

  • G.R. No. 125330 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. GODOFREDO TAHOP

  • G.R. No. 128157 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. MANUEL MANAHAN

  • G.R. No. 132878 September 29, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. EDUARDO GUTIERREZ

  • G.R. No. 137793 September 29, 1998 - NILO H. RAYMUNDO v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 139281 September 29, 1998 - ROMUALDO SUAREZ v. ARSENIO SALAZAR

  • A.M. No. MTJ-99-1209 September 30, 1998 - FLAVIANO G. ARQUERO v. TERTULO A. MENDOZA

  • G.R. No. 105327 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. JUANITO QUINAGORAN

  • G.R. No. 108135-36 September 30, 1998 - POTENCIANA M. EVANGELISTA v. PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 111915 September 30, 1998 - HEIRS OF FERNANDO VINZONS v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 113070 September 30, 1998 - PAMPIO A. ABARINTOS, ET AL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 113781 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL v. VERGILIO REYES

  • G.R. No. 120235 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. ALEX DE LOS SANTOS

  • G.R. No. 121324 September 30, 1998 - PEPSI-COLA PRODUCTS PHIL INC. v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 122269 September 30, 1998 - REPUBLIC OF THE PHIL. v. COURT OF APPEALS, Et. Al.

  • G.R. Nos. 127173-74 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. FRENETO CERVETO

  • G.R. No. 127608 September 30, 1998 - GUADALUPE S. REYES v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 128129 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. TUNDAGUI GAYOMMA

  • G.R. No. 128862 September 30, 1998 - ESTRELLA REAL ESTATE CORP. v. COURT OF APPEALS, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 130425 September 30, 1998 - ANTONIO C. CAÑETE JR. v. NLRC, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 131166 September 30, 1998 - CALTEX (PHIL.) v. SULPICIO LINES, ET AL.

  • G.R. No. 132480 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. RANDY RAQUIÑO

  • G.R. No. 135451 September 30, 1998 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. DANILO F. SERRANO, SR.

  • G.R. No. 135996 September 30, 1998 - EMILIANO R. "BOY" CARUNCHO III v. COMELEC, ET AL.