For being at the wrong place at the wrong time, Carlos Reyes, the victim in this case, lost his life. One quiet evening, while relaxing with his friend in front of a store, he was subjected to a treacherous assault by two brothers and their cumpadre. It turned out the three mistakenly bent their terror on him — the one they really planned to kill was his friend.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
The two brothers charged with committing this dastardly act were Rodolfo Hilario y Martinez and Rodrigo Hilario y Martinez. Their cumpadre, however, remains unidentified. Together, they were indicted for the crime of murder, committed as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"That on or about the 30th day of October 1990 in Kalookan City, MM, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring together and mutually helping one another, with deliberate intent to kill, with treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously and maliciously attack, assault, and stab one CARLOS REYES Y LASCANO thereby inflicting upon the latter serious physical injuries which directly caused his death.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
CONTRARY TO LAW." 1
Of the triumvirate, only Rodrigo Hilario was apprehended by the authorities. Consequently, only the criminal action against him proceeded. When arraigned, he entered a plea of not guilty. Trial then ensued.
The prosecution wasted no time in building its case. It first presented an eyewitness to the entire event: Danilo Manzanares, a watch repairman. At the time of the incident, Danilo was residing at 122 L. Lupa St., Caloocan City, where he maintained a small shop. He testified that in the afternoon of October 30, 1990, at about two o’clock, the accused Rodrigo Hilario, together with his brother Rodolfo, and someone who appears to be their cumpadre (whose name he does not know) went to his house. The first two are his uncles, they being the brothers of his mother. The purpose of their visit was to have the bracelet of Rodolfo’s watch restored. While Danilo was busy fixing the bracelet, the three were conversing nearby. He inadvertently heard Rodrigo saying, "Pare, nandyan na ang taong titirahin natin, si Berong." In response, Rodolfo remarked, "Padilim tayo." After 30 minutes, the three left and proceeded to the Barangay Hall which is only two houses away.
At about 8:30 in the evening, Danilo went to Mang Jack’s store, 20 meters away to buy some snacks for his children. There, he saw Berong and the victim Carlos Reyes in front of the store squatting and talking to each other. Both were wearing white shirts. A little later, Berong removed his white shirt. Fate must be smiling on him that night because uncannily, this innocent act would later save his skin at the expense of Carlos.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
At this juncture, Danilo saw Rodrigo, Rodolfo and their cumpadre approaching from the other side of the store approximately two arms length from him. Then he saw Rodrigo handing a bolo to his brother Rodolfo and an ice-pick one foot long to their cumpadre, saying at the same time, "The one in white shirt." In a swift, sudden motion, the cumpadre bluntly stabbed Carlos Reyes on the chest, asking his companions, "Ito ba?" By this time, Rodrigo was six arms length away watching the whole incident. Meanwhile, Rodolfo, still holding the bolo, served as a "back-up", standing near his cumpadre. He also shouted "Walang makiki-alam!" Carlos, wounded and bleeding, fell on his back. After which, the three ran away in the same direction. Danilo was able to clearly see what transpired because the place was well-lighted by electric lights emanating from the store and the lamp post.
Hurriedly, Danilo left the place out of sheer fright. He went back to his house, feeling confused and shocked. Moments later, somebody knocked at his door. It was Greg Reyes, a business associate, and the father of the victim. A loving parent that he was, Greg just could not accept and understand the tragedy that befell his son as he asked: "Why did your uncles do that to my son?" Danilo could only surmise and said, "It was only a case of mistaken identity, they thought it was Berong, they intended to kill Berong." The next day Greg returned to his house and asked the same question. Danilo gave the same response.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
The next few days saw Greg frequenting the house of Danilo. His visits, however, were totally not related to the incident anymore. He would come to discuss their business venture. Still, this aroused the suspicion of the brothers, Hilario who feared that Danilo would blow the whistle on them. He realized the thickening suspicion when one day Rodrigo brusquely warned him, "Huwag kang makikialam, huwag kang tetestigo." He gave the assurance that he would not favor anyone because they are the brothers of his mother. He also told them that Greg’s visits were purely for business. His explanation failed to allay the suspicion of his uncles. On the contrary, it only became more intense. On April 22, 1991, at about 8 o’clock in the evening, Rodrigo waited in ambush and hacked him repeatedly on the head, and left and right arms.
Sensing that the situation was becoming too hot for comfort, Danilo decided to transfer his residence to a far-away place (Balagtas, Bulacan). But he did not permit Rodrigo to avoid his criminal liability. He instituted a case against him for the hacking. Furthermore, he, together with Greg, went to the NBI to file a complaint against Rodrigo and Rodolfo Hilario and their cumpadre for stabbing to death Carlos Reyes.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
The prosecution then offered Virginia Reyes, the mother of the victim. She testified on the expenses they incurred in connection with the burial of Carlos. They paid P10,000.00 to Funeraria Vasquez for the coffin and services, and spent P30,000.00 for the prayers and interment.
Finally, it called the agent-on-the-case NBI Senior Agent Ferdinand Lavin to the stand. The agent testified that he conducted the investigation, took the statement of the complainant and the witnesses, and prepared the investigation report. He also identified the referral letter of the NBI Director addressed to the City Prosecutor recommending the prosecution of the accused for murder.
The defense, for its part, presented a single witness: the accused himself, Rodrigo Hilario. He declared that he is a Barangay Tanod of Barangay 32, Caloocan City. On October 30, 1990, he was assigned on 12-hour duty shift at the Barangay Hall from 6 o’clock in the afternoon up to 6 o’clock in the morning of the following day. He recalled that at about 7 o’clock in the evening, he and the other Tanods responded to a call for assistance from a certain Councilor Tiongson who reported that a suspicious-looking person was in front of his house. When they arrived there, they found no one so they went back to the Hall. A few minutes later, the councilor called them again because this time somebody was making trouble in front of his house. When they arrived, they saw several persons chasing somebody. They deliberately did not intervene as the chase reached Barangay 37, which was already outside their territorial jurisdiction. Instead, they chose to go back to the Hall. At roughly 8:10 in the evening, they received another call from the same Councilor Tiongson who for the third time sought their assistance concerning someone who was creating a scene in front of his home. Upon arriving, they discovered that the person was no longer there. By 2 o’clock in the morning, he, together with five other Tanods, conducted a roving patrol. This lasted until 6 o’clock in the morning.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Rodrigo stated that aside from the reports of Councilor Tiongson, he could not remember any unusual incident which occurred that night. He also never saw Danilo Manzanares the whole evening of October 30. According to him, the testimony of Danilo to the effect that the latter saw him with Rodolfo and his cumpadre, and that he gave them a bolo and an ice pick were pure lies. The reason Danilo might have dragged him in this case was because the former harbored a grudge against him. Rodrigo admitted having a fight with Danilo on April 22, 1991, but disagreed on who started it. Per his account, it was Danilo who treacherously waited and attacked him near the Barangay Hall after he had an argument with the former’s wife. At any rate, the criminal case relating to this matter had already been dismissed.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
In the end, the trial court rendered a judgment 2 convicting the accused. It gave the following sentence:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"When this crime was committed, death penalty was not yet imposed. Republic Act No. 7659 reimposing death penalty took effect only on January 1, 1994.
WHEREFORE, the prosecution having proven the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, the Court finds the accused RODRIGO HILARIO Y MARTINEZ guilty as principal of the crime of murder, qualified by evident premeditation, and there being present the generic aggravating circumstance of treachery without any mitigating circumstance to offset the same, hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, together with all the accessory penalties imposed by law, and to pay 1/3 of the costs. He is further sentenced to pay jointly and severally with his co-accused the amount of P50,000.00 as indemnity for the death of the victim Carlos Reyes, and P30,000.00 for actual funeral expenses, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.
x x x
SO ORDERED." 3
Dissatisfied with the ruling, Rodrigo interposed this appeal. He continues to reiterate his innocence and assails the decision based on the following assigned errors, to wit:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO STAR WITNESS DANILO MANZANARES’ TESTIMONY WHICH WAS OBVIOUSLY FABRICATED AND REHEARSED.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF MURDER DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE STAR WITNESS DANILO MANZANARES TESTIMONY WAS UNCORROBORATED BY THOSE WHO WERE LIKEWISE PRESENT AT THE STORE.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
THE TRIAL COURT FAILED TO CONSIDER THE ALIBI OF THE ACCUSED THAT HE WAS WITH THE ROVING TEAM OF BARANGAY TANODS ON THAT FATEFUL NIGHT DESPITE THE INHERENT WEAKNESSES OF THE TESTIMONY OF THE STAR WITNESS DANILO MANZANARES WHO ADMITTED HOLDING A GRUDGE AGAINST THE ACCUSED." 4
We affirm the conviction.
Murder is committed by any person who shall kill another, provided that the killing was attended by any of the qualifying circumstances mentioned in Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code, and provided further that the killing is not parricide or homicide. The evidence on record reveals that all the three accused, including the appellant, were positively identified by the prosecution witness Danilo Manzanares as the ones who participated in the killing of Carlos Reyes. He could not have been mistaken in ascertaining the identity of the brothers Hilario for the simple reason that they are his uncles. Danilo assured that he could identify the third accused, the cumpadre of the two, if he sees him again.
The evidence also sufficiently demonstrates the existence of conspiracy in the execution of the crime. A conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. Although as a rule, conspiracy is not a crime, the existence of a conspiracy is decisive in determining whether two or more persons who participated in the commission of an offense are liable as co-principals or accomplices or are exempt from criminal liability. If an express or implied conspiracy is proven, then all the conspirators may be regarded as co-principals regardless of the extent of their participation in the execution of the crime. Their liability is collective or joint. 5
The series of acts performed by each one of the accused shows their unity of purpose and common design. As cogently observed and analyzed by the lower court:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"All three accused were present at the scene of the commission of the crime; accused Rodrigo Hilario was the one who furnished the weapons, a bolo and a foot-long ice pick and acted as a look-out; their cumpadre suddenly stabbed Carlos Reyes with the ice pick, simultaneously saying, ‘Ito ba?’, revealing a previous agreement to stab the victim. Rodolfo Hilario, standing one-arm length from the victim, acted as a "back-up" man, and uttered, ‘Walang makikialam!’ After the stabbing, all of them ran away together." 6
Thus, all their acts tend to manifest a common purpose and devise. The familiar rule in conspiracy is that "when two or more persons agree or conspire to commit a crime, each is responsible, when the conspiracy is proven, for all the acts of the others, done in furtherance of the conspiracy. In a conspiracy, every act of the conspirators in furtherance of a common design or purpose, is in contemplation of the law, the act of each one of them." 7 In legal contemplation, the act of one is the act of all. 8 Hence, all the three accused are liable as principals for the death of the victim Carlos Reyes.
The fact that the accused killed a person other than their intended victim is of no moment. According to Art. 4 of the Revised Penal Code, criminal liability is incurred by any person committing a felony although the wrongful act done be different from that which is intended. One who commits an intentional felony is responsible for all the consequences which may naturally or logically result therefrom, whether foreseen or intended or not. 9 The rationale of the rule is found in the doctrine, el que es causa de la causa es causa del mal causado, or he who is the cause of the cause is the cause of the evil caused. 10 The accused performed voluntary acts. Their purpose was to kill. Hence, notwithstanding the mistake in the identity of the victim, the accused are still criminally liable. 11
It is to be noted that the lower court, in finding the appellant guilty of murder, qualified the killing by evident premeditation. Evident premeditation, however, may not properly be taken into account when the person whom the defendant proposed to kill was different from the one who became his victim. 12 When the person decided to kill a different person and premeditated on the killing of the latter, but when he carried out his plan he actually killed another person, it cannot properly be said that he premeditated on the killing of the actual victim. Thus premeditation was not aggravating in the case of People v. Guillen, 13 where the accused had deliberately intended to assassinate former President Manuel Roxas but he killed instead Simeon Varela and wounded others. This doctrinal rule applies here.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Nevertheless, this does not mean that the appellant’s crime will be downgraded to homicide. Despite the absence of evident premeditation, it clearly appears on record that the assault was attended by treachery. There is alevosia when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly to insure its execution without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make. The essence of treachery is the suddenness and unexpectedness of the assault on the part of the person attacked. 14 The manner of attack employed by the appellant together with his co-accused was deliberate and unexpected. It never gave Carlos Reyes, the victim, an opportunity to defend himself or retaliate. In fact, Carlos was sitting when he was stabbed. He was just relaxing in front of a store. So too, the accused purposely sought the cover of darkness (nighttime, which is absorbed by treachery) in finally effecting their plan.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
All told, treachery was sufficiently alleged in the information and was proven in the course of the trial. Hence, this modifying circumstance may be appreciated to qualify the crime to murder.
Before finally disposing this case, we deem it necessary to dispose of arguments creatively crafted and raised by the appellant in support of his assigned errors.
Appellant first questions the credibility of both Danilo and his story. He claims that the star witness took too long to report to the authorities what he had witnessed that tragic night. The delay is compounded by another factor. The day before Danilo executed his sworn statement before the NBI on April 23, 1991, they got involved in a fight in which Danilo suffered injuries. Thus, he submits that the act of the witness in implicating him to this case was moved by a hunger for revenge rather than a thirst for justice.
We are not persuaded. The appellant cannot impugn the testimony of Danilo by capitalizing on his alleged failure to immediately report to the authorities what he had seen that fateful night of October 30, 1990. The rule is well-settled that delay in reporting what a witness knows about the crime does not render his testimony false or incredible for the delay may be explained by the natural reticence of most people and their abhorrence to get involved in a criminal case. 15 The record shows that Danilo provided a plausible explanation why he kept momentarily mum on the incident. According to him, the suspects are his uncles who are the brothers of his mother; plus, he did not want his family to get involved. 16
Appellant also dismisses Danilo’s theory of mistaken identity as hogwash. He contends that he could not have missed their intended target, Berong, as he knows very well his face. Similarly, he was familiar with Carlos.
The argument proceeds from a wrong assumption. It may indeed be true that the appellant is the friend of Berong and Carlos, or at least familiar with how they look like. Lest we forget, however, it is not him, but his cumpadre, who stabbed the victim. The record shows that the two are unknown to his cumpadre, as indicated by the evidence that when the latter inflicted the fatal blow, he had to ask, "Ito ba?" As a matter of fact, when appellant handed the weapon to this assassin he had to instruct him thus: "The one in white shirt." Most probably, the cumpadre is from some place far away from their barangay because it appears that not only does he not know the people of Barangay 32, he is unknown to them too, like to Danilo for instance.
Appellant next puts the prosecution to task for its failure to present other witnesses who could have corroborated the testimony of star witness Danilo. He is particularly puzzled why it never called to the stand Berong and the owner of the store where the incident happened. To him, this amounts to suppression of evidence.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Again, we are not impressed. The prosecution was under no obligation to present Berong, or the storeowner, to confirm and strengthen the testimony of Danilo. We have constantly ruled that the testimony of a single witness if credible would already suffice to sustain a conviction. 17 So too have we held that witnesses are to be weighed and not numbered. 18 This is not after all a criminal action for treason. The non-presentation by the prosecution of certain witnesses is not a valid defense for the accused, neither does it work against the prosecution’s cause. 19 Moreover, the matter as to who to present as witnesses is addressed to the sound discretion of the prosecutor handling the case and the failure to present a witness does not necessarily suggest that said witness will testify adversely against it. 20
On the other hand, if appellant believes that the testimony of Berong, or anybody for that matter, would strengthen his case or weaken that of the prosecution’s, he was free by all means to call them. He could have compelled these people to testify by subpoena. Yet he chose not to, opting instead to wager his suit on his solitary testimony. Unfortunately for him, he made the wrong judgment call.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Lastly, appellant submits that, in light of the foregoing arguments he advanced, his defense of alibi should be sustained. He cites the case of People v. Nino 21 where we held: "The oft-cited truism that alibi is one of the weakest defenses has never been intended to dispel it altogether. To be sure, there is an equally acceptable doctrine which posits that there are instances when it just happens to be the plain and simple truth."cralaw virtua1aw library
The argument deserves scant attention. Appellant’s defense of alibi cannot overcome the evidence on record, especially the categorical and credible testimony of Danilo identifying him as one of the perpetrators of the crime. Basic is the rule that positive identification prevails over alibi. 22
IN VIEW WHEREOF, we find the accused-appellant Rodrigo Hilario y Martinez GUILTY of MURDER qualified by treachery. Accordingly, he is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, together with all the accessory penalties imposed by law. He is further sentenced to pay jointly and severally with his co-accused the amount of P50,000.00 as indemnity for the death of the victim Carlos Reyes, and P30,000.00 for actual funeral expenses, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. Costs against the Accused-Appellant
.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Davide, Jr., C.J.
, Kapunan, Pardo and Ynares-Santiago, JJ.
1. Information; Rollo p. 7.
2. Decision penned by Judge Jaime T. Hamoy, RTC, Branch 130, Caloocan City.
3. Decision (for Accused Rodrigo Hilario), p. 8; Rollo, p. 20.
4. Appellant’s Brief, p. 1; Rollo, p. 73.
5. I Aquino, Revised Penal Code, pp. 484-485 (1987 ed.).
6. Decision, p. 6; Rollo, p. 18.
7. People v. Ipil, 27 Phil. 530 (1914).
8. People v. Remigio, 37 Phil. 599 (1918).
9. I Reyes, The Revised Penal Code 64 (12th ed., 1981).
10. People v. Ural, 56 SCRA 138 (1933).
11. Supra note 9 at 68. See People v. Oanis, 74 Phil. 257 (1943).
12. People v. Mabug-at, 51 Phil. 967 (1926).
13. 85 Phil. 307 (1950).
14. People v. Sumalpong, 284 SCRA 464 (1998).
15. People v. Navarro, 297 SCRA 331 (1998).
16. TSN, April 21, 1993, pp. 34-35.
17. People v. Nicolas, 241 SCRA 67 (1995).
18. People v. Bayray, 241 SCRA 1 (1995).
19. People v. Correa, 285 SCRA 679 (1998).
20. People v. Nicolas, supra note 17.
21. 290 SCRA 155 (1998).
22. People v. Oliver, 303 SCRA 72 (1999).