Petitioner Jose Angeles, Jr. has filed before us a petition for review, assailing the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 07597 dated July 10, 1991, 1 which affirmed with modification the Decision 2 of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 5, dated June 13, 1989, as well as the Resolution of the Court of Appeals 3 dated August 20, 1991, which denied petitioner’s Motion for Reconsideration.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Petitioner, together with Teresita Uy-Abubakar, Florante Sapitula alias "Bong", Dedardo Deles alias "Boy", Antonio Suganob alias "Tony", Andres Tello alias "Boy Tello", and Boy Apostol, were charged with Robbery in an Information which alleged:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
That on or about December 17, 1984, in the City of Davao, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-mentioned accused, armed with a HM revolver cal. 38 and a handgrenade and with intent to gain and by means of force and intimidation, conspiring, confederating together and helping one another wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously took and carried away nine hundred seventy three (973) cartons of assorted products of the Philippine Refining Company worth P384,384.81 belonging to the said Philippine Refining Company, to the damage and prejudice of the said complainant in the amount of P384,384.81.
Contrary to law. 4
Dedardo Deles and Boy Apostol were not arrested and remained at large. The rest of the aforenamed accused were arraigned and, with the exception of Andres Tello, all entered a plea of not guilty. The case then proceeded to trial.
As summed up by respondent Court of Appeals, the facts are as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
It appears from the evidence presented in this case that on December 17, 1984 a Red Ball Express truck of Ansuico, Inc., driven by Gaudencio Juyo was travelling from Davao City on its way to Cotabato. With Juyo in the truck was his helper Antonio Oribado. The truck was loaded with various merchandise consisting of Philippine Refining Company products such as Ovaltine, Sunsilk, Breeze and others, all of which were worth a total of P384,180.46 owned by the said PRC. Somewhere at Sitio Ulas in the district of Talomo, Davao City at about 5:00 A.M. the truck was flagged down by Andres Tello, another driver of the Ansuico, Inc. Because Tello was a co-employee, Juyo stopped the truck. Tello requested that his two (2) alleged cousins who were with him be allowed to hitch a ride to Digos, Davao del Sur. Although it was against company rules, Juyo consented and the two (2) men, who turned out to be Dedardo Deles and Florante Sapitula, rode inside the driver’s compartment with him.
While the truck was somewhere in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur the two (2) men asked the driver to stop the truck because they would urinate. When the truck stopped the men brandished a caliber thirty-eight pistol and a grenade and told the driver Juyo and his helper Oribado that it was a hold up. They said that they were NPAs and that they needed the goods in the mountains. One of the hold-uppers, Deles, drove the truck and they returned to Davao City. However, Juyo took over the driving because Deles was driving dangerously. He and Oribado were warned not to make any false move. Upon arrival in Davao City the truck was parked in front of a house owned by one Cesar Maglalang at Lanzona Subdivision. Two (2) men arrived there, one of whom was Antonio Suganob. The goods were unloaded in the said house at about 10:00 P.M. with the help of Antonio Suganob.
The following morning, at around 3:00 A.M. of December 18, 1984, driver Juyo with helper Oribado and Dedardo Deles drove the truck back to Davao del Sur. At Padada, Deles alighted and told Juyo and Oribado to report the hold-up to the police.
Juyo and Oribado reported the robbery to the Padada Police Station. They were referred to the Digos Police Station which in turn indorsed them to the Philippine Constabulary Barracks at Digos. Since it was already late afternoon, they were told by the PC to return the next day.
Juyo and Oribado were interrogated by PC M/Sgt. Rodolfo Molinos and S/Sgt. Wedemyr Amantillo at Camp Catitipan, Davao City.
After interviewing the two (2) Ansuico employees, the investigators went to the house of Cesar Maglalang where the goods were taken, but the items were no longer in the warehouse.
The PC investigators questioned Andres Tello, who first implicated Florante Sapitula and Antonio Suganob, and later, also Dedardo Deles, Jose Angeles, Jr. and Teresita Abubakar.
M/Sgt. Molinos took the statement of Angeles on January 4, 1985 and of a certain Federito Alvarado on January 14, 1985. The statement of Sapitula was taken by Lt. Claro B. Alaan on January 3, 1985. He also took the statements of Andres Tello and Dedardo Deles on December 30, 1984 and the supplemental statement of Jose Angeles on January 6, 1985. S/Sgt. Jesus Malabasbas took the statements of Gaudencio Juyo and Antonio Oribado and of Antonio Suganob.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
S/Sgt. Rodolfo Ramones, together with five (5) other companions, were sent to the house of Florante Sapitula at Buhangin, Davao City to confiscate the gun allegedly used in the robbery. A gun was surrendered by the wife of Sapitula, while the latter was outside the house. This gun was later identified by Gaudencio Juyo as the one used in the robbery.
Upon request of the prosecution, Andres Tello had been discharged from the Information and was utilized as a state witness. His testimony, added to that of Juyo and Oribado, clinched the case for the prosecution.
From the written statement given by Tello to the PC which he affirmed and his oral testimony before the lower court he pointed to Jose Angeles, Jr. as the brains of the robbery. He stated that he had been a driver of the Red Ball Express since 1982; that Dedardo Deles asked him to come to the house of Jose Angeles, Jr. on December 5, 1984 but he did not go on said date; that at about 1:00 P.M. on December 15, 1984 he was fetched by Deles and they went to the house of Antonio Suganob. From there they proceeded to the house of Angeles at Ecoland Subdivision, Davao City at about 5:00 P.M.; that present at said residence were Suganob, Deles, Angeles, Boy Apostol, a certain Eddie, and Teresita Abubakar; that he was introduced by Deles and Suganob to Jose Angeles, Jr. as the driver of the Ansuico, Inc.; that Angeles told him that he had been planning to stage a hijacking of a Red Ball Express delivery van a long time ago but had difficulty getting in so he had called him (Tello); that he was speechless but Angeles told him that he would not hesitate to order the killing of any one who would back out from the project and said that even his family may be endangered; that with that he nodded in agreement; that Angeles told him to flag down the truck so that his men can ride thereon; and that he would be fetched from his house in the early morning of December 17, 1984 for the purpose.
Tello further stated that they stayed at the house of Angeles until 10:00 P.M. then went to see the house of Maglalang which Angeles was renting and where the loot would be kept; that thereafter they went to a disco house and had a drinking spree but their main topic was still the hi-jacking; that Angeles gave him P500.00 for goodtime purposes; that he was promised an equal share in the loot; and that said loot was taken to JAG Marketing at Uyanguran St., Davao City owned by Angeles.
Some of the goods, valued at P65,551.03, appear to have been recovered as shown in Exhibit "N." The loss suffered by Philippine Refining Company was therefore only P319,629.43 but this was paid to it in full by the trucker Ansuico, Inc. 5
As stated above, the trial court rendered judgment on June 13, 1989 as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
WHEREFORE, the guilt of the accused as principals having been proven beyond reasonable doubt, Accused
Teresita Uy Abubakar, Jose Angeles, Jr., Florante Sapitula and Antonio Suganob are hereby sentenced to be imprisoned for a minimum period of six years, one day to seven years and four months and a maximum period of eight years, eight months and one day to ten years and to pay in solidum ANSUICO INCORPORATED the sum of three hundred eighty four thousand three hundred four pesos and eighty one centavos with legal interest to be computed from December 17, 1984 until fully paid.
SO ORDERED. 6
On July 10, 1991, the Court of Appeals rendered the assailed Decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the trial court is AFFIRMED insofar as it finds the accused Jose Angeles, Jr., Florante Sapitula and Antonio Suganob guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged but the penalty imposed upon them is MODIFIED by sentencing each of them to imprisonment for a minimum of four (4) years of prision correccional to a maximum of eight (8) years of prision mayor and to indemnify the offended party Ansuico, Inc. in the lesser sum of P319,629.43. The Decision is SET ASIDE insofar as it finds the accused-appellant Teresita C. Uy Abubakar guilty as she is hereby acquitted for insufficiency of evidence.
Costs against appellants.
SO ORDERED. 7
Petitioner Angeles filed a motion for reconsideration, which the Court of Appeals denied on August 20, 1991. 8 Hence, the instant petition for review raising the following issues:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Whether or not petitioner Jose Angeles, Jr. may be convicted on the basis solely of the uncorroborated and unsubstantial testimony of the discharged witness Andres Tello.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Whether or not the role of Jose Angeles, Jr. as principal in the alleged conspiracy has been established.
Whether or not the Court of Appeals scrutinized the records of the case and whether or not the guilt of petitioner was proved beyond reasonable doubt. 9
Petitioner first argues that the testimony of state witness Andres Tello, which is uncorroborated and unsubstantiated, is not sufficient to sustain his conviction. We are not impressed. We have consistently ruled that the testimony of a single witness, free from any sign of impropriety or falsehood, is sufficient for conviction, even if uncorroborated. Indeed, the testimony of a single witness is sufficient and needs no corroboration, save only in offenses where the law expressly prescribes a minimum number of witnesses. 10 Otherwise, corroborative evidence is deemed necessary only when there are reasons to warrant the suspicion that the witness falsified the truth or that his observation had been inaccurate. 11 In the case at bar, there is nothing in the records which would indicate that Tello falsified the truth or that his observation was inaccurate.
First, there appears no viable reason why Tello would implicate petitioner as the brains behind the robbery if this were not true. Petitioner has failed to establish that Tello was motivated to falsely testify against him. Absent any clear showing that Tello was actuated by ill-motive and selfish ends, this Court a fortiori finds his narration truthful and unblemished by falsehood. 12 Indeed, it would have been enough for Tello to merely point out to the actual participants in the crime, his co-accused Deles, Sapitula and Suganob, all of whom were identified and pointed out as such by truck driver Juyo and his helper, Oribado. There really was no reason for Tello to falsify the truth and to point to petitioner as the mastermind behind the robbery, if such were not really the case.
Neither can Tello’s testimony be considered inaccurate. Indeed, his testimony clearly shows that he had been employed as a driver of Ansuico, Inc., for two years prior to the time of commission of the crime. His neighbor, Accused
Dedardo Deles, who knew that he was employed with Ansuico, Inc. as driver of the Red Ball Express, which transported the stolen goods, befriended him and talked to him on several occasions for six (6) months. Finally, Deles revealed to him the plot to stage the heist and convinced him to join the conspiracy. In the afternoon of December 15, 1984, he was fetched by Deles and brought to the house of accused Antonio Suganob, and from there they proceeded to petitioner’s house in Ecoland Subdivision, Davao City. Deles and Suganob introduced Tello to petitioner. Petitioner then informed Tello that he had long been wanting to hijack the truck but had difficulty getting in, and that he needed Tello’s participation. Upon hearing this, Tello was, in his own words, speechless. However, he nodded in agreement after petitioner warned him that he would not hesitate to kill anyone who would back out of the project, including their family. After that, they stayed in petitioner’s house for spent around three (3) hours planning the robbery. Petitioner told Tello that he would be fetched in the morning of December 17, 1984, and that he was supposed to flag down the truck so that his men could board it.
Furthermore, Tello testified that, after leaving petitioner’s house at 10:00 o’clock that evening, they all went to Cesar Maglalang’s house in Lanzano Subdivision, which petitioner rented for the purpose of storing the goods after the heist. The group then went to a disco house and had a drinking spree, while talking more about the hijacking. Tello specifically mentioned that petitioner handed to him the sum of P500 00 for him to have a "good time," and that petitioner promised him an equal share in the loot.
The robbery took place as planned. Tello’s narration on this score was unequivocal, forthright and replete with details which, being seals of self-authentication on its credibility, convince us to accord full faith and credit to Tello’s testimony. 13 What is more, Tello’s story as to how the crime was committed was confirmed and corroborated on its material point by witnesses Juyo, Oribado, and his co-accused Sapitula.
Significantly, both the trial court and the Court of Appeals accepted the testimony of state witness Andres Tello as convincing and credible. In not disturbing this finding, we adhere to the time-honored principle that findings of the trial court with respect to the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies are entitled to great respect, and even finality, unless said findings are arbitrary, or facts and circumstances of weight and influence have been overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied by the trial judge which, if considered, would have affected the case. 14
Petitioner argues that it is contrary to human nature for him to have divulged to Tello, whom he had just met, their plan to rob the Red Bull Express truck. This must be brushed aside, however, in view of the convincing explanation that Tello’s cooperation was precisely sought because of his employment as driver of the Red Bull Express. It was, fact, Tello’s role as an insider which petitioner needed to carry out his hatched criminal plan.
Petitioner further argues that his role as principal in the alleged conspiracy has not been established, and that his guilt has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt. These claims are just as tenuous.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
As aptly pointed out in People v. Osmundo Fuertes, Et Al., 15 conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. Contrary to petitioner’s protestation, conspiracy is undoubtedly present in this case. The robbery of the Red Ball Express truck on December 17, 1984 was the result of prior planning. One of the meetings was even held at petitioner’s house, with him clearly orchestrating the crime. Then, too, petitioner cannot insist that his participation in the conspiracy was not established by the evidence. As stated above, Tello’s testimony, free from any ill-motive, directly linked petitioner to the crime as charged.
Direct proof of conspiracy is not required, being rarely found; for criminals do not write down their lawless plans and plots. 16 Instead, the agreement may be deduced from the mode and manner of the commission of the offense; 17 or from the acts of the accused before, during and after the commission of the crime indubitably pointing to and indicating a joint purpose, a concert of action and a community of interest. 18
Even as petitioner did not actually participate in the commission of the crime itself, his participation was, however, convincingly proven by the testimony of Tello that petitioner was the one who discussed and planned the robbery and that the hijacked goods were unloaded in the house that petitioner rented and then later transferred to JAG Marketing, which petitioner owns.
Considering the use of the gun and hand grenade in the commission of the offense, the crime committed was robbery by means of violence against or intimidation of persons which, under Article 294 (5) of the Revised Penal Code, is punishable with prision correccional maximum to prision mayor medium. There being no aggravating or mitigating circumstance, the penalty should be imposed in the medium period, i.e., prision mayor minimum, which has a range of six (6) years and one (1) day to eight (8) years. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, petitioner is entitled to a minimum term to be taken within the penalty next lower in degree to that imposed by the Code, or arresto mayor maximum to prision correccional medium, which has a range of four (4) months and one (1) day to four (4) years and two (2) months. Therefore, the Court of Appeals was correct in imposing on petitioner the indeterminate penalty of four (4) years of prision correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years of prision mayor, as maximum.
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The appealed Decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED in toto.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Davide, Jr., C.J.
, Kapunan and Pardo, JJ.
, is on leave.
1. Penned by Associate Justice Salome A. Montoya, with Associate Justices Fidel P. Purisima and Eduardo R. Bengzon concurring; Rollo, pp. 25-32.
2. Penned by Judge Jesus V. Quitain; Records, pp. 381-417.
3. Rollo, p. 34.
4. Records, p. 1.
5. Op. Cit., note 1, at pp. 28-30.
6. Op. Cit., note 2, at p. 417.
7. Op. Cit., note 1, at p. 32.
8. Op. Cit., note 3.
9. Rollo, p. 12.
10. People v. Pelen, 313 SCRA 683, 692 .
11. People v. Hillado, 307 SCRA 535, 550 .
12. People v. Bariquit, G.R. No. 122733, 2 October 2000.
13. People v. Guarin, 259 SCRA 34, 47 .
14. People v. Rodolfo Orio, Et Al., G.R. No. 128821, 12 April 2000.
15. G.R. No. 95892, 28 February 2000.
16. People v. Pagpaguitan, 315 SCRA 226, 243 .
17. People v. Cawaling, 293 SCRA 267, 306 .
18. People v. Perez, 313 SCRA 544, 561 .