People v. Saldaa : 148518 : April 15, 2004 : Per Curiam : En Banc :
[G.R. NO. 148518 : April
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v.
SALDAA (At Large),
ELMER ESGUERRA (At Large),
FERNANDO MORALES, and ARTURO
FERNANDO MORALES and ARTURO MALIT,
D E C I S I O N
On automatic review is the decision1 dated February 2, 1999 of the Regional Trial Court of San Fernando, Pampanga,
Branch 47, in Criminal Case No. 8371, finding appellants Fernando Morales and
Arturo Malit, and their co-accused Narciso Saldaa and Elmer Esguerra guilty of
the crime of kidnapping for ransom and imposing on them the penalty of death.
The crime was allegedly committed as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
That on or about the 9thday of November, 1994, in the
municipality of Bacolor, province of Pampanga, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and
confederating together and mutually helping one another, did then and there
wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, abduct and kidnap Jefferson C. Tan, Joanna
C. Tan, Jessie Anthony C. Tan, Malou Ocampo and Cesar Quiroz, while the latter
were on board a L-300 van with Plate No. CKW-785 at San Vicente, Bacolor,
Pampanga, for the purpose of extorting ransom money from the parents of the
said victims with threat to kill the said victims if their parents failed to
deliver the ransom money, that said victims were brought and detained in Bataan
until the father of victims, Feliciano Tan, paid and delivered to the aforesaid
accused the amount of
P92,000. 00, Philippine Currency.
All contrary to law.2 cralawred
Upon arraignment, all four accused pleaded not guilty to the
On October 9, 1995,
three (3) of the accused, namely, Narciso Saldaa, Elmer Esguerra and appellant
Fernando Morales, escaped from the Provincial Jail of Pampanga.
However, appellant Morales appeared a month
later and was arrested.
and Elmer Esguerra remained at large.
As to both, the trial proceeded in absentia.3 cralawred
The prosecution presented four witnesses, namely, Jefferson Tan,
Feliciano Tan, Senior Police Officer Antonio Dizon, Assistant Provincial
Prosecutor Roman Razon, and Atty. Eligio Mallari.
JEFFERSON TAN, one of the victims, testified that the kidnapping
happened on November 9, 1994,
around 6:30 a. m.
He was then on his way to DonBoscoAcademyin Bacolor, Pampanga, on board their family L-300 van with plate no. CKW-785.4 With him were his brother, Jessie Anthony, his sister, Joanna, his cousin,
Malou Ocampo, and their driver, Cesar Quiroz.5 Jeffersonnarrated that along the highway in San
Vicente, Bacolor, Pampanga, the vehicle slowed down to steer clear of a damaged
portion of the road.
manlater identified as appellant Arturo Malitpoked a gun at their driver.6 Simultaneously, three other men entered the van. These three were later identified as appellant Fernando Morales,
Elmer Esguerra, and Narciso Saldaa.7 cralawred
While appellant Arturo Malit trained his gun at the driver, Elmer
Esguerra took the drivers seat.
other two malefactors blindfolded the five victims.8 The vehicle then sped off and later stopped for fuel at a gasoline station.9 At that point, one Romeo10 Bautista joined the group.11 After one hour and thirty minutes of driving, they arrived at their
The blindfolds of the
victims were removed, and Narciso Saldaa ushered them into a small house
located in a hilly area.12 cralawred
Sensing that their kidnappers would talk to his father, Jefferson
Tan decided to write a note to his father.13 Romeo Bautista and Narciso Saldaa then left to see his father.
An hour later, three of their
kidnappersappellant Arturo Malit, appellant Fernando Morales, and Elmer
Esguerraushered the five of them back into the vehicle.14 They proceeded to a beach littered with big rocks. Subsequently, two women came and fed them lunch.15 cralawred
At 7:30 p. m.,
and Bautista arrived at the beach and took the victims to a small house in
Orani, Bataan, where they spent the night.16 They left Orani around 4:00 a. m. the
following day and proceeded to an uninhabited place full of trees and grass.17 cralawred
Jeffersonfurther testified that he
requested Bautista to allow him to speak with his father and so later that
morning, Bautista and Saldaa escorted him to Balanga, Bataan,
to a PLDT office.18 He told his father that their abductors planned to send him home to get the
P2 million ransom.19 His father then negotiated with Romeo Bautista who agreed to reduce the ransom
to P1. 5 million.20 Subsequently, Bautista and Saldaa took Jeffersonto
Guagua, Pampanga, aboard a minibus.21 Bautista alighted at Cleluz, Lubao, while Saldaa remained with him until they
reached Sta. Cruz, Lubao.
At Sta. Cruz,
Saldaa transferred him onto a jeepney going to the town proper of Guagua.22 Before disembarking at San Pabloin
Guagua, Saldaa instructed Jeffersonto bring the ransom
to the St. Peter and PaulSnackCenterat 1:00 p. m. later that day.23 cralawred
According to Jefferson, he arrived home
about 10:30 a. m. and lost no time
relaying to his father, Feliciano Tan, and the police the directives the
kidnappers gave him.24 Upon the advice of the police, however, his father no longer allowed him leave
to deliver the ransom money.25 Later, around 3:00 p. m.,
kidnappers called and demanded an explanation from Feliciano Tan why the money
was not delivered.26 He heard his father request for a lower ransom. The amount finally agreed upon was only
FELICIANO TAN, the father of the victims Jessie, Joanna, and
Jefferson, testified that on November
9, 1994while he was tending to their grocery store at Sto. Nio,
Guagua, Pampanga, an unknown person handed to him a handwritten letter from Jefferson.28 The letter informed him that his children had been kidnapped.
He immediately called his wife, Nenita
Co-Tan, and a family friend, Dr. Ernesto Santos, and all three of them went to CampCrameto report the incident.29 Colonel Asel Tor was assigned by the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC)
to handle the case.
Col. Tor then
dispatched a unit headed by Maj. Rey Aquino to investigate.30 cralawred
At 8:05the next
morning, Feliciano received a long distance call from Jeffersonin Bataan.31 Jeffersonsaid that the kidnappers planned to use him to
get the ransom money.32 Feliciano added that he talked with one of the kidnappers to negotiate a lower
ransom.33 At 10:00 a. m. of November
10, 1994, Jeffersonarrived and narrated
their ordeal.34 cralawred
Since Feliciano could not afford the ransom demanded, he did not
let Jeffersongo anymore.35 At 3:00 p. m. on November
10, 1994, the kidnappers called asking for an explanation why Jeffersonwas not at the pickup site.
explained that Jeffersonwas in shock and could not
When asked about the ransom
money, he told the caller that he could only give
agreed.36 He was then instructed to bring the ransom to Cleluz, Sta. Cruz, Lubao, Pampanga,
at 7:00 p. m. of the same day.37 cralawred
Later, their driver, Cesar Quiroz, arrived and relayed new
instructions from the kidnappers that the meeting was no longer going to be at
Cleluz but at the bridgeof Sta.
Cruz, Lubao.38 According to Feliciano, they proceeded to Sta. Cruz as instructed, arriving
thirty minutes early.39 He asked Cesar to look for the kidnappers.
A few minutes later, Cesar returned to tell him to proceed to Gumi,
Lubao, which was on the other side of the bridge.40 There, appellant Malit boarded the vehicle followed by appellant Morales.41 The two told him that his children were in Gumi, about a kilometer away.
When they reached Gumi, Malit asked for the
Before showing the money,
however, Feliciano asked about the whereabouts of his children.
Appellant Malit replied they were inside the
L-300 van parked in front of them.42 cralawred
The exchange took place and Elmer Esguerra handed him the keys to
the L-300 van.43 When Feliciano got home, he called Maj. Rey Aquino of the PACC and told him
that the children were already safe.44 After that, he reported the incident to the police authorities in Guagua who
took his sworn statement.45 cralawred
SPO4 ANTONIO DIZON, PNP Provincial Command, Brgy. Sto. Nio, San
Fernando, Pampanga, testified that at 10:00
a. m. of November 18, 1994,
he investigated the kidnapping for ransom of Jefferson C. Tan, Joanna C. Tan,
Jessie Anthony C. Tan, Malou Ocampo, and Cesar Quiroz.46 During said investigation, Narciso Saldaa, one of the suspects in the case,
admitted participation in the kidnapping and revealed the identities of his
cohorts.47 SPO4 Dizon averred that because there was no available lawyer from the Public
Attorneys Office at the time, he requested a certain Atty. Eligio Mallari, who
was then following up on a case at the office, to assist Narciso Saldaa.48 Saldaas sister-in-law was also present.49 After Saldaa signed the sworn statement, it was sworn and subscribed to before
Asst. Provincial Prosecutor Roman Razon.50 cralawred
ASST. PROVINCIAL PROSECUTOR ROMAN S. RAZON testified that he was
with SPO4 Dizon when Narciso Saldaas confession was taken and that he
apprised Saldaa of the consequences of his confession.51 After Saldaa admitted the signature in the confession as his own and that it
was signed with the assistance of Atty. Eligio Mallari, he administered the
oath and affixed his signature thereon as administering officer.52 cralawred
ATTY. ELIGIO P. MALLARI, a practicing lawyer who later became a
Commissioner of Human Rights, testified that in the morning of November 18,
1994, while he was in the PNP Investigation Unit office located at Capitol
Compound, San Fernando, Pampanga, following up a personal case, Sgt. Antonio
Dizon approached him and informed him that Narciso Saldaa, a suspect in a
kidnapping case, wanted the assistance of counsel.53 He requested an opportunity to confer with Saldaa, and after hearing that
Saldaa wanted his assistance during the investigation, he advised Saldaa of
his constitutional rights in the Tagalog dialect.54 He also testified that after he signed under the notation Kaantabay ni
or Assisted by, they went to the office of Assistant Provincial Prosecutor
Roman Razon.55 cralawred
Appellant FERNANDO MORALES testified for the defense.
He denied under oath that he willingly
participated in the kidnapping.
interposed the defense of having acted under the impulse of an uncontrollable
He averred that a day before the
incident, his brother-in-law, Elmer Esguerra, offered to help him secure a
construction job at Floridablanca with a daily wage of
P150. 00.56 He and Elmer Esguerra planned to go together to ask permission from the
contractor to start working.
agreed to meet at 6:00 a. m. on November
9, 1994, at Plaza Guagua, Pampanga.57 cralawred
At the appointed time and place, Elmer Esguerra arrived with
another person, whom appellant Morales later came to know as Arturo Malit, now
his co-appellant.58 They waited some more until two (2) more persons arrived.
Appellant Morales identified these two as
Narciso Saldaa and Romeo Bautista.59 Shortly afterwards, they all took a jeepney to San Vicente, Bacolor,
When they got there, Saldaa
ordered the driver to stop.
then told appellants Morales and Malit to alight and wait at the corner of the
street for the contractor.60 cralawred
A few minutes later, Narciso Saldaa flagged an L-300 van and
poked a gun at its driver.61 He and appellant Malit got scared so they tried to walk away but they didnt
get very far because Elmer Esguerra, Romeo Bautista, and Narciso Saldaa, after
taking over said vehicle, chased them.62 Bautista threatened to shoot them both if they didnt board the vehicle, so
they did.63 cralawred
On the way to Mariveles, Bataan, according
to Morales, they pleaded to be released because they did not want any
involvement with the crime.
Saldaa and his companions responded with more threats.64 cralawred
They stayed in Mariveles for an hour and a half before proceeding
to Orani, Bataan, where they spent the night in a house
belonging to Saldaas brother.65 According to appellant Morales, both he and appellant Malit were allowed to
sleep in the same room as the children and the driver.66 He added that he and Malit cooked food for and attended to the needs of the
children.67 The next morning, they left for Lubao, Pampanga. In the afternoon of November
10, 1994, he and Malit alighted at Lubao because Narciso Saldaa and
Romeo Bautista told them to go home.68 cralawred
Appellant Morales stated that prior to November
8, 1994, he did not know his co-accused Arturo Malit, Narciso
Saldaa, and Romeo Bautista.69 Neither did he know Feliciano Tan or any of his children before the incident.70 He testified to knowing Elmer Esguerra since the latter is his brother-in-law.71 cralawred
On cross-examination, appellant Morales declared that on November
22, 1994, he surrendered to the police after his parents came to
inform him that the police were looking for him.72 Later, he learned that Romeo Bautista was killed in an encounter with PACC
Appellant ARTURO MALIT testified also for the defense.
He interposed the defense of uncontrollable
fear of an equal or greater injury.
testified that on November 8, 1994,
Romeo Bautista went to his house and invited him to work in a construction job
the next day in Floridablanca, Pampanga.
Having known Romeo Bautista for almost a month since they had occasion
to work together on a construction job at his sisters house in Sta. Cruz,
Lubao, Pampanga, he accepted the offer.
At 5:00 a. m. the next day, both
of them went to Guagua, Pampanga, to fetch some more companions.73 cralawred
At Guagua, they met three persons whom he came to know as Elmer
Esguerra, Narciso Saldaa, and appellant Fernando Morales.74 They proceeded to a waiting shed near Cabalantian supposedly to wait for their
additional companions.75 Thirty (30) minutes had barely gone by when Narciso Saldaa then flagged down a
passing L-300 van and poked a gun at its driver.76 That caused him and Morales to get so scared that they started walking
Hardly reaching a distance of
twenty (20) meters, they were noticed by Saldaa, Esguerra and Bautista.
The three chased them by using the van.
Bautista then forced both of them into the
van at gunpoint.77 cralawred
According to appellant Malit, when he saw that the children were
scared, he talked to them and asked them to pray.78 He did not try to stop or tell his companions not to pursue their nefarious
plan because he could not overcome his fear brought by the threats earlier made
on him by Esguerra, Saldaa, and Bautista.79 cralawred
Appellant Malit further testified that they were transported to
Mariveles, Bataan, where they had lunch in a small
house.80 Later, they were taken to Orani, Bataan, to a house
owned by Saldaas in-laws arriving there early in the evening of that same
day.81 He tried to escape, but he saw Saldaa and Bautista posted at the door.82 He did not talk to any of the three who abducted them because he was mad at
them.83 He also did nothing to tell Saldaas in-laws that he was not a willing
participant in the kidnapping.84 But when he heard Saldaa say something about killing the driver and one of the
children, he interceded and pleaded with Bautista not to proceed with the
Appellant Malit also testified that in the afternoon of the
following day, Saldaa and Bautista brought him and appellant Morales back to
Lubao, Pampanga, where they were allowed to alight at Sta. Cruz and go home.86 Then, Saldaa threatened to kill him if he reported the incident to the police.87 Since then, he had seen neither appellant Morales nor Romeo Bautista.
Appellant Malit asserted that he was not with the group that went
back to Lubao to receive the ransom money from Mr. Tan.88 He denied that he knew Jefferson or his father, Feliciano Tan, before November
9, 1994.89 He claimed that the only reason he and Morales were implicated in the
kidnapping was because Bautista brought him along.90 He also denied poking a gun at Cesar Quiroz, insisting that it was Saldaa who
On cross-examination, appellant Malit reiterated that prior to
November 9, 1994 he did not know Elmer Esguerra, Fernando Morales, or Narciso
On February 2, 1999,
the trial court rendered its decision, disposing as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
WHEREFORE, and in the light of all the foregoing discussions, the
Court renders judgment finding the accused Narciso Saldaa, Elmer Esguerra,
Arturo Malit and Fernando Morales guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime
charged and imposes upon the aforenamed accused the penalty of DEATH.
The said accused are likewise ordered to
indemnify the complainant the amount of
P92,000. 00, which represents the
ransom money the latter parted with.
other civil indemnification may be made as no other evidence on this aspect was
SO ORDERED.93 cralawred
On February 17, 1999,
appellant Malit filed a motion for reconsideration and new trial.94 Appellant Malit contended that the trial courts decision did not clearly and
distinctly state the facts and the law upon which it is based, and that the
trial court overlooked facts and circumstances which if considered would alter
In his supplemental motion
for new trial, appellant Malit further sought to introduce Cesar Quirozs
On July 20, 1999,
the trial court denied the motion.95 The trial court ruled that appellant Malits motion was simply asking the trial
court to give a second look on the evidence it has passed upon and clearly
contained in its decision.
found that the grounds invoked do not justify a new trial as it did not require
the presentation of newly discovered evidence.
Before this Court for automatic review of the death sentence
imposed on each of them, appellants Arturo Malit and Fernando Morales filed
Appellant Malit submits the following assignment of errors:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
I. THE HONORABLE COURT A
QUO ABUSED ITS POWER AND DISCRETION WHEN IT TOTALLY DISREGARDED THE TESTIMONY
OF ARTURO MALIT WHICH WAS NOT REBUTTED BY THE PROSECUTION.
II. THE HONORABLE COURT A
QUO ABUSED ITS POWER AND DISCRETION WHEN IT DEPRIVED ACCUSED ARTURO MALIT THE
RIGHT TO A NEW TRIAL.
III. THE HONORABLE COURT A
QUO SHOULD NOT HAVE GIVEN WEIGHT TO THE EXTRAJUDICIAL CONFESSION OF NARCISO
SALDAA SINCE IT VIOLATED THE BASIC CONSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENT OF THE RIGHT TO
COUNSEL OF CHOICE.
PROSECUTION DID NOT PERFORM ITS DUTY FAIRLY AND IMPARTIALLY BY SUPPRESSING
IMPORTANT AND VITAL EVIDENCE AND TESTIMONY OF WITNESSES IN ORDER TO ATTAIN A
FAIR TRIAL AND DISPENSATION OF JUSTICE.96 cralawred
Appellant Fernando Morales assigns two errors, contending that
the trial court erred
FAILING TO APPRECIATE THE EXEMPTING CIRCUMSTANCES OF IRRESISTIBLE FORCE AND/OR
UNCONTROLLABLE FEAR OF AN EQUAL OR GREATER INJURY.
II. IN CONVICTING THE
ACCUSED-APPELLANTS WHEN CONSPIRACY WAS NOT PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.97 cralawred
Briefly put, in our view, the main issues for resolution are (1)
whether the trial court erred in not appreciating in appellants favor the
defense of uncontrollable fear of an equal or greater injury; (2) whether
conspiracy was adequately proven; and (3) whether appellants guilt has been
established beyond reasonable doubt.
Appellant Arturo Malit contends that the trial court erred in
giving weight and value to the testimonies of prosecution witnesses
particularly Jefferson Tan and his father, Feliciano Tan.
He insists that the evidence sufficiently
proves that he was merely forced to join the group at gunpoint.
He also contends that the trial court committed a grave error in
relying on the extrajudicial confession of Narciso Saldaa to prove
According to him, the
testimonies of Atty. Eligio Mallari, the counsel who assisted Saldaa, and
Asst. Provincial Prosecutor Roman Razon, before whom the extrajudicial
confession was acknowledged, reveal that at no time was Narciso Saldaa
informed of his constitutional right to counsel of choice.
Therefore, the confession was inadmissible
Appellant Fernando Morales similarly maintains that he acted due
to an uncontrollable fear of an equal or greater injury.
He argues that Romeo Bautistas threat
against him and appellant Malit constituted a clear and imminent danger to
their lives and instilled fear in them which made them incapable of acting with
deliberate or criminal intent.
fear existed even at the time they received the ransom from Feliciano Tan
because at that time, accused Narciso Saldaa, Elmer Esguerra, and Romeo
Bautista were only one (1) kilometer away.
Had he not joined the group that met Feliciano Tan to get the ransom
money as instructed, or had anything gone wrong at that time, their lives or
the lives of their families would have been endangered.
In addition, appellant Morales submits that conspiracy has not
been adequately proven.
Saldaas confession, not having been identified in open court, is inadmissible
The testimonies of
Jefferson Tan and his father, Feliciano Tan, likewise do not prove
These two prosecution
witnesses did not know that he and appellant Malit were subjected to
uncontrollable fear by Saldaa, Esguerra and Bautista.
Appellants pleas are without sufficient merit.
We find no reason to reverse the trial
courts judgment of conviction.
thorough review of the evidence presented in this case leads to no other
conclusion than that the crime of kidnapping for ransom as defined and
penalized in Article 26798 of the Revised Penal Code has been committed beyond reasonable doubt against
the victims Jefferson C. Tan, Jessie C. Tan, Joanna C. Tan, Malou Ocampo, and
To begin with, we are not persuaded to overturn the sworn
statement of accused Narciso Saldaa, who admitted his participation in the
kidnapping of the victims.
Extrajudicial confessions are presumed to be voluntary, and, in the
absence of conclusive evidence showing that the declarants consent in
executing the same has been vitiated, the confession will be sustained.99 The fact that it was the investigating officer, SPO4 Antonio Dizon, who
requested Atty. Eligio Mallari to assist Saldaa does not cast doubt on Atty.
Mallaris impartiality during the custodial investigation.
Since there was no available lawyer from the
Public Attorneys Office and Saldaa had expressed his inability to procure the
services of a lawyer, it was incumbent upon the government, particularly the
investigating officer, to provide Saldaa with a lawyer.
Moreover, appellants do not cite bias or
incompetence on the part of Atty. Mallari to assist as counsel for the accused
In fact, it clearly appears
that Atty. Mallari duly performed his duty to advise Saldaa on his
constitutional rights to silence and to counsel. But Saldaa insisted on making
the extrajudicial confession in the presence of his sister-in-law,
His conviction is in
As for accused Elmer Esguerra, we find that the testimonies of
prosecution witnesses Jefferson Tan and Feliciano Tan on his criminal
participation in the kidnapping were fully corroborated by the testimonies of
appellants Malit and Morales.
no doubt, in our mind, as to his culpability for the crime charged.
As to herein appellants Morales and Malit, we find here a fit
occasion to reiterate our ruling in the case of People v. Del Rosario.100 Under Article 12 of the Revised Penal Code,101 a
person is exempt from criminal liability if he acts under the compulsion of an
irresistible force, or under the impulse of an uncontrollable fear of equal or
greater injury, because such person does not act with freedom.102 In Del Rosario,103 however, we held that for such defense to prosper the duress, force, fear or
intimidation must be present, imminent
and impending, and of such nature as to induce a well-grounded apprehension
of death or serious bodily harm if the act be done. A threat of future injury is not enough.104 cralawred
In this case, the evidence on record shows that at the time the
ransom money was to be delivered, appellants Arturo Malit and Fernando Morales,
unaccompanied by any of the other accused, entered the van wherein Feliciano
At that time Narciso Saldaa,
Elmer Esguerra and Romeo Bautista were waiting for both appellants from a
distance of about one (1) kilometer.
105 By not availing of this chance to escape,
appellants allegation of fear or duress becomes untenable.106 We have held that in order that the circumstance of uncontrollable fear may
apply, it is necessary that the compulsion be of such a character as to leave
no opportunity to escape or self-defense in equal combat.107 Moreover, the reason for their entry to the van, where the father of the
victims was, could be taken as their way of keeping Feliciano Tan under further
surveillance at a most critical time.
Appellant Morales contention that their families were similarly
threatened finds no support in the evidence.
The records are bereft of any showing that such threats to appellants
families were made at all.
We have held
in People v. Borja108 that duress as a valid defense should not be speculative or remote.
Even granting arguendo that Saldaa,
Bautista, and Esguerra threatened to harm appellants families to coerce
appellants to receive the ransom money at Gumi, Lubao, such threats were not of
such imminence as to preclude any chance of escape. In fact, as already discussed, appellants had a real chance to
escape when they went to Felicianos van.
Under the circumstances, even if true, the fear that appellants
allegedly suffered would not suffice to exempt them from incurring criminal
Moreover, kidnap victim Jefferson Tan categorically testified
that each of the kidnappers acted of his own accord and that nobody commanded
anyone.109 According to Jefferson, while appellant Malit trained
the gun on driver Cesar Quiroz, appellant Morales opened the right-side front
door of the van at the same time that accused Elmer Esguerra took the wheel.110 The trial court found Jeffersons testimony worthy of
It disbelieved appellants
attempts, while on the witness stand, to put all the blame on co-accused
Narciso Saldaa and Elmer Esguerra who, up to now, remain at large.
Based on the evidence at hand, we find no sufficient reason to
disturb the trial courts assessment of the defense presented by
The crime of kidnapping is
not committed on impulse.
meticulous planning to determine who would be the prospective victim or
Its execution needs precise
timing and coordination among the malefactors.
It is improbable that a group of kidnappers would risk the success of
their well-planned criminal scheme by involving unwilling persons, much less
strangers, who could abort the kidnapping by refusing to cooperate in its
execution.111 Worse, such unwilling companions could easily expose their plan to the authorities
and subsequently even testify against them in court. Thus, we find the defense claimed by appellants neither logical
nor satisfactory, much less consistent with human experience and knowledge.
For this reason, we also agree that
appellants version of the facts is unworthy of credence, in the light of
candid testimonies given by prosecution witnesses.
Moreover, the assessment of the credibility of witnesses and
their testimonies is a matter best undertaken by the trial court, who had a
unique opportunity to observe the witnesses firsthand and to note their
demeanor, conduct and attitude.112 Findings of the trial court on such matters are binding and conclusive on the
appellate court, unless some facts or circumstances of weight and substance
have been overlooked, misapprehended, or misinterpreted.113 As reiterated in numerous cases, a witness
who testifies in a clear, positive, and convincing manner and remains
consistent on cross-examination is a credible witness.114 This is especially so in this case, since prosecution witnesses Jefferson Tan
and Feliciano Tan were not shown to have any ill motive to testify against
When there is no
evidence to indicate that the witness for the prosecution was moved by improper
motive, the presumption is that such motive was absent, and that his testimony
is entitled to full faith and credit.115 cralawred
Appellant Arturo Malits insistence that the trial courts
appreciation of the testimonies by prosecution witnesses was faulty deserves
He failed to
specify any reason why the testimonies of prosecution witnesses are not
entitled to full faith and credit.
Neither was it shown that their testimonies materially contradict each
other, or that their testimonies were unbelievable and would not conform to
Malits bare assertions, we find Jefferson Tans testimony on the kidnapping
straightforward and consistent even on cross-examination.
In contrast, appellants testimonies are
Thus, on one hand,
appellant Malit testified that their alleged captors, their own co-accused, had
released him and appellant Morales in Lubao, Pampanga.
On the other hand, appellant Morales
declared in his brief that both of them were present in the van with Feliciano
Tan to receive the ransom.
the manner by which the offense was executed and the ransom collected, we
entertain no doubt that appellants were willing participants in the kidnapping
of Florencio Tans children.
Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement
concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it.116 Where all the accused acted in concert at the time of the commission of the
offense, and it is shown by such acts that they had the same purpose or common
design and were united in its execution, conspiracy is sufficiently
established.117 It must be shown that all participants performed specific acts with such
closeness and coordination as to indicate a common purpose or design to commit
the felony.118 cralawred
In the present case, the evidence shows that all the accused
waited near a damaged portion of the highway in San Vicente, Bacolor,
Said spot was chosen
deliberately because the van in which they expected the victims to be would
logically slow down to avoid the damaged part of the road.
Appellant Arturo Malit poked a gun at the
driver to stop the vehicle and enable appellant Fernando Morales and their
co-accused, Elmer Esguerra and Narciso Saldaa, to board the vehicle.119 While appellant Malit had his gun still trained on the driver, Esguerra took
over the wheel while the others including appellant Fernando Morales
blindfolded the occupants of the van.
When Romeo Bautista and Narciso Saldaa accompanied Jefferson Tan
to Balanga, Bataan, to arrange for the delivery of the
ransom, appellants Arturo Malit and Fernando Morales with their co-accused
Elmer Esguerra, guarded the victims.
Appellants attended to the needs of the victims.
At the bridge in Sta. Cruz, Lubao,
appellants gave Feliciano Tan additional instructions to proceed to Gumi where
Elmer Esguerra waited with the children.
There, appellant Malit received the ransom and Esguerra handed the keys
to the van where the children were.
These acts point to a close coordination indicating a common purpose or
design to commit the felony of kidnapping for ransom. The circumstances under which appellants Malit and Morales
participated in the commission of the kidnapping for ransom would not justify
in any way their belated claim that they acted under an uncontrollable fear of
being killed by the other kidnappers.
Rather, these circumstances establish the fact that appellants
consciously concurred with the acts of the other malefactors to kidnap the
children of Feliciano Tan.
Appellant Malit stresses that he did not try to escape from jail
during the height of the lahar flow in Pampanga on October
This is proof,
according to him, that he was innocent of the crime charged.120 But this argument is untenable, an obvious non-sequitur.
It is true that flight has been held to
be an admission of guilt yet it is also well settled that non-flight is not
proof, much less conclusive proof, of innocence.121 cralawred
Appellant Malit also faults the prosecution for not presenting
driver Cesar Quirozs affidavit, which fails to name him (appellant Malit) as
one of the abductors.122 Similarly, he assails the trial courts order denying his motion for new trial
based on newly discovered evidence.
As held by the trial court, however, appellant Malits
contentions are unfounded.
of presentation of witnesses by the prosecution is not for appellant or even
the trial court to decide.123 Section 5,124 Rule 110 of the Rules of Court expressly vests in the prosecutor the direction
and control over the prosecution of a case.
The determination of which evidence to present rests upon him.
As the prosecution had other witnesses who
could sufficiently prove the kidnapping for ransom, it could dispense with the
evidence to be provided by Cesar Quiroz.
Appellant Malits insistence that the trial court erroneously
denied him his right to new trial to present the testimony of Cesar Quiroz is
likewise without merit.
A motion for
new trial based on newly discovered evidence may only be granted if the
(a) the evidence is
discovered after trial; (b) such evidence could not have been discovered and
produced at the trial even with the exercise of reasonable diligence; and (c)
the evidence is material, not merely cumulative, corroborative, or impeaching
and of such weight that, if admitted, could probably change the judgment.125 cralawred
In this case, the records show that even before the trial, the Sinumpaang Salaysay of Cesar Quiroz
dated November 18, 1994 was already available to appellant Malit.
In fact, during the inquest investigation,
appellant Malit opted for a preliminary investigation.
As early as that stage, Cesar Quiroz as well
as his salaysay was already available and by reasonable diligence could
have been obtained, discovered, and produced at the trial.
The records are bereft of any showing that
appellant Malit exerted efforts to secure the attendance of Cesar Quiroz for
the purpose of using him as defense witness.
For this Court to
a motion for new trial on grounds other than those provided in Section 2,126 Rule 121 of the Rules of Court,127 the movant must cite peculiar circumstances obtaining in the case sufficient to
warrant a new trial, if only to give the accused an opportunity to establish
his innocence of the crime charged.
Appellant Malit, however, does not cite any exceptional
In any case, we
scrutinized the contents of Quirozs affidavit, but nowhere does it
categorically declare that appellant Malit did not participate in the
commission of the crime.
circumstances, the trial court properly denied his motion for new trial.
The elements of the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal
detention are the following:
accused is a private individual; (b) the accused kidnaps or detains another, or
in any manner deprives the latter of his liberty; (c) the act of detention or
kidnapping is illegal; and (d) in the commission of the offense, any of the
four circumstances mentioned in Article 267128 of the Revised Penal Code are present.
The imposition of the death penalty is mandatory if the kidnapping was
committed for the purpose of extorting ransom.
In the instant case, appellants cannot escape the penalty of death,
inasmuch as it was sufficiently alleged and indubitably proven that the kidnapping
had been committed for the purpose of extorting ransom.129 cralawred
Three (3) members of this Court, although maintaining their
adherence to the separate opinion expressed in People v. Echegaray, G. R.
No. 117472, February 7, 1997, 267 SCRA 682, that R. A. 7659, insofar as it
prescribes the penalty of death is unconstitutional, nevertheless submit to the
ruling of the majority that the law is constitutional, and that the death
penalty should accordingly be imposed.
As to the award of damages, aside from the
actual damages which represent the amount of the ransom money Feliciano Tan
paid to appellants and their cohorts, exemplary damages in the amount of P25,000
should be paid by the appellants and their co-accused to the victims, by way of
public example and to serve as a deterrent against malefactors who prey on
children and other defenseless victims.
Decision dated February 2, 1999, of the Regional Trial Court of San Fernando,
Pampanga, Branch 47, in Criminal Case No. 8371, finding accused NARCISO SALDAA
and ELMER ESGUERRA and appellants FERNANDO MORALES and ARTURO MALIT GUILTY
beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of kidnapping for ransom and sentencing
each of them to death is hereby AFFIRMED.
They are likewise ordered to pay, jointly and severally, actual damages
in the amount of
P92,000. 00 representing the amount of ransom paid by
the victims father, as well as the sum of P25,000. 00 as exemplary
Let alias warrants issue for the immediate arrest by the NBI and
the PNP of accused Narciso Saldaa and Elmer Esguerra, now at large.
In accordance with Section 25 of Republic Act No. 7659 amending
Section 83 of the Revised Penal Code, let the records of this case be forthwith
forwarded, upon finality of this decision, to the Office of the President for
the possible exercise of the pardoning power.
C.J., Puno, Panganiban, Quisumbing,
Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona,
Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr.,
Azcuna, and TINGA, JJ., concur.
Vitug, J., on official leave.
TSN, 17 February 1995, pp.
. at 7; TSN, 13 March 1995,
TSN, 17 February 1995, pp.
Sometimes referred to as Romy or Ramon in the Records.
February 1995, pp. 15 & 18.
TSN, 1 March 1995, p. 5.
Exhibit B, B-2, Records, pp. 82, 84; TSN, 28
March 1995, pp. 4, 7-8.
TSN, 24 August 1995, pp.
TSN, 16 January 1997, p. 7.
TSN, 3 February 1995, pp.
. at 38; TSN, 21 March 1995,
TSN, 21 March 1995, p. 5.
. at 8; Exhibit A, A-5, Records, p. 78.
TSN, 21 October 1997, pp.
TSN, 6 November 1997, pp. 10-12.
TSN, 21 October 1997, pp.
TSN, 6 November 1997, pp.
TSN, 9 December 1997, pp.
TSN, 22 May 1997, pp. 9-15;
TSN, 3 July 1997, pp. 3-5.
TSN, 22 May 1997, pp.
. at 20-23; TSN, 3 July 1997,
TSN, 3 July 1997, p. 22.
TSN, 22 May 1997, p. 25;
TSN, 3 July 1997, pp. 32-34.
TSN, 3 July 1997, pp. 28,
TSN, 22 May 1997, pp.
. at 32-33; TSN, 7 August 1997,
TSN, 7 August 1997, p. 24.
TSN, 22 May 1997, pp.
TSN, 7 August 1997, p. 17.
TSN, 22 May 1997, p. 40.
ART. 267. Kidnapping and serious illegal
Any private individual who shall kidnap or detain another, or in
any other manner deprive him of his liberty, shall suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua
1. If the
kidnapping or detention shall have lasted more than three days.
2. If it
shall have been committed simulating public authority.
3. If any serious
physical injuries shall have been inflicted upon the person kidnapped or
detained, or if threats to kill him shall have been made.
4. If the
person kidnapped or detained shall be a minor, except when the accused is any
of the parents, female or a public officer.
penalty shall be death where the kidnapping or detention was committed for the
purpose of extorting ransom from the victim or any other person, even if none
of the circumstances above-mentioned were present in the commission of the
the victim is killed or dies as a consequence of the detention or is raped, or
is subjected to torture or dehumanizing acts, the maximum penalty shall be
(As amended by R. A. No. 7659. )
Del Rosario, 365
Phil. 292 (1999).
ART. 12. Circumstances which exempt from
. The following are exempt from criminal liability:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
An imbecile or an
insane person, unless the latter has acted during a lucid interval.
When the imbecile or an insane
person has committed an act which the law defines as a felony (delito),
the court shall order his confinement in one of the hospitals or asylums
established for persons thus afflicted, which he shall not be permitted to
leave without first obtaining the permission of the same court.
A person under
nine years of age.
A person over
nine years of age and under fifteen, unless he has acted with discernment, in which
case, such minor shall be proceeded against in accordance with the provisions
of Article 80 of this Code.
When such minor is adjudged to be
criminally irresponsible, the court, in conformity with the provisions of this
and the preceding paragraph, shall commit him to the care and custody of his
family who shall be charged with his surveillance and education; otherwise, he
shall be committed to the care of some institution or person mentioned in said
Any person who,
while performing a lawful act with due care, causes an injury by mere accident
without fault or intention of causing it.
Any person who
acts under the compulsion of an irresistible force.
Any person who
acts under the impulse of an uncontrollable fear of an equal or greater injury.
Any person who
fails to perform an act required by law, when prevented by some lawful or
,note 100at 300.
No. L-45382, 13 May 1985,
136 SCRA 399, 404-405.
Loreno, 215 Phil.
276, 287 (1984).
No. L-22947, 12 July 1979,
91 SCRA 340, 355.
TSN, 13 March 1995, p. 16.
, note 112 at 6.
TSN, 17 February 1995, pp.
Ortaleza, 327 Phil. 827, 836 (1996).
Requiz, 376 Phil. 750, 760 (1999).
SEC. 5. Who must prosecute criminal actions.
criminal actions commenced by a complaint or information shall be prosecuted
under the direction and control of the prosecutor. However, in Municipal Trial Courts or Municipal Circuit Trial
Courts when the prosecutor assigned thereto or to the case is not available,
the offended party, any peace officer, or public officer charged with the
enforcement of the law violated may prosecute the case.
This authority shall cease upon actual
intervention of the prosecutor or upon elevation of the case to the Regional
SEC. 2. Grounds for a new trial
court shall grant a new trial on any of the following grounds:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
(a) That errors of law or irregularities prejudicial to the
substantial rights of the accused have been committed during the trial;chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
(b) That new and material evidence has been discovered which
the accused could not with reasonable diligence have discovered and produced at
the trial and which if introduced and admitted would probably change the
Court of Appeals, 162 Phil. 364, 374 (1976).
, note 111 at 191.
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