G.R. No. 117401 October 1, 1998
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. BERNARDO QUIDATO, JR., Accused-Appellant.
Before us is an appeal from the judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Davao, Branch 4, dated March 2, 1994, finding accused-appellant Bernardo Quidato, Jr. guilty of the crime of parricide.
On January 17, 1989, accused-appellant was charged with the crime of parricide before the Regional Trial Court of Davao. The information reads as follows:
Accused-appellant's case was tried jointly with the murder case filed against his co-accused Reynaldo Malita and Eddie Malita who, however, withdrew their "not guilty" plea during the trial and were accordingly sentenced. Thus, only accused-appellant's case was tried on the merits.
The prosecution, in offering its version of the facts, presented as its witnesses accused-appellant's brother Leo Quidato, appellant's wife Gina Quidato, as well as Patrolman Lucrecio Mara. Likewise, the prosecution offered in evidence affidavits containing the extra-judicial confessions of Eddie Malita and Reynaldo Malita. The two brothers were, however, not presented by the prosecution on the witness stand. Instead, it presented Atty. Jonathan Jocom to prove that the two were assisted by counsel when they made their confessions. Similarly, the prosecution presented MTC Judge George Omelio who attested to the due and voluntary execution of the sworn statements by the Malita brothers.
Based on the foregoing pieces of evidence, the prosecution's version of the facts is as follows:
Bernardo Quidato, Sr. was the father of accused-appellant Bernardo Quidato, Jr. and Leo Quidato. Being a widower, Bernardo lived alone in his house at Sitio Libod, Brgy. Tagbaobo, Kaputian, Davao. He owned sixteen hectares of coconut land in the area.
On September 16, 1988, Bernardo, accompanied by his son, herein accused-appellant, and two hired hands, Reynaldo Malita and Eddie Malita, went to Davao City to sell 41 sacks of copra. After selling the copra, Bernardo paid the Malita brothers for their labor, who thereafter left. Bernardo and accused-appellant went back to Sitio Libod that same day. 2
According to Gina Quidato, on the evening of the next day, September 17, 1988, accused-appellant and the Malita brothers were drinking tuba at their house. She overheard the trio planning to go to her father-in-law's house to get money from the latter. She had no idea, however, as to what later transpired because she had fallen asleep before 10:00 p.m. 3 Accused-appellant objected to Gina Quidato's testimony on the ground that the same was prohibited by the marital disqualification rule found in Section 22 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court. 4 The judge, acknowledging the applicability of the so-called rule, allowed said testimony only against accused-appellant's co-accused, Reynaldo and Eddie.
As adverted to earlier, the Malita brothers confessed to their participation in the crime, executing affidavits detailing how Bernardo was killed. Their version shows that Eddie had been living with accused-appellant for the past four years. At around 6:00 p.m. of September 17, 1988, accused-appellant asked Reynaldo to come to the former's house to discuss an important matter. Upon Reynaldo's arrival at accused-appellant's house, he saw that his brother Eddie was already there. They started drinking beer. The Malita brothers alleged that it was at this juncture that accused-appellant proposed that they rob and kill his father. They went to Bernardo's house only at 10:00 p.m., after the rain had stopped. Reynaldo brought along a bolo. Upon reaching the house, accused-appellant knocked on the door, asking his father to let them in. When Bernardo opened the door, Eddie rushed in and knocked the old man down. Reynaldo then hacked Bernardo on the nape and neck. Accused-appellant and Eddie ransacked Bernardo's aparador looking for money but they found none; so, the three of them left.
The body of Bernardo was discovered the next day by accused-appellant's son, who had gone there to call his Lolo for breakfast. The cause of death, as stated in Bernardo's death certificate was "hypovolemic shock secondary to fatal hacking wound on the posterior neck area." 5
On September 27, 1988, Leo Quidato confronted his brother regarding the incident and learned that Reynaldo and Eddie Malita were the ones responsible for Bernardo's death. The two were promptly arrested by the police. Aside from arresting the latter two, however, the police also arrested accused-appellant.
On September 29, 1988, the Malita brothers were interrogated by Patrolman Lucrecio Mara at the Kaputian Police Station. When Mara apprised them of their constitutional rights, including their right to counsel, they signified their intent to confess even in the absence of counsel. Aware that the same would be useless if given in the absence of counsel, Mara took down the testimony of the two but refrained from requiring the latter to sign their affidavits. Instead, he escorted the Malita brothers to Davao City and presented them, along with their unsigned affidavits, to a CLAO (now PAO) lawyer, Jonathan Jocom. 6
Informed of the situation, Atty. Jocom conferred with Reynaldo and Eddie, again advising the two of their constitutional rights. The CLAO lawyer explained the contents of the affidavits, in Visayan, to the Malita brothers, who affirmed the veracity and voluntary execution of the same. Only then did Reynaldo and Eddie affix their signatures on the affidavits. 7
In his defense, accused-appellant denied the allegations of the Malita brothers. He claimed that the Malita brothers were not at his house on the evening of September 17, 1988. They, however, passed by his house at around 10:00 p.m. and asked him to come with them to his father's house, threatening him with harm if he refused. Out of fear, he led the way to Bernardo's house and even knocked on the latter's door until Bernardo opened the same. In the ensuing commotion, he scampered away, but in his confusion, reached his house only at around 11:00 p.m., although the same was only about one hundred fifty meters away from Bernardo's house. He did not call for help. Eddie arrived a while later. Accused-appellant claimed not to have seen the actual killing, having run away earlier. He, however, admitted finding a bolo, encrusted with blood, at his house. He turned the same over to his brother, who, in turn, surrendered the same to the police. Accused-appellant did not feel uneasy having Eddie around even if he knew of the latter's participation in the crime. 8
After due trial, the court a quo rendered the following judgment:
From the aforesaid judgment of conviction, appellant interposed the present appeal, assigning the following errors:
Accused-appellant must be acquitted.
In indicting accused-appellant, the prosecution relied heavily on the affidavits executed by Reynaldo and Eddie. The two brothers were, however, not presented on the witness stand to testify on their extra-judicial confessions. The failure to present the two gives these affidavits the character of hearsay. It is hornbook doctrine that unless the affiants themselves take the witness stand to affirm the averments in their affidavits, the affidavits must be excluded from the judicial proceeding, being inadmissible hearsay. 10 The voluntary admissions of an accused made extrajudicially are not admissible in evidence against his co-accused when the latter had not been given an opportunity to hear him testify and cross-examine him. 11
The Solicitor General, in advocating the admissibility of the sworn statements of the Malita brothers, cites Section 30, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court which provides that "[t]he act or declaration of a conspirator relating to the conspiracy and during its existence, may be given in evidence against the co-conspirator after the conspiracy is shown by evidence other than such act or declaration." The inapplicability of this provision is clearly apparent. The confessions were made after the conspiracy had ended and after the consummation of the crime. Hence, it cannot be said that the execution of the affidavits were acts or declarations made during the conspiracy's existence.
Likewise, the manner by which the affidavits were obtained by the police render the same inadmissible in evidence even if they were voluntarily given. The settled rule is that an uncounseled extrajudicial confession without a valid waiver of the right to counsel - that is, in writing and in the presence of counsel - is inadmissible in evidence. 12 It is undisputed that the Malita brothers gave their statements to Patrolman Mara in the absence of counsel, although they signed the same in the presence of counsel the next day. As ruled in People vs. Compil: 13
With regard to Gina Quidato's testimony, the same must also be disregarded, accused-appellant having timely objected thereto under the marital disqualification rule. As correctly observed by the court a quo, the disqualification is between husband and wife, the law not precluding the wife from testifying when it involves other parties or accused. 14 Hence, Gina Quidato could testify in the murder case against Reynaldo and Eddie, which was jointly tried with accused-appellant's case. This testimony cannot, however, be used against accused-appellant directly or through the guise of taking judicial notice of the proceedings in the murder case without violating the marital disqualification rule. "What cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly" is a rule familiar even to law students.
Given the inadmissibility in evidence of Gina Quidato's testimony, as well as of Reynaldo and Eddie's extrajudicial confessions, nothing remains on record with which to justify a judgment unfavorable to accused-appellant. Admittedly, accused-appellant's defense, to put it mildly, is dubious. His alleged acquiescence to the demand of the Malita brothers to accompany them to his father's house on the strength of the latter's verbal threats, his incredulous escape from the clutches of the two, his inexplicable failure to return home immediately, his failure to seek assistance from the authorities, the fact that Eddie stayed with him immediately after the incident, and the nine-day lacuna between the killing and his pointing to the Malita brothers as the culprits, all suggest a complicity more than that of an unwilling participant. Yet, suspicion, no matter how strong, should not sway judgment, it being an accepted axiom that the prosecution cannot rely on the weakness of the defense to gain a conviction, but must establish beyond reasonable doubt every circumstance essential to the guilt of the accused. 15 This the prosecution has failed to demonstrate.
WHEREFORE, the appeal is hereby GRANTED and the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City in Criminal Case No. 89-9 dated March 2, 1994, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accused-appellant Bernardo Quidato, Jr. is hereby ACQUITTED on ground of reasonable doubt. Consequently, let the accused be immediately released from his place of confinement unless there is reason to detain him further for any other legal or valid cause. With costs de oficio.
Kapunan and Purisima, JJ., concur.
Narvasa, C.J., is on leave.
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