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[G.R. No. 143249.June 18, 2001]

RODRIGO DAOASEN, et al. vs. PEOPLE, et al.

FIRST DIVISION

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated JUN 18 2001.

G.R. No. 143249(Rodrigo Daoasen (Dao-asen), et al. vs. People, et al.)

This is a petition for review of the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming in toto the joint decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 35, Bontoc, Mountain Province in Criminal Cases Nos. 930 and 931, finding petitioners guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of P.D. No. 533, known as the Anti-Cattle Rustling Law, on two (2) counts.

On the basis of the eyewitness account of Botsing Gao-ay, petitioners Rodrigo Daoasen (Dao-asen), Tawaken Ligligen (Tawaka Leglegen) and Yamat Ligligen (Leglegen) were convicted for hacking the femal cow of his uncle, Carlos Tingbawen. The cow was then dragged and dumped in the kaingin of one Federico Ligligen (Leglegen), the father of the two accused. Botsing Gao-ay's own cow was, likewise, shot and left on the same spot. The next morning, Gao-ay found his cow agonizing in pain due to the bullet wound so he decided to let his cow be butchered.

Petitioners assail the decisions of the two courts below on two (2) principal grounds: (1) that there was no positive identification of the culprits; and, (2) that the elements of "taking" and "intent to gain" are not present in the case at bar.

Well-entrenched is the rule that factual findings of the trial court especially when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are accorded great respect and are binding on the Supreme Court, unless substantial facts and circumstances were overlooked which, if considered, would materially affect the result of the case.

Petitioners contend that it was error for the respondent court to have merely relied on the testimony of Gao-ay and rule that there was positive identification of the perpetrators of the crime. To this contention, we agree with the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) as it explained, to wit:

As aptly found by the Court of Appeals, the identification of petitioners was duly established by the prosecution. However, a distinction must be made anent the nature of the evidence presented, pinpointing to petitioners as the author of the crime charged, with respect to the cow that was fatally shot (owned by Gao-ay) viz-a-viz the cow that was hacked to death (owned by Tingbawen).

In Criminal Case No. 931, the subject matter of which is Gao-ay's cow, in affirming the Decision of the trial court, the Court of Appeals ruled in this wise:

Although Botsing did not actually see the shooting of his cow, the fact that he saw the three appellants passed by his house and then he heard gunshots and subsequently, he found his cow with gunshot wounds and the slug was found in the cow's stomach more than prove that appellants did it. That falls under circumstantial evidence xxx"

(Decision, p. 11)

It is settled that circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction if: (a) there is more than one circumstance; (b) the facts from which the inference are derived are proven; and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. All elements are present and duly proven in this case.

With respect to Carlos Tingbawen's cow, the subject matter in Criminal Case No. 930, Gao-ay positively identified petitioners as the ones who hacked the cow several times, dragged it towards the kaingin owned by one Federico Leglegen (sic), and dumped it there. If Gao-ay was not truly present at the time of the incident, he could not have possibly known such specific details and circumstances attending the commission of the crime. Tingbawen corroborated the testimony of Gao-ay. Tingbawen testified that his cow sustained several hack wounds. His cow was hacked at the upper portion of the land, and subsequently was pulled down to the kaingin owned by Federico Leglegen (sic). They saw traces of blood and scratches of skin on the stone walls as the cow was pulled down near the mango tree (T.S.N., June 21, 1994, pp. 17-18).1 Rollo, pp. 119-120.

Petitioners, on the other hand, had only alibis for their defense. However, both the trial court and the respondent court found them to be weak and unsubstantiated. As against the positive identification by a credible witness that the accused committed the crime, the defense of alibi must fail.

Anent the second issue, petitioners alleged that there was actually no taking of the cows as they were left in the place where they were found. The cows were merely killed and were not taken away. In fact, Gao-ay's cow was still alive, although writhing in pain, when it was found the next morning.

We find no merit in this contention. The respondent court correctly ruled that:

x x x Cattle rustling is the taking away by any means, methods or scheme, without the consent of the owner/raiser, of any large cattle, like cow, carabao, horse and the like, whether or not for profit or gain, or whether committed with or without violence against, or intimidation of any person or force upon things. It includes the killing of large cattle, or taking its meat or hide without the consent of the owner/raiser.

Not only did appellants hack to death CARLOS' cow but they also dragged and dumped it at Federico Leglegen's (sic) hut and later took its meat. It was likewise proven that BOTSING's cow was shot and fatally wounded. These acts of appellants, done without the consent of both owners, fall within the definition of cattle rustling.2 Id., at 86-87.

Finding no reversible error with the decision of the respondent court as they are in accord with the law and evidence on record, the Court Resolved to DENY the petition for lack of merit.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) VIRGINIA ANCHETA-SORIANO
Clerk of Court


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