Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1984 > July 1984 Decisions > G.R. No. L-67966 July 31, 1984 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. MARIO NAVOA, ET AL.:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. L-67966. July 31, 1984.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. MARIO NAVOA, RAFAEL NAVOA, RICARDO SITCHON, MACARIO SAGUINZA, JOHN DOE and PETER DOE, Defendants-Appellants.

The Solicitor General for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Roman Daguna & Associates Law Offices, for Defendants-Appellants.


D E C I S I O N


MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.:


Accused-appellants Mario Navoa, Rafael Navoa, Ricardo Sitchon (accused Mario Saguinza was discharged and utilized as a state witness) were found by the then Court of First Instance of Bataan, Fifth Judicial District, Branch II, "guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder as charged, defined, and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, and sentenced each to suffer an imprisonment of SEVENTEEN (17) YEARS, FOUR (4) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY TO TWENTY (20) YEARS; further they are hereby ordered to indemnify jointly and solidarily the heirs of the victim, Tomas Izon, in the amount of P20,000.00."cralaw virtua1aw library

The three accused appealed to the then Court of Appeals (now the Intermediate Appellate Court). In a Decision, dated April 11, 1984, the Intermediate Appellate Court affirmed the findings of the Trial Court but modified the imposable penalty to reclusion perpetua Pursuant to our rulings in People v. Daniel; 1 People v. Ramos; 2 and People v. Centeno, Et Al., 3 the Appellate Court refrained from entering judgment and forthwith certified the case and elevated the entire records to this Court for review, the matter being within our exclusive appellate jurisdiction.

After a careful review of the evidence on record, we agree with the findings of fact and the conclusions of law in the appealed Decision. 4 We, therefore, adopt it in toto and append it as an integral part of this Decision (Annex "A").

The testimonies of eyewitness Baltazar de la Rosa, and of the accused, Mario Saguinza, who had turned state witness, furnish ample evidence to sustain conviction. Saguinza’s declaration in open Court also revealed the motive of the three accused. 5 Appellants’ defense of alibi is unavailing as against their positive identification by eyewitness Baltazar de la Rosa and proof of their motive. As to the issue raised by the defense on the credibility of prosecution witnesses, suffice it to re-state the time-tested doctrine that the findings of the Trial Court on witnesses’ credibility is entitled to the highest respect by Appellate Tribunals unless there appears in the record some fact or circumstance of weight and influence which has been overlooked or the significance of which has been misconstrued, which is absent in the case at bar.chanrobles virtualawlibrary chanrobles.com:chanrobles.com.ph

The penalty of reclusion perpetua, which is the medium period of the penalty prescribed for Murder, is appropriate in the absence of any mitigating or aggravating circumstance. 6

WHEREFORE, we affirm the judgment of conviction imposed upon Mario Navoa, Rafael Navoa, and Ricardo Sitchon and sentence them to suffer reclusion perpetua, and to indemnify, jointly and solidarily, the heirs of the victim, Tomas Izon, in the amount of P30,000.00. 7

With proportionate costs.

SO ORDERED.

Plana, Relova, Gutierrez, Jr. and De la Fuente, JJ., concur.

Teehankee (Chairman) J., in the result.

Annex "A"

AC-G.R. No. 25034-CR April 11, 1984 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. MARIO NAVOA, RICARDO SITCHON and RAFAEL NAVOA, Accused-Appellants.

SISON, J.A., J.:


Charged of Murder for the killing of Tomas Izon on the evening of January 21, 1976 at Sitio Unat, Abucay, Bataan, Mario Navoa, Rafael Navoa and Ricardo Sitchon were, after arraignment and due trial, found guilty by the then Court of First Instance of Bataan (Branch II, Balanga) in a decision rendered on April 1, 1981, sentencing them to 17 years, 4 months and 1 day to 20 years, to indemnify jointly and solidarily the heirs of Tomas Izon in the sum of P20,000.00 and to pay the costs.

Discontented, they jointly interposed this appeal before this Appellate Court asserting that the Court a quo erred:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"IN BELIEVING THE WITNESS MACARIO SAGUINZA AND FINDING A CONSPIRACY AMONG THE ACCUSED TO KILL THE LATE TOMAS IZON.

"IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONY OF BALTAZAR DELA ROSA, AND FINDING THE ACCUSED RICARDO SITCHON AN ASSAILANT WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE FATAL SHOOTING OF THE LATE TOMAS IZON.

"IN FINDING THE ACCUSED GUILTY AND CONVICTING THEM OF MURDER AS CHARGED IN THE INFORMATION."cralaw virtua1aw library

Tomas Izon was a tenant of Rafael Navoa over a two-hectare parcel belonging to the latter situated in Cabiaoan, Abucay. As far back as 1961 when the Navoas acquired said parcel, they had been trying to prevent Izon from tilling the land. Sometime in 1975, they filed a case against Izon who was later declared the lawful tenant of said parcel. Izon was allowed to continue in peaceful possession thereof.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary

One evening in May 1975, Izon’s former farm helper Macario Saguinza was summoned by the Navoas to their house at Omboy, Abucay. Saguinza was offered by Mario Navoa P3,000.00 to kill Izon. This offer was made in the presence of Mario’s father, Rafael Navoa and Ricardo Sitchon. When Saguinza replied that he could not perform the killing, the Navoa father and son and Sitchon remarked that they will have to do it themselves. The next day, Saguinza was again summoned by the Navoas in the latter’s house. He was told by Mario Navoa that since he (Saguinza) already knew of their plan to kill Izon, Saguinza should leave and go away to a far place either to the Visayas or to Batangas where he came from. Saguinza agreed but before leaving Abucay, he told Tomas Izon: "Mag-ingat ka, pinapapatay ka ni Mario Navoa." Izon replied that he would try to take care of himself.

At about 8:00 p.m. of January 21, 1976, Baltazar dela Rosa, a co-worker of Tomas Izon on the parcel in question, had just returned to the watermelon farm which he and Izon were tending. Some ten (10) meters away, he noticed three men approaching Izon from behind. Izon was standing near the hut tending to the watermelon. Dela Rosa recognized Ricardo Sitchon as one of the three men because of a lighted gas lamp hanging on the extension of the hut. Suddenly, Dela Rosa heard gunfire from the direction of where the three men were standing. Frightened, he ran away crouching; then he heard about four more successive gunshots coming from the same direction.

Tomas Izon was found to have suffered multiple gunshot wounds mostly in the back and which led to his demise. The incident was investigated by the police who found Izon lying dead face down some five armslength away from the hut. After taking his body to the Municipal Building, the policemen recovered seven (7) empty shells including one of the slippers of Ricardo Sitchon. Elements of the PC also investigated the incident. After the completion of the investigation, Mario Navoa, Rafael Navoa, Ricardo Sitchon and Macario Saguinza were charged of murder. Saguinza, on motion of the prosecution, was discharged on February 24, 1977 in an Order dated March 31, 1977 to be utilized as a state witness.

The appellants, on their part, disclaimed any participation in the crime, each of them respectively invoking alibi as a defense.

Rafael Navoa averred that at about 9:00 p.m. of January 21, 1976, he and his son Mario were at home in Omboy, Abucay watching television together with his (Rafael’s) wife Basilia Baluyot and Mario’s wife Soledad Torrico, that Mario was preparing the assignments of his wife who is a teacher while he (Rafael) was watching the TV program "Aawitan Kita" ; and that one of his neighbors who passed by his house was Victorino Navarro who left at about 9:00 p.m. when the two Navoas were still inside the house. Rafael admitted knowing the victim Tomas Izon as the tenant working on the land in Cabiaoan, Abucay but he denied having harbored any grudge against him; he admitted however, that there were two cases filed before the Court of Agrarian Relations between him and Izon. He denied Saguinza’s allegation that he and his son Mario together with Ricardo Sitchon had talked with Saguinza about hiring the latter to kill Izon for P3,000.00 but he gave no reason why Saguinza would testify against him and his son.

Mario Navoa, on his part, averred that at about 8:00 p.m. of January 21, 1976, he was at home in Omboy, Abucay with his parents and his wife together with Victorino Navarro watching television while he was making the cards of his children; and that he went to bed at about 10:00 p.m. of the same evening. He denied having had anything to do with Izon’s death and that he learned of it only the next morning from his neighbors.

Ricardo Sitchon claimed that from 6:00 p.m. of January 21, 1976 to 5:00 a.m. of the next morning, he attended the wake of Juan dela Rosa at Calaylayan, Abucay some 50 meters away from his house; that during said wake, he never left the place; and that the place where he attended the wake was only about fifty meters away from the crime scene.

The appellants insist that no conspiracy among them had been established, that the testimony of Macario Saguinza is unworthy of belief and that Saguinza gave four (4) versions of the conspiracy which altogether erode his credibility.

After a careful and judicious review of the entire record, we find no merit in the appellants’ contention.

Contrary to the defense assertion, Saguinza’s four statements (Exhs. F, G, H and TSN dated June 9, 1977) appear to be substantially consistent and harmonious with each other. Said statements uniformly refer to the incident when the appellants offered the amount of P3,000.00 to Saguinza to do away with Tomas Izon but which offer Saguinza refused and so, the appellants decided to do the killing themselves. Appellants’ claim that it was improbable for them to have agreed with Saguinza that they would do the killing themselves after Saguinza had rejected their offer appears untenable because although the statements of Saguinza used the word "agree", what was really meant was that the appellants themselves had "decided" to kill Izon himself. As correctly stated by the court a quo:chanrobles virtual lawlibrary

"Saguinza made three extrajudicial statements, Exhibit ‘F’ on February 5, 1976 at 3:00 p.m. before PC Sgt. Salvador Renegin, Exhibit ‘C’ on February 5, 1976 before Pfc. Damaso G. Navata of the Abucay Police Station and Exhibit ‘H’ on February 8, 1976, sworned before Antonio Quintos, Acting Clerk of Court, a perusal of all his statements shows a substantial consistency that sometime on May, 1975, father and son, the accused Navoas, together with Ricardo Sitchon offered him to kill Tomas Izon for P3,000.00; that when he did not accede, he left and took employment with the Pepsi Cola at Balanga, Bataan. Saguinza also made the same consistent testimony in the Court.

x       x       x


"That Court is well aware that because Saguinza was an accused turned state witness, his testimony and demeanor must be rigidly placed under strict scrutiny. However, under the length cross-examination, Macario Saguinza did not waver nor was there any substantial contradiction in his testimony. There were times on the witness-stand that he met the eyes of the Navoas and Sitchon but he did not evade their eyes. Saguinza was candid and paused only to reflect on the questions and recall the incidents asked."cralaw virtua1aw library

The appellants further impugn the testimony of Baltazar dela Rosa pointing to some inconsistencies therein and to the fact that dela Rosa failed to give any statement before the police or the PC investigators. We find no merit in this contention. A careful analysis of dela Rosa’s testimony yields only minor inconsistencies which strengthen rather than weaken his credibility (People v. Hantig, 29 SCRA 14).

The fact that dela Rosa gave no statement before the investigators was cogently explained by him when he said that he was asked by the PC authorities to go to the Camp but when he arrived thereat with other persons who were also being investigated, he was not subjected to any questioning by said investigators (pp. 6-7, tsn., Dec. 28, 1976). Dela Rosa further explained that he did not immediately present himself as a witness because he was afraid especially when he learned of appellant Sitchon’s threat that he would be the next victim; and that he was emboldened to testify only because other persons had already decided to testify in the case (pp. 13-14, tsn., Id.). There is nothing untoward in the fact that a witness to a murder maintained his silence for quite a time when he adequately explained said silence as being due to his fear to reveal what he knew because of the threat uttered by the appellant and his wish not to be implicated in the crime (People v. Antonio, 11 SCRA 260; People v. Egual, 14 SCRA 89).

The record clearly shows that the appellants’ act of killing Tomas Izon was qualified by treachery. The three appellants approached the victim from behind at nighttime and, with the use of firearms, shot him several times in the back causing his instantaneous death. Evident premeditation was also established because as early as May of 1975, or some eight (8) months before the killing, they had tried to get Saguinza to do away with Izon for the amount of P3,000.00. (Aquino, Revised Penal Code, Vol. 1, p. 333, Book 1, citing People v. Cornejo, 28 Phil. 475; People v. Masquiraya, 14 Phil. 243 and People v. Timbang and Mallari, 74 Phil. 295).

The appellants’ insistence that the Court a quo merely drew inferences from other inferences in arriving at its factual finding finds no support from the record which clearly shows the existence of a conspiracy to kill the victim. Said conspiracy was established by the testimony of Macario Saguinza to whom none of the Navoas could ascribe any foul motive for testifying. Sitchon, who was with the two men when the victim was shot down, was positively identified by Baltazar dela Rosa, Proof of appellants’ motive was amply shown by the long-standing feud between the Navoas and Izon over the land tenanted by the latter; and the appellants’ alibi that they were elsewhere when the crime was committed is too feeble to merit any serious consideration.

We find, in the premises, an error in the imposition of the penalty. Under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, the imposable penalty is reclusion temporal in its maximum period to death. In the absence of any mitigating or aggravating circumstance, the appropriate penalty should be the medium period or reclusion perpetua and not the minimum period of 17 years, 4 months and 1 day to 20 years imposed by the Court a quo.chanrobles lawlibrary : rednad

WHEREFORE, with the sole modification as to the penalty which should be raised to reclusion perpetua as provided by law, the appealed judgment, being in all other respects in accordance with law and the evidence should be, as it is hereby, AFFIRMED, with costs. Since, under the Judiciary Act the penalty of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment can only be imposed by the Supreme Court, this Appellate Court refrains from entering judgment and forthwith certifies this case and elevates the entire records thereof to the Supreme Court for review (People v. Daniel, L-40330, 86 SCRA 511; People v. Ramos, 88 SCRA 486, 490; People v. Centeno, Et Al., 108 SCRA 712).

SO ORDERED.

(SGD.) JUAN A. SISON

Associate Appellate Justice

Nocon and Alfonso, Jr., JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. 86 SCRA 511 (1978).

2. 88 SCRA 486 (1979).

3. 108 SCRA 712 (1981).

4. Penned by Associate Appellate Justice Juan A. Sison, concurred in by Associate Appellate Justice Rodolfo A. Nocon and Federico B. Alfonso, Jr.

5. T.s.n., June 9, 1977, pp. 6-13.

6. Article 248, in relation to Article 64, Revised Penal Code.

7. People v. de la Fuente, 126 SCRA 518, 524(1983); People v. Villeza, 127 SCRA 349 (1984).




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