May 2004 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
People v. Simon : May 27, 2004 : J. Sandoval-Gutierrez : En Banc : Decision
[G.R. NO. 130531 : May 27, 2004]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. MICHAEL SIMON, FROILAN REYES y LACSON @ OLAN, ELY TONGOL y DEMAPENDEN and JOHN DOES, Appellants.
D E C I S I O N
For automatic review is the Decision1 dated May 21, 1997 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 172, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, in Criminal Case No.3989-V-94, finding appellants Froilan Reyes y Lacson @ Olan and Michael Simon guilty of murder and imposing upon them the supreme penalty of death.
Appellants were charged in an Amended Information which reads:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
That on or about the 19th day of February 1994, in Valenzuela, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating with one another, without any justifiable cause, with intent to kill, with treachery and evident premeditation and taking advantage of their superior strength during night time, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously slap, punch, kick on the different parts of his body, tie his hands, hit with the piece of wood the head, hit the chest and head with a caliber .45 revolver and strangle to death with a piece of wire the neck of one, ANGELITO MANIAOL, thereby inflicting upon the latter serious physical injuries, which injuries ultimately caused the victims death.
Contrary to law.2 cralawred
Out of the five accused in the Amended Information, only appellants Froilan Reyes and Michael Simon were tried before the court a quo.The others have remained at large.
Upon being arraigned on May 29, 1996, both appellants pleaded not guilty.3 cralawred
The prosecution presented as its witnesses the following: Lenita Ibaez-Dominguez; Severino Dominguez; Ely Tongol; Celedonio Espital; Nida Espital, girlfriend of the victim; Esther Maniaol, mother of the victim; Crispin Bajado, and Dr. Maximo Reyes.Their testimonies established the following:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
At around 12:30 in the morning of February 19, 1994, Lenita Dominguez, a balut vendor, and her daughter went home at 4447 BCL Homes Compound, Gen. T. de Leon, Independence St., Valenzuela, Metro Manila.However, appellant Froilan Reyes,who was unexpectedly guarding the gate, prevented them from entering the compound.He gave her a tip that SPO4 Loreto Rodriguez instructed him not to allow anybody to enter because someone would be killed inside.4 She did not say anything.Unmindful of his warning, she and her daughter proceeded to their place.In front of her store, about 4 meters away, she saw appellant Michael Simon together with Dominador Atienza, Hermie Atienza, Noel Simon, Bobot Abesamis, Ronald Malit, Ping Oate, Junel Bunao and Ely Tongol engaged in a drinking spree.Lenita knows them being her neighbors in the same compound.Then to her surprise, she saw SPO4 Loreto Rodriguez hit with a .45 caliber gun the forehead of the victim, Angelito Maniaol alias Marlo.5 This caused the victim to run towards the house of his girlfriend, Nida Espital, located in the same compound.The group followed him.Then appellant Michael Simon, Ely Tongol, Hermie Atienza and Dominador Atienza attacked him with fistblows.6 Noel Simon tied his hands behind his back with an alambre.7 Then they brought him back to the place where they were drinking.Ping Oate and Hermie Atienza kicked him, while Tongol, Abesamis and Dominador Atienza boxed him.SPO4 Rodriguez hit him again with a dos por dos and a gun.8 At this point, Noel Simon and Dominador Atienza held the victim. Bunao then tied his mouth with a handkerchief.9 Immediately, appellant Michael Simon, Ronald Malit, Junel Bunao, and Ely Tongol started hurting him with lighted cigarette butts (pinagpapaso ng sigarilyo) .During the burning session, the others were laughing.10 The victim was already so weak, making an unintelligible sound (umuungol). Blood was oozing from his mouth and nose.11 Lenita observed that the maong pants of appellant Michael Simon and Noel Simon had blood stains.Thereafter, Noel Simon and Dominador Atienza brought the victim inside the garage of Crispin Bajado.12 The latter saw what happened to the victim inside the garage.There, Noel Simon hit the victims head 3 times with a piece of wood.SPO4 Rodriguez also hit the victims head with a revolver and strangled him with an alambre.Appellant Michael Simon pummeled him with kicks.Then the group tied a nylon cord around his neck.13 cralawred
During all those times, appellant Froilan Reyes stayed at the gate, warning the people not to enter the compound.At about 1:05 A.M., Nida Espital, the victims girlfriend, together with her sister and the latters classmate arrived.14 Despite appellant Reyes warning,15 Nida and her companies managed to get inside the compound.Appellant Reyes followed them.16 cralawred
At that time, SPO4 Rodriguez wanted to take the victim, whose body and face were already covered with blood, outside the gate of Bajado.17 Hence, he ordered Noel Simon and Dominador Atienza to board him in Ping Oates Nissan Sentra car with Plate No. PRT 346, parked in front of Lenitas house.18 However, the plan did not push through because they saw Nida and her two companions coming from the gate.19 SPO4 Rodriguez signaled Noel Simon and Dominador Atienza to bring the victims body to a hidden place.So the two pulled back the very weak and dying20 victim inside Bajados gate.21 cralawred
Nonetheless, once inside the compound, Nida saw the bloody victim already dead, with hands tied behind his back.His legs were apart and something was stuck in his mouth.Also, a wire was tied around his neck.His head was wounded and full of blood, his body had numerous burns and his chest appeared to have been hit several times.22 She started shouting but SPO4 Rodriguez pacified her.Nida noticed that his hands, shirt and brown shorts were stained with blood.23 cralawred
Celedonio Espital, brother of Nida, also a resident of BCL Homes, corroborated the testimony of Lenita.24 He identified appellants Simon[25 and Reyes in court.[26 He added that he saw both appellants and others carrying the victim and were trying to board him in a gray colored27 car.SPO4 Rodriguezs shirt had bloodstains.There were also drops of blood on his feet and hands.28 After he instructed his brother Benjie to fetch Esther, the victims mother, the police investigators arrived.
Meanwhile, Esther rushed to the scene of the crime and saw the
dead body of the victim sprawled in Bajados garage.She spent
P70,750.00 for the wake and
burial of her son as shown by a list of expenses (Exhibit Q) .She and her family suffered mental anguish
and shock that cannot be quantified in terms of money.
An autopsy was conducted by Dr. Maximo Reyes of the National Bureau of Investigation on February 19, 1994.His Postmortem Findings are as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Cyanosis, lips and fingernailbeds.
Hemorrhage, meningeal; epidural and subarachnoidal, extensive.Contused abrasions, 3.0 x 8.0 cm., area of face, left, 3.0 x 10.0 cm., area of chest, left; 2.0 x 3.0 cm., left, deltoid area; 1.0 x 4.0 cm., left hypechendrinc area, 4.0 x 10.0 cm., left iliac region; 3.0 x 4.0 cm., left knee; 7.0 x 18.0 cm., area of right leg, anterior aspect; 4.0 x 10.0 cm., area of shoulder, left; 1.0 x 2.0 cm., left suprascapuler area; 1.0 x 3.0 cm., left infrascapular area, 3.0 x 5.0 cm., right lumbar area, 4.0 x 16.0 cm., area of the forearm, right, posterior aspect.
Ligature marked, total length of 12.0 cm. extending from anterior aspect of left side of neck down to the lateral aspect with a diameter of 0.1 to 0.8 cm., the widest.
Hematomas, periorbital, 2.0 x 4.0 cm., right; 2.0 x 5.0 cm. left; interstitial, scalp from left parieto-occipital to vertex and right, parieto-occipital.
Lacerated wounds, sucus membrane of both upper and lower lips, left parietal area, 3.0 cm.
Fracture, linear, left, parieto-occipital bone.
Heart and all other internal organs are congested.
Stomach, filled with brownish fluid.
CAUSE OF DEATH:Traumatic Head Injury.[29 cralawred
Appellants Michael Simon and Froilan Reyes raised the defenses of denial and alibi.
Appellant Michael Simon, also a resident of BCL at the time of the incident, testified that on February 18, 1994, at around 8:00 oclock in the evening, he was watching T.V. at home with his parents and his two brothers.After dinner, he went to Tatangs place which was 6 to 8 houses away from their residence.30 Then he went to Elys place, located 3 houses away, to attend his birthday party.31 Appellant drank a bottle of beer and thereafter went home with his brother Noel at around 10:30 p.m.32 When he woke up at 6 oclock the following day, several policemen from Valenzuela were looking for him.They brought him to the Valenzuela Police Headquarters and later, to the NBI.He denied having participated in the killing.33 Lenita testified against him because she was in need of money and wanted to be entitled to the cash benefits given under the Witness Protection Program of the government.Also, she was motivated by hatred in testifying against him because his family did not tolerate her illicit relationship with his brother Noel.Nelia Simon, mother of appellant, corroborated his testimony.
Appellant Froilan Reyes testified that on February 18, 1994, he was working as a stay-in caretaker in the shop of Alex Bajado (father of Crispin Bajado) located at Tamaraw Hills, Marulas, Valenzuela, Metro Manila.At around 6:00 oclock in the evening, Alex Bajado instructed him to get the two boxes of fasteners the former left in the car compartment of Crispin Bajado at BCL Homes Compound.So he went to the place together with a certain Popoy, arriving there at 8:00 oclock that same evening.Crispin was then sleeping.It took them only twenty minutes to get the fasteners, then they immediately returned to the shop on board a tricycle.After dinner, they played cards for a while and slept.34 cralawred
Antonio Sarmiento, testifying for appellant Reyes, declared that spouses Severino and Lenita Dominguez used to borrow money from him from 1987 to 1995;35 and that the spouses have abandoned their residence in the BCL Homes Compound.
On May 21, 1997, the trial court rendered its Decision convicting both appellants of murder defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused MICHAEL
SIMON and FROILAN REYES y LACSON @ Olan guilty beyond reasonable doubt and as
principal of the crime of murder as defined and penalized under Article 248 of
the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act 7659, attended by the
aggravating circumstance of cruelty with no mitigating circumstance to offset
the same, and hereby sentences each of them to suffer the supreme penalty of
death.Both accused Michael Simon and
Froilan Reyes y Lacson @ Olan are further sentenced, jointly and severally, to
pay the heirs of victim Angelito Maniaol the amount of
actual damages, the amount of P50,000.00 as indemnity for the death of
Angelito Maniaol, and the amount of P250,000.00 as moral damages, plus
the cost of suit.
x x x
SO ORDERED.36 cralawred
Hence, this appeal.
Appellant Reyes, in his Appellants Brief, raised the following assignments of error:
THE LOWER COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED IN GIVING CREDIT TO THE BELATED, DOUBTFUL AND EXAGGERATED TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES
THE LOWER COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED IN DISREGARDING THE POSITIVE AND CLEAR EVIDENCE OF THE HEREIN APPELLANT
THE LOWER COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED AND GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN CONVICTING THE HEREIN ACCUSED-APPELLANT.37 cralawred
Appellant Simon ascribed to the trial court the following errors:
THE LOWER COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED IN CONSIDERING THE BELATED, HIGHLY DOUBTFUL AND EXAGGERATED TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES
THE LOWER COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED IN DISREGARDING THE DIRECT AND CLEAR EVIDENCE OF THE HEREIN APELLANT
THE LOWER COURT SERIOUSLY ERRED AND GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN CONVICTING THE HEREIN ACCUSED-APPELLANT.38 cralawred
Appellants Reyes and Simon contend that the prosecution failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt because its witness, Lenita Dominguez, is not credible.She only appeared and testified after a year from the filing of the Information.
The Solicitor General counters that Lenita, an eyewitness, was telling the truth.In fact, she was unequivocal and categorical in her narration.More importantly, appellants were positively identified by the prosecution witnesses, hence, the latters testimony cannot be simply discredited by appellants mere denial and alibi.
The assigned errors basically involve a determination of the credibility of the prosecution witnesses.
I.Credibility of prosecution
Settled is the rule that when it comes to credibility of witnesses, appellate courts generally do not overturn the findings of trial courts.The latter are in a best position to ascertain and measure the sincerity and spontaneity of witnesses through their actual observation of the witnesses manner of testifying, demeanor and behavior in court.39 We see no reason to deviate from this rule.
Appellants bid to exonerate themselves by attempting to destroy the credibility of Lenita is without merit.The latters account of the incident is straightforward and categorical, thus:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
QNow, Mrs. Witness, you said that you are residing at BCL Compound, is that correct?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QAnd you know the accused in this case, Michael Simon?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QHow about Noel Simon?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QWhat about Froilan Reyes?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QHow about Dominador Atienza?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QHow about Ely Tongol?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QHow about Bobet Abesamis?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QHow about Junel Bunao?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QHow about Ronald Malit?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QWhat about Ping Oate?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QWhy do you know them?
ABecause they are all my neighbors, maam.
QAt BCL Compound?
QWhat about the victim in this case Angelito Maniaol alias Marlo?
x x x
QHow did you come to know him?
ABecause he often visited our place because his girlfriend is residing in our place, maam.
QWhat is the name of his girlfriend?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ANida Espital, your Honor.
x x x
QWhat time did you arrive at your house after vending balut on February 19, 1994?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AI arrived home at 12:30 early morning on February 19, 1994, maam.
QAnd when you arrived home on that particular date and time, what if anything unusual happened that you saw?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QWill you please tell the Honorable Court what is that unusual thing that you saw on that date and time?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AWhen I entered the gate of BCL Compound together with my daughter, we met Froilan Reyes, maam.
QYou are referring to the same Froilan Reyes who is one of the accused in this case Mrs. Witness?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QIf Froilan Reyes is now in court Mrs. Witness, would you be able to point him out?
AYes, maam, that man (witness pointing to a man wearing a long sleeves shirt who when asked his name answered Froilan Reyes).
QAnd after you met Froilan Reyes, what happened, if any?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AWhen we met Froilan Reyes near the gate of the BCL Compound he gave me a tip that according to SPO4 Loreto Rodriguez no one would be allowed to enter into the compound because there would be someone to be killed.
QWhat else happened, what else if any, did he tell you?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QWhat was your response to that?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AI did not answer anything, maam.
QAnd what happened after that?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AWe proceeded to our house at BCL, maam.
QWhere is your house located Mrs. Witness, in relation to the house of Crispin Bajado?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AOur houses are fronting each other, maam.
QAnd how far is the house of Crispin Bajado from your house?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
A10 meters away, sir.
x x x
QMrs. Witness, when you arrived home, what happened?
x x x
AWhen we were about to enter the gate of our house, we saw SPO4 Loreto Rodriguez hit with a gun Angelito Maniaol at the forehead, your Honor.
QI see.More or less if you can remember, what kind of gun was that?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
A45 caliber, maam.
x x x
QWho were those persons that you saw Mrs. Witness aside from SPO4 Loreto Rodriguez?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ADominador Atienza, Hermie Atienza, Noel Simon, Bobet Abesamis, Ronald Malit, Ping Oate, Junel Bunao, Ely Tongol, Michael Simon.Those were the only persons I saw.
QWhere did you see them Mrs. Witness?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AIn front of our store, maam.
QAnd that what were they doing, if any, Mrs. Witness in front of our store during that time?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AThey were drinking, maam.
QAnd after you saw SPO4 Loreto Rodriguez hit Angelito Maniaol, what happened next Mrs. Witness?
AManiaol ran towards the house of his girlfriend Nida Espital, maam.
QAnd what happened after that Mrs. Witness?
AThey exchanged fist blows.They all followed him, maam.
x x x
AThey exchanged fist blows and they caught Angelito Maniaol, your Honor.
Exchanged fistic blows.
QWho were these who exchanged fistic.
AEly Tongol, Hermie Atienza, Dominador Atienza, Noel Simon.
QNow, who were those who were able to catch Maniaol?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ANoel Simon, maam.
QAnd what did Noel Simon do when Noel Simon was able to catch Angelito Maniaol?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AHe tied the hands of Angelito Maniaol, maam.
QWith what?What did he use in tieing the hands of Angelito Maniaol?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ANylon cord or alambre.
x x x
QWill you please describe to us the nylon cord?
x x x
AThe clothes line (sampayan) at the back of, as liked nila Crispin.
QNow when Noel Simon was able to catch Angelito Maniaol, what happened next?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Already answered, your Honor.Noel Simon allegedly tied the hands of Angelito Maniaol.
QAfter tieing the hands of Angelito Maniaol, what happened next?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ANoel Simon brought Angelito Maniaol to the middle of the place where they were then drinking.
QApproximately, how far is that from your store Mrs. Witness?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AAbout four (4) meters, maam.
QHow far is that also from where they brought Angelito Maniaol after tieing him Mrs. Witness from the house of Crispin Bajado?The distance?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AYes.Seven meters more or less, maam.
We would like to place on record, your Honor, that once in a while the witness is speaking in English.As a matter of fact, the last answer is in English.
Once in a while, your Honor.
QWhat is your educational attainment?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AHigh school graduate, your Honor.
QWhen they brought Angelito Maniaol with tied hands in the middle of their drinking session, what happened next?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AThey kicked him, boxed him.They hit him with a gun, hit him with a dos por dos, maam.
QIf you can recall, who were those persons who kicked him?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
APing Oate, Hermie Atienza, maam.
QIf you can recall, who were those persons who boxed him?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AEly Tongol, Bobet Abesamis, maam.
x x x
QWho else if you can recall?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ADominador Atienza, maam.
QIf you can recall, who were those who hit him with a dos por dos?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ASgt. Loreto Rodriguez, maam.
QWho else Mrs. Witness, if you can recall?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AHe was the only one who hit Angelito with a dos por dos, maam.
QNow who hit again with a gun, Mrs. Witness?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ASPO4 Loreto Rodriguez, maam.
QDuring all the time where was Michael Simon?
x x x
AHe was also with the group, your Honor.
QAnd what, if any, did you see him do, Mrs. Witness, during that times?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Already answered, your Honor, drinking in the drinking place.
Aside from drinking?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Witness may answer.
AHis only participation was they exchanged blows.
AWith Angelito Maniaol, maam.
QBy exchange of fistic blows, are you telling the Court that Maniaol was trying to box Michael Simon?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AYes, your Honor, they exchanged fistic blows.
x x x
QWhat happened when they exchanged fistic blows?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AThey held the person, sir.
QWho held Angelito Maniaol during that time?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AThey were Noel Simon and Dominador Atienza, maam.
QWhat about Michael Simon?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
We will object, your Honor, because the only person who held Angelito Maniaol were Noel Simon and Dominador Atienza, your Honor.
QWhat was Michael Simon doing?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Already answered, nothing more, except that they held Angelito Maniaol.
QWhat else happened, if any, what else, if any, did Michael Simon do?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ANo more, maam.
x x x
QAside from those who held him. Who were those around him during that time, if any?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ARonald Malit, Ping Oate, Junel Bunao and Sgt. Rodriguez.
QNow, you mentioned about the name of Junel Bunao.What, if any, did Junel Bunao do, if any?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Already answered, your Honor.They were merely around Angelito Maniaol.
The question is whether Bunao did anything.
AHe was the one who tied a handkerchief on the mouth of Angelito Maniaol, your Honor.
QAfter tieing him with the handkerchief, what happened next Mrs. Witness?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AThey sat him in the place where they were drinking and started pinagpapaso ng sigarilyo.
QBy the way Mrs. Witness, will you please describe to the Honorable Court how Angelito Maniaol was tied in his hands?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AHis hands were tied at the back, maam.
Witness standing and put her two (2) hands at her back.
QAnd when he was seated, what was his position, if any?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AHe was made to sit on a bench, maam.
QWith his hands tied, is that correct?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QAnd that time Mrs. Witness, that he was made to sit down with his hands tied, what about the handkerchief that was placed in his mouth?Was it still there or not?
x x x
AThe handkerchief was still there, your Honor.
QAnd who were those persons surrounding him at that time that he was seated already Mrs. Witness?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AAll of them, maam.
QWhen you said silang lahat, are you referring to Michael Simon, Dominador Atienza, Hermie Atienza, Ping Oate, Bobet Abesamis, Junel Bunao, Ronald Malit and Sgt. Loreto Rodriguez and Noel Simon?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
QWhat about Froilan Reyes Mrs. Witness?Where was he at that time?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AHe was at the main gate of BCL, maam.
x x x
QHow far is the gate from your house?Can you see the gate of the compound?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ANo, your Honor.
QHow did you come to know Mrs. Witness that Froilan Reyes was at the gate during that time?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Already answered, your Honor.At the time she was going home.
When she entered the BCL Compound Froilan Reyes was at gate.
x x x
The question was how did she come to know that Froilan was at the gate of that time they were surrounding Angelito Maniaol, the deceased?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ABecause up to the time that Nida Espital arrived, he was still there at the gate, your Honor.
QMore or less what time was that?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
A1:00 early morning, maam.
QAnd what, if you know, was he doing there at the gate?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Witness would be incompetent, your Honor, because the gate could not be seen from her house.
My question is if she knows why he was there.
The same objection, your Honor, because it does not appear that she is competent to know about it because she is inside the house.
At the same time there was an admission that she cannot see the gate from her house.
Yes, your Honor.
There was already an answer.
It is an established fact, that is not debatable.My question is what is the reason if she knows why Froilan Reyes was at the gate.
Already answered.He was there to inform people that nobody would be allowed to enter because somebody would be killed.That is the ruling of the Court.
QYou testified Mrs. Witness that Froilan Reyes was there to notify anybody who comes in that they should not enter?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Objection to that line of question.That question should be made on cross-examination.
Anyway, there was an answer already.
I am just repeating what the Court said.I would like to be clarified.
QWhen Froilan Reyes informed you that nobody should enter the gate because somebody would be killed, to prevent anybody from entering, what was your perception of that statement that be made?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Objection, your Honor, on the same ground.
Calling for opinion of the witness.
Yes, your Honor, calling for opinion of the witness.
x x x
It is a question of terminology.When you ask a person what it appears to be, we cannot say that is calling for opinion.Witness may answer.
AMy understanding is that he is giving us a tip that that person would be killed and we are going to watch him.
QI heard you say a while ago about the word look out.What is that in relation to your understanding of what Froilan Reyes told you during that time?What do you mean by that?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AMy understanding is that look out is that Froilan Reyes is the one in charge of telling anybody that would be entering in the compound that according to SPO4 Loreto Rodriguez, he will not allow anybody to come inside because there would be somebody to be killed.
QNow Mrs. Witness, at that time that they surrounded, by the way Mrs. Witness, you mentioned about Michael Simon.If he is in court would you be able to point him to us?
QPlease do so.
AThat man, maam.(witness pointing to a person inside the courtroom wearing a gray and blue t-shirt, who when asked by the Court his name answered Michael Simon).
QAfter they have surrounded him Mrs. Witness, what, if any, did they do to Angelito Maniaol, if any?When he was being surrounded, what, if any, did you see them doing to Angelito Maniaol?
x x x
According to the witness, they started pinagpapaso ng sigarilyo.
x x x
QBy the way Mrs. Witness, you mentioned that they started making paso with cigarette.Who were these people who were doing the paso?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AEly Tongol, maam.
AOnly Ely Tongol, maam.
QAfter doing that, what happened Mrs. Witness?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AHe was brought inside the yard of Crispin Bajado, maam.
QAnd who were these people who brought Angelito Maniaol during that time inside the yard of Crispin Bajado?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ANoel Simon and Dominador Atienza, maam.
QWhat about the other persons Mrs. Witness?What did they do, if any?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AThe others remained seated at the place where they were drinking.
QAnd what were they doing?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Already answered; they were drinking.
That is what the witness answered.
QYou are telling us that they continued drinking?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AYes, your Honor.
QWho were these people or who were these persons drinking Mrs. Witness, who were left behind drinking?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
AAll except Noel and Dominador Atienza, because they brought Angelito Maniaol inside the yard of Crispin Bajado, maam.
QNow Mrs. Witness, what happened when Angelito Maniaol was brought inside the yard of Crispin Bajado?What happened next?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
ANoel Simon and Dominador Atienza tied the back of Angelito Maniaol with an alambre.[40 cralawred
Despite relentless cross-examination, Lenita, an eyewitness, never wavered in the material details of her testimony.Hence, the trial court is correct in holding that she is credible.Settled is the rule that criminals are convicted, not on the number of witnesses against them, but on the credibility of the testimony of even one witness who is able to convince the court of the guilt of the accused beyond a shadow of a doubt,41 as in the case at bar.
II.Imputation of improper motive on the part of prosecution witness Lenita Dominguez is bereft of merit
Other than the shallow imputation that Lenita was financially hard-up, the reason why she testified for the prosecution, both appellants failed to prove that she was ill-motivated in testifying against them.Where there is no evidence, as in this case, to indicate that the prosecution witness was actuated by improper motive, the presumption is that he is not so actuated and that his testimony is entitled to full faith and credit.42 Also, jurisprudence holds that if an accused had really nothing to do with a crime, it would be against the natural order of events and of human nature, and against the presumption of good faith, that a prosecution witness would falsely testify against him.43
III.Delay in reporting the incident is justified
Both appellants likewise contend that if Lenitas account were true, why did it take her one year from the time of the filing of the Information to testify for the prosecution?Settled is the rule that failure to reveal at once the identity of the perpetrator of a felony does not impair the credibility of a witness, more so if the delay has been adequately explained.44 cralawred
We have repeatedly held that different people react differently to a given situation or type of situation, and there is no standard form of human behavioral response where one is confronted with a strange or startling or frightful experience.45 There is no clear cut standard form of behavior that can be drawn.46 Witnesses are usually reluctant to volunteer information about a criminal case or are unwilling to be involved in or dragged into criminal investigations due to a variety of valid reasons.47 One may immediately report the incident to the proper authorities, while another, in fear and/or avoiding involvement in a criminal investigation, may keep to himself what he had witnessed.48 Others reveal the perpetrator of the crime only after the lapse of one year or so to make sure that the possibility of a threat to his life or to his loved ones is already diminished, if not totally avoided.In People v. Gornes,49 we held:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
"It is true that the charge against the appellant was initiated only three and a half years after the commission of the crime. However, the fact of delay alone does not work against the witnesses. In People v. Rostata,[50 this Court held:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
'Delay or vacillation in making a criminal accusation does not necessarily impair the credibility of the witness if such delay is satisfactorily explained. The law on prescription of crimes would be meaningless if We were to yield to the proposition that delay in the prosecution of crimes would be fatal to the state and to the offended parties. In fixing the different prescriptive periods on the basis of the gravity of the penalty prescribed therefor, the law takes into account or allows reasonable delays in the prosecution thereof.'
In the case at bar, Lenitas place is just a stone's throw away from appellants houses.Hence, it is reasonable why she did not immediately speak out and reported to the authorities the perpetrators of the crime.Having witnessed the gruesome killing of the victim, she believed that appellants and their co-accused might retaliate and kill her and her family.Her fear and instinct of self preservation and her concern for the safety of her family sufficiently explain her silence for one year.
IV.Denial and alibi of appellants
Denial and alibi of the appellants cannot be sustained in the light of their positive identification by the prosecution eyewitnesses.51 Being a long-time neighbor, Lenita could not have erred in positively identifying them as two of the persons who killed the victim.Besides, for alibi to prosper, it is not enough for appellants to prove that they were somewhere else when the crime occurred but they must also demonstrate that it was physically impossible for them to have been at the scene of the crime.52 In this case, it was established that during the commission of the crime, appellant Simon was in his house, also within the BCL Homes Compound, the scene of the crime.Appellant Reyes, on the other hand, while staying in Tamaraw Hills, Marulas, Valenzuela, admitted during the trial that he went to the BCL Homes Compound that same evening to get two boxes of fasteners from the car of Crispin Bajado parked in the same Compound.Obviously, it was physically possible for them to be at the scene of the crime when it was committed.
Treachery was correctly considered by the trial court as a qualifying aggravating circumstance.It was alleged in the Information and proved during the hearing.Treachery exists when the offender commits a crime against persons, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specifically to insure its execution, without risk to himself arising from any defense or retaliatory act which the victim might make.[53 Here, while the group was engaged in a drinking spree, SPO4 Rodriguez suddenly hit the victim on his head with a revolver.While he ran towards the nearby house of his girl friend, however, there was no way he could escape.The group followed him and attacked him with fist blows, tied his hands with an alambre, kicked him and immediately, SPO4 Rodriguez hit him again with a dos por dos and a gun.Junel Bunao tied his mouth with a handkerchief.Still wanting to harm him more, they burned him with cigarette butts (pinagpapaso ng sigarilyo) .Inside Bajados garage, the group continued inflicting injuries on him.Under these circumstances, how could the helpless victim defend himself or retaliate?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
VI.Abuse of superior strength,
cruelty and evident premeditation
We sustain the trial courts holding that the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength is absorbed in treachery and, therefore, cannot be appreciated separately as an independent aggravating circumstance.54 cralawred
However, the trial court erred in appreciating the aggravating circumstance of cruelty.Under Sections 8 and 9, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, aggravating and qualifying circumstances must be both alleged in the Informations and proved during the trial.Otherwise, they cannot be considered at all.55 Here, while the prosecution proved that there was cruelty in the commission of the crime, however, such aggravating circumstance was not alleged in the Information.Consequently, we cannot appreciate the same.
The aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation, while alleged in the Information, was not proved.
VII.Presence of conspiracy
Conspiracy is deemed to arise when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it.Conspiracy need not be shown by direct proof of an agreement of the parties to commit the crime.56 It may be inferred from the mode and manner in which the offense was perpetrated, or from the acts of the accused before, during, and after the crime which point to a joint design, concerted action and commonality of sentiment or interest.57 Once proved, the act of one becomes the act of all.All the conspirators are answerable as co-principals regardless of the extent or degree of their participation.
In this case, the prosecution's evidence indubitably shows that appellant Reyes acted in concert with appellant Simon and the rest of their co-accused in killing the victim.First, while appellant Reyes was guarding the gate of the compound to prevent people from witnessing the killing of the victim, the others were assaulting and beating the latter, hacking him to death.Evidently, as a look-out, appellant Reyes was performing an overt act, which directly or indirectly contributed to the execution of the crime.Also, he was one among those who boarded the victim in a car.
Second, after the victim fled to Nidas place, appellant Simon and his other co-accused pursued him and took turns in attacking him until he was about to die.This is a manifestation of their common purpose to kill him.
Third, when the victim was almost dying, with blood oozing from his mouth, nose and head while growling, not one of them assisted him or showed concern for him.They just stood there watching, laughing, and continuously committing acts of violence against him.The presence of the appellants as a group, each of them armed, undeniably gave encouragement and sense of security and purpose among themselves.58 cralawred
In conspiracy, it is immaterial who inflicted the fatal blows.A conspirator, no matter how minimal his participation, is as guilty as the principal perpetrator of the crime.
Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Sec. 16, R.A. 7659, punishes murder with reclusion perpetua to death.The presence of the aggravating circumstance of treachery qualifies the killing to murder.There being no aggravating circumstance present, the imposition of reclusion perpetua, being the minimum, is in order.
In line with the current jurisprudence, the heirs of the victim
are entitled to the amount of
P50,000.00 by way of civil indemnity ex delicto.59 As regards the actual damages, it appears that out of the P70,750.00 awarded by the trial court,
only P40,000.00[60 was actually
supported by receipts.The other amounts
were based solely on a prepared list.61 To be entitled to actual damages, it is necessary to prove the actual amount of
loss with a reasonable degree of certainty, premised upon competent proof and
on the best evidence obtainable to the injured party.62 Here, the prosecution failed to present receipts for the other expenses
incurred.Thus, we reduce the amount of
actual damages awarded by the trial court to P40,000.00 only.
We affirm the award of moral damages, there being proof that the
victims mother and her family suffered wounded feeling, mental anguish and
similar injury.However, we reduce the
P50,000.00.63 Verily, moral damages are not intended to enrich the victims heirs; rather
they are awarded to allow them to obtain means for diversion that could serve
to alleviate their moral and psychological suffering.64 cralawred
We also award the victims heirs
P25,000.00 as exemplary
damages.This is pursuant to our ruling
in People v. Catubig 65 that if a crime is committed with an aggravating circumstance, either qualifying
or generic, an award of P25,000.00 as exemplary damages is justified.
appealed Decision finding appellants Froilan Reyes y Lacson @ Olan and Michael
Simon GUILTYbeyond reasonable
doubt of murder is AFFIRMEDwith
MODIFICATION in the sense that they aremeted the penalty of reclusion perpetuaand are hereby ordered to pay jointly and severally the heirs of
the victim the sums of:
as civil indemnity, P40,000.00 as actual damages, P50,000.00 as
moral damages, and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages.
Costs de oficio.
Vitug, (Acting Chief Justice), Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and TINGA, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., and Puno, J., on official leave.
1 Penned by Judge Floro P. Alejo.
2 Records at 1.
3 Id. at 317.
4 TSN, April 4, 1995 at 16-25.
5 Id. at 30.
6 Id. at 45.
7 Id. at 33-37.
8 Id. at 38-41; Exh. C-1-A.
9 Id. at 52; Folder of Exhibits at 3.
10 Id. at 55 & 70; Records at 428.
11 Records at 428.
12 Id. at 5, 70 & 71.
13 Id.; Folder of Exhibits at 3.
14 Id. at 61-62.
15 Id. at 429.
17 Id. at 84.
18 Id. at 86-87.
19 Id. at 88-89.
20 Id. at 98.
21 Id. at 91.
22 Id. at 430.
23 Id.; TSN, April 4, 1995 at 100.
24 TSN, August 22, 1994 at 10-25.
25 Id. at 12.
26 Id. at 14.
27 Id. at 48; Exh. J at 19; Folder of Exhibits.
28 Id. at 54.
29 Exh. L.
30 TSN, August 23, 1996 at 4-7.
31 Id. at 8-9.
32 Id. at 10-11.
33 Id. at 19.
34 Records at 432.
35 Id.at 433.
36 Rollo at 46-47.
37 Id. at 64.
38 Id. at 139.
40 TSN, April 4, 1995 at 18-72.
41 People v. Zuniega, G.R. No. 126117, February 21, 2001, 352 SCRA 403, citing People v. Enriquez, 292 SCRA 656, 662 (1998), citing Bautista v. C.A., 288 SCRA 171 (1998), People v. Saley, 291 SCRA 715, 750 (1998).
49 G.R. No. 104869, February 23, 1994,230 SCRA 270, 279-280, penned by then Associate Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., now Chief Justice.
50 G.R. No. 91482, February 9, 1993, 218 SCRA 657.
57 Id., citing People v. Conde, 330 SCRA 645 (2000), citing People v. Antonio, 303 SCRA 414, 428 (1999); People v. Barredo, 297 SCRA 246, 259 (1998); People v. Nardo, 270 SCRA 672, 688 (1997); People v. Alberca, 257 SCRA 613, 632 (1996); People v. Gomez, 251 SCRA 455, 468 (1995).
60 Records at 99, 100-103.
61 Folder of Exhibits at 29.
63 People Narciso Ramos y Matias, et al., G.R. No. 135204, April 14, 2004, citing People v. Marquez, 380 SCRA 561 (2002); People v. Yatco, 379 SCRA 432 (2002); People v. Matic, 377 SCRA 314 (2002).
65 G.R. No. 137842, August 23, 2001, 363 SCRA 636.