April 2005 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 152481 - Ramon Pablo y Bacungan v. People of the Philippines.
[G.R. NO. 152481. April 15, 2005]
RAMON PABLO y BACUNGAN, Petitioners, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Assailed in this Petition for Review on Certiorari are the Decision,1 dated March 31, 1997, and Resolution,2 dated September 25, 1998, of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 16894, affirming the Decision3 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 19, in Criminal Case No. 92-108526.
The RTC convicted petitioner Ramon Pablo y Bacungan, Eduardo Garcia y Paderanga, and Ricardo Fortuna y Gragasin, of simple robbery and sentenced each to imprisonment for six (6) years and one (1) day to ten (10) years of prision mayor, and to solidarily pay private complainants
P5,000 as actual damages, P20,000 as moral damages, and P15,000 as attorney's fees.
On July 27, 1992, petitioner and his two co-accused were charged in an information which reads:
That on or about July 21, 1992, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused conspiring and confederating together and helping one another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with intent of gain and by means of threats and intimidation of person, to wit: by then and there demanding from Diosdada Montecillo y Olidan the sum of
P5,000.00 and threatening to file charges against her brother, Mario Montecillo y Olidan and bring him to Bicutan should she refuse to give, take, rob and extort the amount of P5,000.00 belonging to Diosdada Montecillo y Olidan, against her will, to the damage and prejudice of the said Diosdada Montecillo y Olidan in the aforesaid amount of P5,000.00, Philippine currency.
Contrary to law.4
When arraigned, petitioner and his two co-accused pleaded not guilty. At the ensuing trial, the prosecution presented private complainants Diosdada Montecillo and Mario Montecillo as witnesses.
On 21 July 1992 at about 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon, while Diosdada Montecillo and her brother Mario Montecillo were standing at the corner of Mabini and Harrison Streets waiting for a ride home, a mobile patrol car of the Western Police District with three (3) policemen on board stopped in front of them. The policeman seated on the right at the front seat alighted and without a word frisked Mario. He took Mario's belt, pointed to a supposedly blunt object in its buckle and uttered the word "evidence." Then he motioned to Mario to board the car. The terrified Mario obeyed and seated himself at the back together with another policeman. Diosdada instinctively followed suit and sat beside Mario.
They cruised towards Roxas Boulevard. The driver then asked Mario why he was carrying a "deadly weapon," to which Mario answered, "for self-defense since he was a polio victim." The driver and another policeman who were both seated in front grilled Mario. They frightened him by telling him that for carrying a deadly weapon outside his residence he would be brought to the Bicutan police station where he would be interrogated by the police, mauled by other prisoners and heckled by the press. As they approached Ospital ng Maynila, the mobile car pulled over and the two (2) policemen in front told the Montecillos that the bailbond for carrying a "deadly weapon" was
P12,000.00. At this point, the driver asked how much money they had. Without answering, Mario gave his P1,000.00 to Diosdada who placed the money inside her wallet.
Diosdada was then made to alight from the car. She was followed by the driver and was told to go behind the vehicle. There, the driver forced her to take out her wallet and rummaged through its contents. He counted her money. She had
P5,000.00 in her wallet. The driver took P1,500.00 and left her P3,500.00. He instructed her to tell his companions that all she had was P3,500.00. While going back to the car the driver demanded from her any piece of jewelry that could be pawned. Ruefully, she removed her wristwatch and offered it to him. The driver declined saying, "Never mind," and proceeded to board the car. Diosdada, still fearing for the safety of her brother, followed and sat beside him in the car.
Once in the car, Diosdada was directed by the policeman at the front passenger seat to place all her money on the console box near the gearshift. The car then proceeded to Harrison Plaza where the Montecillos were told to disembark. From there, their dreadful experience over, they went home to Imus, Cavite.
The following day Diosdada recounted her harrowing story to her employer Manuel Felix who readily accompanied her and her brother Mario to the office of General Diokno where they lodged their complaint. Gen. Diokno directed one of his men, a certain Lt. Ronas, to assist the complainants in looking for the erring policemen. They boarded the police patrol car and scoured the Mabini area for the culprits. They did not find them.
When they returned to the police station, a line-up of policemen was immediately assembled. Diosdada readily recognized one of them as the policeman who was seated beside them in the back of the car. She trembled at the sight of him. She then rushed to Lt. Ronas and told him that she saw the policeman who sat beside them in the car. He was identified by Lt. Ronas as PO2 Ricardo Fortuna. A few minutes later, Gen. Diokno summoned the complainants. As they approached the General, they at once saw PO2 Eduardo Garcia whom they recognized as the policeman who frisked Mario. The following day, they met the last of their tormentors, the driver of the mobile car who played heavily on their nerves - PO3 Ramon Pablo.6
After hearing both parties, the trial court found the three (3) policemen guilty of the crime charged. The dispositive portion of its decision reads:
WHEREFORE, and in view of all the foregoing considerations, the accused Ramon Pablo y Bacungan, Eduardo Garcia y Paderanga and Ricardo Fortuna y Gragasin, are hereby found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of simple robbery, defined and penalized under paragraph 5, Article 294 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and hereby sentences all of them to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of SIX (6) YEARS and ONE (1) DAY to TEN (10) YEARS of prision mayor, to jointly and severally restitute the sum of
P5,000.00 to Diosdada Montecillo, which was the amount extorted from her, the sum of P20,000.00 as moral damages and the further sum of P15,000.00, for and as attorney's fees.
From the said decision, the three accused separately appealed to the Court of Appeals. On March 31, 1997, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's verdict. Herein petitioner and Ricardo Fortuna filed separate motions for reconsideration on April 28, 1997 and January 19, 1998, respectively. Both motions were denied for lack of merit.
Fortuna filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari, which we denied in our decision dated December 15, 2000, to wit:
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals which affirmed that of the trial court finding accused-appellant Ricardo Fortuna guilty of robbery and ordering him to pay complaining witnesses Diosdada Montecillo and Mario Montecillo
P5,000.00 representing the money taken from them, P20,000.00 for moral damages and P15,000.00 for attorney's fees, is AFFIRMED with the modification that accused-appellant Ricardo Fortuna is SENTENCED to the indeterminate prison term of two (2) years four (4) months and twenty (20) days of the medium period of arresto mayor maximum to prision correccional medium, as minimum, to eight (8) years two (2) months and ten (10) days of the maximum period of prision correccional maximum to prision mayor medium, as maximum.
Costs against accused-appellant Ricardo Fortuna.
In the petition now before us, petitioner Ramon Pablo y Bacungan raises the following errors:
THE COURT OF APPEALS PALPABLY ERRED, ON A MATTER OF LAW, IN AFFIRMING PETITIONER'S CONVICTION FOR THE CRIME OF SIMPLE ROBBERY UNDER ARTICLE 294 OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE, EVEN AS THE EVIDENCE SO FAR ADDUCED BY THE PROSECUTION CLEARLY ESTABLISHED AND PROVED THE CRIME OF BRIBERY UNDER ARTICLE 210 OF THE SAME CODE.
THE COURT OF APPEALS LIKEWISE PALPABLY ERRED, IN AFFIRMING THE TRIAL COURT'S DECISION EVEN AS THE SAID TRIAL COURT CLEARLY MISAPPRECIATED THE EVIDENCE PROFERRED.9
Petitioner contends that the transaction between petitioner and private complainants was mutual and voluntary, thus negating the use of force or intimidation essential in the crime of robbery. Petitioner alleges that Diosdada voluntarily followed his apprehended brother to the mobile patrol car for the purpose of bribing the police officers.
Petitioner further argues that robbery may only be considered if the person arrested has not committed a crime and insists that in this case, Mario was apprehended for illegal possession of a deadly weapon.
For the respondent, the Solicitor General counters that there was intimidation on the part of petitioner and his co-accused when they falsely imputed on Mario the commission of the crime of illegal possession of a deadly weapon when all that the latter possessed was a pointed belt buckle. Mario was scared into believing that he would be brought to Bicutan to be investigated and mauled in the presence of the media. Further, he was told that he would be jailed and would need the services of a lawyer. The Solicitor General maintains that all these threats and acts of intimidation by petitioner and his co-accused forced private complainants to part with their money.
After a careful study of the records of this case, we find the present petition bereft of merit.
In Fortuna v. People, which involves identical facts, we said:
We are convinced that there was indeed sufficient intimidation applied on the offended parties as the acts performed by the three (3) accused, coupled with the circumstances under which they were executed, engendered fear in the minds of their victims and hindered the free exercise of their will. The three (3) accused succeeded in coercing them to choose between two (2) alternatives, to wit: to part with their money or suffer the burden and humiliation of being taken to the police station.
To our mind, the success of the accused in taking their victims' money was premised on threats of prosecution and arrest. This intense infusion of fear was intimidation, plain and simple.10
We see no reason now to depart from our ruling in Fortuna, except to stress again what we said therein:
We however observe that the courts below failed to appreciate the aggravating circumstance of "abuse of public position." The mere fact that the three (3) accused were all police officers at the time of the robbery placed them in a position to perpetrate the offense. If they were not police officers they could not have terrified the Montecillos into boarding the mobile patrol car and forced them to hand over their money. Precisely it was on account of their authority that the Montecillos believed that Mario had in fact committed a crime and would be brought to the police station for investigation unless they gave them what they demanded.11
Thus, consistent with our decision in Fortuna, the penalty imposed by the trial court should also be modified. Article 294, paragraph (5) of the Revised Penal Code fixes the penalty for simple robbery at prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its medium period. Considering the aggravating circumstance of abuse of public position, the penalty should be imposed in its maximum periodwhile the minimum shall be taken from the penalty next lower in degree, which is arresto mayor maximum to prision correccional medium in any of its periods, the range of which is four (4) months and one (1) day to four (4) years and two (2) months.
WHEREFORE, the Decision dated March 31, 1997 of the Court of Appeals, sustaining the trial court's judgment is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioner Ramon Pablo y Bacungan is DECLARED GUILTY of Robbery aggravated by abuse of public position. He is hereby SENTENCED to the indeterminate prison term of two (2) years, four (4) months and twenty (20) days of the medium period of arresto mayor maximum to prision correccional medium, as minimum, to eight (8) years, two (2) months and ten (10) days of the maximum period of prision correccional maximum to prision mayor medium, as maximum. He is also ORDERED TO PAY private complainants Diosdada and Mario Montecillo the amount of
P5,000.00 by way of restitution for the money taken from them; P20,000.00 as moral damages; and P15,000.00 as attorney's fees.
Costs against petitioner.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
1 Rollo, pp. 30-43. Penned by Associate Justice Antonio M. Martinez, with Associate Justices Eduardo G. Montenegro, and Salvador J. Valdez, Jr. concurring.
2 Id. at 44.
3 Records, pp. 174-179.
4 Id. at 1.
5 G.R. No. 135784, 15 December 2000, 348 SCRA 360.
6 Id. at 361-363.
7 Records, p. 179.
8 Supra, note 5 at 366.
9 Rollo, pp. 15-16.
10 Supra, note 5 at 364.
11 Id. at 365-366.