August 2016 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 213380, August 10, 2016 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ROMAN ESPIA, Accused-Appellant; JESSIE MORANA, REX ALFARO, RODRIGO AZUCENA, JR., AND RENANTE ABISADO, Accused.
G.R. No. 213380, August 10, 2016
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ROMAN ESPIA, Accused-Appellant,
JESSIE MORANA, REX ALFARO, RODRIGO AZUCENA, JR., AND RENANTE ABISADO, Accused.
D E C I S I O N
Before the Court is an appeal from the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated 13 December 2013 in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 00448, affirming the Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 25, 6th Judicial Region, Iloilo City, finding appellant Roman Espia guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of Robbery with Homicide as defined and penalized under Article 294, sub-paragraph (1) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
Appellant was charged with Robbery in Band with Homicide. The accusatory portion of the Information narrates:
That on or about February 21, 1991, in the Municipality of B[aro]tac Viejo, Province of Iloilo, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and working together with Roman Espia and Renante Abisado, who are still at large, thereby forming themselves into a band, armed with short firearms, taking advantage of the nighttime, their superior strength and number, to better realize their purpose, by means of force and violence upon person, entered the house of the spouses Melberto and Estela Ganzon and once inside, did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, steal and carry away with intent to gain, the following:On arraignment, appellant entered a plea of NOT GUILTY.4 Trial on the merits ensued thereafter.Cash money amounting to Three Hundred Thousand P300,000.00all belonging to the spouses Melberto and Estela Ganzon, against their will and consent and to their damage and prejudice in the total amount of ONE MILLION FIVE HUNDRED TEN (P1,510,000.00) THOUSAND PESOS, Philippine Currency; that on the occasion of said robbery, said accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and shoot Melberto Ganzon and Estela Ganzon, hitting and inflicting upon them gunshot wound on the vital parts of their body which caused their instantaneous death.3
Checks of different face value totaling to P210,000.00
Assorted pieces of jewelries valued at One Million P1,000,000.00
The antecedent facts culled from the Appellee's Brief5 and the records of the case are summarized as follows:
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryOn 21 February 1991, at around 7:00 in the evening, appellant, Jessie Morana (Jessie), Rex Alfaro (Rex), Rodrigo Azucena, Jr. (Rodrigo) and Renante Abisado (Renante) entered the Ganzon's residence and declared a hold-up after pointing their guns at Mrs. Estela Ganzon (Mrs. Ganzon) and house helper, Azucena Perez (Azucena). While appellant was standing by the door as a look out, the hands and feet of Mr. Melberto Ganzon (Mr. Ganzon), Azucena, and another house helper, Danilo Ballener (Danilo) were being tied by one of the co-accused. Later on, Danilo saw another co-accused bring Mrs. Ganzon to the bedroom and overheard her say, "Here are the jewelry and the cash we collected for the day. " The men who entered the house also took the silverware, chinaware and other valuables of the spouses.6chanrobleslaw
After some time, the men locked Danilo and Azucena inside the bathroom and told them that they will just borrow the spouses. Thereafter, Danilo and Azucena heard the sound of the spouses' jeepney speeding away.
When the house helpers were able to free themselves from the ropes, they immediately reported the incident to Mrs. Ganzon's father. When the latter came, it was learned that P300,000.00 amount of cash, P1,000,000.00 amount of jewelry, and P210,000.00 amount of checks were taken. Spouses Ganzon were found dead due to gunshot wounds on their heads7 in Gen. Luna, Barotac, Viejo the following morning.
When apprehended by the police and during the preliminary investigation, Rex8 and Jessie9 confessed their participation in the robbery. They also implicated appellant, Renante, and Rodrigo as their co-conspirators. Consequently, the police recovered from the houses of Rex and Jessie, cash and several pieces of jewelry.
Appellant vehemently denied the accusations.10 According to him, even if he was a native of and a farm owner in Imbaulan, Lemery, Iloilo, a town adjacent to Barotac Viejo, Iloilo, he was residing in Dasmariñas, Cavite since 1990 and was a driver of the municipality's garbage collection truck from 1998 to 2000. He also said that he doesn't know his four (4) co-accused.
On 11 May 2006, the RTC rendered a decision finding appellant guilty of Robbery with Homicide. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, the accused Roman Espia having been found beyond reasonable doubt to be guilty of robbery with homicide, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA and to pay the heirs of the victim[s] Melberto and Estela Ganzon the following amount of P50,000.00 each for Melberto and Estela Ganzon as death Indemnity; P20,000.00 as exemplary damages, P500,000.00 as actual damages and to return the jewelry and valuables to the heirs of spouses Ganzon or to pay its value in the amount of P1, 000,000.00."11
The Court of Appeals sustained the appellant's conviction. It was fully convinced that there is no ground to deviate from the findings of the RTC. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 25, 6th Judicial Region, Iloilo City, dated May 11, 2006, in Criminal Case No. 36127 is hereby AFFIRMED. 12Appellant appealed the decision of the Court of Appeals. The Notice of Appeal was given due course and the records were ordered elevated to this Court for review. In a Resolution13 dated 20 August 2004, this Court required the parties to submit their respective supplemental briefs. Both parties manifested that they are adopting all the arguments contained in their respective briefs in lieu of filing supplemental briefs.14chanrobleslaw
In his Brief,15 appellant assigned the following errors:
- THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE PROSECUTION HAS PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT ACCUSED-APPELLANT'S GUILT;
- THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE BIASED IDENTIFICATION OF ACCUSED-APPELLANTBY THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES;
- THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING ACCUSED-APPELLANT LIABLE TO PAY DAMAGES.
We find that the degree of proof required in criminal cases has been met in the case at bar. Accused-appellant's defenses of denial and alibi are bereft of merit.
Elements of Robbery with Homicide
The trial and appellate courts committed no error in convicting appellant of Robbery with Homicide. Article 294, paragraph (1) of the RPC, as amended by R.A. No. 7659, reads:
Art. 294 Robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons – Penalties. – Any person guilty of robbery with the use of violence against or intimidation of any person shall suffer:To warrant a conviction for Robbery with Homicide, the prosecution must prove the confluence of the following elements: (1) the taking of personal property with the use of violence or intimidation against a person; (2) the property taken thus belongs to another; (3) the taking is characterized by intent to gain or animus lucrandi; and (4) on occasion of the robbery or by reason thereof, the crime of homicide, which is used in a generic sense, was committed.16chanrobleslaw
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary1. The penalty of reclusion perpetua to death, when by reason or on occasion of the robbery, the crime of homicide shall have been committed; or when the robbery shall have been accompanied by rape or intentional mutilation or arson.
Furthermore, in People v. Maneng, 17 this Court held that homicide may precede the robbery or may occur after the robbery, as what is essential is that there is a direct relation, an intimate connection between the robbery and the killing. A conviction requires certitude that the robbery is the main purpose and objective of the malefactor, and the killing is merely incidental to the robbery.18chanrobleslaw
Furthermore, in the crime of robbery with homicide, what is essential: is that there is a direct relation or intimate connection between the robbery and the killing, whether the latter be prior or subsequent to the former or whether both crimes be committed at the same time.19 When homicide is committed by reason or on the occasion of a robbery, all those who took part as principals in the robbery would also be held liable as principals of the single and indivisible felony of robbery with homicide, although they did not actually take part in the killing, unless it clearly appears that they endeavored to prevent the same.20chanrobleslaw
No doubt exists that all the foregoing elements are present in the case at bar. Appellant's co-accused admitted the taking of the cash, checks, and pieces of jewelry of Spouses Ganzon. In fact, some of which were even found in the houses of his co-accused. Furthermore, the testimonies of the eyewitnesses were strengthened by the admission of Rex and Jessie that they indeed used firearms in order to ensure the consummation of the robbery. Importantly, the contemporaneous acts of appellant and his co-accused in entering the Ganzon's residence; ordering its occupants to drop to the ground; asking where the money and other valuables were kept; and taking the cash and several personal belongings of the Spouses Ganzon prove that they were initially motivated by animus lucrandi. The testimony of co-accused Morana21 regarding the robbery up to the events leading to the killing of the victims establishes that the crime of homicide was committed on the occasion or by reason of robbery.
In Conspiracy, the act of one
is the act of all
According to Article 8 of the RPC, conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. When there is conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all. Conspiracy can be inferred from and established by the acts of the accused themselves when said acts point to a joint purpose and design, concerted action and community of interests. There should be a proof establishing that the accused were animated by one and the same purpose. 22chanrobleslaw
In the case at bar, Jessie and Rex also testified that appellant was present when they planned to rob the Ganzon's residence the day before the incident.23 Furthermore, in robbing the Ganzon's residence, appellant served as a look out while the others were robbing and ransacking the house. Danilo even testified that it was appellant who forcibly brought Mr. Ganzon from the bedroom to the sala of the house before tying his hands and feet.24 Thus, the foregoing circumstances prove beyond reasonable doubt that all of the accused acted in concert to commit the crime of Robbery with Homicide.
The defense of denial cannot be given
more weight over a witness' positive
Appellant denies the accusations on the ground that he was residing in Dasmariñas, Cavite since 1990 and was a driver of the municipality's garbage collection truck from 1998 to 2000. He also claimed that he doesn't know the other co-accused. We are not convinced. Well-settled is the rule that alibi is always viewed with suspicion, because it is inherently weak and unreliable. The defense of alibi assumes significance or strength only when it is amply corroborated by a credible witness.25cralawred A categorical and consistent positive identification without any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitnesses testifying on the matter prevails over a denial.26chanrobleslaw
For alibi to prosper, the accused must be able to (a) prove his presence at another place at the time of the perpetration of the offense and (b) demonstrate that it was physically impossible for him at that time to have been at the scene of the crime.27chanrobleslaw
In People v. Taboga,28 physical impossibility was defined as the distance and the facility of access between the situs of the crime and the location of the accused when the crime was committed. It must be demonstrated that he was so far away and could not have been physically present at the scene of the crime and its immediate vicinity when the crime was committed.29chanrobleslaw
In this case, appellant was not able to present any evidence that he was in Cavite on the date the offense was committed. His claim that he was a garbage collection truck driver in Cavite deserves scant consideration as he was employed from 1998 to 2000 and not in 1991 - the year the crime was committed. Therefore, it is not physically impossible for appellant to be present at the scene of the crime at the time it was committed.
Such denial should all the more be discredited in light of the fact that the direct examination testimonies of Azucena and Danilo positively identified appellant as one of the men who robbed the Ganzon's residence:
This Court gives the highest respect to the RTC's evaluation of the testimony of the witnesses, considering its unique position in directly observing the demeanor of a witness on the stand. From its vantage point, the trial court is in the best position to determine the truthfulness of witnesses.32chanrobleslaw
Danilo's Testimony: Q: Please look inside the courtroom and tell us if one of those persons you recognized is present? A: Yes, he is there. Q: Please point to him. A: That person near the guard (Witness points to a person inside the courtroom who upon being asked, identified himself as Roman Espia).30 Azucena's Testimony: Q: Please look inside the courtroom and see if you could see any of those persons whom you said entered the house of the spouses Melberto and Estela Ganzon? A: Yes sir, I saw one here. Q: Where is he? A: The first person on that seat. x x x x INTERPRETER: Witness pointing to a person inside the courtroom who identifies himself as Roman Espia.31
It is doctrinally entrenched in jurisprudence33 that the defense of denial is inherently weak because it can easily be fabricated. Such defense becomes unworthy of merit if it is established only by the accused themselves and not by credible persons. Thus, this Court agrees with the lower courts in giving the positive identification of the eyewitnesses more weight than accused-appellant's defense of denial.
The penalty, damages and civil liability
We take this opportunity to elucidate and stress that if robbery with homicide is committed by a band, the indictable offense is still denominated as robbery with homicide under Article 294(1) of the RPC. The element of band would be appreciated as an ordinary aggravating circumstance.34chanrobleslaw
The presence of the element of band as a generic aggravating circumstance would have merited the imposition of death penalty. However, in view of R.A. No. 9346, we are mandated to impose on appellant the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
This Court resolves to modify the damages awarded by the appellate court. In line with recent jurisprudence,35 appellant shall pay the heirs of the Spouses Ganzon P100,000.00 as civil indemnity, P100,000.00 as moral damages, and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages for the death of each victim. In addition, interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum shall be imposed on all monetary awards from date of finality of this Judgment until fully paid.
WHEREFORE, the 13 December 2013 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00448 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Appellant ROMAN ESPIA is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Robbery with Homicide and shall suffer a penalty of Reclusion Perpetua and shall pay the heirs of the Spouses Melberto and Estela Ganzon P500,000.00 as actual damages and to return the jewelry and valuables to the heirs of spouses Ganzon or to pay its value in the amount of P1,000,000.00. As modified, appellant shall be liable to the heirs of Spouses Ganzon in the following amounts: (1) P100,000.00 as civil indemnity; (2) P100,000.00 as moral damages; (3) P100,000.00 as exemplary damages for the death of each victim; and (4) all monetary awards for damages shall earn interest at the legal rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the date of finality of this judgment until fully paid.
Velasco, Jr., J., (Chairperson), Peralta, Reyes, and Caguioa,*JJ., concur.
* Additional Member per Raffle dated 1 August 2016.
1Rollo, pp. 4-14; Penned by Associate Justice Ma. Luisa C. Quijano-Padilla with Associate Justices Ramon Paul L. Hernando and Carmelita Salandanan-Manahan concurring.
2 Records, pp. 326-341; Presided by Judge Evelyn E. Salao.
3 Id. at 1-2.
4 Id. at 68
5 CA rollo, pp. 112-122.
6 TSN, 5 June 2003, pp. 3-8.
7 Records, pp. 35-36.
8 Id. at 17-19.
9 Id. at 20-22.
10 TSN, 1 April 2005, pp. 2-11.
11 Records, p. 341
12Rollo, p. 13.
13 Id. at 21-22.
14 Id. at 23-24 and 28-29.
15 CA rollo, pp. 70-82.
16People v. Consejero, 404 Phil. 914, 932 (2001) citing People v. Nang, G.R. No. 107799, 15 April 1998, 289 SCRA 16, 28.
17People v. Maneng, 397 Phil 98, 107 (2000).
18People v FO1 dela Cruz, 595 Phil. 998, 1023 (2008).
19People v. Pajotal, 420 Phil. 763, 777 (2001).
20People v. Ebet, 649 Phil. 181, 190 (2010).
21 Records, p. 21.
22Quidet v. People, 632 Phil. 1, 11-12 (2010) citing People v. De Jesus, 473 Phil. 405, 928 (2004).
23 Records, p. 20.
24 TSN, June 5, 2003, p. 6.
25cralawred People v. Domingo, 432 Phil. 590, 608 (2002).
26Anilao v. People, 562 Phil. 93, 100 (2007).
27People v. Domingo, supra note 25.
28People v. Taboga, G.R. Nos. 144086-87 426 Phil. 908, 925 (2002).
29People v. Amora, G.R. No. 190322, 26 November 2014, 742 SCRA 667.
30 TSN, 5 June 2003, p. 9-10.
31 TSN, 1 August 2003, pp.11-12.
32People v. Abat, G.R. No. 202704, 2 April 2014, 720 SCRA 557, 564.
33People v. Barde, 645 Phil. 434, 457 (2010); People v. Berdin, 462 Phil. 290, 304 (2003); People v. Francisco, 397 Phil. 973, 985 (2000).
34People v. Ngano Sugan, 661 Phil. 749, 756 (2011).
35People v. Jugueta, G.R. No. 202124, 5 April 2016.