THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. DANILO MORADA y TUMLOD, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
This is an appeal from the decision, dated July 7, 1997, of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 90 of Dasmarias, Cavite, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused [Danilo Morada y Tumlod]
GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder, committed with treachery
and taking advantage of superior strength and hereby sentences him to suffer
the penalty of DEATH and to pay FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (
This case originated from the information filed against accused-appellant which alleged:
That on April 13, 1995 in the Municipality of Imus, Province of Cavite, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused with intent to kill, with treachery, with evident premeditation and with the use of superior strength while armed with Bolo, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, and hack several times JONALYN NAVIDAD y MONZON inflicting multiple fatal wounds on the head of the said victim causing her instantaneous death to the damage and prejudice of the heirs.
CONTRARY TO LAW.2
The killing took place in Barangay Bukandala 5, Imus, Cavite. The victim, Jonalyn Navidad y Monzon, 17, was found, with several hack wounds in the head, near a creek. She was taken to the hospital but she died shortly after at 11:15 a.m. The cause of death was Cardio-Respiratory Arrest, Sec. to Multiple Hacking wounds.3cräläwvirtualibräry
Five witnesses were presented by the prosecution.
The first witness was SPO3 Arsenio Gomez, 44 years of age and a member of the Philippine National Police at Imus, Cavite. He testified that, on April 13, 1995, while he was on duty, he received a telephone call that a certain Jonalyn Navidad had been hacked and was in serious condition at Bukandala 5. He said he proceeded to the scene of the crime but, when he reached the place, the victim had already been taken to the hospital. According to him, he and Edgardo Manimbao, the barangay captain of Bukandala, found a pair of slippers (Exhs. B and B-2) with thumbtacks (Exhs. B-1 and B-3) embedded in the insteps. One of the bystanders, Alejandro de la Cruz, identified the slippers as those of accused-appellant. SPO3 Gomez and Barangay Captain Manimbao, therefore, proceeded to the nipa hut of accused-appellant. SPO3 Gomez claimed they found a stained T-shirt hanging from a tree more or less a meter away from the nipa hut. SPO3 Gomez said he took the T-shirt as he suspected the red stain on it to be human blood. Also a meter away from the side of the nipa hut he recovered a bolo with a stain on it. Present were accused-appellant, his wife and his brother. SPO3 Gomez said accused-appellants brother told him the slippers belonged to accused-appellant. SPO3 Gomez said that he asked accused-appellant whether he knew anything about the crime, but the latter did not answer and just kept quiet. He then invited accused-appellant to the police station for questioning. During oral interrogation, SPO3 Gomez said, accused-appellant admitted that he had hacked Jonalyn Navidad but they did not take down accused-appellants confession because there was no available lawyer to assist accused-appellant. According to SPO3 Gomez, the T-shirt and bolo were sent to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for testing, while the slippers were turned over to the Regional Trial Court. The NBI subsequently reported that the shirt and bolo both tested positive for human blood showing reactions to Group O. (Exh. E)4 SPO3 Gomez and the barangay captain, Edgardo Manimbao, signed a Magkasamang Salaysay (Exh. C)5 on April 13, 1995.6cräläwvirtualibräry
On July 3, 1996, SPO3 Gomez was recalled to the witness stand. He was shown a bolo (Exh. F) and a T-shirt (Exh. G). He identified them as the ones he recovered near accused-appellants house. He claimed that he took the items in the presence of the barangay captain.7 On cross-examination, SPO3 Gomez admitted that he took the shirt and the bolo from accused-appellant without any search warrant.8cräläwvirtualibräry
The next witness was Edgardo Manimbao, barangay captain of Bukandala, Imus. He testified that on April 13, 1995, he received a report of a woman having been hacked. Accompanied by the barangay secretary and some members of the barangay council, he proceeded to the scene of the crime, but when he reached the place the victim was no longer there. What he only saw were "traces that a woman fell" and a pair of slippers near an acacia tree. Manimbao said that he accompanied SPO3 Gomez to the house of accused-appellant, which was 120 meters away from the scene of the crime. They found a bloodstained bolo and T-shirt a meter away from accused-appellant's house. The witness said that accused-appellants wife identified the T-shirt as her husbands. SPO3 Gomez and Manimbao then took accused-appellant, his wife, and his brother to the police station. Afterwards, Manimbao said, he went to the hospital to see the victim and saw that she had suffered several hack wounds on the head. Manimbao said he returned to the police station where he was told by SPO3 Gomez that accused-appellant, who was in jail, wanted to talk to him. Accompanied by a certain Cenon Santarin, Manimbao then went to see accused-appellant. Manimbao claimed accused-appellant admitted to him that the pair of slippers found at the scene of the crime was his and that he was the one who had killed the victim. After being told thus, Manimbao said he asked the prison guard if accused-appellant had told him why he had killed the victim and he was told it was because Jonalyn Navidad was so angry at accused-appellant she spat on his face.9cräläwvirtualibräry
The third witness was Christopher Saliva, 19 years of age, a delivery boy and a resident of Bukandala. He testified that on April 13, 1995, between 10 and 11 in the morning, while he was on his way home after feeding the fighting cocks at his farm, he saw accused-appellant, a childhood friend, going away from the scene of the crime carrying a bolo, and that when accused-appellant saw him the latter acted as if he had just seen a ghost and turned pale. He described accused-appellant as wearing a polo shirt with blue and yellow stripes. He did not notice whether the latter was wearing shoes or slippers. He also said that it was only at about 11 in the morning that he learned about the hacking incident from his cousin Allan Saquilayan. He later told the victims father that he had seen accused-appellant coming from the scene of the crime, and, the next day, he went to the police station to give a statement (Exh. D).10 (He must have told the victims father about seeing accused-appellant on April 13, 1995 near the scene of the crime on April 15 because he gave his statement to the police on April 16, 1995.)11cräläwvirtualibräry
On cross-examination, Saliva testified that he knew accused-appellant and the victim as both were his childhood friends. He said that he and accused-appellant had no misunderstanding.12cräläwvirtualibräry
Eric Navidad, the 13-year old brother of the victim, testified that he was the one who found his sister between 10 and 11 on April 13, 1995 near a creek. He ran and fetched his father. Eric said that he saw a pair of yellow slippers near the body. He testified that it was the one that accused-appellant wore while playing basketball. He recognized the slippers because they had thumbtacks in the insteps which he noticed everytime he passed by accused-appellant's house and the latter took them of and left them at the foot of the stairs. Eric also said that although accused-appellant was married, he courted Jonalyn.13cräläwvirtualibräry
On cross-examination, Eric testified that he was asked questions by the police. Although the investigation was reduced to writing, Eric said that he was not placed under oath or made to sign any report or statement.14cräläwvirtualibräry
The last witness for the prosecution was Alejandro de la Cruz, a 34-year old driver and resident of Bukandala 5. He testified that, on April 13, 1995, at about 11 in the morning, he was roused from sleep by his wife and told that Jonalyn Navidad had been seriously wounded and taken to the hospital. With only his briefs on and a towel wrapped around his hips, he went to the scene of the crime where he saw a pair of yellow slippers near an acacia tree. One slipper was upright, while the other was overturned. De la Cruz said he knew that accused-appellant owned the slippers because of the thumbtacks on them. He claimed that during the wake of his father in January 1995, he hid the slippers as he and his friends played a game while accused-appellant was asleep.15 De la Cruz gave a sworn statement (Exh. E)16 in which he identified the slippers as those of accused-appellant. On cross-examination, De la Cruz said he was neither a friend of accused-appellant nor a relative of the victim.17cräläwvirtualibräry
The defense thereafter presented its witnesses, accused-appellant and Rosita Cabaero.
Accused-appellant claimed18 that on April 13, 1995, between 10 and 11 in the morning, he was in his house cooking. He and his wife had a visitor from Makati, Rosita Cabaero. Earlier that day, between nine and 10, accused-appellant said the victims mother, Jocelyn Navidad, came for help because her daughter Jonalyn had been found slumped in the creek. Hence, accused-appellant and his elder brother, Joel Avenda,19 went to the creek. They saw Jonalyn being held by her father Nicasio Navidad. She was placed in a jeepney and taken to the hospital. Accused-appellant said he and his brother then went home, but, 30 minutes later, a group of policemen led by SPO3 Arsenio Gomez, went to his house and arrested him. He complained that the policemen took his bolo and his T-shirt without any search warrant or warrant of arrest. He claimed that he was taken to the municipal building where he was beaten up to make him admit to the killing of Jonalyn Navidad, but he admitted no such thing.
As to the T-shirt, accused-appellant said it had no stain when the police took it. He denied that Christopher Saliva saw him carrying a bolo and wearing a bloodstained shirt, saying, [t]heres no truth to that allegation, sir, because at that time I was already at home. Accused-appellant also denied attending the wake of the father of Alejandro de la Cruz [b]ecause at that time . . . my wife is pregnant and I have to stay at home.
As for the testimony of the victims brother, Eric Navidad, that he knew that the slippers belonged to accused-appellant because he used to see the latter playing basketball while wearing the same, accused-appellant claimed that he does not know how to play basketball. Accused-appellant said that he saw the slippers for the first time when they were shown to him in court. He said that he does not place thumbtacks on his slippers because the same would cause him injuries.
Accused-appellant testified that the family of the victim owned the land which he had been cultivating for the last 12 years.
On cross-examination,20 accused-appellant testified he had written two letters, dated December 27, 1995 and February 1, 1996, to the court in which he questioned the legality of his arrest and invoked his right to a speedy trial. He said that he had complained to the policemen at the municipal jail that his arrest was illegal, but they would not listen to him; that while he knew it was his right to have a preliminary investigation, he had no way of asking for reinvestigation because he knew no one whom he could approach for help.
Accused-appellant admitted being close to the victim, but he denied that he had any special feelings for her.
Accused-appellant said that his house faces the victims house and that the house next to his house is his in-laws house. Other than those three houses, accused-appellant said that there are no other houses in the vicinity.
Accused-appellant said that the reason why he was implicated in the killing of Jonalyn was because the latters family wanted to eject him from the land on which his house was built so that the land could be sold. He said that already his house as well as that of his parents had been removed from the property.
Accused-appellants alibi was corroborated by Rosita Cabaero. She testified that accused-appellant was a cousin of her neighbor in Makati, Geraldine Defenso. She claimed that in the morning of April 13, 1995 she was at accused-appellants house because the latter's cousin had asked her to get from accused-appellants mother a dog that will be slaughtered for the birthday of accused-appellants cousin. At around 10 in the morning, Rosita Cabaero said a woman (apparently Jonalyns mother) came to accused-appellants house asking for help. Accused-appellant woke up his brother and then left the house and returned after 30 minutes. Half an hour later, policemen arrived together with some barangay officers and took accused-appellant with them.21cräläwvirtualibräry
On cross-examination, Rosita testified that accused-appellants brother Joel did not leave the house. She said that the dog she came to get was killed and placed in a sack by Joel at around nine in the morning.22cräläwvirtualibräry
On July 7, 1997, the Regional Trial Court rendered its decision finding accused-appellant guilty of the murder of Jonalyn Navidad. It held that [t]he chain of circumstances occurring before, during, and after the hacking of Jonalyn Navidad, linked together, leads to but one indubitable conclusion: that she was murdered by the herein accused, Danilo Morada. It imposed on him the penalty of death after finding that the crime had been committed with treachery, evident premeditation, abuse of superior strength, and cruelty.
Hence, this appeal. Accused-appellant contends that -
THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF MURDER AND SENTENCING HIM TO SUFFER THE PENALTY OF DEATH BASED ON PURELY CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE.23
In convicting accused-appellant, the trial court relied on the following circumstances as constituting an unbroken chain leading to the conclusion that accused-appellant was the author of the crime:
1. In the scene of the crime the accuseds pair of slippers with thumbtacks on them was found. This was positively identified as belonging to the accused by Eric Navidad, a younger brother of the victim and the first person who discovered the victims body. Alejandro Dela Cruz, likewise, identified the same subject slippers having seen them during a hide-and-seek game in the wake of his dead father while Joel Avenda, accuseds half brother, also identified the accused as the owner of the same pair of slippers.
2. Accused was seen by Christopher Saliva coming from the scene of the crime carrying with him a bolo and reacted as if he saw a ghost and turned pale when he saw Saliva. Accused was then wearing a polo shirt with striped design of blue and yellow which matched the blood-stained shirt recovered from a tree beside the nipa house of the accused.
3. From the premises of the accused were recovered a blood-stained yellow and gray striped T-shirt hanging on a tree and one (1) blood-stained bolo about a meter away from the side of the nipa house of the accused. Further, Moradas wife identified the blood-stained T-shirt as belonging to her husband Danilo Morada.
4. The NBI Forensic Chemistry Division laboratory examinations of the blood-stained yellow and gray striped T-shirt and bolo recovered at Danilo Moradas place both gave positive results for human blood.
5. At the police headquarters, accused admitted before barangay captain Edgardo Manimbao that the pair of slippers was actually his and that he was really the one who hacked Jonalyn Navidad because Jonalyn Navidad, according to the jail guard when asked by Manimbao, was very angry at him (Morada) up to the point that she spat on his face.
6. Eric Navidad revealed that Danilo Morada had intimated to him that he (Morada) had an affection for his elder sister when she was still alive even though Morada was a married man.24
Rule 133, 4 of the Revised Rules on Evidence provides:
Sec. 4. Circumstantial evidence, when sufficient. - 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.
The question in this case is whether the circumstances from which the trial court drew its conclusion have been duly proven by the prosecution and, if so, whether, taken together, they support a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. If some of the circumstances have not been duly established, the further question is whether the remaining ones are nevertheless sufficient to produce such conviction beyond reasonable doubt.
First is accused-appellants alleged confession to Barangay Captain Edgardo Manimbao. Manimbao testified that, after coming from the hospital to see the victim, he returned to the police station and there was told by SPO3 Gomez that accused-appellant wanted to talk to him. Accordingly, he said, he went to see accused-appellant who was then in jail. Accused-appellant allegedly admitted that he had killed the victim. Apparently, the purpose is to show that accused-appellant spontaneously made the confession, that is, not in the course of interrogation by the police. In fact, Manimbao claimed accused-appellant sought him out for a meeting.25cräläwvirtualibräry
In People v. Andan,26 this Court held that the constitutional guarantees during custodial investigation do not apply to spontaneous statements not elicited through questioning by the authorities and given during an ordinary conversation or during media interviews, whereby the suspect orally admits the commission of the crime. Our ruling in that case does not, however, authorize the police to obtain confessions they cannot otherwise obtain through media reporters who are actually acting for the police. The holding in Andan is qualified by the following:
Clearly, appellants confessions to the news reporters were given free from any undue influence from the police authorities. The news reporters acted as news reporters when they interviewed appellant. They were not acting under the direction and control of the police. They were there to check appellants confession to the mayor. They did not force appellant to grant them an interview and reenact the commission of the crime. In fact, they asked his permission before interviewing him. . . .27
In the case at bar, it is doubtful whether, as Manimbao claimed, accused-appellants confession was given divorced from the police interrogation. In his testimony, SPO3 Gomez stated:
We conducted [oral] interrogation to the suspect. During our [oral] interrogation with the help of Bgy. Captain [Edgardo Manimbao], the suspect admitted to us that hes the one who hacked Jonalyn Navidad. Although we do not reduced [sic] it into writing because of the absen[ce] of [a] lawyer.28
It would thus appear that Manimbaos conversation with accused-appellant was part of the then ongoing police investigation. In fact, he said it was SPO3 Gomez who told him about the alleged desire of accused-appellant to see him (Manimbao). Since the confession was admittedly given without the safeguards in Art. III, 1229 and the additional ones provided in R.A. No. 7438, particularly the requirement that the confession be in writing and duly signed by the suspect in the presence of counsel, we hold that accused-appellants confession is inadmissible, and it was error for the trial court to use it in convicting accused-appellant.
Moreover, Edgardo Manimbaos testimony as to the circumstances surrounding the confession allegedly given to him is in itself improbable.
First of all, Manimbao did not give a plausible reason why accused-appellant would want to talk to him. He testified that accused-appellant want[ed] to get out of jail.30 If that were the case, it was highly very unlikely that accused-appellant would admit his guilt.
Another reason which makes Edgardo Manimbaos account unlikely is his claim that after accused-appellant had confessed to the crime, Manimbao asked the prison guard if accused-appellant had told him (the prison guard) why he killed the victim.31 Manimbao himself could have asked accused-appellant the question if accused-appellant had really admitted to him the crime. Indeed, if one were to believe the prosecution evidence, it would seem that accused-appellant confessed to the crime to almost everyone: to SPO3 Gomez, to barangay captain Manimbao, and to the prison guard. How then could accused-appellant hope to be freed? Manimbaos claim is not only patently improbable it is even hearsay as far as the alleged information given to him by the prison guard is concerned.
As for the T-shirt and the bolo which SPO3 Gomez and Barangay Captain Edgardo Manimbao said they found near accused-appellants nipa hut with bloodstains on them, the evidence is doubtful. Accused-appellant admits that the shirt and the bolo are his, but he denies that when they were taken from him on April 13, 1995 they were bloodstained. Indeed, in his testimony in court, Christopher Saliva did not say he saw bloodstains on the shirt which accused-appellant was wearing and the bolo he was carrying. It is improbable that these incriminating pieces of evidence would be left in the premises of accused-appellants house within public view: the T-shirt, bloodstained, hanging from a tree, and the bolo, also bloodstained, in the yard. The articles in question could only have been left outside the house because, as accused-appellant contends, they had no bloodstains.
Moreover, even if the shirt and the bolo were bloodstained when found by SPO3 Gomez and Barangay Captain Manimbao, it has not been shown that the blood matched the blood type of the victim. As held in People v. Padilla,32 unless shown that bloodstains on alleged instruments of crime match the blood type of the victim the same cannot sustain conviction of the accused.
The question now is whether, without accused-appellants alleged confession and the bloodstains on the T-shirt and bolo which were admittedly taken from accused-appellant, there is enough circumstantial evidence to convict him of the killing of Jonalyn Navidad. The remaining evidence consists of circumstances which, according to the trial court, were duly proven, to wit: (1) that accused-appellant was seen near the scene of the crime between 10 and 11 in the morning of the day in question wearing the T-shirt and carrying the bolo which the prosecution presented in evidence and (2) that a pair of slippers was found near the place where the body of the victim was retrieved and the slippers belonged to accused-appellant.
The claim that accused-appellant was near the scene of the crime between 10 and 11 in the morning comes from the testimony of Christopher Saliva. His testimony would be uncorroborated if he did not describe what he allegedly saw accused-appellant wearing and the bolo the latter was supposedly carrying at the time. This part of Salivas testimony is critical to his claim that he saw accused-appellant because it coincides with the description of the T-shirt33 and the bolo taken by SPO3 Gomez and Barangay Captain Manimbao from accused-appellant. It appears, however, that Saliva was simply made to say that accused-appellant was wearing the T-shirt and carrying the bolo in question after these articles had been taken from accused-appellant not so much to corroborate Gomez and Manimbaos claim (because after all accused-appellant admits that the articles belonged to him) but rather to give a verisimilitude to Saliva's own claim that he had seen accused-appellant near the scene of the crime. Note that Saliva gave his statement to the police only on April 16, 1995, after Gomez and Manimbao had executed a joint statement that they had taken a T-shirt and a bolo, both allegedly bloodstained, from accused-appellant. Saliva said that around 11 in the morning of April 13, 1995 (which means shortly after he had allegedly seen accused-appellant near the scene of the crime), he was told by his cousin, Allan Saquilayan, that Jonalyn Navidad had been killed. Yet, judging by the delay in giving his sworn statement to the police, it appears that it did not immediately occur to him that accused-appellant might have something to do with the killing. This is strange since according to this witness, accused-appellant had a bolo which was bloodstained and turned pale as though surprised while committing something wrong. There is, therefore, doubt whether Christopher Saliva really saw accused-appellant near the scene of the crime at about the time the crime was committed.
It would thus appear that Saliva did not mention in his sworn statement (Exh. D) that when accused-appellant saw him on April 13, 1995 the latter turned pale and appeared surprised because it is not true Saliva saw accused-appellant, in the same way that Saliva did not mention in his testimony in court that he saw accused-appellant with bloodstained shirt and bloodstained bolo because he really did not see accused-appellant on that day, much less the bloodstain on the shirt and the bolo.
The last piece of evidence mentioned by the trial court as constituting a link in a chain of circumstances are the slippers (Exhs. B and B-2) which SPO3 Gomez, Barangay Captain Manimbao, and an onlooker, Alejandro de la Cruz, said they found near the place where Jonalyn Navidad was found. These slippers were identified to be those of accused-appellant by Eric Navidad, younger brother of the victim, and Alejandro de la Cruz. Both witnesses said they recognized the slippers because of thumb tacks (Exhs. B-1 and B-3) placed in the middle of the insteps. Actually, the slippers are rubber sandals with Japanese-style straps designed for beach walk. It is inconceivable why the owner should place thumbtacks in the insteps of his sandals. The thumbtacks could not have been used to hold the straps or fasten them to the sandals because the fact is that the straps had not given way. On the other hand, as accused-appellant pointed out, he would not place the thumbtacks there because they could injure him.
Eric said he saw accused-appellant wearing these sandals while playing basketball and on the occasion he passed by accused-appellant's house. Accused-appellant would take off his sandals and leave them at the foot of the stairs, and this was how Eric noticed the thumbtacks. Eric Navidad was interviewed at the police station in connection with the killing of his sister. Yet, it does not appear he ever told the police that he recognized the sandals because of the thumbtacks embedded in their insteps. He made this claim only on February 14, 1996 when he testified in court.
On the other hand, Alejandro de la Cruz had an ingenious explanation why he recognized the slippers to be those of accused-appellant because of the thumbacks embedded in their insteps. He said accused-appellant went to his (Alejandro de la Cruz) fathers wake in January 1995 and, while there, accused-appellant dozed off. In the course of a game, Alejandro de la Cruz said he and his companions hid accused-appellants sandals. In doing so, he noticed the thumb tacks in question. The story sounds artificial. Alejandro de la Cruz was 33 years old at the time. To drive away boredom would he have played hide and seek with other people attending the wake? And did he think it proper to do this (play "hide and seek") even when it was the wake for his own father? The attempt at ingeniousness can only create doubt in his story of how he allegedly came to see thumb tacks embedded in the insteps of accused-appellants sandals that would later give him away as the author of the crime. Alejandro de la Cruz must be very observant to notice something in otherwise nondescript sandals.
There may indeed be suspicion that accused-appellant is the author of the crime. But our legal culture demands proof beyond reasonable doubt to be established according to law before any person may be deprived of his life, liberty, or even property. We cannot render judgment on the basis of mere guesses, surmises, or suspicion. It is not sufficient for a conviction that the evidence establishes a strong suspicion or a probability of guilt. Before an accused can be convicted, the hypothesis of his guilt must flow naturally from the facts proved and must be consistent with all of them.
WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is REVERSED and accused-appellant Danilo Morada y Tumlod is ACQUITTED on the ground of reasonable doubt.
The Director of Prisons is hereby directed to forthwith cause the release of accused-appellant unless the latter is being lawfully held for another cause and to inform the Court accordingly within ten (10) days from notice.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Gonzaga-Reyes, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.
Purisima, and Buena, JJ., on leave.
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