March 31, 1994
This is an appeal from the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch XVI, Isabela in Criminal Case No. IV-781, finding appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder qualified by treachery, with the attendance of the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender, and the aggravating circumstances of taking advantage of public position and evident premeditation. The trial court sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay to the heirs of the late Jerry Calpito, Sr., the sum of P88,596.00 as actual or compensatory damages; P30,000.00 as death indemnity; P20,000.00 as moral damages; P30,000.00 as exemplary damages; and the costs.
The information in Criminal Case No. IV-781 reads as follows:
That on or about the 6th day of October, 1979, at Barangay San Jose, municipality of Roxas, province of Isabela, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the accused CIC LORETO GAPASIN, PC NICANOR SALUDARES, LORENZO SORIANO alias Olit, AMOR SALUDARES, FRANK SALUDARES, BEL SALUDARES, and NICK SALUDARES, conspiring and confederating together and all helping one another, with evident premeditation and treachery, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, criminally and feloniously, with intent to kill, attack and shoot Jerry Calpito, with an Armalite rifle SN No. 3267485
Cal. 5.56 duly issued to the accused PC soldier under Memorandum Receipt dated September 17, 1979 by the 118th PC Company, inflicting multiple gunshot wounds on the body of the latter, step and kick (sic) the victim several times, causing his instantaneous death due to hemorrhage secondary to gunshot wounds, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the deceased Jerry Calpito in the amount of P12,000.00, Philippine Currency.
That the crime was committed with the aggravating circumstances of (1) ignominy, the accused having stepped and kicked the body of the deceased; (2) abuse of superior strength, and (3) taking advantage of public position, with respect to the accused CIC Loreto Gapasin who is a PC soldier” (Rollo, pp. 35-36).
A warrant for the arrest of all the accused was issued on December 14, 1980. However, as of January 10, 1980, only Nicanor Saludares and appellant had been arrested. On January 17, 1980, the trial court granted the petition for bail of the two accused and fixed the same at P20,000.00 each. Having posted bail, Nicanor Saludares was ordered released on January 22, 1980. On the
other hand, appellant was ordered by the court to remain in the custody of
Capt. Alexander M. Bellen, commanding officer of the 118th Constabulary Company, in Roxas, Isabela.
On February 4, 1980, Frank, Bel and Amor, all surnamed Saludares, were arrested. Lorenzo Soriano, alias Olit, was arrested the following day. They were all allowed to post bail bonds in the amount of P20,000.00 each and thereafter they were released from custody.
On the strength of LOI No. 947, as amended by LOI No. 1011, vesting jurisdiction on the Military Tribunals of all crimes against persons and property committed with the use of unlicensed firearms, the provincial fiscal filed a motion praying that Criminal Case No. IV-781 be transferred to the Military Tribunal and that the bail bonds posted be cancelled. The prosecution reiterated the motion in a manifestation dated August 21, 1980.
Accordingly, on August 27, 1980, the trial court ordered: (a) the cancellation of the bail bonds of the accused; (b) the issuance of the warrants of arrest for all the accused except for Nicanor Saludares, who was reported to have died; (c) the turn over of appellant to the Provincial Warden of Isabela as he was not entitled to technical rearrest under Executive Order No. 106; (d) the turn over to the said Provincial Warden of all the other accused upon their rearrest; and (e) thereafter, the turn over of the case and the accused to the Military Tribunal thru the Provincial Commander of the PC/INP, Ilagan, Isabela for further proceedings.
Pursuant to the endorsement dated September 19, 1980 of Lt. Col. Oscar M. Florendo, Isabela Provincial Commander, appellant, together with Lorenzo Soriano, Amor Saludares and Bel Saludares, was rearrested; while Nick and Frank Saludares remained at-large. On September 29, 1980, the trial court ordered the dismissal of the case against Nicanor Saludares on account of his death on June 7, 1980.
The accused, however, filed a motion for the reconsideration of the Order of August 27, 1980 on the grounds that the case was not covered by LOI
No. 947, the crime having been committed on October 6, 1979 or several days before the issuance of said LOI. The trial court denied their motion.
By virtue of General Order No. 69 dated January 12, 1981, the records of the case were transferred back to the trial court from the Military Tribunal. On April 1, 1981, the prosecution moved for the recommitment of the accused to the provincial jail. The defense opposed the motion fearing retaliation from a provincial jail guard, who was a relative of the victim. On May 12, 1981, the trial court denied the motion and set the arraignment of the accused on June 1, 1981.
On May 18, 1981, Col. Florendo informed the trial court that Bel and Amor Saludares have escaped from the Rehabilitation Center of the Provincial Command on April 10, 1981.
On May 29, 1981, the provincial fiscal moved for the reconsideration of the Order of May 12, 1981, alleging that the accused were not actually detained at the PC Headquarters and that, except for appellant, the accused have absconded. Hence, to prevent a miscarriage of justice, the provincial fiscal prayed for the recommitment of accused Soriano and appellant at the provincial jail and for the issuance of the warrants of arrest for Amor, Bel and Frank Saludares.
The trial court granted the motion and issued warrants of arrest. Despite diligent efforts, however, the other accused were not rearrested and hence, trial proceeded against accused Soriano and appellant only. On June 1, 1981, they both pleaded not guilty.
Two years later, on June 1, 1983, the trial court denied appellant’s application for bail but granted that of accused Soriano, whose bail bond was fixed at P30,000.00. Being so persistent, appellant filed a second motion for bail, which was denied by the trial court on June 1, 1984. He filed a third motion to fix bail, which was likewise denied.
Relying on the provisions of Section 4 of P.D. No. 1850, appellant filed an urgent motion praying that he be transferred to the custody of Col. Alfonso M. Mesa, then Provincial Commander of Isabela. The trial court denied the motion. His motion for reconsideration having been denied, appellant filed a petition for certiorari before the then Intermediate Appellate Court, alleging that the trial court acted with grave abuse of discretion in refusing to apply Section 4 of P.D. No. 1850. The appellate court granted the petition and ordered the immediate transfer of appellant to the custody of his military commander.
Meanwhile, accused Frank Saludares was arrested and he entered a plea of not guilty at his arraignment. He was later allowed to post bail. Since Soriano and Frank Saludares were both out on bail, the defense opted to present evidence on behalf of appellant only and to submit the case for decision as soon as possible. Thus, after almost six years, trial on the case ensued.
According to prosecution witness Alberto Carrido, he and Rodrigo Ballad left the house of Enteng Teppang at about 2:00 P.M. of October 6, 1979 after attending the “pamisa” for the deceased father of Teppang. Jerry Calpito followed them. While they were walking along the barangay road, Calpito was shot by appellant with an armalite rifle. When Calpito fell on the ground, appellant fired more shots at him. Thereafter, accused Amor Saludares planted a .22 caliber revolver on the left hand of Calpito. Upon hearing the shots, Faustina Calpito ran to succor her fallen husband.
Accused Nicanor Saludares pointed his gun at Faustina while accused Soriano fired his gun upwards. Saludares warned that he would kill any relative of Jerry Calpito who would come near him. Faustina and the other relatives of the victim scampered away as the Saludares’ group chased them.
The body of Calpito was autopsied by Dr. Bernardo Layugan, who found that the victim sustained four bullet wounds: (1) on the right lateral side of the arm fracturing the humerus; (2) on the right lateral side of the thorax between the 7th and 8th ribs with exit wound at the sternum; (3) on the left side of the thorax, anterior, between the 5th and 6th ribs; and (4) on the right fronto-parietal portion of the head “severing the skull and brain tissues” (Exh. “F”). Dr. Layugan opined that the victim was in a standing position when he was shot by someone positioned at his right.
Appellant invoked self-defense. He testified that he was issued a mission order on September 23, 1979 to investigate a report regarding the presence of unidentified armed men in Barrio San Jose, Roxas, Isabela. The following day, he was instructed by Sgt. Dominador Ignacio to get in touch with Nicanor Saludares who may be able to give him information on the identities of the persons with unlicensed firearms in the place. When appellant met Nicanor Saludares on September 29, 1979, he was informed that Jerry Calpito had an unlicensed firearm.
On October 5, 1979, Nicanor Saludares went to the P.C. Headquarters in Roxas and told appellant that it would be best for him to see Jerry Calpito the following day as a relative of the latter would be buried. The next day, appellant went to Barangay San Jose, arriving there at 12 noon. Instead of going to the cemetery, he went to the house of Nicanor Saludares. From there, they went to the house of Enteng Teppang to attend the “pamisa.” While they were having lunch, Nick Saludares advised appellant against confronting Calpito because it would create a disturbance at the “pamisa.” He also told appellant that Calpito would surely pass his (Saludares) house on his way home.
Appellant and Nicanor Saludares positioned themselves inside the yard of the latter. When appellant saw Calpito, he went out of the yard into the barangay road. When Calpito was about three meters away from him, appellant asked him what was bulging in his waist. Instead of answering, Calpito took a step backward, drew his firearm from the waist and fired twice at appellant. He missed because appellant dropped to the ground simultaneously firing his armalite.
After fifteen minutes, the police arrived and took the body of the victim to the morgue. Appellant was brought to the P.C. Headquarters in Roxas, where he was investigated.
The appeal hinges primarily on the credibility of the prosecution witnesses. Appellant claims that the prosecution witnesses, all of them being relatives of the victim, were naturally biased against him.
This Court has time and again reiterated the principle that it will not interfere with the findings of the trial court on the issue of credibility of witnesses and their testimonies unless the trial court has plainly overlooked undisputed facts of substance and value which would have altered the result of the case (People v. Matrimonio, 215 SCRA 613 ). Findings of the trial court are generally accorded great respect by an appellate tribunal for the latter can only read in cold print the testimonies of the witnesses.
In the trial before the lower court, the eye-witnesses testified in their local dialect and their testimonies had to be translated to English. In the process of converting into written form the testimonies of the witnesses, not only the fine nuances but a world of meaning apparent only to the trial judge, may escape the reader of the translated words (People v. Baslot, 209 SCRA 537 ).
The fact that the prosecution witnesses are relatives of the victim does not necessarily indicate that they were biased as to impair their credibility. In the absence of proof of ill motive on the part of witnesses, relationship between them and the victim does not undermine their credibility. On the contrary, it would be unnatural for persons such as the relatives of the victim who themselves seek justice to commit the injustice by imputing the crime on persons other than those who are actually responsible (People v. De Paz, 212 SCRA 56 ).
Appellant’s claim of self-defense is belied by the finding of the trial court that the victim was shot by someone who was standing on his right side. Appellant’s version that he was in front of the victim when the latter fired a shot at him and that he retaliated while dropping on the ground, crumbles in the face of the physical evidence that the victim sustained two gunshot wounds which entered the right side of his body and a gunshot wound on the right side of his head. The nature and number of wounds inflicted by the appellant disprove the plea of self-defense (People v. Bigcas, 211 SCRA 631 ).
Had appellant and Nicanor Saludares, Sr. not intended to harm the victim, they could have simply apprehended him. Or, having verified that Calpito possessed an unlicensed firearm, appellant could have reported the matter to his superiors so that warrants for Calpito’s arrest and the seizure of his unlicensed firearm could have been obtained.
Appellant contended that the crime committed is homicide. The trial court correctly ruled that the crime of murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code was indeed committed. Treachery attended the commission of the crime. The two conditions to constitute treachery were present in the case at bench, to wit: (a) the employment of means of execution that gives the person who is attacked no opportunity to defend himself or to retaliate; and (b) the means of execution were deliberately or consciously adopted (People v. Narit, 197 SCRA 334 ).
Appellant deliberately executed the act in such a way that his quarry was unaware and helpless. This can be gleaned from his act of waiting for the victim behind the hollow-block fence of Nicanor Saludares and shooting the victim from his right side.
Evident premeditation was indubitably proven by the evidence showing that the execution of the criminal case was preceded by cool thought and reflection. Appellant’s resolution to carry out the criminal intent during the space of time sufficient to arrive at a clear judgment was shown (People v. Castor, 216 SCRA 410 ).
In view of the presence of treachery which qualified the killing as murder, the evident premeditation should be considered only as a generic aggravating circumstance (People v. Fabros, 214 SCRA 694 ).
The information alleged three other generic aggravating circumstances: ignominy, abuse of superior strength and taking advantage of public position. The trial court correctly ruled out ignominy on the strength of the autopsy conducted by the doctor who failed to find any other injuries such as bruises and contusions which may indicate that the victim was kicked by his assailants. It also correctly held that treachery absorbed abuse of superior strength (People v. Moral, 132 SCRA 474 ).
The trial court properly appreciated taking advantage of public position as an aggravating circumstance. Appellant, a member of the Philippine Constabulary, committed the crime with an armalite which was issued to him when he received the mission order (People v. Madrid, 88 Phil. 1 ).
Voluntary surrender may be considered in appellant’s favor but this is offset by the aggravating circumstance of taking advantage of public position. Therefore, only the generic aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation may be appreciated against appellant. As such, the correct penalty would have been death in accordance with Articles 248 and 64(3) of the Revised Penal Code Were it not for the fact that such penalty is constitutionally abhorrent. Hence, the proper penalty is reclusion perpetua.
The trial court correctly exercised its discretion in imposing moral, compensatory and exemplary damages (People v. Rabanes, 208 SCRA 768 ; People v. Quilaton, 205 SCRA 279 ).
WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is AFFIRMED.
Cruz, Davide, Jr., Bellosillo and Kapunan, JJ., concur.
March 31, 1994
Petitioner Rodolfo Parayno is the incumbent municipal mayor of Urdaneta, Pangasinan. The other petitioners, namely, Clemartin Arboleda, Eduardo Perez, Casimiro Carancho, Diosdado Samson, Maximo Sumera and Marcelino Dela Cruz, are members of the Sangguniang Bayan of the municipality who, along with Parayno, are the protestees in separate election protests now still pending with the court a quo.
This petition for certiorari seeks to set aside the orders, dated 22 October 1993 1 and 16 November 1993, 2 of respondent Judge Iluminado Meneses of Branch 49, Regional Trial Court, of Urdaneta, Pangasinan, voluntarily inhibiting himself from hearing the election cases and denying petitioners’ motion for the reconsideration thereof.
The mayoralty protest (docketed Case No. U-5346), involving Parayno, was originally raffled and assigned to Branch 45 of the Regional Trial Court, Urdaneta, Pangasinan, presided over by Judge Manuel Villanueva. The councilors’ protest (docketed Case No. U-5347), involving the other petitioners, was assigned to Branch 49 of the Regional Trial Court, also sitting in Urdaneta, Pangasinan, with respondent Judge Iluminado Meneses presiding.
On 22 October 1992, a motion for the inhibition of Judge Villanueva was filed by petitioner Parayno, which the court promptly granted. After the records of Case No. U-5346 were thus forwarded to Executive Judge Romulo Abasolo, the latter, in an order, dated 26 October 1992, directed the assignment of the case to Branch 46 of the court but only after its presiding Judge, Hon. Roger Domagas, agreed to hear and try the case. Claiming impropriety in the assignment of the case, petitioner Parayno assailed before this Court the order of the Executive Judge. The Court issued a temporary restraining order and promptly remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for proper disposition. The appellate court set aside the questioned order of 26 October 1992, and it directed the Executive Judge to instead include the case in the regular raffle for re- assignment.
The case was thereupon re-raffled to Branch 49, where the councilors’ protests were then pending. The Committee on Revision in Case No. U-5346 (the mayoralty protest) terminated its work on 07 October 1993 but prior to the submission of its report, a “Motion to Use Revision Committee Report Blank Form” was filed by protestant Lorenzo Mateo (herein private respondent). In the afternoon of 21 October 1993, while the revision of ballots in Case No. U-5347 (councilors’ protest) was in progress, private respondent Mateo, the Revisor for the protestants-councilors in the Revision Committee, manifested: 3
. . . . I would like also to make of record that the Trial Presiding Judge of Branch 49 is the same Trial Judge of this Electoral Protest Case U-5346, Parayno versus Mateo (sic) and therefore the Protestant look at it that there seems to be a certain degree of greater sympathy of the Trial Presiding Judge to the Protestee. . . . (Verceles Transcript of Stenographic Notes, Civil Case No. U-5347, revision of Ballots on October 21, 1993, 1:45 p.m., pp. 6-7)
The following day, respondent judge issued the assailed order inhibiting himself from further hearing the two cases. The motion for a reconsideration of the order was denied by the judge.
Hence, this petition for certiorari.
We see merit in the petition.
Section 1, Rule 137, of the Rules of Court reads:
Sec. 1. Disqualification of judges. ? No judge or judicial officer shall sit in any case in which he, or his wife or child, is pecuniarily interested as heir, legatee, or creditor or otherwise, or in which he is related to either party within the sixth degree of consanguinity or affinity, or to counsel within the fourth degree, computed according to the rules of the civil law, or in which he has been executor, administrator, guardian, trustee or counsel, or in which he has presided in any inferior court when his ruling or decision is the subject of review, without the written consent of all parties in interest, signed by them and entered upon the record.
A judge may, in the exercise of his sound discretion, disqualify himself from sitting in a case, for just or valid reasons other than those mentioned above.
The underlying reason for the above rule is obviously to ensure that a judge, sitting in a case, will at all times be free from inclinations or prejudices and be well capable to render a just and independent judgment. A litigant, we often hear, is entitled to nothing less than the cold neutrality of a judge. 4 Due process requires it. Indeed, he not only must be able to so act without bias but should even appear to so be. 5 Impartiality is a state of mind; hence, the need for some kind of manifestation of its reality. 6
Verily, a judge may, in the exercise of his sound discretion, inhibit himself voluntarily from sitting in a case, but it should be based on good, sound or ethical grounds, 7 or for just and valid reasons. 8 It is not enough that a party throws some tenuous allegations of partiality at the judge. No less than imperative is that it is the judge’s sacred duty to administer justice without fear or favor. 9
We take note that the electoral protests here involved have remained unresolved for quite some time now. Any further delay in the disposition of the cases, particularly election protests where public interest is heavily involved, 10 cannot be countenanced.
All told and given the circumstances, we view the call for judge’s inhibition, and his acceding thereto, in this particular instance to be bereft of legal basis and improper.
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Orders of the respondent Judge are SET ASIDE and he is directed to proceed with dispatch in resolving the election protests at bar. No costs.
Feliciano, Bidin, Romero and Melo, JJ., concur.
1. Annex “M”, Petition, Rollo, 53-54.
2. Annex “K”, Petition, Rollo, 47-49.
3. Rollo, 44.
4. Castillo vs. Juan, 62 SCRA 124, 126 /1975/.
5. Conde vs. Superable, Jr., 29 SCRA 727, 735 /1969/.
6. Fernandez vs. Presbitero, 79 SCRA 61, 64 /19 77/.
7. Del Castillo v. Javelona, 6 SCRA 146, 150 /1962.
8. Geotina v. Gonzalez, 41 SCRA 66, 74 /19 71.
9. Concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Claudio Teehankee in Beltran v. Garcia, supra., 177.
10. Tatlonghari vs. Commission on Elections, 199 SCRA 8 49/1991/; Duremdes vs. Commission on Elections, 178 SCRA 7 46/1989/.
March 31, 1994
In a resolution promulgated on March 4, 1993 in CA-G.R. SP No. 29818, entitled (“Leonardo Lim de Mesa vs. Hon. Rodrigo V. Cosico, etc., et al.,”) respondent court denied due course to the petition for certiorari which sought the nullification of three orders of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 24, Biñan, Laguna which were issued as incidents of Civil Case No. B-1942 thereof. Petitioner is now before us impugning the forestalled resolution. 1
The case stemmed from an action for partition filed by herein private respondents against their eldest brother, herein petitioner Leonardo Lim de Mesa, and his sister Leticia Lim de Mesa, which suit was docketed in the Regional Trial Court of Laguna, Branch 24, as Civil Case No. B-1942. Private respondents prayed therein for the partition of the property left by their parents, Manuel de Mesa and Lucia Lim, consisting of a house and lot in Sta. Rosa Estate Subdivision, Laguna and a funeral parlor; that petitioner Leonardo de Mesa be compelled to render an accounting of the income of the funeral parlor business from October 24, 1980, the date when the mother of the parties died; and that private respondent Rogelio Lim de Mesa be declared the owner of eight-tenths (8 /10) of the entire estate, as the other heirs had assigned their interests to him.
In his answer, petitioner admitted that their deceased parents left the house and lot described in the complaint, but claimed that the funeral parlor, known as Lim de Mesa Memorial Chapel, was solely owned by him. Petitioner also alleged that their deceased parents left other properties and businesses which are in the possession and under the management of the two other plaintiffs therein.
After trial, the court rendered the following judgment:
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing considerations, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
1. Ordering the partition of the estate of the deceased spouses Manuel de Mesa and Lucia Lim described in paragraph 1 of the complaint as Lot No. 329 of the Sta. Rosa Estate Subdivision with a residential house of strong material(s) and a funeral business therein, all located at Sta. Rosa, Laguna, among the following surviving heirs in the following proportions;
1. Rogelio Lim de Mesa – 9.8787872 /13 shares representing the sum total of his participations plus all the shares sold to him by co-heirs Alfredo, Numeriano, Zenaida, Yolanda, Olivia, Benjamin, and Teresita, all surnamed Lim de Mesa
2. Leonardo Lim de Mesa – 0.6515151 /13 share
3. Leticia Lim de Mesa – 1.818181 /13 share
4. Wilson Lim de Mesa – 0.6515151 /13 share
as regards the property of the estate, namely, Lot No. 329 and the residential house of strong material(s) erected therein, and ?
1. Rogelio Lim de Mesa – 8 /11 shares
2. Leonardo Lim de Mesa – 1 /11 shares
3. Leticia Lim de Mesa – 1 /11 shares
4. Wilson Lim de Mesa – 1 /11 shares
as regards the proceeds from the funeral business from November 1980 up to the present after an accounting thereof to be rendered by Leonardo Lim de Mesa.
2. Ordering the defendants Leonardo Lim de Mesa and Leticia Lim de Mesa and plaintiff Wilson Lim de Mesa to execute a deed of confirmation of the Extra-Judicial Partition with Sale (Exhibit “H”) and “Reformation of Instrument” (Exhibit “I”) dated January 27, 1983 and November 12, 1984, respectively.
3. Ordering defendant Leonardo Lim de Mesa to render an accounting of the operation and management of the funeral business from November 1980 up to the present within thirty (30) days from the date this decision becomes final.
4. Ordering the defendants to pay the plaintiffs the amount of P30,000.00 as moral damages and the amount of P20,000.00 as reimbursement for attorney’s fees.
5. Ordering defendants to pay costs of suits. 2
On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the aforesaid judgment with some modifications, that is, by deleting those portions thereof directing therein defendants Leonardo and Leticia Lim de Mesa, aside from plaintiff Wilson Lim de Mesa, to execute a deed confirming the extrajudicial partition with sale and the reformation of instrument, and to pay the awards for moral damages and attorney’s fees. 3 Not satisfied therewith, petitioners further sought relief from this Court which, however, denied their appeal in a resolution dated January 27, 1992. On June 4, 1992, entry of said judgment was made, thereby making the judgment of the lower court, as modified by respondent Court of Appeals, final and executory.
Thereafter, private respondents filed a motion for execution which was granted by the lower court. 4 A writ of execution was issued, but the same was returned unsatisfied on September 21, 1992 due to petitioner’s refusal to comply with the same. Private respondents then filed a motion to enforce judgment which was granted by the lower court in its order dated October 14, 1992. 5
Subsequently, petitioner filed a motion to be furnished copies of the basic pleadings and/or orders. Private respondents filed their opposition thereto, arguing that petitioner was not entitled to the relief prayed for since private respondents were entitled to execution as a matter of right, and that all incidental matters flowing therefrom may be resolved motu proprio without prior notice and hearing to petitioner. The court a quo acted on petitioner’s motion by an order, dated November 13, 1992, directing private respondent Rogelio Lim de Mesa to furnish petitioner a copy of the deed of partition and such documents as the latter would specify. 6
Private respondents then filed a motion to resolve the incident subject of the order of October 14, 1992 and this, in turn, led to the issuance of the lower court’s order dated November 18, 1992. 7 Upon motion filed by private respondents, the lower court issued another order, dated November 25, 1992, granting the former’s motion for a writ of possession and delineation of property lines. 8 Petitioner thereafter moved for the reconsideration of the orders dated November 18 and 25, 1992, contending that the same were issued in violation of Section 4, Rule 15 of the Rules of Court, as these were issued ex parte. 9 In its order dated December 23, 1992, the court below denied the motion for reconsideration. 10
A petition for certiorari was then filed by petitioner in the Court of Appeals assailing, on the same grounds, the following orders of the trial court, to wit:
1. ORDER dated October 14, 1992 designating Atty. Luzod, Jr. to sign the deed of partition for and in behalf of Leonardo Lim de Mesa, petitioner, to enforce the judgment, and ordering petitioner to explain within 10 days from notice why he should not be cited (for) contempt of court pursuant to Sec. 3 (a) in relation to Sec. 6 and 7, Rule 71 of the Revised Rules of Court;
2. ORDER dated November 18, 1992, giving petitioner an extension of 15 days to render an accounting and in case of failure, to cite him (for) contempt of court (for) violation of Sec. 3(b) in relation to Sec. 6, (Rule 71), Rules of Court, and if he continues to disobey, the public respondent may be constrained to order his imprisonment.
3. ORDER dated November 25, 1992, granting a writ of possession directing the respondent Sheriff to place private respondent Rogelio Lim de Mesa in possession of the property pertaining to him by virtue of ANNEXES “X”, “A”, to “A-4″. 11
In its resolution of March 4, 1993, as stated at the outset, respondent Court of Appeals ruled against therein petitioner, 12 hence the instant petition with the following assignment of errors:
1. The Court of Appeals erred in applying Rule 39 of the Rules of Court and, therefore, in concluding that the judgment in the action for partition in Civil Case No. B-1942 became final and executory as of June 4, 1992 and the prevailing party is entitled to a writ of execution the issuance of which is a ministerial duty of the court.
2. The Court of Appeals also erred in holding that the three (3) assailed orders in Civil Case No. B-1942 were issued consequent to the execution of a judgment that has already become final and executory.
3. The Court of Appeals finally erred in holding that the three (3) assailed orders in Civil Case No. B-1942 having been issued ex-parte is of no moment where the execution is a matter of right and the losing party need not be given advance notice of hearing of such motion. 13
It is from the foregoing perceptions that the main thrust of herein petitioner’s arguments postulates the supposed nullity of the writ of execution issued by the trial court since the same was issued without prior notice and hearing. We disagree.
Jurisprudentially entrenched is the rule that a judgment ordering partition with damages is final and duly appealable, notwithstanding the fact, which petitioner seeks to capitalize on, that further proceedings will still have to take place in the trial court. 14
There are two stages involved in the special civil action of judicial partition and accounting under Rule 69 of the Rules of Court.
The first stage of an action for judicial partition and/or accounting is concerned with the determination of whether or not a co-ownership in fact exists and a partition is proper, that is, it is not otherwise legally proscribed and may be made by voluntary agreement of all the parties interested in the property. This phase may end in a declaration that plaintiff is not entitled to the desired partition either because a co-ownership does not exist or a partition is legally prohibited. It may also end, on the other hand, with an adjudgment that a co-ownership does in truth exist, that partition is proper in the premises, and that an accounting of rents and profits received by the defendant from the real estate in question is in order. In the latter case, “the parties may, if they are able to agree, make partition among themselves by proper instruments of conveyance, and the court shall confirm the partition so agreed upon by all the parties.” 15 In either case, whether the action is dismissed or partition and/or accounting is decreed, the order is a final one and may be appealed by any party aggrieved thereby. 16
The second stage commences when the parties are unable to agree upon the partition ordered by the court. In that event, partition shall be effected for the parties by the court with the assistance of not more than three (3) commissioners. This second phase may also deal with the rendition of the accounting itself and its approval by the Court after the parties have been accorded the opportunity to be heard thereon, and an award for the recovery by the party or parties thereto entitled of their just shares in the rents and profits of the real estate in question. Such an order is, to be sure, also final and appealable. 17
In the decision ordering partition, the execution of that part of the judgment which will not necessitate any further proceedings may be enforced. Further proceedings, such as the appointment of commissioners to carry out the partition and the rendition and approval of the accounting, may be had without prejudice to the execution of that part of the judgment which needs no further proceedings. Thus, it has been held that execution was entirely proper to enforce the defendant’s obligation to render an accounting and to exact payment of the money value of the plaintiffs’ shares in the personal property and attorney’s fees due defendants, as well as the costs of the suit and damages. 18
In the present case, the decision ordering partition and the rendition of accounting had already become final and executory. The execution thereof thus became a matter of right on the part of the plaintiffs, herein private respondents, and is a mandatory and ministerial duty on the part of the court. Once a judgment becomes final and executory, the prevailing party can have it executed as a matter of right, and the judgment debtor need not be given advance notice of the application for execution nor be afforded prior hearings thereon. 19
On the bases of the foregoing considerations, therefore, the Court of Appeals acted correctly in holding that the failure to serve a copy of the motion for execution on petitioner is not a fatal defect. In fact, there was no necessity for such service.
However, notwithstanding our aforesaid observations, the orders of the trial court dated October 14, 1992 and November 25, 1992, respectively directing Atty. Luzod, Jr. to sign the deed of partition for and in behalf of petitioner and granting the writ of possession, must be set aside for having been rendered in excess of jurisdiction.
The trial court cannot compel herein petitioner to sign the extrajudicial deed of partition prepared solely by private respondents. Concomitantly, it cannot issue a writ of possession pursuant to the said extrajudicial partition.
An action for partition, which is typically brought by a person claiming to be the owner of a specified property against a defendant or defendants whom the plaintiff recognizes to be his co-owners, may readily be seen to simultaneously present two principal issues. Firstly, there is the issue of whether the plaintiff is indeed a co-owner of the property sought to be partitioned. Secondly, assuming that the plaintiff successfully hurdles the first issue, there is the secondary issue of how the property is to be divided between the plaintiff and the defendants, that is, what portion should go to which co-owner. 20
After a judgment is rendered in an action for partition declaring that the property in question shall be divided among the parties thereto, the procedure provided by law thereafter is that, if the parties can agree among themselves, then the partition can be made by them through the proper instruments of conveyance which shall be submitted for approval of the court, and such partition with the court order confirming the same shall be recorded in the office of the proper registry of deeds. But, if the parties are unable to agree upon the partition, the court shall by order appoint not more than three (3) competent and disinterested persons as commissioners to make the partition, commanding them to set off to the plaintiff and to each party in interest such part and proportion of the property as the court in such order shall direct. 21
The decision in Civil Case No. B-1942 merely declares that partition is proper and forthwith specified therein the respective aliquot shares of the parties to the real estate and to the proceeds of the funeral business. Withal, it did not specifically state, by metes and bounds and by adequate description, the particular portion of the real estate to be assigned to each party. Actual partition is, therefore, necessary. Since the parties, however, cannot agree on the actual division and allocation of the property held in common, the trial court should order the appointment of commissioners to carry out the partition, as provided by Section 3 of Rule 69.
WHEREFORE, the assailed resolution of respondent Court of Appeals is hereby MODIFIED and the questioned orders of the trial court dated October 14, 1992 and November 25, 1992 are hereby SET ASIDE. The court a quo is directed to immediately appoint and constitute the necessary number of commissioners who shall expeditiously effect the partition of the subject property in accordance with Rule 69 of the Rules of Court.
Narvasa, C.J., Padilla and Puno, JJ. concur.
1 Penned by Justice Ricardo J. Francisco, with Justices Alicia Sempio-Diy and Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, concurring.
2 Rollo, 67-69; per Judge Jose Mar Garcia.
3 Ibid., 70-79.
4 Rollo, CA-G.R. SP No. 29818, 66.
5 Ibid., id., 16.
6 Ibid., id., 76-77.
7 Ibid., id., 17.
8 Ibid., id., 18.
9 Ibid., id., 80-82.
10 Ibid., id., 83-84.
11 Rollo, 2-3.
12 Ibid., 29-32.
13 Ibid., 19.
14 Miranda, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., L-33007, June 18, 1976, 71 SCRA 295; Municipality of Biñan vs. Garcia, etc., et al., G.R. No. 69260, December 22, 1989, 180 SCRA 576; Napilan, et al. vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, et al., G.R. No. 70025, March 14, 1990, 183 SCRA 126.
15 Sec. 1, Rule 69.
16 Procedurally, an order of partition is similar to an order of condemnation in expropriation proceedings under Rule 67. After the order of condemnation is rendered, there is still the substantial issue of just compensation to be litigated in and decided by the trial court. However, being determinative of the right to expropriate, such order of condemnation is a final order on that issue and is appealable (Uriarte vs. Teodoro, 86 Phil. 196). In like manner, an order of partition is determinative of the issues of the existence of co-ownership and the right to terminate the same, hence it is a final order on said issues even if the matter of actual partition and/or accounting still have to be resolved.
17 Municipality of Biñan vs. Garcia, et al., supra.
18 Arive, et al. vs. Ybañez, et al., 92 Phil. 1069 (1952); Napilan, et al. vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, et al., supra.
19 Pamintuan, et al. vs. Muñoz et al., L-26331, March 15, 1968, 22 SCRA 1109; Far Eastern Surety & Insurance Co., Inc. vs. Vda. de Hernandez, et al., L-30359, October 3, 1975, 67 SCRA 256; Development Bank of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 75964, December 1, 1987, 156 SCRA 84.
20 Roque vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, et al., G.R. No. 75886, August 30, 1988, 165 SCRA 118.
21 Secs. 2 and 3, Rule 69, Rules of Court; Honorio vs. Dunuan, etc., et al., L-38999, March 9, 1988, 158 SCRA 515.
March 31, 1994
This is an appeal from the Joint Decision in two (2) Criminal Cases of the Regional Trial Court of Tagbilaran City.
In Criminal Case No. 6021, appellants Modesto Orehuela and Anecito Cañizares, and one John Doe, were charged with murder committed as follows:
That on or about the 29th day of January 1989 at barangay Tomoc, municipality of San Miguel, province of Bohol, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping each other, with intent to kill and with treachery by suddenly attacking the victim without giving him the opportunity to defend himself and without justifiable cause, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and shoot one Teoberto Cañizares with the use of a firearm of unknown caliber thereby inflicting upon the vital parts of the body of the victim mortal wounds or injuries which resulted directly [in] the immediate death of the victim Teoberto Cañizares; to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of said victim.
Acts committed contrary to the provisions of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code. 1
In Criminal Case No. 6134, appellant Orehuela alone was charged with qualified illegal possession of firearm and ammunition, in an information which read as follows:
That on or about the 29th day of January 1989 at barangay Tomoc, municipality of San Miguel, province of Bohol, Philippines within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with intent to possess firearm and ammunition, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously carry and have in his possession, custody and control one firearm, .38 caliber revolver and with ammunition, which firearm was carried by the accused outside of his residence and was used by him in the commission of the crime of Murder against one Teoberto Cañizares, without first obtaining the necessary permit or license to carry and possess the said firearm and ammunition from proper authorities; to the damage and prejudice of the Republic of the Philippines.
Acts committed contrary to the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1866. 2
Orehuela and Cañizares were arrested and brought before the trial court to answer the charges filed. The third accused in Criminal Case No. 6021 has remained to date at large.
Both Orehuela and Cañizares pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder. In respect of the information for qualified illegal possession of firearm and ammunition, Orehuela also entered a plea of not guilty.
On motion of the prosecution, the trial judge, Presiding Judge Fernando S. Ruiz, ordered the consolidation of Criminal Case No. 6134 for qualified illegal possession of firearm and ammunition with Criminal Case No. 6021 for murder. 3
Soon after the prosecution rested its case, counsel for Anecito Cañizares filed a motion for leave to file a demurrer to the evidence. Judge Ruiz denied the motion holding that:
After a review of the evidence presented by the prosecution, this Court believes that without any exculpatory evidence on the part of the accused Anecito Cañizares, his participation in the crime has been shown.
Resultantly, accused Anecito Cañizares? motion to file demurrer to evidence is hereby denied. 4
Sometime later, Judge Ruiz retired from the service, and Judge Achilles L. Melicor was assigned to the sala thus vacated. The proceedings in the consolidated criminal cases continued. Counsel for Orehuela and Cañizares called to the stand their respective witnesses. After trial, Judge Melicor found Orehuela and Cañizares guilty of murder, and as well convicted Orehuela of qualified illegal possession of firearm and ammunition. The dispositive portion of the Joint Decision 5 dated 21 November 1992 read as follows:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:
1. Under Criminal Case No. 6021, the Court finds accused Modesto Orehuela and Anecito Cañizares guilty beyond reasonable doubt, as co-conspirators, of the crime of Murder qualified by treachery, as defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, and sentences each of them to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA with accessory penalties therefor; to indemnify jointly and severally the heirs of the deceased Teoberto Cañizares in the amount of P50,000.00 and to reimburse the said heirs in the sum of P10,00.00 for the expenses they incurred during the wake and burial of the deceased, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. The case against John Doe is ordered archived.
2. Under Criminal Case No. 6134, the Court finds accused Modesto Orehuela guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Qualified Illegal Possession of Firearm and Ammunition, defined and penalized under the provision of Presidential Decree 1866, and sentences him to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA. The .38 caliber slug (Exhibit C) is confiscated in favor of the government.
Appellants Orehuela and Cañizares filed separate briefs. Orehuela assigned the following as errors on the part of the trial judge:
1. The trial court erred in giving full weight and credence to the testimony of lone eyewitness Teofilo [Marimon] despite its loopholes and inconsistencies:
2. The trial court erred in rejecting the defense of alibi of Modesto Orehuela despite overwhelming evidence to that effect;
3. The trial court erred in finding that the two (2) accused conspired together based on the side statement of Anecito Cañizares in his memorandum “that there is no law that punishes a person for having walked with a murderer, the former not knowing that the latter is a murderer” and the animosity that existed between Anecito Cañizares and the victim;
4. The honorable trial court erred in convicting the accused beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder defined under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code and qualified illegal possession of firearm and ammunition defined and penalized under Presidential Decree No. 1866 despite weak evidence for the prosecution. 6
Appellant Cañizares, for his part, urged that Judge Melicor had committed the following errors:
1. The lower court erred in convicting accused Anecito Cañizares despite the miserable failure of the prosecution to present any prima facie evidence against him.
2. The lower court erred in failing to honor the constitutional right of accused Anecito Cañizares as to his innocence unless proven guilty.
On the charge of murder, the prosecution relied principally on testimonial evidence. The prosecution presented four (4) witnesses: namely, Rosalina Cañizares widow of the deceased victim; Teofilo Marimon, a resident of Tomoc, San Miguel, Province of Bohol; P/Cpl. Jovino Nunez; and Bonifacio Ayag, a National Bureau of Investigation (“NBI”) Ballistics Technician.
The facts of the case, as presented by the prosecution, may be culled from the testimony of the prosecution witnesses.
Rosalina Cañizares testified that on the evening of 29 January 1989, she and her husband, Teoberto Cañizares lodged for the night at the house of their neighbor Elias Cañizares, to help nurse a sick child. At around 7:30 o’clock in the evening, Rosalina and Teoberto heard their dogs barking persistently. The couple returned to their own house, some twenty (20) meters away from Elias Cañizares’ home. Finding no apparent cause for their dogs’ behavior, Teoberto and Rosalina decided to return to their neighbor Elias’ house. Rosalina recalled that she walked ahead of her husband who, at the last moment, decided to take a last look and returned to their own house. When Rosalina reached Elias’ house, she heard two (2) gunshots in quick succession. She then heard her husband crying for help, evidently in pain. She rushed out of Elias’ house, with a lamp on hand. Upon reaching their own house, Rosalina saw her Teoberto sprawled on the floor, dead.
Teofilo Marimon recalled that as he passed by the house of Teoberto Cañizares on his way to the house of Elias Cañizares to attend to the sick child, he noticed that the window panels in the house of Teoberto were drawn wide open. There was a light inside the house, and Teofilo saw Teoberto inside. Teofilo also observed that there was a man standing outside the window holding a gun and aiming it at Teoberto Cañizares. Teofilo recognized the man wielding the gun to be appellant Orehuela. Teofilo testified that he was approximately ten (10) meters away from Teoberto’s house as he observed the foregoing. Then he heard two (2) gunshots fired. Teofilo ran and hid himself in some bushes approximately twenty (20) meters away from Teoberto’s house. While hiding among the bushes, Teofilo soon saw three (3) persons hurriedly walking, one after the other, away from Teoberto’s house. Teofilo did not recognize the first man who apparently was not from Tomoc, San Miguel, Bohol; however, he saw and recognized clearly the faces of Orehuela and Anecito Cañizares, both of whom had resided for a long time in the same town that Teofilo lived in; Orehuela, with a flashlight and a handgun followed the unidentified person, while Anecito Cañizares made up the rear. Teofilo did not rush out of hiding as soon as the three (3) persons had gone by, but rather waited in the bushes for sometime. The following day, Teofilo Marimon learned that Teoberto Cañizares had been shot to death.
P/Cpl. Jovino Nuñez stated on the witness stand that he had learned of the slaying of Teoberto Cañizares on the day following the shooting, from Elias Cañizares and one Marciano Orilla. P/Cpl. Nuñez immediately went to the deceased’s house. There he found that the victim had sustained two (2) gunshot wounds. He also recovered the slug of a bullet from a wall of the house of the victim Teoberto, and brought the slug to Cebu City for ballistic examination.
Bonifacio Ayag, an NBI ballistician, conducted the ballistic examination on the slug recovered from the wall of the victim’s house. He testified that the slug was a caliber .38 copper lead bullet fired through the barrel of a .38 caliber firearm, the rifling of which “inclined to the right.”
The appellants controverted the prosecution’s version of the events of that tragic night. Each of the appellants disclaimed any participation in, or knowledge of, the circumstances surrounding the murder with which they were charged.
Appellant Orehuela principally asserted that, at about 7:30 o’clock in the evening of 29 January 1989, he was in his house in Sitio Ligid-Ligid, San Carlos, Danao, Bohol, some twenty-five (25) kilometers away from Tomoc, San Miguel, Bohol. He was celebrating his first wedding anniversary with friends. He testified that it was not possible for him to have been at the scene of the crime, considering that no road connected Tomoc and Ligid-Ligid which was passable by motor vehicles. A journey from Ligid-Ligid to Tomoc had to be made on foot and would take about three (3) to four (4) hours. Orehuela’s statement that he was in Ligid-Ligid celebrating at the time Teoberto Cañizares was slain, was corroborated by two (2) defense witnesses. The first, Camilo Persegas, testified that there was indeed a celebration on 29 January 1989 which many people attended. Persegas declared that he slept in appellant Orehuela’s house that night and had breakfast with him the next morning. The second defense witness testified that he too was at Orehuela’s wedding anniversary celebration. There, he saw Camilo Persegas and several other people naming them; he, however, left the party at around 7:00 o’clock in the evening.
Appellant Anecito Cañizares, for his part, testified that he had left Tomoc on 27 January 1989 for Katipunan, Bohol to work in his fields. The distance from Tomoc to Katipunan, approximately thirty (30) kilometers, was negotiated by Anecito Cañizares on foot and the journey took him the whole morning. On the 29th of January 1989, he went to see one Aniana Butil to request help from her sons in working the landholding of Anecito. He learned about the death of Teoberto Cañizares, his second cousin, only on the next day. Anecito returned to Tomoc on foot on 31 January 1989 and paid his last respects to the dead Teoberto. Anecito sought to bolster his story by presenting two (2) witnesses. The first, one Leoncio Matabilas, testified that he was a carpenter working for Anecito Cañizares and that he had stopped working on Cañizares’ house the day before Anecito was scheduled to leave for Katipunan. Aniana Butil, a resident of Katipunan, testified that she saw Anecito Cañizares on 29 January 1989, at around 7:30 in the evening in Katipunan. Aniana confirmed that Anecito Cañizares had requested assistance from her sons in working his agricultural landholding.
The firmly settled rule is that, in respect of the appraisal of credibility of witnesses, the findings of fact of the trial judge are to be accorded great weight and are not to be disturbed, unless the judge had clearly overlooked facts of substance and value which, if taken into account, would affect the result of the case. 8 After careful examination of the record of this appeal, the Court is unable to find any compelling reason to depart from this rule insofar as the trial court’s conclusion that Orehuela was guilty of the murder of Teoberto Cañizares is concerned.
The trial court had accepted as straightforward and worthy of credence the positive identification by Teofilo Marimon of Orehuela as the slayer of Teoberto, over the testimonies of appellant Orehuela and his corroborating witnesses claiming alibi. Orehuela contended that the testimony of Rosalina Cañizares, widow of the victim, conflicted with the testimony of Teofilo Marimon, the prosecution’s eye-witness. Orehuela asserted that while Marimon had declared that there was light inside the house where Teoberto Cañizares was fatally shot, Rosalina, upon the other hand, stated that she had to come back to her neighbor Elias Cañizares to fetch a lamp because it was dark inside Rosalina’s and Teoberto’s house. Orehuela claims that the eye-witness account of Marimon should not have been accorded any weight or credence by the trial judge.
We are not persuaded. The recollection of different witnesses with respect to the time and place and other circumstances of a criminal event would naturally differ in various details. 9 The inconsistencies adverted to by accused Orehuela, if inconsistency there was, refer to a detail of circumstance which did not bear upon the basic aspects of the crime. 10 At all events, the inconsistency was more supposed than real: the light in the house of Teoberto seen by Teofilo Marimon just before the firing began, could very well have been snuffed out promptly upon the shooting, possibly by Teoberto himself as he cried for help, with the result that by the time Rosalina had reached their home, it was dark inside the house.
The contention of Orehuela that Teofilo may have mistaken him for some other person of similar physical build, does not deserve prolonged consideration. That Teofilo Marimon, from a distance of about ten (10) meters, had observed Orehuela aiming at the victim, was not successfully rebutted. The light inside the house, observed through the open windows, had enabled Teofilo to recognize Orehuela by face. Orehuela had been Teofilo’s friend and barriomate for a considerable period of time. Teofilo was himself familiar with the physical features of Orehuela’s persona, which familiarity facilitated visual identification. Moreover, Marimon had a second opportunity to verify his initial recognition when Orehuela, with flashlight and gun on hand, passed by Marimon concealed in the bushes at a distance of about one (1) fathom. 11
The Court considers that the evidence of the prosecution had shown beyond reasonable doubt Orehuela’s guilt. He had aimed and fired a pistol at the unsuspecting victim who sustained fatal gunshot wounds. The trial court held that Orehuela’s denials were not enough to set at naught the positive and credible identification of the eye-witness Teofilo Marimon: those denials constituted self-serving negative evidence which can hardly be considered as overcoming the straightforward and credit-worthy eye-witness account. 12 We find no basis for overturning this conclusion.
We find too that treachery had been properly appreciated. The means, method or manner of execution employed ensured the offender’s safety; and such means were consciously chosen by the accused. 13 In the case at bar, the victim was suddenly and without warning shot by appellant Orehuela who had stationed himself outside Teoberto’s house and thus incurred no risk to himself. The means of attack obviously took the victim by surprise and the latter could not offer any effective defense or retaliation against the slayer hidden from the victim’s view.
Turning to the case against appellant Anecito Cañizares, we find quite a different situation. After examination of the evidence submitted against him, we are compelled to conclude that Anecito’s guilt is open to reasonable doubt. The case of the prosecution against Anecito Cañizares rested entirely upon the basic premise that Orehuela and Cañizares were co-conspirators. On that basis, Anecito Cañizares was found by the trial court equally liable for the act personally committed by Orehuela, the physical act, that is, of firing at the victim Teoberto Cañizares with deadly consequences.
It is familiar doctrine that conspiracy, as with any other ingredient of an offense, must be established not by mere conjecture 14 but by evidence which satisfies the requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt.
To establish conspiracy, two (2) or more persons must be shown to have come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony. It is not, of course, indispensable that direct proof be adduced to establish the agreement to commit the felony; the availability of such direct proof of the agreement to commit the felony is, in the nature of things, clearly the exception rather than the rule. Conspiracy must commonly be inferred from acts of the accused which clearly manifest a concurrence of wills, a common intent or design to commit a crime. 15 In the great majority of cases, conspiracy is established by proof of acts done in correct, that is to say, acts which yield the reasonable inference that the doers thereof were acting with a common intent or design. Analytically, therefore, the task in every case is that of determining whether the particular acts established by the requisite quantum of proof do reasonably yield that inference.
In the case at bar, as noted earlier, Anecito Cañizares, per the testimony of eye-witness Teofilo Marimon, was seen walking hurriedly away from the house of the victim, apparently following the John Doe and Modesto Orehuela. The eye-witness did not testify that he saw Anecito Cañizares with Orehuela immediately before or at the precise time when Orehuela fired at the victim. No act physically performed by Anecito Cañizares was perceived and reported by the eye-witness, save only the act of walking away, in a hurried manner, from the house of the victim. In other words, no overt act on the part of Anecito Cañizares was established other than that of leaving the vicinity of the slaying, apparently following appellant Orehuela and the John Doe. We must conclude that that act, by itself, was insufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt that Anecito Cañizares was privy to the intent of Orehuela to slay Teoberto Cañizares and that he had participated in the carrying out of that intent. 16 The only inferences that appear to the Court to have been reasonably established by the testimony of Teofilo Marimon was that Anecito Cañizares was in the vicinity or not far away from the house of Teoberto Cañizares at or about the time of the shooting and that he probably heard the two (2) gunshots and, possibly, the cries of Teoberto for succor. But these inferences, without more, do not adequately establish participation in a criminal conspiracy. Our mind and conscience do not rest at ease with the conclusion of the trial court, based solely thereon, that Anecito had conspired with Orehuela and an unidentified third man in murdering Teoberto Cañizares. 17
The failure or inability of the defense to show any ill motive on the part of Teofilo Marimon to perjure himself and falsely to accuse his friend Anecito Cañizares of such a grievous crime, does not by itself warrant the inference that a criminal conspiracy between Modesto Orehuela and Anecito Cañizares did in fact exist. 18 The testimony of Teofilo Marimon, while sincerely given and truthful and accurate so far as it went, simply did not encompass the acts of Anecito Cañizares before he was seen walking away from the victim’s house. That testimony, in other words, did not by itself suffice to establish clearly and convincingly a reasonable nexus between Anecito Cañizares and the fatal shooting of Teoberto by Modesto Orehuela.
We are mindful that the testimony of the widow Rosalina Cañizares tended to establish the existence of a dispute about land boundaries between the victim Teoberto Cañizares and appellant Anecito Cañizares. Assuming, however, arguendo only, that such a dispute had been adequately shown, and assuming further that that dispute was of a nature sufficiently weighty and serious as to have arguably led to a resolve on the part of Anecito to kill Teoberto Cañizares, such motive nevertheless does not dispense with the necessity of proving participation or acts in concert before a criminal conspiracy may be regarded as established between specified persons. Proof of motive is no substitute for proof of physical acts of participation; motives are not always or inevitably externalized into actions.
Turning to Criminal Case No. 6134 for qualified illegal possession of firearm and ammunition, we observe that the defense of appellant Orehuela consisted simply of a non-corroborated and self-serving denial that he had ever possessed a firearm in his entire life. 19 Upon the other hand, we note also that the allegedly unlicensed murder weapon was not presented in evidence by the prosecution. What the prosecution did present to show absence of a license or permit to possess the firearm used to kill Teoberto, was a certification issued by the Bohol Regional Headquarters of the Integrated National Police, dated 20 December 1989, certifying that:
xxx xxx xxx
. . . according to records of this Headquarters, the name of Modesto Orehuela, does not appear in the list of licensed and/or registered firearm holders this province as of this date. Subject Modesto Orehuela was not authorized by this Headquarters to carry firearm outside his residence on January 29, 1989.
This certification is issued upon request of Second Assistant Provincial Prosecutor, Reinerio S. Namocatcat and Third Assistant Provincial Prosecutor, Toribio S. Quiwag, City of Tagbilaran, to support the complaint for Illegal Possession of Firearm and Ammunition against above-named person.
Records Verified by:
Misericordio C. Sapong
Firearm NCO, Bohol CC
Cesar C. Veloso, MNSA
Lt. Colonel. (CSC) PC
Police Superintendent 20
We consider that the certification was adequate to show that the firearm used by Modesto Orehuela in killing Teoberto Cañizares was a firearm which Orehuela was not licensed to possess and to carry outside his residence on the night that Teoberto Cañizares was shot to death. That that firearm was a .38 caliber pistol was shown by the testimony and report of NBI Ballistician Bonifacio Ayag. When the above circumstances are taken together with the testimony of the eye-witness that Modesto Orehuela was in fact in possession of a firearm and used the same to kill Teoberto Cañizares, we believe that accused Orehuela was properly found guilty of aggravated or qualified illegal possession of firearm and ammunition.
WHEREFORE, for all the foregoing,
1. the Decision in Criminal Case No. 6134 for qualified illegal possession of firearm and ammunition is hereby AFFIRMED in its entirety; and
2. the Decision in Criminal Case No. 6021 is hereby AFFIRMED in respect of Modesto Orehuela; but is REVERSED insofar as Anecito Cañizares is concerned. Anecito Cañizares is hereby ACQUITTED of the charge of murder, his guilt thereof not having been established by proof beyond reasonable doubt.
No pronouncement as to costs.
Bidin, Romero, Melo and Vitug, JJ., concur.
1 Folder of Records for Murder, p. 23.
2 Records for Illegal Possession of Firearm, p. 20.
3 Records for Illegal Possession of Firearm, p. 30.
4 Folder of Records for the Charge of Murder, p. 51.
5 Rollo, p. 21; Folder of Records for Murder, p. 74.
6 Accused-appellant Orehuela’s Brief, Rollo, p. 71.
7 Accused-appellant Cañizares’ Brief, Rollo, p. 26.
8 People vs. Arenas, 198 SCRA 172 (1991); People vs. Somera 173 SCRA 684 (1989); People vs. Baysa, 172 SCRA 706 (1989); Aguirre vs. People, 155 SCRA 337 (1987).
9 People vs. Fuertes, G.R. No. 104067, 17 January 1994; People vs. Arbois, 138 SCRA 24 (1985).
10 People vs. Madariaga, 211 SCRA 698 (1992); People vs. Bigcas, 211 SCRA 631 (1992).
11 TSN, 13 December 1989, p. 11.
12 People vs. Sariol, 174 SCRA 237 (1989); People vs. Viray, 164 SCRA 135 (1988).
13 People vs. Fuertes, G.R. No. 104607, 17 January 1994.
14 People vs. Lug-aw, et al., G.R. No. 85735, 18 January 1994; People vs. Donato, 207 SCRA 125 (1992).
15 People vs. Dimdam, et. al., G.R. No. 87555, 16 November 1993; People vs. Largo, 46 SCRA 597 (1972).
16 See, in this connection, People v. Lug-aw, et al., G.R. No. 85735, 18 January 1994; People v. Furuganan, 193 SCRA 471 (1991); People v. Taaca, 178 SCRA 56 (1989); People v. Benavides, 127 SCRA 188 (1984).
17 See also People v. Taaca, 178 SCRA 56 (1989); People v. Tividad, 20 SCRA 549 (1967).
18 People v. Mangco and Sakilan, G.R. Nos. 108963-68, 1 March 1994; People v. Redulla, 220 SCRA 670 (1993).
19 Brief for Accused Modesto Orehuela, Rollo, p. 87.
20 Folder of Evidence, p. 3.
March 31, 1994
Convicted for violation of Section 4, Article II of Republic Act 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as amended, accused-appellant interposes the present appeal.
An information 1 was filed with the Regional Trial Court of Davao City against accused-appellant Felimon Petilla II y Motabato which reads as follows:
That on or about March 14, 1992, in the City of Davao, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above named accused wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously and without having been authorized by law, sold 49 sticks of marijuana leaves, a prohibited drug.
Upon arraignment, accused-appellant through counsel pleaded not guilty to the crime charged.
After trial on the merits, a decision 2 was rendered convicting accused-appellant, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, finding Felimon Petilla II y Motabato guilty beyond reasonable doubt of (sic) violation of Section 4, Article II of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, as amended by B.P. Blg. 179, as charged, he is hereby sentenced to suffer life imprisonment and pay a fine of P20,000.00; and to pay the costs.
The 47 marijuana cigarette sticks (Exhs. A-1 to A-47) are hereby confiscated in favor of the government and shall be destroyed without delay.
SO ORDERED. 3
The facts as brought out by the evidence for the prosecution are as follows:
A mobile patrol of Davao Metrodiscom arrested a certain Allan Amora on the night of March 14, 1992 for illegal possession of marijuana. After the arrest, the police officers brought Amora to the Intelligence Division of the Davao Metrodiscom and there Amora revealed that he bought the marijuana from a certain “Bro.” Hence, a buy-bust team was immediately created to entrap “Bro,” the person alleged to have sold the marijuana to Amora.
The buy-bust team was composed of Capt. Zosimo Yu as the leader, SPO1 Billy Echon, SPO3 Joselito Baradas and SPO3 Marlon Pinute as members. Amora was designated as the poseur-buyer. The team forthwith went to Bonifacio Extension, the place where the mobile patrol earlier arrested Amora.
Upon reaching Bonifacio Extension at 7:45 o’clock P.M., SPO3 Pinute positioned himself about 5 to 7 meters from where Amora and SPO1 Echon were. About a minute later, a person called “Bro,” whose real name turned out to be Felimon Petilla III, appeared. SPO1 Echon and Amora then gave P200.00 to “Bro,” who told them to wait beside the electric post nearby. “Bro” then proceeded to the interior of Bonifacio Extension where there was a cluster of small houses. However, instead of staying near the electric post SPO1 Echon and Amora went to a store nearby. At that moment, a certain alias “Boy,” herein accused-appellant, appeared near the store.
After 15 minutes, “Bro” returned with a package wrapped in newspaper. “Bro” directly handed the package to accused-appellant who then approached SPO1 Echon and Amora at the store. It was at this point when SPO1 Echon grabbed the hand of accused-appellant and instructed the other members of the team to pursue “Bro.” Unfortunately, “Bro” ran towards the public market and disappeared in the crowd.
Specimen samples from each of the 47 cigarette sticks were brought to the PNP Crime Laboratory, Davao City for examination. Forensic Analyst Salome Jose found the specimens positive for marijuana.
The accused-appellant, on the other hand, testified that in the evening of March 14, 1992, he and one William Gitacay, a boarder at his house located at 234 Bonifacio Street Extension, went to dispose of garbage in front of the Mabini Public Market. On their way home, they were accosted by policemen who inquired where they came from. Accused-appellant answered that they went to throw some garbage. One of the policemen held accused-appellant’s arm and told him to wait inside the patrol car. The policeman then rummaged through the garbage pile, but did not find anything there. Accused-appellant and Gitacay were then brought to the PC barracks where they met Amora for the first time. Amora was holding a marijuana cigarette stick wrapped in a piece of paper. Amora told the police investigator that accused-appellant was the source of the marijuana. The investigator then brought accused-appellant to a dark room at the back of the Police Headquarters where he tried to force him (accused-appellant) to admit that he sold marijuana to Amora. Accused-appellant denied the imputation. However, the policeman slapped him several times and poked a gun into his mouth. Despite the threat, accused-appellant steadfastly denied that he ever sold marijuana to Amora.
Gitacay corroborated accused-appellant’s testimony. Gitacay averred that he was a boarder in the house of accused-appellant; that he and accused-appellant were together at 8:00 o’clock P.M. on March 14, 1992 disposing of some garbage at the Mabini Public Market, but on their way back, they were apprehended by policemen. Gitacay also testified that he and the accused were then brought to Camp Domingo Leonor. Thereafter, Gitacay was released but the accused-appellant continued to be detained.
Accused-appellant assigns the following as errors of the trial court:
IN DECLARING THE APPELLANT GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT FOR VIOLATION OF SEC. 4 ARTICLE II OF THE DANGEROUS DRUGS ACT OF 1972 AS AMENDED BY B.P. BLG. 179.
IN FINDING APPELLANT SELLING 47 STICKS OF MARIJUANA.
IN NOT HOLDING FELIMON PETILLA III ALIAS BRO AS THE SELLER OF 47 STICKS OF MARIJUANA. 4
The appeal is impressed with merit.
There is no evidence at all that accused-appellant sold, delivered or otherwise committed an act violative of the Dangerous Drugs Act. What was only proved by the prosecution was that the package wrapped in a newspaper was handed by “Bro” to accused-appellant who, in turn, approached the police officers with the package. It was at this juncture that SPOI Echon grabbed accused-appellant’s hand and arrested him. There is nothing to show that accused-appellant knew of the contents of the package.
Accused-appellant’s main argument is that the package wrapped in a newspaper was only handed to him by his brother and there is no evidence to indicate that accused-appellant knew of its contents.
Section 4, Article II, of R.A. No. 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 provides:
Sec. 4. Sale, Administration, Delivery, Distribution and Transportation of Prohibited Drugs. ? The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from twenty thousand to thirty thousand pesos shall be imposed upon any person who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, administer, deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in transit or transport any prohibited drug, or shall act as broker in any such transactions. If the victim of the offense is a minor, or should a prohibited drug involved in any offense under this Section be the proximate cause of the death of a victim thereof, the maximum penalty herein provided shall be imposed.” (as amended by PD No. 1675, February 17, 1980)
Section 2 (f) of Article I of the same law defines the word “deliver”, thus:
(f) “Deliver” ? refers to a person’s act of knowingly passing a dangerous drug to another personally or otherwise, and by any means, with or without consideration.
The case for the prosecution was woven principally from the testimony of SPO1 Echon. This witness declared:
Q And while you and Allan Amora were in the nearby store where the other members of the team situated?
A. They were in the dark area which has a distance of 7 meters from me.
Q. How may meters were you or how long have you been in the nearby store before Allan Amora returned . . . I will reform, Your Honor. How long were you in the nearby store before alias Bro returned from the cluster of houses?
A. About 15 minutes.
Q. Now, when Allan Amora delivered the P200.00 to alias Bro, were there companions of alias Bro?
A. None, sir.
Q. So, at that time when you met alias Bro with Allan Amora at the electric post along Bonifacio Extension and the P200.00 amount was delivered to alias Bro by Allan Amora, alias Bro was alone and he was never accompanied by any other person?
A. None, sir.
Q. You said that it took 15 minutes for alias Bro to return from the
time . . . to return from the cluster of houses inside Bonifacio Extension, when alias Bro returned was he accompanied by some persons?
A. No, sir.
Q. He was alone when he returned and that was the time when you arrested or held the hand of alias Boy?
A. When he arrived he gave marijuana to Boy and when he went near us I arrested Boy.
Q. So, you saw alias Bro holding marijuana and delivering the said marijuana to alias Boy, is that what you mean?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And after you saw that alias Boy was already holding the marijuana which was handed by alias Bro that was the time you held the hand of alias Boy, is that correct?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. When alias Boy arrived, where were you and alias Bro went? (sic)
A. When alias Bro arrived, alias Boy was there but I do not know him.
Q. You mean they arrived at the store together?
A. When alias Bro arrived he handed the stuff to alias Boy and alias Boy went near us and this alias Bro left.
xxx xxx xxx
Q. You show the court how it looked when it was handed over by alias Bro to the accused.
(WITNESS WRAPPING THE MARIJUANA WITH THE NEWSPAPER AND FOLDING BOTH ENDS OF THE NEWSPAPER)
Q. So, from where you were looking at the time this Exh. A-48 was handed over by alias Bro to Alias Boy, you cannot tell what is inside because of this newspaper wrapper, is that correct?
A. I know, sir, because I was told by Allan that it was marijuana.
xxx xxx xxx
Q. Now, at the time this was handed by Alias Bro to Alias Boy, can you see what is inside this wrapped newspaper?
A. I saw it handed to Alias Boy.
Q. You did not see what was wrapped inside the wrapper?
A. No.” 5
From the foregoing testimony, there is nothing therein from which to draw any reasonable conclusion that accused-appellant knew of the contents of the package handed to him by Felimon Petilla III alias “Bro” who happens to be his brother. There is no evidence pointing to a conspiracy between “Bro” and the accused-appellant in the attempt to sell marijuana to the poseur-buyer and police officers. For that matter, there was no agreement or arrangement whether express or implied, direct or indirect, between the police officers and accused-appellant on the drug deal. Accused-appellant did not solicit or receive the marked money. The only participation of the accused-appellant, after the package was given to him by “Bro,” was to approach SPO1 Echon and Amora with the manifest purpose of handing the same to them. The package did not stay in the possession of accused-appellant for more than a few fleeting seconds. There is not even a hint that there was a conversation between accused-appellant and “Bro” wherein the former was apprised of the contents of the package.
It is significant to note that while accused-appellant was charged in the information with the offense of selling marijuana, the evidence for the prosecution tended to establish that he was caught in the act of “delivering” the prohibited drug.
Under Section 2(b) of the Dangerous Drugs Act, it is required that the offender knowingly delivered a dangerous drug to another. The prosecution miserably failed to prove that accused-appellant had knowledge of the contents of the package.
In People vs. Libag, 184 SCRA 707 we made the following pronouncement:
Finally, the information accused Roberto Libag of the “attempt to sell, deliver, give away to another and distribute three (3) kilos of marijuana flowering tops, a prohibited drug well-knowing that the sale, delivery and distribution to another of such drug is prohibited . . . .
It is basic that in a criminal case, the prosecution avers the guilt of the accused who is presumed to be innocent until the contrary is proved. Therefore, the prosecution must prove such guilt by establishing the existence of all the elements of the crime charged. In so doing, the prosecution must rely on the strength of its own evidence, not on the weakness of the defense. Clearly, one of the elements of the offense is that the accused knowingly delivered a dangerous drug to another. The prosecution must prove knowledge of the accused, not that he knew that marijuana is classified as a dangerous drug, but that he knew as marijuana the contents of the plastic bag he delivered.
Well-settled is the doctrine that where inculpatory facts are susceptible of two interpretations, the interpretation that will lead to acquittal must be sustained. 6
WHEREFORE, finding accused-appellant Felimon Petilla II innocent of the crime charged against him, the appealed decision is REVERSED and accused-appellant is hereby ACQUITTED on reasonable doubt.
Cruz, Davide, Jr., Bellosillo, Quiason and Kapunan, JJ., concur.
1 Records, p. 1.
2 Records, pp. 36-41.
3 Id., at p. 41.
4 Appellant’s Brief, p. 5, Rollo, pp. 23-24.
5 T.S.N., June 15, 1992, pp. 28-31, taken by Dora Raagas, T.S.N., June 15, 1992,
pp. 4-5, taken by Virgilia Librea.
6 People vs. Alzaga, 177 SCRA 644.
March 31, 1994
Accused-appellant Mario Galve was charged with rape in an Information dated 4 June 1990 allegedly committed as follows:
That on August 26, 1989 at about 10:00 o’clock in the evening, in Barangay Siana, Mainit, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, above-named accused, armed with a stainless knife, by means of violence and intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of the complainant ESTRELLA C. ALESNA, an unmarried 17-year old woman, against her will in her own house, as a result of which said ESTRELLA C. ALESNA got pregnant and she delivered a baby boy nine months later or on May 30, 1990, causing her damage and prejudice in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) Philippine currency representing actual, moral and exemplary damages.
CONTRARY TO LAW. The crime is aggravated by the circumstance of dwelling of the offended party, the latter not having given provocation for it, and nighttime as another aggravating circumstance. 1
Mario Galve pleaded not guilty upon arraignment on 13 December 1990 and after trial, the Regional Trial Court, Branch 29 of Surigao City rendered a decision * dated 17 June 1992, in Criminal Case No. 3125, the dispositive part of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused, MARIO GALVE, Guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape, penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code and imposes the penalty of reclusion perpetua. To indemnify the complainant the amount of P30,000.00 without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.
To suffer the accessory provided for (in) Article 41 that of civil interdiction for the reason of the sentence and to pay the costs. 2
On appeal to this Court, the accused-appellant assigns the following errors allegedly committed by the lower court:
. . . IN DISREGARDING THE DEFENSE OF ALIBI OF THE ACCUSED DESPITE THE CONVINCING TESTIMONIES OF HIS WITNESSES THAT HE WAS AT A FAR DISTANCE FROM THE PLACE WHERE THE ALLEGED RAPE WAS COMMITTED.
. . . IN FINDING THE ACCUSED GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF RAPE PENALIZED UNDER ART. 335 OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE. 3
Briefly, the facts which led to the filing of the information against the accused are as follows:
At around ten o’clock in the evening of 26 August 1989, the complainant, Estrella C. Alesna, was asleep in her room at their house in Siana, Mainit, Surigao del Norte. The only other persons with her that night were her younger brother and sister. While she was asleep, she was surprised to notice accused-appellant Mario Galve beside her. The accused covered her mouth with a pillow, pointed a five (5)-inch knife to her throat and ordered her to remove her underwear. The victim, at first, was hesitant but fearing for her life, she did as ordered, after which accused- appellant succeeded in raping her. As a result of the rape, the victim became pregnant and she delivered a baby boy nine (9) months later. 4
Accused-appellant’s defense is alibi. He alleges that being then a gold panner working in Maputi, Sta Cruz, Agusan del Sur, he was working until six o’clock in the evening of 26 August 1989. On 27 August 1989, he attended religious services of the Iglesia ni Kristo at Sta Cruz, Agusan del Sur, after which he attended the birthday party of the brother of a co-worker, Rodolfo Gosun.
In People v. Pascual, 5 this Court stated:
A rule deeply embedded in our jurisprudence is that when a woman testifies that she has been raped, she says in effect all that is to be said to constitute the commission of the crime. No young Filipina of decent repute would publicly admit that she has been ravished and abused unless it is the truth.
In the case at bench, the attempt of accused-appellant to establish his presence at another place at the time the offense was committed, fails to engender belief. The clear, positive and credible testimony of the victim to whom the defense failed to impute any motive except to bring her ravisher to justice, establishes the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
The alibi presented by accused-appellant leaves much to be desired. He attempted to establish his presence in Sta Cruz, Agusan del Sur on 27 August 1989 where he allegedly attended religious services of the Iglesia ni Kristo. However, it is undisputed that the distance between the locus criminis and Sta Cruz, Agusan del Sur can be negotiated in five (5) hours. 6 Accused-appellant presented a certificate of attendance signed by officials of the Iglesia ni Kristo. 7 Even assuming that accused-appellant indeed attended the church services of the Iglesia ni Kristo on 27 August 1989 in Sta. Cruz, Agusan del Sur, it has not been shown that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the place where the victim was raped at the time the rape was committed. The testimonies of the witnesses for the defense, at best, were able to establish accused-appellant’s presence in Agusan del Sur before and after the commission of the offense. Considering that the victim’s testimony positively identifying accused-appellant as her assailant was given full credence by the trial court, the defense of alibi carries no weight and should as a consequence fail to exonerate accused-appellant. 8
Moreover, the trial court rendered the judgment of conviction based on the finding that the victim’s testimony deserved credence over the testimonies of the witnesses for the defense. Absent any showing that the trial court’s findings on the credibility of witnesses should be disregarded, this Court will not reject the same since the settled rule in this jurisdiction is that findings on the credibility of witnesses are properly within the province of the trial court which had ample opportunity to observe and evaluate the demeanor of the witnesses while on the stand.
WHEREFORE, the conviction of accused-appellant Mario Galve of the crime of rape is AFFIRMED. Costs against accused-appellant.
Narvasa, C.J., Regalado and Puno, JJ., concur.
1 Rollo, p. 4.
* Penned by Judge Teodoro Palma Gil
2 Rollo, p. 14.
3 Rollo, p. 33.
4 Exhibit “B”.
5 G.R. No. 95029, 24 March 1993, 220 SCRA 440.
6 TSN, 27 November 1991, p. 12.
7 Exhibit “1″.
8 People v. Villorente, G.R. No. 100198, 1 July 1992, 210 SCRA 642.
March 31, 1994
This is an appeal from the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 13, convicting the accused, Fordito Ruelan, of the crime of MURDER and imposing on him the penalty of “life imprisonment.”
The information reads:
That on or about August 18, 1988, in the City of Davao, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with intent to kill, with treachery and evident premeditation, using an axe did then and there willfully, (sic) unlawfully and feloniously attack and assault Rosa Jardiel, inflicting a hack wound on the head and forehead of the victim, which caused her death, to the damage of the heirs of the victim.
Contrary to law. 1
Upon arraignment on November 7, 1988, the accused assisted by counsel, pleaded “NOT GUILTY.” Trial on the merits ensued and a decision was subsequently rendered on August 16, 1991, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, finding the accused guilty as charged, he is hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment for life, and to indemnify the heirs of the victim in the amount of P200,000.00.
SO ORDERED. 2
The facts established by prosecution’s evidence are summarized in the People’s brief as follows:
On August 4, 1988, Spouses Ricardo and Rosa Jardiel hired appellant as a store helper at their store located in Bankerohan Public Market, Davao City (TSN, January 24, 1989, p. 3). Appellant helped Jardiel spouses in selling and delivering rice to various customers. He stayed in the couple’s residence but he had a separate quarters for sleeping.
On August 18, 1988, at around 4:00 a.m., Ricardo Jardiel was aroused by the closing of the bedroom door and he saw his wife Rosa Jardiel leaving his room. Ricardo Jardiel stood up and followed his wife who went towards the gate of the house. Rosa Jardiel was joined by appellant since they would open the store in Bankerohan Public Market (Exhibit “G”; TSN, January 24, 1989, p. 4). Rosa Jardiel talked to appellant and ordered him to bring an axe which would be used in repairing some fixtures in the store. Appellant followed her order and took an axe and sack (TSN, February 5, 1990, p. 11). When they were about to leave the premises, Rosa Jardiel’s house dog got loose and went out towards the street. Rosa Jardiel got angry and scolded appellant while she walked ahead of him along Tulip Drive going to McArthur Highway (ibid. p. 5). Appellant pleaded Rosa Jardiel to stop berating him but Rosa Jardiel did not heed to his request. Appellant got fed up and with the use of his axe, he struck Rosa Jardiel behind her right ear causing her to fall face down. Thereafter, appellant dragged Rosa Jardiel to a grassy portion at the side of the street and then immediately left the place (Exhibit G).
At around 5:00 o’clock a.m., the Talomo Patrol Station received a report from Metrodiscom Central that an incident occurred in Tulip Drive, Matina (TSN, September 25, 1989, p. 2). Lagmay and Zozobrado with four (4) other policemen were dispatched to investigate the incident. When the group arrived at the scene, they saw the lifeless body of Rosa Jardiel lying on the grass beside the street. Three (3) to five (5) meters away from the body of the victim, the group recovered an axe and a sack with blood stains.
After the investigation, the group proceeded to the residence of the victim about three hundred (300) meters away from the scene of the crime. They found out that the steel gate of the Jardiel residence had blood stains on the upper portion as well as on its handle (TSN, September 25, 1989, pp. 3, 9). Afterwards, the group went towards appellant’s quarters but appellant was not around. Except for appellant’s yellow t-shirt with blood stains, the group noticed that appellant’s personal belongings were missing.
On the same day, at around 9:30 a.m., Dr. Jose Ladrido of the Office of City Health conducted an autopsy of the cadaver of the victim (TSN, April 17, 1989, p. 3). Dr. Ladrido’s Medico-legal Necropsy Report shows that the victim suffered lacerated wounds on the left eyebrow and hack wound behind the right ear that fractured the victim’s skull (ibid p. 4). Dr. Ladrido stressed that the victim was first struck behind the right ear that caused her to fall face down. And due to victim’s fall, her head hit the pavement causing lacerated wound on her left eyebrow. Dr. Ladrido further testified that the assailant could have used a heavy sharp-edge instrument similar to an axe (ibid. p. 6).
On August 20, 1988, the Talomo Police Station received a report from Pfc. Gumilang of Kiblawan Police Station that appellant had already surrendered. Immediately Adonis Zozobrado, Lagmay and Boiser were dispatched to bring appellant to the police station (TSN, September 25, 1989, p. 4) When the policemen arrived at Kiblawan Police Station, they learned that appellant was in the custody of the Barangay Captain. They went to the Barangay Captain but the latter told them that appellant had gone home. The policemen proceeded to appellant’s residence but they could not find appellant.
On August 24, 1988, Pat. Dora of Kiblawan Police Station accompanied appellant to Talomo Police Station and surrendered him to its station commander, P/Lt. Reynaldo Obrero. Accordingly, Obrero placed appellant under the custody of the police station (TSN, October 16, 1989, p. 4). However, they could not conduct any investigation because appellant wanted to seek the assistance of a lawyer (ibid, p. 5). There being no lawyer in the police station, Obrero, his driver and Lagmay brought appellant to the CLAO at Rizal Street, Davao City.
At the CLAO, they met Luz Cortez, a lawyer on duty and who was assigned to assist appellant. Prior to the investigation, Atty. Cortez conferred with appellant and inquired if he had a counsel of his choice, and appellant replied in the negative (TSN November 27, 1989, p. 4). Hence, Atty. Cortez acted as appellant’s counsel.
Atty. Cortez provided Lagmay with a typewriter as she sat beside the appellant and in front of Lagmay. Before the first question was propounded to appellant by Lagmay, Atty. Cortez apprised appellant, in his own dialect, of his constitutional rights (ibid, TSN, October 16, 1989, p. 7), that is to say: the right to remain silent and the right to have a lawyer of his own choice; and the right to be informed of such rights. Appellant signified that he knew his constitutional rights and that anything adduced during the investigation may be used against him in any proceeding (TSN, November 27, 1989, pp. 4, 6).
Whenever a question was propounded by Lagmay, Atty. Cortez translated it in appellant’s dialect with a concomitant (sic) warning that he had the right to remain silent. Despite several warnings, appellant answered all the questions in a straightforward manner. Appellant’s answers were translated and reduced into writing by Lagmay’s translation, she would correct it and give the proper translation (TSN, November 27, 1989, p. 6).
After the investigation, Lagmay gave the typewritten statements to Atty. Cortez who examined the statements thoroughly and ordered her secretary to reproduce another copy. When the copy was reprinted, Atty. Cortez consulted appellant if he would sign his declaration admitting his guilt and appellant said “yes” (TSN, October 16, 1989, p. 8; November 27, 1989, p. 11). Since Atty. Cortez was convinced that appellant knew his constitutional rights and his declarations were made of his own free will, she let appellant sign his extrajudicial confession. Thereafter, Atty. Cortez signed the sworn statement in the presence of appellant and Lagmay. 3
The accused-appellant now assigns the following errors:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY OF THE CRIME CHARGED.
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN SENTENCING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT TO SUFFER IMPRISONMENT FOR LIFE.
THE COURT ERRED IN GIVING MORE HEIGHT (SIC) ON THE ALLEGED CONFESSION OF THE ACCUSED WHICH WAS DENIED BY HIM FOR BEING TAKEN IN VIOLATION OF HIS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. 4
In assailing his conviction, herein appellant raises the following issues for review, to wit: (a) whether he can be found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged based on the established facts, without the alleged written extrajudicial confession; (b) whether the trial court was correct in appreciating the presence of the three aggravating circumstances; and (c) whether the imposition of the penalty of “life imprisonment” by the trial court was proper.
It is the contention of appellant that his extrajudicial confession is inadmissible because he was never apprised of his constitutional rights to remain silent, to counsel, and to be informed of such rights. He claims that contents of his confession were fabricated and that he signed the document on the insistence of policeman Martin Lagmay, Jr. that it would be beneficial to him. He further alleges that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses were false and were only made to cure the defects of his extrajudicial confession.
The basic thrust, therefore, of appellant’s assignment of errors is the inadmissibility of his extrajudicial confession and the credibility of the prosecution witnesses.
The contention of appellant that his extrajudicial confession is inadmissible is untenable. Well-settled is the rule that a confession is presumed to be voluntary until the contrary is proved and the burden of proof is upon the person making the confession. 5 In this case, the presumption has not been overcome. Not only is the appellant’s confession replete with details only he could have supplied, but the circumstances surrounding its execution belie his claim.
Atty. Luz Cortez, the CLAO (now PAO) lawyer who assisted the appellant, testified that before the investigation was conducted, she informed the appellant of his constitutional was conducted, she informed the appellant counsel and to be informed of such rights. 6 In fact, Atty. Cortez even advised the appellant that any statement given by him in the investigation could be used against him in any proceeding in court. 7 Despite being informed of these rights, appellant executed the sworn statement admitting that he struck the victim, Rosa Jardiel, with an axe behind her right ear. The contents of the appellant’s extrajudicial confession are as follows:
PRELIMINARY: Mr. Fordito V. Ruelan, you are being informed that you are now under investigation in connection with the Murder case wherein you are principally the suspect. Before we ask you any question you must understand your legal right not to give statement if you do not wish to, any thing that you say maybe used as evidence against you in any proceeding, that you have the right to a counsel of your own choice, if you cannot afford a lawyer and you want one, a lawyer will be provided for you to assist you during investigation. Is this clearly understood by you?
ANSWER: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Now do you still wish to proved with this investigation.
ANSWER: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Having manifested your willingness to give statement in the presence of Atty. Luz T. Cortez, do you swear to tell the truth in this investigation?
ANSWER: Yes, sir.
1. Question: Please tell your name, age and other personal circumstances?
Answer: I am Fordito Ruelan y Villaber, 19 years old, married, farmer, elementary graduate, a native of Babak, Samal, on January 16, 1969, and presently residing at Pasig, Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.
2 Q ? Before or last three weeks where were you then?
A ? I was working with the residence of Jardiel located at Tulip Drive Matina, this City, as store assistant.
3. Q ? How long have you been working with the Jardiel family?
A ? I just start working with them on August 4, 1988.
4. Q ? Do you know of any reason why are you now in this office of the CLAO?
A ? I have been brought here for investigation, to be assisted by a CLAO lawyer, after I voluntarily surrendered to the POLICE authorities in connection with the killing of my employer, Rosa Jardiel.
5. Q ? Now, do you have any idea about the killing of your employer?
A ? Yes, sir.
6. Q ? Who killed your employer?
A ? I could have been the one, sir.
7. Q ? When and where did the incident occur?
A ? At or about 3:30 A.M. on August 18, 1988 along Tulip Drive, Matina, this City.
8. Q ? Will you please narrate to me the circumstances of the incident that led to the death of your employer?
A ? In that early morning I and Rosa Jardiel were bound for the store at Bankerohan, this City she told me to bring an axe to do some hammering in the store. As we came out of the gate the dog of my employer also went out towards the street. Because of this, as she usually did in the past, she scolded me and continued to berate at me while we were on your way to the highway. I requested her to stop uttering so many things but she kept on. I got fed up with her scolding and instantly, I struck her with the ax I was carrying hitting her on the right head, then I dragged her to a portion at the side of the street and I immediately left the place.
9. Q ? Record shows from Talomo Patrol Station Blotter disclosed that the victim brought along with during the incident a bag containing a cash money of undetermined amount and one caliber .32 which was discovered missing. Do you have any idea about the said losses?
A ? I don’t have any idea,
10. Q ? I have nothing to ask from you for the moment, do you have something to say or add in your statement?
A ? No more, sir.
11. Q ? Are you willing to sign this statement of yours freely and voluntarily without being forced in the presence of your counsel, Atty. Luz T. Cortez?
A ? Yes, sir. 8 (Emphasis ours)
The foregoing narration certainly bespeaks spontaneity and truth, the details contained therein given could only have been known by the confessant himself.
Based on the foregoing, there can be no other conclusion than that Ruelan’s extrajudicial statement/confession is admissible in evidence and that the trial court correctly considered it in determining the guilt of the appellant. By voluntarily executing his extrajudicial confession after having been informed by Atty. Luz Cortez of his constitutional rights, and in the presence of and with the assistance of said counsel, appellant Ruelan effectively waived his right to remain silent.
Moreover, we affirm the judgment of conviction by the trial court on the basis of the testimonies of the witnesses presented by the prosecution. A trial court’s findings of fact carry great weight and respect for it has the privilege of examining the deportment and demeanor of witnesses and, therefore, can discern if such witnesses are telling the truth or not. 9 With the evidence presented in the proceedings below, we do not see any reason why we should depart from the aforesaid rule and disturb the trial court’s factual conclusions.
Another point raised by the appellant is that without his extrajudicial confession, the prosecution has no case against him. What the prosecution has, he claims, is circumstantial evidence.
Assuming arguendo that the prosecution’s evidence is circumstantial, we find the same sufficient to convict.
Where the conviction of an accused is based on circumstantial evidence, it is essential for the validity of such conviction that: (a) there be more than one circumstance; (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. 10
In the case at bench, the circumstantial evidence proven by the prosecution sufficiently satisfies the quantum of proof necessary to uphold a judgment of conviction. The following circumstances proven by the prosecution indubitably point to the accused-appellant as the perpetrator of the crime committed:
1. The fact that the victim was last seen by the victim’s husband on the day she was killed in the company of the accused-appellant while they were on their way to the market. 11
2. The fact that the accused-appellant was carrying an axe and a sack while they were walking along Tulip Drive. 12
3. The fact that when the Talomo Patrol Station received a report that an incident occurred in Tulip Drive, Lagmay and Zozobrado together with four (4) policemen were dispatched to the scene of the crime. They saw the lifeless body of the victim. Five (5) meters away, they recovered an axe and a sack with blood stains. 13
4. The fact that when the aforesaid group proceeded to the house of the victim, they found blood stains on the upper portion of the gate as well as on the handle. 14
5. The fact that Dr. Jose Ladrido’s Necropsy Report shows that the victim suffered a lacerated wound on the left eyebrow and a hack wound behind the right ear, the latter wound having been induced first. 15
6. The fact that Pat. Dora of the Kiblawan Police Station accompanied appellant to the Talomo Police Station and surrendered him to the latter’s Station Commander 16 for investigation.
Anent the second issue raised, appellant alleges that the trial court erred in appreciating the three (3) aggravating circumstances of treachery, abuse of superior strength and evident premeditation.
Save only for the aggravating circumstances of abuse of superior strength, the prosecution failed to prove the other aggravating circumstances alleged in the information.
In appreciating the qualifying circumstance of treachery, the following requisites must concur: first, that at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself; and second, the offender consciously adopted the particular means, method and form of attach employed by him. 17
From the evidence adduced, the first requisite was proven. Dr. Ladrido testified that the victim suffered a hack would behind her right ear that caused her to fall face down. As a consequence thereof, she suffered another wound on her left eyebrow. Accordingly, when the victim was attacked by the appellant, she was not in a position to defend herself. However, the second requisite was not proven. No evidence was offered to prove that the appellant made preparations to kill the victim. Records bear out that it was the victim who ordered the appellant to bring the axe before they left the house indicating that he had no plan to kill said victim.
Regarding the qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation, the prosecution must show (a) the time when the offender determined to commit the crime; (b) an act manifestly indicating that he had clung to his determination; and (c) a sufficient lapse of time between the determination and the execution to allow him to reflect upon the consequences of his act and to allow his conscience to overcome the resolution of his will had he desired to hearken to its warnings. 18
Here, the prosecution failed to present evidence when the appellant determined to kill the victim or any indication that he clung to such determination. As already mentioned above, appellant did not intend to nor planned to kill the victim. Hence, there was no sufficient lapse of time between the determination and execution of the crime charged so as to allow the appellant to reflect upon the consequences of his act.
To properly appreciate the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength, the pr+osecution must prove that the assailant used purposely excessive force out of proportion to the means of defense available to the person attacked. 19 In the instant case, the appellant clearly took advantage of his superior strength as the victim was an elderly woman, 76 years old, frail and of small build while the appellant was then only 20 years old, of good stature and build and was armed with an axe with which to kill the victim.
However, the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength cannot qualify the killing of the victim and raise it to the category of murder because the same was not alleged in the information. The rule in cases like this is clear. A qualifying circumstance like abuse of superior strength must be pleaded in the information for if it is not pleaded but proved, it shall only be considered as a generic aggravating circumstance in the imposition of the correct penalty.
Accordingly, for failure of the prosecution to prove the qualifying circumstances of treachery and evident premeditation, appellant cannot be convicted of the crime of murder. Instead, appellant should be held liable for the crime of homicide under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code which carries a penalty of reclusion temporal. The aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength is therefore offset by the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender which was admitted by the prosecution. Thus, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, appellant should suffer a penalty of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal, as maximum.
As noted from the dispositive portion of the assailed decision, the trial court imposed the penalty of “life imprisonment” for the crime of murder. Evidently, the said court failed to appreciate the substantial difference between Reclusion Perpetua under the Revised Penal Code and Life Imprisonment when imposed as a penalty by special law. These two penalties are different and distinct from each other. Hence, we would like to reiterate our admonition in the
case of People vs. Penillos, 20 likewise quoted under Administrative Circular No. 6-A-92 amending Administrative Circular No. 6-92 dated October 12, 1992 re: the correct application of the penalties of reclusion perpetua and life imprisonment, thus:
As noted from the dispositive portion of the challenged decision, the trial court imposed the penalty of “reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment”. Evidently, it considered the latter as the English translation of the former, which is not the case. Both are different and distinct penalties. In the recent case of People vs. Baguio, this Court held:
The Code does not prescribe the penalty of “life imprisonment” for any of the felonies therein defined, that penalty being invariably imposed for serious offenses penalized not by the Revised Penal Code but by special laws. Reclusion perpetual entails imprisonment for at least thirty (30) years after which the convict becomes eligible for pardon, it also carries with it accessory penalties, namely: perpetual special disqualification, etc. It is not the same as “life imprisonment” which, for one thing, does not carry with it any accessory penalty, and for another, does not appear to have any definite extent or duration.
As clearly as 1948, in People vs. Mobe, reiterated in People vs. Pilones, and in the concurring opinion of the Justice Ramon Aquino in People vs. Sumadic, this Court already made it clear that reclusion perpetua, is not the same as imprisonment for life or life imprisonment. Every judge should take note of the distinction and this Court expects that, henceforth, no trial judge should mistake one for the other.
Finally, anent the civil indemnity awarded to the heirs of the victim, the trial court erred in finding the appellant liable for two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00) because the same has no basis in fact and in law. Appellant’s civil liability must only be limited to P127,000.00, broken down as follows, to wit:
(a) for the death of the victim P 50,000.00
(b) cash taken from the victim
(TSN, January 24, 1989, p. 8)
Philippine Currency P50,000.00
US Dollars $1000 (1:27) 27,000.00 77,000.00
WHEREFORE, the judgment appealed from is hereby MODIFIED as follows: (a) appellant is found guilty of the crime of HOMICIDE and is hereby sentenced to a penalty of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal as maximum; and (b) appellant is ordered to indemnify the heirs of the victim in the amount of one hundred twenty seven thousand (P127,000.00) pesos.
Cruz, Davide, Jr., Bellosillo and Quiason, JJ., concur.
1 Original Records, p. 1.
2 Decision, p. 19; Original Records, p. 88.
3 Rollo, pp. 93-99.
4 Rollo, p. 43; Appellant’s Brief, p. 4.
5 People vs. Enanoria, 209 SCRA 577 (1992); People vs. Estevan, 186 SCRA 34 (1990); People vs. Solis, 182 SCRA 182 (1990); People vs. Talla, 181 SCRA 133 (1990); People vs. Dela CRAZE, 115 SCRA 184 (1982).
6 TSN, November 27, 1989, p. 4.
8 Exhibits “G” and “3″, “3-A”.
9 People vs. Penillos, 205 SCRA 546; Villaflor vs. Court of Appeals, 192 SCRA 680; People vs. Tan, 187 SCRA 385; People vs. Corrales, 182 SCRA 439; People vs. Espinosa, 180 SCRA 393; People vs. Temblor, 161 SCRA 623; People vs. Capulong, 160 SCRA 533; People vs. Salufrania, 159 SCRA 401; People vs. Renejane, 158 SCRA 258.
10 Section 5, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court; People vs. Evardo, 216 SCRA 159; People vs. Tena, 215 SCRA 43; People vs. Villanueva, 211 SCRA 602; People vs. Tonog, Jr., 205 SCRA 772; People vs. Tiozon, 198 SCRA 368; People vs. Bicog, 187 SCRA 556; People vs. Pajanustan, 97 SCRA 699; People vs. Modesto, 25 SCRA 36
11 TSN, January 24, 1989, p. 4.
12 TSN, February 5, 1990, pp. 11-12
13 TSN, September 25, 1989, p. 2.
14 TSN, September 25, 1989, pp. 3, 9.
15 TSN, April 17, 1989, p. 3.
16 TSN, October 16, 1989, p. 4.
17 Reyes, Revised Penal Code, Book I, pp. 409-410
18 People vs. Castor, 216 SCRA 410, 421; People vs. Antud, 215 SCRA 190; People vs. Balatucan, 206 SCRA 81; People vs. Martinez, 96 SCRA 714; People vs. Ardisa, 55 SCRA 245.
19 People vs. Canciller, 206 SCRA 827.
20 Supra, pp. 546, 565-566.
March 31, 1994
This is a petition for review on certiorari seeking to set aside the Decision of the respondent court 1 dated April 3, 1992 in CA G.R. SP No. 26957 dismissing petitioners’ petition for certiorari and its Resolution of June 4, 1992 denying their motion for reconsideration.
The records show that on July 7, 1983, petitioners filed a Complaint for Recovery of Ownership of Real Property against the private respondents Epifanio, Paulo, Antonio and Gregorio all surnamed Fullante. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 293-A in the RTC, Antipolo, Rizal. The Complaint was answered in due time by the private respondents.
On December 22, 1986, a Compromise Agreement was submitted for approval of the trial court. The Agreement was signed by the petitioner Catalino Davoc “in his own right and in representation of his co-plaintiffs” (i.e., the other petitioners herein) and by “Pedro Belmi, counsel for the plaintiff.” The Agreement was also signed by private respondent Paulo Fullante “in his own right and in representation of his co-defendants Epifanio, Antonio and Gregoria all surnamed Fullante,” and by “Josefina N. Olitan, counsel for defendants.” On January 2, 1987, the trial court rendered a Decision approving the Compromise Agreement.
The parties then tried to effectuate the Decision. On August 11, 1988, the trial court issued an Order directing the following:
1.) That the whole land, lots 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be surveyed;
2.) To be included in the survey is the right of way of the plaintiffs on lot 2 of not more than three (3) meters wide;
3.) That the parties will submit the names of three Geodetic surveyors within five (5) days from today, one of whom will undertake the survey as stated in no. 1 after raffle to be conducted in the presence of counsels of both parties before the Acting Clerk, Atty. Myrna Directo, on August 17, 1988 at 8:30 A.M. in the office of the Clerk of Court. The name of Engineer Benjamin Sales was submitted by the plaintiffs. The names of the other two geodetic engineers will be submitted by the defendants;
4.) The findings and result of the survey conducted and made by the surveyor selected on the basis of the raffle will be binding on the plaintiffs and defendants to terminate finally the rights of the parties on the questioned land;
5.) The expenses for the survey will be shouldered by the plaintiffs.
The Order was made pursuant to the agreement of the parties.
On September 22, 1988, the trial court modified its August 11, 1988 Order. It commissioned geodetic engineer Emiliano Santos to survey the subject lot. The modification was prompted by the motion of Atty. Josefina Olitan, counsel of private respondents, which was not opposed by Atty. Belmi, counsel of petitioners.
Engineer Santos, however, failed to submit the survey plan of the subject lots. Upon motion of Atty. Belmi, the trial court appointed geodetic engineer Jesus Pampilona to do the survey plan in an Order dated October 26, 1990. Atty. Olitan did not oppose the motion.
In the interim, private respondents changed their counsel. Atty. Aladdin F. Trinidad became their counsel. The proceedings took a new twist. On November 26, 1990, Atty. Trinidad filed a Motion to Declare Null and Void the Compromise Agreement and the Decision approving the same. He charged that Paulo Fullantes had no power of attorney to sign for the other private respondents. Petitioners opposed the Motion. They alleged:
xxx xxx xxx
2. That the aforesaid Compromise Agreement can not now be assailed by the defendants on the following grounds:
(a) It was signed by one of the defendants for himself and in behalf of his co-defendants who are his brothers;
(b) A Compromise Agreement even if signed only by the counsel without authorization from the clients is not void but merely unenforceable which as in the case at bar may be ratified by the said defendants expressly or impliedly as shown by the subsequent events which took place since the execution of said Compromise Agreement (Bumanlag v. Alzate, 144 SCRA 480, 481);
(c) Defendants are guilty of laches; and, they are on estoppel to question the validity of said Compromise Agreement.
3. The contention of defendants that the Compromise Agreement not signed by the parties themselves or signed by one of them for and in behalf of others without any written special authority to compromise is null and void is not correct because according to the doctrine laid down in the case of Dungo vs. Lopena, 6 SCRA 1007, and the cited case of Dumanlag vs. Alzate, supra, it is only unenforceable and, therefore, may be ratified expressly or impliedly by the conduct of the party or parties assailing the aforesaid Compromise Agreement.
On March 7, 1991, the trial court declared its Decision dated January 2, 1987 “unenforceable against the defendants Epifanio Fullante, Antonio Fullante and Edgardo Fullante . . .” No further challenge was made against this Order.
For reasons which do not appear on record, the trial court set the pre-trial of the case on June 20, 1991. On June 17, 1991, petitioners filed a Motion to Declare Judgment by Compromise Ratified. They alleged, inter alia, viz:
xxx xxx xxx
2. That while said Decision and Compromise Agreement were “unenforceable”, plaintiffs respectfully submit that the same were duly ratified by the defendants as shown by their subsequent conduct spread in the records of the above entitled case after said Decision and Compromise Agreement were sought to be enforced by the plaintiffs, viz:
(a) On 11 August 1988 this Honorable Court issued an Order requiring the parties to submit the names of the surveyors who will conduct the survey of the land subject matter of the Compromise Agreement, one of the surveyors to be proposed by the plaintiff and the other two by the defendants; and, the said Order was issued by agreement of the parties;
(b) On 17 August 1988 defendants, thru Counsel, moved in open court to modify No. 3 of the Order dated 11 August 1988 proposing that Geodetic Engineer Emiliano Santos be designated by the Honorable Court to conduct the survey and to submit to the Honorable Court not later than 22 September 1988 the result of the survey of the land subject matter of the Compromise Agreement; and, accordingly, the Honorable Court issued an Order directing Geo. Engr. Emiliano Santos to survey the whole lot in accordance with the compromise agreement entered into by the plaintiffs and defendants on October 29, 1986 at the expense of the plaintiffs; and that he is further ordered to submit to the Court the result of his survey not later than September 22, 1988;
(c) On 12 December 1988 defendants, thru counsel, submitted a Manifestation, stating among others, that they had the land in question, subject matter of the Compromise Agreement and prayed the Honorable Court to approve the survey made thereon by said Geodetic Engineer Emiliano Santos, thru one Domingo Rigunay; however, the said survey was not approved because it was not signed by the Geodetic Engineer Santos who died;
(d) On 18 February 1989 defendants, thru counsel, submitted another Manifestation, stating among others, that the Court’s appointed surveyor be required to conduct the survey inasmuch as the survey conducted by their Geodetic Engineer was not signed;
(e) When plaintiffs submitted the name of Geodetic Engineer Jesus Pampilona, CENRO, DENR, Taytay, Rizal, to undertake the relocation survey of the property subject matter of the Compromise Agreement, defendants did not interpose objection thereto; and, the Honorable Court accordingly appointed Geo. Engr. Pampilona;
(f) The property subject matter of Compromise Agreement was surveyed by Jose San Jose of Teresa, Rizal, with the consent and knowledge of the defendants; however, the survey of Jose San Jose was not approved because it turns out that Jose San Jose was not a licensed surveyor.
On August 6, 1991, the trial court denied the motion. It also reset the pre-trial of the case on August 15, 1991. Petitioners moved for reconsideration but their plea was rejected on September 24, 1991.
On January 3, 1992, petitioners filed with the respondent court a petition for certiorari under Rule 65. They prayed:
PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is respectfully prayed that the instant Petition be GIVEN DUE COURSE; and, after due hearing, judgment be rendered:
1 ? REVERSING AND SETTING ASIDE the Order dated 7 March 1991, Annex “K”, declaring as “unenforceable the Judgment by Compromise in Civil Case No. 148-M of the respondent Court; the Orders dated 6 August 1991 and 24 September 1991, Annexes “M” and “N”, respectively, denying the motion of petitioners to declare the Judgment by Compromise as valid and binding between the parties;
2 ? DECLARING the Judgment by Compromise, Annex “D”, as valid and binding between the parties;
3 ? ORDERING the private respondents to pay the costs of this suit.
PETITIONERS further pray for such other equitable reliefs under the circumstances.
On April 3, 1992, the respondent court dismissed the petition. It held:
xxx xxx xxx
With those holdings as guide, the Order of March 7, 1991 is a final order. As decreed in the dispositive portion of the Order, the . . . decision of the Court dated January 2, 1987, based on the Compromise Agreement, is hereby declare(ed) unenforceable against the defendants Epifanio Fullante, Antonio Fullante and Edgardo Fullante . . ., “and, therefore, there is nothing more that can be done with the Order before the respondent court insofar as the said defendants are concerned. The Order of March 7, 1991, is a final order, and appealable, under Section 2, Rule 41, Rules of Court, within thirty (30) days from receipt of the Order (sec. 3, id.). Since no appeal was interposed within the reglementary period for appeal, the order became final, is unalterable and no additions can be made thereto and nothing can be done therewith even by the respondent court which issued it. On these bases, the respondent court did not err in denying the motion to declare the judgment by compromise ratified, as well as the motion for Reconsideration of the Denial Order.
Another issue that should be looked into is whether the petition for “Certiorari under Rule 65″ is an appropriate remedy? A petition for certiorari under section 1 of Rule 65, Rules of Court, is proper to correct errors of jurisdiction, committed by the lower court without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion which is tantamount to lack of jurisdiction. In other words, under Rule 65, it is errors of jurisdiction that are reviewable by certiorari, and the instant petition, therefore, is not available in this case as the order sought to be reviewed concerns errors of judgment which is properly reviewable by appeal. Moreover, this original action for certiorari can not be a substitute for the lost appeal.
Of course, there is an “appeal by certiorari” under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, but that mode of appeal is from the judgment of this Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court, and not from the judgment of the trial court to this Court, which is covered by Rule 41.
In any event, since the adoption of Circular No. 2-90, requiring “strict” compliance as of March 9, 1990, there is no more “common mode of appeal to Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.” The provisions of Rules 41 and 42 of the Rules of Court, prescribing a common mode of appeal to the Court of Appeals and to the Supreme Court, and a common procedure for considering and resolving an appeal, “are no longer in force, . . . have been largely superseded and rendered functus officio by certain statutes which wrought substantial changes in the appellate procedures in this jurisdiction, notably: Republic Acts Nos. 5433 and 5440 (both effective on September 9, 1968) and 6031 (effective August 4, 1969), and Batas Pambansa Blg. 129 (effective August 14, 1981);” and that “appeals by certiorari will not lie with the Court of Appeals,” and that “an appeal taken to either the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals by the wrong or inappropriate mode shall be dismissed.”
Thus, both from the substantive and procedural standpoints, the petition is not meritorious.
Petitioners’ motion for reconsideration was denied on June 4, 1991.
Petitioners then filed the present petition charging grave abuse of discretion on the part of the respondent court as follows:
A ? IN DECLARING THE ORDER OF 7 MARCH 1991 DECLARING THE COMPROMISE AGREEMENT AND JUDGMENT BY COMPROMISE AS UNENFORCEABLE, NOT MERELY INTERLOCUTORY; AND, THEREFORE, APPEAL IS THE PROPER REMEDY, NOT CERTIORARI,
B ? IN DENYING DUE COURSE AND DISMISSING THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI PURSUANT TO CIRCULAR NO. 2-90;
C ? IN NOT DECLARING THE JUDGMENT BY COMPROMISE AS VALID AND BINDING BETWEEN THE PARTIES, AND NOT DECLARING PRIVATE RESPONDENT IN ESTOPPEL TO QUESTION THE VALIDITY OF SAID JUDGMENT.
We find no merit to the petition.
The respondent court cannot be faulted for its ruling that the Order of the trial court dated March 7, 1991 constitutes a final order and that the remedy of an aggrieved party against it is appeal. A final order is a settled concept in our corpus of jurisprudence. As explained by Mr. Justice Florenz D. Regalado: 2
1. The term “final order” is used in two senses depending on whether it is used on the issue of appealability or on the issue of binding effect. For purposes of appeal, an order is “final” if it disposes of the action, as distinguished from an interlocutory order which leaves something to be done in the trial court with respect to the merits of the case (De la Cruz, et al. vs. Paras, et al., L-41053, Feb. 27, 1976). For purposes of binding effect or whether it can be subject of execution, an order is “final” or executory after the lapse of the reglementary period to appeal and no appeal has been perfected (See Perez, et al. vs. Zulueta, L10374, Sept. 30, 1959; Cf. Denso [Phil.] Inc. vs. IAC, et al., G.R. No. 75000, Feb. 27, 1987).
The Order of March 7, 1991 declaring the Decision unenforceable wrote finis to the case except as to petitioners and private respondent Paulo Fullante who signed the Compromise Agreement. If the trial court still reset the case after its Order of March 7, 1991, it must be to determine how its Decision can be enforced but only as between petitioners and private respondent Paulo Fullante. The unenforceability of the Decision against the other private respondents can no longer be litigated as the Order of March 7, 1991 has already attained finality.
Petitioners did file a Motion to Declare Judgment by Compromise Ratified. That was done on June 17, 1991 or more than three (3) months after the Order of March 7, 1991. The motion was denied by the trial court, and rightly so. For clearly, the motion was intended to assail anew the final Order of March 7, 1991, albeit, in a roundabout manner. What cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly is a familiar rule even to students of law. Considering the finality of the Order of March 7, 1991, the trial court had no more jurisdiction to act on petitioners’ motion. Moreover, the grounds raised by petitioners are the same grounds raised by them when they opposed private respondents’ Motion to Declare Null and Void the Compromise Agreement and the Decision approving the same, supra. In its Order of March 7, 1991, the trial court held that except as to Paulo Fullante, the Decision was unenforceable. It did not rule that the Decision had, nevertheless, been ratified by subsequent acts of the parties. To repeat, this Order of March 7, 1991 was not appealed by petitioners.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition for review on certiorari is dismissed for lack of showing that the respondent court committed grave abuse of discretion in its Decision of April 3, 1992 and Resolution of June 4, 1992 in CA G.R. SP No. 26957. Costs against petitioners.
Narvasa, C.J., Padilla and Regalado, JJ., concur.
1 Former Seventh Division composed of Associate Justices Serafin Camilon (Chairman), Artemon Luna (ponente) and Celso L. Magsino.
2 Remedial Law Compendium, 5th ed., p. 260.
March 31, 1994
In the Regional Trial Court, First Judicial Region, Branch 51, Tayug, Pangasinan, accused-appellant Mauricio Torres was charged in Criminal Case No. T-1105 with the crime of Murder with the Use of Unlicensed Firearm, in an information dated 10 January 1991, committed as follows:
That on or about the 10th day of Aug. 1990, in the evening at Brgy. Cadiz, Municipality of Umingan, Province of Pangasinan, Republic of the Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, including John Doe whose identity have (sic) not yet been established, conspiring, confederating and helping one another, with intent to kill and with treachery and evident premeditation, armed with an unlicensed firearm (Carbine), did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously shoot one LORENZO ANTONIO, inflicting the latter an injury, to wit:
? Gunshot wound, through and through, point of entry, left scapular region, fracturing the left scapula, perforating the left lobe of the lungs, going upward to the neck, point of exit, left side of the neck.
which caused the death of LORENZO ANTONIO as a consequence, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of said LORENZO ANTONIO.
CONTRARY to Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Presidential Decree No. 1866.” 1
On 27 June 1991, accused-appellant was arraigned and pleaded not guilty. After trial, the trial court rendered a decision* dated 9 March 1992, the dispositive part of which reads:
WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, the Court finds the accused MAURICIO TORRES guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder defined and penalized under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua together with all the accessory penalties provided for by law and to pay the heirs of the deceased the following amounts: a) P50,000.00 as indemnity; b) P11,500.00 for the funeral services; c) P20,000.00 for the expenses incurred for the eight-day wake; d) P900.00 for the tomb and e) to pay the costs.
The bailbond posted by the accused for his provisional liberty is hereby cancelled pursuant to Sec. 3 of Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Court and his immediate confinement is hereby ordered as per Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 2-92.
SO ORDERED. 2
The antecedent facts which gave rise to the incident involved in this case, are as follows:
On 10 August 1990, at around 6:30 in the evening, Lorenzo Antonio and Domingo Salazar were walking on the dike (pilapil) in the field of Dadong Antonio, situated at Barangay Cadiz, Umingan, Pangasinan. They were intending to go home to their respective families after hiding for two (2) days in Nagkuralan, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija, a barangay roughly two (2) kilometers away from Barangay Cadiz. 3 The two (Antonio and Salazar) were allegedly involved in stabbing one Lando Torres on 8 August 1990 in Cadiz. Lando Torres happened to be an uncle of the accused. 4 Heeding their parents’ advice, Antonio and Salazar sought refuge with their relatives in Nagkuralan until a messenger from Cadiz in the person of one Ramon Godova went to Nagkuralan to personally inform them that the case had been settled by their respective families so that they could go back to Cadiz. Although they still harbored some doubts as to the veracity of the message, they told the messenger that they would go home in the afternoon of the same day. 5
While traversing the said dike, Lorenzo Antonio, who was walking ahead of Domingo Salazar, suddenly stopped as he noticed two (2) persons on the right side of the dike lying down on their side facing each other, and who appeared to be lifeless. Lorenzo Antonio immediately recognized one of them and exclaimed to Domingo Salazar that such person was “Melio” referring to the accused Mauricio Torres who happens to be a second cousin of Domingo Salazar, their father being cousins. Domingo Salazar, upon recognizing that one of two (2) persons lying down was indeed Mauricio Torres, immediately told Antonio that these persons might already be dead and that they should run as some people might suspect them of having a hand in their killing if they were to be seen in the vicinity of the crime scene.
Before they could run, Domingo Salazar saw that Mauricio Torres suddenly moved from his previous position holding a gun. When he saw the latter kneel down and point the gun at Lorenzo Antonio. 6 Domingo Salazar immediately jumped back and began to run eastward. Lorenzo Antonio immediately followed suit and ran westward. While they were running, Domingo Salazar heard a shot. Lorenzo Antonio, then about two (2) meters away, told him that he (Lorenzo) was hit. Domingo continued running eastward to Nagkuralan, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija. 7 He chose to flee back to Nagkuralan as he had recognized the accused who is from Cadiz, Umingan, Pangasinan. Lorenzo Antonio was left behind because he fell on the edge of the fence of the ranch of Dadong Antonio. 8
Upon reaching Nagkuralan, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija, Domingo Salazar proceeded to the house of Councilman Simplicio Dominguez and informed him of what had happened. Councilman Dominguez then summoned his fellow councilmen and some barangay tanods and proceeded to the place of the incident. They first went to the field of Dadong Antonio where he (Domingo) and Lorenzo Antonio saw the accused and another person lying down facing each other, and while there, they found and retrieved an empty shell lying around one (1) foot away. 9 From this spot, they proceeded to the place where Lorenzo was last seen by Domingo. After walking about one hundred (100) meters, they found the body of Lorenzo Antonio lying down prostrate facing the ground at the edge of the fence of the ranch. 10
Councilman Dominguez and his men brought the lifeless body of Lorenzo Antonio to his residence in Cadiz, Umingan, Pangasinan and reported the incident to the barangay officials of Cadiz.
The following day, Lorenzo’s body was examined by Dr. Alex Trinidad, the Rural Health Physician of Umingan, Pangasinan in the residence of the former and determined the cause of the victim’s death as internal hemorrage due to gunshot wound.
Dr. Trinidad further testified that the bullet entered the victim’s left scapular region exiting on the left side of the neck; the point of entry being much smaller than the point of exit, indicating a strong probability that the victim was shot at a very close range. Corollarily, prescinding from the trajectory of the bullet, he concluded that the position of the gunman was much lower than that of the victim. Moreover, allegedly judging from the irregularity of the wound, he opined that the bullet could only have been fired from a high caliber gun. 11
Police Corporal Jose Aimerol, a member of the Umingan Police station, was next to testify. According to him, Domingo Salazar came to his office on 13 August 1990 to execute a sworn statement regarding the incident. On the same occasion, Salazar also submitted to him an empty shell similar to that used in a carbine caliber 30 R-5 firearm. On cross-examination, he however admitted that he had no knowledge where Domingo Salazar picked up the aforementioned empty shell, and that no firearm was ever submitted to his office. 12
Florencio Antonio, the father of the victim, testified on the civil aspect of the case. He claimed he had spent P11,500.00 for his son’s funeral service; P20,000.00 for the eight (8) day wake and P900.00 for the cost of the tomb. 13
Accused-appellant anchors his defense mainly on alibi and doubtful identity as can be gleaned from the following assignment of errors in this appeal, viz:
That the court a quo erred:
1. IN HOLDING THAT THE LONE WITNESS, DOMINGO SALAZAR, CATEGORICALLY POINTED OUT TO THE ACCUSED AS THE PERPETRATOR OF THE CRIME.
2. IN HOLDING THAT MANY PEOPLE ATTENDED THE BIBLE STUDY, YET NOT EVEN ONE WHO IS NOT RELATED TO THE ACCUSED WAS PRESENTED TO PROVE HIS ALIBI.
3. FINALLY, IN HOLDING THE ACCUSED GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE OFFENSE CHARGED.
Accused-appellant did not testify in his behalf but presented three (3) witnesses to establish his alibi.
Celestino Fernandez, accused’s father-in-law, and a minister of the Church of Christ stationed at Cadiz, Umingan, Pangasinan, testified that on 10 August 1990, from 5:30 in the afternoon to 9:30 in the evening, he presided over a bible study seminar conducted in his residence. The session was attended by more than thirty (30) participants, including the accused who arrived at their house together with his family at about 5:30 of that same afternoon as he was then the person in charge of the lighting and other things needed in the seminar. He maintained that from the time the seminar began up to the time it ended, nobody left the enclosed room where the meeting was held. He had a list of participants 14 which was prepared by his daughter as the people arrived. On cross-examination, he admitted that the list was only prepared on 10 October 1991, a full one (1) year and two (2) months from 10 August 1990 and that he could not remember if he ever gave instructions to his daughter to write the names of the participants on 10 August 1990. 15
Armando Fernandez, the barangay captain of Cadiz, Umingan, Pangasinan testified that at around 5:30 in the afternoon of 10 August 1990, accused-appellant came to his house to borrow an adjustable wrench, after which he saw the accused proceed towards the adjacent rice mill of his (Armando’s) father. Accused-appellant did not return the wrench on the same day and it was only on the following day that he saw him again. 16 On cross-examination, he admitted that accused-appellant is his brother-in-law; and that at about 10:30 p.m. on 10 August 1990, he received a report that a person was killed in the ranch of Dadong Antonio. Immediately he reported the matter to the local police. However, he never went to the crime scene and did not make any attempt to obtain any lead as to the suspect in the case. It was only in the afternoon of 12 August 1990 that he was invited to the house of Sitong Antonio together with two (2) others, and there he personally heard Domingo Salazar reveal in front of his companions, Jose Antonio and Antonio Credo as well as Manuel Santos and Florencio Antonio that it was Mauricio Torres who shot Sitong (Lorenzo) Antonio. 17
Last to testify was Councilman Dominguez, who told the court a quo that he was the first person to whom Domingo Salazar reported the shooting incident. When he asked Salazar whether he recognized the assailant, Salazar only answered that “one was tall and the other was short.” 18 Curiously, he did not inquire further to clarify Salazar’s hazy description of the suspects.
From the two (2) sets of facts, as respectively set forth by the prosecution and the defense, the Court concludes that this appeal is devoid of merit.
First, on the issue of doubtful identity, the defense posits the shallow reasoning that Domingo Salazar, the lone eyewitness to the shooting, did not immediately reveal the identity of the malefactors to Councilman Dominguez. Instead, all he said at that time was that “one was tall and the other was short”; and that the interregnum of two (2) days was long enough for Domingo Salazar to concoct the story that would implicate accused-appellant as the author of the crime. The trial court, which concededly was in the best position to determine the credibility of witnesses, based on their appearance and deportment while on the witness stand, sustained the testimony of Domingo Salazar, the only eyewitness in the shooting of Lorenzo Antonio.
Accused-appellant questions why the eyewitness Domingo Salazar did not immediately divulge accused-appellant’s name to Dominguez. Salazar’s proffered excuse is not uncommon. It was fear. The Court has consistently taken judicial notice of the natural reticence of most people to get involved in a criminal case. They are usually afraid to reap reprisals from the accused and/or his family and relatives. 19
Furthermore, it is well-settled that the testimony of a single witness, if positive and credible, is sufficient to obtain a conviction, even in the absence of corroboration . 20 It shall be given full credit in the absence of any ill motive or long-harbored grudge that can be ascribed by the accused to such witness, which induced him to falsely testify against the accused.
In the case at bench, the records reveal that accused?appellant is even related to witness Salazar, they being second degree cousins. This fact reinforces the circumstance that he (Salazar) knew the accused-appellant well, being close relatives and residents of the same barangay.
It would then be preposterous to think that Salazar would implicate a second cousin for no apparent reason at all, except to tell the truth and as his conscience dictates.
We come now to the integrity and credibility of accused-appellant’s alibi.
Alibi as a defense has an inverse relation to positive identification. As evidence, it is regarded as being the weakest and unreliable of all defenses especially in the light of clear and precise evidence of positive identification of the accused by the prosecution eyewitness against whom no motive to falsely testify against the accused can be established. It can only prosper by indubitably proving that the accused was somewhere else when the crime was committed, and an unassailable demonstration that he could not have been physically present at the locus of the crime or its immediate vicinity at the time of its commission. In spatial terms – physical impossibility of being in two (2) places at the same time.
The trial court did not reject accused-appellant’s alibi solely on the ground that appellant failed to call to the witness stand any disinterested person who could prove that accused-appellant was attending a bible study session at the time of the incident in question. Domingo Salazar positively identified accused-appellant as the person who fired the shot that killed Lorenzo Antonio. Second, no evidence of ill motive on the part of Domingo Salazar to falsely implicate a relative was ever established. Third, the place where appellant purportedly attended the bible study was not too distant, being two (2) kilometers away or thirty (30) minutes by foot from the scene of the crime.
Lastly, as the Solicitor General aptly observed, the witnesses presented by appellant to corroborate his alibi were far from credible, two (2) of the three (3) witnesses being closely related to him. As the lower court sharply pointed out ?
The discussion on the defenses put up by the accused shows that it has not dent a bit the evidence of the prosecution. Furthermore, the Court finds the witness for the defense unreliable, biased and inconclusive. The witnesses for the accused are: Celestino Fernandez, a minister of the Church of Christ is the father-in-law of the accused. Armando Fernandez, Brgy. Captain of Cadiz, Umingan, Pangasinan, is son of Celestino Fernandez and brother-in-law of the accused. Only witness Simplicio Dominguez is not related to the accused although as a councilman himself of a neighboring barangay it could be said that his testimony tends to protect a relative of Brgy. Captain Fernandez.
With the foregoing, the testimonies of Celestino Fernandez and Armando Fernandez corroborating the accused’s defense of alibi is not acceptable to the Court. There are allegedly many people who attended the bible study, yet not even one who is not related to the accused was presented to prove his alibi. The Fernandezes’ testimonies are not only biased for it is a natural desire to exculpate the accused from criminal liability, it is also inconclusive. Alibi is at least a weak defense and easy to fabricate especially between parents and children, relative and even those not so related. For alibi to be credible must count with a strong corroboration. 21
The fact that there were more than thirty (30) persons who attended the bible study in Fernandez’ residence on 10 August 1990 and not one (1) of them testified to corroborate accused-appellant’s alibi further eroded Celestino Fernandez’ credibility as in effect he was the only one presented to substantiate the said defense. The defense instead chose another relative, Armando Fernandez who merely testified that he saw the accused around 5:30 p.m. on 10 August 1990 when he borrowed an adjustable wrench from him, then went to the ricemill and that he next saw him the following morning of 11 August 1990.
If the defense claims that as early as 5:30 p.m. of 10 August 1990, appellant was already at the place of the bible study busy fixing chairs and did not thereafter leave the place, then how could he be at Armando Fernandez’ house borrowing an adjustable wrench at the same time?
It is to be noted that accused-appellant was never presented to explain these inconsistent defense submissions.
In People vs. Solis, 22 this Court held that the defense of alibi is weak if it is established mainly by the accused himself and his relatives and not by credible persons. The same principle equally obtains in this case.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Tayug, Pangasinan convicting accused-appellant Mauricio Torres of the crime of Murder is hereby AFFIRMED in toto with costs against the appellant.
Narvasa, C.J. Regalado and Puno, JJ., concur.
1 Rollo, p. 6.
* Penned by Judge Hugo B. Sansano, Jr.
2 Rollo, pp. 23-24.
3 TSN, July 25, 1991, p. 14
4 Ibid, p. 27
5 Ibid, at p. 25
6 Ibid, p. 7
7 Ibid, p. 8
8 Rollo, p. 17
9 TSN, January 3, 1992, p. 7.
10 TSN, July 25, 1991, p. 21.
11 TSN, August 8, 1991, pp. 8-12
12 TSN, August 8, 1991, pp. 16-17
13 TSN, September 5, 1991, pp. 3-5
14 Exhibit 1, Original Record, p. 131
15 TSN, January 21, 1992, pp. 3-10
16 TSN, January 30, 1992, p. 4.
17 TSN, January 30, 1992, pp. 6-7.
18 TSN, January 31, 1992, pp. 4-5.
19 People vs. Fuentes, G.R. No. 104667, January 17, 1994.
20 People vs. Sampaga, G.R. 91339, 202 SCRA 157 (1991).
21 Rollo, pp. 133-134.
22 195 SCRA 465, citing People vs. Berrinquel, 192 SCRA 561.
March 31, 1994
This is a Rule 45 petition for review by certiorari of the Decision of the respondent Court of Appeals dated December 24, 1991 in CA-G.R. CV No. 13540. 1
The controlling facts supported by the records are stated in the Decision under review, viz:
The objects of the controversy are several portions of a large tract of land located in the municipality of Bacoor, Cavite. The large tract of land is claimed to be originally owned by one Juan Cuenca y Francisco, who had it surveyed way back in 1911. The land itself is traversed by railroad tracks dividing the land into two (2) parcels. On February 21, 1922, Juan Cuenca was issued Original Certificate of Title No. 1020 (Exhibit “H”) covering the two parcels, designated as Lots 1 and 2. Original Certificate of Title No. 1020 was later reconstituted as O.C.T. No. (1020) RO-9, containing the technical descriptions of Lots 1 and 2.
On April 14, 1928, a separate original certificate of title for Lot 1, referring to the parcel north of the railroad tracks, was issued to Juan Cuenca as O.C.T. No. (1898) RO-58 (Exhibit “Z”). Lot 1 itself was divided into thirteen (13) parcels, eleven (11) of which were described therein as situated in the barrios of Talaba, Zapote, and Malicsi, while two (2) parcels were situated in the poblacion of Bacoor, Cavite.
Upon the demise of Juan Cuenca, an action for partition of his properties was filed by Jose Cuenca, one of the surviving heirs. On February 21, 1969, a project of partition was approved by the Land Registration Commission (Exhibit “EEE”), and on April 10, 1969, the court ordered the Register of Deeds of the Province of Cavite to issue individual titles for twelve (12) parcels of Lot 2 (Exhibit “GG). Three (3) parcels thereof: Lot 2-A, 2-K, and 2- L, were titled (T.C.T. Nos. 35963, 35973 and 35974, respectively) and registered in the name of Juan Cuenca (Exhibits “K”, “TTT-1″ and “TTT-2″) on April 21, 1969. All three titles stated that the lands covered therein were originally registered as O.C.T. No. RO-9 on February 21, 1922 (Exhibits “K”, “G” and “H”).
Lot 2-A of Juan Cuenca was later subdivided into seven (7) lots in 1969. Of these seven subdivided parcels, one parcel (Lot 2-A-3) was adjudicated to his heir, Pura Cuenca, who was issued Transfer Certificate of Title No. 41505 on February 24, 1970 (Exhibit “L). The said T.C.T. No. 41505 states that the land covered therein was originally registered as Original Certificate of Title No. 1898 on April 14, 1928, and Transfer Certificate of Title No. RO-58-I was cancelled by virtue thereof. One other parcel (Lot 2-A-4) was adjudicated to another heir, Ladislaw Cuenca, who was issued Transfer Certificate of Title No. 41506 (Annex “M”) on February 24, 1970. Likewise, T.C.T. No. 41506 stated that the land covered therein was originally registered as Original Certificate of Title No. 1898 on April 14, 1928, and that T.C.T. No. RO-58-I was cancelled by virtue thereof.
We interpose at this point the observation that although the transfer certificates of title issued to Pura and Ladislaw Cuenca stated that the lands covered therein were originally registered as O.C.T. No. 1898, hence, referring to Lot 1 located at the northern portion of Juan Cuenca’s large tract of land, the technical description appearing in said transfer certificates of title were taken or lifted from O.C.T. No. (1020) RO-9 covering Lot 2, referring to the southern portion of the original tract of land.
In the meantime, Lots 2-K and 2-L (T.C.T. Nos. 35973 and 35974) in the name of Juan Cuenca, were consolidated and, in turn, were subdivided into eight (8) lots. Lot 4 was adjudicated to Pura Cuenca, who was issued T.C.T. No. 41498 (Exhibit “TTT-5″) on February 24, 1970. Lot 3 was adjudicated to Ladislaw Cuenca, who was issued T.C.T. No. 41497 (Exhibit “TTT-4″) on the same date. Lot 6 was adjudicated to Jose Cuenca, who was issued T.C.T. No. 41501 with the inscription therein that the land covered by said titles were originally registered as O.C.T. No. 1898 on April 14, 1928, and that T.C.T. No. RO-58-I was cancelled thereby, referring to Lot 1 of the original tract. However, the technical descriptions inscribed therein were lifted from O.C.T. No. (1020) RO-9 covering Lot 2 of the original tract of land.
Upon the deaths of Pura and Ladislaw Cuenca, the administrators of their respective testate estates were given authority by the court to dispose of some parcels of land. Lot 2-A-3 of Pura Cuenca covered by T.C.T. No. 41505, and Lot 2-A-4 of Ladislaw Cuenca covered by T.C.T. No. 41506, were eventually sold to herein appellee Lorenzana Food Corporation on February 4, 1977 (Annexes, “OOO”, “CCC” and “UU-1″). Transfer Certificate of Title No. 41505 was cancelled by T.C.T. No. 88468 issued to, and registered in favor of, Lorenzana Food Corporation (Annex “D”). Transfer Certificate of Title No. 41506 was cancelled by T.C.T. No. 88467 (Exhibit “2″) on February 18, 1977. Both T.C.T. Nos. 88467 and 88468 also stated that the lands covered therein were originally registered as O.C.T. No. 1898, but contained portions of the technical description appearing in O.C.T. No. (1020) RO-9.
On the other hand, Lot 3 of the consolidated Lots 2-K and 2-L, as part of the testate estate of Ladislaw Cuenca, was sold to herein appellee Jimmy Chua Chi Leong. Transfer Certificate of Title No. 104248 (Exhibit “A”) was issued to and registered in his name on May 9, 1979, cancelling T.C.T. No. 41497. Lot 4, being part of the testate estate of Pura Cuenca, was sold to Albert Chua, who was issued T.C.T. No. T-104249 on May 9, 1979 (Exhibit “B”), cancelling T.C.T. No. 41498. Lot 6 was sold by Jose Cuenca to Eduardo Solis, who was issued T.C.T. No. T-94389, cancelling T.C.T. No. T-41501. Common to the titles of Jimmy Chua Ching Leong, Albert Chua and Eduardo Solis is the inscription that the lands covered therein were originally registered as O.C.T. No. 1898 on April 14, 1928.
Another common feature of all these succeeding titles is the description that the property therein described is situated in the barrio of Talaba, Bacoor, Cavite. Looking back, the records show that the original tract of land owned by Juan Cuenca was bounded on the north by Calle Real de Talaba, on the south and southeast by Sapa Niog, and on the west, by Calle Niog. As mentioned earlier, the land was divided into two (2) by the railroad tracks running from and going to east and west. The area located north of the railroad tracks, bordering Calle Real de Talaba was later titled as O.C.T. (1898) 50-58, said parcel straddling the barrios of Talaba, Zapote and Milicsi, as well as the poblacion proper.
On the other hand, the portion located south of the railroad tracks was designated as Lot 2. Traversing this land is what used to be a national road, now called the Aguinaldo Highway, linking Tagaytay City to Metro Manila. This parcel was later titled as O.C.T. No. (1020) RO-9. The sub-divided parcels aforementioned, by their technical descriptions are located at the south to southeast portions of Lot 2, bounded on the south, by Sapa Niog and Calle Niog on the west. Nevertheless, the said parcels were described as situated in the barrio of Talaba.
The controversy arose when herein appellees learned that the same parcels were being claimed by herein appellant, B.E. San Diego, Incorporated. B.E. San Diego’s claim was based on two (2) titles registered in its name. The first parcel was covered under T.C.T. No. T-17621 (Annex “C”) issued on March 2, 1966, which originated from O.C.T. No. 0-490 registered on December 22, 1965. The said title described “a parcel of land Plan Psu-211245, pursuant to L.R.C. Case No. N-467, (LRC) Record No. N-27923, situated in the Barrio of Niog, Municipality of Bacoor.” The second parcel was titled under O.C.T. No. 0-644, registered on January 5, 1967, pursuant to LRC Case No. N-557, (LRC) Record No. N-30647, describing “a parcel of land (Lot 1, Plan Psu-223920), situated in Barrio of Niog.” (Exhibit “9″).
All parties resolutely seeking to enforce their respective claims over the subject properties, three (3) civil suits for quieting of title were filed before the Regional Trial Court of Bacoor, Cavite, Branch XIX. The first case, docketed as BCV-80-17 was filed by Lorenzana Food Corporation versus B.E. San Diego, Incorporated, and other defendants. The second civil case, BCV-81-18, was filed by Jimmy Chua Chi Leong and Albert Chua, also against B.E. San Diego, Inc., et al., as defendants. The last case, BCV-83-79 was filed by B.E. San Diego, Inc., against spouses Eduardo and Gloria Solis, as defendants.
In Civil Case No. BCV-80-17, Lorenzana Food Corporation claimed exclusive ownership over the two (2) parcels covered by T.C.T. Nos. 88467 and 88468, issued to it on February 18, 1977. Lorenzana Food Corporation alleged that it took immediate possession of the said property and even contracted to prepare the land for development. It is alleged that it was only years later that Lorenzana Food Corporation learned that B.E. San Diego, Inc. was claiming ownership over portions of the said parcels by virtue of O.C.T. No. 0-644. It is Lorenzana Food Corporation’s contention that the O.C.T. No. 0-644, in B.E. San Diego’s name is null and void because Lorenzana Food Corporation’s title emanated from an O.C.T. issued more than thirty-nine (39) years prior to the issuance of B.E. San Diego’s original certificate of title.
In answer, B.E. San Diego countered that it and its predecessors-in-interest have been in the open continuous and adverse possession in concept of owner of the subject property for more than fifty (50) years prior to Lorenzana Food Corporation’s purchase of the two (2) parcels. It also argued that Original Certificate of Title No. 0-644 was not null and void since it was issued upon application and proper proceedings in (LRC) Case No. N-557 and N-30647, before the then Court of First Instance of Cavite. Pursuant to its issuance, the said property was declared by B.E. San Diego for tax purposes (Exhibits “Q” and “5-F”) since June 22, 1966.
B.E. San Diego claims it bought the subject property from Teodora Dominguez on February 6, 1966 (Exhibit “5-D”) and the absolute deed of sale was submitted in (LRC) Case No. N-577. It was further argued that Lorenzana Food Corporation was erroneously claiming the subject property because of Lorenzana’s titled property is described to be located in Barrio Talaba, while B.E. San Diego’s property is situated in Barrio Niog. Denying that Lorenzana Food Corporation’s predecessor-in-interest had been in possession of the subject property, B.E. San Diego claimed that in 1979, by force, intimidation, threat, stealth, and strategy, Lorenzana Food Corporation entered and occupied the subject property, despite barbed wire fencing with warning signs, and security guards posted by B.E. San Diego.
In Civil Case No. BCV-81-18, plaintiffs Jimmy Chua Chi Leong and Albert Chua claim ownership over the parcels they respectively purchased from the heirs of Juan Cuenca, as evidenced by Transfer Certificates of Titles Nos. T-104248 and T-104249, issued on January 20 and 30, 1979, respectively. B.E. San Diego, for its part, claimed the property by virtue of Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-17621 issued on March 2, 1966, which cancelled Original Certificate of Title No. 0-490 originally issued to Teodora Dominguez, who sold the same property to B.E. San Diego. Again, B.E. San Diego argued that, as appearing in their respective titles, Jimmy Chua Chi Leong’s and Albert Chua’s properties were located in Barrio Talaba while that of B.E. San Diego was located in Barrio Niog.
The last case, BCV-83-79 was initiated by B.E. San Diego against the Solis spouses who, according to the former, unlawfully entered a portion of its property titled under Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-17621. The Solis spouses, meanwhile, claim the said portion by virtue of their Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-94389, issued pursuant to their purchase of said portion from Jose Cuenca.
In light of these factual findings, the respondent court decided in favor of the private respondent, B.E. San Diego, Inc. It rejected petitioners’ titles because of the following defects, viz:
(a) The appellees’ (petitioners) titles are annotated with the inscription that the land described therein was originally registered under OCT No. 1898, but the technical descriptions found therein were lifted from OCT No. (1020) RO-9.
(b) The appellees (petitioners) titles state that the properties are located in the barrio of Talaba when the properties described therein are situated in the Barrio of Niog.
On the other hand, it found the titles of private respondent unblemished by any defect. It also considered in private respondent’s favor its open, adverse and continuous possession of the disputed land since 1966. The respondent court gave little weight to the verification survey of Felipe Venezuela, Chief of the Technical Services Section of the Bureau of Lands favoring the claims of the petitioners on the ground that the “survey was just based on the technical descriptions appearing in the opposing parties’ titles.” 2
The dispositive portion of the disputed Decision decreed: 3
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the appealed Joint Decision dated July 15, 1986 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and a new one entered ordering:
1. The nullification and cancellation of Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. T-88467 and T-88468 in the name of appellee Lorenzana Food Corporation, and dismissing Civil Case No. BCV-80-17;
2. The nullification and cancellation of Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. T-104248 and T-104249 in the names of appellees Jimmy Chua Chi Leong and Albert Chua, and dismissing Civil Case No. BCV-81-18; and
3. The nullification and cancellation of Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-94389 in the names of appellees-spouses Eduardo and Gloria Solis, who are hereby ordered to immediately vacate the subject property.
No pronouncement as to costs.
Petitioners assail the Decision in this petition for review on certiorari as having been issued in grave abuse of discretion. Petitioner Lorenzana Food Corporation and the spouses Eduardo Solis and Gloria Victa raise the following:
ASSIGNMENT OF ERRORS
The Honorable Court of Appeals committed reversible error of law and grave abuse of discretion in reversing the decision of the lower court to uphold the validity of the land titles of private respondent in spite of the fact that these were issued some forty six (46) years later than the titles of petitioners and their predecessors-in-interest.
The Honorable Court of Appeals committed reversible error of law and grave abuse of discretion in giving more significance to the annotation than the technical description in identifying the lots in dispute.
The Honorable Court of Appeals committed reversible erroneous conclusion of facts, amounting to reversible error of law and grave abuse of discretion in holding in its resolution denying petitioner’s motion for reconsideration that petitioners failed to make proper correction of their titles.
The Honorable Court of Appeals committed grave abuse of discretion when it failed to pass judgment on the liabilities of the estate of Pura Cuenca and Ladislaw Cuenca, predecessors-in-interest (sellers) of the petitioners.
Petitioners Albert Chua and Jimmy Chua Chi contend:
1. In the face of its own admission that petitioners (including Albert Chua and Jimmy Chua Chi Leong) “can trace their titles as having been originally registered on February 21, 1922′, the respondent Court of Appeals obviously erred and gravely abused its discretion in nullifying and ordering the cancellation of petitioners” transfer certificates of title and dismissing their complaints (including those of Albert Chua and Jimmy Chua Chi Leong), and in upholding private respondent’s title.
2. The respondent Court gravely erred and abused its discretion in finding that petitioners’ titles (including Albert Chua’s and Jimmy Chua Chi Leong’s) are annotated with the inscription that the land described therein was originally registered under OCT No. 1898, but the technical description found therein were lifted from OCT No. (1020) RO-9.
3. The mother title of petitioners’ lots is Original Certificate of Title No. (1020) RO-9 and not 1898.
4. The respondent court gravely erred and abused its discretion in not finding that private respondent’s title is rooted in a fake or spurious title.
5. The respondent court gravely erred and abused its discretion in discrediting the verification survey conducted by Engr. Felipe Venezuela, Chief of the Technical Service Section of the Bureau of Lands, who was commissioned to conduct said survey, by order of the Court, which confirmed the fact that petitioners’ lots originated from Lot 2, Psu-1075, covered by OCT No. (1020) RO-9 and that they are overlapped by the lots of respondent, as evidenced by his Report (Exhibits “F”, “F-1″ and “F-2″).
6. Even private respondent expressly admitted that based on the technical descriptions of the lots of petitioners, three are overlappings of said lots and respondent’s lots, and the respondent court gravely erred and abused its discretion in holding otherwise.
7. The entries in the second paragraph of petitioners’ titles are mere clerical errors which can not defeat the fact that petitioners’ titles originated from Lot 2, Psu-1075, covered by OCT No. (1020) RO-9.
8. The respondent court’s holding that there could be no overlapping because in petitioners’ titles it appears that their lots are situated in Barrio Talaba, while its lots are situated in Barrio Niog, is devoid of merit.
We find no merit in the petition.
A perusal of the petition will reveal that it does not raise any question of law of sufficient significance to warrant the interposition of the power of review of this court. Neither does the petition demonstrate that the disputed Decision is anchored on factual findings so grossly misappreciated by the respondent court, as to result in a wanton distortion and denial of the legal rights of petitioners.
The case at bench started as actions to quiet petitioners’ titles over certain parcels of land filed against private respondent. 4 The disputed lots are in the possession of the private respondent who has consistently paid their taxes since 1966. The lots are located in barrio Niog, municipality of Bacoor, province of Cavite. They are covered by private respondent’s titles, TCT No. T-17621 and OCT No. 0-644. As noted by the respondent court, the titles of private respondent are “. . . not blemished by any defect and were regularly issued.”
Private respondent’s titles were assailed by the petitioners. They allegedly cast a cloud of doubt on their titles. Petitioners’ evidence showed that their titles were derived from the original title of Juan F. Cuenca issued on February 21, 1922. The origin of their titles was traced by Eng. Felipe Venezuela of the Bureau of Lands.
The basic question is whether petitioners were able to discharge their burden of proving the superiority of their titles over the titles of the private respondent. The respondent court found the quantum and quality of evidence presented by the petitioners insufficient. We find no compelling reason to reverse this ruling. The defects appearing on the face of the titles of the petitioners are too glaring to escape the naked eye. These are recited in detail in the Resolution of the former Special Sixth Division of the respondent court thru Mr. Justice Jose C. Campos, Jr., 5 when it denied petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration, to wit:
From the evidence, the appellees derived their titles from the defective titles of their vendors, namely Pura and Ladislaw Cuenca. Although the titles issued to Pura and Ladislaw Cuenca stated that the lands covered therein were originally registered as OCT No. 1898 hence referring to Lot 1 located at the northern portion of Juan Cuenca’s large tract of land, the technical descriptions appearing in the certificates of titles were taken or lifted from OCT No. (1020) RO-9 covering Lot 2, referring to the southern portion of the original tract of land. The land covered by OCT No. 1898 is not the land covered by the title of the appellees Lorenzana, because the title of the lot was derived from OCT No. 1898 but its technical description was drawn from OCT No. 1020. The land covered by OCT No. 1898 is located in the northern portion of the land covered by OCT No. 1020.
The title of the appellant’s predecessors-in-interest showed that the land acquired by the appellant and for which title was issued in the appellant’s name was described in said title as being located in Barrio Niog, while the appellees’ title described the property covered by their title as located in Barrio Talaba. But appellees claim a parcel of land that is located in Barrio Niog. These two barrios of the town of Bacoor, Cavite, are located poles apart and were never one and the same town in the history of the province. The appellees are claiming property not located in the barrio as described in the technical description.
To be sure, these defects were judicially admitted by the petitioners. They attached their defective titles to their complaints in the trial court. As aforestated, their titles showed on their very face that they covered lots located in barrio Talaba, municipality of Bacoor whereas the lots of private respondent are in barrio Niog of the same municipality. The two barrios are one and a half kilometers away from each other. Likewise, the face of their titles show that they emanated from OCT No. 1898 or from Lot 1 constituting the northern portion of Juan Cuenca’s property before its subdivision. Nonetheless, the technical descriptions of the lots appearing in their titles were lifted from OCT No. (1020) RO-9 or from Lot 2 forming the southern portion of Juan Cuenca’s land. No less than petitioners’ witness, Eng. Venezuela, confirmed these blatant defects when he testified, thus:
BY ATTY. VASQUEZ: (to the witness)
Q You said you referred to these titles in connection with your verification?
A Yes, sir.
Q Now, I presume you also saw the matters stated in the second paragraph of the first page of the titles, I am referring . . . particularly to the fact that as stated in both of these titles, this land was originally registered on April 14, 1928 as Original Certificate of Title 1898 pursuant to Decree No. 338259 LRC Record No. 29214, did you notice those?
A I noticed that, sir.
xxx xxx xxx
BY ATTY. VASQUEZ: (To the witness)
Q In the report that you submitted to this Court on your verification survey, we find in paragraph 8, No, paragraph 4, subparagraph f, the following statement which I read, “THAT AS PER TECHNICAL DESCRIPTIONS APPEARING ON TCT NO. 88467 AND TCT NO. 88468 REGISTERED IN THE NAME OF. . . . . . LORENZANA FOOD CORPORATION, THE PROPERTY FALLS IN THE BARRIO OF NIOG, BACOOR, CAVITE,” CONTRADICTING TO THE LOCATION STATED IN THE TITLE WHICH IS BARRIO TALABA, I READ FURTHER, “IT MAY BE DUE TO THE FACT THAT SAID TITLE ORIGINATED FROM ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE NO TITLE NO. 1898 DECREED UNDER NO. 338259 WHICH IS ACTUALLY LOCATED IN BARRIO TALABA, BACOOR, CAVITE.
MY QUESTION IS, BARRIO TALABA AND BARRIO NIOG ARE DIFFERENT BARRIOS?
A YES, SIR.
Q And you have apparently noticed that the statement contained in the second paragraph of the title of plaintiff stating that the land supposed to be covered by said titles is derived from OCT No. 1898?
A Yes, sir.
Q Are we to understand that the land covered by OCT No. 1898 is not the same land covered by the titles of the Lorenzana?
xxx xxx xxx
A In a sense it is not actually, the title OCT 1898 is located on northern portion of OCT No. 1020, in fact I made here a working sheet showing the titles, the one Original Certificate of Title 1020 and Original Certificate …. of Title 1898 and I have here a sketch plan of the positions. … .
xxx xxx xxx
BY ATTY. VASQUEZ: (To the witness)
Q You are mentioned OCT No. 1898 and OCT No. 1020, you will tell the Court of these two (2) titles cover different parcels of land?
A As per my sketch sheet plan, Original Certificate of Title No. 1020 is located at the southern portion of the Original of Title No. 1898, meaning to say that they are far apart from each other.
Q Now, this technical description that you utilized to plot the land described in the title or titles of the plaintiff, which title did you use, 1898 or 1020?
A I just followed the title as issued, as ordered by the Court.
I based my verification based on the title as required by the Court.
Q THE QUESTION IS, ACCORDING TO YOU …. VERIFICATION, THE LAND BEING CLAIMED BY THE PLAINTIFF, IS IT COVERED BY 1898 OR 1020?
A WELL, IT IS ALREADY CLEAR ON THE TITLE THAT IT WAS TAKEN FROM OCT 1898.
Q I will not argue to that fact that the title of Lorenzana was taken from 1898 but I am asking you the plotting of the technical description as described on the title of the plaintiff is referring to a land covered by original certificate of title 1898 or 1020?
A It is very clear on my plan that the two (2) titles of Lorenzana happened to fall to Original Certificate of Title No. 1020.
Q IN OTHER WORDS, IF WE GO BY THE TITLE, IT WOULD APPEAR THAT THIS TITLE OF THE LORENZANAS WAS DERIVED FROM 1898 BUT THE TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION ….. WAS FROM ANOTHER TITLE SPECIFICALLY 1020?
A YES, SIR, BY USING THE TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION (pp. 34-35, 37-40, 41-43, tsn, 12-9-80, bold letters supplied).
His attempt to reconcile the defects and inconsistencies appearing on the faces of petitioners’ titles did not impress the respondent court and neither are we. His opinion lacks authoritativeness for his verification survey was not made on the land itself. It was a mere table survey based on the defective titles themselves.
Petitioners would minimize the import of the defects in their titles by describing them as “clerical.” The plea does not persuade for the self-contradictions in petitioners’ titles infract their integrity. Errors that relate to the lots’ mother title, their technical descriptions and their locations cannot be dismissed as clerical and harmless in character. With these errors, the titles of the petitioners do not deserve the sanctity given to torrens title. These errors precisely created and cast the cloud of doubt over petitioners’ titles and precipitated the case at bench.
Petitioners also missed the thrust of the assailed Decision with their argument that the respondent court gave more importance to the misleading annotations in their titles rather than to their technical descriptions. In pointing out the discrepancies in petitioners’ titles, the respondent court was simply stressing that these titles cannot be upheld against the unblemished titles of the private respondent. The case at bench is not one where petitioners are correcting the defects in their titles by reconciling the annotations therein and the technical descriptions of the lots. Rather, the case involves actions for quieting of titles where petitioners are urging that their error-filled titles should be adjudged as superior to the regularly issued titles of the private respondent. Petitioners would also oust private respondent from the lots it has occupied from 1966 and whose taxes it has paid since then.
In a last swing against the disputed Decision, petitioners contend that the respondent court committed grave abuse of discretion when it failed to pass judgment on the liabilities of the estates of Pura Cuenca and Ladislaw Cuenca, their predecessors-in-interest. The contention deserves scant attention. The records show that the trial court dismissed petitioners’ Complaint against the Estates of Pura Cuenca and Ladislaw Cuenca in Civil Cases No. BCV-80-17 and BCV-81-18. They alleged that the said Estates breached their warranties as sellers of the subject lots. Petitioners Lorenzana Food Corporation as well as Jimmy Chua Chi Leong and Albert Chua did not appeal the dismissal of their Complaints against these Estates. The dismissal has become final and petitioners cannot resurrect the Estates’ alleged liability in this petition for review on certiorari.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition for review is DISMISSED there being no showing of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the respondent court in deciding CA-G.R. CV No. 13540. Costs against petitioners.
Narvasa, C.J., Padilla and Regalado, JJ., concur.
1 Sixth Division composed of Associate Justices Jose C. Campos, Jr., (Chairman), Venancio D. Aldecoa, Jr., (ponente) and Filemon H. Mendoza, (member).
2 At page 13, Decision.
3 It reversed the Joint Decision dated July 15, 1986 of the RTC of Bacoor, Cavite, Br. 19 in Civil Cases No. BCV-83-17, BCV-81-18 and BCV-83-79.
4 Except Civil Case No. BCV-83-49 where the private respondent was the one who sought to quiet his title vis-a-vis the title of the spouses Solis.
5. Concurred by Associate Justices Alfredo Marigomen and Quirino D. Abad Santos, Jr.