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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 136113. August 23, 2000.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. WILLIE QUIBIDO, RUEL QUIBIDO, and JOHN DOE, (All At Large) RODOLFO MONTEMAYOR ALIAS "DOLFO", Accused-Appellant.

D E C I S I O N


DE LEON, JR., J.:


Before us on appeal is the Decision 1 of the Regional Trial Court of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, Branch 40, in Criminal Case No. C-3971, convicting herein appellant, Rodolfo Montemayor, and his co-accused, Ruel Quibido, of the crime of robbery with homicide.

The lifeless body of Sofio Verguela was discovered inside his house in Bagong Silang, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro, lying face down on the floor in a pool of blood, in the early morning of February 16, 1993. His head was bashed with a blunt instrument fracturing the skull and exposing parts of his brain tissues. It was also discovered that one (1) blanket, one (1) radio and a wallet containing undetermined amount of money, all belonging to the victim, were missing. 2

On February 24, 1993, Luciano M. Vergara and Pedrito B. de Lara executed separate sworn statements before PO3 Herbert Tabernero of the Victoria, Oriental Mindoro police. Vergara stated in his sworn statement that he saw Willie Quibido, Jr., Ruel Quibido, a certain alias Dolfo, and another unidentified person, acting suspiciously while in the act of coming out of the house of the victim, at about the same time the killing incident happened at 9:00 o’clock in the evening on February 15, 1993. On the other hand, de Lara was able to recognize from the group Willie Quibido, Jr. only. 3 Consequently, the accused, Willie Quibido, Jr., Ruel Quibido, a John Doe and a Peter Doe, were charged with the crime of robbery with homicide, defined and penalized under Article 294. paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code, in an Information that reads:chanrob1es virtua1 law library

That on or about the 15th day of February 1993, at around 9:00 o’clock in the evening, in Barangay Bagong Silang, Municipality of Victoria, Province of Oriental Mindoro, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, taking advantage of the darkness of the night, with evident premeditation and by means of violence, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously enter the house of SOFIO VERGUELA also known as SOFIO VERGUERA and once inside, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with the use of violence, with intent to gain and against the will and consent of the owner thereof, took and carried away one (1) radio, one (1) blanket, one (1) wallet and undetermined amount of money all belonging to the latter, to the damage and prejudice of the said owner in the value of properties aforementioned;

That on the occasion of said robbery and for the purpose of enabling them to take, steal and carry away the properties above-mentioned, the herein accused, in pursuance of their conspiracy and taking advantage of their superior strength, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, feloniously and treacherously, with intent to kill and evident premeditation, attack, assault and hit on the head with a hard object the said SOFIO VERGUELA also known as SOFIO VERGUERA, thereby inflicting on the latter severe brain injury due to skull fracture resulting in his untimely death.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

CONTRARY TO LAW.

Willie Quibido, Jr. was never apprehended and remains at large up to the present. Herein appellant Rodolfo Montemayor who was initially denominated as John Doe in the Information in this case, and his co-accused, Ruel Quibido, were arrested on August 29, 1994 and September 5, 1994, respectively. Upon being arraigned on September 28, 1994, Rodolfo Montemayor, alias Dolfo, and Ruel Quibido, 4 both assisted by counsel de oficio, separately entered the plea of "Not guilty" .

Meanwhile, Emil Berganio was arrested by the police on November 11, 1994. After having agreed to testify in favor of the prosecution, Berganio’s name was not included in the Information as one of the accused in this case. On the same date of his arrest, his sworn statement 5 was taken and which he subscribed and sworn to before Oriental Mindoro Chief Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Nicolas B. Senoren.

The evidence of the prosecution shows that on February 15, 1993 at around 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon the appellant, Rodolfo Montemayor alias Dolfo, and a certain Bokno invited Emil Berganio, a barrio mate in Barangay Antonino, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro, to join them to go out of town in search for employment. Emil went with Dolfo and Bokno upon learning that they were supposed to leave early on the following morning after they shall have allegedly collected a debt, to be used for their fare to Batangas, from a certain person in Barangay Bagong Silang, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro. 6

While walking alongside the NIA irrigation canal, the trio met Bokno’s brother, Ruel Quibido, and his wife at a waiting shed. The group then boarded a passenger jeepney that took them to the neighboring Barangay Macatoc. From Barangay Macatoc, they proceeded on foot to the nearby Barangay Bagong Silang. 7

As planned earlier, Ruel, Bokno and Dolfo entered a two (2) storey house in Barangay Bagong Silang, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro at around 9:00 o’clock in the evening. Emil remained outside the house presumably as a look out, while Ruel’s wife was left outside the fence. From a distance of about three (3) arms length, Emil saw Ruel, through the light emanating from a gas lamp inside the house, demanded money from an old man, whose name Emil later learned as Sofio Verguela, while Dolfo was pointing his airgun at him. When the old man replied that he had no money, Ruel hit him on the head with the shotgun which he earlier carried inside a sack, and then Bokno stabbed him. After the old man fell on the floor, Ruel took his wallet, while the others took his radio, before they hurriedly left for Poblacion, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro. 8

After a few hours, the group rode a bus at the public market in Victoria, Oriental Mindoro en route to Calapan City. Upon reaching Calapan City, they dropped by the house of Ruel Quibido’s mother for a few minutes before they boarded a boat at the pier bound for Batangas. They stayed in the house of Ruel Quibido’s parents-in-law in Nasugbu, Batangas for more than one (1) month. Subsequently, they moved to Metro Manila in the house of Ruel Quibido’s uncle in Quezon City where they stayed for more than two (2) months after which Emil decided to return home in Victoria, Oriental Mindoro ahead of his companions. 9

Emil disclosed to the police his knowledge involving the killing of Sofio Verguela when he was arrested on November 11, 1994, upon the advice of his father, after he was assured by the police of immunity from the instant criminal case. 10

Dr. Ruben A. Quimosing, M.D., Municipal Health Officer of Victoria, Oriental, Mindoro during the time material to the instant case, conducted the post mortem examination on the body of the victim, Sofio Verguela. The autopsy report dated February 16, 1993 and signed by Dr. Ruben A. Quimosing shows the following findings:chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Skull, open

Brain tissue, avulsed, with laceration

Cause of death: Severe brain injury due to skull fracture. 11

Dr. Quimosing testified in court that the single blow sustained by the victim on the frontal left portion of his head which fractured the skull caused severe brain injury that inevitably resulted to his instantaneous death. The blow may have been inflicted with the use of any hard object while the victim and the assailant were facing each other. 12

The defense denied any liability for the crime of robbery with homicide. Appellant Rodolfo Montemayor testified that on February 15, 1993 and during the period prior thereto, he shared a house with his brother, Randy Montemayor, in Barangay Loyal, Victoria, Oriental Mondoro which is about twenty (20) kilometers of mountainous terrain from Barangay Bagong Silang of the same town. From Barangay Loyal, one had to pass by the town proper in order to reach, in two (2) hours, Barangay Bagong Silang with the use of a motor vehicle. If a person were to travel on foot, the distance between the two (2) barangays can be covered in about five (5) hours. 13

On February 15, 1993, at around 9:00 o’clock in the evening, Rodolfo played "dama" in the house of his neighbor, Benjamin Grimaldo. He went home to sleep only after 10:00 o’clock in the evening. 14

The appellant denied using the alias name "Dolfo." 15 He likewise denied that he knew Willie Quibido, Jr. and Ruel Quibido on February 15, 1993. Rodolfo heard of their names through their sister, Rowena Quibido, whom he met in Minas, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro only on May 4, 1993, and who became his common-law wife on May 31, 1993. 16

On August 26, 1994, at 9:00 o’clock in the morning, Rowena and Rodolfo visited the house of the former’s parents in Danggari, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro. Willie Quibido, Sr. and his wife, Rosita, including their sons, Jojo and Ruel Quibido, were present on the said occasion. At around 9:00 o’clock in the evening, a police team headed by a certain Magnayon raided the house of Willie Quibido, Sr. The police failed to arrest Willie Quibido, Sr. and his sons, Jojo and Ruel, for the reason that they had left earlier toward the forest at around 8:00 o’clock in the evening. Rodolfo and Rosita denied to the police having any knowledge on the whereabouts of Willie Quibido, Sr. and his sons, 17 namely, Accused Willie Quibido, Jr. and Ruel Quibido.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

After the police had departed, appellant Rodolfo Montemayor and Rowena took Rosita to a relative in Poblacion, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro inasmuch as she needed to take medicine. On August 27, 1994, the three (3) proceeded to Barangay Loyal, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro. However, a person carrying a letter arrived and invited them to the police detachment for investigation. Upon arrival at the police detachment in Malayas, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro, the appellant was asked by Magnayon, who earlier headed the team that raided the house of Willie Quibido, where they could possibly find Willie Quibido and his sons Jojo and Ruel. When he answered in the negative, Magnayon warned that he (appellant) may be implicated in the crime. 18

On August 28, 1994, at around 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, a certain Diego and Emil Berganio arrived at the Malayas police detachment. Magnayon introduced the appellant, as the "son-in-law of Willie Quibido, Sr. and brother-in-law of Ruel Quibido", before Diego and Emil had a conversation with Magnayon inside the latter’s office. 19 Thereafter, the appellant was brought to the PNP headquarters in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro.

Incidentally, after learning from a neighbor on February 16, 1993 of the death of Sofio Verguela, defense witness Pedrito B. de Lara went to see Sonny de Ocampo, who is the late Verguela’s son-in-law, to inform him of what he saw on the evening of February 15, 1993 when the victim was purportedly killed.

Pedrito related to Sonny that he met Willie Quibido, Jr. and Ruel Quibido together with two (2) other persons on February 15, 1993 at around 9:00 o’clock in the evening along the road in Barangay Bagong Silang, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro which was about fifty (50) meters away from the house of his father-in-law. He was on his way home after watching television in the house of his uncle while Willie Quibido, Jr., Ruel Quibido together with two (2) other persons were heading towards the opposite direction. He inquired where they were going (Saan ang lakad n’yo?) but nobody answered from the group inasmuch as they were walking hurriedly. Pedrito did not know the two (2) other companions of Willie Quibido, Jr. and Ruel Quibido although he saw their faces when he focused his flashlight on them. He declared on the witness stand that appellant Rodolfo Montemayor was not one of the companions of the Quibido brothers. 20

In addition, Pedrito recalled that four (4) days prior to the killing of Sofio Verguela, Willie Quibido, Jr. invited him to join in robbing the store of a certain Angeles Vergara whose house was located directly across the house of the victim in Barangay Bagong Silang. Pedrito refused. He did not report the incident to the police authorities however, for the reason that he did not wish to offend Willie Quibido, Jr. who was a childhood friend. 21

After analyzing the evidence, the trial court found as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

It is clear from the testimony of prosecution witness Emil Berganio that he was certain that said accused Rodolfo Montemayor alias "Dolfo" poked an airgun at the victim, while accused Ruel Quibido demanded money, and when the victim replied to have no money, Ruel Quibido hit the victim with a shotgun while accused only named "Bokno" stabbed him.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

In the face of the foregoing clear and positive identification of accused Rodolfo Montemayor, alias "Dolfo" as one of those who robbed and killed Sofio Verguela, his defense of alibi clearly appears nothing but a mere concoction — a fabrication designed to exculpate him of the crime charged.

It is also striking to note that the defense did not even present in Court Benjamin Grimaldo to corroborate the testimonies given by accused Rodolfo Montemayor that the latter was playing "dama" with the former when the incident happened. This cast a grave doubt as to the veracity and truthfulness of the testimonies given by accused Rodolfo Montemayor.

. . . the Court is more inclined to believe the testimonies given by prosecution witness Emil Berganio, whose veracity can hardly be assailed and had narrated in detail the facts of how the crime was committed. Said witness was able to clearly identify the accused Ruel Quibido, Willie Quibido (Jr.) and Rodolfo Montemayor alias "Dolfo" as the perpetrators of the crime charged.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

From the clear evidence presented by the prosecution, Accused Ruel Quibido did not put up a defense, instead, he opted to escape from detention. His escape even during the pendency of the case, is therefore a clear indication of his guilt,

Hence, it ruled thus:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

ACCORDINGLY, finding herein accused RUEL QUIBIDO and RODOLFO MONTEMAYOR alias "Dolfo" guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the complex crime of "Robbery with Homicide" punishable under Article 294(1) of the Revised Penal Code, and there being no mitigating not aggravating circumstance present in this case, said accused are hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of "RECLUSION PERPETUA" with all the accessory penalties provided by law, and to indemnify the heirs of the victim Sofio Verguela the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as moral and exemplary damages and to pay the costs.

Appellant Rodolfo Montemayor interposed the following assignment of errors:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

I


THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF ROBBERY WITH HOMICIDE DESPITE INSUFFICIENCY OF EVIDENCE.

II


THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED GIVING FULL WEIGHT AND CREDENCE TO THE INCREDIBLE TESTIMONY OF EMIL BERGANIO AND IN NOT APPRECIATING THE DEFENSE INTERPOSED BY THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

The trial court accorded full faith and credence to the testimony of the lone prosecution witness, Emil Berganio. On the other hand, appellant Rodolfo Montemayor contends in his appeal 1) that the execution of Emil Berganio’s sworn statement after his arrest on November 11, 1994 cast serious doubt on his credibility; 2) that the physical evidence on record contradicts the testimony of Emil Berganio on material points; 3) that Berganio’s testimony is highly incredible inasmuch as it contradicts human experience; and 4) that defense witness Pedrito de Lara categorically stated that the appellant was not one of the two companions of Willie Quibido, Jr. and Ruel Quibido in the evening of February 15, 1993. 22 Consequently, the fate of the instant appeal rests on the determination of the credibility of prosecution witness Emil Berganio.

It is a well-settled rule that testimonial evidence to be believed must not only proceed from the mouth of a credible witness but must foremost be credible in itself. 23 The test to determine the value or credibility of testimony of a witness is whether or not such is in conformity with common knowledge and consistent with the experience of mankind. 24

Prosecution witness Emil Berganio confessed that he was in the company of herein appellant Rodolfo Montemayor alias Dolfo, Willie Quibido, Jr. and Ruel Quibido when they robbed and killed Sofio Verguela inside his house in Bagong Silang, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro in the evening of February 15, 1993. However, the fact that he may have been a co- conspirator in the commission of the offense is not in itself sufficient to dilute the credibility of, much less a ground to disregard altogether, his testimony.

The general rule is that the testimony of a co-conspirator is not sufficient for conviction unless supported by other evidence. The reason is that it comes from a polluted source. It must be received with caution because, as is usual with human nature, a culprit, confessing a crime, is likely to put the blame as far as possible on others rather than himself.25cralaw:red

By way of exception, the testimony of a co-conspirator may, even if uncorroborated, be sufficient as when it is shown to be sincere in itself, because given unhesitatingly and in a straightforward manner, and is full of details which by their nature could not have been the result of deliberate afterthought. 26

Admittedly, Emil Berganio agreed to testify for the prosecution upon advice of his father after having been assured of immunity from the instant criminal complaint by the prosecution. True to his undertaking, Emil narrated during the trial in a candid and straightforward manner, a detailed account of the facts and circumstances before, during and after the commission of the crime, subject of the instant criminal case. In the course of his testimony, Emil clearly and positively identified in court the accused Ruel Quibido and herein appellant, Rodolfo Montemayor, as among the persons who robbed and killed Sofio Verguela. 27 He was consistent in his testimony and did not waver even during the extensive and rigorous cross-examination of the defense counsel, thus giving the Court a clear impression that he was sincere and credible.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

The trial court correctly rejected the defense of alibi of the appellant for the reason that he was positively identified by prosecution eyewitness Emil Berganio who does not appear to have any motive against him to fabricate evidence. 28 Also, the distance of the alleged whereabouts of the appellant in relation to the scene of the crime does not preclude any doubt on the physical impossibility of his presence at the locus criminis or its immediate vicinity at the time of its commission. 29

Hence, it has been established beyond reasonable doubt by the evidence on record that herein appellant Rodolfo Montemayor and his co-accused, Ruel Quibido and a certain Bokno, together with prosecution witness Emil Berganio went to Barangay Bagong Silang, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro in the late afternoon of February 15, 1993. Upon arrival thereat at 9:00 o’clock in the evening, Rodolfo, Ruel and Bokno entered the house of Sofio Verguela as earlier planned. Emil remained outside the house presumably to act as a look out. Ruel demanded money from Sofio while Rodolfo was pointing his airgun at him. Subsequently, Ruel hit Sofio’s head with a shotgun when the latter who was an old man refused, stating that he had no money. They then divested Sofio of his wallet and radio before heading for the Victoria Public Market in Victoria, Oriental Mindoro en route to Calapan City. The group stayed for more than one (1) month in Nasugbu, Batangas before moving to Quezon City, Metro Manila. After more than two (2) months, Emil returned to Victoria, Oriental Mindoro where he was arrested by the police on November 11, 1994.

Appellant Rodolfo Montemayor contends that Emil Berganio could not have possibly witnessed the killing on February 15, 1993 of Sofio Verguela, whose lifeless body was found by the police inside his room on the following day, inasmuch as according to Berganio, he remained outside the house. Appellant also contends that contrary to the testimony of Berganio to the effect that Bokno stabbed Sofio Verguela, the autopsy report dated February 16, 1993, did not reflect a finding of any stab wound on the body of the said victim.

The above contentions of appellant are inadequate to overturn the established fact that Emil Berganio was in the company of the appellant and his co-accused in Barangay Bagong Silang, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro in the evening of February 15, 1993 when they robbed and killed Sofio Verguela inside his house. While Emil remained outside the house presumably to serve as a look out, his relative position was merely three (3) arms length away from the scene of the crime. Considering the proximity of his location and the illumination emanating from a gas lamp inside the house, it was not impossible for him to see the crime that was then unfolding.

Likewise, the apparent discrepancy between the testimony of Emil Berganio that Bokno stabbed Sofio and the negative findings on the matter in the autopsy report is not sufficient to erode the credibility of his said testimony. Such misappreciation of Bokno’s individual participation in the crime becomes immaterial in view of the fact that the prosecution witness has shown clearly and convincingly during the trial that he was aware of the violence that was being perpetrated by the appellant and his co-accused against Sofio Verguela in furtherance of their evil conspiracy. Emil testified in court that prior to the commission of the crime, Rodolfo and Ruel were respectively armed with an airgun and a shotgun. Rodolfo and his co-accused even discussed their plan 30 before entering the house of Sofio Verguela against the latter’s will in Barangay Bagong Silang, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro.

The appellant also contends that it was unlikely for Emil Berganio to have joined the appellant and Bokno, whom he admitted were not close acquaintances, after being invited to join them to go out of town allegedly to search for employment. This contention is bereft of merit for the reason that Bokno is a barrio mate 31 of Emil in Barangay Antonino, Victoria, Oriental Mindoro; and that he personally knew Bokno’s brother, Ruel Quibido, who is also one of the accused in the case at bench. That Emil erroneously referred to Ruel Quibido’s wife as Rowena, when the said name allegedly refers to Quibido’s sister, who is the appellant’s common-law-wife, is quite a minor detail that has no adverse bearing on his credibility. 32

Lastly, the testimony of defense witness Pedrito de Lara that herein appellant was not one of the two (2) companions of Willie Quibido, Jr. and Ruel Quibido appears doubtful or unreliable in view of the fact that it was dark when he met them by chance in the evening of February 15, 1995. According to him, he was able to focus his flashlight at them for about sixty (60) seconds only inasmuch as they were in a hurry and avoided any conversation with him. In fact, he only recognized Willie Quibido, Jr. and Ruel Quibido 33 whom he already knew from childhood.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

In view of the foregoing, the guilt of the appellant for the crime of robbery with homicide was established beyond reasonable doubt. Article 294 (1) of the Revised Penal Code provides:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

ART. 294. Any person guilty of robbery with the use of violence against or any person shall suffer:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. The penalty of reclusion perpetua to death, when by reason or on occasion of the robbery, the crime of homicide shall have been committed, or when the robbery shall have been accompanied by rape or intentional mutilation or arson.

Notably, the aggravating circumstances of treachery, nocturnity and dwelling attended the commission of the robbery and the killing of Sofio Verguela on the occasion thereof. Still, the proper imposable penalty is reclusion perpetua considering that at the time of the commission of the crime on February 15, 1993, the imposition of the death penalty was legally proscribed.

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, Branch 40, is AFFIRMED. The appellant, Rodolfo Montemayor, is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay to the heirs of the victim Sofio Verguela, the amount of P50,000.00 by way of civil indemnity ex delicto in addition to the amount of P50,000.00 as exemplary damages and to restore to the said heirs the stolen items belonging to the victim.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, Mendoza, Quisumbing and Buena, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Penned by Judge Tomas C. Leynes. Rollo, pp. 12-19.

2. TSN dated May 2, 1996, pp. 7-10; Exhibits "B", "B-1" .

3. Exhibit "1" .

4. Ruel Quibido was tried in absentia after the said accused escaped from jail during the trial.

5. Exhibit "A" .

6. TSN dated February 24, 1995, pp. 4, 34-40.

7. Id., pp. 8-9, 41.

8. Id., pp. 9-18, 47-49, 52.

9. Id., pp. 18-22.

10. Id., pp. 25-28.

11. Exhibit "E" .

12. TSN dated July 31, 1997, pp. 8-10.

13. TSN dated February 18, 1998, pp. 4-7.

14. Ibid.

15. Id., p. 23.

16. Id., pp. 8-9.

17. Id., pp. 9-12.

18. Id., pp. 13-15.

19. Id., pp. 16-17.

20. TSN dated June 2, 1998, pp. 4-10.

21. Id., pp. 11-12.

22. Appellant’s Brief. Rollo, pp. 40-64.

23. People v. Cayabyab, 274 SCRA 387, 398 (1997); People v. Obzunar, 265 SCRA 547, 567 (1996).

24 People v. Gazmen, 247 SCRA 414, 419 (1995).

25. People v. Cuya, Jr., 141 SCRA 351, 354 (1986) citing People v. Sarmiento, 69 Phil. 740, 742 (1940).

26. Ibid.

27. TSN dated February 24, 1995, pp. 4(a)-6.

28. People v. De Guia, 280 SCRA 141, 158 (1997).

29. People v. Andal, 279 SCRA 474, 491 (1997).

30. TSN dated February 24, 1995, pp. 9-10.

31. Id., p. 34.

32. People v. Gondora, 265 SCRA 408 (1996).

33. Pedrito de Lara named Ruel Quebido only in his second Sworn Statement dated March 15, 1993. Original record, p. 15.

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