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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 185388 : June 16, 2010]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, APPELLEE, VS. RODRIGO AWID ALIAS "NONOY" AND MADUM GANIH ALIAS "COMMANDER MISTAH" AND ALSO KNOWN AS "MIS," ACCUSED. MADUM GANIH ALIAS PROMULGATED: "COMMANDER MISTAH" AND ALSO KNOWN AS "MIS," APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N


ABAD, J.:

This is a kidnapping for ransom case where the complainant identified one of the accused as he stood with three others in front of the police station while she sat in her tinted vehicle.

The Facts and the Case

On May 31, 2001 the city public prosecutor filed a second amended information1 for kidnapping with ransom and serious illegal detention against the accused Madum Ganih alias "Commander Mistah" or "Mis," Rodrigo Awid alias "Nonoy," Ernesto Andagao alias "Nestor," and three others who were known only by the names of "Adjing," "Hasbi," and "Maing" before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Zamboanga City, Branch 16, in Criminal Case 16635.

Mrs. Juanita Bernal Lee, married to Joseph "Nonoy" Lee, with whom she had four daughters, testified that she and her husband were in the storage and foundry business.2 They lived in a house surrounded by a 12-foot concrete fence, topped by three strands of barbwires strung on embedded steel bars. All in all, the fence rose to about 18 feet. It had just one steel gate of about 12 feet in height.3

On January 9, 2000 only Mrs. Lee was left in the house, accompanied by three housemaids, and the accused Ernesto Andagao, a gardener-houseboy. They all slept in an extension of the main house, which extension had three rooms. Mrs. Lee was in one with her 11 Japanese Spitz puppies. Next to hers was the room where Andagao slept, and then there was the room of the housemaids.4

Part of Mrs. Lee's night routine was to let her puppies out of her room about midnight so they could take a leak. At the early dawn of January 10, 2000, after opening the door of her room to let her puppies out, Mrs. Lee was surprised to see a stranger, a man, standing a few meters from her door. She immediately went back in and tried to shut her door close but the man succeeded in pushing the door open and pulling her out of the room just as another man appeared. Someone struck Mrs. Lee with a gun on both shoulders and kicked her on the ribs. When she fell down, she received a kick on her buttocks.

Mrs. Lee could not recognize the two men who assaulted her as they wore bonnets that covered their faces. They dragged her into the maids' quarters where they covered her mouth with masking tape and tied her hands behind her with telephone wires. One of the men tore a swathe of cloth from the bed sheets and used it to cover her mouth as well. They blindfolded her with a black cloth and covered her head with a black bag that reached down to her chest. They then took her to the garage barefooted. 5

At the garage, the men forced Mrs. Lee to get into the backseat of her Nissan Sentra.6 They traveled for about 20 to 30 minutes at normal speed. When the car stopped, the men made Mrs. Lee go down after removing the black bag that covered her head. But she remained blindfolded. They then made her walk barefooted down a muddy ground. Because she walked too slowly, one of her abductors slung her on his shoulder and carried her to a pump boat where they removed the cloth and masking tape that covered her mouth. After a while, they also removed her blindfold and untied her hands.7

Though it remained dark, Mrs. Lee managed to note that two men rode with her on the pump boat while a white speedboat led them away from land. She did not know where they were heading but she noticed that they left Zamboanga City. 8

After traveling for about three to four hours, the pump boat berthed on an island lined with coconut trees. Her abductors gave Mrs. Lee a hooded jacket to wear, then took her to a well for her to take a bath. From there, they took her to the bushes where two armed men guarded her.9 At about 6:30 p.m., they took her to a two-storey house where they held her captive for almost four months. Mrs. Lee later learned that the house where they had taken her belonged to Suod Hussain and his wife Fatma.10

At about past 9:00 p.m. of January 10, 2000, Mrs. Lee met accused Madum Ganih who said to her, "Ako si Kumander Mistah. Ako na ang hawak sa 'yo."11 After keeping her in captivity for about 20 days, her captors took Mrs. Lee out to sea on a pump boat to talk to her husband through a cell phone.12 When they let her call him a second time, Ganih ordered her to tell her husband to pay her kidnappers P15 million in exchange for her. Her husband told her to bargain for a lesser amount since all he had was P1 million. Ganih demanded a partial payment of P200,000.00 but Mrs. Lee's family could give only P50,000.00. Mrs. Lee's eldest daughter, Michelle,13 testified that she gave the money to a certain Geater Libas but Ganih later complained that he got only P35,000.00.14

Calling her family a third time, the kidnappers reduced their demand to P4 million and threatened to cut off Mrs. Lee's head unless this was paid.15 At their last call to her husband, Mr. Lee requested the kidnappers to release his wife for P1.2 million. Ganih did not respond immediately as he said he still had to confer with their leader, a certain "boy," whom Mrs. Lee could not recognize as he always covered his face whenever he came to visit.16

In the evening of May 5, 2000, Ganih told Mrs. Lee that they would release her the next day. At about 4:00 a.m. of May 6, 2000, her abductors brought Mrs. Lee to Arena Blanco in Zamboanga City where Ganih gave her P100.00 for fare and an M203 bullet as memento. She eventually got home.17

Sometime after, Police Chief Inspector Gucela and his men arrested a certain alias "Mis" at Sta. Barbara, Zamboanga City.18 They asked Mrs. Lee to see if she can identify him at the police station. She came on board her Pajero with Gucela by her side but she refused to go out of her tinted vehicle because she did not want to be seen. She could, however, clearly see those outside of it. Subsequently, the police officers brought Ganih and three others to stand in front of the police office. Mrs. Lee recognized and identified Ganih as one of her kidnappers.19

For his part, Ganih, denied the charge against him. He testified that he had been known as "Madz," not "Mis," and that he had never been known as "Kumander Mistah." He claimed that he was at home in Barangay Kaliantana, Naga, Zamboanga del Sur, the whole day of January 10, 2000. Further, he said he attended the birthday party of Barangay Chairman Hassan Arani at his house at 2:00 p.m. on May 6, 2000. He also claimed that the police did not make him stand in a proper police line-up for identification.20

On May 21, 2002 the RTC rendered judgment,21 convicting Ganih of the crime charged and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of death. The RTC, however, acquitted Awid for insufficiency of evidence. The court also ordered Ganih to return the ransom money of P1,250,000.00 as well as the value of Mrs. Lee's diamond earrings and Rado wristwatch, which totaled P95,000.00.

Upon review, the Court of Appeals (CA) rendered a decision dated November 12, 2007,22 affirming the conviction of Ganih but amending the penalty from death to reclusion perpetua. The CA also awarded Mrs. Lee P1,250,000.00 in actual damages, P25,000.00 in temperate damages, P50,000.00 in civil indemnity, P100,000.00 in moral damages, and P25,000.00 in exemplary damages.

The Issue

The issue in this case is whether or not accused Ganih, in conspiracy with others, kidnapped Mrs. Lee for a ransom.

The Court's Ruling

To prove the crime charged, the prosecution had to show (a) that the accused was a private person; (b) that he kidnapped or detained or in any manner deprived another of his or her liberty; (c) that the kidnapping or detention was illegal; and (d) that the victim was kidnapped or detained for ransom. 23 All these have been proved in this case.

The Court entertains no doubt that Ganih and the others with him kidnapped Mrs. Lee to trade her freedom for a price. Ganih initially demanded P15 million for her but he reduced his demand when Mr. Lee could raise only P1.2 million. The kidnappers actually received this ransom as evidenced by the fact that they immediately released Mrs. Lee after the last negotiation.

Significantly, Ganih offered nothing but his bare denial and unsubstantiated alibi to counter the overwhelming evidence that the prosecution adduced against him. His other contention is that the police made Mrs. Lee identify him, not in a proper police line-up but in a mere show-up after giving her some improper suggestions.

But the manner in which Mrs. Lee identified Ganih was substantially the same as in any proper police line-up except that this one took place outside the police station on account of Mrs. Lee's desire not to be seen while making the identification. The police did not show Ganih alone to Mrs. Lee, which would suggest that he was their suspect. They made three other men stand with Ganih in front of the police station while Mrs. Lee gazed on them behind the tinted windows of her vehicle.24

What the Court condemns are prior or contemporaneous improper suggestions that point out the suspect to the witness as the perpetrator to be identified.25 Besides, granting that the out-of-court identification was irregular, Mrs. Lee's court testimony clearly shows that she positively identified Ganih independently of the previous identification she made in front of the police station. Mrs. Lee could not have made a mistake in identifying him since she had ample opportunities to study the faces and peculiar body movements of her kidnappers in her almost four months of ordeal with them.26 Indeed, she was candid and direct in her recollection, narrating events as she saw them take place. Her testimony, including her identification of the appellant, was positive, straightforward, and categorical.

Moreover, Ganih was unable to impute any improper motive to Mrs. Lee for telling her story as it was. It defies reason why she would falsely testify against him if her motive was other than to bring to justice those who kidnapped her.

Ganih claims that he was at Barangay Kaliantana on January 10, 2000 and joined the birthday celebration of Barangay Captain Hassan Arani on May 6, 2000. But it is not enough that he claims being elsewhere when the crime was committed. He also must demonstrate that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission.27

Here, the defense witness said that he saw Ganih on January 10, 11 and 12, 2000 and May 6, 2000 at Barangay Kaliantana.28 But the witness' memory was selective since he had no idea where Ganih was from January 13 to May 5, 2000. During the hearing, Ganih himself admitted that it took only four hours by bus to travel from Naga to Zamboanga City.29 It was easy for him to go to Zamboanga City and not be missed.

In fine, the totality of the prosecution's evidence proves beyond reasonable doubt that Ganih and the others with him kidnapped Mrs. Lee for ransom. The crime was punishable by death at the time of its commission but, with the enactment of Republic Act 9346 that prohibits the imposition of such penalty, the CA was correct in lowering the penalty to reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole under the Indeterminate Sentence Law.30

As for damages, even if the death penalty cannot be imposed, the civil indemnity of P75,000.00 is proper since the qualifying circumstances that would have warranted the imposition of the death penalty attended the offense.31 In addition, under Article 2219 (5) of the New Civil Code, moral damages may be recovered in cases of illegal or arbitrary detention or arrest.32 This is predicated on Mrs. Lee's having suffered serious anxiety and fright during his four months of detention. An award of P100,000.00 in moral damages is warranted.33

Further, the rule is that an aggravating circumstance, whether ordinary or qualifying, entitles the offended party to exemplary damages within the meaning of Article 2230 of the New Civil Code. Since the offense in this case was attended by a demand for ransom, an award of P100,000.00 in exemplary damages by way of example or correction is in order.34

WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the appeal and AFFIRMS the November 12, 2007 decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC 00384-MIN, which found appellant Madum Ganih guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of kidnapping for ransom and imposed on him the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole, with the MODIFICATION that he is ordered to pay complainant Mrs. Juanita Bernal Lee P1,250,000.00 in actual damages, P75,000.00 in civil indemnity, P100,000.00 in moral damages, and P100,000.00 in exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, (Chairperson), Nachura, Peralta, and Perez,* JJ., concur.

Endnotes:


* Designated as additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Jose C. Mendoza, per Special Order No. 842 dated June 3, 2010.

1 Records, pp. 1-2.

2 TSN, June 30, 2000, p. 4.

3 Id. at 20-23.

4 Id. at 6-7.

5 Id. at 10-15.

6 Id. at 19-20.

7 Id. at 25-28.

8 Id. at 28-31.

9 Id. at 30-32.

10 TSN, June 6, 2001, pp. 32-33.

11 Id. at 35-36.

12 TSN, June 30, 2000, p. 41.

13 TSN, September 15, 2000, p. 8.

14 TSN, June 30, 2000, pp. 47-49.

15 Id. at 49.

16 Id. at 51.

17 Id. at 52-54.

18 TSN, June 8, 2001, p. 36.

19 Id. at 37-39.

20 TSN, July 16, 2001, pp. 3-11.

21 Records, pp. 183-241.

22 Rollo, pp. 4-32, penned by Associate Justice Rodrigo F. Lim, Jr. and concurred in by Associate Justices Teresita Dy-Liacco Flores and Michael P. Elbinias.

23 Art. 267. Kidnapping and serious illegal detention.•Any private individual who shall kidnap or detain another, or in any other manner deprive him of his liberty, shall suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death.

  1. If kidnapping or detention shall have lasted more than three days.

  2. If it shall have been committed simulating public authority.

  3. If any serious physical injuries shall have been inflicted upon the person kidnapped or detained; or if threats to kill him shall have been made.

  4. If the person kidnapped or detained shall be a minor, except when the accused is any of the parents, female or a public officer.


The penalty shall be death where the kidnapping or detention was committed for the purposes of extorting ransom from the victim or any other person, even if none of the circumstances abovementioned were present in the commission of the offense.

When the victim is killed or dies as a consequence of the detention or is raped, or is subjected to torture or dehumanizing acts, the maximum penalty shall be imposed. (As amended by Sec. 8, Republic Act 7659.) See People v. Ejandra, 473 Phil. 381, 402-403 (2004).

24 TSN, June 8, 2001, p. 38.

25 See People v. Escote, Jr., 448 Phil. 749, 783 (2003).

26 See People v. Almanzor, 433 Phil. 667, 682 (2002).

27 People v. Azugue, 335 Phil. 1170, 1181 (1997).

28 TSN, June 19, 2001, pp. 5-6; TSN, August 17, 2001, pp. 7-9

29 TSN, July 16, 2001, pp. 8-9.

30 SEC. 2. In lieu of the death penalty, the following shall be imposed:

(a) the penalty of reclusion perpetua, when the law violated makes use of the nomenclature of the penalties of the Revised Penal Code; or

(b) the penalty of life imprisonment, when the law violated does not make use of the nomenclature of the penalties of the Revised Penal Code.


Pursuant to the same law, appellant shall not be eligible for parole under Act 4103, otherwise known as the Indeterminate Sentence Law.

31 See Lajim v. People, G.R. No. 179570, February 4, 2010, citing People v. Quiachon, G.R. No. 170236, August 31, 2006, 500 SCRA 704, 719.

32 CIVIL CODE, Article 2219. Moral damages may be recovered in the following analogous cases:

x x x x

(5) Illegal or arbitrary detention or arrest; x x x.

33 People v. Garalde, G.R. No. 173055, April 13, 2007, 521 SCRA 327, 355.

34 People v. Martinez, 469 Phil. 558, 579 (2004); People v. Bisda, 454 Phil. 194, 240 (2003); People v. Pangilinan, 443 Phil. 198, 245 (2003).

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