[G.R. No. 188969, February 27, 2013]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JOHN ALVIN PONDIVIDA, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
That on or about the 8th day of July 2005, in the municipality of Obando, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, armed with firearm, and with intent to kill one Gener Bondoc y Cudia, with evident premeditation, abuse of superior strength and treachery, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully, and feloniously, attack, assault and shoot with their firearm the said Gener Bondoc y Cudia, hitting the latter on his body and head, thereby inflicting upon him mortal wounds which directly caused his death.
Contrary to law.
The identification of a malefactor, to be positive and sufficient for conviction, does not always require direct evidence from an eyewitness; otherwise, no conviction will be possible in crimes where there are no eyewitnesses. Indeed, trustworthy circumstantial evidence can equally confirm the identification and overcome the constitutionally presumed innocence of the accused. Thus, the Court has distinguished two types of positive identification in People v. Gallarde, to wit: (a) that by direct evidence, through an eyewitness to the very commission of the act; and (b) that by circumstantial evidence, such as where the accused is last seen with the victim immediately before or after the crime. The Court said:x x x. Positive identification pertains essentially to proof of identity and not per se to that of being an eyewitness to the very act of commission of the crime. There are two types of positive identification. A witness may identify a suspect or accused in a criminal case as the perpetrator of the crime as an eyewitness to the very act of the commission of the crime. This constitutes direct evidence. There may, however, be instances where, although a witness may not have actually seen the very act of commission of a crime, he may still be able to positively identify a suspect or accused as the perpetrator of a crime as for instance when the latter is the person or one of the persons last seen with the victim immediately before and right after the commission of the crime. This is the second type of positive identification, which forms part of circumstantial evidence, which, when taken together with other pieces of evidence constituting an unbroken chain, leads to only fair and reasonable conclusion, which is that the accused is the author of the crime to the exclusion of all others. If the actual eyewitnesses are the only ones allowed to possibly positively identify a suspect or accused to the exclusion of others, then nobody can ever be convicted unless there is an eyewitness, because it is basic and elementary that there can be no conviction until and unless an accused is positively identified. Such a proposition is absolutely absurd, because it is settled that direct evidence of the commission of a crime is not the only matrix wherefrom a trial court may draw its conclusion and finding of guilt.10 (Emphases in the original)
Thus, while witness Rodelyn admittedly failed to see the actual shooting, her account properly falls under the second type of positive identification described above. To require her positive identification of accused-appellant as the actual shooter is absurd. She last witnessed her common-law husband held at gunpoint in their own house by the accused and his companions, a fact admitted by accused-appellant himself. Direct evidence is not the only means to prove commission of the crime.
In any case, accused-appellant conflates the purported lack of an eyewitness testimony with his own contention that conspiracy was not established by the prosecution. The pivotal question remains: whether it was sufficiently shown that accused Pondivida conspired with Reyes and Alvarico. He insists that the trial court erroneously convicted him on the basis of the weakness of the defense evidence, and not the strength of the prosecution’s.11 Before the shooting on 8 July 2005, Glen Alvarico and George Reyes had allegedly passed by his house and prevailed upon him to visit the house of Gener Bondoc. Alvarico poked a gun at him to force him to knock at the door. He saw Alvarico and Reyes kill Gener, but still complied with all the instructions of his companions, only because he was afraid for his life.12
Conspiracy may be deduced from the mode, method, and manner in which the offense was perpetrated; or inferred from the acts of the accused when those acts point to a joint purpose and design, concerted action, and community of interests.13 Proof of a previous agreement and decision to commit the crime is not essential, but the fact that the malefactors acted in unison pursuant to the same objective suffices.14 In a long line of cases, we have held thus:To be a conspirator, one need not participate in every detail of the execution; he need not even take part in every act. Each conspirator may be assigned separate and different tasks which may appear unrelated to one another but, in fact, constitute a whole collective effort to achieve their common criminal objective. Once conspiracy is shown, the act of one is the act of all the conspirators. The precise extent or modality of participation of each of them becomes secondary, since all the conspirators are principals.15
In this case, the prosecution decisively established a community of criminal design among Alvarico, Reyes, and appellant Pondivida. While there is no evidence of any previous agreement among the assailants to commit the crime, their concerted acts before, during and after the incident establish a joint purpose and intent to kill.
As attested to by accused-appellant, they all went to the intended victim’s house bearing firearms. Accused-appellant himself knocked on the door. After failing to locate “Udoy” and “Bagsik,” and discovering that Gener was the latter’s brother, they then engaged in a lengthy conversation, as they circled around a nearby well outside the house.16 Accused even admitted to shouting the name “Bagsik” over and over.17 They all asked Gener to step outside and speak with them. Upon his refusal, appellant Pondivida, together with Alvarico, entered the house through an upstairs window. Alvarico fired at George who was at the stairs. Reyes, from his vantage point at the front door, also shot at George.18 After fleeing the scene, appellant Pondivida admitted that he met with Alvarico in Novaliches. Alvarico gave him money, and the latter thereafter boarded a bus headed to Olongapo City.19
The trial court correctly rejected Pondivida’s claim that he feared for his life. His account of being held at gunpoint and forced to commit murder is incredible, considering that he accompanied the other assailants to the victim’s house without resistance; banged and shouted at the front door without any prompting; willingly climbed the guava tree to enter the house and chase the victim; and accepted the money from Alvarico in order to escape. Most telling is the fact that accused himself banged at the front door and shouted the name “Bagsik” over and over. At no urging from his companions, he climbed a tree located right beside the second-floor window to gain entry.
These were not the acts of a man who purportedly “feared for his life.” He was shown to have performed precisely those specific acts incidental to the commission of the crime with such closeness and coordination with his other co-accused. Their acts together were indicative of a common purpose, which was murder. We also concur with the trial court in finding that the actuations of the accused after the murder did not indicate in the slightest that he had been coerced. That he was able to tidy his things, pack a getaway bag, and even meet with his co-conspirators to receive money were not the acts of a scared, innocent man.
Jurisprudence dictates that “when the credibility of a witness is in issue, the findings of fact of the trial court, its calibration of the testimonies of the witnesses and its assessment of the probative weight thereof, as well as its conclusions anchored on the findings are accorded high respect, if not conclusive effect. This dictum would be more true if the findings were affirmed by the CA, since it is settled that when the trial court’s findings have been affirmed by the appellate court, these findings are generally binding upon this Court.”20
In sum, we find no cogent reason to reject the Decision of the CA. Appellant is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder, for which he is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay complainant Rodelyn Buenavista P50,000 as civil indemnity ex delicto, P50,000 as moral damages, and P10,000 as actual damages. To conform to recent jurisprudence,21 exemplary damages in the amount of P25,000 awarded by the CA are hereby increased to P30,000.
WHEREFORE, we AFFIRM the 26 June 2009 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. H.C. No. 03237, with the modification that the award of exemplary damages is increased from P25,000 to P30,000.
Leonardo-De Castro, Bersamin, Villarama, Jr. and Leonen, JJ.*, concur.
Endnotes:* Additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes per raffle dated 25 February 2013.
1 In CA G.R. H.C. No. 03237, penned by Associate Justice Isaias Dicdican concurred in by Associate Justices Bienvenido L. Reyes and Marlene Gonzales-Sison; rollo, pp. 2-11.
2 Penned by Judge Gregorio S. Sampaga; CA rollo, pp. 14-23.
3 Id. at 7.
4 Id. at 4.
5Rollo, pp. 4-5.
6 Dispositive portion, RTC Decision, pp. 9-10; CA rollo, pp. 22-23.
7 Dispositive portion, CA Decision p. 8; rollo, p. 9.
8 CA rollo, p. 41.
9 G.R. No. 183830, 19 October 2011, 659 SCRA 666.
10 Id. at 677-678.
11 CA rollo, pp. 48-49.
12 Id. at 41.
13Aquino v. Paiste, G.R. No. 147782, 25 June 2008, 555 SCRA 255, 260.
14People v. Amodia, G.R. No. 173791, 7 April 2009, 584 SCRA 518, 541.
15People v. Medice, G.R. No. 181701, 18 January 2012, 66 SCRA 334, 345-346; People v. Anticamara, G.R. No. 178771, 8 June 2011, 651 SCRA 489, 507, citing People v. PO3 Tan, 411 Phil. 813, 838 (2001); People v. De Jesus, 473 Phil. 405, 429 (2004).
16 CA rollo, p. 16.
17 Id. at 19.
18 Id. at 16.
19 Id. at 21.
20People v. Adallom, G.R. No. 182522, 7 May 2012; Decasa v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 172184, 10 July 2007, 527 SCRA 267, 287.
21People v. Dones, G.R. No. 188329, 20 June 2012; People v. Gonzales, G.R. No. 195534, 13 June 2012; People v. Villamor, G.R. No. 187497, 12 October 2011, 659 SCRA 44, 55.