G.R. No. 208441, July 17, 2017
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ZENAIDA FABRO OR ZENAIDA MANALASTAS Y VIÑEGAS, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
This is an appeal from the Decision1 dated February 19, 2013 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 04598, affirming in toto the Decision dated July 16, 2010 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC),2 Branch 45 of San Fernando, Pampanga, in Criminal Case No. 1204, which found accused-appellant Zenaida Fabro or Zenaida Viñegas Manalastas guilty of Serious Illegal Detention.
That on or about the 2nd day of March 2006, in the municipality of YYY, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, ZENAIDA FABRO or ZENAIDA V. MANALASTAS, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously and by force take [AAA],5 9 years old, minor, while the latter is in front of the XXX Elementary SchooL YYY whom the said accused detained and kept in the house of Brgy. Capt. Fabro, brother of the accused in Brgy. Villa Viniegas, Llanera, Nueva Ecija from March 2 to March 5, 2006 or a period of four (4) days under restraint and against her will.When arraigned, accused-appellant pleaded "not guilty."
Contrary to law.
Denying the charge, accused-appellant declared that she could not have committed the crime because she loved AAA whom she had known since 1999 and who used to frequent her house to sleep, eat, and watch television with her siblings. She claimed that she brought AAA to Nueva Ecija on March 2, 2006 with the consent of AAA's mother and teacher. She explained that she had intended to bring AAA along to the Barangay Captain to prove that her husband had taken her luggage and some documents, given that AAA used to clean their room. The Barangay Captain was not around so they proceeded to Nueva Ecija after AAA requested to join her. After two days in Nueva Ecija, or on March 5, 2006, she brought AAA to her brother's house where she was arrested.8The RTC convicted accused-appellant of Serious Illegal Detention, disposing as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds the accused ZENAIDA FABRO or ZENAIDA VIÑEGAS MANALASTAS GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of Serious Illegal Detention penalized under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code and hereby sentences the said accused to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, together with all the accessory penalties provided for by law and to pay the private complainant, AAA, thru her father BBB, the sum of one hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) as moral damages.Accused-appellant elevated the case to the CA, arguing that the prosecution failed to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and faulting the trial court for relying on the prosecution's version of the events.9 The CA subsequently rendered the assailed Decision affirming the RTC's Decision in toto. In the present appeal, accused-appellant further asserts that the prosecution failed to prove her intent to detain the victim.10
The Jailer is hereby ordered to make the proper reduction of the period during which the accused was under preventive custody by reason of this case in accordance with law.
Q: How many days did you stay in that house in Nueva Ecija, AAA?Accused-appellant, however, contends that AAA had not been deprived of liberty while in her custody. She argues that the records are bereft of any indication that AAA was physically restrained, or was under her constant control, or was ever prevented from going home. She claims that during the period she had custody of AAA, the latter was free to interact with third persons and communicate with her relatives, and was well taken care of.14
A: Four, Ma'am.
Q: And, in those four days did you ask Tita Zeny to let you go home?
A: Yes Ma'am.
Q: And what did Tita Zeny tell you?
A: "Huwag muna daw po."
Q: At that time AAA, did you want to go home already in those four days?
A: Yes Ma'am.
Q: And do you know if Tita Zeny called your father or your mother thru cellphone in those four days?
A: Yes Ma'am.
Q: Whom did Tita Zeny call, your father or your mother?
A: "Tatay ko."
Q: How did you know that Tita Zeny called your father?
A: "Sinabi pong kaklase ko na kinipnap (sic) po ako."
Q: AAA, you said that Tita Zeny called your father. Were you able to talk to your father on the cellphone?
A: No, Ma'am. "Nakausap ko po ang nanay ko."
Q: Were you able to talk to your mother and that was thru the cellphone that was being used by Tita Zeny?
A: Yes ma'am.
Q: And, what did you tell your mother?
A: "Sya po ang sumabi."
Q: What did your mother tell you?
A: "Sabi po iuwi na niya ako."
Q: Is that the only conversation that you had with your mother?
A: "Ayaw po ako iuwi ni Tita Zeny."12
x x x x x x
Q: Did you again ask her to go home?
A: Yes Ma'am.
Q: What did she tell you?
A: "Huwag muna daw po."
Q: During those four days AAA, did you cry?
A: Yes, Ma'am.
Q: Why did you cry?
A: "Ayaw po ako iuwi."13 (Emphasis supplied)
The next question to be determined is whether or not element of restraint is present as to constitute the crime of kidnapping with which the appellants are charged. On this point the trial court made this observation: "While it is true that the boy was playing while he was in the house at Murphy on April 6, 1956, the fact remains that he was under the control of the accused Consolacion Bravo who left him there, as he could not leave that house until she shall have returned for him. Because of his tender age and the fact that he did not know the way back home, he was then and there in a way deprived of his liberty. It is like putting him in a prison or in an asylum where he may have freedom of locomotion but not the freedom to leave it at will. The same thing can be said of his stay in the house at Tondo, where he was left by her on April 7, 1956." In addition, we may say that because the boy was of tender age and he was warned not to leave until her return by his godmother, he was practically a captive in the sense that he could not leave because of his fear to violate such instruction. (Emphasis supplied.)Accused-appellant also questions AAA's credibility, pointing out that while AAA claimed to have been taken by force in her Sinumpaang Salaysay,24 she subsequently testified25 in court that she voluntarily went with accused-appellant.26
x x x [T]his Court had consistently ruled that the alleged inconsistencies between the testimony of a witness in open court and his sworn statement before the investigators are not fatal defects to justify a reversal of judgment. Such discrepancies do not necessarily discredit the witness since ex parte affidavits are almost always incomplete. A sworn statement or an affidavit does not purport to contain a complete compendium of the details of the event narrated by the affiant. Sworn statements taken ex parte are generally considered to be inferior to the testimony given in open court.We also note that the force allegedly employed by the accused-appellant, as stated in AAA's Sinumpaang Salaysay, referred to the moment accused-appellant made AAA board a tricycle after the latter refused to sign a document from the accused-appel1ant. This obviously took place when they were already outside the school premises. On the other hand, when AAA testified to voluntarily going with accused-appellant, it was in reference to the time accused-appellant came to her classroom to take her. We are, thus, disinclined to conclude that there exists a glaring and irreconcilable inconsistency in AAA's declarations that would completely discredit her testimony.
x x x x
The discrepancies in [the witness]'s testimony do not damage the essential integrity of the prosecution's evidence in its material whole. Instead, the discrepancies only erase suspicion that the testimony was rehearsed or concocted. These honest inconsistencies serve to strengthen rather than destroy [the witness]'s credibility.
Appellants must come to grips with case law that testimonies of child victims are given full weight and credit. The testimony of children of sound mind is likewise to be more correct and truthful than that of older persons. In People vs. Alba, this Court ruled that children of sound mind are likely to be more observant of incidents which take place within their view than older persons, and their testimonies are likely more correct in detail than that of older persons. Angela was barely six years old when she testified. Considering her tender years, innocent and guileless, it is incredible that Angela would testify falsely that the appellants took her from the school through threats and detained her in the "dirty house" for five days. In People v. Dela Cruz, this Court also ruled that ample margin of error and understanding should be accorded to young witnesses who, much more than adults, would be gripped with tension due to the novelty and the experience in testifying before the trial court.Furthermore, the basic rule is that the Supreme Court accords great respect and even finality to the findings of credibility of the trial court, more so if the same were affirmed by the CA, as in this case.32 We find no reason to depart from this rule.
* Designated additional Member per Raffle dated February 6, 2017, vice Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza.
1 Penned by Associate Justice Samuel H. Gaerlan, and concurred in by Associate Justices Rebecca L. De Guia-Salvador and Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr.; Rollo, pp. 2-8.
2 Penned by Presiding Judge Adelaida Ala-Medina; CA rollo, pp. 7-12.
3 Article 267 of the RPC as amended by Republic Act No. 7659 reads: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.The word "female" in paragraph 1(4) of Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code refers to the gender of the victim and not of the offender. (People v. Bisda, G.R. 140895, July 17, 2003.)
1. If the 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 purpose of extorting ransom from the victim or any other person, even if none of the circumstances above-mentioned 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.
4 Known as the "Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act."
5 The identity of the victim and any information which could establish or compromise her identity are withheld in keeping with the policy set forth in Republic Act No. 7610 (An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination, and for Other Purposes), Republic Act No. 9262 (An Act Defining Violence Against Women and Their Children, Providing for Protective Measures for Victims, Prescribing Penalties Therefor, and for Other Purposes), and Section 40 of A.M. No. 04-10-11-SC, known as the Rule on Violence Against Women and Their Children, effective November 5, 2004, and in view of this Court's pronouncement in People v. Cabalquinto, G.R. No. 167693, September 19, 2006. See People v. De Guzman, G.R. No. 214502, November 25, 2015.
6Rollo, pp. 3-4.
7 Id. at 4.
8Rollo, pp. 4-5.
9 CA rollo, p. 27.
10Rollo, p. 23.
11People v. Pepino, G.R. No. 174471, January 12, 2016.
12Rollo, pp. 6-7; Citing TSN, January 12, 2007, pp. 16-17.
13 Id. at 7; Citing TSN, January 12, 2007, pp. 18-19.
14 Id. at 26-27; Accused-appellant's Supplemental Brief, pp. 4-5.
15Astorga v. People, G.R. No. 154130, October 1, 2003.
16People v. Baluya, G.R. No. 181822, April 13, 2011.
17People v. Bisda, G.R. No. 140895, July 17, 2003.
18 812 F. 2d. 1660 (1987).
19 CA rollo, p. 11.
21People v. Baluya, supra, note 16.
22 Id. at 10-11.
23People v. Acosta, G.R. No. L-11954, March 24, 1960.
24 AAA's Sinumpaang Salaysay, in part, states:
2. T - AAA, ana ang nanyari sa iyo noong Marso 2, 2006?
S - Habang nasa school po aka dumating si Tita Zeny (Zenaida V. Manalastas) hinawakan niya aka sa kamay at may pinapipirma sa akin. Hindi ko po pinirmahan at sapilitan niya akong sinakay sa tricycle. Sinabi niya sa akin sandali lang at samahan ko daw siya. At sumakay na kami sa tricycle papuntang ZZZ, YYY. Hindi ko na po naisuot and aking tsinelas dahil sa paghatak niya sa akin.
25 TSN, January 12, 2007, p. 11.
x x x x
Q: Now, AAA, when you were in school and your Tita Zeny came, how did you leave the school AAA?
A: "Kusa po akong sinama niya. Niloko po niya ako."
x x x x
26 Brief for the Accused-Appellant, pp. 5-6; CA rollo, pp. 31-32.
27Kummer v. People, G.R. No. 174461, September 11, 2013.
29People v. Dayaday, G.R. No. 213224, January 16, 2017, citing People v. Yanson, G.R. No. 179195, October 3, 2011.
30People v. De Guzman, G.R. No. 214502, November 25, 2015.
31 Supra, note 17, citing People v. Molas, G.R. Nos. 88006-08, March 2, 1998, People v. Alba, G.R. No. 131858, Apri1 14, 1999, and People v. Dela Cruz, G.R. No. 116726, July 28, 1997.
32Kummer v. People, supra, note 27.
33People v. Basao, G.R. No. 189820, October 10, 2012.
34People v. Jacalne, G.R. No. 168552, October 3, 2011.
35People v. Basao, supra, note 33.
36 TSN, August 8, 2008, pp. 6 & 9.
37People v. Gregorio, G.R. No. 194235, June 8, 2016.
38 CA rollo, p. 8.
39 TSN, January 12, 2007, p. 19.
40 Id. at 4; CA rollo, p. 8.
41 Id. at 10.
42Rollo, p. 7.
43People v. Bisda, G.R. No. 140895, July 17, 2003, 406 SCRA 454.
44 TSN, January 12, 2007, pp. 11 & 12; TSN, March 9, 2007, p. 6.
45People v. Siongco, G.R. No. 186472, July 5, 2010; People v. Deduyo, G.R. No. 138456, October 23, 2003.
46People v. Jacalne, supra note 34; People v. Marquez, G.R. No. 181440, April 13, 2011; People v. De Guzman, supra note 30.
47People v. Delim, G.R. No. 142773, January 28, 2003.
48People v. Baluya, supra note 16; People v. Acbangin, G.R. No. 117216, August 9, 2000.
49 CA rollo, p. 11; Citing TSN, August 8, 2008, p. 10.
51 Article 63. Rules for the application of indivisible penalties.
x x x x
In all cases in which the law prescribes a penalty composed of two indivisible penalties, the following rules shall be observed in the application thereof:
x x x x
2. When there are neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances and there is no aggravating circumstance, the lesser penalty shall be applied.
x x x x
52People v. Jacalne, supra note 34.
53People v. Jugueta, G.R. No. 202124, April 5, 2016.