The charge in this case was for robbery with homicide and the penalty imposed upon the appellant Crisanto Inoferio and his co-accused Violeto Villacorte and Marciano Yusay was reclusion perpetua
and the payment of indemnity to the heirs of the deceased Benito Ching in the sum of P6,000.00, This case is now before this Court only on the appeal of Inoferio, because although the lower court convicted him and his co-accused Villacorte and Yusay (Alfredo Handig, a fourth accused was acquitted), Villacorte did not appeal, while the appeal of Yusay was withdrawn upon his motion which was granted by this Court on July 10, 1967.
In the evening of August 27, 1959, Benito Ching, a Chinese merchant, left his sari-sari store in the public market of Caloocan 1 to go home, bringing with him the proceeds of his sales of the day which were placed in a paper bag. He was accompanied by his two employees, Pedro Libantino and Modesto Galvez, who acted as his bodyguards. On the way towards his home located at 133 F. Roxas, Grace Park, Caloocan, Benito Ching and his two companions were accosted by four persons near the corner of an alley at F. Roxas street. At that time, Libantino was some three or four meters in front of Ching, while Galvez was walking directly behind the Chinese merchant.
One of the holduppers pointed a .45 cal. pistol at Ching. Another placed his left arm around the neck of Galvez, while the third held both his arms. The first who pointed a pistol at Ching snatched from him the paper bag containing the money. The fourth got that paper bag from the snatcher.
Ching shouted for help, crying aloud "Pedie, Pedie" ; his companion Libantino turned around to respond to his employer’s call; but upon seeing the bag snatcher pointing a pistol at Ching, Libantino fled. When Ching shouted: "Pedie, Pedie," the pistol-holder fired at him. Galvez, Ching’s other companion, was able to free himself from two of the holduppers holding him, and he too ran away. Ching fell down sprawled on the street and the four holduppers ran away. Benito Ching, notwithstanding his wound, was able to walk, staggering towards his home. His common-law wife immediately called for a taxicab, brought Ching to the North General Hospital in Manila where he died the following day.
Later that evening when Galvez was interrogated by police officers of Caloocan who were investigating the incident, the interrogation proved fruitless for Galvez was not able to furnish the investigators any information on the identities of the holduppers. But when investigated by the CIS, Philippine Constabulary, at Camp Crame on September 11, 1959, Galvez declared that Ching was accosted by three persons, one of them pointing his pistol at the right ribs of his employer. He identified the gunman as Violeto Villacorte alias Bonging and even described the shirt and pants the gunman was then wearing. He could not identify that two other companions of Villacorte.
Libantino, when examined by the investigators of the Caloocan police department on the same night of August 27, 1959, declared that the holdup and shooting incident took place in a dark "kalyehon" and that he could not identify the gunman nor the latter’s companions. But, in his written statement taken by the CIS at Camp Crame, Quezon City on September 11, 1959, he declared positively that he saw Violeto Villacorte alias Bonging as the person who grabbed the paper bag containing money from Ching and fired a pistol at Ching. He further said that aside from Villacorte he saw three other persons, two of them were holding the hands of his companion, Galvez. He admitted, however, that he could not recognize the two persons who were holding Galvez.
Villacorte who, in the meantime, had been positively identified by Galvez and Libantino as the bag snatcher and as the gunman who shot down Ching, when interrogated by the investigators of the Criminal Investigation Service at Camp Crame on September 12, 1959 admitted that he was the one who snatched the paper bag from Benito Ching and shot him. He identified his companions as "Roque", "Sante" and "Fred."
In the information for robbery with homicide filed in the Court of First Instance of Rizal on September 12, 1959, Violeto Villacorte was so named therein; "Roque" and Fred" were already identified as Roque Guerrero and Alfredo Handig, respectively while "Sante" was not yet identified and was named "John Doe alias Sante" On September 24 of the same year, the information was amended by changing the name of the accused John Doe alias Sante to Crisanto Inoferio y Alindao; and another person, Marciano Yusay, was included among the accused. Before the trial, upon motion, the trial court discharged Roque Guerrero to be used as a State witness.
As already above stated, the trial court, in its decision of May 15, 1963, acquitted Handig, convicted Villacorte who did not appeal, and Yusay who appealed but who withdrew his appeal, and Inoferio who pursued his appeal.
Upon a careful review of the evidence, We hold that the accused-appellant Crisanto Inoferio should be acquitted upon the ground that although his defense, in the nature of an alibi, is inherently a weak defense, it should be considered sufficient as in this case, to tilt the scale of justice in favor of the accused because the evidence for the prosecution is itself weak and unconvincing and, therefore, by and large, insufficient to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
Only Modesto Galvez and the State witness, Roque Guerrero, identified the appellant Inoferio as one of the holduppers. So, let us now review and analyze their testimonies, especially insofar as they refer to Inoferio, on the one hand, and the evidence of Inoferio, on the other.
At the time he testified in Court, Modesto Galvez was 21 years old, married and unemployed. In synthesis, he declared that: In August, 1957, he was working as a helper in the store of Benito Ching inside the market in Grace Park. Between 7 and 8 o’clock in the evening of August 27 that year, he and another store helper, Pedro Libantino, accompanied Ching in going home. While they were at F. Roxas street, they were waylaid by four men. 2
He was able to recognize two of them, namely Violeto Villacorte and the herein appellant Crisanto Inoferio who were pointed to by him in open court. Villacorte snatched the bag from Benito Ching and fired at him once. The bag contained money. Two persons held him. Inoferio was one of them. He did not know the other one. When Inoferio held him, Inoferio was behind and to the right of Galvez, placing his left hand over the nape of the latter. He was able to recognize Inoferio because he looked at his left, removed his hand around the front part of his neck, and he saw tattoo on his forearm. It was the figure of a woman with a bird. The place where they were waylaid was bright. 3
On cross examination, Galvez admitted that he saw the accused-appellant Inoferio for the first time only on that night of August 27, 1959. The place was lighted from two electric posts; one in the alley and the other east of the alley, corner of the alley and F. Roxas street. He was scared at the time he was held up. When he was held by two persons, one at his back (by appellant Inoferio) and another at his front, he was scared. He did not move nor run away until they released him. Inoferio was holding him with his left arm, held him tight around the neck; it was difficult to unloose his hold; the left forearm was so close to his neck that he could hardly breathe; and immediately after being released, he ran away. 4
On further cross examination, the witness testified: The morning following August 27, 1959, he went to the police station in Caloocan. Three officers interrogated him. He was still scared and was not able to tell them anything. 5
On September 11, 1957, he was brought by some PC officers to the CIS office, Camp Crame. He was interrogated by agents Rodolfo Estevez and Florencio Suela. They asked him to relate the details of the incident as best as he could. His statement was taken down in writing. He signed that statement under oath before Assistant Fiscal Castillo. The last question asked of him was: "Do you have anything more to say?" And his answer was: "No more." In that investigation, he said that he saw only three holduppers. In that sworn statement, although he did not mention the name of Inoferio, he stated that he saw a tattoo on the arm of the person who held his neck that night. His sworn statement consisting of two pages has been marked as Exh. "1-Inoferio."
Reading the sworn statement of Modesto Galvez (Exh. "1-Inoferio"), it appears that it was taken on September 11, 1959 but subscribed and sworn to before Assistant Fiscal Jose Castillo on September 12, 1959. It is a fact that in this statement, he mentioned that they were held up only by three persons. But, contrary to his statement in Court, he did not mention in this sworn statement (Exh. "1-Inoferio") that the one who held him by the neck had a tattoo on his arm.
Let us now go to the testimony of Roque Guerrero. On direct examination, he declared: He knows the accused Violeto Villacorte. He had known him for a long time already. He knows the accused Alfredo Handig. He also knows the accused Crisanto Inoferio alias "Sante." He came to know him because they used to play cara y cruz in 1959. As far as he knows, Crisanto Inoferio is a Visayan. He also knows the accused Marciano Yusay.
In July, 1959, while he was driving a tricycle, Violeto Villacorte called him and asked if he wanted to make some money by waylaying somebody. He did not agree and he continued driving the tricycle. After two weeks, they saw each other again when he was driving a tricyle Villacorte again asked him if he wanted to make some money. He did not agree. Then, in the afternoon of August 29, 1959, Villacorte met him again. His companions then were Alfredo Handig, Marciano Yusay and "Sante." Villacorte asked him if he was not really going with them. His answer was how could he go when "Sante" did not want to tell him the person to be waylaid. Handig told him to go. "Sante" also told him that he go with them. Yusay even pulled out his .45 caliber gun and threatened him, telling him: "Don’t be afraid, this is what we are going to use." Guerrero told them that he could not go with them because "he is my kuya," referring to Benito Ching. When Villacorte told him that they were going to rob Ching, he left them but Alfredo Handig and "Sante" followed him. They told him that they would kill him if he would approach anybody. He continued driving his tricycle but they followed him. They left already however at about 7 o’clock that evening. 6
On cross examination, Guerrero declared: At the time he met "Sante", he was dressed in long sleeve — he was always wearing long sleeve shirt in the same manner that he was dressed while Inoferio was in Court at the time this witness was cross examined. 7
On the night of August 8, 1959, he was arrested in connection with an attempt to rob the store of Benito Ching. He was prosecuted for vagrancy and he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to ten days imprisonment. Subsequently, he was charged with attempted robbery. When investigated by the CIS agents, he did not reveal to them anything. He gave a written statement at Camp Crame on September 21, 1959. In that statement, he told "the entire truth of what you (Guerrero) knew about the entire case." 8 In this statement, Guerrero mentioned only "Sante" as among those who talked to him, but did not mention his name Crisanto Inoferio.
The appellant Crisanto Inoferio, testifying in his defense, stated that he was 39 years old, single, house painter, and a resident of 1691 Alvarez St., Sta. Cruz, Manila. 9 He came to know the accused Violeto Villacorte for the first time only in Camp Crame on September 12, 1959. He came to know the accused Alfredo Handig for the first time also on September 12, 1959 but in the Caloocan Police Department. He came to know the accused who became a State witness, Roque Guerrero, for the first time sometime before August, 1959 at Caloocan. He used to ride in his tricycle and they often played cara y cruz together. 10
He had been to the CIS office at Camp Crame two times. The first was on September 12, 1959. In the morning of that date, he was invited by the policemen of Caloocan to go to their headquarters. He was made to wait there because some CIS agents would come. They came at about 1 to 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The Caloocan police officers and the CIS agents talked to each other. After a while, the CIS said that they would bring him to their headquarters. The Caloocan police officers answered that they themselves would take him to Camp Crame which they did. They were Pat. Cadoy, Cpl. Mauricio and another police lieutenant whom he did not know. He was brought to the CIS headquarters at Camp Crame at about 3 o’clock already that afternoon. 11
When he, Inoferio, was brought upstairs, the accused Villacorte was going down. He did not mind him because he did not know him then. Upon reaching the office of Capt. Calderon, he was made to sit down. Later on, Villacorte and his companion came in. His companion asked Villacorte if he knew him (Inoferio) and Villacorte answered in the negative. He was also asked if he knew Villacorte and his answer was in the negative. Then the accused Handig was brought and in the confrontation, both of them stated that they did not know each other. 12
Then he was brought to another room by the CIS agent who said: "You are lucky you don’t know those people." After that, he told them that he was not "Sante" because his nickname was "Santing." 13
Towards the afternoon, he was given food to eat. While he was eating, the Caloocan policemen told him not to finish eating anymore as they were going home. And they left Camp Crame at about past 6 o’clock in the afternoon of September 12, 1959. When they reached Grace Park, Caloocan, the policemen told him to go home because he had no case. 14
The second time he was at Camp Crame was on September 21, 1959. At about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, some CIS agents went to his house and upon their invitation, he went with them to Camp Crame. They arrived there at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. While they were walking at the corridor, they saw Capt. Calderon talking with Roque Guerrero. The CIS agent asked him if he knew Guerrero and he said yes. Guerrero was asked if he knew him and he answered in the affirmative. Then he was brought to a cell at the groundfloor. At about 6 o’clock in the afternoon, CIS agent Morales came and brought him upstairs, He was asked if he was drinking wine and when he answered in the affirmative, wine was brought. Morales opened the bottle and he was asked to drink. While he was drinking, Morales told him: "I want to help you but you also help me." His answer was: "What help can I do?" And the reply was: "I’ll make you a witness for the government." He asked Morales what he would testify and the answer was: "At the trial, point to Violeto Villacorte, Alfredo Handig and Roque Guerrero as the persons who robbed the Chinese and that they were inviting you to join them." His answer was: "That is bad Mr. Morales. I do not know anything about the case you are talking about. I even do not know Alfredo Handig and Violeto Villacorte." Morales stood up, took him downstairs and told him to think about the matter. He was again brought to his cell. 15
The following morning, after Inoferio had just taken his breakfast, Morales came and told him: "What about the matter we talked about last night, have you come to think about it?" He said: "I am sorry, I cannot do what you are asking me." Then Morales replied: "You might regret, I can also secure another witness," and he left. At about 11 o’clock that morning, Morales returned with somebody named Galvez whom he did not know. Morales then told him to take off his clothes. After he had taken off his shirt, Morales saw the tattoo on his arms (anterior portion of his left forearm). Morales then told him to show his arm with the tattoo to Galvez. After a few minutes, Morales and Galvez left. At about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, Morales came, brought him out of his cell and conducted him upstairs. While they were inside a room, Morales asked him questions which he, the latter, typed. Whenever he would not be able to answer Morales, Morales would slap him. Morales even tied his belt around his neck and whenever he could not answer the questions, Morales would just pull the belt. After the questioning by Morales in that afternoon of September 22, 1959, he was made to sign his statement. At that time, Capt. Calderon was passing by the corridor. Then he was placed in his cell. 16
The next day, he was brought out his cell, was brought to the stockade and then afterwards, to the provincial jail in Pasig. 17
Inoferio categorically denied the testimony of Roque Guerrero that he was with Handig, Yusay, and Villacorte on August 27, 1959, and that before that date, he and his companions were inviting him (Guerrero) to join them to holdup somebody. And the reason why Roque Guerrero testified against him was that Guerrero thought that he was arrested because Inoferio pointed to him when they met at Camp Crame. But Inoferio said that he pointed to Guerrero only when he was asked by the CIS where Guerrero was. 18
Inoferio denied the testimony of Galvez that he (Inoferio) was one of those that embraced him (Galvez) during the holdup. 19 He categorically stated that he had not known Galvez nor have met him prior to August 27, 1959. He came to know Villacorte for the first time on September 12, 1959 when they met at the stairway of a building in Camp Crame where he was interrogated. It was while he was coming up said stairway when he met Violeto Villacorte for the first time. Villacorte was then coming down the stairs. He admitted that before August, 1959, he already knew Roque Guerrero. 20
Violeto Villacorte, the person identified as the bag snatcher and the one who shot Benito Ching, declared: He came to know Inoferio for the first time when he met at Camp Crame on September 12, 1959. Before August 27, 1959, he had not yet met Inoferio. 21
Another co-accused, Alfredo Handig, testified that he came to know Crisanto Inoferio for the first time on September 12, 1959 in the municipal building of Caloocan. He categorically declared that prior to this date, he did not know said Crisanto Inoferio. 22
By way of background to our findings of facts which justify the acquittal of appellant Inoferio, we now recapitulate the evidence against the accused Violeto Villacorte, Marciano Yusay, and Alfredo Handig.
Violeto Villacorte was positively identified by prosecution witnesses Libantino and Galvez. And in an extrajudicial statement secured from him by CIS investigators and which he signed and swore to before the Assistant Fiscal of Rizal in Pasig, Villacorte admitted his role as mastermind of the plan to waylay Benito Ching and his having grabbed the paper bag containing the proceeds of the sales of the sari-sari store of the Chinaman. He likewise admitted responsibility for firing the pistol that snuffed the life of Benito Ching.
Marciano Yusay was equally identified positively by Pedro Libantino and Modesto Galvez as one of those present when Villacorte was planning the holdup and at the time of the holdup. And in the ante mortem statement of Benito Ching made to his wife Candida Pasion, he said that Marciano Yusay was one of those who held him up.
Alfredo Handig, on the other hand, although mentioned by accused Villacorte as one of his companions in the planning and in the execution of the robbery, prosecution witnesses Libantino and Galvez never identified him positively because of which he was acquitted by the trial court.
With respect to the herein appellant Crisanto Inoferio, the evidence of the prosecution to the effect that he was one of the holduppers is weak and unconvincing.
In the investigations conducted by the Caloocan Police Department, both Modesto Galvez and Pedro Libantino never mentioned appellant Inoferio as one of those who either planned or executed the robbery and killing although the name of Villacorte was mentioned by Libantino. In the examination conducted by the CIS investigators at Camp Crame, again Inoferio’s name was never mentioned by both prosecution witnesses although Villacorte’s and Yusay’s names were now mentioned and linked to the crime.
When the accused Villacorte was subjected to a thorough investigation by the CIS agents, he admitted his part in the planning and in the commission of the crime and named Marciano Yusay, Alfredo Handig and a certain "Sante." Again, Inoferio at this stage of the investigation had as yet to be linked to this person called "Sante" and to the crime.
In court, Libantino never identified Inoferio. More than that, he contradicted Galvez, for while the latter testified that the man who had his arm around his neck was Inoferio, Libantino who was the one face to face with the man who had his arm around Galvez, said that it was the accused Marciano Yusay. 23 And Libantino declared that the place where the holdup and the shooting incident took place was in a dark "kalyehon," that was why he could not identify the gunman nor the latter’s companions. This contradicts the testimony of Galvez that the place where the holdup and the shooting took place, was lighted from two electric posts. Libantino said that these two electric posts were quite far from the scene of the crime; they were 10 meters away.
And as we consider the testimony of Modesto Galvez, even by itself, we conclude that he was not able to see the face of the man who held him around his neck and therefore could not possibly identify him. He was scared at the time. The one holding him by the neck was at his back. And immediately after he was released, he ran away.
Let us now go to the telltale tattoo, the figure of a woman with a bird, on the left forearm of Inoferio. Yes, Inoferio has that tattoo. And according to Galvez, the one who held him around his neck was Inoferio because he saw the tattoo of Inoferio when he looked at his left and tried to remove the arm of the man holding him by his neck. But any other person could have that kind of a tattoo, the figure of a woman with a bird. But it may be asked: How did Galvez come to know that Inoferio had that tattoo? The answer is furnished by the testimony of Inoferio. We have taken pains to give the synthesis of his entire testimony, and we are satisfied that he told the truth, particularly on the point that when he was brought to Camp Crame for the second time on September 21, 1959, he was told to remove his clothes and shown his arm with the tattoo to Galvez.
On top of all of these, there is the testimony in open court by Galvez that as early as September 11, 1959, when he was investigated at the CIS office in Camp Crame, he already stated and specifically in his sworn statement given on that date but subscribed and sworn to before Assistant Fiscal Castillo the following day, that the one who held him by the neck had a tattoo on his arm. We have gone over this written sworn statement and we do not see any mention therein by Galvez of a tattoo on the arm of the person that held him.
And how could Galvez have seen the tattoo on the arm of the man who held him by the neck when according to Guerrero, "Sante" was dressed in long sleeve in the afternoon of the holdup (the prosecution would want to prove that "Sante" is the accused Crisanto Inoferio).
Therefore, the authorities cited by the prosecution that written statements of witnesses to police authorities are usually sketchy and incomplete; that as a matter of fact, it is natural for even material matters to be left out when a person gives a sworn statement during a criminal investigation, do not here apply. The fact is that Galvez told a lie when he said that in his written statement he declared that the man who held him had a tattoo.
How about the testimony of Roque Guerrero, the second and the only other witness linking the appellant Inoferio to the robbery holdup in question? He was not there at the scene of the crime. All that he said was that he was asked three times before the robbery holdup took place to go with the holduppers. But Villacorte, Yusay and Handig denied this testimony of Guerrero. And of course, Inoferio also denied it.
But what is most significant is the fact that all along, he was referring to "Sante" as the one who was with the group when he was asked to join them in the robbery holdup. As early as in his written statement given at Camp Crame on September 21, 1959, he referred to one of the holduppers as "Sante" ; he never mentioned therein the name of Crisanto Inoferio; and yet it is a fad, admitted by both Guerrero and Inoferio, that they had known each other long before the robbery holdup took place on August 27, 1959. Therefore, if Inoferio was the "Sante" with the group of the holduppers, Guerrero should have referred to him as Inoferio in his written statement of September 21, 1959.
And Crisanto Inoferio is not "Sante." He is the best witness to testify on his nickname and he said that his nickname is "Santing."
Furthermore, this witness Guerrero has very poor credentials as far as his credibility is concerned. He was, at the time he testified, 18 years old, single and unemployed. And on cross examination, he admitted that on August 18, 1959, he was arrested in an attempt to rob the store of Benito Ching; he was prosecuted for vagrancy; pleaded guilty and sentenced to ten days imprisonment. Subsequently, he was charged with attempted robbery.
And assuming that appellant Inoferio was the "Sante" who took part in the planning of the robbery holdup in question, which is not the fact in this case, that in itself would not make him incur any criminal liability if later on there is not that sufficient evidence to prove that he actually took part in the robbery holdup. For after taking part in the planning, he could have desisted from taking part in the actual commission of the crime by listening to the call of his conscience. This exempts him from any criminal liability whatsoever.
Against the weak and unconvincing evidence of the prosecution regarding appellant Inoferio are his testimony and those of the witnesses who corroborated him.
At the time he testified, Inoferio was 39 years old, single, and a house painter. The flow of events as related by him in his testimony, a synopsis of which we have already given earlier, is so natural and convincing as to set at ease the mind and the conscience of the Court that he was telling the truth. He denied any participation in the robbery holdup in question. Moreover, that he did not know his co-accused Villacorte and Handig at the time the crime was committed on August 27, 1959. He came to know them only when these two were already arrested, a fact corroborated by Villacorte and Handig. Even at the confrontation before police officers and CIS agents, Inoferio, on the one hand, and his two co-accused, on the other, already denied having known each other earlier.
The motive of Guerrero in testifying against Inoferio was explained by the latter, and that is, that Guerrero thought, when Inoferio pointed to him at Camp Crame, that Inoferio was implicating Guerrero in the robbery holdup. And Galvez, who never implicated Inoferio when investigated by the Caloocan police officers in the evening of August 27, 1959 and when investigated by the CIS at Camp Crame on September 11, 1959, must have based his testimony in court, where he identified Inoferio, on the erroneous information supplied to him that "Sante" (one of the holduppers) was Inoferio.
This is good a time as any to emphasize the fact that courts should not at once look with disfavor at the defense of alibi. Although inherently weak and easily fabricated, the evidence presented by an accused in support of that defense must be scrutinized with the same care that evidence supporting other defenses deserves. When an accused puts up the defense of alibi, the court should not at once have a mental prejudice against him. For, taken in the light of all the evidence on record, it may be sufficient to acquit him, as in the case of appellant Inoferio.
WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from convicting the accused-appellant Crisanto Inoferio is hereby reversed and he is hereby acquitted with costs de oficio. It appearing that he is at present detained at the New Bilibid Prisons at Muntinlupa, his immediate release is hereby ordered. So ordered.
Zaldivar, Fernando, Barredo and Aquino, JJ.
, did not take part.
1. Then only a town, now a city.
2. Session of July 20, 1960, t.s.n., 2-6.
3. Id., t.s.n., 6-13.
4. Id., t.s.n., 15-25.
5. Id., t.s.n., 26-28.
6. Session of March 15, 1961, t.s.n., 4-17.
7. Id., t.s.n., 26-28.
8. Session of January 3, 1962, t.s.n., 6-15.
9. Session of August 2, 1962, t.s.n., 235.
10. Id., t.s.n., 236-238.
11. Id., t.s.n., 236-241.
12. Id., t.s.n., 241-243.
13. Id., t.s.n., 243-244.
14. Id., t.s.n., 244-245.
15. Id., 245-251.
16. Id., 252-258. This was not rebutted by Morales. And Inoferio’s written statement was not presented at all in evidence, not even by the prosecution.
17. Id., 258-259.
18. Id., t.s.n., 260-262.
19. Id., t.s.n., 262.
20. Id., t.s.n., 270-272.
21. Id., t.s.n., 231-232.
22. Id., t.s.n., 232-235.
23. Session of April 18, 1960, t.s.n., 10-11.