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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 125333. March 20, 2002.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ROLANDO FELIXMINIA y CAMACHO, Accused-Appellant.

D E C I S I O N


PER CURIAM:


This is an automatic review of the decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 45, 1 Urdaneta, Pangasinan in Criminal Case No. U-8668 imposing on accused-appellant Rolando Felixminia the penalty of death.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Accused-appellant was charged with the crime of rape with homicide in an Information which reads thusly:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

That on or about the 19th day of September, 1995, in the afternoon, at Brgy. San Vicente, Municipality of Urdaneta, Province of Pangasinan, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously, by means of force, have carnal knowledge with (sic) Maria Lourdes Galinato, alias "Tisay", a six (6) year old girl, against her will, and to conceal his criminal act, Accused kill (sic) and bury (sic) said Maria Lourdes Galinato near the Macalong River in aforesaid barangay, to the damage and prejudice of her heirs.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Contrary to Article 335, No. 3, in relation to Article 249, Revised Penal Code. 2

On November 15, 1995, Accused-appellant was arraigned and he pleaded "not guilty." 3 Thereafter, trial ensued.

After trial, the court a quo rendered a decision finding accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged. The judgment reads as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused, ROLANDO FELIXMINIA y CAMACHO, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of RAPE defined and penalized under Republic Act No. 7659, the offense having been committed with the attendant circumstances of "when by reason or on the occasion of the rape, a homicide is committed" and "when the victim is a religious or a child below seven (7) years old," hereby sentences him to the supreme penalty of DEATH, to pay the heirs of the victim Ma. Lourdes Galinato the amount of P50,000.00 as indemnity; P30,699.00 as actual damages and P500,000.00 as moral damages.

And to pay the costs.

Penultimately, it is said: "Dura lex, sed lex" translated as "The law is harsh, but that is the law!"

SO ORDERED. 4

Accused-appellant now attributes the following errors to the trial court, viz:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

I


THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED PURELY ON THE BASIS OF CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE THAT DO NOT HOWEVER MEET THE REQUISITES PROVIDED FOR BY LAW FOR CONVICTION BY CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

II


THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT APPLYING THE DOCTRINE OF THE "FRUIT OF THE POISONOUS TREE" AND IN NOT REJECTING EVIDENCES (SIC) AND CIRCUMSTANCES OBTAINED AND DERIVED IN A MANNER THAT SHOULD HAVE MADE THEM CONSTITUTIONALLY INADMISSIBLE.

III


THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN TOTALLY DISREGARDING THE UNREBUTTED EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY THE ACCUSED TO EXPLAIN HIS ACTIONS AND SUPPORT HIS DEFENSE.

IV


THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED AND SENTENCING HIM TO THE EXTREME PENALTY OF DEATH. 5

The records disclose that on September 19, 1993, at about seven o’clock in the morning, Accused-appellant was drinking gin with his cousin, Ronnie Garcia, in a canteen at Urdaneta, Pangasinan. 6 Thereafter, they proceeded to Bayaoas, also in Urdaneta, Pangasinan, where they continued drinking. 7

Around ten o’clock in the morning of the same day, prosecution witness Rosita Mangunay saw accused-appellant and Ronnie Garcia walking along Ambrosio Street in the poblacion. When they passed her, they greeted her and she noticed that they both smelled of liquor. 8

In the early afternoon of the same day, the already inebriated accused-appellant went to look for the six-year old Maria Lourdes Galinato, also known as "Tisay" and found her playing inside a jeepney. He took her. 9

At around two forty-five in the afternoon of the same day, witness Mangunay again saw the accused-appellant walking along Ambrosio Street, Urdaneta, at the corner or the crossroad of a small sari-sari store owned by a certain Soling. She saw accused-appellant carrying a child who was crying and struggling. She recognized the child as "Tisay." She declared that she clearly saw the accused-appellant because they were walking towards each other coming from opposite directions. Accused-appellant proceeded to the west. 10

Between three to four o’clock in the afternoon, prosecution witness Natividad Bernardo, a resident of San Vicente, Urdaneta, Pangasinan, saw accused-appellant pass by their house. He was carrying a child who looked about five to six years old. They were heading towards the Macalong River. 11

At approximately the same time, prosecution witness Leah Magno, also resident of the same barangay, saw accused-appellant carrying a child. They were heading towards the wooded area in the Macalong River. 12

At around five o’clock in the afternoon to six-thirty in the evening of the same day, witness Magno saw accused-appellant again, this time he was walking alone to town coming from the direction of the Macalong River. 13

Meanwhile, the parents of Maria Lourdes were frantically searching for their child. When their search proved futile, they reported her missing to the barangay captain and to the police. 14

Upon receipt of reports that accused-appellant was seen with the missing child during the day, the police together with the barangay captains of Camantiles and Bayaoas of Urdaneta, Pangasinan and some relatives of the Galinatos went to the residence of accused-appellant at Sitio Lico, Yatyat, Manaoag, Pangasinan. 15 As they approached the said house, they saw the accused-appellant jump out of the window carrying a black bag. 16 Accused-appellant fled. They gave chase. After searching three barangays for more than twenty exhausting hours, the pursuers finally caught up with him at an open field in Magalong, Laoac, Pangasinan at around three o’clock in the afternoon of September 20, 1995. 17 He was brought to the Urdaneta police station where he admitted that he raped, killed and buried Maria Lourdes near the Macalong River in San Vicente, Urdaneta, Pangasinan. 18

Thereafter, the police brought him to the Macalong River. There, he trembled and hysterically cried as he pointed to the place where he raped, killed and buried Maria Lourdes. 19 True enough, they found the lifeless body of the little child lying half-buried in the creek with her head hanging on her shoulder. 20

An autopsy conducted on the body of Maria Lourdes revealed the following findings:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

SIGNIFICANT EXTERNAL FINDINGS:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

— Washerwoman’s hands and feet.

— Bleeding from nares.

— Laceration of Hymen.

3-5 o’clock

6-8 o’clock

— Introitus admits two (2) fingers.

— Ecchymosis on center of throat and right hyoid area,

below left eye and frontal region of face and bridge

of nose and right eye.

— Obvious non-alignment of neck.

SIGNIFICANT INTERNAL FINDINGS:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

— 50 cc to 100 cc blood in cranium mostly from basal

area.

CAUSE OF DEATH:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Brain stem injury.

Hymenal laceration. 21

In his brief, Accused-appellant contends that the lower court erred in not applying the doctrine of the "fruit of the poisonous tree" and in not rejecting as inadmissible the evidence derived therefrom.

Section 12 of Article III of the 1997 Constitution, which embodies the mandatory protection afforded a person under investigation for the commission of a crime and the corresponding duty of the State to enforce such mandate, provides:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

SEC. 12. (1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferable of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.

(2) No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation or any other means which vitiate the free will shall be used against him. Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention are prohibited.

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or Section 17 hereof shall be inadmissible in evidence against him.

(4) The law shall provide for penal and civil sanctions for violations of this section as well as compensation to and rehabilitation of victims of torture or similar practices, and their families.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

The ruling of the Court in People v. Bravo 22 is instructive. Thus:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

The mantle of protection under this constitutional provision covers the period from the time a person is taken into custody for investigation of his possible participation in the commission of a crime or from the time he is singled out as a suspect in the commission of a crime although not yet in custody (People v. Andan, 269 SCRA 95; Bernas, The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: A Commentary, 1996 ed., p. 412, citing People v. Mara, 236 SCRA 565). The exclusionary rule sprang from a recognition that police interrogatory procedures lay fertile grounds for coercion, physical and psychological, of the suspect to admit responsibility for the crime under investigation. It was not intended as a deterrent to the accused from confessing guilt, if he voluntarily and intelligently so desires but to protect the accused from admitting what he is coerced to admit although untrue (People v. Deniega, 251 SCRA 626). Law enforcement agencies are required to effectively communicate the rights of a person under investigation and to insure that it is fully understood. Any measure short of this requirement is considered a denial of such right (People v. Santos, 283 SCRA 443; People v. Januario, 267 SCRA 609). Courts are not allowed to distinguish between preliminary questioning and custodial investigation proper when applying the exclusionary rule. Any information or admission given by a person while in custody which may appear harmless or innocuous at the time without the competent assistance of an independent counsel should be struck down as inadmissible. (Gamboa v. Cruz, 162 SCRA 642; People v. Isla, 278 SCRA 47; People v. Binamira, 277 SCRA 232). It has been held, however, that an admission made to news reporters or to a confidant of the accused is not covered by the exclusionary rule (People v. Andan, supra.)chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

In the instant case, the admission made by accused-appellant was not in the form of a written extra judicial confession; the admission was made verbally to the PO3 Roberto Reyes, a member of the Philippine National Police stationed in Urdaneta, Pangasinan. PO3 Reyes testified that after accused-appellant was taken into custody, he "interviewed and interrogated" the latter and in the course of their "conversation," accused-appellant said that he "raped, killed and buried" Maria Lourdes. 23 There is no doubt, therefore, that accused-appellant was taken into custody for investigation of his possible participation in the commission of the crime. Hence, the constitutional mantle of protection clearly covers the instant situation. While said officer testified that he apprised the accused-appellant of his right to remain silent and to have a counsel of his own choice, Accused-appellant’s alleged admission was made without the presence of a counsel. It does not appear either that accused-appellant manifested that he could not afford the services of a counsel nor waived his right to one in writing and in the presence of a counsel as no such written and counseled waiver of these rights was presented in evidence. Therefore, the Court finds the extra judicial confession of accused-appellant invalid since he was deprived of his right to counsel during said custodial investigation. Consequently, the exclusionary rule applies and the extrajudicial confession should be struck down as inadmissible.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Consonant with the constitutional precept that a person under custodial investigation should have a right to counsel "in every phase of the investigation, 24 the Court has held in a number of cases that a person under custodial investigation should enjoy the right to counsel from its inception to its termination. Truly, the accused’s counsel of choice must be present and must be able to advise and assist his client from the time he answers the first question until the time he signs the extra judicial confession. 25 In People v. Morial, 26 the Court elucidated on the need for requiring a counsel’s continuing presence throughout the custodial investigation in order to guarantee the accused’s rights.

In seeking the reversal of the challenged decision, Accused-appellant contends that his extra-judicial confession which was extorted from him by the police officers in violation of his constitutional rights cannot be made the basis for his conviction.

Notwithstanding the inadmissibility of the extra-judicial confession executed by the accused-appellant, he was properly convicted by the trial court because (a) compromising circumstances were duly proven which were consistent with each other and which lead with moral certainty to the conclusion that he was guilty of the crime charged and (b) the totality of such circumstances eliminated beyond reasonable doubt the possibility of his innocence. In People v. Mahinay, 27 this Court held that conviction may be had on circumstantial evidence provided that the following requisites concur, to wit: (1) there is more than one circumstance; (2) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (3) the combination of all circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. Stated differently, the circumstantial evidence which warrant conviction in this case (a) constitute an unbroken chain of events which reasonably led to the conclusion pointing to the accused-appellant, to the exclusion of all others, as the person guilty of the crime; 28 (b) were consistent with each other and with the hypothesis that the accused-appellant is guilty; and (c) were at the same time, inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent and with every other rational hypothesis except that of guilt. 29

In the case at bar, the trial court gave credence to several circumstances, which upon thorough review of this Court are more than sufficient to prove accused-appellant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. These circumstances are as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. Rosita Mangunay saw accused-appellant at about ten o’clock in the morning of September 19, 1995, walking along Ambrosio Street, Poblacion, Urdaneta Pangasinan; 30

2. Rosita Mangunay saw accused-appellant at about two forty-five in the afternoon of September 19, 1995, walking and carrying the victim who was then struggling and crying; 31

3. Natividad Bernardo saw accused-appellant between three to four o’clock in the afternoon of September 19, 1995 carrying the victim going to the Macalong River where the body of the victim was later found; 32

4. Leah Magno, while at her yard at San Vicente East, Urdaneta, Pangasinan, at about three to four o’clock in the afternoon of September 19, 1995, saw the accused-appellant carrying a child and headed towards the Macalong River; 33

5. Leah Magno, at about six-thirty in the evening of September 19, 1995, saw accused-appellant walking alone coming from the direction of the Macalong River; 34

6. Accused-appellant told Johnny Galinato that he played with the victim and left her at a jeepney when Johnny Galinato talked to accused-appellant in the evening of September 19, 1995; 35

7. Accused-appellant did not go with Johnny Galinato when the latter invited him to go to the police headquarters in order to tell the police authorities that he did not know the whereabouts of the victim. 36 His failure to reveal the same is unnatural for an innocent person will at once naturally and emphatically repel an accusation of crime as a matter of self-preservation and self-defense and as a precaution against prejudicing himself. A person’s silence therefore, particularly when it is persistent, will justify that he is not innocent; 37

8. Accused-appellant jumped out of the window of his house and ran away when police officers Reyes and Peralta together with Johnny Galinato went back to said house. 38 Such act of flight by accused-appellant strongly indicate his consciousness of guilt;chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

9. Accused-appellant ran away when he saw Johnny Galinato at about six-thirty in the morning of September 20, 1995, in the field at the back of the house accused-appellant; 39

10. Accused-appellant told Johnny Galinato that the victim was with his aunt at Sta. Maria when he was apprehended at Barangay Magalong, Laoac, Pangasinan. 40

11. Accused-appellant testified that in the morning of September 19, 1995, he fetched the victim who was playing inside a jeepney allegedly upon the request of Ronnie Garcia. 41

12. Accused-appellant, in the afternoon of September 19, 1995, went to San Vicente, Urdaneta, Pangasinan carrying the crying and struggling victim and in which place the body of the victim was later found; 42

13. Accused-appellant testified that he was with the victim when she died, allegedly because she was killed by Ronnie Garcia; 43 and

14. Accused-appellant did not tell the police that it was Ronnie Garcia who raped and killed the victim when he saw Ronnie Garcia at the police station. 44

It is settled in our criminal jurisprudence that" (c)onspiracy and/or direct participation in a crime may be proven by circumstantial evidence." 45 An accused can be convicted if the compromising circumstances duly proven are consistent with each other and lead with moral certainty to only one conclusion; and if the totality of such circumstances eliminated beyond reasonable doubt the possibility of innocence. 46 Indeed, the circumstantial evidence herein warrant conviction of the accused-appellant as they constitute an unbroken chain of events which reasonably lead to the conclusion that the accused-appellant, to the exclusion of all others, is the person guilty of the crime. 47 The circumstances are consistent with each other, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused-appellant is guilty, and at the same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent and with every other rational hypothesis except that of guilt. 48 Moreover, Section 4, Rule 133 of the Rules provides that an accused can still be convicted even if no eyewitness is available, provided that enough circumstantial evidence has been established by the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime. 49 Resort to circumstantial evidence is essential when to insist on direct testimony would result in setting felons free and deny proper protection to the community. Circumstantial evidence is not a "weaker form of evidence vis-a-vis direct evidence," 50 and cases have recognized that circumstantial evidence in its weight and probative force, may surpass direct evidence in its effect upon the Court. 51

It cannot be denied that there is no evidence as to the manner by which the rape was committed or to the acts done by the perpetrator which ultimately led to or caused the death of the victim. It bears stressing that in crimes of rape with homicide, it is seldom, if not ever, that there is an eyewitness to the act itself. Consequently, the courts must rely on the aforementioned circumstantial evidence, which lead to the obvious conclusion that accused is the perpetrator of the crime, more so when there is corroborative evidence pointing to the guilt of the accused. Here, the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses in court and the findings made in the autopsy report of Dr. Ramon Gonzales, Jr., 52 autopsy report of the Philippine National Police, 53 joint affidavit of police officers Reyes and Rubianes, 54 and affidavit of witness Mangunay, 55 show beyond reasonable doubt that the accused-appellant is guilty of the crime charged.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Moreover, it is unbelievable that accused-appellant just brought the victim to Ronnie Garcia, and that it was only the latter who raped and killed her. "Evidence to be believed must not only proceed from the mouth of a credible witness, but must be credible in itself — such as the common experience and observation of mankind can approve as probable under the circumstances. We have no test of the truth of human testimony, except its conformity to our knowledge, observation and experience. Whatever is repugnant to these belongs to the miraculous, and is outside of judicial cognizance." 56 Surely, such testimony is too uncertain and too easily fabricated for the purpose of deceiving, to be relied upon by this Court.

Accordingly, since it was clearly established that Maria Lourdes was only six years old when she was raped and killed by the accused-appellant, the proper imposable penalty is death 57 pursuant to Section 335, No. 3 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, in relation to Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code.

In line with recent judicial prescription, the indemnification for the victim shall be in the increased amount of P125,000.00 if the crime of rape with homicide is committed or effectively qualified by any of the circumstances under which the death penalty is authorized by the applicable amendatory laws. Accordingly, the amount of P50,000.00 awarded by the trial court is increased to P125,000.00. Moral damages may additionally be awarded in the amount of P50,000.00 without the need for pleading or proof of the basis thereof as has heretofore been the practice. Accordingly, the amount of P500,000.00 awarded by the trial court is reduced to P50,000.00.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 45, Urdaneta, Pangasinan in Criminal Case No. U-8668, finding accused-appellant Rolando Felixminia y Camacho guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape with homicide and imposing upon him the penalty of death, is hereby AFFIRMED with the modification that the award of civil indemnity is increased from P50,000.00 to P125,000.00 and the award of moral damages is reduced from P500,000.00 to P50,000.00.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

In accordance with Article 83 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 25 of Republic Act No. 7659, upon finality of this decision, let the records of this case be forthwith forwarded to the Office of the President for possible exercise of executive clemency or pardoning power.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Buena, Ynares-Santiago, De Leon, Jr., Gutierrez and Carpio, JJ., concur.

Puno and Vitug, JJ., on official leave.

Endnotes:



1. Presided by Judge Joven F. Costales.

2. Records, p. 1.

3. Id., at 18 and 20.

4. Id., at 196-197.

5. Rollo, p. 66.

6. TSN, February 8, 1996, pp. 4-6.

7. Id., at 6-7.

8. TSN, December 12, 1995, p. 10.

9. TSN, February 8, 1996, p. 14.

10. TSN, December 12, 1995, pp. 11-12.

11. TSN, January 10, 1996, pp. 3-4.

12. Id., at 18-19.

13. Id., at 20.

14. TSN, December 7, 1995, p. 18; TSN, January 11, 1996, pp. 3-4.

15. TSN, December 7, 1995, pp. 19-21.

16. Ibid.

17. Id., at 21-22.

18. Id., at 23.

19. Id., at 36.

20. Id., at 24-25.

21. Records, p. 3; Autopsy Report dated September 20, 1995, Exhibit "A."cralaw virtua1aw library

22. 318 SCRA 812 (1999).

23. TSN, December 7, 1995, p. 23; TSN, December 12, 1995, p. 7.

24. People v. Paule, 261 SCRA 649 (1996).

25. People v. Labtan, 320 SCRA 140 (1999) citing People v. Bacamante, 248 SCRA 47 (1995).

26. G.R. No. 129295, August 15, 2001, citing People v. Deniega, 251 SCRA 626 (1995).

27. 302 SCRA 455 (1999).

28. See People v. Villaran, 269 SCRA 630 (1997); People v. Payawal, 247 SCRA 433 (1995); People v. Grefaldia, 273 SCRA 591 (1997), citing People v. Ticson, 198 SCRA 368 (1991); People v. Alvero, Jr., 224 SCRA 16 (1995); People v. Dela Cruz, 229 SCRA 754 (1994).

29. See People v. De Guia, 280 SCRA 141 (1997) citing People v. Casingal, 243 SCRA 37 (1995).

30. TSN, December 12, 1995, p. 10.

31. Id., at 11-12, 14.

32. TSN, January 10, 1996, pp. 3-5, 14-16.

33. Id., at 19-20, 25.

34. Id., at 19-20.

35. TSN, January 11, 1996, p. 6.

36. Id.

37. See People v. Pilones, 84 SCRA 167 (1978).

38. TSN, January 11, 1996, p. 8.

39. Id., at 9-10.

40. Id., at 11.

41. TSN, February 8, 1996, p. 14.

42. Id., at 16.

43. Id. at 16-17.

44. Id., at 23.

45. See People v. Maluenda, 288 SCRA 225 (1998).

46. Ibid.

47. See Note 28.

48. See Note 29.

49. See People v. Lagao, Jr., 271 SCRA 51 (1997).

50. See People v. Prado, 254 SCRA 531 (1996); citing, in turn, Robinson v. State, 18 Md. App. 678, 308 A2d 734 (1973).

51. RUPERTO G. MARTIN, Rules of Court of the Philippines, Volume V, 1998 ed., p. 655 citing Bowie v. State, 185 Ark. 834, 4d S.W. (2d) 1049, 83 A.L.R.

52. Exh. "A."cralaw virtua1aw library

53. Exh. "B."cralaw virtua1aw library

54. Exh. "C."cralaw virtua1aw library

55. Exh. "E."cralaw virtua1aw library

56. People v. Mahinay, supra, citing Vice Chancellor Van Fleet of New Jersey as cited in Daggers v. Van Dyck, 37 N. J. Eq., 130, 132; see also People v. Cara, 283 SCRA 96.

57. Three members of the court maintain their position that Republic Act No. 7659 is unconstitutional insofar as it prescribes the death penalty. Nevertheless, they submit to the ruling of the majority that the law is constitutional and the death penalty can be lawfully applied in the case at bar.

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