G.R. No. 212186, June 29, 2016
ARIEL LOPEZ, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
To sustain a conviction for cattle-rustling, the identity of the stolen cattle must be proven with certainty. Otherwise, the accused must be acquitted on the ground of reasonable doubt.
Further, a "request for appearance" issued by law enforcers to a person identified as a suspect is akin to an "invitation." Thus, the suspect is covered by the rights of an accused while under custodial investigation. Any admission obtained from the "request for appearance" without the assistance of counsel is inadmissible in evidence.
Petitioner Ariel Lopez (Lopez) was charged with violation of Presidential Decree No. 533.1 The accusatory portion of the Information reads:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
That on or about July 17, 2002, in the City of Davao, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-mentioned accused, with intent to gain with grave abuse of confidence and without the knowledge and consent of the complainant, wilfully, unlawfully, and feloniously took, stole and carried away one (1) female carabao valued at Five Thousand (P5,000.00) Pesos, more or less, belonging to Teresita D. Perez, to the latter's damage and prejudice in the aforesaid amount.Lopez pleaded not guilty during his arraignment.3chanrobleslaw
CONTRARY TO LAW.2 (Emphasis in the original)
In view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered finding Ariel Lopez GUILTY of the crime charged. He is hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of from TEN (10) years and ONE (1) day of prision mayor maximum to FOURTEEN (14) years, EIGHT (8) months and ONE (1) day of reclusion temporal medium.Lopez filed before the Court of Appeals an appeal arguing that the prosecution was unable to prove that the carabao allegedly stolen was the same carabao owned by Mario and Teresita Perez.35 He argued that the "request for appearance . . . issued by PO3 Lozarito was in violation of his custodial rights."36chanrobleslaw
He is likewise ordered to pay Mario and Teresita Perez the sum of FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (P5,000.00) representing the value of the stolen carabao.
SO ORDERED.34 (Emphasis in the original)
WHEREFORE, the decision of the RTC is hereby AFFIRMED, with the modification that appellant Ariel G. Lopez is hereby SENTENCED to suffer an indeterminate prison term of four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day of prision correccional maximum, as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal medium, as maximum.Lopez moved for reconsideration,44 but the Motion was denied in the Resolution dated March 6, 2014.45chanrobleslaw
SO ORDERED.43 (Emphasis in the original)
Petitioner argues that Alderete's doubt shows that he was unsure who owned the carabao.56chanrobleslaw
Q: And, specifically, what Felix did say [sic] with respect to his participation in the alleged carabao theft? What did he say? A: He was doubtful if it was really theft, that he will not report to the other people because it was with me that he was comfortable with.55 (Emphasis in the original)
the practice of issuing an "invitation" to a person who is investigated in connection with an offense he is suspected to have committed, without prejudice to the liability of the "inviting" officer for any violation of law. And any uncounselled confession or admission obtained by the accused on such occasion shall be inadmissible against him.69chanroblesvirtuallawlibraryOn the other hand, respondent cites Perez's testimony and argues that it established ownership over the carabao:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Respondent cites Alderete's testimony stating that there were no other carabaos tied in the area and that the lost carabao was a "big female carabao with big horns."71 Respondent claims that the Certificate of Transfer of Large Cattle; is sufficient to prove that Mario and Teresita Perez owned the lost carabao.72chanrobleslaw
Q: You said the carabao was lost. How was it lost? A: Ariel Lopez untied the rope tied at the coconut tree. Q: When was it that this carabao was discovered to be lost? A: At 5:00 a.m. on July 17, 2002. Q: Who was the person who discovered that the carabao was lost at 5:00 a.m. on July 17, 2002? A: Me. Q: At what place? A: There where the carabao was tied at the coconut tree. . . . . Q: Who tied the carabao to the tree? A: Me, sir.70 (Emphasis supplied)
However, there are instances when this Court allows questions of fact in a Rule 45 petition for review. These instances include the following:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
APPEAL BY CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT
SECTION 1. Filing of petition with Supreme Court. — A party desiring to appeal by certiorari from a judgment or final order or resolution of the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, the Court of Tax Appeals, the Regional Trial Court or other courts whenever authorized by law, may file with the Supreme Court a verified petition for review on certiorari. The petition may include an application for a writ of preliminary injunction or other provisional remedies and shall raise only questions of law, which must be distinctly set forth. The petitioner may seek the same provisional remedies by verified motion filed in the same action or proceeding at any time during its pendency.
(1) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (2) when the findings are ground&d on speculations; (3) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken; (4) when the judgment of the Court of Appeals is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) when the factual findings are conflicting; (6) when the Court of Appeals went beyond the issues of the case and its findings are contrary to the admissions of the parties; (7) when the Court of Appeals overlooked undisputed facts which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion; (8) when the findings of the Court of Appeals are contrary to those of the trial court; (9) when the facts set forth by the petitioner are not disputed by the respondent; and (10) when the findings of the Court of Appeals are premised on the absence of evidence and are contradicted by the evidence on record.76chanroblesvirtuallawlibraryThere is a question of law "when there is doubt as to what the law is on a certain state of facts"77 and there is a question of fact "when the doubt arises as to the truth or falsity of the alleged facts."78chanrobleslaw
Section 2. Definition of terms - The following terms shall mean and be understood to be as herein defined:The elements of cattle-rustling are:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary. . . .
c. Cattle rustling is the taking away by any means, method or scheme, without the consent of the owner/raiser, of any of the abovementioned animals whether or not for profit or gain, whether committed with or without violence against or intimidation of any person or force upon things. It includes the killing of large cattle, or taking the meat or hide without the consent of the owner/raiser.
(1) large cattle is taken; (2) it belongs to another; (3) the taking is done without the consent of the owner or raiser; (4) the taking is done by any means, method or scheme; (5) the taking is done with or without intent to gain; and (6) the taking is accomplished with or without violence or intimidation against persons or force upon things.80chanroblesvirtuallawlibraryNot all of the elements of cattle-rustling were proven by the prosecution. The carabao transported by petitioner and Alderete was not sufficiently proven to be the same carabao owned by Mario and Teresita Perez.
Alderete's description of the carabao is too generic. Alderete did not mention any distinguishing mark on the carabao that petitioner allegedly stole. In other cases involving cattle-rustling, the identity of the stolen cattle was proven with certainty because of distinguishing marks on the cattle.
Q: Now it says here, that first art, (sic) "The next day, I heard rumors that the carabao with the same description as the carabao we got the night before, allegedly owned by Mrs. Teresita Perez was stolen, after confirming that it was the same carabao we delivered to Boy Platan, (sic) I immediately went to Montal." Why do you say and why do you confirm that the carabao that you got that early morning of July 17 was also the same carabao that belonged to the private complainant in this case? A: Because there were no other carabaos tied there. It was only a big carabao, the mother, and offspring of the carabao. Q: Now, are you saying that in that place of Genosas, there was other carabao other than the one you and Lopez took? . . . . Q: And besides that, why do you say it is the same carabao meaning, (sic) the one you and Lopez took, being owned by the complainant? (sic) A: Because the carabao we brought to Malagos was big female carabao with big horns. Q: And the carabao belonging to the private complainant, how do you describe it? A: It is her carabao because I went to the place where the carabao was tied and it was the same place where it was lost.81
In this case, the so-called "request for appearance" is no different from the "invitation" issued by police officers for custodial investigation.
Q: Sometime in the month of July 2002, have you come across with [sic] a reported theft of large cattle? A: Yes, sir. Q: And what did you list from that report? A: It was told to me by the Desk Officer, sir, that a theft of large cattle was reported and the complainant is seeking assistance. Q: And since the complainant sought assistance from the police, what did the Baguio Police District do to the request of the complainant? A: So, she identified the alleged suspect so I told my partner to issue a request from [sic] appearance so that the suspect will be confronted in the police station. Q: You said that you told your partner to invite the accused, what was that phrase again? A: Request for appearance. Q: You said that you asked your partner to issue request for appearance, do you know what happened to that request for appearance? A: It was sent by us sir, and the alleged accused appeared to [sic] our police station.99
SEC. 2. Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or under Custodial Investigation; Duties of Public Officers. -Custodial investigation has also been defined as:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
. . . .
As used in this Act, "custodial investigation" shall include the practice of issuing an "invitation" to a person who is investigated in connection with an offense he is suspected to have committed, without prejudice to the liability of the "inviting" officer for any violation of law.
Custodial investigation commences when a person is taken into custody and is singled out as a suspect in the commission of a crime under investigation and the police officers begin to ask questions on the suspect's participation therein and which tend to elicit an admission.101chanroblesvirtuallawlibraryThe circumstances surrounding petitioner's appearance before the police station falls within the definition of custodial investigation. Petitioner was identified as a suspect in the theft of large cattle. Thus, when the request for appearance was issued, he was already singled out as the probable culprit.
The Daily Record of Events of the Philippine National Police likewise states that:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Q: You said that Ariel Lopez appeared in the police station, do you know what if anything transpired thereat between Ariel Lopez and Teresita Perez? . . . . A: No agreement. They will not enter an amicable settlement and the price. Q: They were just arguing on the price but with respect to other matters, there was no conflict? A: No conflict.106
[T]he persons of Ariel LOPEZ, Teresita Pere[z], and Mario Pere[z] appear to this station for confrontation and settlement for theift (sic) of large cattle (carabao), herein Ariel Lopez while at this office voluntarily admitted his fault. . . . After lengthly (sic) confrontation no settlement was reach[ed] between both parties[.]107chanroblesvirtuallawlibraryHence, PO3 Lozarito's statement on what transpired between petitioner and Mario and Teresita Perez are inadmissible for being hearsay.
It is a basic rule in evidence that a witness can testify only on the facts that he knows of his own personal knowledge, i.e., those which are derived from his own perception. A witness may not testify on what he merely learned, read or heard from others because such testimony is considered hearsay and may not be received as proof of the truth of what he has learned, read or heard. Hearsay evidence is evidence, not of what the witness knows himself but, of what he has heard from others; it is not only limited to oral testimony or statements but likewise applies to written statements, such as affidavits.108 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)PO3 Lozarito testified that he "let Teresita and [Lopez] confront each other."109 He most likely overheard the conversation between Teresita and petitioner. Thus, he had no personal knowledge of what the parties had discussed.
1 Anti-Cattle Rustling Law of 1974 (1974).
2Rollo, p. 34, Court of Appeals Decision.
4 Id. at 16-17, Petition.
5 Id. at 17.
6 Id. at 40, Court of Appeals Decision.
7 Id. at 17.
20 Id. at 17-18.
21 Id. at 88, Regional Trial Court Sentence.
23 Id. at 18, Petition.
24 Id. at 88.
28 Id. at 18.
30 Id. at 86-90. The Sentence, promulgated on March 18, 2009, was penned by Judge Virginia Hofileña-Europa, Presiding Judge of Branch 11, Regional Trial Court of Davao City.
31 Id. at 88-89.
32 Id. at 88.
33 Id. at 89.
35 Id. at 39.
36 Id. at 44.
37 Id. at 33-49. The appeal, docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 00673-MIN, was decided on August 12, 2013. The Decision was penned by Associate Justice Renato C. Francisco and was concurred in by Associate Justices Romulo V. Borja and Oscar V. Badelles of the Twenty-First Division, Court of Appeals, Cagayan de Oro City.
38 Id. at 39-41.
39 Id. at 44.
41 Id. at 44-45.
42 Id. at 47-48.
43 Id. at 48-49.
44 Id. at 50-55.
45 Id. at 57-62. The Resolution was penned by Associate Justice Renato C. Francisco and was concurred in by Associate Justices Romulo V. Borja and Oscar V. Badelles of the Twenty-First Division, Court of Appeals, Cagayan de Oro City.
46 Id. at 13-27.
47 Id. at 123.
48 Id. at 156-176.
49 Id. at 177.
50 Id. at 184-187.
51 Id. at 184.
52 Id. at 21.
53 Id. at 22.
59 Id. at 22-23.
60 Id. at 23.
61 Id. at 23-24.
62 Id. at 24.
64 Id. at 23.
67 Id. at 25.
69 Id. at 26.
70 Id. at 163.
71 Id. at 164.
72 Id. at 165.
73 Id. at 166.
74 Id. at 167.
75 Id. at 171-172.
76Benito v. People, G.R. No. 204644, February 11, 2015, 750 SCRA 450, 459-460 [Per J. Leonen, Second Division], citing Pagsibigan v. People, 606 Phil. 233, 241-242 (2009) [Per J. Carpio, First Division].
77Tongonan Holdings and Dev't Corp. v. Atty. Escaño, Jr., 672 Phil. 747, 756 (2011) [Per J. Mendoza, Third Division], citing Republic of the Philippines v. Malabanan, 646 Phil. 631 (2010) [Per J. Villarama, Jr., Third Division].
79Rollo, pp. 19-20.
80Ernesto Pil-Ey v. People of the Philippines, 553 Phil. 747, 755 (2007) [Per J. Nachura, Third Division].
81Rollo, p. 21.
82 553 Phil. 747 (2007) [Per J. Nachura, Third Division].
83 Id. at 750.
84 405 Phil. 726 (2001) [Per J. Mendoza, Second Division].
85 Id. at 733.
87Rollo, p. 35.
88 Id. at 22.
89 Id. at 23.
92 See People v Pareja, G.R. No. 202122, January 15, 2014, 714 SCRA 131 [Per J. Leonardo-De Castro, First Division].
93Rollo, p. 23.
95 Id. at 23-24.
98 Id. at 44.
99 Id. at 25-26.
100 An Act Defining Certain Rights of Person Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation as well as the Duties of the Arresting, Detaining and Investigating Officers and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof (1992).
101People v. Guting, G.R. No. 205412, September 9, 2015 <http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/pdf/web/viewer.html?file=/jurisprudence/2015/september2015/205412.pdf> 5 [Per J. Leonardo-De Castro, First Division].
102Rollo, p. 17.
103 G.R. No. 207950, September 22, 2014, 735 SCRA 728 [Per J. Leonen, Second Division].
104 Id. at 750.
106Rollo, p. 44.
107 Id. at 45.
108Miro v. Vda. de Erederos, G.R. Nos. 172532 & 172544-45, November 20, 2013, 710 SCRA 371, 390 [Per J, Brion. Second Division].
109Rollo, p. 17.
110 G.R. No. 195850, February 16, 2015, 750 SCRA 572, 580-581 [Per J. Del Castillo, Second Division].
111 Id. See also People v. Chi Chan Liu, G.R. No. 189272, January 21, 2015, 746 SCRA 476 [Per J. Peralta, Third Division].