G.R. No. 109775 November 14, 1996
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
JOSE ENCARNACION MALIMIT alias "MANOLO", accused-appellant.
Appellant Jose Encarnacion Malimit, charged with 1 and convicted of the special complex crime of robbery with homicide, 2 was meted by the trial court 3
the penalty of reclusion perpetua. He was also ordered to indemnify the heirs of Onofre Malaki the sum of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to pay the cost. 4
In this appeal, appellant asks for his acquittal alleging that the trial court committed the following errors, to wit:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE UNRELIABLE TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES ON THEIR ALLEGED IDENTIFICATION OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT AS THE PERPETRATOR OF THE CRIME DESPITE THE FACT (SIC) THEY REVEALED THEIR ALLEGED "KNOWLEDGE" OF TH6E CRIME MORE THAN FIVE MONTHS AFTER THE INCIDENT.
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING AS EVIDENCE THE WALLET AND ITS CONTENTS ALTHOUGH THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH LEAD TO ITS PRODUCTION WAS OBTAINED IN VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED.
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT DESPITE FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION TO PROVE HIS GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT. 5
The following is the recital of facts as summarized by the appellee in its Brief, and duly supported by the evidence on record:
On April 15, 1991, around 8:00 o'clock in the evening, [Onofre] Malaki was attending to his store. Malaki's houseboy Edilberto Batin, on the other hand, was busy cooking chicken for supper at the kitchen located at the back of the store (TSN, June 19, 199 (sic), p. 14).
Soon thereafter, Florencio Rondon, a farmer, arrived at the store of Malaki. Rondon was to purchase chemical for his rice farm (TSN, May 22, 1992, p. 19). Rondon came from his house, approximately one hundred and fifty (150) meters distant from Malaki's store (Ibid., p. 24).
Meanwhile, Batin had just finished cooking and from the kitchen, he proceeded directly to the store to ask his employer (Malaki) if supper is to be prepared. As Batin stepped inside the store, he was taken aback when he saw appellant coming out of the store with a bolo (TSN, June 9, 1992, p. 14), while his boss, bathed in his own blood, was sprawled on the floor "struggling for his life" (hovering between life and death) (Ibid.).
Rondon, who was outside and barely five (5) meters away from the store, also saw appellant Jose Malimit (or "Manolo") rushing out through the front door of Malaki's store with a blood-stained bolo (TSN, May 22, 1992, p. 29). Aided by the illumination coming from a pressure lamp ("petromax") inside the store, Rondon clearly recognized Malimit (Ibid., p. 22).
Batin immediately went out of the store to seek help. Outside the store, he met Rondon (TSN, June 9, 1992, p. 15). After a brief conversation, both Batin and Rondon rushed to the nearby house of Malaki's brother-in-law Eutiquio Beloy and informed Beloy of the tragic incident which befell Malaki. Batin, along with Beloy, went back to the store. Inside, they saw the lifeless body of Malaki in a pool of blood lying prostrate at the floor. Beloy readily noticed that the store's drawer was opened and ransacked and the wallet of Malaki was missing from his pocket (Ibid., pp. 16-17). 6
In his first assignment of error, appellant questions the credibility of prosecution witnesses Florencio Rondon and Edilberto Batin by pointing out their alleged delay in revealing what they knew about the incident. He posits that while the crime took place on April 15, 1991, it was only on September 17, 1991 when these witnesses tagged him as the culprit.
We find these contentions bereft of merit. Appellant haphazardly concluded that Rondon and Batin implicated the appellant to this gruesome crime only on September 17, 1991. The aforementioned date however, was merely the date 7 when Rondon and Batin executed their respective affidavits, 8 narrating that they saw the appellant on the night of April 15, 1991 carrying a bolo stained with blood and rushing out of Malaki's store. As to appellant's claim of delay, suffice it to state that extant from the records are ample testimonial evidence negating appellant's protestation, to wit: (1) after having discovered the commission of the crime, Rondon and Batin immediately looked for Eutiquio Beloy, Malaki's brother-in-law, and informed him that appellant was the only person they saw running away from the crime scene; 9 (2) Beloy and Batin reported the crime with the CAFGU detachment in their barangay where Batin declared that it was appellant who robbed Malaki on that fateful night; 10 and (3) Batin again made a similar statement later at the Silago Police Station.11
Next, appellant derided the non-presentation by the prosecution of the police blotter which could prove if appellant was indeed implicated right away by Batin to the crime.12 We do not believe, however, that it was necessary for the prosecution to present as evidence a copy of the aforementioned police blotter. Neither was its non-presentation in court fatal to the prosecution's case. Entries in the police blotter are merely corroborative evidence of the uncontroverted testimony of Batin that he identified the appellant as the perpetrator of the crime before the Silago police. As such, its presentation as evidence is not indispensable. 13 Besides, if appellant believed that he was not identified therein, then he should have secured a copy thereof from the Silago Police Station and utilized the same as controverting evidence to impeach Batin's credibility as witness. 14 Having failed to do so, appellant cannot now pass the blame on the prosecution for something which appellant himself should have done.
Even assuming arguendo that Rondon and Batin identified the appellant only on September 15, 1991, or after the lapse of five months from commission of the crime, this fact alone does not render their testimony less credible. The non-disclosure by the witness to the police officers of appellant's identity immediately after the occurrence of the crime is not entirely against human experience. 15 In fact the natural reticence of most people to get involved in criminal prosecutions against immediate neighbors, as in this case, 16 is of judicial notice. 17 At any rate, the consistent teaching of our jurisprudence is that the findings of the trial court with regard to the credibility of witnesses are given weight and the highest degree of respect by the appellate court. 18 This is the established rule of evidence, as the matter of assigning values to the testimony of witnesses is a function best performed by the trial court which can weigh said testimony in the light of the witness" demeanor, conduct and attitude at the
trial. 19 And although the rule admits of certain exceptions, namely: (1) when patent inconsistencies in the statements of witnesses are ignored by the trial court, or (2) when the conclusions arrived at are clearly unsupported by the evidence, 20 we found none in this case.
In his second assignment of error, appellant asseverates that the admission as evidence of Malaki's wallet 21 together with its contents, viz., (1) Malaki's residence certificate; 22 (2) his identification card;23 and (3) bunch of keys, 24 violates his right against self-incrimination. 25 Likewise, appellant sought for their exclusion because during the custodial investigation, wherein he pointed to the investigating policemen the place where he hid Malaki's wallet, he was not informed of his constitutional rights.
We are not persuaded. The right against self-incrimination guaranteed under our fundamental law finds no application in this case. This right, as put by Mr. Justice Holmes in Holt vs. United States, 26 ". . . is a prohibition of the use of physical or moral compulsion, to extort communications from him . . ." It is simply a prohibition against legal process to extract from the [accused]'s own lips, against his will, admission of his guilt. 27 It does not apply to the instant case where the evidence sought to be excluded is not an incriminating statement but an object evidence. Wigmore, discussing the question now before us in his treatise on evidence, thus, said:
If, in other words (the rule) created inviolability not only for his [physical control of his] own vocal utterances, but also for his physical control in whatever form exercise, then, it would be possible for a guilty person to shut himself up in his house, with all the tools and indicia of his crime, and defy the authority of the law to employ in evidence anything that might be obtained by forcibly overthrowing his possession and compelling the surrender of the evidential articles — a clear reduction ad absurdum. In other words, it is not merely compulsion that is the kernel of the privilege, . . . but testimonial compulsion 28
Neither are we prepared to order the exclusion of the questioned pieces of evidence pursuant to the provision of the Constitution under Article III, Section 12, viz:
(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 preferably 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.
xxx xxx xxx
(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or Sec. 17 hereof, shall be inadmissible in evidence against him. (Emphasis ours.)
xxx xxx xxx
These are the so-called "Miranda rights" so oftenly disregarded by our men in uniform. However, infractions thereof render inadmissible only the extrajudicial confession or admission made during custodial investigation. The admissibility of other evidence, provided they are relevant to the issue and is not otherwise excluded by law or rules, 29 is not affected even if obtained or taken in the course of custodial investigation. Concededly, appellant was not informed of his right to remain silent and to have his own counsel by the investigating policemen during the custodial investigation. Neither did he execute a written waiver of these rights in accordance with the constitutional prescriptions. Nevertheless, these constitutional short-cuts do not affect the admissibility of Malaki's wallet, identification card, residence certificate and keys for the purpose of establishing other facts relevant to the crime. Thus, the wallet is admissible to establish the fact that it was the very wallet taken from Malaki on the night of the robbery. The identification card, residence certificate and keys found inside the wallet, on the other hand, are admissible to prove that the wallet really belongs to Malaki. Furthermore, even assuming arguendo that these pieces of evidence are inadmissible, the same will not detract from appellant's culpability considering the existence of other evidence and circumstances establishing appellant's identity and guilt as perpetrator of the crime charged.
We, now come to appellant's third assignment of error where he demurs on the prosecution's evidence, contending that they are insufficient to sustain his conviction.
Our close scrutiny of the record reveals otherwise. Time and again, we ruled that there can be a verdict of conviction based on circumstantial evidence when the circumstances proved form an unbroken chain which leads to a fair and reasonable conclusion pinpointing the accused, to the exclusion of all the others, as the perpetrator of the crime. 30 In order that circumstantial evidence may be sufficient to convict, the same must comply with these essential requisites, viz., (a) there is more than one circumstance; (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. 31 In this case, there were at least five (5) circumstances constituting an unbroken chain of events which by their "concordant combination and cumulative effect", satisfy the requirements for the conviction of the appellant, 32 specifically: (1) appellant was seen by Rondon and Batin, whose credibilities were untarnished, holding a bolo in his right hand and rushing out of Malaki's store seconds prior to their discovery of the crime; 33 (2) Malaki sustained multiple stab wounds 34 and he died of "cardiac arrest, secondary to severe external hemorrhage due to multiple stab wounds", 35 (3) witness Elmer Ladica saw the appellant on August 6, 1991, accompanied by some policemen, retrieve Malaki's wallet underneath a stone at the seashore in Barangay Hingatungan; 36 (4) appellant himself admitted in his testimony that on August 6, 1991, he accompanied several policemen to the seashore where he hid Malaki's wallet; 37 and (5) appellant's flight and his subsequent disappearance from Hingatungan immediately after the incident. 38
On the other hand, appellant's version of the story does not inspire belief. He maintains that on that fateful night he was in his house together with his wife. He claims that they had just arrived from a gambling spree allegedly in the house of a certain Maui Petalcorin. Surprisingly, however, the defense did not bother to call appellant's wife to the witness stand to corroborate appellant's alibi. Neither did it present as witness Maui Petalcorin, or any other person who may have seen the appellant in the said place, if only to provide a semblance of truth to this assertion. As the defense of alibi is weak in view of the positive identification of the appellant by the prosecution witnesses, 39 it becomes weaker because of the unexplained failure of the defense to present any corroboration. 40 Furthermore, proof that appellant was in his house when the crime was committed is not enough. Appellant must likewise demonstrate that he could not have been physically present at the place of the crime or in its vicinity, at the time of its commission. 41 In this case, appellant himself admitted that his house was just about eighty (80) meters away from the house of
Malaki. 42 It was, therefore, not impossible for him to have been physically present at the place of the commission of the crime, as in fact, no evidence to negate this possibility was ever adduced by him at the trial.
Appellant's insistence that he merely found Malaki's wallet by chance while gathering shells along the seashore, and that he feared being implicated in the crime for which reason he hid the wallet underneath a stone, hardly inspires belief. We are at a loss, just as the trial court was, as to why appellant should fear being implicated in the crime if indeed he merely found Malaki's wallet by chance. No inference can be drawn from appellant's purported apprehension other than the logical conclusion that appellant had knowledge of the crime. Besides, proof that appellant is in possession of a stolen property gives rise to a valid presumption that he stole the same. 43
In fine, as the killing of Malaki took place on the occasion of robbery, appellant was correctly convicted by the trial court of the special complex crime of robbery with homicide, defined and penalized under Article 294, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code.
WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment of conviction is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
Narvasa, C.J., Davide, Jr., Melo and Panganiban, JJ., concur.
1 Information dated 28 November 1991; Record, p. 10.
2 Punishable under Article 294 (1), Revised Penal Code.
3 Regional Trial Court, Southern Leyte, Branch 26.
4 RTC decision dated 18 January 1993; Rollo, pp. 57-67.
5 Rollo, p. 44.
6 Rollo, pp. 79-81.
7 Exhibit "2-B", Bill of Exhibition, p. 5; Exhibit "3-B", Bill of Exhibits, p. 6.
8 Exhibit "2", Bill of Exhibition, p. 5; Exhibit "3", Bill of Exhibits, p. 6.
9 TSN, Eutiquio Beloy, May 22, 1992, p. 10.
10 TSN, Edilberto Batin, June 9, 1992, p. 19.
11 Id., pp. 20-21.
12 Brief for the Appellant, p. 8; Rollo, p. 51.
13 See People v. Comia, 236 SCRA 185 (1994); See also People v. Watson, 278 Ala. 425, 178 So. 2d 819, 821 (1965).
14 Rules of Court, Rule 132, Section 11. Impeachment of the adverse party's
witness. — A witness may be impeached by the party against whom he was called, by contradictory evidence, by evidence that his general reputation for truth, honesty or integrity is bad, or by evidence that he has made at some other times statements inconsistent with his present testimony, but not by evidence of particular wrongful acts, except that it may be shown by the examination of the witness, or the record of the judgment, that he has been convicted of an offense. (Emphasis ours)
15 People v. Pacabes, 137 SCRA 158 (1985); See also People v. Danico, 208 SCRA 472 (1992), and People v. Caraig, 202 SCRA 357 (1991).
16 The house of Malaki is just 80 meters away from appellant's house; while the house of witness Rondon is 150 meters away from Malaki's house.
17 People v. Rubio, G.R. No. 118315, June 20, 1996; People v. Sabellono, 198 SCRA 196 (1991); People v. Caraig, 202 SCRA 357 (1991).
18 People v. Bondoc, 232 SCRA 478 (1994); People v. Nimo, 227 SCRA 69 (1993); People v. de la Cruz, 217 SCRA 283 (1993); People v. Dominguez, 217 SCRA 170 (1993); People v. Caraig, 202 SCRA 357 (1991); People v. Sarol, 139 SCRA 125 (1985).
19 See People v. Bondoc, 232 SCRA 478 (1994); People v. Ocampo, 226 SCRA 1 (1993); People v. Juma, 220 SCRA 432 (1993); People v. Bañez, 214 SCRA 109 (1992) citing People v. Abrogar, 73 SCRA 466 (1979).
20 See People v. Gumahin, 21 SCRA 729 (1967); People v. Secapuri, et. al., 16 SCRA 199 (1966).
21 Exhibit "A".
22 Exhibit "A-1".
23 Exhibit "A-2".
24 Exhibit "A-3".
25 Constitution, Article 111, Sec. 17. No person shall be compelled to be a witness again himself.
26 218 U.S. 245.
27 U.S. v. Tan Teng, 23 Phil. 145, 152.
28 4 Wig more 2263
29 Rule 128, Sec. 3, Revised Rules of Court.
30 People v. Adriano, 226 SCRA 131, 135 (1993), citing People v. Galendez, 210 SCRA 360 (1992); See People v. Alvero. Jr., 224 SCRA 16 (1993); People v. Briones, 219 SCRA 134 (1993); People v. Ocampo, 218 SCRA 609 (1993); People v. Tiozon, 198 SCRA 368 (1991); People v. Ganohon, 196 SCRA 431 (1991); People v. Subano, 73 Phil. 692 (1942).
31 Section 4, Rule 133, Revised Rules of Court.
32 People v. Alvero, Jr., 224 SCRA 16, 28 (1993).
33 TSN, Edilberto Batin, June 9, 1992, pp. 15, 18, 23; TSN, Florencio Rondon, May 22, 1992, pp. 20-22, 31.
34 Exhibit "C-1", Bill of Exhibits, p. 3.
35 Exhibit "B-1", Bill of Exhibits, p. 1; See also Exhibit "C", Bill of Exhibits, p 3.
36 TSN, Elmer Ladica, June 9, 1992, pp. 4-5.
37 TSN, Jose Malimit, September 23, 1992, p. 8-9.
38 TSN, Florencio Rondon, May 22, 1992, p. 22; TSN, Edilberto Batin, June 9, 1992, p. 22.
39 People v. John Jenn Porras, G.R. No. 114263-64, March 29, 1996; People v. Miranday, 242 SCRA 620 (1995), citing People v. Claudio, 216 SCRA 647 (1992); People v. Cabuang, 217 SCRA 675 (1993).
40 People v. Malonzo, 212 SCRA 85 (1992); People v. Paciente, 210 SCRA 87 (1992); See People v. Lazo, 198 SCRA 274 (1991).
41 People v. John Jenn Porras and Sergio Emelo, G.R. 114263-64, March 29, 1996; People v. Manero, Jr., 218 SCRA 89 (1993), citing People v. Pugal, 215 SCRA 247 (1992).
42 TSN, Jose Malimit, July 2, 1992, p. 10.
43 People v. Alhambra, 233 SCRA 604, 613 (1994).
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