Philippine Supreme Court Resolutions


Philippine Supreme Court Resolutions > Year 2008 > March 2008 Resolutions > [G.R.No. 176268 : March 10, 2008] PEOPLE V. GERONIMO SALVADOR A.K.A. "PATE":




SECOND DIVISION

[G.R.No. 176268 : March 10, 2008]

PEOPLE V. GERONIMO SALVADOR A.K.A. "PATE"

Sirs/Mesdames:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Courtdated 10 March 2008:

G.R.No. 176268.(People v. Geronimo Salvador a.k.a. "Pate")

This case was elevated to this Court by the Court of Appeals (CA) via a Resolution dated October 30, 2006 issued pursuant to Sec. 3, par. (c), in relation to par. (a) of Rule 122 of the Rules of Court, and in line with the ruling in People v. Mateo.[1] It was originally docketed in this Court as G.R. No. 150038, but was nevertheless remanded to the CA per this Court's Resolution dated October 6, 2004 in the light of Mateo, and considering the factual issues that needed to be resolved. The case was redocketed as CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00646.

As found by the CA, on September 19, 1996, at around 7:00 in the morning, Arsenia Aggabao and her brother, Fenando Perez, were on their way to her sack-dealing store located along Maharlika Highway, Cabanatuan City. After dropping off Aggabao at her store, Perez walked to his mechanic's shop located a mere two houses away. While on his way towards his shop, Perez spotted William Bernaga and accused-appellant Geronimo Salvador on board a blue, Suzuki X-3 motorcycle, waiting approximately 12 meters away from Aggabao's store. Aggabao was at this point opening her store. Seconds later, the sounds of two gun shots were heard. At that precise moment, Perez, who was almost at his shop, turned around and look in the direction of Aggabao's store. He saw Bernaga shoot Aggabao. He also witnessed how Bernaga grabbed Aggabao's hand bag, and fled on board the motorcycle driven by accused-appellant. From where Perez stood, the motorcycle used by Bernaga and accused-appellant was only about seven meters away.

Witness Antonio Yanga, a helper of a store directly across Aggabao's store, testified that at around 6:30 in the morning on the same day, he noticed Bernaga and accused-appellant outside the victim's store. Upon Aggabao's arrival 30 minutes later to open her store, Bernaga approached and tried to grab her bag. Aggabao, however, tried to fight back, prompting Bernaga to fire at her, take the bag, and board the waiting motorcycle driven by accused-appellant. The perpetrators then hurriedly left the area.

Another witness, Reynaldo Payumo, was the driver of a certain former mayor, Liwag. He testified that on September 19,1996, at around 7:00 a.m., while driving Mayor Liwag's truck to buy gasoline, he stopped in front of Aggabao's store while waiting for the traffic to ease. Suddenly, he continued, and a blue, Suzuki X-3 motorcycle crossed his path, stopped, and blocked his truck. From a distance of about four meters, Payumo saw Bernaga grab Aggabao's bag, and shoot her when she tried to resist. After the shooting incident, Bernaga immediately boarded the waiting motorcycle driven by accused-appellant. And as traffic has then improved, Payumo quickly gave chase while shouting at passersby, "May binaril 'yanl Harangin ninyo, harangin ninyo!" (He shot somebody! Block his way!), hoping, according to him, to find a police officer along the street, but none was around. He was unable to catch up with the motorcycle.

Another witness, Police Senior Inspector Gregorio de Leon testified that, on September 19, 1996, while acting as the officer on duty at the Cabanatuan City Police Station, he received a report regarding the Aggabao incident. In the course of his investigation, Bernaga's name surfaced whereupon he immediately proceeded to Bernaga's residence and there he was able to secure a picture of Bernaga from the latter's neighbors. When shown of Bernaga's picture, Aggabao's brother, Perez, readily identified Bernaga as the gunman who forcibly took Aggabao's bag. De Leon would later show Perez of a picture of accused-appellant, and he (Perez) would point to the man in the picture as the one driving the motorcycle. As de Leon further related, he later questioned Bernaga's wife and learned that at around 6:00 a.m. on September 19, 1996, accused-appellant fetched Bernaga at their conjugal residence. De Leon was able to locate accused-appellant's address where he met accused-appellant's mother only to be informed that accused-appellant no longer lived there. Finally, de Leon testified discovering that the motorcycle in question was owned by a certain Ricardo Escalicas, who, when queried, admitted that accused-appellant borrowed his motorcycle at 5:00 am on September 19, 1996.

An Information was thereafter filed against accused-appellant and Bernaga before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 27 in Cabanatuan City, charging them of Robbery with Homicide. The Information reads:
That on or about the 19th day of September 1996, in the City of Cabanatuan, Republic of the Philippines and within the jurisdiction of [the RTC], the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually aiding and abetting with one another, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously by means of violence, with intent of gain and against the will of the owner thereof, take, steal and carry away a handbag containing an undetermined cash money from ARSENIA AGGABAO and that on the occasion of the said robbery and for the purpose of enabling them to take, steal and carry away the personal properties above-mentioned, the herein accused in pursuance of their conspiracy, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously and with evident premeditation and taking advantage of their superior strength, and with intent to kill, attack, assault and use personal violence upon the person of ARSENIA AGGABAO with the use of a handgun and inflicted upon said person physical injuries which caused her instantaneous death.[2]
Upon arraignment, accused-appellant entered a plea of not guilty. Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued. Bernaga was not included in the trial as he was serving sentence at the National Penitentiary for another offense.[3]

On March 6, 2001, the RTC rendered its Decision,[4] the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, the Court finds [accused-appellant], beyond reasonable doubt, GUILTY of Robbery with homicide, there being no aggravating nor mitigating circumstance, he is hereby condemned to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of reclusion perpetua.

[Accused-appellant] is likewise ordered to pay the heirs of the victim the amount of [PhP 50,000] as civil indemnity for the death of Arsenia Aggabao in line with current jurisprudence.

SO ORDERED.
On September 27, 2006, the CA promulgated its Decision,[5] affirming the RTC's ruling but modified the same insofar as pecuniary awards made were concerned.

Unsatisfied with the ruling of the CA, accused-appellant has interposed this appeal. We adopt the lone assignment of error raised by accused-appellant before the CA:
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY OF THE CRIME OF ROBBERY WITH HOMICIDE DESPITE THE FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION TO PROVE HIS GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.[6]
Considering the evidence extant on record, the instant appeal must be dismissed.

We shall explain.

Accused-appellant's defenses are best summed up as alibi and denial. He tried to show being at another place at the time of the commission of the offense, and that it was physically impossible for him to be present at the scene of the crime. However, the place referred to by accused-appellant where he was supposed to be at the time of the commission of the offense, a public market, was a mere 1.5 kilometers from the place where Aggabao was killed and was readily accessible via motorcycle in a matter of minutes. Denial and alibi cannot overcome the positive testimony of a credible witness. To merit credibility, alibi must be buttressed by strong evidence of non-culpability and the accused must be able to provide clear and convincing evidence that it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime when it was being committed.[7] In this case, at least three (3) credible witnesses testified in clear and convincing detail as to the commission of the crime and accused-appellant's participation therein, which proved his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Accused-appellant also disputed the finding of conspiracy between him and Bernaga. Though conspiracy must be proven with proof beyond reasonable doubt, it need not be proven with direct evidence. It may be shown through circumstantial evidence, deduced from the mode and manner in which the offense was perpetrated, or inferred from the acts of the accused pointing to a joint purpose and design, a concerted action, and a community of interest.[8]

The circumstances showing the existence of conspiracy in this case are the following: (1) accused-appellant borrowed the motorcycle used in the crime at around 5:00 in the morning on September 19, 1996; (2) his presence near the victim's store at 6:30 a.m. prior to the robbery; (3) his having driven the get-away motorcycle; (4) accused-appellant was clearly waiting for Bernaga who boarded the motorcycle driven by accused-appellant after shooting the victim and taking the hand bag; and (5) accused-appellant was fleeing the scene with Bernaga as attested to by the witnesses for the prosecution. Therefore, there is no doubt as to the existence of conspiracy between accused-appellant and his co-accused.

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. The Decision dated September 27, 2006 of the CA in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00646 is AFFIRMED. Costs against accused-appellant.

SO ORDERED.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) LUBICHI YASAY-NUNAG
Clerk of Court

Endnotes:


[1] G.R. Nos. 147678-87, July 7, 2004,433 SCRA 640.

[2] CA rollo, p. 8.

[3] Rollo, p. 6.

[4] CA rollo, pp. 26-44. Penned by Presiding Judge Feliciano V. Buenaventura.

[5] Rollo, pp. 4-26. Penned by Associate Justice Ramon R. Garcia and concurred in by Associate Justices Rebecca De Guia-Salvador (Chairperson) and Magdangal M. De Leon.

[6] CA rollo, p. 88.

[7] People v. Visperas, G.R. No. 147315, January 13, 2003, 395 SCRA 128,136-137. s People v. Caraig, G.R. Nos. 116224-27, March 28, 2003,400 SCRA 67, 80.



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