Claridad vs Esteban (G.R. No. 191567 March 20, 2013)

Callo-Claridad vs Esteban
G.R. No. 191567 March 20, 2013

Facts: Around 5:30 p.m. of February 27, 2007, Chase returned home from visiting his girlfriend, Ramonna Liza “Monnel” Hernandez. Around 7:00 p.m., Chase’s sister Ariane was sitting at the porch of their house when she noticed a white Honda Civic car parked along the street. Recognizing the driver to be Philip, Ariane waved her hand at him. Philip appeared nonchalant and did not acknowledge her gesture. Ariane decided to stay behind and leave with their house helpers, Marivic Guray and Michelle Corpus, only after Chase had left on board the white Honda Civic car. Marivic Rodriguez, a house helper of Shellane Yukoko, the resident of No. 9 Cedar Place, Ferndale Homes, was with her co-employee nanny Jennylyn Buri and the latter’s ward, Joei Yukoko, when they heard somebody crying coming from the crime scene: Help! Help! This was at about 7:30 p.m. Even so, neither of them bothered to check who had been crying for help. It was noted, however, that No. 10 Cedar Place, which was owned by one Mrs. Howard, was uninhabited at the time. Based on the initial investigation report of the Megaforce Security and Allied Services, Inc., the Estebans were illegally parking their cars at Mrs. Howard’s carport. The initial investigation report stated that the SGs would regularly remind the Estebans to use their own parking garage, which reminders had resulted in heated discussions and altercations. The SGs kept records of all the illegal parking incidents, and maintained that only the Estebans used the carport of No. 10 Cedar Place. Around 7:45 p.m., respondent Teodora Alyn Esteban (Teodora) arrived at Ferndale Homes on board a vehicle bearing plate XPN 733, as recorded in the subdivision SG’s logbook. At that time, three cars were parked at the carport of No. 10 Cedar place, to wit: a Honda CRV with plate ZAE 135 parked parallel to the Honda Civic with plate CRD 999, and another Honda Civic with plate JTG 333, the car frequently used by Philip, then parked diagonally behind the two cars. Some witnesses alleged that prior to the discovery of the Chase’s body, they had noticed a male and female inside the car bearing plate JTG 333 engaged in a discussion. At around 7:50 p.m., SG Abelardo Sarmiento Jr., while patrolling around the village, noticed that the side of the Honda Civic with plate JTG 333 had red streaks, which prompted him to move towards the parked cars. He inspected the then empty vehicle and noticed that its radio was still turned on. He checked the cars and discovered that the rear and side of the Honda Civic with plate CRD 999 were smeared with blood. He saw on the passenger seat a cellular phone covered with blood. It was then that he found the bloodied and lifeless body of Chase lying between the parallel cars. The body was naked from the waist up, with a crumpled bloodied shirt on the chest, and with only the socks on. SG Sarmiento called for back-up. SG Rene Fabe immediately barricaded the crime scene. Around 7:55 p.m., SG Solis received a phone call from an unidentified person who reported that a “kid” had met an accident at Cedar Place. SG Solis later identified and confirmed the caller to be “Mr. Esteban Larry” when the latter entered the village gate and inquired whether the “kid” who had met an accident had been attended to. Moreover, when SG Fabe and SG Sarmiento were securing the scene of the crime, they overheard from the radio that somebody had reported about a “kid” who had been involved in an accident at Cedar Place. SG Fabe thereafter searched the village premises but did not find any such accident. When SG Fabe got back, there were already several onlookers at the crime scene.

Issue: Whether or not the evidence is sufficient to charge the respondents of murder.

Held:
No. For circumstantial evidence to be sufficient to support a conviction, all the circumstances must be consistent with one another and must constitute an unbroken chain leading to one fair and reasonable conclusion that a crime has been committed and that the respondents are probably guilty thereof. The pieces of evidence must be consistent with the hypothesis that the respondents were probably guilty of the crime and at the same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that they were innocent, and with every rational hypothesis except that of guilt. Circumstantial evidence is sufficient, therefore, if: (a) there is more than one circumstance, (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived have been proven, and (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

The records show that the circumstantial evidence linking Philip to the killing of Chase derived from the bare recollections of Ariane (sister of Chase), and of Guray and Corpus (respectively, the househelp and nanny in the household of a resident of the subdivision) about seeing Chase board the white Honda Civic at around 7:00 p.m. of February 27, 2007, and about Philip being the driver of the Honda Civic. But there was nothing else after that, because the circumstances revealed by the other witnesses could not even be regarded as circumstantial evidence against Philip. To be sure, some of the affidavits were unsworn. The statements subscribed and sworn to before the officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) having the authority to administer oaths upon matters connected with the performance of their official duties undeniably lacked the requisite certifications to the effect that such administering officers had personally examined the affiants, and that such administering officers were satisfied that the affiants had voluntarily executed and understood their affidavits.

Thus, it is imperative that the circumstantial evidence that the victim was last seen in the company of respondent Philip must be established by competent evidence required by the rules in preliminary investigation. Here, it was allegedly Chase’s sister, Ariane, and their two household helpers, Marivic Guray and Michelle Corpus, who saw respondent Philip pick up Chase at around 7:00 o’clock in the evening of February 27, 2007. Yet, such fact from which the inference is derived was not duly proven. The statements of Marivic and Michelle both executed on February 28, 2007 were not sworn to before the proper officer.

Neither was the affidavit dated July 3, 2009 of Ariane Claridad duly notarized nor is there any explanation why the same was belatedly executed.

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