Criminal

People vs Eyam (GR No. 184056 November 26, 2012)

People of the Philippines vs Eyam
GR No. 184056 November 26, 2012

Facts: An information for illegal possession of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu was filed on July 17, 2003 against accused-appellant George Eyam Y Watang to which upon arraignment he pleaded not guilty. After evaluating the evidence for the prosecution and the defense, the trial court, in its Decision dated March 8, 2006, found appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 11, Article II of RA No. 9165 and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of P400,000.00. The honorable court of appeals affirmed in toto the trial court’s decision.

Issue: Whether or not the the identity of the illegal drug was properly identified despite the failure to present the forensic chemist. 

Held: Yes. Appellant wittingly overlooked the fact that during the pre-trial, the prosecution and the defense stipulated that the specimen submitted for examination was positive for Methylamphetamine Hydrochloride, a dangerous drug, per Physical Science Report No. D-925-03S.  This was the very reason why the testimony of the forensic chemist was dispensed with during the trial.  Stipulation of facts at the pre-trial constitutes judicial admissions which are binding and conclusive upon the parties.

Regarding the chain of custody rule, records reveal that after S/G Sahid confiscated and marked with GEW the plastic sachet containing the substance seized from appellant, S/G Sahid, together with his OIC Ruben Geronimo, then immediately brought the appellant and the plastic sachet to Police Community Precinct 2 from whence the incident was referred to the DEU for investigation.  PO3 Mapili thereafter received the plastic sachet and made a request for laboratory examination of its contents.  When the prosecution presented the marked specimen in court, these witnesses positively identified it to be the same plastic sachet seized from the appellant.  Thus, the prosecution had indubitably established the crucial links in the chain of custody as the evidence clearly show that the integrity and evidentiary value of the confiscated substance have been preserved.  This is the clear import of the chain of custody rule to ensure the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized item as it would determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.

Significantly, in no instance did appellant manifest or at least intimate before the trial court that there were lapses in the handling and safekeeping of the seized item that might affect its admissibility, integrity and evidentiary value.  When a party desires the court to reject the evidence offered, he must so state in the form of objection.  Without such objection, he cannot raise the question for the first time on appeal as we ruled in People v. Sta. Maria and reiterated in People v. Hernandez.

In People v. Sembrano, we ruled that “for illegal possession of regulated or prohibited drugs, the prosecution must establish the following elements: (1) the accused is in possession of an item or object, which is identified to be a prohibited drug; (2) such possession is not authorized by law; and, (3) the accused freely and consciously possessed the drug.”  All the foregoing elements were duly established by the prosecution in this case.  Appellant was caught in possession of shabu, a dangerous drug.  He failed to show that he was authorized to possess the same.  Lastly, by his mere possession of the drug, there is already a prima facie evidence of knowledge, which he failed to rebut.  All told, we sustain the conviction of appellant.

In the absence of palpable error or grave abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court, its evaluation of the credibility of witnesses will not be disturbed on appeal.  And “in cases involving violations of Dangerous Drugs Act, credence should be given to the narration of the incident by the prosecution witnesses especially when they are police officers who are presumed to have performed their duties in a regular manner unless there is evidence to the contrary.” We cannot find anything to justify a deviation from the said rules.

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People vs Aneslag (GR No. 185386 November 21, 2012)

People of the Philippines vs Aneslag
GR No. 185386 November 21, 2012

Facts: Respondents were arrested during a buy bust operation for sale of illegal drugs (Shabu) in the city of Iligan, Philippines. During the proceedings before the trial court, the credibility of evidence was challenged by impugning the chain of custody which was allegedly broken and questionable. There are several bags of shabu presented before the honorable court to establish the sale and testimonies of the investigating officer together with the forensic chemist were also presented. It was find out that there are discrepancies in the weight of the subject evidence upon its presentment before the court, as well as inconsistencies in the testimonies of the prosecution’s witness, hence this appeal.

Issue: Whether or not the conviction is proper.

Held: Yes. Section 21(1), Article II  of R.A. No. 9165 provides  the procedure for the handling of seized or  confiscated illegal drugs: 

Section 21.  Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized, and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant  Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors  and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. —  The  PDEA shall take  charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant  sources of dangerous  drugs,  controlled precursors  and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so  confiscated,  seized and/or  surrendered,  for proper disposition in the following manner: 

(1) The apprehending team  having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically  inventory and photograph the same in the presence  of  the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or  his/her  representative or counsel,  a representative from the media and the Department of Justice  (DOJ), and any elected public  official who  shall be required to  sign the copies  of the inventory and be given a copy thereof; x x x  

However, non-compliance with Section 21 does not necessarily render the arrest illegal or the items seized  inadmissible.  What is essential is  that the integrity and  evidentiary  value of the seized items are  preserved which would be  utilized in the determination of the guilt or  innocence of the accused.   Thus, Section 21, Article II of the Implementing Rules  of R.A. No. 9165 provides – 

SECTION 21.  Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant  Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors  and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. —  The  PDEA shall take  charge and have custody of all dangerous drugs, plant  sources of dangerous  drugs,  controlled precursors  and essential chemicals, as well as instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment so  confiscated,  seized and/or  surrendered,  for proper disposition in the following manner: 

(a) The apprehending officer/team  having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence  of the accused or the person/s from whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or  his/her representative or counsel, a  representative  from the  media and the Department of  Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall  be required to sign the  copies of the inventory and be given a copy thereof;  Provided, that the physical inventory and photograph shall be conducted at the place where the  search warrant is served; or at the nearest police station or at the nearest office of the apprehending officer/ team,  whichever is practicable, in case of  warrantless seizures;  Provided, further, that non-compliance  with  these requirements under  justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and evidentiary  value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of  and custody over said items. x x x (Emphasis supplied.) 

Section 1(b) of Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 1,  Series of 2002, which implements R.A.  No. 9165, defines the chain of custody — 

b. “Chain of Custody” means the duly recorded authorized movements and custody of seized drugs or  controlled chemicals  or  plant sources  of dangerous drugs or laboratory equipment of each  stage, from  the time of seizure/ confiscation to  receipt  in the forensic laboratory to safekeeping to presentation in court for destruction. Such record of  movements and custody of seized item  shall include the identity and signature of  the person who held temporary custody of the seized item, the date and time when  such transfer of custody made in the course of  safekeeping and use in court  as evidence, and the  final disposition. 

In the case at bar, while the procedure under Section 21(1), Article II  of R.A. No. 9165 was not strictly  complied with, we  find that the  integrity and the evidentiary  value of the seized  shabu  was duly preserved consistent with the chain of custody rule.  As correctly  observed by the appellate court, from the time of the arrest of the appellants  and  the confiscation  of the subject  shabu  packs until their turnover for laboratory examination, SPO2 Salo was in  sole possession thereof.   During his testimony, he  identified the subject  shabu  packs and the markings that he had previously  made  thereon.

We have  examined the testimonies of  the prosecution witnesses and we find that the alleged inconsistencies are minor or trivial which serve to strengthen, rather than destroy,  the credibility of  the said witnesses as  they erase doubts that the said testimonies  had been  coached or  rehearsed.

Neither law nor jurisprudence requires that the police must apply fluorescent powder to the buy-bust money to prove the commission of the offense. The same holds true  for the conduct of  finger print examination on the money used in the buy-bust operation. What is crucial is that the prosecution proves, as in this case, the delivery of  the prohibited drugs to the poseur-buyer and the presentation  of the confiscated drugs before the court.

Anent the claim that the Thin Layer Chromatography used by the forensic chemist in determining the presence of  shabu  in the six packs is unreliable, we find the same to  be  unsubstantiated.   Except for their bare allegation, the defense did not present clear and convincing evidence to prove  that the findings of the forensic chemist were erroneous. 

People vs Soria (GR No. 179031 November 14, 2012)

People of the Philippines vs Soria
GR No. 179031 November 14, 2012

Facts: A complaint for rape was filed against the respondent for allegedly raping her minor daughter, AAA. The information indicated the offense as rape by sexual intercourse as defined by the Revised Penal Code. However, respondent as his defense invoked that as the father of the child he will not be able to do the imputed act and the case was tainted with bad faith on the part of the victim’s mother not having a good relationship with the respondent. During the course of the proceedings and examination of the witness, it was found out that the identification of the victim by the respondent was in reliance to her brother’s statement that he saw that it was their father who committed the act. The medico legal was also presented with the findings that the hymen of the victim is intact. These statements were invoked by the defense to question the findings of the trial court of the offense charged which was later affirmed by the appellate court, hence, this appeal. 

Issue: Whether or not the offense was properly charged.

Held: No. The  following  are the  elements  of  rape  by  sexual  assault: 

(1)  That  the  offender  commits  an  act  of  sexual  assault;   
(2)  That  the  act  of  sexual  assault  is  committed  by  any  of  the following  means: 

(a)  By inserting  his  penis  into  another  person’s  mouth  or  anal  orifice;  or 
(b)  By  inserting  any  instrument or  object  into  the  genital or anal orifice  of another  person; 

(3)  That  the act  of  sexual  assault  is accomplished  under  any  of  the following circumstances: 

(a)  By using  force  and  intimidation; 
(b)  When the  woman  is  deprived of  reason  or  otherwise  unconscious;  or 
(c)  By means  of  fraudulent  machination  or  grave  abuse  of  authority;  or 
(d)  When the  woman  is  under  12 years  of  age  or  demented.

In  the  instant case,  it  was  clearly  established  that  appellant  committed  an  act of sexual  assault  on “AAA”  by inserting  an  instrument  or object  into her genital.   We find it  inconsequential  that  “AAA”  could not  specifically identify  the particular  instrument  or  object  that  was  inserted  into  her  genital.    What  is important  and relevant  is  that  indeed something was  inserted into her vagina.   To require  “AAA”  to  identify  the  instrument  or object  that  was  inserted  into her vagina  would be  contrary to the  fundamental  tenets of  due  process.   It  would be akin  to requiring “AAA”  to  establish  something that  is  not  even  required  by  law.   [Moreover,  it  might  create  problems later  on  in  the  application  of  the  law  if  the victim  is  blind or otherwise  unconscious.]   Moreover,  the  prosecution satisfactorily  established  that  appellant  accomplished  the  act  of  sexual  assault through  his  moral  ascendancy  and  influence  over  “AAA”  which  substituted  for violence  and intimidation.   Thus,  there  is  no doubt  that  appellant  raped  “AAA”  by sexual  assault.

The  failure of “AAA” to  mention that  her  panty  was  removed prior to the rape  does  not  preclude  sexual  assault.    We  cannot  likewise  give  credence  to  the assertion  of  appellant  that  the  crime  of  rape  was  negated by  the  medical  findings of an intact  hymen or absence  of lacerations  in the  vagina  of “AAA”.   Hymenal rupture,  vaginal  laceration or genital  injury is  not  indispensable  because  the  same is not an  element  of the  crime of rape.   “An  intact  hymen  does  not  negate a finding that  the victim  was  raped.”    Here,  the  finding of reddish discoloration  of the  hymen  of  “AAA”  during  her medical  examination  and the intense pain  she felt in  her  vagina  during  and  after  the  sexual  assault  sufficiently  corroborated  her testimony  that  she was  raped.    

Likewise  undeserving  of credence  is  appellant’s  contention that  his  wife merely  instigated “AAA”  to  file the  charge of rape  against  him  in  retaliation  for his  having  confronted her about  her  illicit affair  with  another  man.    This imputation  of  ill  motive  is  flimsy considering that  it  is  unnatural  for appellant’s wife  to  stoop so low  as  to  subject  her own  daughter  to the hardships and  shame concomitant  with  a  prosecution for rape,  just  to assuage  her hurt  feelings.   It is also  improbable  for appellant’s  wife to  have  dared  encourage their  daughter “AAA”  to  publicly  expose  the  dishonor of the  family unless  the  rape  was  indeed committed.

People vs Ending (GR No. 183827 November 12, 2012)

People of the Philippines vs Ending
GR No. 183827 November 12, 2012

Facts: In three  separate  Information,  appellant  was  indicted  for raping his  own daughter,  “AAA.” In several occasions, respondent allegedly raped her minor daughter which was duly supported by a medico legal report showing that the victim have old lacerations. On the other hand, respondent denied said allegation and countered the same with an alibi saying that the victim does not live with him but with her grandparents and that the laceration was due to an incident where another person, GGG raped her.

Issue: Whether or not petitioner is guilty of the crime charged.

Held: Yes. The  defense  of  appellant  is  anchored on denial  and  alibi  which  do not impress  belief.   As often  stressed,  “[m]ere denial,  if unsubstantiated by clear  and convincing  evidence,  has  no weight  in law  and cannot  be  given greater evidentiary value than  the positive  testimony  of a  rape  victim.” In  this  case,  appellant’s testimony,  particularly  his  denial,  was  not substantiated  by  clear and convincing evidence.   Also,  for  his  alibi  to prosper,  appellant  must establish  that he  was  not  at the  locus delicti  at  the  time the offense  was  committed  and  that  it  was physically impossible  for him  to  be  at  the  scene  of the  crime  at the  time  of  its commission.  Appellant  failed  to  establish  these  elements.    The  fact  that “AAA”  was living  with her grandparents  did  not preclude  the  possibility  that  appellant  was present  at the crime  scenes  during  their  commission.   Appellant himself  admitted  that  the distance between his  residence and  that  of “AAA’s”  grandparents  is  only approximately 7½  kilometers  and  which  can be  traversed  by riding a  pedicab  in less than  30  minutes.   In other  words,  it  was  not  physically impossible  for appellant  to  have  been  at  the  situs  of the  crimes  during the  dates  when the separate acts  of  rape  were  committed.   Moreover,  it has been  invariably  ruled  that  alibi cannot  prevail  over  the  positive  identification  of the  accused.    Here,  appellant  was positively identified  by “AAA”  as  the perpetrator  of the  crimes  without  showing any dubious reason  or  fiendish  motive  on  her part  to  falsely  charge him.   The contention  of appellant  that  “AAA”  was  motivated by hatred  because  he prevented  her from  having  a  boyfriend  is  unconvincing.   There  is  nothing novel  in such  a  contrived  defense.    “Motives  such  as  resentment,  hatred  or  revenge  have never  swayed this  Court  from  giving full  credence  to the  testimony of a rape victim.”  It  is  a  jurisprudentially  conceded  rule  that  “it is  against  human  nature for a  young  girl  to fabricate  a  story that  would expose  herself  as  well  as  her family to  a  lifetime  of shame,  especially  when  her  charge could  mean the  death or lifetime imprisonment  of her  own  father.”

The  Court,  like  the courts  below,  finds  that  “AAA”  was  without  doubt telling  the  truth  when  she  declared  that  her  father  raped  her  on  three separate occasions.   She  was  consistent  in her narration on how  she  was  abused  by  her father in their own house,  in the  copra  drier,  and even in a  nearby  pasture  land.  After she  was  forced  to  lie  down,  appellant  removed her clothes,  went  on  top of her,  inserted his  penis  into her vagina  and threatened her with death if she  would report  the  incidents.   Hence,  appellant’s  attempt  to  discredit  the  testimony of “AAA”  deserves  no  merit.   “When  credibility  is in  issue,  the court generally defers  to the  findings  of the  trial  court  considering that  it  was  in a better  position  to decide  the  question,  having  heard  the  witnesses themselves  and  observed  their deportment  during trial.”  Here,  there is  nothing from  the records  that  would impel  this  Court  to  deviate  from  the  findings  and conclusions  of the  trial  court  as affirmed by the  CA.

Bongalon vs People (G.R. No. 169533 March 20, 2013)

Bongalon vs People of the Philippines
G.R. No. 169533 March 20, 2013

Facts: The Prosecution showed that on May 11, 2002, Jayson Dela Cruz (Jayson) and Roldan, his older brother, both minors, joined the evening procession for the Santo Niño at Oro Site in Legazpi City; that when the procession passed in front of the petitioner’s house, the latter’s daughter Mary Ann Rose, also a minor, threw stones at Jayson and called him “sissy”; that the petitioner confronted Jayson and Roldan and called them names like “strangers” and “animals”; that the petitioner struck Jayson at the back with his hand, and slapped Jayson on the face; that the petitioner then went to the brothers’ house and challenged Rolando dela Cruz, their father, to a fight, but Rolando did not come out of the house to take on the petitioner; that Rolando later brought Jayson to the Legazpi City Police Station and reported the incident; that Jayson also underwent medical treatment at the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital; that the doctors who examined Jayson issued two medical certificates attesting that Jayson suffered the following contusions, to wit: (1) contusion .5 x 2.5 scapular area, left; and (2) +1×1 cm. contusion left zygomatic area and contusion .5 x 2.33 cm. scapular area, left. On his part, the petitioner denied having physically abused or maltreated Jayson. He explained that he only talked with Jayson and Roldan after Mary Ann Rose and Cherrylyn, his minor daughters, had told him about Jayson and Roldan’s throwing stones at them and about Jayson’s burning Cherrylyn’s hair. He denied shouting invectives at and challenging Rolando to a fight, insisting that he only told Rolando to restrain his sons from harming his daughters. To corroborate the petitioner’s testimony, Mary Ann Rose testified that her father did not hit or slap but only confronted Jayson, asking why Jayson had called her daughters “Kimi” and why he had burned Cherrlyn’s hair. Mary Ann Rose denied throwing stones at Jayson and calling him a “sissy.” She insisted that it was instead Jayson who had pelted her with stones during the procession. She described the petitioner as a loving and protective father.

Issues: Whether or not the proper remedy of the petitioner is via a petition for certiorari.

Whether or not petitioner is liable for child abuse.

Held: No. The special civil action for certiorari is intended for the correction of errors of jurisdiction only or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Its principal office is only to keep the inferior court within the parameters of its jurisdiction or to prevent it from committing such a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. As observed in Land Bank of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, et al. “the special civil action for certiorari is a remedy designed for the correction of errors of jurisdiction and not errors of judgment. The raison d’etre for the rule is when a court exercises its jurisdiction, an error committed while so engaged does not deprived it of the jurisdiction being exercised when the error is committed. If it did, every error committed by a court would deprive it of its jurisdiction and every erroneous judgment would be a void judgment. In such a scenario, the administration of justice would not survive. Hence, where the issue or question involved affects the wisdom or legal soundness of the decision–not the jurisdiction of the court to render said decision–the same is beyond the province of a special civil action for certiorari. The proper recourse of the aggrieved party from a decision of the Court of Appeals is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court.

Section 10. Other Acts of Neglect, Abuse, Cruelty or Exploitation and other Conditions Prejudicial to the Child’s Development. – (a) Any person who shall commit any other acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation or be responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development including those covered by Article 59 of Presidential Decree No. 603, as amended, but not covered by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period.  x x x x

Child abuse, the crime charged, is defined by Section 3 (b) of Republic Act No. 7610, as follows:

Section 3. Definition of terms. – x x x x (b) “Child Abuse” refers to the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child which includes any of the following: (1) Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment; (2) Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being; (3) Unreasonable deprivation of his basic needs for survival, such as food and shelter; or (4) Failure to immediately give medical treatment to an injured child resulting in serious impairment of his growth and development or in his permanent incapacity or death.

The records did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that his laying of hands on Jayson had been intended to debase the “intrinsic worth and dignity” of Jayson as a human being, or that he had thereby intended to humiliate or embarrass Jayson. The records showed the laying of hands on Jayson to have been done at the spur of the moment and in anger, indicative of his being then overwhelmed by his fatherly concern for the personal safety of his own minor daughters who had just suffered harm at the hands of Jayson and Roldan. With the loss of his self-control, he lacked that specific intent to debase, degrade or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being that was so essential in the crime of child abuse.

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.

People vs Teodoro (G.R. No. 175876 February 20, 2013)

People of the Philippines vs Teodoro
G.R. No. 175876 February 20, 2013

Facts: Two informations, both dated March 25, 1998, charged Teodoro with statutory rape. Based on the medical certificate, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Agusan del Norte charged Teodoro with two counts of statutory rape through the informations. At his arraignment on August 17, 1998, Teodoro pleaded not guilty to the informations. Although he subsequently manifested a willingness to change the pleas to guilty, he balked when he was re-arraigned on December 23, 1998 by qualifying that he had only “fingered” AAA. Accordingly, the RTC reinstated his pleas of not guilty. During the trial, AAA and BBB testified for the Prosecution, but two years later recanted and turned hostile towards the Prosecution, now telling the RTC that Teodoro had only touched AAA’s vagina on the nights of December 18, 1997 and February 8, 1998.

Issue: Whether or not the recantation of the victim be considered in determining the penalty of the accused.

Held: No. The crimes charged were two counts of statutory rape. The elements of statutory rape are that: (a) the victim is a female under 12 years or is demented; and (b) the offender has carnal knowledge of the victim. Considering that the essence of statutory rape is carnal knowledge of a female without her consent, neither the use of force, threat or intimidation on the female, nor the female’s deprivation of reason or being otherwise unconscious, nor the employment on the female of fraudulent machinations or grave abuse of authority is necessary to commit statutory rape. Full penile penetration of the female’s genitalia is not likewise required, because carnal knowledge is simply the act of a man having sexual bodily connections with a woman.

In objective terms, carnal knowledge, the other essential element in consummated statutory rape, does not require full penile penetration of the female.  The Court has clarified in People v. Campuhan that the mere touching of the external genitalia by a penis capable of consummating the sexual act is sufficient to constitute carnal knowledge. All that is necessary to reach the consummated stage of rape is for the penis of the accused capable of consummating the sexual act to come into contact with the lips of the pudendum of the victim.  This means that the rape is consummated once the penis of the accused capable of consummating the sexual act touches either labia of the pudendum. As the Court has explained in People v. Bali-Balita, the touching that constitutes rape does not mean mere epidermal contact, or stroking or grazing of organs, or a slight brush or a scrape of the penis on the external layer of the victim’s vagina, or the mons pubis, but rather the erect penis touching the labias or sliding into the female genitalia. Accordingly, the conclusion that touching the labia majora or the labia minora of the pudendum constitutes consummated rape proceeds from the physical fact that the labias are physically situated beneath the mons pubis or the vaginal surface, such that for the penis to touch either of them is to attain some degree of penetration beneath the surface of the female genitalia. It is required, however, that this manner of touching of the labias must be sufficiently and convincingly established.

As a rule, recantation is viewed with disfavor firstly because the recantation of her testimony by a vital witness of the State like AAA is exceedingly unreliable, and secondly because there is always the possibility that such recantation may later be repudiated. Indeed, to disregard testimony solemnly given in court simply because the witness recants it ignores the possibility that intimidation or monetary considerations may have caused the recantation. Court proceedings, in which testimony upon oath or affirmation is required to be truthful under all circumstances, are trivialized by the recantation. The trial in which the recanted testimony was given is made a mockery, and the investigation is placed at the mercy of an unscrupulous witness. Before allowing the recantation, therefore, the court must not be too willing to accept it, but must test its value in a public trial with sufficient opportunity given to the party adversely affected to cross-examine the recanting witness both upon the substance of the recantation and the motivations for it. The recantation, like any other testimony, is subject to the test of credibility based on the relevant circumstances, including the demeanor of the recanting witness on the stand. In that respect, the finding of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses is entitled to great weight on appeal unless cogent reasons necessitate its re-examination, the reason being that the trial court is in a better position to hear first-hand and observe the deportment, conduct and attitude of the witnesses.