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322 Phil. 564


[ G.R. No. 116486, January 29, 1996 ]




On the night of 7 April 1991, two (2) Chinese nationals, the spouses Chua Chun and Ho Tin, owners of Popong’s Grocery situated at Consunji St., San Fernando, Pampanga, fell victims to a gruesome double murder.

The police found the body of Ho Tin lying prostrate near the side door entrance of the grocery, her hands hogtied at the back of her body with a plastic cord, her head covered with a rice sack and tied around her, neck.

Inside the nearby bathroom, Chua Chun’s body was found bathing in a pool of blood, his throat visibly slashed which severed his carotid artery.[1] His face bore, several incised wounds and, like his wife Ho Tin, his hands were hogtied at the back of his body by a plastic rope. At the scene, the police recovered the weapons presumably used by the malefactors; a screwdriver improvised into an ice-pick found near the body of Ho Tin,[2] slivers of bloodstained broken glasses near the bathroom door,[3] and a black cap.

In due time, the police established the suspects to be employees of the grocery. Two (2) teams were formed to track down the suspects. One (1) team immediately proceeded to the North Harbor in Manila to thwart a possible escape by the suspects, but this yielded negative results.

The other team, while traversing the Gapan-Olongapo road junction, chanced upon a male person who was suspiciously hiding behind some wooden boxes at a nearby marble store. When accosted, he gave his name as Rodrigo Maliput y Reyes and stated that he was an employee of Popong’s Grocery, that he and his companion Alexander Jumawan were at the said place waiting for a passenger bus bound for Manila. Maliput then pointed to Daprosa who was then sixty (60) meters away. As the police team came closer, Daprosa (also known as Jumawan) suddenly darted toward the nearby cogonal area. It took a brief chase and two (2) warning shots before Daprosa gave himself up. Thereafter, Maliput and Daprosa were brought to and detained at the San Fernando Provincial Jail where they allegedly made separate confessions as to their motive for and participation in the murder of Chua Chun and Ho Tin.[4]

Of the three (3) suspects, only Maliput and Daprosa were arrested and brought to trial. The third suspect, known only as "Jun-Jun Reyes" remains at large.

On 3 June 1991, the provincial prosecutor of Pampanga filed the following information charging accused-appellants Maliput and Daprosa with double murder:

"xxx                     xxx                            xxx

"That on or about the 7th day of April, 1991, in the municipality of San Fernando, province of Pampanga, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating together and mutually helping one another, with intent to kill, with treachery and evident premeditation use of superior strength, nighttime purposely sought to facilitate its commission, did then and therefore wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously assault, attack and use personal violence upon spouses Chua Chun and Ho Tin by clubbing them with hard objects on several parts of their bodies, thereby inflicting upon them mortal injuries that caused their immediate death thereafter.


Both accused-appellants pleaded not guilty and underwent trial.

Tony Choi, a son of the victims, who stayed at the grocery’s second floor, testified that on 7 April 1991, between 7-8 p.m., while he and his wife were having dinner, their two (2) maids Manang and Lita informed him that his parents were not in the office where they usually stay nor were they in any of the rooms in the second floor.[6]

Tony’s wife then instructed the two (2) maids to look for the two (2) elders in the first floor but both maids refused, saying that they were afraid to do so, not only because it was dark downstairs but that something untoward might have happened to Tony’s parents.

Tony decided to look for his parents and asked his wife to accompany him downstairs. Half way through the stairs, they were startled to see three (3) persons scampering out of the door that leads to an alley located beside the grocery.

Aided by the light coming from the fluorescent lamp of a jewelry and watch repair shop located across the said door,[7] Tony Choi readily identified the three (3) men as Jun-Jun, who went out first, followed by Rodrigo Maliput and Undo Daprosa. The last two (2) were his employees while Jun-Jun was his former employee.

Instinctively, Tony Choi hurriedly went down to reach for the switch near the exit door and turned on the lights. Tony and his wife were shocked to see the gory scene before them- Tony’s mother lying prostrate just below the stairway, her head covered with a sack and her hands hogtied at the back.[8] A few meters across was a trail of blood that, led to the toilet. Tony proceeded thereto and found his father beside the toilet bowl, lying on a pool of blood.[9]

Shocked and frightened, Tony’s first impulse was to run outside the door to seek help from their neighbors. Tony shouted "Pete ro ri Tatang ku ampo i Ma ku" (kapampangan for "they killed my father and mother.")[10] Tony’s neighbors responded to his call and one of them named Cely volunteered to call the police.

Meanwhile, Tony promptly went to the apartment he maintains for his employees in Del Pilar St. (also in San Fernando) to check on the whereabouts of Maliput and Daprosa but they were not in the said place. When he went back to the grocery, people were already milling around the area together with the police who were conducting the investigation. The police informed Tony that his parents were already dead.[11]

Police Cpl. Renato Cruz of the San Fernando PNP was the chief investigator at the crime scene. Following police procedures, he had the area secured to preserve any evidence that might be recovered therein. He examined the victims whom he found to be already dead. Thereupon, he summoned for a photographer to take pictures of the victims.[12] At the crime scene, Cpl. Cruz recovered a screw driver improvised into an icepick[13] near the dead body of Ho Tin; while near the door of the comfort room he recovered a piece of broken glass.[14] Both the icepick and broken glass were marred by bloodstains of the victims. Cruz also found a black hat near the said door.[15]

Cpl. Cruz further recounted that he asked Tony Choi for the names and addresses of all of Choi’s employees in the grocery. Forthwith, he dispatched his men to fetch the said employees from the places where they lived and to bring them to the grocery for identification and questioning.

In the line-up that ensued, Tony Choi as well as the other workers informed Cruz that three (3) names in the list were not present thereat, namely, Alex Jumawan (also known as Daprosa), Rodrigo Maliput and a former employee named Jun-Jun. Cruz then ordered his men to locate Jumawan and Maliput in their known addresses. His men, however, came back empty handed, save for information obtained from neighbors they interviewed, i.e., that thirty (30) minutes before their arrival, Jumawan, Rodrigo Maliput and Jun-Jun were seen leaving together with all their belongings.

Acting on the information that Jun-Jun, one of the suspects, was residing at Malabanan, Angeles City, SPO4 Romeo Punzalan and his team proceeded to the said place but found the same padlocked. According to a neighbor they interviewed, Jun-Jun was last seen in the premises in the morning and had not returned.

With these developments, the team returned to San Fernando to resume their patrol work. Along the way, they received a radio message that two (2) suspicious-looking persons were seen near a marble store at the San Fernando-Dolores junction. Forthwith, they proceeded to the said area to investigate.

Arriving at the reported place, the team spotted a male person acting suspiciously and hiding himself behind some wooden boxes at the Bulacan Marble Store (near the junction).[16] The team accosted him, asked for his name as well as his destination. The person replied that he was an employee of Popong’s Grocery and gave his name as Rodrigo Maliput. He said that he and his companion Alex Jumawan (Daprosa) were at the said place waiting for a passenger bus bound for Manila.[17] According to Punzalan, he did not arrest Maliput but only "invited him for questioning." But when Maliput had already boarded the police jeep, a son of the victim arrived at the scene, pointed to Rodrigo Maliput and said "that is the said person."[18]

Having thus been identified as one of the suspects in the killings, the police took Maliput along to search for his alleged companions. Along the highway going to San Fernando, they saw a person standing on the right side of the road going to Mexico, Pampanga. Maliput pointed him to the police as his companion named Undo Daprosa. According to Punzalan, as they got closer, Daprosa ran eastward towards the nearby cogonal area. SPO4 Punzalan promptly chased him but had to fire repeated warning shots before he was subdued.[19]

Accused-appellants anchored their case on denial and alibi. Maliput testified that he did not report for work on the 6th and 7th of April 1991 since he was suffering from a headache. In the early evening of 7 April, Jun-Jun, a former employee of the grocery, paid him a visit urging him to join in the former’s plan to kill Tony Choi. Jun-Jun apparently nurtured a grudge against Tony Choi in regard to an incident that happened two years before when Tony refused to give Jun-Jun two hundred pesos to be sent to his parents, claiming that Jun-Jun’s employment agency still owed him some money. When Jun-Jun said that he would leave the grocery, Tony allegedly threatened Jun-Jun that should he persist, he would finish the latter (yayariin kita). Jun-Jun eventually left the grocery and worked in Angeles City for the next two years.

Maliput averred that when he and Jumawan refused to join Jun-Jun in his plan, the latter left but threatened them not to report to the police or else he would come back and kill both of them. Fearing for their lives he and Jumawan decided to pack their things and leave the house. They eventually found themselves near the Olongapo-Gapan road intersection near a local Bantayan (police sub-station). Maliput then thought that nothing untoward would happen to them since fhey were near the station where they could seek help if necessary until they could safely return to their house. They stayed in the said place until 3:00 a.m. the following day when they were arrested by the police and brought to the police station for questioning.

Jumawan (Daprosa) corroborated Maliput’ s testimony that the latter did’ not report for work on 7 April 1991. For his part, he averred that he had already left the grocery as early as 6:00 p.m. on that day after having his dinner ahead of his co-, employees at the grocery’s second floor where he saw the elder Chua Chun. When he arrived home, he saw Jun-Jun inside the house conversing with Maliput. He sat near, the two (2), and overheard Jun-Jun complaining to Maliput about his back salary.[20] He didn’t talk to Jun-Jun and it was only after the latter had left that Maliput told him about Jun-Jun’s plan to kill Tony Choi and that Jun-Jun threatened to kill them should they report the matter to the police. He packed , his belongings and went with Maliput and, stayed at the Gapan-Olongapo road intersection from 8:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m. the following day when they were arrested by the police.

Junawan (Daprosa) averred that the police did not read to him his rights, instead, he was beaten with the butt of an M- 16 rifle and forced to confess for the killings. He did not, however, admit anything nor sign any confession before the police.

Jumawan further denied that he ever wore a black cap while employed in the grocery and that it was Jun-Jun whom he had known to be using the said cap.

On 21 September 1993, the trial court rendered judgment finding Maliput and Jumawan (Daprosa) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of double murder and sentenced each one of them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, and to indemnify the heirs of the victims the sum of P68,706.00 as actual damages.[21]

On appeal before this Court, accused-appellants raise a lone assignment of error:


The main thrust of accused-appellants’ arguments is that no one among the prosecution witnesses actually saw the commission of the crime, i.e., "there was no direct evidence to prove that the accused-appellants were the malefactors responsible for the said crimes";[22] that "there is the possibility or probability that it was not the accused-appellants whom Tony Choi saw on the night of the murders but his other workers, who numbered about eleven at that time."[23]

Accused-appellants further plead that "it is very unlikely or remote for the accused-appellants to hurt, much more kill their employers because the latter were so generous to them. The house that they are residing (in) are paid for by the Chinese family. They even enjoyed free board besides free lodging. They cannot afford to be ungrateful to their Chinese employers."[24]

These arguments hardly persuade. The Court cannot see any actual and substantial doubt as to ‘appellants’ guilt arising from their evidence, or from want of evidence from the prosecution. Far from bordering merely on the imaginary, captious or plainly being a possible doubt, any reasonable doubt must be nothing less than a fair doubt based on reason and common sense.

In the case at bench, the alibi proffered by accused-appellants is rendered incredible by the fact that they were seen at the scene of the crime.[25] They were positively identified by Tony Choi as among the persons running away from the grocery just seconds before he discovered that his parents were killed.

Daprosa claims that he left the grocery immediately after taking his supper alone in the second floor. Strangely, there could have been at least somebody in the grocery who could have noticed his presence and time of departure but Daprosa did not present any corroborative witness.

The Court also notes Daprosa’s claim that it was Maliput who told him of Jun-Jun’s plan to kill Tony Choi, yet, he fled with Maliput with all their personal belongings when there is no evidence that he heard Jun-Jun threatening his life should he report to the police. If there is anyone who should flee, it should have been Maliput. But again, it cannot be rationally explained why they had to leave their house with all their belongings and loiter in the streets in the wee hours of the morning without a definitive purpose in mind. Daprosa even admits that the police had to fire warning shots before he was arrested. Such action only validates the dictum that flight is the product of guilt.

Accused-appellants’ unexplained flight is a clear indicium of their participation and complicity in the slaying of Chua Chun and Ho Tin.[26]

While admittedly there is no direct evidence presented by the prosecution, on the killing of the victims by accused-appellants, the established circumstances however constitute an unbroken chain, consistent with each other and to the hypothesis that the appellants are guilty, to the exclusion of all other hypothesis that they are not.[27]

Tony Choi unerringly identified accused-appellants (together with Jun-Jun Reyes) as the persons he had seen coming out of the grocery on the night of the murders. He even checked, soon after the bodies of the victims were found, the house where Maliput and Daprosa were staying and he did not find them there.

When the police summoned all the grocery employees for a line-up, only three (3) names in the list were not present thereat - Maliput, Daprosa and Jun-Jun Reyes. When the police received a report that suspicious persons were in the intersection of the Gapan-Olongapo road junction, these persons turned out to be accused-appellants. It would be the height of absurdity to agree that accused-appellants really feared for their lives when in the first place they admit that when they left the house they did not even know whether or not Jun-Jun actually proceeded with his sinister plan to kill Tony Choi.

The Court cannot find any fair doubt to break the circumstantial chain which leads to the fair and reasonable conclusion pointing to accused-appellants as component parts of the conspiracy to perpetrate the double murder. The evidence clearly establishes that not only was there abuse of superior strength when accused-appellants attacked the elderly victims who were unarmed, but there was extreme cruelty in the merciless killing of the victims.

WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment is hereby AFFIRMED with the modification that each of accused-appellants is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each crime of murder that they committed. Likewise, conformably with present jurisprudence, accused-appellants should be, as they are hereby ordered, jointly and severally, to pay the victims’ heirs an indemnity of P50,000.00 for the death of Chua Chun and another P50,000.00 for the death of Ho Tin. Costs against accused-appellants.


Bellosillo, Vitug, Kapunan, and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.

Exh "B"

[2] Exh "F"

[3] Exh. "F-1".

[4] Exhibits "G", "F".

[5] Rollo, p. 5.

[6] TSN., 14 November 1991, p. 62.

[7] Exh "E-13-A".

[8] Exhibits "E", "E-1", "E-2", "E-3", "E-4".

[9] Exhibit "E-5".

[10] TSN., 21 November 1991, p. 16.

[11] TSN, 21 November 1991, Rollo, pp. 18-19.

[12] Exhibit "E".

[13] Exhibit "F".

[14] Exhibit "F-2".

[15] Exhibit "F-1"; TSN., 24 October 1991, pp. 3-4.

[16] Exhibit "H".

[17] TSN., 28 July 1992, Rollo, pp. 13, 14.

[18] TSN., 28 July 1992, p. 30.

[19] Ibid., pp. 40-42.

[20] TSN., 6 October 1992, p. 2.

[21] Rollo, p. 23; Decision, p. 6.

[22] Rollo, p. 57.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Rollo, p. 53.

[25] People vs. Petil, G.R. No. L-70223, March 31, 1987, 149 SCRA 92; People vs. Lug-aw, G.R. No. 85735, January 18, 1994, 229 SCRA 308; People vs. Barte, G.R. No. 103211, February 28, 1994,230 SCRA 401; People vs. Balanag, G.R. No. 103225, September 15, 1994, 236 SCRA 474; People vs. Acob, G.R. No. 11438, July 20, 1995.

[26] People vs. Cruza, G.R. No. 104527, October 7, 1994, 237 SCRA 410.

[27] People vs. Cedenio, et al., G.R. No. 93485, June 27, 1994, 233 SCRA 856; People vs. Genebia, et al., G.R. No. 170058, August 3, 1994,234 SCRA 699; People vs. Balisteros, G.R. No. 110289, October 7, 1994,237 SCRA 4991; People vs. Ramirez, et al., G.R. No. 167-68, July 14, 1995; People vs. Sia, G.R.No. 107362, June 16, 1994; People vs. Compil, G.R. No. 95028, May 15, 1995.

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