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369 Phil. 347


[ G.R. No. 131618, July 06, 1999 ]




Accused Dominador Mangat y Palomata was charged with rape with homicide in an Information that reads as follows:
"That on or about the 10th day of July 1995, at around 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon, in barangay Lusong, municipality of San Agustin, province of Romblon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously had carnal knowledge with one Kristal F. Manasan, against her will, and on the occasion thereof, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and strangle the said victim, inflicting upon the latter mortal injuries in different parts of her body which were the direct and immediate cause of her death."[1]
Upon arraignment, the accused pleaded "not guilty." Whereupon, trial on the merits ensued. The prosecution presented SPO1 Ronnie M. Fajutag of PNP San Agustin, Romblon; Pacifico Magramo, a farmer; Dr. Cynthia Baradon-Mayor, Medical Officer IV of Tablas Island District Hospital; Jaime Magramo, a farmer; and Herminio Manasan, father of the victim. The defense, on the other hand, presented the accused himself, his wife Alice Mangat and SPO1 Ronnie M. Fajutag.

The facts, as borne by the records, are as follows:

Thirteen-year-old Kristal F. Manasan lived with her family in Barangay Lusong, San Agustin, Tablas Island, Romblon.[2] On July 10, 1995, Kristal went out of their house to go to the shore, about 2 1/2 kilometers away. To reach it, she has to pass by Saguilpit creek. Kristal failed to return home and could not be found for three days. Alarmed, Herminio Manasan, father of Kristal, reported the matter to their barangay council.[3]

At four in the afternoon of July 13, 1995, SPO1 Fajutag received information from Brgy. Kagawad Ronnie Manao of Brgy. Lusong that a decomposing body was found along Lusong River. SPO1 Fajutag proceeded to Brgy. Lusong to verify the report. Upon reaching the place, he saw the dead body of a girl lying on her belly. The victim was nude and the upper part of her body was placed inside an opening of a stone hole. The panties and shorts of the victim were also found on the riverside, along with a plastic bag containing a pitcher and a headband. The place where the body was found was a cave-like structure on top of which was a foot-trail used by local residents, and underneath water flowed to the lowlands.[4]

The body was later identified to be that of Kristal F. Manasan. Dr. Cynthia Baradon-Mayor examined the cadaver and certified that Kristal died of multiple hemorrhage due to multiple fracture on the head. The victim also suffered multiple hymenal and anal lacerations. Her bladder went out of the vaginal canal and her intestines went out of the rectal vault. From all indications, Dr. Mayor concluded that the victim was brutally raped and murdered.[5] In particular, the medical findings showed the following injuries:
Head - Multiple hematoma with multiple fracture of skull; with severe cerebral hemorrhage; both eyes reddish to blackish in color and protruding; tongue severely protruding (about 95% of tongue is protruding).
Neck - Hematoma contused, around the neck.
Chest - Hematoma contused blood vessels blackish all over chest and back.
Arms - Multiple Hematoma of both arms.

Abdomen - distended, swollen, with multiple hematoma, contused.

Vagina - with multiple laceration of hymen at 12:00, 9:00, 6:00 and 8:00 respectively; examining fingers were able to penetrate with ease, vaginal canal much relaxed; with cervical and bladder prolapse.

Rectum - with intestinal herniation with lacerated rectal vault on 9:00 and 3:00 o'clock.

Legs - with multiple hematoma and blackish blood vessels.[6]
Pacifico Magramo, a farmer and resident of Brgy. Lusong, was presented as prosecution witness. He testified that at 2:30 p.m. of July 10, 1995, he was walking downhill along Saguilpit creek in Brgy. Lusong, carrying a sack of copra which he was bringing to the shore. He chanced upon accused Dominador Mangat pushing the naked and lifeless body of thirteen-year-old Kristal into a rock hole. Seeing him too, accused warned him not to divulge to anyone what he saw or he would be next.[7] Scared, Magramo continued downhill while accused walked away followed by his dog.[8] He also testified that the accused was wearing a gray sando and white pair of shorts, and was carrying a bolo in a sheath hanging on his left shoulder by a string.[9]

Jaime Magramo and his wife traversed the same pathway at two o'clock in the afternoon of July 10, 1995. They were going downhill with Jaime carrying a sack of copra on his shoulder. While passing along Saguilpit creek, Jaime saw the accused conversing with his father Benedicto Mangat. Jaime though could not hear what they were talking about.[10] On July 14, 1995, Jaime was informed by his son who was in Grade V that the dead body of Kristal was found along Lusong River. It was found exactly in the same spot where the accused was seen talking with his father in the afternoon of July 10, 1995.[11]

With the recovery of the body of Kristal on July 14, 1995, there was widespread speculation that the accused was the culprit. On July 15, 1995, the police authorities arrested the accused.[12] Bothered by his conscience, Pacifico Magramo eventually came out in the open and reported to the police what he had witnessed in the afternoon of July 10, 1995.[13]

While at the police station, the accused and his father offered to settle the case amicably. SPO1 Fajutag executed an affidavit in this wise:
"That on or about the 15th day of July 1995, at around 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon, more or less, while I was in the police station together with SPO1 Rodolfo Espinosa Jovillo, suspect in Rape with Murder case Dominador Mangat and Benedicto Mangat orally manifest (sic) to me that they are willing and wanted (sic) to talk with the complainant for the possible amicable settlement of their case. Benedicto asked me further, how much the amount he will give to the complainant as payment for the early death of Kristal Manasan; and that Dominador Mangat who was just listening inside the cell interrupted and asked his father how much is his share and likewise concurred with his father's idea for the settlement of their case. Indeed, he told me that he is willing to give the amount no matter how big provided that their case will be settled amicably; I asked them the reason why they wanted to settle their case, Dominador answered, I only want that this case be settled amicably;

"That when said persons were about to be released from jail after thirty six (36) hours detention, they refused to be released and they voluntarily executed an affidavit of waiver for safekeeping on the ground that they are afraid for any retaliation from the relatives of the victim; xxx."[14]
The accused offered an alibi. He claimed that on July 10, 1995, he was working with his wife at a farm located in the mountain of Lusong from morning until lunchtime, after which they went home to their house, located just 50 meters away, to eat lunch and rest. At 1:00 p.m., they returned to the farm and continued their weeding until 4:30 p.m.[15] This was corroborated by his wife, Alice Mangat.[16] The accused admitted, though, that he had a dog which fit the description given by prosecution witness Pacifico Magramo.[17] Corollarily, the accused asserted that the prosecution witnesses have an ill-motive in testifying against him as he did not vote for their candidate in the last May 8, 1995 elections.[18]

The trial court gave credence to the evidence presented by the prosecution. Thus, finding the accused guilty of the complex crime of rape with homicide, it sentenced him to suffer the supreme penalty of death and to pay the heirs of Kristal F. Manasan the amount of P50,000.00 and costs. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
"WHEREFORE, this Court finds the accused DOMINADOR MANGAT Y PALOMATA GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the complex crime of Rape with Homicide and hereby sentences him to suffer the supreme penalty of DEATH. He is ordered to pay the heirs of the victim, KRISTAL F. MANASAN, the sum of P50,000.00 as indemnity for her death, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to pay the costs.

Pursuant to Section 10, Rule 122 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure, as amended, let the records of this case be forwarded to the Honorable Supreme Court for automatic review and judgment within twenty (20) days but not earlier than fifteen (15) days after promulgation of the judgment or notice of denial of any motion for new trial or reconsideration. The transcript shall also be forwarded within ten (10) days after the filing thereof by the stenographic reporter.

This case is now before Us on automatic review.

Accused-appellant assails the judgment of conviction, contending that:
In support of his contention, accused-appellant argues that:[21]

(1) If Pacifico Magramo saw accused pushing the body of the victim at 2:30 p.m. of July 10, 1995, it follows that Jaime Magramo should have witnessed the commission of the heinous act when he passed by the same spot earlier.

(2) If in fact he committed the crime, his white short pants should have been "dirtied and messed" and his behavior or appearance should have been "disturbed."

(3) If Pacifico Magramo saw what happened, then he should not have waited for a month before reporting the matter to the police authorities.

(4) If the accused had his dog with him when he committed the crime, then it would not have been as quiet because despite their loyalty to their master, dogs "bark if they sensed something bad is happening around them."

In short, the accused contends that with the above circumstances, he could not have committed the crime. Thus, the evidence proffered by the prosecution is "improbable, incredible and inconsistent with normal human experience."[22] Consequently, the prosecution has miserably failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

This Court is unconvinced. The accused-appellant's conviction must stand.

It is true, as contended by the defense, that there is no direct evidence linking the accused to the crime charged. There is to Our mind, however, ample circumstantial evidence which tend to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was the author of the offense.

Circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction if: (a) there is more than one circumstance; (b) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; (c) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.[23] No greater degree of certainty is required when the evidence is circumstantial than when it is direct. In either case, what is required is that there be proof beyond reasonable doubt that the crime was committed and that the accused committed the crime.[24]

In this case, not only was the accused-appellant's presence at the crime scene established, there is also clear an convincing testimony that he was seen pushing the body of the victim into a cave-like hole in the rock. We have examined the transcripts and found that the respective testimonies of Pacifico Magramo and Jaime Magramo in this regard withstood rigorous cross-examination and questioning by the trial court. Accused-appellant, however, attempts to impeach the credibility of Pacifico Magramo by seemingly inconsistent statements. In the face of the damaging testimony against him given by Pacifico, accused-appellant can only make capital of the latter's earlier statement in his affidavit that when he saw him, he thought he saw a person gathering shells and shrimps. Upon closer scrutiny of Pacifico's affidavit, however, We find that the inconsistency is more imagined than it is real. For in the same breath, Pacifico corrected himself by confirming that as he got nearer he realized that it was indeed the accused-appellant whom he saw pushing a half-naked person into a hole in the rock. Pacifico's exact words were:
"That on or about the 10th day of July 1995, at around 2:30 o'clock in the afternoon, more or less, I left the kiln of Panfilo Manalon at the interior of Barangay Lusong, carrying on my shoulder one sack of copras proceeding to the low land (barangay proper) thus, when I was along Sagilpit Lusong River I noticed that there was a person standing on the river which I thought gathering shells and shrimps then when I am getting nearer to said person I recognized that it was my compare "Enggoy" but I was shocked upon seeing him pushing a half naked person towards the hole of stone which I believed already dead."[25]
It is not unnatural for a person to mistake people, objects and even events from afar. Pacifico merely thought that what he saw was a person gathering shells and shrimps when he was yet at a distance. When he got nearer, the vision became clearer and he realized that it was accused-appellant pushing a half-naked dead body into the hole.

Even if there was an inconsistency between Pacifico's affidavit and his testimony in open court, it can still be easily reconciled by affording greater weight to his open court declaration. In People v. Mayor Antonio L. Sanchez, et al.,[26] this Court held that discrepancies between sworn statements and testimonies made at the witness stand do not necessarily discredit the witness. Sworn statements/affidavits are generally subordinated in importance to open court declarations because the former are often executed when an affiant's mental faculties are not in such a state as to afford him a fair opportunity of narrating in full the incident which has transpired. Testimonies given during trials are much more exact and elaborate. Thus testimonial evidence carries more weight than sworn statements/affidavits.

Insofar as prosecution witness Jaime Magramo is concerned, accused-appellant argues that he should have seen the commission of the crime when he passed by Saguilpit creek earlier because when Pacifico Magramo passed by thirty minutes later he saw accused-appellant stuffing the body of the victim into the stone hole. We do not agree. Jaime himself testified that from his vantage point as he was passing the spot where accused-appellant and his father were standing, a rock obstructs his view. This is described by the trial court in more detail:
"xxx That spot where he [Jaime Magramo] saw the two (2) [the accused and his father] talking to each other was just right there about two (2) to three (3) feet from the hole. In the photograph (Exhibit A), he pointed to the spot where he saw them standing (marked with two (2) "x" "x" on Exhibit A), very near the cadaver of the victim. He was about 4-1/2 meters from this spot when he passed by but there was a rock (Exhibit AA) which obstructed his view and if any person was lying there he could not see it unless he climbed that rock. There was a small opening wherein if you look through intently at that opening you would see the two (2) persons without climbing that rock."[27]
Furthermore, accused-appellant's argument that Jaime should have seen him committing the crime is based on the assumption that the crime occurred exactly thirty minutes before Pacifico Magramo passed by the crime scene. But the incident may not have happened the way it was presumed. It may be possible that the crime was not yet committed at the time Jaime Magramo saw accused-appellant and his father talking along Saguilpit creek. Or it may have even been committed before but Jaime did not see the victim's body because of the obstruction. Besides, there never was any pretension on the part of the prosecution that Jaime Magramo also saw accused-appellant commit the crime. Jaime Magramo's testimony that he saw accused-appellant and his father along Saguilpit creek in the afternoon of July 10, 1995 was only intended to corroborate the testimony of Pacifico Magramo to the effect that accused-appellant was in the vicinity of Saguilpit creek at the time of the commission of the crime.

Accused-appellant next argues that had he committed the crime, his white shorts should have been dirty and messy and his behavior strange. We are not persuaded.

A careful scrutiny of the testimony of Pacifico Magramo would reveal that he only testified on the kind of clothing accused-appellant had on when he committed the crime. Pacifico did not testify on the condition of accused-appellant's clothing. At any rate, it does not follow that if the accused-appellant raped and tortured the victim his clothing would be soiled, especially since he was then only wearing a sando and a pair of shorts. As to his demeanor, suffice it to say that it is not uncommon for a criminal to act coolly after committing a crime, especially when the criminal is as cold-blooded as the accused-appellant in this case.

The one-month delay in Pacifico's report of what he saw does not necessarily destroy his credibility. As held by this Court, the delay of witnesses in revealing to the authorities the identities of the accused may be attributable to trauma, confusion and grief. It is quite understandable that the witnesses do not immediately report the identity of the offender after a startling occurrence more specifically when they are related to the victim as they had just a traumatic experience.[28] In this case, it was fear that prevented Pacifico from immediately coming out in the open. This Court agrees with the Office of the Solicitor General that:
"xxx. Delay or vacillation in divulging the commission of a crime does not necessarily impair the credibility of witnesses if such delay is satisfactorily explained. It is not uncommon for a witness to a crime to show some reluctance about getting involved in a criminal case, as in fact the natural tendency of most people not to get involved is of judicial notice. Thus, it is understandable when a witness fears for his safety especially when townmates are involved in the commission of the crime (People v. Castillo, 261 SCRA 493). Pacifico's failure to immediately report the incident to the police did not detract from his credibility, his hesitance being attributable to appellant's death threat and the fact that appellant's father was an ex-convict."[29]
Accused-appellant's argument that if indeed he committed the crime then his dog would have barked is a rather puerile argument on which this Court finds no necessity to elaborate.

Coming to the appellant's claim that he was at the farm that day and only took his lunch at home, the same cannot be given much weight in view of the positive identification made by Pacifico and Jaime Magramo. Already a weak defense, it is essential that credible and tangible proof of physical impossibility for the appellant to be at the scene of the crime be presented to establish an acceptable alibi. Time and time again, this Court has ruled that the defense of alibi cannot prevail over the positive testimony of prosecution witnesses and their clear identification of the accused as the perpetrator of the crime.[30]

Appellant failed to show that it was physically impossible for him to be at Saguilpit creek on that fateful day of July 10, 1995. His house was only two kilometers away from Saguilpit creek.[31] In fact, appellant admitted that he often passes by Saguilpit creek whenever he goes from his house to the seashore. He also has to pass by this creek when he hauls copra from Celso Magramo's house to the seashore.[32]

Appellant's alibi was corroborated only by his wife despite the supposed availability of another person who could have corroborated his presence at the farm. Appellant himself stated that aside from him and his wife, there was another person, by the name of Dioneve Galang, who was tilling on the adjacent farm on July 10, 1995. This person could have been presented to corroborate appellant's alibi. However, neither appellant nor his wife bothered to secure the attendance of Dioneve Galang, notwithstanding the gravity of the crime charged, for the reason simply that Mr. Galang had transferred to a farther place.[33] The non-production of a named corroborative witness due to lack of effort on the part of the accused to find and present him in court weakens the defense.

As already stated, there is clear and categorical evidence that he was at the place where the victim's body was found in the afternoon of July 10, 1995. Worse, one of the witnesses, Pacifico Magramo, testified that he saw the appellant pushing the half-naked body of the victim into the hole in the rock. That being the case, it baffles Us why the appellant had to be untruthful about his whereabouts on July 10, 1995, if it were not to conceal an unlawful act that he had committed. This circumstance, to be sure, renders the appellant's testimony highly unreliable.

At this juncture, it may be well to emphasize that the trial court, in no uncertain words, declared that it "found the testimony of Pacifico Magramo most credible and sufficient to establish the guilt of the appellant beyond reasonable doubt."[34] It characterized Pacifico's identification of the appellant as "determined and unshakable", and at the same time ruled that the appellant's alibi must fail.[35]

It is precisely this giving of full weight and credence by the trial court to Pacifico Magramo's testimony that is the subject of the appellant's sole assignment of error. However, well settled is the rule that the findings of facts and assessment of credibility of witnesses is a matter best left to the trial court because of its unique position of having observed that elusive and incommunicable evidence of the witnesses' deportment on the stand while testifying, which opportunity is denied to the appellate courts.[36] Only the trial judge can observe the "furtive glance, blush of conscious shame, hesitation, flippant or sneering tone, calmness, sigh, or the scant or full realization of an oath" --all of which are useful aids for an accurate determination of a witness' honesty and sincerity.[37] The trial court's findings are accorded finality, unless there appears in the record some fact or circumstance of weight which the lower court may have overlooked, misunderstood or misappreciated and which, if properly considered, would alter the results of the case.[38] In the instant case, We see no compelling reason to disturb the findings of fact of the trial court.

It has not been convincingly shown that Pacifico had an ill-motive to testify falsely against the appellant. The insistence of appellant that it was his refusal to side with their candidate for mayor and congressman that irked Pacifico, Jaime and the victim's father, and caused the latter to conspire in accusing him of the crime charged, is "incredible and unworthy of merit."[39] This, to Our mind, is not sufficient cause for the prosecution witnesses to testify falsely against the appellant in a case in which the death penalty is involved.

On the other hand, the victim's father, Herminio Manasan, provided the appellant's motive for raping and killing Kristal Manasan. He testified that the appellant had threatened to kill his children because the appellant became angry when he kept demanding payment of his monetary debt. We note from the transcripts that Herminio maintained this story despite badgering by and misleading questions from the trial judge.[40] While motive should not be a sole basis to convict an accused,[41] the motive of the accused in this case may be considered to provide the whole picture and explain the commission of this gruesome crime.

All told, the foregoing circumstances provide the required quantum of proof to find the appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of raping and killing Kristal Manasan. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof as, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute certainty. Moral certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind.[42] This moral certainty is met by the testimonies and evidence presented by the prosecution.

But perhaps the most damaging piece of evidence which points to the appellant's culpability is the affidavit executed by SPO1 Fajutag to he effect that the appellant and his father, Benedicto Mangat, offered to settle the case amicably. It is most telling for the defense not to have made any effort whatsoever to dispute this. Said gesture can only be taken to mean an admission of guilt. In criminal cases, except those involving quasi-offenses (criminal negligence) or those allowed by law to be amicably settled or compromised, an offer of compromise by the accused may be received in evidence as an implied admission of guilt.[43]

In view of the foregoing, this Court has no other recourse but to affirm the death penalty imposed by the trial court. Under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R.A. 7659, "when by reason or on occasion of the rape, a homicide is committed, the penalty shall be death." At this juncture, it should be stated that four justices of the Court have continued to maintain the unconstitutionality of Republic Act 7659 insofar as it prescribes the death penalty; nevertheless they submit to the ruling of the majority to the effect that this law is constitutional and that the death penalty can be lawfully imposed in the case at bar.

However, the award of P50,000.00 as indemnity to the heirs of the victim is increased to P75,000.00 in line with the ruling in the case of People v. Mahinay.[44] The additional award of P50,000.00 as moral damages is appropriate under the circumstances. The requirement of proof of mental and physical suffering provided in Article 2217 of the Civil Code is dispensed with because it is "recognized that the victim's injury is inherently concomitant with and necessarily resulting from the odious crime of rape to warrant per se the award of moral damages."[45]

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Romblon, Romblon finding accused Dominador Mangat y Palomata guilty of the complex crime of rape with homicide and imposing upon him the supreme penalty of DEATH is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the award of civil indemnity is INCREASED to P75,000.00, and the amount of P50,000.00 is awarded as moral damages.

In accordance with Section 25 of Republic Act No. 7659, amending Article 83 of the Revised Penal Code, upon finality of this decision, let the records of this case be forthwith forwarded to the Office of the President for possible exercise of the pardoning power.


Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.
Romero, J., on leave.

[1] Rollo, p. 9.

[2] TSN, May 27, 1996, p. 2.

[3] TSN, March 27, 1996, pp. 3-4.

[4] TSN, November 20, 1995, pp. 3-5.

[5] TSN, January 16, 1996, pp. 5-11.

[6] Exhibit "E".

[7] TSN, January 15, 1996, pp. 2-8; Exhibit "D".

[8] TSN, January 5, 1996, p. 13.

[9] Ibid., pp. 11-13.

[10] TSN, March 19, 1996, pp. 3-5.

[11] Ibid., pp. 7-9.

[12] TSN, November 20, 1995, p. 11.

[13] Exhibit "D".

[14] Exhibit "I".

[15] TSN, April 14, 1997, pp. 2-3.15 TSN, April 14, 1997, pp. 2-3.15 TSN, April 14, 1997, pp. 2-3.15 TSN, April 14, 1997, pp. 2-3.15 TSN, April 14, 1997, pp. 2-3.15 TSN, April 14, 1997, pp. 2-3.

[16] TSN, November 20, 1996, pp. 7-9-.

[17] TSN, April 14, 1997, pp. 18-19.

[18] Ibid., p. 14.

[19] Decision penned by Judge Placido C. Marquez; Rollo, pp. 20-23.

[20] Appellant's Brief, Rollo, p. 32.

[21] Ibid., pp. 39-40.

[22] Ibid., p. 41.

[23] Rules of Court, Rule 133, Section 4.

[24] People v. Ferras, 289 SCRA 94, 103-4 [1988].

[25] Exhibit "D", 1st par.; italics provided.

[26] G.R. Nos. 121039-45, January 25, 1999.

[27] Rollo, p. 21; italics provided.

[28] People v. Nang, 289 SCRA 16, 32-33 [1998].

[29] Appellee's Brief, Rollo, pp. 71-72.

[30] People v. Fuertes, G.R. No. 126285, September 29, 1998.

[31] TSN, April 14, 1997, p. 16.

[32] Ibid., pp. 21-22.

[33] Ibid., p. 4.

[34] Decisions; Rollo, pp. 21-22.

[35] Ibid.

[36] People v. Mahinay, G.R. No. 122485, February 1, 1999.

[37] People v. Atop, G.R. Nos. 124303-05, February 10, 1998.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Rollo, p. 22.

[40] TSN, May 27, 1996, pp. 10-17.

[41] People v. Obzunar, G.R. No. 92153, December 16, 1996.

[42] Rules of Court, Rule 133, Section 2.

[43] Rules of Court, Rule 130, Section 27.

[44] G.R. No. 122485, February 1, 1999, supra.

[45] Ibid.

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