Supreme Court E-Library
Information At Your Fingertips

  View printer friendly version

582 Phil. 243


[ G.R. No. 172869, July 28, 2008 ]




This is an appeal from the Decision[1] dated January 13, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 00183, which had affirmed the Decision[2] dated May 10, 2004 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 9, Balayan, Batangas. The trial court had found appellant Donato Bulasag y Arellano alias "Dong", guilty of the special complex crime of robbery with homicide in Criminal Case No. 4850.

The Information dated December 22, 2000, charging appellant and his co-accused with the special complex crime of robbery with homicide, defined and penalized under Article 294(1)[3] of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659,[4] reads as follows:
x x x x

That on or about the 27th day of July, 2000 at about 10:30 o'clock in the evening, at Barangay Caloocan, Municipality of Balayan, Province of Batangas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused, Donato Bulasag armed with an unlicensed firearm of unknown caliber together with one John Doe and one Peter Doe whose identities and whereabouts are still unknown, armed with knives (kutsilyo), conspiring and confederating together, acting in common accord and mutually helping one another, with intent to gain and without the knowledge and consent of the owner thereof did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously enter the house owned by Estelita Bascuguin y Besas and by means of violence or intimidation against person, take, rob and carry away cash money amounting to more or less Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00), Philippine Currency and assorted pieces of jewelry, to the damage and prejudice of the said owner in the aforementioned amount of P20,000.00 and that on the occasion and by reason of the said robbery, the said accused with intent to kill, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault[,] stab and shoot with the said weapons one Estelita Bascuguin y Besas, thereby inflicting upon the latter gunshot wounds and stab wounds on her chest, which directly caused her death.

Contrary to law.[5]
Only appellant was arrested by the police authorities while the others remained at large. Upon arraignment, appellant pleaded not guilty.

The facts as found by the trial court and confirmed by the Court of Appeals, were gleaned from the testimonies of (1) Lydia B. Siervo, the sister of the victim Estelita B. Bascuguin; (2) Michael B. Bascuguin, the eight-year-old son of the victim; and (3) Dr. Antonio S. Vertido, Regional Medico-Legal Officer of the National Bureau of Investigation, Region 4, Batangas.

Lydia Siervo testified that one week before the incident, Estelita told her that she had an altercation with the appellant. Appellant tried to borrow P3,000 but Estelita refused to give him the money. As a result, appellant threatened Estelita that something bad will happen to her if she will not leave her house. Lydia added that Estelita had no misunderstanding with other people except the appellant.[6]

Michael Bascuguin testified that at around 10:30 p.m. of July 27, 2000, he was watching television inside their house with his mother and cousin, Luisito Besas. When his mother was about to close the door of their house, the lights suddenly went off and somebody kicked the door open. Three men wearing bonnets over their faces entered their house. One man, later identified as the appellant, had a gun while another carried a kitchen knife. Together they held Estelita. Although Michael tried to get out of the house, appellant chased and hogtied him. Appellant then demanded money from Estelita threatening to kill Michael if she refused. Estelita gave appellant an undetermined amount of money. Since appellant refused to release Michael, Estelita ran out of the house and told Michael to run also. Appellant shot Estelita while one of his companions stabbed her. Thereafter, appellant and his companions fled. Michael sought help from their neighbor, Jenneath, the appellant's wife, but she initially refused since there was no available vehicle. Later, they found a vehicle and went to the house of Tatay Pecto, Estelita's common-law husband, and informed him of what happened to Estelita. They then proceeded to the police station to report the incident.[7]

Dr. Antonio S. Vertido testified and confirmed his findings as stated in the Certificate of Post-Mortem Examination[8] that Estelita died of gunshot and stab wounds on the chest.[9]

Appellant Donato Bulasag denied the accusations against him. He testified that on the date of the incident, he attended the birthday celebration of his nephew, Jorge Bautista. They started drinking at 10:00 a.m. At 7:00 p.m., he and Hilario Arellano left his nephew's house and proceeded to the house of his uncle, Rolando Holgado, to continue drinking. They stayed there for 30 minutes until his wife, Jenneath, arrived to fetch him. Instead of going home, they went to his parents' house. Between 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., his brother Filomeno and his wife Anita brought them home. Upon arriving home, he slept.[10]

Jenneath Bulasag testified that at the time of the incident, appellant was at home sleeping. She said that appellant was drunk at that time after attending his nephew's birthday celebration. She claimed that she never lost sight of him that evening.[11]

On May 10, 2004, the trial court convicted appellant. The dispositive portion of the Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds the accused Donato Bulasag y Arellano alias "Dong" GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of Robbery with Homicide as defined and penalized under Article 294(1) of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act [No.] 7659, and is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of reclusion perpetua, with the accessory penalties and to pay the costs. He is also hereby ordered to pay the heirs of Estelita Bascuguin y Besas the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as moral damages and Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as indemnity in line with current jurisprudence.

Appellant filed a notice of appeal. On January 13, 2006, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Decision of the trial court. It observed that all the elements of the crime of robbery with homicide were present in the case. It noted that appellant's identity was duly established by Michael's positive identification, hence it disregarded appellant's denial and alibi.

Dissatisfied, appellant appealed to this Court. As appellant and the Office of the Solicitor General opted not to submit supplemental briefs, we shall now review the decision of the Court of Appeals, focusing on the following issues brought before it:





Briefly stated, the principal issue is whether the guilt of appellant was proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt. Subsidiarily, for our resolution are: (1) Did the prosecution sufficiently prove appellant's identity as the author of the crime? (2) Did the trial court err in disregarding appellant's denial and alibi?

Appellant contends that his identity was proven only by circumstantial evidence. Michael did not see the face of the man who chased him and shot his mother because the man wore a bonnet over his face. Thus, there was doubt whether the man was really appellant or somebody else. While Michael testified that he recognized appellant's voice, physical features and gun, he also admitted that he did not talk often with him. There was doubt therefore whether he was in a position to identify appellant's voice during the incident. Appellant insists that he was so drunk at the time of the incident that it was impossible for him to commit the crime. He contends that his wife corroborated his testimony.

Appellee counters that appellant's identity was sufficiently established. Although appellant wore a bonnet over his face, Michael was able to identify his voice, physical features and the gun used. Michael was familiar with appellant's voice and physical features since they have been neighbors for quite some time before the incident. In fact, their families were so close that appellant even allowed Estelita to tap electrical connection from his house. Michael was also able to identify appellant by means of his gun because he has previously seen appellant carry it three times before the incident. The witness stated that he saw appellant fire it once in front of their house. Appellee discredits appellant's alibi since it was not physically impossible for him to be at the crime scene. Additionally, appellee contends that appellant's testimony was corroborated insufficiently since only his wife, who was obviously a biased witness, did so.

After weighing the parties' conflicting testimonies and other evidence, we are in agreement that there is no reason to reverse appellant's conviction.

First, we find Michael's testimony consistent to the minutest detail, and his categorical identification of appellant as the assailant is unwavering. Also we see no reason to doubt his credibility.

The evidence on record shows that appellant and Estelita have been neighbors for quite some time. In fact, their families were so close that appellant even allowed Estelita to tap electrical connection from his house.[14] Thus, although appellant wore a bonnet over his face to conceal his identity, Michael could still recognize his voice since Michael already gained familiarity with his voice and physical features. In fact, Michael described appellant's voice as "low tone."[15]

As this Court has ruled in earlier cases, identification by the sound of the voice[16] as well as familiarity with the physical features[17] of a person are sufficient and acceptable means of identification where it is established that the witness and the accused had known each other personally and closely for a number of years.

Noteworthy, Michael was able to recognize the gun used by the malefactor. Michael testified that he had previously seen appellant carry it three times before the incident. He also saw appellant fire the gun once in front of their house.[18] Worth stressing, appellant never denied ownership or possession of such gun.

Taking into account all the circumstances of this case, this Court finds credible and sufficient Michael's identification of appellant as the perpetrator of the crime. When there is no evidence to indicate that the witness against the accused has been actuated by any improper motive, and absent any compelling reason to conclude otherwise, the testimony given by a witness is ordinarily accorded full faith and credit.[19]

Second, we find appellant's defenses founded on denial and alibi lacking in truth and candor. Despite his stance that he went to his nephew's birthday celebration where he met with several persons to drink gin on the day of the incident, appellant failed to present any disinterested witness to support his claim. Thus, for corroboration we are left to rely only on the testimony of his wife, which we find less than convincing.

Nothing is more settled in criminal law jurisprudence than that denial and alibi cannot prevail over the positive and categorical testimony of the witness. Denial is an intrinsically weak defense which must be buttressed with strong evidence of non-culpability to merit credibility. Alibi is an inherently weak defense, which is viewed with suspicion and received with caution because it can easily be fabricated.[20] For alibi to prosper, appellant must prove not only that he was at some other place when the crime was committed but that it was physically impossible for him to be at the locus criminis at the time of its commission.[21] Appellant's own evidence shows that he was in the immediate environs when the incident occurred. For he stated that he was just in his own house, barely three meters away from the house of the victim, Estelita.[22]

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision dated January 13, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 00183, which had sustained the Decision dated May 10, 2004 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 9, Balayan, Batangas, finding appellant Donato Bulasag y Arellano alias "Dong" guilty of the special complex crime of robbery with homicide in Criminal Case No. 4850, is AFFIRMED. Costs against appellant.


Carpio Morales, Tinga, Velasco, Jr., and Brion, JJ., concur.

[1] Rollo, pp. 2-14. Penned by Associate Justice Portia Aliño-Hormachuelos, with Associate Justices Amelita G. Tolentino and Vicente S.E. Veloso concurring.

[2] Records, pp. 170-183. Penned by Executive Judge Elihu A. Ybañez.

[3] Art. 294. Robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons - Penalties. - Any person guilty of robbery with the use of violence against or intimidation of any person shall suffer:

1. The penalty of reclusion perpetua to death, when by reason or on occasion of the robbery, the crime of homicide shall have been committed; or when the robbery shall have been accompanied by rape or intentional mutilation or arson;

x x x x

[4] An Act to Impose the Death Penalty on Certain Heinous Crimes, Amending for That Purpose the Revised Penal Laws, As Amended, Other Special Penal Laws, and For Other Purposes, approved on December 13, 1993.

[5] Records, pp. 1-2.

[6] TSN, April 24, 2002, pp. 4-6; TSN, May 7, 2002, pp. 3, 5, 8-9.

[7] TSN, July 24, 2002, pp. 4-7, 9-11.

[8] Records, p. 9.

[9] TSN, January 29, 2003, pp. 5, 7-10.

[10] TSN, February 5, 2003, pp. 6-10, 13.

[11] TSN, February 12, 2003, pp. 3-4, 8.

[12] Records, p. 183.

[13] Rollo, pp. 7-8.

[14] TSN, February 5, 2003, p. 14.

[15] TSN, July 24, 2002, p. 13.

[16] People v. Prieto, G.R. No. 141259, July 18, 2003, 406 SCRA 620, 631.

[17] People v. Arellano, G.R. No. 131518, October 17, 2000, 343 SCRA 276, 286.

[18] TSN, July 24, 2002, p. 7.

[19] People v. Avendaño, G.R. No. 137407, January 28, 2003, 396 SCRA 309, 324.

[20] People v. Penaso, G.R. No. 121980, February 23, 2000, 326 SCRA 311, 320.

[21] People v. Fernandez, G.R. No. 134762, July 23, 2002, 385 SCRA 38, 51.

[22] TSN, February 5, 2003, p. 14.

© Supreme Court E-Library 2019
This website was designed and developed, and is maintained, by the E-Library Technical Staff in collaboration with the Management Information Systems Office.