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457 Phil. 472


[ G.R. No. 141527, September 04, 2003 ]





This is an appeal from the Decision[1] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Las Piñas City, Branch 275, convicting appellant Randy Bocalan y Gatdula of robbery with homicide; sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua; and, ordering him to pay the heirs of the victim Peter Allan Maneclang P50,000 as civil indemnity and P36,000 as actual damages.

The Charge

On November 3, 1997, an Information was filed charging the appellant, Joevilyn Alidon y Almugel, one alias Tuklaw, one alias Rot-Rot and one alias Jon-Jon with robbery with homicide. Accused Tuklaw,[2] Rot-Rot and Jon-Jon remained at large. The accusatory portion of the Information reads as follows:
That on or about the 10th day of October, 1997, in the City of Las Piñas, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating together with one Alias Tuklaw, Alias Rot-Rot and Alias Jon-Jon who are all at large and whose true identities and present whereabouts are still unknown and all of them mutually helping and aiding one another, while inside a NED MAJ Taxicab with Plate No. PYG-409 driven by Peter Allan Maneclang and all were armed with a balisong with intent to gain and by means of force, violence and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, steal, rob and divest from its driver Peter Allan Maneclang cash and/or other valuables in an undetermined amount and in the course of the robbery stabbed the said victim/driver which directly caused his death.

When arraigned on December 2, 1997, the appellant and Joevilyn Alidon, assisted by counsel, entered pleas of not guilty to the charge.

The Case for the Prosecution

Shortly past midnight on October 11, 1997, SPO1 Wilfredo Dalawangbayan of the Las Piñas City Police Station was directed to proceed to the Perpetual Help Medical Center to investigate the stabbing of Peter Allan Maneclang, a taxi driver who was brought to the said hospital for emergency operation and treatment.  In the course of his investigation, SPO1 Dalawangbayan learned that earlier that evening, Joseph Lana, a machinist employed at the Philacor, and Laureano Lumagbas, a government employee, were on their way home, walking along Bayabas Avenue, Las Piñas City. They spotted Maneclang sprawled on the pavement, his body bloodied all over, pleading for help.  The two brought Maneclang to the hospital at about 1:16 a.m.

SPO1 Dalawangbayan also learned that Maneclang was a resident of No. 24, Yellow Bell Road, Pilar Village, Las Piñas City. The victim worked as a part time sales representative of Signet, and was also employed by Jason Tan as a driver of a taxicab bearing plate number PVG 409. Despite an emergency operation,  Maneclang died.[4] The police notified Maneclang's common-law wife, Paola Davis, of the incident. NBI Medico-Legal Officer Dr. Roberto V. Garcia performed an autopsy on the cadaver of the victim and submitted Autopsy Report No. N-97-1715, showing that the victim sustained incised wounds and eleven stab wounds, thus:
Postmortem Findings

Pallor, integument and nailbeds.

Abrasions: 0.8 x 0.6 cm., left cheek; 1.2 x 1.0 cm., submandibular region, mid-portion.

Contused-abrasions: 1.2 x 1.0 cm., right clavicular region; 1.0 x 0.8 cm., left leg, antero-medial aspect, near knee.

Incised wounds:  4.1 cm., chest, right side; sutured, 2.2 cm. and 1.8 cm., right forearm, anterior aspect, lower half; sutured, 1.8 cm., and 1.7 cm., left forearm, posterior aspect, lower half; sutured 2.2 cm., left forearm, medial aspect, lower thirds; 0.6 cm., right index finger, proximal phalanx, palmar surface.

Stab wounds, sutured, spindle-shaped, with clean-cut edges, each with one blunt extremity and one sharp extremity, nine (9) in all, with sizes ranging from 1.2 cm. to 3.4 cm., neck, left side, lower portion, chest, anterior aspect, bilateral, abdomen, anterior aspect, bilateral, over an area of 49.0 x 14.0 cm., the farthest being 8.0 cm. to the left of the anterior median line, and 6.0 cm. to the right of the anterior median line, directed backwards, downwards, upwards, medially and laterally, involving the soft tissues, fracturing the sternum at the level of the 3rd intercostal space, into the thoracic and abdominal cavities, penetrating the upper lobe of the left lung once, perforating the middle lobe of the right lung once, penetrating the lower lobe of the right lung once, perforating the stomach once, and the intestines and mesentery four (4) times, with an average approximate dept of 6.5 cm.

Hemothorax: left, 35 cc.; and 765 cc., right.

Hemoperitoneum, 720 cc.

Surgical incision, sutured, 3.2 cm., chest, left side, 16.5 cm. from the anterior median line at the level of the 6th intercostal space.

Visceral organs, congested.

Stomach, about ½ full of brownish food material and dark brownish fluid.

-        Stab wounds.[5]
Paola Davis also signed the Death Certificate of her common-law husband.[6]

Subsequently, SPO1 Dalawangbayan received a report from his informant that the suspects in the Maneclang killing were at the Alabang parking area in Muntinlupa City.  SPO1 Dalawangbayan and PO3 Marlon Docot proceeded to the Alabang parking area where the police informant  pointed to a 25-year- old woman, Joevilyn Alidon, as one of the culprits. The policemen brought Alidon to the Muntinlupa Police Station where she was investigated. In the course of the investigation, Alidon admitted that she was with Randy, Tuklaw,[7] Rot-Rot and Jon-Jon when the stabbing incident occurred. She accompanied the policemen to the place where Randy was, and pointed to the latter as one of the culprits. Randy turned out to be the appellant Randy Bocalan, a resident of Bayanan, Muntinlupa City. The policemen brought the said appellant to the police station for investigation, during which the latter identified his companions Tuklaw, Rot-Rot and Jon-Jon. The appellant also disclosed that the three suspects were hiding in Tondo, Manila. A search for the suspects proved futile. At 11:35 a.m. on October 22, 1997, Alidon gave a sworn statement to SPO1 Dalawangbayan where she identified the appellant, Tuklaw, Rot-Rot and Jon-Jon as Maneclang's assailants in the course of a robbery/holdup.[8]

During the trial, the prosecutor and the appellant, through counsel, stipulated on Dr. Garcia's testimony and his autopsy report, and agreed to dispense with the latter's testimony.  After presenting Paola Davis and SPO1 Dalawangbayan, the prosecutor filed on February 19, 1998 a Motion to Utilize Accused Joevilyn Alidon as State Witness and to Discharge Her Thereafter alleging, inter alia, that:
  1. That the prosecution has no eyewitness or circumstantial evidence to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt;

  2. That the testimony of accused Joevilyn Alidon is very important and necessary for the prosecution to establish the guilt of the other accused Randy Bocalan and his unidentified companions beyond reasonable doubt;

  3. That the accused Joevilyn Alidon appears to be the least guilty in the commission of the criminal offense among the accused and that she is never convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude;[9]
The appellant did not oppose the motion.  On May 19, 1998, the court issued an order granting the motion. Alidon was dropped from the Information and released from detention.[10] She was thereafter utilized as a state witness against the appellant.

During the trial, Alidon testified that at 11:45 p.m. of  October 10, 1997,  she was with the appellant, Tuklaw, Rot-Rot and Jon-Jon under a bridge in Alabang. She had just met Rot-Rot and Jon-Jon for the first time;  while she had known Tuklaw and the appellant seven months ago.  Tuklaw had been a squatter and a neighbor of her aunt in Alabang. Alidon was invited by her four male companions to attend a birthday party with them in Moonwalk, Las Piñas City. She agreed.  They flagged down the taxi driven by Maneclang. Tuklaw instructed Maneclang to bring them to Moonwalk Subdivision. The appellant, Alidon and their three companions boarded the taxi and seated themselves at the passenger's seat at the back. Alidon was seated between the appellant who was on her left side; Jon-Jon, Rot-Rot and Tuklaw were seated to her right.

When the taxi stopped under the bridge at Moonwalk Subdivision, Tuklaw told Maneclang, "Tol, pera- pera lang ito, dahil kailangan lang." Maneclang resisted and tried to get out of the taxi. Tuklaw pulled the driver back inside, and stabbed him with a bladed weapon on the chest. Maneclang cried, "Aray." The appellant, Rot-Rot and Jon-Jon took their turns in stabbing Maneclang with bladed weapons. Maneclang managed to get out of the taxicab and run in a wobbly, zigzag manner from the malefactors. The appellant, Tuklaw, Jon-Jon and Rot-Rot hurriedly left the scene.  In the meantime, Alidon was taken aback by the sudden turn of events.  Fearing that she might also be killed, she hid herself in a grassy area nearby. She saw Maneclang as he was running away from the vehicle. She left the place after about five minutes.

Evidence of the Appellant

The appellant denied robbing and killing Maneclang. He testified that he did not know Tuklaw, Rot-Rot and Jon-Jon. He made a living at the tricycle terminal opposite the Jollibee Restaurant in Alabang, Muntinlupa City, selling coffee, cigarettes and other items. He peddled his wares from morning up to 4:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m.

Between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on October 10, 1997, he was sleeping on a folding bed at the tricycle terminal. Policemen from Las Piñas and Alabang, Muntinlupa, including SPO1 Dalawangbayan, suddenly arrived and poked their guns at him. His wife was with him at the time. SPO1 Dalawangbayan ordered him to go with the policemen. He was not shown any arrest warrant.  When the appellant asked why he was being arrested, he was told that he had held up and killed a taxi driver.  The policemen brought the appellant to the Las Piñas Police Station, then to the office of then General Romeo Maganto where he saw a fat woman who turned out to be Alidon.  The appellant further testified that Alidon had deceived the policemen when she pointed to him as one of the assailants.

On May 19, 1999, the court rendered judgment convicting the appellant of robbery with homicide. The decretal portion of the decision reads:
WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court finds accused Randy Bocalan y Gatdula GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Robbery with Homicide under Article 294 of Republic Act No. 7659, and hereby sentences him to suffer a prison term of Reclusion Perpetua; to indemnify the heirs of the victim, Peter Allan Maneclang, in the amount of P36,000.00 as actual damages and P50,000.00 as death compensation; and to pay the costs.

The period of detention undergone by the accused is credited to him in full against this sentence.

On appeal, the appellant asserts that:



The appellant avers that Alidon is not a credible witness and that her testimony is barren of probative weight, having been charged, with the appellant, for robbery with homicide. She was, in fact, a co- conspirator in the commission of the crime. It is incredible that the appellant and Tuklaw, whom she met only seven months before, and Jon-Jon and Rot-Rot, whom she had only met on the very night the crime was committed, would invite her to join them in a party in Moonwalk. According to the appellant, it defies ordinary human experience and logic that if the appellant, Rot-Rot, Tuklaw, and Jon-Jon had indeed intended to rob and kill the victim, they would bring along a witness and even invite her to join them. That Alidon, who was sandwiched between the appellant and their three companions, managed to exit from the taxicab without sustaining any scratch is equally implausible. If, as claimed by Alidon, she was not part of the conspiracy to rob and kill the victim, surely, the appellant, Tuklaw, Rot-Rot and Jon- Jon would have looked for and killed her before fleeing from the scene  to prevent her from reporting the crime and identifying them as the perpetrators. Citing the ruling of this Court in People v. Tabayoyong,[13] the appellant avers that absent corroboration, the testimony of Alidon, a self-confessed accomplice or co-conspirator implicating him as one of the culprits, should be discarded.

For its part, the Office of the Solicitor General contends that case law has it that the Court may rely on the testimony of an accomplice or even  a state witness in convicting the principal by direct participation provided that said testimony is credible.[14]

We agree with the Office of the Solicitor General.

First. The trial court gave credence and full probative weight to the testimony of Alidon. Case law has it that the findings of facts of the trial court, its calibration and assessment of the probative weight of the testimonial evidence of the parties and its conclusions anchored on its findings are accorded by the appellate court high respect, if not conclusive effect, because of the unique advantage of the trial court in observing at close range the demeanor, conduct and deportment of the said witnesses as they testify, unless the trial court ignored, misunderstood and misinterpreted cogent facts and circumstances which if considered will change the outcome of the case.[15] We have reviewed the records and we find no basis for a reversal of or deviation from the findings and conclusions of the trial court on Alidon's credibility as a witness and the probative weight of her testimony.

Second. The appellant failed to adduce credible and competent evidence that Alidon nurtured any ill or devious motive to falsely ascribe the commission of the crime charged, for which the appellant could be sentenced to the penalty of reclusion perpetua or the capital penalty.

Third. Simply because Alidon was originally charged with the appellant as a co-conspirator but was later discharged from the Information as a state witness and was no longer prosecuted for the crime charged does not render her testimony incredible and lessen its probative weight.  Where there is no evidence that the principal witness of the prosecution was actuated by ill or devious motive the said testimony is entitled to full faith and credit.[16]  The barefaced fact that Alidon was charged as a co-conspirator in the commission of the crime before she was discharged as a state witness does not disqualify her as a witness nor discredit her testimony. As we held in People v. Felimon Cutura:[17]
It is true that Marapao, Sarigumba and Ticong were formerly co-accused of appellant who were later discharged to be utilized as government witnesses, but this circumstance alone cannot nullify their testimony if they are otherwise found credible by the trial court. Moreover, while the testimony of said witnesses should be taken with caution, there is no reason why it cannot be given credence it appearing that the same appears corroborated by other eyewitnesses such as Leonor Dellosa, Domingo Balasa and Severino Bangalao who likewise declared that appellant actually assaulted the deceased.[18]
Fourth. While it is true that, as claimed by the appellant, Alidon's testimony is uncorroborated by any other witness, the physical evidence, namely, the autopsy report of Dr. Roberto Garcia showing that the victim sustained abrasions, contusions, incised wounds and nine stab wounds of varied width, length and depth, supports her testimony. The physical evidence is consistent with Alidon's testimony that the appellant and his three cohorts stabbed the victim with bladed weapons. Although Alidon admitted that she did not know what types of weapons were used in the killing, she testified that the malefactors used "bladed weapons."

That Alidon met Rot-Rot and Jon-Jon for the first time that fateful night when the crime was committed does not render her account of the events incredible and her testimony barren of probative weight. The evidence on record shows that she was known to the appellant and Tuklaw, having met them seven months before.  It is not thus farfetched that the appellant and Tuklaw would invite her to join them in the party, and that Jon-Jon and Rot-Rot joined their confederates in doing so.  As acquaintances of long standing, the appellant and Tuklaw did not hesitate to invite Alidon along, although they had no inkling that she would later tell on them when the police officers confronted and investigated her about the crime. It is not thus inconceivable that after stabbing the victim, the appellant and his cohorts fled from the taxi without bothering to locate Alidon. The appellant and his cohorts must have been concerned about being apprehended by the authorities if they tarried at the situs criminis and  fled from the scene without first ascertaining whether the victim was still alive or was already dead.

It is not, likewise, farfetched that Alidon was able to exit from the taxicab without sustaining any injury. Since she was a companion of the appellant and his cohorts, she was allowed to freely exit from the taxi as they stabbed the victim to death.

The Crime Committed by the Appellant

The Office of the Solicitor General avers that the appellant is guilty of attempted robbery with homicide under Article 297 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended[19] and not of consummated robbery with homicide under Article 294, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, citing the decision of this Court in People v. Manalili.[20] There is no evidence that the appellant and his cohorts managed to take any money from the victim.

We agree with the Office of the Solicitor General. For the appellant to be guilty of consummated robbery, there must be incontrovertible proof that property was taken from the victim. The appellant is guilty of attempted robbery only when he commenced the commission of robbery directly by overt acts and did not perform all the acts of execution which would produce robbery by reason of some causes or accident other than his own spontaneous desistance.[21]

We ruled in People v. Salvilla[22] that there is taking and robbery is consummated, thus:
"The State established a `taking' sufficient to support a conviction of robbery even though the perpetrators were interrupted by police and so did not pick up the money offered by the victim, where the defendant and an accomplice, armed with a knife and a club respectively, had demanded the money from the female clerk of a convenience store, and the clerk had complied with their instructions and placed money from the register in a paper bag and then placed the bag on the counter in front of the two men; these actions brought the money within the dominion and control of defendant and completed the taking." (Johnson vs. State, 432 So 2d 758).

Severance of the goods from the possession of the owner and absolute control of the property by the taker, even for an instant, constitutes asportation." (Adams vs. Commonwealth, 154 SW 381; State   vs. Murray, 280 SW 2d 809; Mason vs. Commonwealth, 105 SE 2d 149).  [italics supplied]

. . .

"The crime is consummated when the robber acquires possession of the property, even if for a short time, and it is not necessary that the property be taken into the hands of the robber, or that he should have actually carried the property away, out of the physical presence of the lawful possessor, or that he should have made his escape with it." (People vs. Quinn, 176 P 2d 404; Woods vs. State, 220 SW 2d 644; People vs. Beal, 39 P 2d 504; People vs. Clark, 160 P 2d 553).[23]
In this case, Tuklaw demanded from the victim, "Tol, pera-pera lang ito, dahil kailangan lang." The victim refused to part with his earnings and resisted.  He even tried to get out of the taxicab but Tuklaw pulled him back and stabbed him. The appellant, Rot-Rot and Jon-Jon followed suit and stabbed the victim with their bladed weapons. The victim was able to flee from the vehicle without anything being taken from him. The appellant and his confederates commenced by overt acts the execution of the robbery, but failed to perform all the acts of execution by reason of the victim's resistance. Hence, the appellant and his co-conspirators are guilty only of attempted robbery with homicide.  The factual backdrop of this case is similar to that of People v. Basilan,[24] where we ruled:
However, the evidence supports a conviction for attempted robbery with homicide. When the accused uttered the words "Pag hindi mo ibinigay ang hinihingi namin sa iyo ay papatayin ka namin," it clearly appears that appellant and her companions had the intention of robbing the victim and were bent on resorting to violent means to attain their devious ends. It could have been the P500.00 which Ubaldo Pimentel left with the victim the previous night, or some other valuables, or perhaps, even some merchandise. Since there is no proof or reasonable certainty that anything was successfully taken from the deceased, the appellant should be convicted only of attempted robbery with homicide penalized under Article 297 of the Revised Penal Code. The threat she made is sufficient to establish her attempt to rob the victim.

In People vs. Carunungan, this Court found the accused guilty of attempted robbery with homicide when the accused demanded that the occupants of the house bring out their money, an overt act which would lead to the commission of the robbery.[25]
The Proper Penalty

The imposable penalty for attempted robbery with homicide in Article 297 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, is reclusion temporal in its maximum period to reclusion perpetua, unless the homicide committed deserves a higher penalty under the provisions of the Code. In this case, the appellant and his cohorts killed the victim with abuse of superior strength.  They relied not only on their superiority in number but also on their weapons when they killed the victim. Hence, they committed murder.[26] However, for abuse of superior strength to be aggravating or qualifying, the same must be alleged in the Information as mandated by Section 9, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure.[27] Abuse of superior strength was not thus alleged in the Information. Although the crime was committed before the effectivity of the said Rule, the same should be applied retroactively as it will be favorable to the appellant.[28] Hence, the appellant is guilty only of attempted robbery with homicide.

The minimum of the indeterminate penalty should be taken from the penalty one degree lower than the penalty imposed by law, which is prision mayor in its maximum period to reclusion temporal in its medium period.  The maximum period of the indeterminate penalty should be taken from the medium period of reclusion temporal in its maximum period to reclusion perpetua which is eighteen years, eight months and one day to twenty years, there being no modifying circumstance attendant in the commission of the crime. Hence, the appellant should be meted an indeterminate penalty of  twelve years, five months and eleven days of reclusion temporal in its medium period as minimum, to eighteen years, eight months and one day of reclusion temporal in its maximum period as maximum.

Civil Liabilities of the Appellant

The trial court correctly awarded to the heirs of the victim the amount of P50,000 as civil indemnity and P36,000 as actual damages. The prosecution failed to adduce proof of moral damages. The heirs are entitled to exemplary damages in the amount of P25,000.[29]

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Las Piñas City, Branch 275 is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION.  Appellant Randy Bocalan y Gatdula is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of attempted robbery with homicide under Article 297 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and there being no modifying circumstances in the commission of the crime is sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of twelve years, five months and eleven days of reclusion temporal as minimum to eighteen years, eight months and one day of reclusion temporal as maximum.  The appellant is ordered to pay to the heirs of the victim Peter Allan Maneclang the amount of P50,000 as civil indemnity; P36,000 as actual damages; and P25,000 as exemplary damages.  Costs against the appellant.


Bellosillo, (Chairman), Quisumbing, Austria-Martinez, and Tinga, JJ., concur.

[1] Penned by Judge Cesar Z. Ylagan.

[2] Also spelled as "Tuclao."

[3] Records, p. 2.

[4] Exhibit "K;" Records, p. 74.

[5] Exhibit "E;" id. at 69.

[6] Exhibit "F;" id. at 70.

[7] Also called "Toklaw."

[8] Exhibit "M;" Records, p. 78.

[9]  Records, p. 37.

[10] Records, p. 46.

[11] Records, p. 137.

[12] Rollo, p. 39.

[13] 104 SCRA 724 (1981).

[14] United States v. Ocampo, 5 Phil. 339 (1905); United States v. Monzones, 8 Phil. 579 (1907); United States v. Quiamson, 5 Phil. 444 (1905); United States v. Dadacay, 6 Phil. 1 (1906).

[15] People v. Lerio, 324 SCRA 76 (2000); People v. Blanco, 324 SCRA 280 (2000).

[16] People v. Milliam, 324 SCRA 155 (2000).

[17] 4 SCRA 663 (1962).

[18] Id. at 667-668.

[19] ART. 297. Attempted and frustrated robbery committed under certain circumstances.—When by reason or on occasion of an attempted or frustrated robbery a homicide is committed the person guilty of such offenses shall be punished by reclusion temporal in its maximum period to reclusion perpetua, unless the homicide committed shall deserve a higher penalty under the provisions of this Code.

[20] 294 SCRA 220 (1998).

[21] ART. 6. Consummated, frustrated, and attempted felonies. — Consummated felonies, as well as those which are frustrated and attempted, are punishable.

A felony is consummated when all the elements necessary for its execution and accomplishment are present; and it is frustrated when the offender performs all the acts of execution which would produce the felony as a consequence but which, nevertheless, do not produce it by reason of causes independent of the will of the perpetrator.

There is an attempt when the offender commences the commission of a felony directly by overt acts, and does not perform all the acts of execution which should produce the felony by reason of some cause or accident other than his own spontaneous desistance.

[22] 184 SCRA 671 (1990).

[23] Id. at 677.

[24] 174 SCRA 115 (1969).

[25] Id. at 123.

[26] People vs. Pajotal, 368 SCRA 674 (2001).

[27] SEC. 9. Cause of the accusation.—The acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense and the qualifying and aggravating circumstances must be stated in ordinary and concise language and not necessarily in the language used in the statute but in terms sufficient to enable a person of common understanding to know what offense is being charged as well as its qualifying and aggravating circumstances and for the court to pronounce judgment. (9a)

[28] People vs. Garcia, G.R. No. 145505, March 14, 2003.

[29] People vs. Catubig, 363 SCRA 621 (2001).

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