366 Phil. 294
"At about 6 o'clock in the evening of July 7, 1992, appellant Rodrigo Agsunod, Jr. and his five (5) companions, who wore fatigue uniforms and were armed with armalite rifles, arrived at the house of Rodolfo Sebastian, a barangay councilman, in Barangay Parug-Parug, Solana, Cagayan. Appellant inquired from Raymundo Sebastian, son of Rodolfo Sebastian and a CAFGU member, as to the whereabouts of his father. After being told that Rodolfo was not around, appellant waited a while. Later, appellant called Raymundo and asked him to accompany them to the house of Ex-Barangay Captain Evaristo Julian which was located nearby. Raymundo was forced to accompany appellant and two (2) of his companions.Among the assailants, only appellant was identified and arrested. Hence, in an Information dated July 1, 1993, Provincial Prosecutor Alejandro A. Pulido III charged Rodrigo B. Agsunod, Jr. with the crime of Murder, committed as follows:
Upon arrival at the house of Evaristo Julian, the group entered and found Evaristo taking supper with his family. Appellant asked Evaristo to bring out his guns. Evaristo Julian answered that his firearms were all licensed, that his .38 caliber pistol was in the custody of the PNP of Solana, Cagayan, and that only a .22 caliber rifle was left in his possession. Appellant asked to see the rifle. Evaristo brought it out. Thereupon, the group left taking with them Evaristo's .22 caliber rifle (TSN, November 10, 1993, p. 6; TSN, November 24, 1993, pp. 4-7).
The group returned to the house of Rodolfo Sebastian. There, they saw Rodolfo Sebastian, who had just arrived, conversing with appellant's three (3) other companions in the yard of his house. Upon seeing appellant and his armed companions, Rodolfo Sebastian rushed towards his house. Instantaneously, appellant fired at Rodolfo Sebastian using Evaristo's .22 caliber rifle. The bullet grazed Rodolfo's chest. Wounded, Rodolfo Sebastian nonetheless tried to reach his house but appellant's companions fired their armalite rifles at him killing Rodolfo Sebastian on the spot. (TSN, November 10, 1993, pp. 6-10; TSN, November 17, 1993, pp. 3-15).
Ten (10) months later, or on May 27, 1993, appellant was arrested in Tuguegarao, Cagayan by operatives of the Philippine Army (PA) Detachment in Calilauan, Solana, Cagayan. Thereupon, appellant was brought to the PA Detachment in Calilauan where he was positively identified by Raymundo Sebastian and Purificacion Sebastian as among the killers of Rodolfo Sebastian. In that confrontation, Raymundo Sebastian and Purificacion Sebastian came to know for the first time that appellant's name was Rodrigo Agsunod, Jr. (TSN, November 17, 1993, p. 6; TSN, April 21, 1994, pp. 6-10)"
"That on or about July 7, 1992, in the Municipality of Solana, Cagayan, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused Rodrigo Agsunod, Jr. y Bibay, together with several John Does, who were not identified, armed with guns, conspiring together and helping one another, with intent to kill, with evident premeditation, with treachery, taking advantage of superior strength, and with the aid of armed men, did then and there wilfully (sic), unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and shoot one, Rodolfo Sebastian, inflicting upon him several gunshot wounds on the different parts of his body which caused his death.Arraigned on October 20, 1993, appellant, duly assisted by counsel de oficio Atty. Antonio N. Laggui, entered a plea of NOT GUILTY. Trial on the merits ensued.
Contrary to law."
"WHEREFORE, the court finds accused Rodrigo Agsunod, Jr. y Bibay guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder and sentences him to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua together with the accessory penalties provided for in Art. 41 of the Revised Penal Code and to pay the heirs of Rodolfo Sebastian a civil indemnity of Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos and to pay the cost."The resolution of this appeal hinges on the determination of credibility of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses. Appellant contends that a careful perusal of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses would show these are not only tainted with glaring inconsistencies but are likewise unbelievable and improbable, viz:
On October 4, 1994, appellant filed a Notice of Appeal from the aforesaid decision. Appellant claims that the trial court gravely erred in:
- ... CONVICTING ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF MURDER DESPITE FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION TO PROVE HIS GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.
- ... GIVING FULL WEIGHT AND CREDENCE TO THE CONFLICTING, UNBELIEVABLE, IMPROBABLE, AND INCONSISTENT TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES.
Purificacion Sebastian likewise testified in a categorical, straight-forward manner which bears the earmarks of truth and certainty:
Q: (Prosecutor Sagucio) Do you recall where were you on the night of July 7, 1992? A: Yes, sir. Q: Where were you? A: I was then in our house, sir. x x x Q: What were you doing in your house? A: On the night of July 7 I was then actually repairing our radio, sir. Q: When you were then repairing your radio in your house, do you recall if there is any unusual incident that transpired? A: There is, sir. Q: Will you tell this honorable court what was that event all about? A: On the night of July 7, 1992, Rodrigo Agsunod and companions arrived in our house, sir. Q: About what time when Rodrigo Agsunod and his companions arrived in your house? A: Around 6:00 o'clock, sir. Q: And how many were they including Rodrigo Agsunod? A: They are six in all, sir. Q: When Rodrigo Agsunod and his five companions arrived, what happened? A: They were asking the whereabouts of my father, sir. Q: What is the name of your father? A: Rodolfo Sebastian, sir. Q: Who among the six who arrived in your house asked for the whereabouts of your father? A: Rodrigo Agsunod, sir. Q: What exactly did Rodrigo Agsunod tell you or ask from you? A: They asked the whereabouts of my father, sir. Q: And what was your answer? A: He is not around, sir. Q: And when you said that your father was not around, what happened next? A: Because when we could not wait for my father Rodrigo Agsunod called me and two of his companions, sir. Q: And what did he tell you when he called for you? A: He told me sir that we will go to the house of the ex-barangay captain, sir. Q: What is the name of the barangay captain? A: Evaristo Julian, sir. Q: And did you actually go to the house of ex-barangay captain Evaristo Julian? A: I was forced to go with them because they poked their gun to me, sir. Q: And you reached the house of Evaristo Julian? A: Yes, sir. Q: When you were in the house of Evaristo Julian, what happened? A: They entered the house and afterwhich they took the 22 caliber of the ex-barangay captain, sir. Q: How far is your house away from the house of Evaristo Julian? A: Around fourteen (14) meters, sir. Q: And after Rodrigo Agsunod and his two companions took that caliber 22 rifle from the house of Evaristo Julian, what did you do? A: We went back to our house, sir. Q: Together with Rodrigo Agsunod and his companions? A: Yes, sir. Q: When you arrived in your house, what happened? A: Then my father is already there in our house who just arrived, sir. Q: Were there companions of your father when you arrived in your house? A: Yes the three companions of Rodrigo Agsunod that were left behind, sir. Q: After you arrived together with your two companions in your house, what happened? A: Upon our arrival sir then my father and the three companions of Rodrigo Agsunod who were left behind were then conversing with each other and then upon our arrival and upon seeing Rodrigo Agsunod and his companions then my father sensed something wrong so he went inside our house and at that instance Rodrigo Agsunod fired his gun to my father, sir. ATTY. LAGGUI: May we pray that the answer be stricken off the record being not responsive. COURT: Let it remain in the records. COURT: Proceed. PROS. SAGUCIO: Q: By the way, when you arrived in your house coming from the house together with Rodrigo Agsunod and his two companions coming from the house of Evaristo Julian, where were your father and the three (3) companions of Rodrigo Agsunod actually conversing with each other? A: Within the yard of our house, sir. Q: How far is your house and that to the house of your father? A:
Around three (3) meters, sir.
Q: What gun was used by Rodrigo Agsunod in firing at your father? A: . 22 caliber, sir. Q: That was the same gun he took from the house of Evaristo Julian? ATTY. LAGGUI: Leading your Honor. COURT: Sustained. PROS. SAGUCIO: Q: Was your father hit when he fired your father? ATTY. LAGGUI: Leading your Honor. COURT: Q: What happened when your father was fired upon? A: When he was fired upon by Rodrigo Agsunod my father directly went inside the house then he was followed by two of Rodrigo Agsunod's companions, sir. COURT: Proceed. PROS. SAGUCIO: Q: And when your father went inside your house and he was followed by the two companions of Rodrigo Agsunod, what happened? A: Then they again fired my father with M-16 rifle, sir. COURT: Q: Who did that? A: The companions of Rodrigo Agsunod, sir. COURT: Proceed. PROS. SAGUCIO: Q: Was your father hit when he was fired upon? A: Yes, sir. Q: What parts of his body were hit? A: The witness is pointing to his abdomen and his right thigh, sir. Q: Do you know how many gun shot wounds sustained or received by your father? ATTY. LAGGUI: Objection. COURT: The autopsy report is the best evidence. PROS. SAGUCIO: I withdraw the question. Q: Now, you said a while ago that Rodrigo Agsunod fired at your father with the use of a caliber 22 rifle, was your father hit when he fired they gun? COURT: Q: What happened to your father when he was fired upon? A: He was hit on the chest (daplis). COURT: Proceed. PROS. SAGUCIO: Q: What happened to your father when he was fired upon? A: He died, sir. Q: If that Rodrigo Agsunod is in court whom you said who first fired at your father is in court, can you point at him? A: Yes, sir. INTERPRETER: The witness went down to the witness stand and pointed to a person who gave his name as Rodrigo Agsunod. PROS. SAGUCIO: Q: Do you know the names of the five companions of Rodrigo Agsunod? A: No, sir. Q: But were you able to identify them? A:
Yes I could identify them if I can see them, sir
COURT: Why only Rodrigo Agsunod was accused here? PROS. SAGUCIO: Yes your Honor because the other five the names were not known. COURT: Proceed. PROS. SAGUCIO: That will be all for the witness your Honor.
This Court has repeatedly stressed, "factual findings of the trial court, as well as its assessment of the credibility of witnesses are entitled to great weight and are even conclusive and binding, barring arbitrariness and oversight of some fact or circumstance of weight and substance." The assessment of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is a matter best undertaken by the trial court. As this Court has reiterated often enough, the matter of assigning values to declarations at the witness stand is best and most competently performed or carried out by a trial judge who, unlike appellate magistrates, can weigh such testimony in light of the accused's behavior, demeanor, conduct and attitude at trial. Nothing in this case compels us to depart from this salutary rule.
DIRECT EXAMINATION: Q: When you were giving your personal circumstances, you stated that you are a widow, when did your husband die? A: July 7, 1992, sir. Q: In what particular place did your husband die? A: Within our yard, sir Q: Why, where is your house located? A: Parog-Parog, sir. Q: What town and province? A: Solana, Cagayan, sir. Q: What was the cause of the death of your husband? ATTY. LAGGUI: Incompetent, your Honor. PROS. SAGUCIO: If she knows, your Honor. COURT: May answer. A: He was shot, sir. PROS. SAGUCIO: Q: Who shot him? A: Rodrigo Agsunod, sir Q: If that Rodrigo Agsunod who shot your husband is in the courtroom, will you be able to point at him? A: Yes, sir. Q: Will you please point to accused Rodrigo Agsunod? MR. BIRUNG: The witness pointed to the accused who gave his name as Rodrigo Agsunod. PROS. SAGUCIO: Q:
The accused shot your husband, do you know what kind of firearm did he use?
A: I know, sir. Q: What kind of firearm did he use? A: . 22 Caliber rifle, sir. Q: Was Rodrigo Agsunod alone in shooting your husband? A: He was the one who shot my husband but he has companions, sir. Q: Your husband was shot by Rodrigo Agsunod, what part of the body of your husband was hit? A: The chest and the thigh, sir. Q: How many were the companions of Rodrigo Agsunod? A:
There are six in all, sir.
Q: About what time when your husband was shot? A: 7:30 o'clock in the evening, sir. Q: It was already 7:30 o'clock in the evening, how were you able to recognize the accused? A: It was then bright at that time, sir. Q: Do you know the names of the five companions of Rodrigo Agsunod? A: If I could see them, I could still identify them, sir. x x x"