403 Phil. 155
The birth of the New Year in 1998 saw the loss of Roger and Eufemia Cabiguin's infant child, Joyce Ann Cabiguin. For her loss, an information was filed against the accused Roger Rama, viz
"That on or about the 1st day of January, 1998, in the City of Dagupan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, ROGER RAMA, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously kidnap JOYCE ANN CABIGUIN, a minor, one (1) year and six (6) months old.
Contrary to Article 267, par. 4 of the Revised Penal Code."
The prosecution's story was gathered mainly from the testimony of five-year old Roxanne Cabiguin, a cousin of Joyce Ann. On January 1, 1998, Roxanne, her sister Rose Ann, Mama Weng, Uncle Dony, grandmother Diana, Joyce Ann and the latter's younger brother Pogi were at the Dagupan public plaza. Roxanne played with her Uncle Dony, Rose Ann, and Joyce Ann at the plaza's stage while her Mama Weng sat at the side of the stage, feeding Pogi. Mama Diana went to a store to buy some food.
At that time, the accused Rama and another man were also at the plaza. Rama called Roxanne and told her that if she would bring the beautiful girl (referring to Joyce Ann) to him, he would give Roxanne a biscuit. Rama gave her one biscuit. She ate it. She then carried Joyce Ann to the accused Rama who ran away with little Joyce Ann. Roxanne told her Mama Weng and Mama Diana that Joyce Ann was taken by a man. They looked for Joyce Ann and the man but they were nowhere to be found. During her testimony, Roxanne pointed to the accused Rama as the man who took away Joyce Ann.
Roxanne's testimony was corroborated by Pierre Torio. On January 1, 1998, he was with his cousin and niece at the Dagupan City plaza from about 1:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Facing the stage, they sat on a bench to its right. They were about nine to ten meters away from the stage. There were about seven children playing on the stage. At about 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., the accused Rama entered the plaza and sat about five to six meters away from them. He was with two other men and a pregnant woman. He entered the plaza playground where many kids were playing. He stared at the children and looked confused, then came out seemingly not knowing what to do, and approached the stage. But before he could reach the stage, he returned to the playground. Subsequently, at about 2:45 p.m., a tall man asked Torio if he saw the missing Joyce Ann. He replied that he saw the accused Rama acting suspiciously in the plaza. He did not see though whether Rama took Joyce Ann. By this time, Rama was nowhere in sight.
On January 7, 1998, Torio's cousin called him up to go to the Dagupan City police station because the person who took Joyce Ann was there. He was asked to identify the man he saw acting suspiciously at the playground. The police pointed successively to the men sitting at the police station and each time asked Torio if that was the suspicious-acting man. He replied in the negative. When the police pointed the accused Rama, Torio confirmed that he was the man acting suspiciously. He gave a sworn statement narrating what he saw on January 1, 1998 at the Dagupan plaza playground. On the witness stand, Torio pointed to the accused Rama as the man who acted suspiciously at the playground. He affirmed that he could not be mistaken because the accused Rama sat only about five to six meters away from him.
Diana Laviste Cabiguin, paternal grandmother of Joyce Ann, also testified. Along with Joyce Ann and other relatives, she went to the Dagupan plaza on January 1, 1998. At the time Joyce Ann disappeared, Diana went to McDonald's to buy some snacks. When she went back to her relatives, Joyce Ann was already gone. One of the children playing in the plaza playground, Bryan Ocampo, informed Diana's group that Joyce Anne was taken by a man. They searched in vain for the missing Joyce Ann. Two days later, or on January 3, 1998, after receiving tips from the townspeople, Diana went to Binmaley, Pangasinan, the vicinity where the accused lived. She was with a certain Elvira Sebastian, some policemen, and three children at the plaza playing with Joyce Ann on January 1, 1998, namely: thirteen-year old Bryan Ocampo, eleven-year old Benjamin Sarmiento, and Jesus Ulanday. When the group reached the house of the accused Rama, they found the latter and his wife and their children sleeping. They were permitted by the accused Rama to examine the premises of his house and to look for the missing Joyce Anne. Their search was fruitless but all three kids pointed to the accused Rama as the kidnapper. Jesus even urinated upon seeing the accused Rama because the latter spanked him when he (Jesus) ran after Rama as the latter took away Joyce Ann. Rama threatened Jesus not to follow him or else he (Rama) would throw a stone at him.
On January 5 or 6, 1998, Diana, Bryan, Benjamin, and Jesus went again to Binmaley. All three children pointed again to the accused Rama as the man who took Joyce Anne. The three children did not, however, take the witness stand. Bryan's parents were at first willing to let Bryan testify, but after Rama's wife talked to them, they changed their mind. Benjamin's father was at first also willing to let his child testify but later on had a change of heart for fear of their safety.
Elvira Sebastian corroborated Diana Laviste's testimony. She testified that on the night of January 1, 1998, Diana, along with some policemen and three children who witnessed the taking of Joyce Ann, one of whom was a certain Bryan, went to her house because the first suspect was her uncle, Eduardo Sebastian. The children were asked if Eduardo was the kidnapper, but they answered in the negative. Diana asked Elvira's assistance to find the kidnapper.
The following day, or on January 2, 1998, at about 9:00 a.m., Diana went back to Elvira's house. Elvira, Diana, Bryan, Benjamin, and Jesus asked around about the missing Joyce Anne. Elvira learned from the former manager of the fish business where the accused Rama worked that there were other instances of kidnapping in the market place. She (the manager) informed Elvira that on January 1, 1998, she saw the accused Rama with a child. The manager told Elvira that the latter might be familiar with Rama's face because he was pushing carts of fish for a living and these cart pushers would usually buy doughnuts from the store of Elvira's father. Elvira stayed behind to wait for the accused Rama at the manager's store. The rest of Diana's group went to the National Bureau of Investigation. After an hour's wait in vain, Elvira left. She returned the following day, but again, the accused Rama did not show up.
On January 3, 1998, Elvira went with Diana, Bryan, Benjamin, Jesus, Roger (father of Joyce Ann), and some policemen to Rama's house. The children pointed to the accused Rama as the culprit. One of the children whom the accused Rama spanked at the park during the taking of Joyce Ann even urinated out of fright when he saw the accused. Despite the identification made by the children, the policemen did not arrest Rama. This prompted Diana to go to the Philippine National Police - Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) in Dagupan City for the arrest of the accused Rama. The following day, she and the children went to the Magsaysay market beside Mele's restaurant and saw again the accused Rama. The children again pointed to the accused as the man behind Joyce Ann's taking. Rama threatened them not to implicate him or he would kill them. The group left the place. She executed an affidavit narrating the foregoing incidents.
SPO3 Teofilo Ubando, investigator at the PNP-CIDG in Dagupan City, also took the witness stand. He testified that on January 6, 1998, Roger and his wife, Eufemia, went to the CIDG office. They reported to Ubando that the accused Rama kidnapped their daughter, Joyce Ann. Bryan and Benjamin who witnessed the accused Rama take Joyce Ann, also went to the CIDG office. The two children informed Ubando where the accused Rama lived. Eufemia, Ubando, Bryan, Benjamin, and other policemen went to Rama's house in Binmaley, Pangasinan, while Roger was left in the office. They brought with them a letter signed by Police Senior Inspector Rodolfo S. Azurin, Jr., Deputy Provincial Field Officer, inviting the accused Rama to immediately appear before the CIDG in relation to the kidnapping of Joyce Ann.
Upon reaching Rama's house, the group did not find him there. His wife told them that he was in Mele's restaurant. Together with Rama's wife, the group proceeded to Mele's restaurant. At about 4:30 p.m., Rama arrived. The police presented to him the letter signed by Azurin and invited him to go to their office. The accused Rama obliged. His wife went with him. When the group arrived in the CIDG office, Rama signed the letter inviting him to the police station.
The following day, or on January 7, 1998, the police presented the accused Rama and four other persons from their office in a police line-up. Benjamin and Bryan, and three other witnesses, Rose Anne Cabiguin, Jesus Cabiguin, and Andrew Cabiguin, all pointed to the accused Rama as the man who took Joyce Ann. Pictures were taken of Benjamin and Bryan, and Jesus Ulanday pointing to the accused Rama as the man who took away Joyce Ann.
Sgt. Moyano and Sgt. Niro took the affidavits of Benjamin and Bryan. Roger Cabiguin's statement was also taken.
The accused Rama testified. From 1975 up to 1998, he was a cart pusher at the Magsaysay market in Dagupan City. He would go to work at about 6:30 p.m. and go home at about 9:00 the following morning. Fish vendors would usually hire him to carry their goods in his cart. On January 1, 1998, he was at home in Binmaley, Pangasinan, the whole day. He fetched water, helped his wife wash clothes, and took care of his youngest daughter. At 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., he went to sleep. He did not go to work in the evening as his customers usually did not sell fish on New Year's Day. The next day, he again stayed in the house. At 6:30 in the evening, he went to work and went home the following morning at 9:00. On January 3, 1998, he went to work as usual. Upon arriving home the next morning, his wife told him that at about 11:00 p.m. the previous night, some policemen went to their house looking for something. On January 4, 1998, at about 11:00 in the evening, two policemen went to his house looking for a baby. They were with an old woman whom Rama later on identified in the courtroom as Diana Laviste, a man, Bryan and Benjamin. He let the group in. They did not find the baby they were looking for. The two children stated that he (Rama) was not the man who took the missing Joyce Ann.
On January 5, 1998, Rama again went to work until 9:00 a.m. He arrived home at about 10:30 a.m. and stayed there until 12:00 noon. He went to the city and watched a movie from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. He then proceeded to the Magsaysay market to get his cart. Thereupon, a CIDG member approached him and asked him to go with his group because they were going to ask him some questions. He was asked where he brought the missing Joyce Ann, but he denied taking the child. When he arrived at the CIDG office in Tapuac, the CIDG members asked him to join a police line-up. Bryan and Benjamin were then brought out and they pointed to the accused and said "It's him." At the latter part of his testimony, however, the accused Rama testified that the children said, "It's not him." When shown Exhibit B-1, a picture of two children pointing to him, the accused confirmed that the two children were Bryan and Benjamin. Another unidentified child pointed to the accused Rama. Roxanne who later on testified in court also pointed to him at the line-up. These children were not assisted when they identified him at the police line-up. After investigation, Rama was asked to stay in the CIDG detachment from January 6 to 9, 1998, then he was transferred to Bonuan, then he was again brought back to the CIDG office. Rama testified that he did not know of any reason why Diana Laviste and Roger Cabiguin filed a case against him, why Bryan and Benjamin identified him as the culprit during the police line-up, and why Roxanne identified him in court as the man who took Joyce Ann. He also did not have any grudge against Pierre Torio.
Violeta Cayabyab also testified in defense of the accused Rama. She was Rama's neighbor in Binmaley, Pangasinan. She testified that on January 1, 1998, the accused Rama was in his house the whole day. On cross-examination, however, she testified that as a vegetable vendor, she would leave Binmaley at dawn and purchase her vegetables in Dagupan at about 3:00 a.m everyday. She would then sell her vegetables in the morning and go home at about 11:00 a.m. She also testified that the accused Rama's family and her family are good neighbors. They consider each other as part of the family. Between the accused Rama and the private complainant, she admitted that she would side with Rama.
Edilberto Aguada took the witness stand. He is a canteen owner and the person from whom the accused Rama had been getting his cart for two years. On January 1, 1998, the accused Rama reported for work in the evening. He also worked in the evening of January 2, 1998. On cross-examination, however, he admitted that he did not see the accused Rama until evening on January 1, 1998. The same was true of January 2, 1998. He admitted that he did not know what the accused Rama did on those days.
SPO4 Reynaldo de Vera of the Dagupan City Police Station also testified. On January 1, 1998, Diana Laviste reported the kidnapping of Joyce Ann Cabiguin. On January 4, 1998, Diana, along with Roger, went back to the police station and informed them that the children who were witnesses to the kidnapping of Joyce Ann lived in Pantal. De Vera, SPO2 Cesar Calimag, Diana, and Roger went to Pantal to pick up the children. The group then went to the house of the accused Rama in Gayaman, Binmaley. When they saw the accused Rama in his house and the two children were asked if he was the man who took away Joyce Ann, they answered that he was not the one. The police asked the children to further examine the face of the accused Rama, but the children confirmed that it was not him. The group then left the house and proceeded back to the police station. De Vera did not make any written record of the identification process. The police likewise no longer followed up the case of the missing Joyce Ann.
The trial court gave credence to the prosecution's story. It convicted the accused Rama, viz
"WHEREFORE, the accused is hereby found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offense charged as defined and penalized by Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 7659, and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the parents of the victim the amount of P100,000.00 as moral damages and another amount of P20,000.00 as temperate or moderate damages. Considering that reclusion perpetua shall be from twenty years and one day to forty years (Art. 27, RA 7659), the period within which he has been placed under detention shall be deducted from his sentence."
Hence this appeal by the accused Rama on the following grounds:
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT DISMISSING THE CASE DESPITE SEVERAL INSTANCES WHEREIN THE PROSECUTION WAS NOT ABLE TO PRESENT OR CONTINUE THE PRESENTATION OF ITS EVIDENCE.
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF KIDNAPPING.
We first deal with the issue of the prosecution's repeated failure to present evidence. On April 20, 1998, due to the absence of the public prosecutor, the lower court issued an order resetting the hearing to April 30 and May 4, 1998 with a warning to the prosecution that if it fails to present its witness without any reason, the case would be dismissed.
The hearing scheduled on April 30, 1998, was, however, cancelled because the judge was on leave. On May 4, 1998, the prosecution witness did not appear. The court gave the prosecution another chance to present its witnesses on May 12, 1998 with a second warning that should the prosecution again fail to do so, the case would be dismissed. On May 12, 1998, the public prosecutor handling the instant case was absent due to sickness. Another public prosecutor appeared before the court and informed the judge that she was not certain whether the private complainant and other witnesses were notified of the hearing. The substitute prosecutor prayed for a three-day postponement in order to contact the private complainant and promised that should the prosecution fail to present witnesses at such time, the prosecution would not object to a provisional dismissal of the case. Against the vehement objection of the defense, the court granted the prosecution a last chance to present its witnesses on May 15, 1998 and gave a final warning that should the prosecution fail to do so, the case would be dismissed. On May 15, 1998, the prosecution presented its witness. The defense contends that the delays caused by the prosecution violated his right to speedy trial. The court therefore committed grave abuse of discretion in not dismissing the instant case.
The accused's contention is bereft of merit. While the Court recognizes the accused's right to speedy trial and adheres to a policy of speedy administration of justice, we cannot deprive the State of a reasonable opportunity to fairly prosecute criminals. Unjustified postponements which prolong the trial for an unreasonable length of time are what offend the right of the accused to speedy trial.
The prosecution failed to justify the absence of the prosecutor from the hearing on April 20, 1998. Nor was it able to offer an explanation for the failure of the witness to appear on May 4, 1998. On May 12, 1998, the public prosecutor was again absent due to sickness and it was not ascertained whether the prosecution witness was notified of the scheduled hearing. Three days thenceforth, however, the prosecution presented its witness.
In determining whether the accused's right to speedy trial was violated, the delay demonstrated above should be considered in view of the entirety of the proceedings. The following provisions of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure (the "Revised Rules") which became effective last December 1, 2000, are apropos:
"Rule 115, Section 1(h). Rights of accused at the trial. -- In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be entitled to the following rights:
(h) To have speedy, impartial and public trial."
"Rule 119, Section 2. Continuous trial until terminated; postponements.-- Trial once commenced shall continue from day to day as far as practicable until terminated. It may be postponed for a reasonable length of time for good cause.
The court shall, after consultation with the prosecutor and defense counsel, set the case for continuous trial on a weekly or other short-term trial calendar at the earliest possible time so as to ensure speedy trial. In no case shall the entire trial period exceed one hundred eighty (180) days from the first day of trial, except as otherwise authorized by the Supreme Court."
The Information for the instant case was filed on February 3, 1998. The prosecution presented its witnesses from March 4, 1998 to May 26, 1998. The defense, on the other hand, presented its witnesses from August 4, 1998 to September 15, 1998. The trial court rendered its decision on September 28, 1998. We can compute from the above dates that the trial was completed in 195 days or from March 4, 1998 to September 15, 1998. However, while the Revised Rules provide that the entire trial period shall not exceed one hundred eighty (180) days, delays caused by the accused himself or his counsel should logically be excluded from this period. The records show that on March 4, 1998, Atty. Abalos replaced Atty. Taminaya as counsel for the accused. Atty. Abalos asked for a resetting of the case to March 27, 1998 to allow him to go over the transcript of stenographic notes of the testimony of the prosecution witness and conduct cross-examination.
On March 27, 1998, Atty. Abalos was absent and so the hearing was reset to March 30, 1998.
On April 2, 1998, Atty. Abalos was appointed as public prosecutor, thus leaving the accused Rama without counsel. Atty. Surot was appointed as the accused's new counsel. To give Atty. Surot a chance to go over the records of the case, the hearing was reset to April 14, 1998.
All in all, therefore, the delay caused by the accused or his counsel was a period of thirty-eight (38) days. This period should be deducted from the 195-day period within which the trial was completed. Thus, to be exact, the entire trial was completed in one hundred fifty-seven (157) days, well within the 180-day period provided by the Revised Rules. This is not an unreasonable length of time that violates the right of the accused to speedy trial. The trial court therefore did not err in not dismissing the case on the ground of violation of the accused's right to speedy trial.
We come now to the second issue raised by the defense. The accused Rama faults the trial court for finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt despite the insufficiency of evidence. First
, he makes much of the fact that the prosecution did not present Bryan and Benjamin, the two children who allegedly saw the accused Rama take Joyce Ann. This fact, however, does not militate against the story of the prosecution. It is well-settled that the non-presentation of certain witnesses by the prosecution is not a plausible defense and the matter of choosing witnesses to present lies in the sound discretion of the prosecutor handling the case.
Besides, the prosecution adequately explained that the parents of the two children, Bryan and Benjamin, reneged on their willingness to have their children testify after the wife of the accused talked to them for fear of their safety. Likewise, as correctly pointed out in the appellee's brief, nothing could have prevented the defense from presenting Bryan and Benjamin as its own witnesses in order to discredit the testimony of Roxanne, the lone eyewitness presented by the prosecution. The presumption of suppressed evidence does not apply when the same is equally accessible or available to the defense.Secondly
, the accused points out that since Bryan and Benjamin were not presented as prosecution witnesses, Diana Laviste's claim that these children pointed to the accused as the man who took away Joyce Ann does not bear any weight in evidence. This therefore leaves only the testimony of Roxanne as the basis for the prosecution's identification of the accused Rama as the culprit. The defense contends, however, that Roxanne's testimony, coming from the mouth of a five-year old, does not deserve credit because she could not answer many questions and appeared to have been coached by her grandmother, Diana.
We cannot subscribe to the accused's contention. The Rules of Evidence provide in Rule 130, Secs. 20 and 21:
"Sec. 20. Witnesses; their qualifications. - Except as provided in the next succeeding section, all persons who can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their perceptions to others, may be witnesses.
Sec. 21. Disqualification by reason of mental incapacity or immaturity. - The following persons cannot be witnesses:
(b) Children whose mental maturity is such as to render them incapable pf perceiving the facts respecting which they are examined and relating them truthfully."
In Dulla v. Court of Appeals and Andrea Ortega,
the Court, citing the above provisions, gave credence to the testimony of a three-year old witness. It held:
"It is thus clear that any child, regardless of age, can be a competent witness if he can perceive, and perceiving, can make known his perception to others and of relating truthfully facts respecting which he is examined. In the 1913 decision in United States v. Buncad, this Court stated:
Professor Wigmore, after referring to the common-law precedents upon this point says: 'But this much may be taken as settled, that no rule defines any particular age as conclusive of incapacity; in each instance the capacity of the particular child is to be investigated.' (Wigmore on Evidence, vol. I, p. 638)
The requirements then of a child's competency as a witness are the: (a) capacity of observation, (b) capacity of recollection, and (c) capacity of communication. And in ascertaining whether a child is of sufficient intelligence according to the foregoing, it is setted that the trial court is called upon to make such determination." (emphasis supplied)
In People v. Mendiola,
the Court gave credence to the testimony of the six-year old witness even if she failed to answer some questions because of her tender age.
In the case at bar, while the five-year old witness, Roxanne, was not able to answer some questions such as which was her left and her right, she was straightforward in identifying the accused Rama as the culprit, viz
|"Q:||You said you will tell the truth, will you tell the truth now?|
| || |
|Q:||Who is your mother?|
|A:||Nanay Weng, sir.|
| || |
|Q:||Will you please point to her?|
|A:||My mother is not here, sir.|
| || |
| || |
|Q:||Do you know Joyce Ann Cabiguin?|
| || |
|Q:||Do you know where Joyce Ann is now?|
| || |
|Q:||Why, where is she now?|
|A:||She is not here, sir.|
| || |
|A:||Because a man took her, sir.|
| || |
|Q:||You said that a man took her, who is that man, if you know?|
| || |
|Q:||Will you point to her (sic)?|
|A:||(Witness pointed to a person, when asked, responded by the name of Roger Rama)|
| || |
|Q:||Do you know what place or where that man took Joyce Ann?|
|A:||At the plaza, sir.|
| || |
|Q:||Why were you at the plaza?|
|A:||Because my mother brought us for a stroll, sir.|
| || |
| || |
|Q:||What did you see at the plaza?|
| || |
|Q:||Did you talk to that man at the stage?|
| || |
|Q:||What did he say to you, if any?|
|A:||He told me that I will get the beautiful girl and he will give biscuit, sir.|
| || |
|Q:||Who is that beautiful girl?|
|A:||My ading (my sister), sir.|
| || |
|Q:||Do you know the name of your ading?|
Joyce Ann, sir.
| || |
|Q:||Can you tell the Court how you carried her?|
|A:||(witness demonstrated how she carried her sister by extending her two hands)|
| || |
|Q:||Is Joyce Ann already able to walk or not?|
| || |
|Q:||Where did you bring Joyce Ann?|
To the man, sir.
| || |
|Q:||That same man?|
| || |
|Q:||What did the man do to Joyce Ann?|
|A:||He ran away with her, sir."|
On cross-examination, Roxanne remained straightforward, consistent, and candid in her testimony, viz
When you told (sic) that the man told you that he will give you biscuit and telling (sic) you that you get Joyce Ann and bring her to him, did he give you that biscuit already before you went to Joyce Ann?
| || |
|Q:||How many biscuits did he give you?|
| || |
|Q:||Did you give Joyce Ann a piece of the biscuit?|
| || |
|Q:||What did you do with the biscuit?|
|A:||I ate it, sir.|
| || |
Do you know how to distinguish colors?
| || |
|Q:||Do you remember what was the man wearing at that time when he approached you?|
| || |
|A:||(witness pointed again to accused Roger Rama)|
| || |
When this Roger Rama approached you, and upon telling you that you bring Joyce Ann to him, did you bring Joyce Ann immediately to him?
| || |
|Q:||When you brought Joyce Ann to him, what did you do?|
|A:||He ran away with my sister Joyce Ann, sir."|
We thus find no reason to disturb the trial court's assessment of the credibility of the child witness, Roxanne. The determination of the competence and credibility of a child as a witness rests primarily with the trial judge as he had the opportunity to see the demeanor of the witness, his apparent intelligence or lack of it, and his understanding of the nature of the oath. As many of these qualities cannot be conveyed by the record of the case, the trial judge's evaluation will not be disturbed on review, unless it is clear from the record that his judgment is erroneous.
This conclusion is in accord with the spirit and letter of the Rule on Examination of a Child Witness (the "Rule") which became effective last December 15, 2000. The following provisions are apropos:
"Section 1. Applicability of the Rule. -- Unless otherwise provided, this Rule shall govern the examination of child witnesses who are victims of crime, accused of a crime, and witnesses to crime. It shall apply in all criminal proceedings and non-criminal proceedings involving child witnesses." (emphasis supplied)Thirdly
"Section 3. Construction of the Rule. -- This Rule shall be liberally construed to uphold the best interests of the child and to promote the maximum accommodation of child witnesses without prejudice to the constitutional rights of the accused." (emphasis supplied)
"Section 6. Competence. -- Every child is presumed qualified to be a witness. However, the court shall conduct a competency examination of a child, motu proprio or on motion of a party, when it finds that substantial doubt exists regarding the ability of the child to perceive, remember, communicate, distinguish truth from falsehood, or appreciate the duty to tell the truth in court.
(a) Proof of necessity. -- A party seeking a competency examination must present proof of necessity of competence examination. The age of the child by itself is not a sufficient basis for a competency examination." (emphasis supplied)
, the defense faults the trial court for relying on a single eyewitness account in convicting the accused Rama. The Court has long held that the testimony of a sole eyewitness is sufficient to support a conviction so long as it is clear, straightforward and worthy of credence by the trial court.
The Rule also provides in Section 22, viz:
"Section 22. Corroboration.-- Corroboration shall not be required of a testimony of a child. His testimony, if credible by itself, shall be sufficient to support a finding of fact, conclusion, or judgment subject to the standard of proof required in criminal and non-criminal cases." (emphasis supplied)
The records of the instant case bear out the clear and straightforward manner by which Roxanne testified. The trial court thus correctly relied upon the sole testimony of Roxanne.Fourthly
, as opposed to the accused's contention, motive is not essential to the conviction of the accused when he is positively identified.
As the lone eyewitness, Roxanne, positively identified the accused Rama, the accused's contention deserves scant consideration. In fact, what is worthy of consideration is the fact that the accused Rama himself admitted that he did not know of any motive which would urge the prosecution witnesses to falsely testify against him. The running case law is that where there is no evidence that the principal witness for the prosecution was actuated by improper motive, the presumption is that he was not so actuated and his testimony is entitled to full faith and credit.Finally
, the accused Rama contends that the testimony of SPO4 Reynaldo de Vera of the Dagupan City Police Headquarters that Bryan and Benjamin did not point to the accused Rama as the culprit when they went to Rama's house should be given weight. Absent any motive for de Vera to testify for the defense, he should be presumed to be telling the truth and performing his duties regularly. We do not agree. Suffice it to say that the observations stated and conclusions drawn by the trial court in its decision adequately meet this contention of the accused Rama. The trial court noted the lackadaisical manner by which de Vera handled the case of the missing Joyce Ann. He could not even remember if he recorded in the police blotter the disappearance of Joyce Ann as reported by her parents and the investigation he made when he, along with Bryan and Benjamin, went to the house of the accused. He did not even take down notes when he conducted his investigation of the accused. Nor did he follow-up the case after the investigation he conducted in the house of accused Rama. It was in fact his demeanor which prompted Joyce Ann's parents to seek the help of the CIDG in Dagupan City.
In view of the positive identification made by Roxanne, the accused's defense of denial and alibi must fall. Well-settled is the rule that positive identification of the accused will prevail over the defense of denial and alibi.
Furthermore, for alibi to prosper, it must be shown that there was physical impossibility for the accused to have been at the scene of the crime. The defense has failed to satisfy this requirement. The trial court took judicial notice of the fact that Gayaman where the accused supposedly was at the time Joyce Ann disappeared is only about five to six kilometers away from the plaza where Joyce Ann was playing.
We now deal with the penalty to be imposed. Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code provides in relevant part, viz:
"Art. 267. Kidnapping and serious illegal detention. - Any private individual who shall kidnap or detain another, or in any other manner deprive him of his liberty, shall suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death:
- If the kidnapping or detention shall have lasted more than three days."
As of the time the instant case was decided by the trial court, Joyce Ann was still missing. Her kidnapping had far exceeded three days. The penalty of reclusion perpetua
is thus meted out to the accused Rama in accordance with the above provision. Anent the award of damages, the trial court struck off the record Roger Cabiguin's testimony regarding the anguish Joyce Ann's loss caused him because he did not appear for cross-examination. There being no evidence in support of the award of moral and temperate damages, we cannot award the same.IN VIEW WHEREOF,
the impugned decision is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the award of moral and temperate damages is deleted. Costs against accused-appellant.SO ORDERED.Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Kapunan, Pardo,
and Ynares-Santiago, JJ.,
Original Records, p. 3.
TSN, Roxanne Cabiguin, May 26, 1998, pp. 4-16; 18-23.
TSN, Pierre Torio, May 26, 1998, pp. 25-29; 33-37. Id
., pp. 30-33; 37-39.
TSN, Diana Leviste, August 31, 1998, pp. 1-6; 8-12.
TSN, Elvira Sebastian, August 4, 1998, pp. 2-15.
Original Records, p. 47; Exhibit "B"; TSN, Diana Leviste, August 31, 1998, p. 2.
TSN, SPO3 Teofilo Ubando, May 15, 1998, pp. 3-14.
TSN, Roger Rama, July 21, 1998, pp. 2, 5-20.
TSN, Violeta Cayabyab, July 22, 1998, pp. 2-8.
TSN, Edilberto Aguado, July 27, 1998, pp. 2-4, 6, 8.
TSN, SPO4 Reynaldo de Vera, September 15, 1998, pp. 2-8. Rollo
, p. 84.
Original Records, p. 73.
Tai Lim v. Court of Appeals, 317 SCRA 521 (1999).
Original Records, p. 48. Id
., p. 58. Id
., p. 60.
Rabor v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 140344, August 18, 2000, citing People v. De los Santos, 295 SCRA 583, 604 (1998) and People v. Pabalan, 262 SCRA 574 (1996). Id
., citing People v. Martinez, 205 SCRA 666 (1992) and People v. Araja, 105 SCRA 133 (1992).
G.R. No. 123164, February 18, 2000, quoting People v. Mendoza, 254 SCRA 18, 31-32 (1996).
G.R. No. 134846, August 8, 2000.
TSN, Roxanne Cabiguin, May 26, 1998, pp. 2-6. Id
., pp. 18-19.
People v. Garigadi, G.R. No. 110111, October 26, 1999.
People v. Quillosa, G.R. No. 115687, February 17, 2000, citing People v. Lotoc, G.R. No. 132166, May 19, 1999, p.11; People v. Platilla, G.R. No. 126123, March 9, 1999, p. 14. Id
., citing People v. Tan, G.R. No. 132324, September 28, 1999, p. 18; People v. Laceste, 293 SCRA 397, 408 (1998). Id
., citing People v. Alfeche, 294 SCRA 352, 376 (1998); People v. Mostrales, 294 SCRA 701, 712 (1998).
People v. Gallego, G.R. No. 130603, August 15, 2000, citing People v. Rojas, G.R. No. 125292, April 12, 2000, citing People v. Cortes, G.R. No. 129693, January 24, 2000.
Pader v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 139157, February 8, 2000; Civil Code, art. 2224.