Supreme Court E-Library
Information At Your Fingertips

  View printer friendly version

370 Phil. 368


[ G.R. No. 107746, July 28, 1999 ]




This is an appeal from a conviction for robbery with homicide by Branch 39 of the Regional Trial Court in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro[1].

The case proceeded only as against accused Marcelino Mores and Danilo Zamora, accused Ronnie Racuma having remained at large. From the lower court's conviction, only accused Danilo Zamora appealed.

The information alleged as follows:
That on or about the 9th day of September, 1991, at around 2:00 o'clock in the morning, in the Barangay of Camilimil, Municipality of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, with intent of gain, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously enter the building, housing the Caltex Gasoline Station, and once inside, forcibly opened by means of an iron pipe a cabinet and took and carried away therefrom the amount of TEN THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED FIFTY FIVE (P10,455.00) PESOS, Philippine Currency, representing the proceeds from the sale of gasoline, to the damage and prejudice of the Manager, Belen C. Arago, in said total sum; that on the occasion of said robbery and for the purpose of enabling them to take, steal and carry away the amount above-mentioned, herein accused in pursuance of their conspiracy, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously and with evident premeditation and taking advantage of their superior number and strength and with intent to kill, treacherously attack, assault and stab several times one Alex Montemayor who was the nightguard of the place, thereby inflicting upon him multiple stabbed wounds on the different parts of his body resultant therewith caused his instantaneous death.

That in the commission of the offense of robbery with homicide, the aggravating circumstances of treachery, nighttime and superior strength were attendant.

Contrary to Article 294, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code.
The case of the prosecution relies mainly on the lone eyewitness account of Virgilio Castillo, a 19-year old boy who made a living of washing buses parked in the premises of the Caltex gasoline station where the crime took place, and who spent that ill-fated night in the office of the gasoline station (the "Caltex office", for brevity) with the victim, Alex Montemayor.

Castillo testified that on September 9, 1991, at about two o'clock in the morning, he woke up and went out of the Caltex office in order to urinate. On his way out, he met the three accused, whom he knew for being often present in the premises of the gasoline station[2], who warned him not to return inside the Caltex office.[3] When he asked them why they were going inside the office, he was told that it was none of his business and that they just needed to say something to Alex Montemayor.[4] At this point, Castillo became suspicious and feared that either Alex or he might die.[5] Afraid to walk alone to the police station in order to report the matter, Castillo instead tried to awaken the driver and conductor of Golden Rose Bus No. 16, which was parked about two arms length away from the Caltex office, as well as the driver and conductor of Mindomar Bus, which was also parked nearby. Having failed to awaken these persons, Castillo went back to Golden Rose Bus No. 16 and sat on one of the bus seats, from which vantage point he witnessed accused Danilo Zamora get an iron pipe from Mindomar Bus, and accused Marcelino Mores go behind the water tank of the gasoline station and break a beer bottle. From his position inside the parked bus and through the glass walls of the Caltex office, Castillo watched the three accused, bearing their weapons, enter the Caltex office and attack Alex Montemayor, who was then sleeping on top of a table.[6]

In his testimony, Castillo related how he witnessed Racuma stab Alex Montemayor on the throat with the broken beer bottle, while Zamora and Mores pinned Montemayor down by holding to his hands and hair. Castillo then saw Racuma, using the iron pipe, break the glass pad on top of the table where Montemayor was lying down, causing Montemayor's body to fall to the floor. Using the same iron pipe, Racuma then proceeded to forcibly open a cabinet, built into one of the walls of the Caltex office, and retrieve from within a plastic bedpan containing the day's earnings from the sale of gasoline. Castillo remembered that earlier in the day, he helped Alex Montemayor count the money that was then placed in the plastic bedpan, which amounted to more than P10,000.00.[7] Thereafter, Castillo watched the three accused leave the Caltex office, bringing with them the plastic bedpan, and walk towards the former site of the Petron gasoline station.[8]

Castillo further testified on how he tried to awaken the drivers and conductors sleeping in the parked buses. His attempts having been unsuccessful, he started the engine of the Mindomar Bus, thus causing those sleeping inside the bus to be awakened. Castillo informed the driver of Mindomar Bus, known to him as Ka Carding, that Alex Montemayor was dead. Ka Carding then instructed Castillo to report the matter to Mrs. Cacha, the owner of the gasoline station.[9]

The testimonies of Wilfredo Alegre and Cesar Gutierrez corroborated the account of Virgilio Castillo. Alegre testified that at around two o'clock of September 9, 1991, he was driving a tricycle and was about to buy gasoline at the Caltex station in Camilmil, Calapan, Oriental Mindoro when he noticed three men leave the premises of the gasoline station. He noticed that the men's clothes were stained with blood and one of them was carrying a plastic bedpan. With the aid of the headlight of his tricycle, Alegre claimed that he was able to recognize the three men, and in court, positively identified accused Marcelino Mores and Danilo Zamora as two of them.[10]

Cesar Gutierrez testified that at around two o'clock in the morning of the same day, September 9, 1991, he was walking along the highway in San Vicente, Calapan on his way to his house in Lumangbayan, a nearby barrio. As he passed by the old site of the Petron gasoline station, he saw three men dividing money, after which he observed one of them throw a round object on the other side of the road. He also noticed that two of the men were wearing blood-stained shirts. Gutierrez identified Mores and Zamora as two of the three men he saw. On cross-examination, Gutierrez declared that the lights from the nearby house and building, as well as from a passing tricycle, enabled him to recognize the faces of the three men.[11]

Hours later, in the morning of September 9, 1991, the plastic bedpan[12]was recovered by Police Officer Salvador Frayre of the Calapan Police Station in front of the former site of the Petron gasoline station.[13] The autopsy on the body of Alex Montemayor, conducted by Dr. Arturo Alberto, Municipal Health Officer of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, revealed the cause of death to be hemorrhage secondary to multiple stab wounds.[14]

Accused Marcelino Mores admitted being with Ronnie Racuma and a person he was unable to identify, at the time of the robbery and killing, but maintains that he was merely forced to go with them under threat of being killed.[15] He denied participating in the division of the loot. Accused Danilo Zamora denied participation in the commission of the crime and set up the defense of alibi. He claimed that from September 8, 1991 to September 9, 1991 he was in Morente, Bongabon, Oriental Mindoro to attend to his wife who was then delivering their child.[16]

In handing out the judgment of conviction, the RTC declared that the denials of the accused Mores and Zamora could not prevail over the positive identification of prosecution witnesses who testified on the direct participation of both accused in the commission of the crime, and whose motives in narrating falsehood have not been shown.[17] The dispositive portion of the assailed decision reads as follows:
ACCORDINGLY, the Court finds accused Marcelino Mores alias "Christopher" and Danilo Zamora both guilty beyond reasonable doubt, as principals, of the crime of Robbery with Homicide penalized in paragraph 1 of Article 294 of the Revised Penal Code by reclusion perpetua to death. Considering that there is one generic aggravating circumstance, that is, advantage was taken of superior strength, and no mitigating circumstance present, both accused should suffer the maximum period of the penalty provided by law. Considering, however, the abolition of the death penalty under the Constitution of 1987, both accused are hereby sentenced to suffer reclusion perpetua and to pay the costs. Both accused are likewise ordered to indemnify jointly and severally Mrs. Belen C. Arago, owner of the Caltex Gasoline Station, the amount of P10,455.00, representing the amount taken away by the accused from the said gasoline station, and also to indemnify jointly and severally the legal heirs of Alex Montemayor the amount of P50,000.00 by way of actual damages without subsidiary imprisonment in both instances in case of insolvency.
On appeal, accused Danilo Zamora raised the following assignments of error:
  1. The lower court erred in giving credence to the testimony of the alleged eyewitness, Virgilio Castillo, who gave two sworn statements which are materially inconsistent on a material fact.

  2. The lower court erred in not giving credence to the defense of alibi despite the weakness of the prosecution's evidence.
Relative to the first ground, accused Zamora argued that the inconsistencies in the sworn statements executed by Castillo, dated September 14, 1991 and September 18, 1991, respectively, belie the credibility of Castillo and are sufficient to warrant the acquittal of Zamora. In the first sworn statement, Virgilio Castillo stated that the victim, Alex Montemayor, was already dead when he woke up on the early morning of September 9, 1991 and that he suspected accused Mores and Racuma to be the perpetrators of the crime.[18] In the second sworn statement, Castillo implicated Danilo Zamora as a third perpetrator, and declared that he actually witnessed the three accused rob the Caltex office and kill Alex Montemayor.[19]

The infirmity of affidavits as a species of evidence is a common occurrence in judicial experience.[20] Affidavits are generally not prepared by the affiants themselves but by other persons who use their own language in writing the statements.[21] Being ex parte, they are almost always incomplete and often inaccurate[22], but these factors do not denigrate the credibility of witnesses.[23] As such, affidavits are generally considered to be inferior to testimony given in court.[24]

Well-settled is the rule that affidavits are not considered the best evidence if the affiants are available as witnesses.[25] In the instant case, Virgilio Castillo, testifying in open court, positively identified both accused as two of the three perpetrators of the crime, and gave a straightforward and consistent narration of the incidents he witnessed. The presentation of Castillo as a witness for the prosecution afforded opportunity for the trial court to observe his overall demeanor and for the defense to cross-examine his statements and impeach his credibility. In this light, we find Virgilio Castillo's testimony to be credible in all material points, and hold that the existence of such testimony renders immaterial whatever inconsistencies there may have been in the affidavits he previously executed.

Accused-appellant likewise assigns error to the trial court in refusing to give credence to the defense of alibi. We cannot agree more with the trial court's holding that the denials of the accused could not possibly prevail over the positive identification of them by the three prosecution witnesses, i.e., Virgilio Castillo, Wilfredo Alegre and Cesar Gutierrez, all of whom came across as disinterested and with no apparent motive for injecting falsehood into their testimonies. The fact that prosecution witnesses have no possible motive to make false imputations against the accused shows that their identification of the latter is credible.[26]

Time and again, this Court has had occasion to state that denials and alibis, unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, are negative and self-serving, and cannot be given greater evidentiary weight over the testimonies of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters.[27] In the instant case, the positive and categorical identification by the eyewitness deserves far greater credence than the self-serving testimonies of both accused.[28]

An overall scrutiny of the records of this case leads us to no other conclusion but the correctness of the trial court in holding both accused guilty of the crime of robbery with homicide. We observe that in addition to the aggravating circumstance of taking advantage of superior strength, duly appreciated by the trial court, the additional aggravating circumstance of treachery, evident from the fact that the victim was sleeping when accused attacked him, was also attendant. Considering the presence of two aggravating circumstances with no mitigating circumstance, the maximum penalty of death would be imposable under Article 63 of the Revised Penal Code. However, since the offense was committed during the suspension of the imposition of the death penalty by the 1987 Constitution and prior to its re-imposition under Republic Act No. 7659, the imposable penalty is reclusion perpetua.[29] Reclusion perpetua is a single indivisible penalty which shall be imposed regardless of the attending aggravating or mitigating circumstances.[30]

WHEREFORE, on the foregoing considerations, the assailed judgment of Branch 39 of the Regional Trial Court of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro on Criminal Case No. C-3501 is hereby AFFIRMED with the modification that both accused are ordered to pay jointly and severally civil indemnity of P50,000.00 to the legal heirs of Alex Montemayor; and actual damages of P10,455.00 to Mrs. Belen C. Arago, owner of the gasoline station. Costs against accused-appellant Danilo Zamora.


Romero, (Chairman), Vitug, Panganiban, and Purisima, JJ., concur.

[1] Presided by Judge Marciano T. Virola.

[2] TSN, January 9, 1992, 6-9.

[3] Ibid., 17.

[4] Ibid., 18.

[5] Ibid., 19.

[6] Ibid., 6, 15-23.

[7] In her testimony, Belen Arago, the manager of the Caltex gasoline station, established that the sales proceeds for the day were equivalent to P10,455.00, based on the tape fed into the gasoline fuel pump, which was recovered from the Caltex office. See TSN, January 20, 1992, 12.

[8] TSN, January 9, 1992, 10-14, 23-28; TSN, January 10, 1992, 10-11.

[9] Ibid., 29-31.

[10] TSN, January 22, 1992, 23-25.

[11] TSN, January 21, 1992, 5-11; ibid., 10.

[12] Exhibits "S", "S-1", Records of the Case, 77.

[13] TSN, January 24, 1992, 4-5.

[14] Exhibit "A", Records of the Case, 10.

[15] TSN, February 17, 1992, 6-7.

[16] TSN, February 14, 1992, 5.

[17] Decision of the RTC, 3; Rollo, 103.

[18] Brief for Accused-Appellant, 7; Rollo, 51; Exhibit "K", Records of the Case, 9.

[19] Brief for the Accused-Appellant, 7-8; Rollo, 51-52; Exhibit "L", Records of the Case, 14.

[20] People vs. Sumbillo, 271 SCRA 428.

[21] People vs. Reyes, 245 SCRA 785.

[22] People vs. Rivera, G.R. No. 117471, September 3, 1998; People vs. Jamiro, 279 SCRA 290; People vs. Oliva, 282 SCRA 470; People vs. Abrera, 283 SCRA 1.

[23] People vs. Palomar, 278 SCRA 114; Naval vs. Panday, 275 SCRA 654; People vs. Peralta, 251 SCRA 6.

[24] People vs. Pontilar, Jr., 275 SCRA 338; People vs. Lazaro, 249 SCRA 234.

[25] People vs. Matildo, 230 SCRA 753; Bascos vs. Court of Appeals, 221 SCRA 318.

[26] People vs. Sotto, 275 SCRA 191.

[27] People vs. Arellano, 282 SCRA 500; People vs. Melgar-Mercader, 277 SCRA 609; Caca vs. Court of Appeals, 275 SCRA 123; People vs. Parazo, 272 SCRA 512; People vs. Gayon, 269 SCRA 587.

[28] See People vs. Sotto, supra; People vs. Lacatan, G.R. No. 121532, September 7, 1998.

[29] People vs. Pulusan, G.R. No. 110037, May 21, 1998.

[30] People vs. Abdul, G.R. No. 128074, July 13, 1999; Article 63, Revised Penal Code.

© 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.