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450 Phil. 356


[ G.R. No. 138266, April 30, 2003 ]





This is an appeal from the decision[1] dated January 5, 1999, of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 9, in Criminal Case No. 34, 985-95, finding appellant Pedro Cabrera, Jr., alias “Onyong” guilty of murder and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua. Appellant’s co-accused, Danilo Cabrera, alias “Toti,” remains at large.

The amended information,[2] dated August 21, 1995, charged appellant and his co-accused as follows:
The undersigned accuses the above-named accused of the crime of Murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, committed as follows:

That on or about November 22, 1992, in the City of Davao, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-mentioned accused, conspiring, confederating and helping one another, with treachery, armed with a bladed weapon and with intent to kill, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attacked, assaulted and stabbed one Leopoldo Alvarado thereby inflicting upon the latter stabbed wounds which caused his death.

Contrary to law.
To this amended information, only appellant Pedro Cabrera, Jr., was arraigned. Assisted by counsel, he pleaded not guilty. Trial ensued.

The prosecution adduced evidence consisting of the testimonies of Shirley Aguilus,[3] Benedicto Aguilus, Dr. Danilo Ledesma, and SPO3 Josefa F. Crodua, as well as several documents.

Shirley Aguilus testified that on November 22, 1992, she decided to pay her father a visit at 1055 C. Arellano Street, Davao City.[4] She was with her boyfriend, Leopoldo Alvarado. On their way coming from her work, she observed that there was a gathering in the nearby house of appellant’s mother because it was the first death anniversary of Conrado Cabrera, a brother of appellant. Appellant and another brother, the co-accused Danilo Cabrera, were there in the celebration. The Cabreras lived only a house away from the Aguilus’ residence.

At nine o’clock that evening, after Shirley Aguilus and her boyfriend Leopoldo Alvarado had dinner and watched TV, they left her father’s house to return to where she was staying with a sister in Buhangin, Davao City. But as they were passing the Cabreras’ house, Shirley saw the appellant and his co-accused standing at the front gate. Shirley and Leopoldo were crossing the junction of Jacinto and Quirino Streets, walking side by side, arm in arm, when appellant suddenly came from behind and stabbed Leopoldo. Shocked, Shirley cried, “Bakit n’yo kami ginaganito wala kaming kasalanan sa inyo?” Leopoldo retreated to the Central Bank Building area where, according to Shirley, he was stabbed anew in the stomach by co-accused Danilo Cabrera. Thereafter, Shirley said she saw appellant and his co-accused leave together toward a gasoline station. Two male bystanders helped her bring the wounded Leopoldo to the San Pedro Hospital where Leopoldo was pronounced dead on arrival.[5]

According to Shirley she had her father, Benedicto Aguilus, notified by telephone and together from the San Pedro Hospital they went to the San Pedro Police Station to have the stabbing incident blottered. Asked who did the stabbing, she replied, “our neighbors.” She identified the assailants as the Cabrera brothers, whom she only knew by their nicknames. She was told by the police officer on duty to come back the following day to provide the real names of the culprits. She did not return at that time as she was then eight and a half months pregnant with Leopoldo’s lovechild, and she was afraid of the accused who were known “hawod” in their place.[6]

When asked, she could not offer a possible reason why appellant and his brother stabbed and killed Leopoldo. But she said that it could have been a case of mistaken identity, the accused mistaking Leopoldo for a certain “Muki”[7] who appears to be their enemy. Muki apparently had features similar to Leopoldo’s. As it later surfaced in appellant’s own testimony, Pedro Cabrera, Jr., admitted that a certain Muki Yparraguire was the suspect in the killing of appellant’s other brother a year earlier.[8]

Lastly, according to the witness Shirley Aguilus, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte assured her of his assistance early in 1995, so she came forward to execute an affidavit which led to the prosecution of the accused.[9]

Shirley’s father, Benedicto Aguilus, corroborated the testimony of his daughter. He testified that around 15 to 20 minutes after Shirley and Leopoldo left his residence at 1055 C. Arellano St., a certain Romeo Tambio, a janitor at the Emmanuel Baptist Church, came to inform him that Shirley called from the hospital and had requested Benedicto to come over. Forthwith, he went to the San Pedro Hospital and saw her daughter crying. She told him that Leopoldo was stabbed by the brothers “Onyong” and “Toti” Cabrera. Thus, witness Benedicto Aguilus and his daughter Shirley went to the San Pedro Police Station to report the incident.[10]

Witness Dr. Danilo Ledesma, a medical officer, also testified. According to him, he conducted the autopsy on the victim. As stated in his necropsy report,[11] he testified that the victim sustained three (3) stab wounds. In the death certificate[12] of Leopoldo Alvarado, Dr. Ledesma indicated the cause of death as “hemorrhage, severe, secondary to stab wound of the chest.”

Finally, SPO3 Josefa F. Crodua testified on the due execution of the report in the police blotter, showing the events on the night of November 22, 1992. The blotter was presented in evidence as Exhibit C.

For the defense, appellant Pedro A. Cabrera, Jr., his brothers, Ruben and Leonardo A. Cabrera, and Ricarte P. Alaton testified and presented documentary evidence, marked as Exhibits 1-11.

Appellant invoked the defense of denial and alibi. He testified that he did not kill the victim and that he did not know the person named Leopoldo Alvarado, who died of stab wounds on November 22, 1992. He denied knowing their neighbor, Shirley Aguilus. According to appellant, from 1989 to April of 1995, he was in Manila employed as a helper in the business of his brother, earning P1,000.00 a month. On November 22, 1992, the day of the alleged murder, he was at work, doing his job. As proof of his employment, he presented his brother, Ruben Cabrera, to corroborate his testimony.

According to witness Ruben Cabrera, he has a business firm in Quezon City, engaged in the buy and sell of home decors, carpets, furnitures, jars, paintings, and other objects. He said that sometime in 1989, he hired his brother Pedro Cabrera, Jr., as “kargador.” When asked on cross-examination, he failed to show any record of appellant’s employment. According to the witness, as employer he had no listing of his employees but he could memorize their faces. He added that on November 22, 1992, he was with appellant making deliveries.[13]

Defense witness Ricarte P. Alaton testified that appellant could not have been the assailant of Leopoldo Alvarado because on November 22, 1992, appellant was in Manila. Witness Alaton said he even had a drinking spree with appellant at the Headquarters of the National Equifrilibricum, a religious organization of which he is a member.[14] To substantiate his claim he offered in exhibit his Equifrilibricum World Religion membership card.[15] It turned out, however, that he was the brother-in-law of Renato Cabrera, also a brother of the appellant.

Another brother of appellant, namely Leonardo A. Cabrera, was presented on the witness stand. He stated that the appellant was one of fifteen siblings.[16] But one of their brothers, Conrado Cabrera, died on November 22, 1991, and a sister died on December 21, 1992. [17] He corrected Ruben Cabrera’s testimony as to these dates.

The trial court disbelieved the defense but gave credence to the testimony of eyewitness Shirley Aguilus and other witnesses for the prosecution.

Accordingly, the court rendered judgment as follows:
WHEREFORE, finding the accused PEDRO CABRERA, JR., guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of MURDER qualified by treachery, as defined in Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code, he is hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment of RECLUSION PERPETUA, to suffer the accessory penalties attendant thereto and to indemnify the heirs of Leopoldo Alvarado in the amount of P50,000.00.

His immediate confinement at the National Penitentiary is hereby ordered.

The case against DANILO CABRERA alias Toti, the other accused, is hereby held in abeyance and archived until he is brought to the jurisdiction of this Court. Issue alias warrant for his arrest.

Costs de oficio.

Aggrieved, appellant comes to this Court assigning as lone error the failure of the trial court to acquit him,[19] in this wise:
The resolution of this appeal hinges on the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses, particularly the eyewitness. Appellant seeks to discredit the testimony of the prosecution’s eyewitness, Shirley Aguilus. He points out that contradictions in the latter’s testimony cannot be appreciated as mere mistakes, but constitute deliberate falsehood, thus impairing her credibility as a witness and the weight of her testimony. Specifically, appellant claims that Shirley’s statement on the night of the incident as borne in the police blotter contradicts her testimony on the witness stand four years later as regards the identity of the malefactor.[21]

On record are the pertinent contents of the police blotter, to wit:

For record

MOC informed this Office thru telephone ICOW stabbed victim rushed to San Pedro Hospital; In this connection, PO3 Ballenas and PO3 Jackaria with members of Wagon Bravo led by Pacumbaba left this station to verify.

Returned re-item 2145H Nov 22, 1992 Stabbing Incident

Peace officers mentioned in the immediate preceding item returned this office with info that stabbing incident transpired at the vicinity of Central Bank, along Jacinto Ext., Davao City. The victim identified as one LEOPOLDO ALVARADO Y FERNANDEZ, 25 years old, married, AC Jeep Driver, native of Bansalan,

Davao del Sur, presently resident of Care of Montajes Art and Sign, along San Roque St., Bajada, Davao City, who sustained two stabbed wounds in the left and right breast and left arm. Initial investigation disclosed that victim together with his wife one SHIRLEY ALVARADO were walking along aforementioned place when the unidentified suspects without any apparent reason nor provocation followed them and stabbed the victim twice. Victim was rushed to San Pedro Hospital for treatment. However, he was declared dead on arrival by attending physician. That suspect after the incident hurriedly boarded Alpa PU Minica color white and fled to unknown direction. While at this office the wife of the victim averred that she can identify the suspect if seen again. Case Ref to HAS.[22]

According to appellant, the statements made by Shirley Aguilus appearing in the police blotter immediately after the stabbing incident are admissible as part of the res gestae.[23] He contends that the phraseology “she can identify suspect if seen again” presents a factual impression that Shirley Aguilus never knew of the identity of the assailants at the time of the stabbing; and that her testimony later, identifying appellant as one of the assailants, is a mere concoction raising doubt as to the truth of her testimony.

For the appellee, the Office of the Solicitor General argues that appellant’s logic is faulty and his contention bereft of merit; hence, his conviction should be sustained. According to the OSG, in her testimony Shirley positively identified appellant as one of the assailants on the night of November 22, 1992.[24] The fact that Shirley did not give the full names of the assailants to the desk officer as directed does not detract from her credibility since she had given their nicknames as her neighbors, says the OSG.

At the outset, it should be noted that during trial, appellant’s defense vigorously interposed denial and alibi. After trial, however, his defense changed tack and began to attack the credibility of the prosecution’s eyewitness.

To impeach the credibility of eyewitness Shirley Aguilus, appellant makes it appear that the statements made by Shirley as borne by the police blotter are inconsistent with her statements on the witness stand. Appellant contends also that the omission by Shirley to identify assailants is part of the res gestae, and it should have been afforded evidentiary weight by the trial court to show the inconsistency of her statements.

Such reliance on the rule on res gestae, however, is misplaced. As already explained by this Court in an earlier case, “the rule on res gestae applies when the declarant himself did not testify provided that the testimony of the witness who heard the declarant complies with the following requisites: (1) that the principal act, the res gestae, be a startling occurrence; (2) the statements were made before the declarant had the time to contrive or devise a falsehood; and (3) that the statements must concern the occurrence in question and its immediate attending circumstances.”[25] Since Shirley Aguilus herself testified, there is absolutely no need for the application of the rule on res gestae. Besides, an appreciable amount of time had elapsed from the time of the alleged killing and the making of the statements at the police station, which brings the case beyond the application of the res gestae rule.[26]

As found by the trial court:
[E]ntr[ies] in the police blotter about the suspects being “unidentified” will not help the cause of the accused. It does not mean that Shirley Aguilus failed to identify the accused when she reported to the police. She was categorical in her testimony that she did identify the accused not by their names but by their nicknames. It could be that the Desk Officer simply did not consider the nicknames a sufficient identification of the accused and so wrote “unidentified” in the police blotter because the accused were not identified by their proper names. Besides, even granting in arguendo that Shirley failed to identify the accused to the police when she reported the incident, her failure to do so will not impair her credibility.[27]
Citing People v. Divina,[28] the trial court continued—
The rule is well established that the failure to reveal or disclose at once the identity of the accused does not necessarily affect much less impair, the credibility of the witness. The initial reluctance of witnesses to volunteer information about a criminal case and their unwillingness to be involved in criminal investigations due to fear of reprisal is common and has been judicially declared not to affect credibility.
Further, it is well settled that entries in the police blotter should not be given undue significance or probative value as they are not evidence of the truth of their contents but merely of the fact that they were recorded.[29] Hence, they do not constitute conclusive proof.[30]

As aptly stated in People v. Casinillo:
Appellant’s reliance on the police blotter deserves nothing more than the scantest consideration. In the first place, “[t]he entry in the police blotter is not necessarily entitled to full credit for it could be incomplete and inaccurate, sometimes from either partial suggestions or for want of suggestion or inquiries, without the aid of which the witness may be unable to recall the connected collateral circumstances necessary for the correction of the first suggestion of his memory and for his accurate recollection of all that pertain to the subject.[31]
According to appellant, Shirley’s failure to seek police assistance for the immediate arrest of the assailants, and the fact that two years had elapsed before she was able to execute a sworn statement impaired her credibility as a witness. This matter, however, was adequately explained by the prosecution. Reluctance to get involved in a criminal investigation is not an unnatural reaction of some individuals, especially when there is fear of reprisal. Such initial reluctance is insufficient to affect credibility.[32] Moreover, the eyewitness had given reasons why she did not return to the police station: she was in the last stages of her pregnancy, and she feared the Cabreras who are notorious troublemakers in their neighborhood.[33]

Appellant makes much about the alleged inconsistency in Shirley’s police statement that the suspects hurriedly boarded a white-colored Alpha PU minica and fled to an unknown direction, and her testimony in open court that assailants left towards a gasoline station. Such perceived contradiction refers only to a minor matter that does not touch upon the elements of the crime committed. Inconsistencies in the testimony of witnesses when referring only to minor details and collateral matters do not affect the substance of their declaration, their veracity, or the weight of their testimony.[34]

Lastly, appellant faults the prosecution for failing to present other witnesses who could identify the malefactors. It is settled, however, that in the absence of any evidence to show that the witness was actuated by any improper motive, her identification of the accused as the assailant should be given full faith and credit.[35] Moreover, the testimony of a single eyewitness, if positive and credible, is sufficient to support a conviction even in a charge for murder.[36] Thus, it was not incumbent on the prosecution to comply with the wish of the defense to present more witnesses when one eyewitness would suffice.

In sum, we find that the trial court did not err in its reliance principally upon the testimony of the lone eyewitness for the conviction of appellant.

We go now to the determination of appellant’s criminal liability. The weapon used by appellant and his co-accused, and the location of the wound which is in the chest, a vital part of the body, unmistakably show the intent to kill Leopoldo.[37] The prosecution evidence clearly and convincingly shows a coordinated assault on the victim, with appellant performing a specific role in the execution of the crime. The duo were together at the gate of their house when Shirley Aguilus and the victim passed by. One after another, they attacked the victim with a bladed weapon, with appellant stabbing the victim twice.

Concerning treachery, the prosecution has shown that there was that swift and unexpected attack of an unarmed victim, which is the essence of treachery.[38] The victim was defenseless and unarmed as he was then promenading with his pregnant girlfriend, clueless of the danger that lies ahead. Thus the twin requirements for the existence of treachery under Art. 14 (16) of the Revised Penal Code[39] had been adequately proven: (1) the means of execution employed gave the person attacked no opportunity to defend himself or retaliate; and (2) the means of execution was deliberately or consciously adopted.[40] Accordingly, the killing of Leopoldo Alvarado constitutes murder. Under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code prior to its amendment by Republic Act 7659 or the Death Penalty Law, the crime of murder is punishable by reclusion temporal in its maximum period to death. In the absence of any mitigating or generic aggravating circumstance, the penalty shall be imposed in its medium period, or reclusion perpetua.[41]

As to damages, the trial court awarded to the heirs of the victim, Leopoldo Alvarado, the amount of P50,000 as civil indemnity pursuant to current jurisprudence. However, in addition to the death indemnity, moral damages for the amount of P50,000 must be awarded to the heirs of the victim,[42] as well as P20,000 for temperate damages,[43] in consonance with case law. Temperate or moderate damages are allowed because, while some pecuniary loss has been suffered, from the nature of the case its amount cannot be proved with certainty.

WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City, Branch 9, in Criminal Case No. 34, 985-95 dated January 5, 1999, convicting appellant Pedro Cabrera, Jr., of murder beyond reasonable doubt and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. He is also ordered to pay the heirs of the deceased, Leopoldo Alvarado, P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, and P20,000.00 as temperate damages. Costs de oficio.


Bellosillo, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.

[1] Rollo, pp. 21-36.

[2] Id. at 9-10. The original information was amended to reflect the true date of the commission of the offense from November 22, 1994 to November 22, 1992 (Records, p. 55).

[3] Sometimes Aguilos in some parts of the records.

[4] TSN, 3 April 1996, pp. 3-4.

[5] Id. at 7.

[6] Id. at 11.

[7] Also spelled as “Moki” in some parts of the records.

[8] Rollo, p. 24.

[9] TSN, 3 April 1996, p. 12.

[10] TSN, 23 October 1996, pp. 66-69; 80.

[11] Records, p. 260.

[12] Id. at 261.

[13] TSN, 30 April 1997, pp. 114-115, 118.

[14] TSN, 14 August 1997, pp. 128-129.

[15] Records, p. 270.

[16] TSN, 18 June 1998, pp. 137-138.

[17] Id. at 136.

[18] Rollo, pp. 89-90.

[19] Id. at 57.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Id. at 66-67.

[22] Records, p. 262. Stress supplied.

[23] Rollo, p. 62.

[24] Id. at 102.

[25] People v. Oposculo, Jr., G.R. No. 124572, 20 November 2000, 345 SCRA 167, 176.

[26] People v. Mansueto, G.R. No. 135196, 31 July 2000, 336 SCRA 715, 731.

[27] Rollo, pp. 33-34.

[28] G.R. Nos. 93808-09, 7 April 1993, 221 SCRA 209, 219.

[29] People v. Delos Santos, G.R. No. 132123, 23 November 2000, 345 SCRA 642, 651.

[30] People v. Dacibar, G.R. No. 111286, 17 February 2000, 325 SCRA 725, 736; People v. Geral, G.R. No. 122283, 15 June 2000, 333 SCRA 453, 460.

[31] G.R. No. 97441, 11 September 1992, 213 SCRA 777, 790.

[32] People v. Torres, Jr., G.R. No. 138046, 8 December 2000, 347 SCRA 526, 535.

[33] TSN, 3 April 1996, p. 11; TSN, 17 April 1996, p. 35.

[34] People v. Bato, G.R. No. 134939, 16 February 2000, 325 SCRA 671, 677.

[35] People v. Reyes, G.R. No. 125518, 20 July 1998, 292 SCRA 663, 676.

[36] People v. Villanueva, G.R. Nos. 115555-59, 22 January 1998, 284 SCRA 501, 509; People v. Geral, supra, at 459.

[37] See People v. Balderas, G.R. No. 106582, 31 July 1997, 276 SCRA 470.

[38] See People v. Padlan, G.R. No. 111263, 21 May 1998, 290 SCRA 388.

[39] ART. 14. Aggravating circumstances. - The following are aggravating circumstances:

16. That the act be committed with treachery (alevosia).

There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against person, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense, which the offended party might make.
[40] People v. Abriol, 17 October 2001, G.R. No. 123137, 367 SCRA 327, 350-351.

[41] People v. Malazarte, G.R. No. 108179, 6 September 1996, 261 SCRA 482, 492.

[42] People v. Diolata, G.R. No. 144933, 3 July 2002, p. 7.

[43] People v. Abriol, supra, note 40 at 357.

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