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617 Phil. 749


[ G.R. No. 179748, October 02, 2009 ]




Appellants Feblonelybirth Rubio (Rubio) and Joan Amaro (Amaro) challenge the August 17, 2006 Decision[1] of the Court of Appeals which affirmed the April 12, 2002 Decision[2] of Branch 45 of the Regional Trial Court of Bais City finding them guilty of rape with homicide.

The Amended Information3 of October 25, 1999 indicting appellants reads:

That on or about 6:00 o'clock [sic] in the morning of July 21, 1999 at [xxx], Bais City, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and helping one another, and, by means of violence and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take turn in having carnal knowledge with a girl named [AAA[4]], a minor, sixteen (16) years of age, against her will and, that on the occasion of the said rape and for the purpose of silencing her, the herein accused[,] in pursuance of their conspiracy and using bladed weapons which they were then armed and provided, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, and with evident premeditation and taking advantage of their superior number and strength [sic] and with intent to kill, attack, assault and stab the victim thereby inflicting upon her the following injuries [,] to wit:
- hematoma left infra-orbital area.
-incised wound #1-2 cms in length at the left side of the nose.
-Hematoma mid-upper lip.

-stab wound #1 - supra clavicular area® side.
- 1 cm in length, o.5 cm in width, 0.5 cm in depth.
- Slab wound #2 - above the clavicular notch.
-2 cms in length, 0.7 cm in width, 2 cms. in depth.
-Stab wound #3 - located 6 cms above the (L) nipple lateral side.
-3 cms in length, 3 cms in depth, 1 cm in width.

Upper Extremity
- incised wound #2 located ant. Part of® axilla.
- 3 cms in length 2 cm in depth, 1 cm in width.
-Incised wound #5 located at the dorsal side of® wrist.
-2 cms in length, 0.2 cms in width, 0.4 cms in depth.

- incised wound #3 Located at the mid anterior chest.
-10.2 cms in length1, in depth, 2 cms in width.

-incised wound # 4 located along the medial line of the abdomen.
-22 cms in length, 10.5 cms in width (widest)
-part of the colon & small intestine coming out of the wound.

-nulliparous female, (+) hymenal laceration at 6 o'[clock] & 9 o'clock positions.
-aspirated about 2 cc of cloudy white, nucoid fluid from the vaginal canal, said fluid is positive for sperm cells upon microscopic examination (see attached laboratory result).

-Hypovolimic shock secondary to multiple stab wounds,
-Positive for sexual penetration.

and as a direct result of all of which the said victim [AAA] died, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the said victim.

An act contrary to law. (Emphasis and underscoring in the original; italics supplied)

From the testimonial evidence for the prosecution consisting of the testimonies of seven witnesses, namely, Magdalena Olpos, Pepe Olpos, BBB, the father of AAA (the victim), Dr. Beverly Renacia, SP04 Ramon Sibala, Perfecto Teves and Lugen Conde, the following version is culled:

At 6:00 a.m. of July 21, 1999, while Magdalena Olpos (Magdalena) was harvesting peanuts at the upper portion of the land where her house stands, she heard someone repeatedly shout "Apia, tabang!" (Father, help!).  She thus ran towards her son Pepe Olpos (Pepe), who was at that time plowing a rice field, and asked him to determine where the shouts emanated.[5]

Both mother and son at once repaired to where they sensed the shouts came from.  On their way, they saw their neighbor, appellant Rubio, "walking very fast towards the sugarcane plantation," and another neighbor, appellant Amaro, "running towards the upper portion of the cliff [going] to [his] house."[6] Pepe likewise saw appellants carrying bloodied hunting knives.[7]

Perfecto Teves (Teves), who was startled by shouts of AAA's aunt CCC that her niece was already dead,[8] repaired to the crime scene in the course of which he saw appellants running toward Amaro's house.

On leaching what turned out to be the crime scene, Magdalena and Pepe saw the body of AAA bearing multiple slab wounds, her legs spread apart and her panties pulled down to knee level.[9]

Magdalena thereafter repaired to her house and related the incident to her daughter whom she instructed to report to a neighbor.[10]  Her son Pepe for his part related the incident to a neighbor, Rustico Culi, who in turn echoed it to the barangay captain.[11]

BBB, father of the victim, on being informed by his neighbors Rustico Culi and Loreto Culi at around 8:00 a.m. of the day of the incident that his daughter was raped and killed,[12] went to the crime scene where he saw Magdalena and Pepe.[13]

Later in the afternoon, Magdalena went back to the crime scene and, finding SPO4 Ramon Sibala and other police officers there, she informed them what she had earlier witnessed, furnishing them the names of appellants.[14] Albeit appellant Amaro was also there, Magdalena did not point him out to the police out of fear of Amaro's uncles whom she described as "notorious characters."[15]

The day after the incident or on July 22, 1999, BBB talked to Magdalena who related to him that she saw appellant Rubio running away from the place where AAA's body was found.[16]

Dr. Beverly Renacia (Dr. Renacia), who conducted a post-mortem examination of AAA's body, came up with the findings incorporated in the earlier-quoted body of the Information.[17]  She concluded that the victim was sexually abused as shown by the hymenal lacerations at 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions as well as the presence of cloudy white fluid from the vaginal canal[18] which was, after analysis by medical technologist Lugen Conde (Conde) of the City Health Office,[19] confirmed to be spermatozoa.  Conde averred, however, that he did not know whether the spermatozoa came from one and the same person.[20]

SPO4 Ramon Sibala (SPO4 Sibala), who arrived at the crime scene' at 2:00 p.m. of the date of the incident together with two other police officers and Dr. Renacia, talked to Pepe from whom he could not elicit any response as he observed him to be "hesitant to say something."[21]

Five days after the incident or on July 26, 1999, Pepe and Magdalena went to the office of SPO4 Sibala to give their respective statements implicating appellants.

Appellants, denying the charge, interposed alibi.

Rubio gave the following tale:

At 6 a.m. of July 21, 1999, he went to the house of the parents of his cousin-co-accused-appellant Amaro from whom he successfully sought permission to allow Joraar Amaro (Jomar), Amaro's younger brother, to help him gather cassava root crops in barangay Alangilan.  Before proceeding to Alangilan with Jomar, he passed by Ihe house of his aunt Mantes Papasin from whom (hey borrowed a carabao which earned them to Alangilan.  They arrived at Alangilan at 11:00 a.m.[22]  He and Jomar could not return home in the afternoon because it was then raining and the flood rendered the river they had to pass through impassable.  They thus spent the night in Alangilan and went home the next morning.[23]

For his part, Amaro claimed as follows:

His brother Jomar and co-appellant Rubio passed by his house at 6:30 a.m. of the day of the incident to inform him that Jomar had been allowed to go with him to gather cassava.[24]  As he was wailing for the drizzle to subside, he saw two of his neighbors running. When he asked them what the commotion was about, they told him that AAA had been killed.  He thereupon followed his neighbors to the crime scene and there saw the body of AAA. He waited for Ihe police to arrive, and when they did arrive at 2:00 p.m.,[25] they conducted an investigation.  He was not interrogated, however.  More than two weeks later, lie learned that he was being implicated in the crime.[26]

Jomar corroborated Rubio's testimony, adding that Rubio had a bolo with him when they went to gather cassava[27]

Cristuta Cabugnason likewise corroborated the testimonies of her nephews Amaro and Jomar.[28] As for carabao owner Mantes Papasin, she declared that after Rubio and Jomar had left, she heard people shouting and was soon informed by Teves that AAA had been killed. She thus went to the crime scene with Amaro.[29]

Finding for the prosecution, the trial court convicted appellants by Decision of April 12, 2002, the dispositive portion of which reads

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this court finds both accused, FEBLONELYBIRTH RUBIO Y TALARIOM and JOAN AMARO Y TALARIOM, guilty beyond reasonable doubt as principals for the crime of RAPE WITH HOMICIDE, and pursuant to the provisions of Article 266-A in relation to Article 266-B of the Revised Penal Code (as amended by Republic Act No. 8353), are hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of DEATH with all its accessories (sic) penalties under Article 40 of the same Code, and ordered to pay the heirs of the victim the following: P150,000.00 for actual and moral damages; and P100,000.00 civil indemnity for the victim's death, without subsidiary imprisonment iu case of insolvency, and to pay costs.

Pursuant to Section 10, Rule 122 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, let the whole records of this case he forwarded to the Honorable Supreme Court for automatic review and judgment.

SO ORDERED.[30] (Emphasis in the original)

On appellants' appeal before this Court, it referred the same to the Court of Appeals for disposition[31] pursuant to People v. Mateo.[32]

By Decision of August 17, 2006, the appellate court dismissed the appeal and affirmed with modification the trial court's decision by reducing the penalty to reclusion perpetua in view of the passage, in the meantime, of Republic Act No. 9346,[33] without eligibility for parole.  It likewise modified the monetary awards by additionally awarding P100,000 as civil indemnity.  Thus the appellate court disposed:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered DISMISSING instant appeal and the assailed Decision of Regional Trial Court (RTC), 7th Judicial Region, Branch 45, Bais City, in CRIM. CASE NO. F-99-141-B is AFFIRMED.  The supreme penalty of death provided for under 266-A in relation to the 4th paragraph of 266-B of the Revised Penal Code as amended by RA no. 8353 is reduced to reclusion perpetua by virtue of RA No. 9346 and that, accused-appellants are not eligible to parole.

The monetary award is MODIFIED in that, in addition to the P100,000.00 as civil indemnification, the appellants are ordered to pay P50,000.00 as moral damages and P25,000.00 as temperate damages.

Consistent with the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Pp. vs. Mateo let the entire records of the case be forwarded to the Supreme Court for final disposition of the case.


In convicting appellants, both the trial and the appellate courts found that circumstantial evidence sufficed to hold appellants liable.

Hence, the present appeal, appellants positing that the evidence for the prosecution failed to prove with moral certainty that they were the perpetrators of the crime charged."[35]

Under the Rules on Evidence, circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction if:

(a) There is more than one circumstance;

(b) The facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and

(c) The combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.[36]

To assay its probative value, circumstantial evidence must be tested against t=four neccessary guidelines:[37]
x x x x (a) It should be acted upon with caution; (b) All the essential facts must be consistent with the hypothesis of guilt; (c) The facts must exclude every other theory but that of guilt of the accused; and, (d) The facts must establish with certainty the guilt of the accused as to convince beyond reasonable doubt that he was the perpetrator of the offense.  The peculiarity of circumstantial evidence is that the series of events pointing to the commission of a felony is appreciated not singly but collectivelyThe guilt of the accused cannot be deduced from scrutinizing just one (1) Particular piece of evidence.  It is more like a puzzle which when put together reveals a convincing picture pointing to the conclusion that the accused is the author of the crime. (Italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied)[38]

Far from being a completed puzzle, the circumstantial evidence adduced in this case only serves lo inculpate doubt in an unprejudiced mind as to the real identities of the perpetrators of the crime.

Central to the present case's uncertainty are the glaring inconsistencies in the testimonies and oddities in the reactions of the prosecution witnesses that cannot be conveniently overlooked nor easily dismissed as products of faulty memory for they bear on credibility of testimony, which is all the more material m the determination of the existence of circumstantial evidence.

Consider the following:

On cross-examination, Pepe, after identifying his sworn statement taken on My 26, 1999 or five days after the incident wherein he stated that he immediately repaired home to inform his mother about what he saw, and that it was his mother who informed the barangay captain of the incident, declared:[39]

You stated a while ago that it was a person by the name of Rustico Culi that you first inform [sic] about what you saw when you came from your house, is that correct?
Let me refresh you of what you have declared [b]efore the police authorities on July 26, 1999 [p]articularly par. 11.

Q-When you saw the dead body of [AAA] already naked with stab wounds in her body, what did you do?
A-l immediately went home and told the incident of [sic] my mother about what I saw and the latter also told the barangay captain about the incident.

Can you still remember that what you have declared in this affidavit was correct, is that correct?


And did I get yon right that you have stated a while ago that the person whom you first informed about what you saw on July 21, 1999 was Rustico Culi?

In other words, you are lying to the court when you said that it was Rustico Culi and now your mother whom you infomerd?

It was Rustico Culi who informed the barangay captain.

Atty. Lajot:
I would like to request, your Honor, that the answer was unresponsive to the question.  That is all, your Honor.  (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Magdalena, also on cross-examination,[40] identified the sworn statement[41] she executed also five days after the incident or on July 26, 1999 wherein she pointed to only Rubio alias Gamay as the one she saw hurriedly leaving the area "where the shout for help came from," viz:

x x x x

Nga samtang nag angal kami nga nag Una kanako si Pepe, akong nakita si Feb Lonely Bird [sic] Rubio alias Gamay nga among silingan nga nag pas-pas ug lakaw palugsong diin nag sul-ob siya ug usa ka itom nga  jacket  gikan sa kahagonoyan  diin naga gikan  ang  singgit  ug pakitabang ug kalit lang nga nawala si Gamay;[42]

x x x x. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied).

At the witness stand, SPO4 Sibala, to whom Magdalena claimed to have informed the names of appellants as the suspects, mentioned only Pepe as the one he queried about the incident.  No mention was made about Magdalena furnishing the names of appellants as suspects during the interrogation.

Magdalena's failure to then and there inform the police at the crime scene that Amaro, who was then present, was one of the two she and her son Pepe saw running cautions this Court against readily according her credibility.

As for Teves, despite his opportunity to report to the police what he claimed to have seen, he only later related the same to the relatives of the victim.  Why he did not immediately name appellants to the police investigators as the persons he claimed to have seen running from the direction of the crime scene, no explanation was given.  Rubio's statement that Teves may have been impelled by improper motive in implicating him and Amaro thus assumes importance, viz:

When that period that you were neighbors of these three (3) [Pepe, Magdalena and Teves] do you remember having any misunderstanding with these three the court mentioned up to July 1999 [sic]?
There was a misunderstanding between . . . Teves and the mother of [appellant] Joan Amaro.

Would you know the misunderstanding about [sic] between . . . Teves and the mother of Joan Amaro?

What is this about?
It was regarding the sugarcane cutter which we took from [his] house of which lie got angry.

Has that misunderstanding been settled?
No. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

While the Court takes judicial notice of the natural reticence of witnesses to get involved in the solution of crimes due to risks to their lives and limbs, Teves had not alleged the presence of any such or similar risks.

Still, even if the Court were to credit the identification of appellants as the ones seen running away from the crime scene at 6:00 in the morning of July 21, 1999, this is the only circumstance that was established during the trial. Such circumstance certainly does not meet the first requisite for circumstantial evidence to be sufficient to convict.

Further still, even if appellants were seen carrying bloodied hunting knives, there is no showing that they matched the instruments, if it was more than one, used in stabbing AAA vis-a-vis the size of the wounds in her body.

Back to Pepe, he reported for the first time on July 26, 1999 what he witnessed on July 21, 1999 via his statement before the police station, without proffering any reason for such belated reporting.  Thus, he testified:

In other words, yon saw some policemen who arrived there and you said you came back?

You did not volunteer yourself for having been [sic] seen the two persons running away from the scene you did not inform the policemen?
No, I did not:

And you did not participate [in] the inquiry conducted by the policemen?

x x x x

Now, the following day do you know if there were policemen who went back to the place and investigated the incident?

You did not volunteer to reveal to said policemen of what you saw?
No, I did not.

Not even to the father of [AAA]?  You did not reveal to the father of [AAA] ... of what yon saw on July 21,1999?
No. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

A judgment of conviction must rest on nothing less than moral certainty, moral certainty in an unprejudiced mind that it was the accused who committed the crime, failing which the accused must be exonerated.[43]  The prosecution failed to discharge its burden of establishing the guilt of appellants, however. This leaves it unnecessary to still pass on appellant's defense.

WHEREFORE, the challenged Decision of the Court of Appeals is REVERSED and SET ASIDE, Appellants, FEBLONELYBIRTH T. RUBIO and JOAN T. AMARO, are, for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt, ACQUITTED of rape with homicide.

The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is DIRECTED to cause the immediate release of appellants, unless they are being lawfully detained for another cause; and to inform the Court of the date of their release, or the reasons for their continued confinement, within ten (10) days from notice.


Ynares-Santiago*, Peralta***, Del Castillo, and Abad, JJ., concur.

* Additional member per Special Order No. 691.

** Per Special Order No. 690 in lien of the sabbatical leave of Senior Associate Justice Leonardo A.

*** Additional member per Special Order No. 711.

[1] Penned  by  Associate Justice Marlene Gonzales-Sison with  Associate Justices Pampio A. Abarintos and Priscilla Ballazar-Padilla concurring.

[2] Penned by Judge Jsmael O. Baldado.

[3] Records, pp. 83-85.

[4] The real name of the victim is withheld per Republic Act .(R.A.) No. 7610 and R.A. No. 9262. Vide: People v. Cabalquinto, G.R. No. 167693, 502 SCRA 419 (2006).

[5] Transcript of Stenographic Notes (TSN), March 20, 2000, p. 4.

[6] Id. at 6.

[7] TSN, February 4, 2000, pp. 5-6.

[8] TSN, April 28, 2000, pp. 4-5.

[9] TSN, March 20, 2000, p. 7.

[10] Id. at 13-14.

[11] Id. at 18.

[12] TSN, January 10, 2000, p.6.

[13] Id. at 5b, 8-9.

[14] Id. at 17.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Id. at 9, 12.

[17] TSN, February 17, 2000, p. 5; records, pp. 178-179.

[18] Id, at 6,11-12.

[19] TSN, July 13, 2000, pp. 6-7.

[20] Id. at 10.

[21] TSN,April 28, 2000, p. 5.

[22] TSN, November 7, 2000, pp. 6-7.

[23] Id. at 19.

[24] TSN, January 29,2001, pp. 7-8.

[25] TSN, April 20, 2000, p. 3.

[26] TSN, January 25, 2000, p 7 17

[27] Id. at 11.

[28] TSN, April l7, 2001, pp. 5-17.

[29] TSN, June 11, 2001, pp. 6-7.

[30] Records, pp.249-271.

[31] Per Resolution dated August 24, 2004.

[32] G.R. No. 147678-87, July 7, 2004, 433 SCRA 640. Said case modified Sections 3 and 10 of Rule 122, Section 3 of Rule 125, Section 13 of Rule 134 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure and any other rule insofar as they provide direct appeals from the RTC to this Court in cases where the penalty imposed is death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment and allowed an intermediate review by the Court of Appeals before such cases are elevated to this Court.


[34] CA rollo, p. 20.

[35] Rollo, p. 72.

[36] Section 4, Rule 133 of the REVISED RULES ON EVIDENCE.

[37] People v. Monje, 438 Phil. 7 16, (2002).

[38] Id. at 732-733.

[39] TSN, February 10, 2000, pp. 4-5.

[40] Id. at 17-18..

[41] Records, p.34.

[42] The attached translation of the affidavit reads: "That while we were climbing up wherein Pepe was ahead of me, I saw FebLonelyBird [sic] Rubio alias Gamay who is our neighbor who was descending hurriedly wherein he was wearing a black jacket and he came from the cogonal area where the shout for help came from and Gamay got lost all of a sudden." (Underscoring supplied)

[43] TSN, April 28, 2000, p.15.

[44] TSN, November 7, 2000, p.17.

[45] Abdulla v. People, G.R. No. 150129, 455 SCRA 78, 91 (2005) citing People v. Ortillas, G.R. No. 137666, 428 SCRA 659 (2004).

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