358 Phil. 12
"A (sic) individual identifying himself as Sheriff Cresaldo R. Gabo came to the Mainit Prawn Hatchery at about 0900 hours on Tuesday, 4 June 1996. The man was asked what he wanted by both Rosendo Paculanang and Gemma Briones but he refused to speak to anyone except the ‘kano.’ Mr. David Crear thereupon approached the visitor who identified (sic) himself as the Sheriff from RTC Branch 36. The Sheriff asked Mr. Crear if he was party to a legal dispute concerning the ownership of the land under the hatchery. Mr. Crear replied in the affirmative. Thereupon the Sheriff indicated that he had been directed by Judge Barron to deliver the message that Judge was waiting for me at Salawaki Beach Resort because he wanted to ‘talk with you about the case.’ A meeting was arranged for 0300 hours for that afternoon. The Sheriff showed his laminated I.D. card to Mr. Crear with the name Cresaldo R. Gabo and a photo that looked like a man about 20 years younger.On June 6, 1996, David Crear, along with Gemma Briones and Rosendo Paculanang executed their respective sworn statements at the NBI Dumaguete City Sub-Office. Thereafter, on June 8, 1996, Rosendo Paculanang and David Crear gave their supplemental sworn statements. Crear also filed a complaint sheet with the NBI.
"Than afternoon, Mr. Crear was driven to Salawaki Beach Resort on the motorbike of Rosendo Paculanang. Upon arrival Mr. Crear was greeted by Sheriff Gabo who directed Mr. Crear to sit in the chair directly outside the door of the last cottage on the southern side of the resort. Mr. Crear occupied the appointed chair for a period of about five minutes before the Judge emerged from the cottage, casually dressed. The Judge directed Mr. Crear to accompany him to sit at the bench out on the beach. The following is a reconstruction of the conversation that took place.
"Barron: I’ve asked you to come here because I want to talk to you about your case. You see I need your help. It is clear to me as God is my witness, that you have been wronged. I can see this from that ‘one document’ that Alex Amor did not purchase the land. And again I need your help because my wife and daughter are preparing to travel to the United States.
"Crear: Travelling to the U.S. is quite costly.
"Barron: Yes, and I need your help. You see we are in a symbiotic relationship. I can help you and you can help me. I can clearly see that it would be easy for me to write a decision for your case that would be favorable for your situation. But I will need your help. You know, I like working with foreigners because they understand that the salaries here in the Philippines are very low. Honestly, if I weren’t a Judge I would have already gone to the United States where I could earn more money. So, I can see that I will have to write a decision in this case against my good friend Attorney Amor but I will do it but reluctantly so. Of course he will appeal the decision so have to make sure that the decision is good. You should tell your lawyer that you must complete your testimony as soon as possible so that it will be certain that I will be the Judge to write the decision. Maybe Judge Villarete will return to Branch 41 but I don’t think so because I’ve heard that he is being transferred to Manila. Now, I don’t want you to tell either your wife or your lawyer about our arrangement. This must be strictly confidential between the two of us. Yes, I like working with foreigners because they understand about these things. I also like working with Sheriff Gabo, well, we have had an understanding and have been working together for about 20 years! I often come down here to Salawaki and I can work on my legal decisions in a quiet, clean environment. I’m like you I enjoy living by the beach. You know I am disappointed in Atty. Amor and his son Alex. They have clearly, as God is my witness, wronged you. I also notice that Attorney Amor made a serious legal error. He notarized (sic) the signature of his (sic) on the extra-judicial deed-of-sale. This was foolish.
"Crear: Attorney Amor is guilty of much more. He has consistently aided and abetted the theft of documents, money, and equipment committed by his son, Alex Amor, Jr. But never mind that now.
"Barron: Yes. Now you understand that we have a symbiotic arrangement and an agreement can be arrived at to effect a favorable decision on your case. In this instance I will have to write a decision against my good friend Attorney Amor and I will do so reluctantly.
"Crear: So what are the mechanics of this arraignment?
"Barron: Well, as I said my wife and daughter will be flying to the U.S. and I think that they will need $2,000 each.
"Crear: Okay but when is all this suppose to happen?
"Crear: So you are saying sooner or rather than later.
"Crear: Well, how about on Saturday right here.
"Barron: That would be good. Let’s make it for four o’clock on Saturday afternoon right here.
"Crear: Okay, I’ll see you next Saturday."
The NBI reported the arrest as follows:After the arrest was made, respondent judge was taken to the NBI Office, were he was booked, photographed, and fingerprinted. The ultra violet light examination conducted on his hands yielded residues of the "flourescent yellow powder" used earlier to mark the bundles of money. The peso bills with serial numbers and denominations were duly listed by the bundle. Respondent Judge was then turned over to the Dumaguete City police station for temporary custody and safekeeping. An information for the crime of DIRECT BRIBERY was filed before the Sandiganbayan against Respondent Judge, as principal and Casildo Gabo, as accomplice.
"NBI operatives then rushed up toward the car and caught Subject Barron in flagrante delicto in possession of the marked money in the act of putting the same underneath the driver’s seat from a black leatherette clutch bag. During the arrest, Subject BARRON tried to draw his gun from his shoulder holster but was prevented from doing so.
"Subject BARRON was handcuffed and was informed of the reason for his arrest and was likewise informed of his right under the Constitution as well as his rights under R.A. 7438.
"Recovered underneath the driver’s seat were the eleven (11) bundles of marked money and a black leatherette clutch bag. Confiscated likewise from his possession was a 9mm Cal. Browning Short Pistol with Serial No. 9203338 from his shoulder holster."
"Sometime in the month of April 1996, David Crear chanced to hold my audience privately at Lab-as Restaurant in Dumaguete City, where he frankly offered me money in exchange for a favorable decision in Civil Case No. 10104. He offered something like P30,000.00. In deferance to his being a foreigner, I patiently and politely told him that what he was doing was against the law, and that besides, I was only an acting presiding judge who could be replaced anytime by a regular judge before the case could even be decided. Thereafter, he made more indecent calls increasing his bribe offer to P50,000.00, thence to P100,000.00 which upset me. It was his insolent remark that even Justices are receiving offers that made me decide that I had (sic) had enough of this man’s impudence (sic). I then referred the matter to Judge Teopisto Calumpang of RTC Branch 39, and he adviced me to report the bribe offer to the PNP and set the entrapment of Mr. Crear (Annex ‘D’).In his defense, respondent judge proferred several arguments to support his innocence to wit: (1) what happened was not an entrapment but a frame-up; (2) that he never made any gesture of voluntarily accepting the bribe money - flourescent powder notwithstanding; (3) the NBI relied on the signal of David Crear, not on their personal discernment of what transpired in the car; and (4) that his car was subjected to an illegal search by the NBI agents. In addition to the aforementioned arguments, the respondent judge also presented the affidavits of Judge Teopisto Calumpang and SPO Avelino Burlaza.
"On May 4, 1996, I officially reported Mr. Crear’s bribe offer to the Dumaguete City PNP and the same was entered in the Police Blotter (Annex ‘E’). SPO1 Burlaza and I agreed to set the entrapment after I could get Mr. Crear to agree on the time and place of pay off. It was our understanding that the PNP through SPO1 Burlaza, would wait for my go signal (Annex ‘F’).
"Thus, on June 4, 1996 I sent Criseldo Gabo to David Crear to inform the latter that I wanted to meet him at Salawaki Beach Resort at Dauin, Negros Oriental. In the afternoon of said date David Crear met me at the beach resort. There we talked about his offer. But we could not agree on the amount even as I pretended to haggle with him. Neither could I get a definite commitment from him as to where and when the pay-off would be made so that I could relay it to SPO1 Burlaza. David Crear expressed surprise, though, why suddenly I was interested in his offer which I firmly refused before. He warily said he would like to meet me to finalize the project on June 8, 1996 at Salawaki Beach at 4:00 p.m. It was my impression that on June 8, 1996 we would agree on the amount, the place and the time of the pay-off would be made. Thus, I went to Salawaki Beach on that day for the purpose of obtaining said information for our planned entrapment. (At this juncture, per affidavits with the NBI, Mr. Crear and the NBI prepared a shocking reception for me.)
"I went to Salawaki Beach on June 8, 1996, a Saturday, day of the alleged ‘entrapment’ and arrest with Criseldo Gabo. After past 4:00 p.m. with no Crear on sight, I decided to go home. On the way home I encountered Mr. Crear riding a motorcycle. He stopped me and I went with him back to Salawaki Beach to have a talk and a drink or two.
"Crear rode with me. In my car we had a chance to talk abut his offer. He told me that since the case was scheduled for hearing on June 13, 1996 at 2:30 p.m. that would be the time he would produce the amount of P100,000.00 at the place of my convenience in Dumaguete City. With that information, I did not feel the need to talk with Mr. Crear any further. The entrapment would be set.
"Thus upon arriving at Salawaki Beach I did not anymore get out of my car and told Mr. Crear we could have our drinks some other time as I was going back to Dumaguete City and would just see him on June 13, 1996. At this juncture, Mr. Crear frantically told me to wait as he hurriedly went out of the car. I thought he was going back with me. After a while I saw Mr. Crear hurrying back. He went straight inside my car, opened his black bag and unceremoniously tossed some bundles of money to me. In reflex action I caught some bundles while some fell on the floor. Before I could comprehend Crear’s act, almost simultaneously an NBI agent opened the door of my car, pointed a gun at me, and announced an arrest. I was then pulled out of my car and handcuffed. Then they searched my car.
"Thereafter, I was taken to the NBI office. I was not allowed to call my lawyer and was forcibly examined for flourescent powder on my hands. They would have found some of the powder on my lap, steering wheel, my shoes and on the hands of Mr. Crear.
"After the foregoing incident David Crear reportedly left the country."
"The undersigned respectfully submits that this defense, which is in line with the thinking that the best defense is a good offense, can not be accorded credence for the following reasons:In an effort to escape criminal liability, the respondent judge shifts the burden on the NBI by raising the defense of frame-up. Frame-up as a defense has been invariably viewed by this Court with disfavor for it can just easily be concocted but is quite difficult to prove. And the defense of frame-up must be proved by clear and convincing evidence because it is of the same category as alibi. In the case at bar, the respondent judge failed to present any convincing evidence to substantiate his claim. He advances the theory that the NBI had carefully mapped out a frame-up operation against him as a retaliatory measure for all those cases which the NBI had filed and for which he (Judge Barron) caused the dismissal thereof. This cannot be given credence. There is no evidence on record that NBI harboured a personal grudge against the respondent judge. Clearly what transpired was an entrapment and not a frame-up as claimed by respondent. Entrapment has received judicial sanction as long as it is carried out with due regard to Constitutional and legal safeguards. Furthermore, there is no scintilla of evidence that the manner by which the NBI agents conducted the operation was tainted with illegality. This Court has held in case of Mallari vs. Court Court of Appeals that "Absent strong and convincing proof to the contrary, this Court is bound by the presumption that the arresting officers were aware of the legal mandates in effecting an arrest and strictly complied with the same."
1. The NBI operatives has no bias nor ill-motives against the respondent judge. As law enforcement officers, they are presumed to have acted regularly in their performance of their duties (Rule 31, sec.(m) Revised Rules on Evidence). Respondent attempted to show that these NBI officers prosecuted some cases in his sala but it was not clear why they should be aggrieved at the way this cases were handled, much less that they were so aggrieved that they would go to the extent of cooperating with a foreigner David Crear to manufacture evidence against a judge, who is moreover a native of Dumaguete and a graduate of Dumaguete’s prestigious Siliman University.
2. The testimony of NBI Agent Atty. Cimafranca was marked by spontaneity and candor. At some points during his cross examination by respondent himself, Cimafranca even engaged the latter in a frank, matter-of-fact, straightforward recall of the June 8, 1996 entrapment mentioning minutiae of the incident which could not be easily concocted (TSN, July 8, 1887, pp. 99-138).
3. Respondent’s witness Judge Calumpang is his close friend and compadre while respondent Judge Barron once served as a lawyer of the family of witness SPO1 Burlasa
4. The police blotter entry dated May 4, 1996 (Exhibit "4" for Respondent, Rollo, p. 142) is highly suspicious, being written only on what appears to be the remaining small space at the bottom edge of the page, hardly befitting the prestige and standing of its alleged reporter an RTC judge, as well as the importance of the alleged incident involving an attempt to bribe by an American national.
This investigator believes, in the light of the evidence presented, that this entry was only intercalated to lend credence to respondent’s defense.
5. Respondent’s version itself strains one’s credulity. He would have the court believe that having had enough of Crear’s impudence (in allegedly offering a bribe would) he would:
a) personally report the matter to the PNP on a non-working day (Saturday, May 4, 1996) at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon.
b) Himself personally travel to David Crear’s hatchery in Mainit, Zamboanguita which is at least 30 kms. Away from Dumaguete City where his court is located in the mid-morning of June 4, 1996, a Wednesday, merely to engage Crear in a conversation for the purpose of entrapping him later.
c) Subsequently, undertake another distant travel 28 kms away to Salawaki Beach Resort on a Saturday afternoon merely to determine or agree on when the pay-off would be.
It is to be noted, that notwithstanding respondent’s claim that he was to act as bait for the entrapment of David Crear by the Dumaguete police, no policeman ever accompanied him either on June 4th or June 8th when he met with David Crear. He was accompanied only by Casildo Gabo who was not even a court employee anymore, having retired."