OF THE PHILIPPINES,
G.R. Nos. 138874-75
- versus - Present:
D E C I S I O N
For most Cebuanos, the proceedings in these cases will always be remembered as the "trial of the century." A reading of the voluminous records readily explains why the unraveling of
These cases involve the kidnapping and illegal detention of a college beauty queen along with her comely and courageous sister. An intriguing tale of ribaldry and gang-rape was followed by the murder of the beauty queen. She was thrown off a cliff into a deep forested ravine where she was left to die. Her sister was subjected to heartless indignities before she was also gang-raped in the aftermath of the kidnapping and rape, the sister was made to disappear. Where she is and what further crimes were inflicted upon her remain unknown and unsolved up to the present.
Before us in an appeal from the Decision1
dated May 5,
1999 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 7, Cebu
The Fourth Amended
Informations2 for kidnapping and illegal detention dated
May 12, 1998 filed against appellants and Davidson Rusia alias
"Tisoy Tagalog," the discharged state witness,
1) For Criminal
Case No. CBU‑45303:3
"x x x
"x x x
"That on the 16th day of July, 1997, at about 10:00
o'clock more or less in the evening, in the City of Cebu,
Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
said accused, all private individuals, conniving, confederating and
mutually helping with one another, with deliberate intent, did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously kidnap or deprive one Marijoy
Chiong, of her liberty and on the occasion thereof,
and in connection,
accused, with deliberate intent, did then and there have carnal knowledge
of said Marijoy against her will with the
For Criminal Case CBU-45304:4
"That on the 16th day of July, 1997, at about 10:00 o'clock more or less in the evening, in the City of Cebu, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, all private individuals, conniving, confederating and mutually helping with one another, with deliberate intent, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously kidnap or deprive one Jacqueline Chiong of her liberty, thereby detaining her until the present.
The version of the prosecution is narrated as follows:
Meanwhile, in the morning of July 18, 1997, a certain Rudy Lasaga reported
to the police that a young woman was found dead at the foot of a cliff in
Tan-awan, Carcar, Cebu.10 Officer-in Charge Arturo
Unabia and three other policemen proceeded to Tan-awan and there, they
found a dead woman lying on the ground. Attached to her left wrist was a
handcuff.11 Her pants were torn, her orange t-shirt was
raised up to her breast and her bra was pulled down. Her face and neck
were covered with masking tape.12
On July 19, 1996, upon hearing the news about the dead woman, Mrs.
Chiong's son Dennis and other relatives proceeded to the Tupaz Funeral
Parlor at Carcar, Cebu to see the body. It was Marijoy dressed in the same
orange shirt and maong (denim) pants she wore when she left home on July 16, 1997.
Upon learning of the tragic reality, Mrs. Chiong became frantic and
(NOTE: For our foreign readers, blue wordings, our translations from English to Tagalog (Philippine language) ....the webmaster)
On August 12, 1998, Rusia testified before the trial court how the crimes
were committed and identified all the appellants as the perpetrators. He
declared that his conduit to Francisco Juan Larrañaga was Rowen Adlawan
whom he met together with brothers James Anthony and James Andrew Uy five
months before the commission of the crimes charged.17 He
has known Josman Aznar since 1991. He met Alberto Caño and Ariel Balansag
only in the evening of July 16,1997.
On July 15, 1997, while Rusia was loafing around at the Cebu
Hotel, Cebu City, Rowen approached him and
At 10:30 in the evening, Rowen returned with Josman. They met Rusia at
exit of the Ayala Mall and told him to ride with them in a white
noticed that a red car was following them. Upon reaching Archbishop Reyes
Avenue, same city, he saw two women standing at the waiting shed.20
Rusia did not know yet that their names were Marijoy and Jacqueline.
Josman stopped the white car in front of the waiting shed and he and Rowen
approached and invited Marijoy and Jacqueline to join them.21
But the sisters declined. Irked by the rejection, Rowen grabbed Marijoy
while Josman held Jacqueline and forced both girls to ride in the car.22
Marijoy was the first one
Fourteen (14) meters from the waiting shed, Jacqueline managed to get out
of the car. Josman chased her and brought her back into the car. Not
taking anymore chances, Rowen elbowed Jacqueline on the chest and punched
Marijoy on the stomach, causing both girls to faint.23
Rowen asked Rusia for the packaging tape under the latter's seat and
placed it on the girls' mouths. Rowen also handcuffed them jointly. The
white and red cars then proceeded to Fuente Osmeña, Cebu City.
At Fuente Osmeña, Josman parked the car near a Mercury Drug Store and
urged Rusia to inquire if a van that was parked nearby was for hire.
A man who was around replied "no" so the group
immediately left. The two cars stopped again near Park Place Hotel where
Rusia negotiated to hire a van. But no van was available. Thus, the cars
sped to a house in Guadalupe, Cebu City known as the safehouse of the "Jozman
Aznar Group." Thereupon, Larrañaga, James Anthony and James
Andrew got out of the red car.
Thereafter, the group brought Marijoy and Jacqueline back to the white
car. Then the, two cars headed to the South Bus Terminal where they were
able to hire a white van driven by Alberto. Ariel was the conductor. James
Andrew drove the white car, while the rest of the group boarded the van.
They traveled towards south of Cebu City, leaving the red car at the South
Inside the van, Marijoy and Jacqueline were slowly gaining strength. James Anthony taped their mouths anew and Rowen handcuffed them together. Along the way, the van and the white car stopped by a barbeque store. Rowen got off the van and bought barbeque and Tanduay rhum. They proceeded to Tan-
Then they carried Marijoy out of the van, after which Josman brought
Jacqueline inside the vehicle. Josman came out from the van after ten
minutes, saying, "whoever wants
next go ahead and hurry
up." Rusia went inside the van and raped Jacqueline, followed by
James Andrew. At this instance, Marijoy was to breathe her last for upon
Josman's instruction, Rowen and Ariel led her to the cliff and mercilessly
pushed her into the ravine27, which was almost 150 meters
There were other people, who saw snippets of what Rusia had witnessed.
Sheila Singson,30 Analie Konahap31 and
Williard Redobles32 testified that Marijoy and Jacqueline
were talking to Larrañaga and Josman before they were abducted. Roland
Dacillo33 saw Jacqueline alighting and running away from a
white car and that Josman went after her and grabbed her back to the car.
Alfredo Duarte34 testified that he was at the barbeque
stand when Rowen bought barbeque; that Rowen asked where he could buy
Tanduay; that he saw a white van and he heard therefrom voices of a male and
female who seemed to be
Still, there were other witnesses38
presented by the
prosecution who gave details which, when pieced together, corroborated well
Rusia's testimony on what transpired at the Ayala Center all the way to
Meanwhile, James Anthony Uy testified that on July 16, 1997, he and his
brother James Andrew were at home in Cebu City because it was their'
father's 50th birthday and they were celebrating the
occasion with a small party which ended at 11:30 in the evening.53
He only left his house the next day, July 17,
(NOTE: For our foreign readers, blue wordings, our translations from English to Tagalog (Philippine language) ....the webmaster).
Clotilde Soterol testified for Alberto and Ariel. She narrated that on
July 16, 1997, at around 7:00 o'clock
in the evening, Alberto brought the white Toyota van with Plate No. GGC-491
to her shop to have its aircon repaired. Alberto was accompanied by his
wife Gina Caño, co-appellant Ariel, and spouses Catalina and Simplicio
Paghinayan, owners of the vehicle. Since her (Clotildes') husband was not
yet around, Alberto just left the vehicle and promised to return the next
morning. Her husband arrived at 8:30 in the evening and started to repair
the aircon at 9:00 o'clock of the same evening. He finished the work* at
10:00 O'clock the following morning. At 11:00 o'clock, Alberto and his
wife Gina, Ariel and Catalina returned to the shop
To lend support to Josman's alibi, Michael Dizon recounted that on
July 16, 1997, at about 8:00 o'clock in the evening, he and several friends
were at Josman's house in Cebu. They ate their dinner there and afterwards
drank "Blue Label." They
stayed at Josman's house until 11:00 o'clock in the evening. Thereafter,
they proceeded to BAI Disco where they drank beer and socialized with old
friends. They stayed there until 1:30 in the morning of July 17, 1997.
Thereafter, they transferred to DTM Bar. They went home together at about
3:00 o'clock in the morning. Their friend, Jonas Dy Pico, dropped Josman at
Concerning state witness Rusia, on August 7, 1998, when the prosecution
moved that he be discharged as an accused for the purpose of utilizing him
as a state witness,61
Larrañaga and brothers James
Anthony and James Andrew opposed the motion
the trial court's termination of Rusia's cross-examination, the defense
lawyers moved for the inhibition of Judge
When he informed the defense lawyers that he would. not inhibit himself
since he found no "just and valid reasons" therefore, the defense
lawyers withdrew en masse as
counsel for the appellants declaring that they would no longer attend the
trial. Judge Ocampo held them guilty of direct
In the Order dated August 25, 1998, the trial court denied the motion for
inhibition of the defense lawyers and ordered them to continue representing
their respective clients so that the cases may undergo the mandatory
continuous trial. The trial court likewise denied their motion to withdraw
as appellants' counsel because of their failure to secure a prior written
consent from their clients, On August 26, 1998, appellants, filed their
written consent to the withdrawal of their counsel.
Thereafter, Larrañaga, Josman and brothers James Anthony and James Andrew
moved for the postponement of the hearing for several weeks to enable them
to hire the services of new counsel.68
August 31, 1998, the trial court denied appellants' motions on the ground
that it could no longer delay the hearing of the cases. On September 2,
1998, the trial court directed the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) to act as
counsel de oficio
for all the appellants.69
Thereafter, or on October 1, 1998, the defense lawyers started cross-examining
Rusia. The cross-examination continued on October 5, 6, 12 and 13, 1998.
Eventually, acting on the prosecution's motion to discharge Rusia to be a .state witness, the trial court required the opposing parties to submit their respective memoranda. On November 12, 1998, the trial court issued an omnibus order granting the prosecution's motion discharging Rusia as an accused and according him the status of a state witness.
the accused Francisco Juan Larrañaga, Josman Aznar, James Andrew Uy, James
Anthony Uy, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caño, and Ariel Balansag are hereby
found Guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of two crimes of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention and are
hereby sentenced to imprisonment of Two (2) Reclusiones Perpetua (life
sentences) each - which penalties, however, may be
served by them simultaneously (Article 70, Revised Penal Code).
Further, said accused are hereby ordered to indemnify the heirs of the two
(2) victims in these cases, jointly and severally, in the amount of
P200,000.00 in actual damages and R5,000,000.00 by way of moral and
THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE UNTRUSTWORTHY, INCONSISTENT, CONTRADICTORY AND. INCREDULOUS TESTIMONY OF (DAVIDSON) VALIENTE RUSIA.
THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN ADMITTING THE TE8TIMONY OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES, NOTWITHSTANDING THE FACT THAT THE DEFENDANTS WERE NOT DULY REPRESENTED BY COUNSELS OF THEIR OWN CHOICE DURING THE TIME THESE WITNESSES WERE PRESENTED.
THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN FINDING THAT THERE WAS CONSPIRACY IN THE CASE AT BAR.
(NOTE: For our foreign readers, blue wordings, our translations from English to Tagalog (Philippine language) ....the webmaster)
THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES.
THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN DISPLAYING MANIFEST ANIMOSITY TOWARDS THE DEFENSE'S WITNESSES WHICH CLEARLY SHOWED ITS PREJUDICE AND BIAS IN DECIDING THE CASE.
THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN NOT ALLOWING SOME DEFENSE WITNESSES TO TESTIFY.
THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN CONSIDERING ROWEN ADLAWAN TO HAVE WAIVED PRESENTATION OF EVIDENCE IN HIS BEHALF."
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN DISCHARGING DAVID VALIENTE RUSIA AS STATE WITNESS IN GROSS AND BLATANT DISREGARD OF THE RULES ON DISCHARGE OF STATE WITNESS.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO RUSIA'S TESTIMONY DESPITE CLEAR SHOWING THAT HIS CRIMINAL RECORD - AS AN EX-CONVICT, DRUG ADDICT AND GANGSTER - AND HIS SUICIDAL TENDENCIES - SERIOUSLY IMPAIR HIS CREDIBILITY AND INNATE CAPACITY FOR TRUTH, HONESTY AND INTEGRITY.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN LENDING CREDENCE TO RUSIA'S TESTIMONY REPLETE AS IT WAS WITH INCONSISTENCIES, FALSEHOODS AND LIES.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN LENDING CREDENCE TO THE CORROBORATIVE TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN DENYING APPELLANT AZNAR HIS RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS AND IN DEPRIVING HIM OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF AN ACCUSED.
THE TRIAL JUDGE VIOLATED AZNAR'S RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS WHEN THE TRIAL JUDGE REFUSED TO INHIBIT HIMSELF AND PROCEEDED WITH THE. TRIAL DESPITE GLARING BADGES OF HIS PARTIALITY AND BIAS FOR THE PROSECUTION.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN DISCREDITING AND DISREGARDING THE DEFENSE OF APPELLANT AZNAR.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING APPELLANT AZNAR ON THE BASIS OF PROSECUTING EVIDENCE MAINLY ANCHORED ON RUSIA'S TESTIMONY WHICH FAILED TO EVINCE PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF APPELLANT AZNAR'S CRIMINAL LIABILITY."
In his 145-page appellant's brief, Larrañaga alleges that the trial court committed the following errors:
"6.1 THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN IGNORING AND VIOLATING DUE PROCESS RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED.
6.2 THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ALLOWING THE DISCHARGE OF ACCUSED DAVIDSON RUSIA.
6.3 THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING PARTIAL CREDIBILITY TO THE TESTIMONY OF DAVIDSON RUSIA.
6.4 THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONSIDERING THE TESTIMONIES OF THE OTHER WITNESSES.
6.5 THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONIES OF OTHER WITNESSES.
6.6 THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE PROSECUTION HAS OVERCOME THE CONSTITUTIONAL PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE.
6.7 THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DISREGARDING AND REJECTING, EVEN AT DIRECT TESTIMONY STAGE, THE ACCUSED‑APPELLANT'S DEFENSE OF ALIBI."
"A) THE TRIAL COURT BELOW GRIEVOUSLY FAILED TO OBSERVE, AND THUS DENIED ACCUSED JAMES ANTHONY S. UY AND JAMES ANDREW S. UY THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW, TO BE PRESUMED INNOCENT, TO HAVE COUNSEL OF. THEIR OWN CHOICE, TO HAVE AN IMPARTIAL JUDGE, TO MEET WITNESSES FACE TO FACE, AND TO PRODUCE EVIDENCE ON THEIR BEHALF;
B) THE PROSECUTION EVIDENCE HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO SUPPORT THE CONVICTION OF ACCUSED JAMES ANTHONY S. UY AND JAMES ANDREW S. UY IN THESE CASES THUS THE TRIAL COURT BELOW SERIOUSLY AND
GRIEVOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT RENDERED THE 5 MAY 1999 JUDGMENT OF CONVICT*ION AGAINST THEM."70
Appellants' assignments of error converge on four points, thus: (1) violation of their right to' due process; (2) the improper discharge of Rusia as, an accused to be a state witness; (3) the insufficiency of the evidence of the prosecution; and (4) the. trial court's disregard and rejection of the evidence for the defense.
The appeal is bereft of merit.
process of law is the primary and indispensable foundation of individual
freedoms; it is
the basic and essential term in the social compact which defines the
rights of the individual and delimits the powers which the State may
In evaluating a due process claim, the court must determine whether life,
liberty or property interest exists, and if so, what procedures, are
constitutionally required to protect that right,72
stated, the due process clause calls for two separate inquiries in
evaluating an alleged violation: did
the plaintiff lose
For our determination, therefore, is whether the minimum requirements of due process were accorded to appellants during the trial of these cases.
Section 14, Article III of our Constitution catalogues the essentials of due process in a criminal prosecution, thus:
"SEC. 14. (1) No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.
(2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable."
Rule 115 of the Revised' Rules of Criminal Procedure casts the foregoing provision in a more detailed manner, thus:
of accused at the trial.
- In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be entitled to the
(b) To be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.
To be present and defend in person and by counsel
at every stage of the
(d) To testify as a witness in his own behalf but subject to cross-examination on matters covered by direct, examination. His silence shall not in any manner prejudice him.
(e) To be exempt from being compelled to be a witness against himself.
(f) To confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him at the trial. Either party may utilize as part of its evidence the testimony of a witness who is deceased, out of or cannot with due diligence be found in the Philippines, unavailable, or otherwise unable to testify, given in another case or proceeding, judicial or administrative, involving the same parties and subject matter, the adverse party having the opportunity to cross-examine him.
(g) To have compulsory process issued to secure the attendance of witnesses and production of other evidence in his behalf.
(h) To have speedy, impartial and public trial.
(i) To appeal in all cases allowed and in the manner prescribed by law."
A. Right to Counsel
Anent the right to counsel, appellants fault the trial court: first, for appointing counsel de oficio despite their insistence to be assisted by counsel of their own choice; and second, for refusing to suspend trial until they shall have secured the services of new counsel.
cannot feign denial of their right to counsel. We have held that there is
no denial of the right to counsel where a counsel de oficio was
appointed during the absence of the accused's counsel de
pursuant to the court's desire to finish the case as early as
practicable under the continuous trial system.74
any rate, the appointment of counsel de
oficio under such circumstances is not proscribed by the Constitution.
An examination of its provisions concerning the right to counsel shows
that the "preference in the choice of counsel" pertains more
aptly and specifically to a person under investigation75
rather than an accused, in a criminal prosecution.76
And even if we are to extend the application of the concept of
"preference in the choice
Withal the word 'preferably' under Section 12 (1), Article 3 of the 1987 Constitution does not convey the message that the choice of a lawyer by a person under investigation is exclusively as to preclude other equally competent and independent attorneys from handling his defense. If the rule were otherwise, then, the tempo of a custodial investigation, will be solely in the hands of the accused who can impede, nay, obstruct the progress of the interrogation by simply selecting a lawyer, who for one reason or another, is not available to protect his interest. This absurd scenario could not have been contemplated by the framers of the charter.77
In the same breath, the choice of counsel by the accused in a criminal
prosecution is not a plenary one. If
the chosen counsel deliberately makes himself scarce, the court is not precluded
from appointing a de oficio
counsel whom it considers competent and independent to enable the trial
to proceed until the counsel of choice enters his appearance. Otherwise,
the pace of a criminal prosecution will be entirely dictated by the
accused to the detriment of the eventual resolution of the case.78
the present case, appellants requested either one (1) month or three (3)
weeks to look for new counsel. Such periods are unreasonable. Appellants'
could have hired new lawyers at a shorter time had they wanted to. They
should have been diligent in procuring new counsel.81
guaranty of right to representation by counsel does not mean that accused
may avoid trial by neglecting or refusing to secure assistance of counsel
parallel to the hearing at the trial court were also petitions and motions
involving several incidents in these cases filed with the Court of Appeals
and this Court. The appellants, particularly Larrañaga, were represented
there by the
"The Court cannot help but note the series of legal maneuvers resorted to and repeated importunings of the accused or his counsel, which resulted in the protracted trial of the case, thus making a mockery of the judicial process, not to mention the injustice caused by the delay to the victim's family."
appellants' counsel de
parte ought to know that
until their withdrawal shall have been approved by the appellants,
B. Right to Confront and Cross-Examine the Prosecution Witnesses.
also fault the trial court for depriving them of the right to cross-examine
Rusia and the other prosecution witnesses. Appellants' assertion has no
factual and legal anchorage. For one, it is not true that they were not
given sufficient opportunity to cross-examine Rusia. All of appellants'
counsel de parte had a fair share of time in grilling Rusia
concerning his background to the kidnapping of Marijoy and Jacqueline. The
That the trial court imposed limitation on the length of time counsel for
appellants may cross-examine Rusia cannot be labeled as a violation of the
latter's constitutional right. Considering that appellants had several
lawyers, it was just imperative, for the trial court to impose a time
limit on their cross-examination so as not to waste its time on repetitive
and prolix questioning.
"While cross-examination is a right available to the adverse party, it is not absolute in the sense that a cross-examiner could determine for himself the length and scope of his cross-examination of a witness. The court has always the discretion to limit the cross-examination and to consider it terminated if it would serve the ends of justice."
transcript of stenographic notes covering Rusia's cross-examination shows
that appellants' counsel had ample chance to test his credibility.
"Every time a defense counsel decides to withdraw, must an accused be granted one (1) month suspension of trial to look for such new counsel to study the records and transcripts? Shall the pace of the trial of these cases be thus left to the will or dictation of the accused whose defense counsels would just suddenly withdraw and cause such long suspensions of the trial while accused allegedly shop around for new counsels and upon hiring new counsels ask for another one month trial suspension for their new lawyers to study the records? 'While all the time such defense counsels (who allegedly have already withdrawn) openly continue to. 'advise' their accused-clients and even file 'Manifestations' before this Court and Petitions for Certiorari, Injunction and Inhibition on behalf of accused before the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court?
Still, in its Order dated October 8, 1998, the trial court gave appellants ' new counsel de parte a period until October 12, 1998 to manifest whether they are refusing to 'cross-examine the prosecution witnesses concerned; if so, then the court shall consider them to have waived their right to cross‑examine those witnesses. During the hearing on October 12, 1998, Larrañaga's new counsel de parte, Atty. Villarmia, manifested that he would not cross-examine the prosecution witnesses who testified on direct examination when Larrañaga was assisted by counsel de officio only. The next day, the counsel de parte of Josman, and brothers James Anthony and James Andrew adopted Atty. Villarmia's manifestation. Counsel for Rowen, Alberto and Ariel likewise refused to cross-examine the same witnesses. Thus, in its Order dated October 14, 1998, the trial court deemed appellants to have waived their right to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses.
It appears, therefore, that if some of the prosecution witnesses were not subjected to cross-examination, it was not because appellants were not given the opportunity to do so. The fact remains that their new counsel de parte refused to cross
C. Right to Impartial Trial
Appellants imputes bias and partiality to Judge Ocampo when he asked questions and made comments when the defense witnesses were testifying.
Canon 14 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics states that a judge may properly intervene during trial to promote expeditious proceeding, prevent unnecessary waste of time and dilly-dallying of counsel or clear up obscurities. The test is whether the intervention of the judge tends to prevent the proper presentation of a cause or the ascertainment of the truth in the matter where he interposes his questions or comments.
'Well, I'm not saying that there is positive identification. I'm only saying that in proving your alibi you must stick by what the Supreme Court said that it was impossible if they are telling the truth, di ba? (Isn't it so?) Now with these other witnesses na hindi naman ganoon (it is not like that?) to that effect it does not prove that it was impossible, e, (so,) what is the relevance on that? What is the materiality? Iyon ang point ko. (That's my point.) We are wasting our time with that testimony. Ilang (How many) witnesses and epe-present (will you present) to that effect. Wala rin namang epekto. (Anyway there will be no effect) It will not prove that it was not impossible for him to go to Cebu at 10:30 P.M., of July 16, e, papano yan? (so how is that?) We are being criticized by the public already for taking so long a time of the trial of these cases which is supposed to be finished within 60 days. Now from August, September, October, November, December and January, magse-six months na, wala pa (we are going on the 6th month already and nothing) and you want to present so many immaterial witnesses."
we cannot fault Judge Ocampo for exhaustively reminding appellants'
counsel of the parameters of alibi
to ensure that there will be an orderly and expeditious
presentation of defense witnesses and that there will be no time wasted by
dispensing with the testimonies of witnesses which are not relevant. Remarks
which merely manifest a desire to confine the
proceedings to the real point in issue. and to expedite the trial do not
constitute a rebuke of counsel.95
(NOTE: For our foreign readers, blue wordings, our translations from English to Tagalog (Philippine language) ....the webmaster)
With respect to Lourdes Montalvan, Judge Ocampo expressed surprise on "how a 17-year-old girl could go to a man's apartment all alone." He said that such conduct "does not seem to be a reasonable or a proper behavior for a 17-year-old girl to do." These statements do not really indicate bias or prejudice against the defense witnesses. The transcript of stenographic notes reveals that Judge Ocampo uttered them, not to cast doubt on the moral character of Lourdes Montalvan, but merely to determine the credibility of her story, thus:
"x x x But what I wanted to point out is the question of credibility. That is what we are here for. We want to determine if it Is credible for a 17-year-old college student of the Ateneo who belongs to a good family, whose father Is a lawyer and who could afford to live by herself in a Condominium Unit in Quezon City and then she would go to the Condominium Unit of a man whom he just met the previous month, all alone by herself at night and specifically on the very night July 16, 1997. x x x That is the question that I would like you to consider. x x x I assure you I have no doubts t all about her moral character and I have the highest respect for Miss Montalvan. x x x"
Strong indication of Judge Ocampo's lack of predilection was his acquiescence for Lourdes Montalvan to clarify during
/to the witness:
My purpose for going there was to me et Richard, sir, and, to
Appellants consider as violation of their right to due process Judge Ocampo's remarks labeling Rebecca Seno's and Catalina Paghinayan's testimony as "incredible;"97 Clotilde Soterol as a "totally confused person who appears to be mentally imbalanced,"98 and Salvador Boton and Paulo Celso as "liars. "99
it to state that after going over the pertinent transcript of stenographic
notes, we are convinced that Judge Ocampo's comments were just honest
observations intended to warn the witnesses to be candid to the court. He
made it clear that he merely wanted to ascertain the veracity of their
testimonies in order to determine the truth of the matter in
That such was his purpose is evident from his probing questions which gave
them the chance to correct or clarify their contradictory
A trial judge is not a wallflower during trial. It is proper for him to caution and admonish witnesses when necessary and he may rebuke a witness for levity or for other improper conduct.102 This is because he is called upon to ascertain the truth of the controversy before him.103
bears stressing at this point that the perceived harshness and impatience
exhibited by Judge Ocampo did not at all prevent the defense from
presenting adequately its side of the cases.
Appellants assail the trial court's exclusion of the testimonies of four (4) airlines personnel104 which were intended to prove that Larrañaga did not travel to Cebu from Manila or from Cebu to Manila on July 16, 1997. The trial court's exclusion of the testimonies is justified. By an alibi, Larrañaga attempted to prove that he was at a place (Quezon City) so distant that his participation in the crime was impossible. To prove that he was not in the pre-flight and post-flight of the four (4) major airlines flying the route of Cebu to Manila and Manila to Cebu on July 15 and 16, 1997 would not prove 'the legal requirement of "physical impossibility" because he could have taken the flight from Manila to Cebu prior to that date, such as July 14, 1997. According to Judge Ocampo, it was imperative for appellants' counsel to prove that Larrañaga did not take a flight to Cebu before July 16, 1997.
In the same way, we cannot fault the trial court for not allowing the
defense to continue with the tedious process of presenting additional
witnesses to prove Larrañaga's enrollment at the Center for Culinary
Arts, located at Quezon City, from
Due process of law is not denied by the exclusion of irrelevant, immaterial, or incompetent evidence, or testimony of an incompetent witness.105 It is not error to refuse evidence which although admissible for certain purposes, is not admissible for the purpose which counsel states as the ground for offering it.106
To repeat, due process is satisfied when the parties are afforded a fair
and reasonable opportunity to explain their respective sides of the
In the present. case, there is no showing of violation of due process
which justifies the reversal or setting aside of the trial court's
Appellants argue that Rusia is not qualified to be a state witness under paragraphs (d) and (e) of Section 9, Rule 119 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal. Procedure, which reads:
"Sec. 9. Discharge 6f the accused to be state witness. - When two or more persons are jointly charged with the commission of any offense, upon motion of the prosecution before resting its case, the court may direct one or more of the accused to be discharged with their consent so that they may be witness for the state when after requiring the prosecution to present evidence and the sworn statement of each proposed state witness at a hearing in support of the discharge, the court is satisfied that:
x x x
(d) Said accused does not appear to be most guilty;
(e) Said accused has not at anytime been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.
x x x"
Appellants claim that Rusia was the "most guilty of both the charges of rape and kidnapping" having admitted in open court that he raped Jacqueline. Furthermore, Rusia admitted having been previously convicted in the United States of third degree burglary.
It bears stressing that appellants were charged with kidnapping and illegal detention. Thus, Rusia's admission that he
The fact that Rusia was convicted of third degree burglary in Minessotta does not render his testimony inadmissible.108 In People vs. De Guzman,109 we held that although the trial court may have erred in discharging the accused, such error would not affect the competency and the quality of the testimony of the defendant. In Mangubat vs. Sandiganbayan,110 we ruled:
"Anent the contention that Delia Preagido should not have been discharged as a state witness because of a 'previous final conviction' of crimes involving moral turpitude, suffice it to say that 'this Court has time and again declared that even if the discharged state witness should lack some of the qualifications enumerated by Section 9, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court, his testimony will not, for that 'reason alone, be discarded or disregarded. In the discharge of a co-defendant, the court may reasonably be expected to err; but such error in discharging an accused has been held not to be a reversible one. This is upon the principle that such error of the court does not affect the competency and the quality of the testimony of the discharged defendant."
it may be recalled that Rusia was extremely bothered by his conscience and
was having nightmares about the
But, more importantly, what makes Rusia's testimony worthy of belief is
the marked 'compatibility between such testimony and the physical
evidence. Physical evidence is an evidence of the highest order. It speaks
eloquently than a hundred witnesses.112
The presence of Marijoy's ravished body in a deep ravine at Tan-awan,
Carcar with tape on her mouth and handcuffs on her wrists certainly
bolstered Rusia's testimony on what actually took place from Ayala Center
to Tan-awan. Indeed, the details he supplied to the trial court were of
such nature and quality that only a witness who actually saw the
commission of the crimes could furnish. What is more, his testimony was
corroborated by several other witnesses who saw incidents of what he
narrated, thus: (1) Rolando Dacillo and Mario Minoza saw
Jacqueline's two failed attempts to escape from appellants; (2) Alfredo
Duarte saw Rowen when he bought barbeque and Tanduay (a
brand of Philippine rhum) at Nene's Store while the white van,
driven by Alfredo Caño, was waiting on the side of the road and he heard
Rusia's discharge has the effect of an acquittal.113
We are not inclined to recall such discharge lest he will be placed in double
jeopardy. Parenthetically, the order for his discharge may only be recalled in
one instance, which is when he subsequently failed to testify against his
co-accused. The fact that not all the requisites for his discharge are present
is not a ground to recall the discharge order. Unless
and until it is shown that the he failed or refuse& to testify against his
subsequent proof showing that any or all of the conditions
listed in Sec. 9 of Rule
III. Appreciation of the Evidence for the Prosecution and the Defense
Settled is the rule that the assessment of the credibility of witnesses is left largely to the trial court because of its opportunity, not available to the appellate court, to see the witnesses on the stand and determine by their demeanor whether they are testifying truthfully or lying through their teeth. Its evaluation of the credibility of witnesses is well-nigh conclusive on this Court, barring arbitrariness in arriving at, his conclusions.115
We reviewed the records exhaustively and found no compelling reason why we
should deviate from the findings of fact and conclusion of law of the trial
court. Rusia's detailed narration of the circumstances leading to the horrible
death and disappearance of Jacqueline has all the earmarks of truth. Despite the
rigid cross-examination conducted by the defense counsel, Rusia remained
steadfast in his testimony. The other witnesses
proffered the defense of denial and alibi. As between their mere denial and the
positive identification and testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, we are
convinced that the trial court did not err in according weight to the latter.
For the defense of alibi to prosper, the accused must show that he was in
another place at such a period of time that it was physically impossible for him
to have been at the place where the crime was committed at the time of its
These requirements of time and place must
be strictly met.117
A thorough examination of the evidence for the defense 'shows that the
appellants failed to meet these settled requirements. They failed to establish
by clear and convincing evidence that it was physically impossible for them to
be at the Ayala Center, Cebu City when the Chiong sisters were abducted. What is
clear from the evidence is that Rowen, Josman, Ariel, Alberto, James Anthony and
James Andrew were all within the vicinity of Cebu City on July 16, 1997.
Indeed, Larrañaga's presence in Cebu City on July 16, 1997 proved to be not only a possibility but a reality. No less than four (4) witnesses for the prosecution identified him as one of the two men talking to Marijoy and Jacqueline on the night of July 16, 1997. Shiela Singson testified that on July 16, 1997, at around 7:20.in the evening, she saw Larrañaga approach Marijoy and Jacqueline at the West Entry of Ayala Center. The incident reminded her of Jacqueline's prior story that he was Marijoy's admirer. She (Shiela) confirmed that she knows Larrañaga since she had seen him on five (5) occasions. Analie Konahap also testified that on the same evening of July 16, 1997, at about 8:00 o'clock, she saw Marijoy and Jacqueline talking to two (2) men at the West Entry of Ayala Center. She recognized them as Larrañaga and Josman, having seen them several times at Glicos, a game zone, located across her office at the third level of Ayala Center. Williard Redobles, the security guard then assigned at Ayala Center, corroborated the foregoing testimonies of Shiela and Analie. In addition, Rosendo Rio, a businessman from Cogon, Carcar, declared that he saw Larrañaga at Tan-awan at about
Taking the individual testimonies of the above witnesses and that of
Rusia, it is reasonable to conclude that Larrañaga was indeed in Cebu
City at the time of the commission of the crimes and was one of the
Of course, we have also weighed the testimonial and documentary evidence presented by appellants in support of their respective alibi. However, they proved to be wanting and incredible.
security guard assigned at the lobby of Loyola Heights Condominium,
testified on the entry of Larrañaga's name in the Condominium's logbook
to prove that he was in Quezon City on the night of July 16, 1997.
However, a cursory glance of the entry readily shows that it was written
at the uppermost portion of the logbook and was not following the
chronological order of the entries. Larrañaga's 10:15 entry was written
before the 10:05 entry which, in turn, was followed by a
Rowena Bautista, a teacher at the Center for Culinary Arts, Quezon City, testified that Larrañaga attended her lecture on Applied Mathematics on July 16, 1997 from 8:00 o'clock to 11:30 in the morning."' This runs counter to Larrañaga's affidavit120 stating that on the said date, he took his mid-term examinations in the subject Fundamentals of Cookery from 8:00 o'clock in the morning to 3:30 o'clock in the afternoon.
respect to Larrañaga's friends, the contradiction's in their testimonies,
painstakingly outlined by the Solicitor General in the appellee's brief,
reveal their unreliability. To our mind,
defense of Ariel and Alberto (the driver and the conductor of the van)
attempted to discredit Rusia's testimony by testifying that the white van
with plate no, GGC-491 could not have been used in the commission of
thecrimes on the night of July 16, 1997 because it was parked in her shop
from 7:00 O'clock in the evening of the same date until 11:00 o'clock in
the morning of July 17, 1997. What makes Soterol's testimony doubtful is
her contradicting affidavits. In the first affidavit dated July 28, 1997,
or twelve (12) days from the occurrence of the crime, she stated that Alberto
took the van from her shop at 3:00 o'clock in
the afternoon of July 16, 1997 and returned it
for repair only on July 22,
But in her second affidavit dated October 1, 1997, she declared that
Alberto left the van in her shop at 7:00 o'clock in the evening of July
16, 1997 until 11:00 o'clock
Appellants attempted to establish their defense of alibi through the testimonies of relatives and friends who obviously wanted them exculpated of the crimes charged. Naturally, we cannot but cast an eye of suspicion on their testimonies. In People vs. Ching,123 we ruled that it is but natural, although morally unfair, for a close relative to give weight to blood ties and close relationship in times of dire needs especially when a criminal case is involved.
Rusia positively identified the appellants. The settled rule is that
positive identification of an accused by credible witnesses as the
perpetrator of the crime demolishes alibi, the much abused
sanctuary of felons.124
testimony was corroborated by several disinterested witnesses who also
identified the appellants.
appellants argue that the prosecution failed to prove that the body found
at the foot of a deep ravine in Tan-awan, Carcar was that of Marijoy. We
are not convinced. Rusia testified that Josman instructed Rowen "to
get rid" of Marijoy and that following such instruction, Rowen and
Ariel pushed her into the deep ravine. Furthermore, Inspector Edgardo
fingerprint expert, testified that the fingerprints of the corpse matched
those of Marijoy.126
packaging tape and the handcuff found on the dead body were the same items
placed on Marijoy and Jacqueline while they were being detained.127
body had the same clothes worn by Marijoy on the day she was
Appellants were charged with the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in two (2) Informations and were convicted thereof. Article 267, of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 8 of R.A. 7659, reads:
"Art. 267. Kidnapping . and serious, illegal detention. Any private individual who shall kidnap or detain another, or in any other manner deprive him of liberty, shall suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death;
1. If the kidnapping or detention shall have lasted more than three days.
2. If it shall have been committed simulating public authority.
3. If any
serious physical injuries shall have been inflicted upon the person
4. If the person kidnapped or detained shall be a minor, except when the
penalty shall be death where the kidnapping or detention was committed for
the purpose of extorting ransom from the victim or any other person, even
if none of the circumstances above mentioned were present. in the
commission of the offense.
The elements of the crime defined in Art. 267 above are: (a) the accused is a private individual; (b) he kidnaps or detains another, or in any manner deprives the latter of his liberty; (c) the act of detention or kidnapping must be illegal; and (d) in the commission of the offense, any of the four (4) circumstances mentioned above is present.130
is clear and overwhelming evidence that appellants, who are private
individuals, forcibly dragged Marijoy and Jacqueline into the white car,
beat them so they would not be able to resist, and held them captive
against their will. In fact, Jacqueline attempted to free herself twice
from the clutches of appellants - the first was near the Ayala Center and
the second was in Tan-awan, Carcar - but both attempts failed. Marijoy was
thrown to a deep ravine, resulting to her death. Jacqueline, on the other
hand, has remained missing until now.
"Prior to 31 December 1993, the date of effectivity of RA No. 7659, the rule was that where the kidnapped victim was subsequently killed by his abductor, the crime committed would either be a complex crime of kidnapping with murder under Art 48 of the Revised Penal Code, or two (2) separate crimes of kidnapping and murder. Thus, where the accused kidnapped the victim for the purpose of killing him, and he was in fact killed by his abductor, the crime committed was the complex crime of kidnapping with murder under Art. 48 of the Revised Penal Code, as the kidnapping of the victim was a necessary means of committing the murder. On the other hand, where the victim was kidnapped not for the purpose of killing him but was subsequently slain as an afterthought, two (2) separate crimes of kidnapping and murder were committed.
However, RA No. 7659 amended Art. 267 of The Revised Penal Code by adding thereto a last paragraph which provides -
When the 'victim is killed or dies as a' consequence ‑of the detention, or is raped, or is subjected to torture or dehumanizing acts, the maximum penalty shall be imposed.
This amendment introduced in our criminal statutes the concept of
'special complex crime' of kidnapping with murder or homicide. It
effectively eliminated the distinction drawn by the courts between those
cases where the killing of the kidnapped victim was purposely sought by
the accused, and those where the killing of the victim was not
deliberately resorted to but was
prosecution was able to prove that Marijoy was pushed to a ravine and
died. Both girls were raped by the gang. In committing the crimes,
appellants subjected them to dehumanizing acts. Dehumanization 'means
deprivation of human qualities, such as compassion.134
From our review of the evidence presented, we found the following
dehumanizing acts committed by appellants: (I) Marijoy and
Jacqueline were handcuffed and their mouths mercilessly taped; (2)
they were beaten to severe weakness during their detention; (3) Jacqueline
was made to dance amidst the rough manners and lewd suggestions of the
appellants; (4) she was taunted to run and forcibly dragged to the
van; and 5) until now, Jacqueline remains missing which aggravates
the Chiong family's pain. All told, considering that the victims were
raped, that Marijoy was killed and that both victims were subjected to
dehumanizing acts, the imposition of the death penalty on the appellants
is in order.
discussion on the nature of special complex crime is imperative. Where the
law provides a single penalty for two or more component offenses, the
resulting crime is called a special complex crime. Some of the special
complex crimes under the Revised Penal Code are (1) robbery with
(2) robbery with rape,136
(3) kidnapping with serious physical injuries,137
(4) kidnapping with murder or homicide,138
and (5) rape with
In a special complex crime, the prosecution must necessarily prove each
ofthe component offenses with the same precision that would be necessary
if they were made the subject of separate complaints. As earlier
mentioned, R.A. No. 7659
the evidence of the prosecution, there is no doubt that all the appellants
conspired in the commission of the crimes charged. Their concerted actions
point to their joint purpose and community of intent. Well settled is the
rule that in conspiracy, direct proof of a previous agreement to commit a
crime is not necessary. It may be deduced from the mode and manner by
which the offense was perpetrated, or inferred from the acts of the
accused themselves when such point to a joint design and community of
Otherwise stated, it may be shown by the conduct of the accused before,
during, and after the commission of the crime.145
Appellants' actions showed that they have the same objective to kidnap and
detain the Chiong sisters. Rowen and Josman 'grabbed Marijoy and
Jacqueline from the
Clearly, the argument of Rowen, Ariel and Alberto that they were not part of the "conspiracy" as they were merely present
At times we may show compassion and mercy but not at the expense of the broader interest of fair play and justice. While we also find it difficult to mete out the penalty of death especially on young men who could have led productive and promising lives if only they were given enough guidance, however, we can never go against what is laid down in our statute books and established jurisprudence.
keeping with the* current jurisprudence, the heirs of Marijoy and
Jacqueline are entitled to the amount of P100,000.00 in each case by way
of civil indemnity ex delicto.153
As regards the actual damages, it appears that the award of P200,000.00 is
(1) In Criminal Case No. CBU45303, appellants FRANCISCO JUAN LARRAÑAGA alias "PACO; " JOSAIAN AZNAR; ROWEN ADLAWAN alias "WESLEY;" ALBERTO CAÑO alias "ALLAN PAHAK;" ARIEL BALANSAG; and JAMMS ANDREW UY alias "MM," are found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention with homicide and rape and are sentenced to suffer the penalty of DEATH by lethal injection;
In Criminal Case No. CBU‑45304, appellants
(4) Appellants are ordered lo pay jointly and severally the heirs of Marijoy and Jacqueline, in each case, the amounts of (a) P100,000.00 as civil indemnity, (b) P25,000.00 as temperate damages, (c) P150,000.00 as moral damages, and (d) P100,000.00 as exemplary damages.
Three (3) Justices of the Court maintain their position that RA 7659 is unconstitutional insofar as it prescribes the death penalty; nevertheless, they submit to the ruling of the majority that the law is constitutional and the death penalty can be lawfully imposed in the case at bar.
with notation: No part, related by affinity to the victims
signed: REYNATO S.
signed: JOSE C. VITUG
No Part (On official leave)
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby
certified that the conclusions in the above per
Decision were reached in consultation before the case was
assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court. The majority opinion
and the concurring or separate opinions supporting the imposition of the
death sentence, as well as the dissenting opinions are set out in full, or
otherwise adverted to, but without
indicating the names of the Justices who penned the same. The Decision
is signed by all
the Members of the Court who actually participated in the
deliberations in the case and voted therein but does not indicate the
votes cast by any Member, whether concurring or dissenting from the
judgment or both.
THE ABOVE TEXT IS THE FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL
DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR CLEARER APPRECIATION.