EN BANC

  

PEOPLE  OF  THE  PHILIPPINES ,      

Plaintiff-Appellee,

 

 

 

 

 

                           -  versus  -

 

 

 

 

FRANCISCO JUAN LARRAÑAGA alias "PACO"; JOSMAN AZNAR; ROWEN ADLAWAN alias "WESLEY"; ALBERTO CAÑO alias "ALLAN PAHAK"; ARIEL BALANSAG, DAVIDSON VALIENTE RUSIA alias "TISOY TAGALOG"; JAMES ANTHONY UY alias "WANGWANG"; and JAMES ANDREW UY alias "MM",

 Accused-Appellants.

G.R. Nos. 138874-75

 

 

  Present:

 

 DAVIDE, JR., C.J. 
 Puno,
 
PANGANIBAN,
 Quisumbing,
 Ynares-Santiago,
 Sandoval-Gutierrez,
 CARPIO,
 AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
 CORONA ,
 CARPIO MORALES,
 CALLEJO, SR.,
 azcuna,
 tinga,
 nazario,
and
 garcia,
JJ.

 

 

 Promulgated: 

 July 21, 2005  

(Even before the decision was promulgated on the above date, 4 justices; Carpio, Panganiban, Gutierrez and Corona announced, as early as July 8, 2005, while they were in Spain, to the Spanish press that they already had a decision affirming Paco's conviction to die by lethal injection. To view

         

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R E S O L U T I O N 

PER CURIAM:  

At bar are four (4) motions for reconsideration separately filed by appellants (1) Francisco Juan Larrañaga, (2) Josman Aznar, (3) Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caño and Ariel Balansag, and (4) James Anthony Uy and James Andrew Uy, assailing our Decision dated February 3, 2004 convicting them of the crimes of (a) special complex crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention and (b) simple kidnapping and serious illegal detention, the dispositive portion of which reads:

 

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 7, Cebu City in Criminal Cases Nos.  CBU-45303 and 45304 is AFFIRMED with the following MODIFICATIONS:

 

(1) In Criminal Case No. CBU-45303, appellants FRANCISCO JUAN LARRAÑAGA alias ‘PACO;’ JOSMAN AZNAR; ROWEN ADLAWAN alias ‘WESLEY;’ ALBERTO CAÑO alias ‘ALLAN PAHAK;’ ARIEL BALANSAG; and JAMES 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;

 

 (2) In Criminal Case No. CBU-45304, appellants FRANCISCO JUAN LARRAÑAGA alias ‘PACO;’ JOSMAN AZNAR; ROWEN ADLAWAN alias ‘WESLEY;’ ALBERTO CAÑO alias ‘ALLAN PAHAK;’ ARIEL BALANSAG; and JAMES ANDREW UY alias MM,’ are found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of simple kidnapping and serious illegal detention and are sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA;  

 

 (3) In Criminal Case No. CBU-45303, appellant JAMES ANTHONY UY, who was a minor at the time the crime was committed, is likewise found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention with homicide and rape and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA; in Criminal Case No. CBU-45304, he is declared guilty of simple kidnapping and serious illegal detention and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of TWELVE (12) years of prision mayor in its maximum period, as MINIMUM, to seventeen (17) years of reclusion temporal in its medium period, as MAXIMUM;

 

(4) Appellants are ordered to 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.

 

In accordance with Article 83 of The Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 25 of RA No. 7659, upon the finality of this Decision, let the records of this case be forthwith forwarded to the Office of the President for the possible exercise of Her Excellency’s pardoning power.

 

SO ORDERED.”

 

Appellants anchor their motions on the following grounds:

 

A.    LARRAÑAGA

 

I

 

THE COURT A QUO ERRED IN BARRING LARRAÑAGA AND THE NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (NBI) REGIONAL DIRECTOR FLORENCIO VILLARIN FROM TESTIFYING;

 

II

 

THE POLICE PLANTED EVIDENCE ON APPELLANTS;

 

III

 

LARRAÑAGA SUFFICIENTLY PROVED HIS ALIBI;

 

IV

 

THE TRIAL COURT PREVENTED THE INTRODUCTION OF KEY DEFENSE EVIDENCE;

 

V

 

THE CORPSE FOUND IN THE RAVINE WAS NOT THAT OF MARIJOY; AND

 

VI

 

PROSECUTION WITNESS RUSIA WAS A COACHED WITNESS.”[1]

 

 

B.    AZNAR

 

 

“I

 

THE HONORABLE COURT ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE TRIAL COURT DID NOT VIOLATE THE RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW.

 

II

 

THE HONORABLE COURT ERRED IN (A) DISCHARGING DAVID RUSSIA AS STATE WITNESS; AND (B) CONVICTING THE APPELLANTS MAINLY ON THE BASIS OF THE TESTIMONY OF RUSIA.

 

III

 

THE HONORABLE COURT ERRED IN REJECTING THE DEFENSE OF APPELLANT AZNAR.

 

IV

 

THE HONORABLE COURT ERRED IN IMPOSING THE DEATH PENALTY ON THE APPELLANTS.”[2]

 

 

 

C.    ADLAWAN, BALANSAG, CAÑO

 

 

I

 

PROSECUTION WITNESS RUSIA IS NOT QUALIFIED TO BE A STATE WITNESS UNDER PARAGRAPHS (D) AND (E), SECTION 17 OF THE REVISED RULES OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE.

 

 

 

II

 

RUSIA’S TESTIMONY AND THAT OF THE OTHER PROSECUTION WITNESSES WERE INCREDIBLE, INCONSISTENT, AND UNWORTHY OF BELIEF.

 

III

 

BIAS AND PREJUDICE AGAINST THE DEFENSE WERE GLARINGLY DISPLAYED BY THE COURT A QUO WHICH GREATLY AFFECTED THE OUTCOME OF THE CASE.

 

IV

 

THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANTS FOR THE CRIME CHARGED HAS NOT BEEN PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.”[3]

 

 

D.    JAMES ANDREW AND JAMES ANTHONY UY 

 

I

 

ACCUSED JAMES ANDREW S. UY WAS, LIKE HIS YOUNGER BROTHER JAMES ANTHONY S. UY, A MINOR AT THE TIME THE OFFENSES AT BAR ALLEGEDLY HAPPENED LAST JULY 16, 1997;

 

II

 

THE IDENTITY OF THE DEAD BODY OF THE WOMAN FOUND IN TAN-AWAN, CARCAR, CEBU LAST JULY 18, 1997 WAS NEVER CONCLUSIVELY ESTABLISHED THUS THE NEED FOR ITS EXHUMATION FOR DNA TESTING;”[4]

 

In his supplemental motion for reconsideration dated March 25, 2004, Larrañaga submitted a separate study of Dr. Racquel Del Rosario-Fortun, Forensic Pathologist, to show that the examination conducted by the prosecution expert witnesses on the body found in     Tan-awan, Carcar is inadequate.  

In a similar supplemental motion for reconsideration[5], Aznar submitted to this Court the Affidavit dated February 27, 2004 of Atty. Florencio Villarin, Regional Director of the National Bureau of Investigation, Central Visayas, to show that: (1) the police investigation of this case was flawed; (2) he (Aznar) was arrested in 1997 not because of his involvement in this case but because he had in his possession a pack of shabu and firearms; and (3) David Rusia is not a credible witness.  

On July 15, 2004, the Solicitor General filed a consolidated comment[6] praying that the four (4) motions for reconsideration be denied with finality, there being no new argument raised.   He responded to appellants’ assignments of errors by exhaustively quoting portions of our challenged Decision.  

 In his consolidated comment[7] to Aznar’s supplemental motion for reconsideration, the Solicitor General enumerated the grounds why Atty. Villarin’s Affidavit should not be given consideration. On February 15, 2005, Aznar filed a reply alleging that the Solicitor General “read out of context” certain portions of the Affidavit. He argued that the Affidavit only exposes the flawed investigation of the Chiong case and that, at the time of his arrest, there was no evidence against him. On March 4, 2005, the Solicitor General filed a rejoinder stating that Aznar’s reply “actually supports the undersigned counsel’s (Solicitor General’s) position that Atty. Villarin’s Affidavit is utterly inadequate to prove his innocence or at least even acquit them on reasonable doubt,” thus, “it would be useless to call for new trial on the basis of such Affidavit.”    On March 29, 2005, Aznar filed a sur-rejoinder insisting that the Affidavit should be given due consideration.   

Except for the motion filed by appellants Uy brothers with respect to James Andrew’s alleged minority, we find all the motions bereft of merit.

 At the inception, let it be emphasized that the filing of a motion for reconsideration does not impose on us the obligation to discuss and rule again on the grounds relied upon by the movant which are mere reiteration of the issues previously raised and thoroughly determined and evaluated in our Decision being questioned.  In Ortigas and Company Limited Partnership vs. Velasco,[8]  we ruled that, "this would be a useless formality of ritual invariably involving merely a reiteration of the reasons already set forth in the judgment or final order for rejecting the arguments advanced by the movant."   

The foregoing principle applies squarely to the motions filed by appellants Larrañaga, Aznar, Adlawan, Caño and Balansag, it being apparent that the points raised therein are not neoteric matters demanding new judicial determination.   They are mere rehash of the arguments set forth in their respective briefs which we already considered, weighed and resolved before we rendered the Decision sought to be reconsidered.  

However, in view of the severity of the penalties for the crimes charged, we deem it necessary to stress once more our basis in convicting appellants.   

The following is a précis of the issues submitted by appellants in their motions:  

This Court erred – 

first, in according credence to Rusia’s testimony;  

second, in rejecting appellants’ alibi;  

third,  in  holding  that  the trial court did  not  violate  their  right    to due process when it excluded the  testimony of other defense witnesses; and 

fourth, in holding that the body found in Tan-awan, Carcar was not that of Marijoy. 

In deciding a criminal case, the policy of the courts is always to look at the case in its entirety.    The totality of the evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defense are weighed, thus, averting general conclusions from isolated pieces of evidence.   This means that an appeal of a criminal case opens its entire records for review.[9] 

I 

Appellants vigorously contend that we should not have sustained Rusia’s testimony hook, line and sinker, owing to his tainted record and reputation.   However, it must be stressed that Rusia’s testimony was not viewed in isolation.  In giving credence to Rusia’s testimony, the trial court took into consideration the physical evidence and the corroborative testimonies of other witnesses.   Thus, we find no reason why we should not uphold the trial court’s findings.  

We reiterate our pronouncement in our Decision that what makes Rusia’s testimony worthy of belief is its striking compatibility with the physical evidence.  Physical evidence is one of the highest degrees of proof. It speaks more eloquently than all witnesses put together.[10]    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 are of such nature and quality that only a witness who actually saw the commission of the crimes could furnish. 

(First of all, Rusia's testimony as far as tape on her month, did not concur with the testimony of SPO4 Arturo Unabia, the Officer-in-Charge of the Carcar Police Station and the first ones to inspect the body, when he said the tape was in the eyes, forehead and neck. We quote per TSN 9/17/98 pages 10 and 11:                     COURT: Q     What about her eyes?
                                            A     They were slightly covered by the masking tape.
                                            Q     But not completely covered?
                                            A     The eyes were almost covered, only the lower portion were seen and there so
                                                    many flies.
                                            Q     But her lips were completely covered with tape?
                                            A     Only these. (Witness pointing to his eyes, forehead and also his neck)
                                            Q     But her lips were not covered with tape?
                                            A     So, Your Honor, but there were also flies in her mouth.

To view picture . Second, bolstered, how? If Rusia would have pointed to the other missing sister's body, then we can safely say he knew what he was talking about. What Rusia testified is what we all knew already. Why didn't he make it a point to find out where the other sister was. Contrary to normal behavior, Rusia testified he saw Adlawan about five (5) days after the incident and did not have the chance to ask where the other girl was? The details of what he supplied to the court was well known to everyone in Cebu even before Rusia was arrested some many months after. The police already had "produced" affidavits from so called witnesses as early as September of 1997, or 8 months before Rusia was arrested.. All Rusia had to do was to memorize these details. 

Reinforcing his testimony is its corroboration by several other witnesses who saw incidents of what he narrated.  Rolando Dacillo and Mario Minoza witnessed Jacqueline’s two failed attempts to escape from appellants near Ayala Center. Benjamin Molina and Miguel Vergara recognized Rowen as the person who inquired from them where he could find a vehicle for hire on the evening of July 16, 1997. Alfredo Duarte saw Rowen when he bought barbeque and Tanduay at Nene’s Store while the white van, driven by Caño, was waiting on the side of the road and he heard voices of “quarreling male and female“ emanating from the van. And lastly, Manuel Camingao and Rosendo Rio testified on the presence of Larrañaga and Josman at Tan-awan, Carcar at dawn of July 17, 1997.  All these bits and pieces of story form part of Rusia’s narration.   Now, with such strong anchorage on the physical evidence and the testimonies of disinterested witnesses, why should we not accord credence to Rusia’s testimony?    Even assuming that his testimony standing alone might indeed be unworthy of belief in view of his character, it is not so when considered with the other evidence presented by the prosecution.   

(Rolando Dacillo is a police asset of Roy Codiñera, the police officer who "convinced" Rusia to turn state witness. In the Philippines, a police asset is beholden to his handler. One can only wonder, how many more police assets were used as prosecution witnesses. To view article

Rolando Dacillo and Mario Minoza: It was never explained in court why appellants  will hire another van and invite two (2) total strangers, the driver and the conductor, to witness a crime they were about to commit when they already had two (2) cars when them. And why go all the way to Carcar, when they already had a "safehouse" in the city where the witness had claimed they raped the girls earlier. 
          Alfredo Duarte just happened to get hungry at 1:30 in the morning and decided to walk about 50 meters from his house to buy barbecue and baby's milk and by stroke of luck for the prosecution, he bought barbecue in the same time and place as the suspects bought barbecue and and bought baby's milk in the same time and store the suspects bought wine. Besides, how can he hear female voices when the star witness testified that their mouths were taped? Coincidence, or just another police asset?
           
Manuel Camingao and Rosendo Rio, more dubious witnesses
. How can they see, recognize and remember their faces when they were negotiating a curve and were going uphill. The lights of their motorcycles would have been over their heads of the appellants. 
          Also, had the Regional Trial Court judge allowed the weathermen to testify, they would have created doubts on most of the affidavits of these so-called government witnesses. They would have testified that Cebu was experiencing heavy rains during that night until early morning of the following day. However, outside of Mrs. Chiong and the security guard of Ayala Center not one of these passing-by witnesses ever mentioned nor testified in court about any rains. In fact, the policeman asset, Dacillo, casually walked to and from Ayala Center and his house with his wife to watch a movie. Rosendo Rio, in spite of the heavy rains, still decided to get up early and deliver shoes to another town.)  

II 

Appellants likewise claimed that we should have not sustained the trial court’s rejection of their alibi.   Settled is the rule that the defense of alibi is inherently weak and crumbles in the light of positive declarations of truthful witnesses who testified on affirmative matters.[11]   Being evidence that is negative in nature and self-serving, it cannot attain more credibility than the testimonies of prosecution witnesses who testify on clear and positive evidence.[12]    On top of its inherent weakness, alibi becomes less plausible as a defense when it is corroborated only by relatives or close friends of the accused.[13]  
        
(What about the parents of these young witnesses who stood by and are still standing by their children's eye-witness accounts? Surely these parents wouldn't allow their children to perjure themselves to save a rapist-murder
. Some of these parents doesn't even know Paco from Adam.)             This case presents to us a balance scale whereby perched on one end is appellants’ alibi supported by witnesses who were either their relatives, friends or classmates, while on the other end is the positive identification of the herein appellants by the prosecution witnesses who were not, in any way, related to the victims. With the above jurisprudence as guide, we are certain that the balance must tilt in favor of the latter.  
       
(Yes, but what about the witness protection program. Weren't they compensated for their testimonies? What about Rusia and the favors he was receiving from the Chiongs as admitted by Mr. Chiong in a recent newspaper article. To view )  
         Besides, a thorough examination of the evidence for the prosecution shows that the appellants failed to meet the requirements of alibi, i.e., the requirements of time and place.[14]    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.  

Not even Larrañaga who claimed to be in Quezon City satisfied the required proof of physical impossibility. (What about Paco's 35 witnesses? Don't they count? More on this ) During the hearing, it was shown that it takes only one (1) hour to travel by plane from Manila to Cebu and that there are four (4) airline companies plying the route. 
          (It is physically impossible to travel between Manila to Cebu in one (1) hour. Everyone knows that. One is required to be at the airport at least 45 minute before departure. What about the travel time between Loyola Heights in Quezon City to the airport in Parañague; that will take about an hour, depending on the traffic. To this, you will have to add the travel time from the Cebu airport to Ayala Center. Over all, and considering one has no check-in luggage to claim in Cebu, the least time needed to travel between Quezon City to Cebu is three hours, and that is assuming the plane is on time.)      
          One of the defense witnesses admitted that there are several flights from Manila to Cebu each morning, afternoon and evening. Indeed, Larrañaga’s presence in Cebu City on July 16, 1997 was proved to be not only a possibility but a reality. Four (4) witnesses identified Larrañaga 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. Shiela confirmed that she knows Larrañaga since she had seen him on five (5) occasions. 
          
(Knows Larrañaga? If so, why did she ask Jacqueline who is he when they both saw Paco together for the first time? Besides, Sheila Singson never mentioned seeing Paco Larrañaga being in Ayala Center when she was earlier investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation. What convinced her to change her story?) 
         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 the two (2) men 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 3:30 in the morning of July 17, 1997. The latter was leaning against the hood of a white van.[15]  And over and above all, Rusia categorically identified Larrañaga as one of the participes criminis.
 

Taking the individual testimonies of the above witnesses in relation with that of Rusia, we are convinced that Larrañaga was indeed in Cebu City at the time of the commission of the crimes and was one of the principal perpetrators thereof.   

At this juncture, it bears mentioning that this case is not the first time that Larrañaga was charged with or complained of pruriently assaulting young female students in Cebu .  Months before the abduction of Marijoy and Jackie, the parents of a certain Rochelle Virtucio, complained about Larrañaga’s attempt to snatch their young daughter and drag her in a black, stylish Honda Civic. It happened just near the gate of Rochelle’s school, thus, showing his impudence.    We quote a portion of the transcript of stenographic notes dated September 23, 1998, thus:

            “ATTY. HERMOSISIMA:

            Your Honor please, this is a …. Inspector Era handed to this representation a copy of a Letter dated September 25, 1996, addressed to the Student Affairs Office, University of San Carlos, P. del Rosario Street, Cebu City, and this is signed by Leo Abayan and Alexander Virtucio and noted by Mrs. Aurora Pacho, Principal, University of San Carlos, Girls High School, and for the record, I will read the content:

 

TO WHOM THIS MAY CONCERN:

 

            We the parents and guardians of Rochelle Virtucio, a first year high school student of your University of San Carlos-Girls High School , are writing your good office about an untoward incident involving our daughter and another student of your school.

 

            x  x  x                                                  x    x  x

 

            That last Monday at around 5:00 PM, Rochelle and other classmates, Michelle Amadar and Keizaneth Mondejar, while on their way to get a ride home near the school campus, a black Honda Civic with five young male teenagers including the driver, suddenly stopped beside them, and simultaneously one of them, which was later identified as FRANCISCO JUAN LARRANAGA, a BSHRM I student of your school, grabbed Rochelle by her hand to try to get Rochelle to their vehicle. She resisted and got away from him. Sensing some people were watching what they were doing, they hurriedly sped away.


            We are very concerned about Rochelle’s safety. Still now, she is suffering the shock and tension that she is not supposed to experience in her young life. It is very hard for us parents to think about what she’d been through.”[16]
 

          The presence of such complaint in the record of this case certainly does not enhance Larrañaga’s chance of securing an acquittal.   

          First of all, I don't believe one alleged incident  justifies the Supreme Court to conclude that Paco Larrañaga, "pruriently assaulting young female students in Cebu." Besides, this non-notarized "To whom it may concern letter" should not even have been brought-up  by the Supreme Court unless the one who wrote the letter was presented in court to attest to the veracity of this letter. Even the Regional Trial Court did not accept this letter as the gospel truth: 

        TSN dated Sep. 23, 1998, page 45:    COURT: "We are admitting the evidence even if it is hearsay, it is admissible that there is such a letter. Not necessarily proving the truth of the allegations there but proving that there was such a letter. Not necessarily proving the truth of what is alleged there."

         Besides, no action was taken by the school nor the parties concerned against Paco. Even Mrs. Larrañaga wasn't called by the school authorities. The police were never called to investigate. Not even Judge Ocampo cited this letter when he sentenced Paco earlier.  I don't even believe the prosecution cited this letter in their briefs to either courts. Since the Supreme Court did not cite this letter in their first decision, I wonder why they are bringing this up now.)

III 

Larrañaga and Aznar bewail our refusal to overturn the trial court’s exclusion of Professor Jerome Bailen and Atty. Florencio Villarin, NBI, Regional Director, as defense witnesses.    Professor Bailen was properly excluded.   First, he is not a finger-print expert but an archaeologist.  And second, his report consists merely of the results of his visual inspection of the exhibits already several months old. 

 (Obviously the Supreme Court did not bother reading all the pleadings of the plaintives-appealants. If they did, they would have read that Bailen had a team of experts with him when he examined the prosecution's evidences and one of them was a fingerprint-expert, P/Lt. Col. REYNALDO D. MARCELO (RET). In fact, he also had the following experts in his team; Prof. Paz Abis, Dept, of Chemistry, Philippine College of Criminology; Mr. Erdolfu Grimares, Ballistician and Crime Scene Reconstruction Expert, Philippine College of Criminology, Anastacio Rosete Jr., Forensic Odontologist; Mr. Victor Besa, Forensic Photographer and Benito E. Molino, MD, Forensic Doctor.  

Although, the SC comments that Bailen's report consists merely of the results of his visual inspection of the exhibits already several months old might be true, Bailen and his team of experts brought up so many valid observations worth looking in to. To view whole text of Bailen Report

 Anent Atty. Villarin’s failure to testify before the trial court, suffice it to say that his belated Affidavit, which Aznar submitted via his supplemental motion for reconsideration dated May 5, 2004, raises nothing to change our findings and conclusions.   What clearly appears in said Affidavit is a man trying to impress people that he was the one responsible for solving the Chiong case and for that, he deserves a promotion.  The trial court, at the onset, must have seen such immateriality in his intended testimony. Indeed, we agree with the Solicitor General’s observation that such Affidavit “is neither helpful nor encouraging to Aznar’s cause.” We quote his keen reflection on the matter: 

 

“ x      x      x                                       x       x      x

 

Third. Atty. Villarin’s affidavit, in paragraphs 19 and 20 thereof, acknowledged that the body found in the Carcar ravine was that of Marijoy. This assertion immediately conflicts with accused-appellant Aznar’s claim in his Motion for Reconsideration that the corpse was not Marijoy’s. Surely, something is amiss in accused-appellant Aznar’s recollection of his defense.  

 

Fourth. Atty. Villarin confirmed in paragraph 24 of his affidavit that accused-appellant Francisco Larranaga was a suspect in the subject crimes. Evidently, this statement completely supports this Honorable Court’s findings in its Decision dated February 3, 2004.

 

Fifth. In paragraph 30 of Atty. Villarin’s affidavit, he stated that: ‘The arrest of Juzman Aznar was the major breakthrough in the investigation of the case because witnesses came out and identified Juzman Aznar as one of those allegedly seen talking to the victims on the night they disappeared.’  Hence, accused-appellant Aznar was in the beginning already a first-grade suspect in the Chiong sisters’ celebrated abduction and killing.

 

Sixth. Atty. Villarin admitted in paragraph 36 of his affidavit that: ‘x  x x  I did not take this against [Supt. Labra] for preempting our next move to get Juzman Aznar as we were already placing him under surveillance because I knew [Supt. Labra] did it in his honest desire  to help solve the crime x  x  x.’  Clearly, this statement is not an indictment of the investigation that the police undertook in the subject crimes.

 

Seventh. Paragraphs 37 to 40 are nothing but personal tirades against alleged influence peddling by Mrs. Thelma Chiong, mother of the victims, and the purportedly undue promotions of the lawyers and police officers who unearthed the evidence against accused-appellants and successfully prosecuted the latter.  In executing the affidavit, it appears that Atty. Villarin would want to impress that he, rather than those promoted, deserved the promotion.  

 

(Again, the justices of the Supreme Court failed to read that Villarin was retiring in a few months time after completing 65 years old. In fact, one of the prosecuting fiscals was appointed to his position after he retired. So how can they claim that Villarin was aiming for a promotion. In the Philippines, the mandatory age of retirement, especially for government officials is 65 years old.) 

 

Eighth. Atty. Villarin’s inability to testify in the criminal cases was not due solely to the prosecution’s action. Whether he ought to testify or not was an argument openly discussed in court. Hence, for the resulting inability, Atty. Villarin has no one to blame but the defense lawyers who did everything to make a mockery of the criminal proceedings.  

 

(How can the Supreme Court conclude that the defense lawyers were making a mockery of the criminal proceedings. Here we had lawyers trying their best to defend their clients in a one-sided court, a court who wanted to pass judgment even before the first defense witness even testified yet , who threatened and actually jailed some of the lawyers, and  who  suddenly disallowed the lawyers to present anymore witnesses , be accused of making a mockery of the criminal proceedings.)

 

And lastly, there is nothing in Atty. Villarin’s affidavit of the quality of a “smoking gun” that would acquit accused-appellants of the crimes they have been convicted. For he did not finish the police investigation of the subject crimes; this is the long and short of his miniscule role in the instant case. Indeed, judging by the substance of his affidavit, he would not be testifying in case a new trial is held on anything that has not been said and rejected heretofore, except his own unsubstantiated opinions (i.e. not facts as required by evidentiary rules), his self-congratulatory remarks, and his unmitigated frustration over failing to get a promotion when almost everyone else did.”[17] 

 

  (Again it appears that the Supreme Court is evading the issue altogether. Instead of commenting on the more pertinent issues in Atty. Villarin's statement like; Why didn't Mrs. Chiong and Sheila Singson ever mentioned to him, when they were questioned by the NBI a few days after the girls went missing, that they knew Larrañaga and that Larrañaga threatened her Marijoy a month earlier; why the police and the prosecutors did not allow him to interview Rusia; and why the judge and the prosecutor's blocked every move of the defense to make Villarin testify. Instead, the SC picked at length on Atty. Villarin's motive. To view full text of  Villarin's affidavit )

            Neither can we entertain at this late stage Dr. Fortun’s separate study to show that the examination conducted on the body found in Tan-awan, Carcar is inadequate. Such study cannot be classified as newly-discovered evidence warranting belated reception. Obviously, Larrañaga could have produced it during trial had he wished to.   
             
(The Supreme Court must have forgotten that the RTC Judge all of a sudden stopped the defense lawyers in presenting more witnesses. And this is why she was never presented. To view the Fortun report ).

IV 

Knowing that the prosecution’s theory highly rests on the truth of Rusia’  testimony,  appellants endeavor  to  destroy  it by claiming that the body found at the foot of a deep ravine in Tan-awan, Carcar was not that of Marijoy.   We must reiterate the reasons why we cannot give our assent to such argument.   First, Inspector Edgardo Lenizo,[18] a fingerprint expert, testified that the fingerprints of the corpse match those of Marijoy.[19]    

(Correction, Mr. Justices of the Supreme Court, .......testified that the fingerprint, not fingerprints. It was based only one single right hand thumbprint of the body. However, if only they read the Bailen report, the fingerprint-expert in Bailen's team, P/Lt. Col. Reynaldo Marcelo (Ret.),  did not agree with the findings of Lenizo and itemized many discrepancies in Lenizo's findings.)  
            Second, the packaging tape and the handcuff found on the dead body were the same items placed on Marijoy and Jacqueline while they were being detained.[20]  Third, the body had the same clothes worn by Marijoy on the day she was abducted.[21]   And fourth, the members of the Chiong family personally identified the corpse to be that of Marijoy[22] which they eventually buried. They erected commemorative markers at the ravine, cemetery and every place which mattered to Marijoy. As a matter of fact, at this very moment, appellants still fail to bring to the attention of this Court any person laying a claim on the said body. Surely, if the body was not that of Marijoy, other families who had lost someone of similar age and gender as Marijoy would have surfaced and claimed the body. The above circumstances only bolster Rusia’s narration that Rowen and Ariel pushed Marijoy into the deep ravine, following Josman’s instruction "to get rid" of her. 
            (Who testified to that effect. It was only Mrs. Chiong among all the members of the Chiong family who testified about that body in court. But then she admitted she never saw the body of the girl.  Contrary to earlier newspaper reports, she only said that some of the members of her family told her that that was Marijoy. Isn't that pure hearsay? The prosecution should have made the ones who identified the body to testify first hand in court.
            I don't believe it is for the defense to look for the family of that lady found in the ravine. That is strictly a police matter. 
           Besides an exhumation would have solve all doubts about the identity of the body. While in the U.S.A. many convicted persons are being released after years in prison thanks to DNA testing. But, here in the Philippines, we had a chance at the early stage of the trial, but Judge Ocampo denied this because he had always said that he is not interested for a corpus delicti. Every time the defense would try to question the identity of the dead lady in court, Judge Ocampo will always object saying "immaterial and irrelevant". It is ironic, after the defense lawyers were not allowed to prove that the dead lady found in the ravine was not Marijoy, now comes the  Supreme Court saying it is. 

             Even Judge Ocampo in his omnibus order , who tried the case expressed his deep doubts that the body was Marijoy's . What baffles me, is why didn't the Supreme Court commented on these serious doubts of Judge Ocampo. In both in their earlier decision and in  this latest decision, they are completely silent about Judge Ocampo's concern about the identity of the body and the charge that the police hid some evidences from  the court. Could this omnibus order not  have been included in the files forwarded to the Supreme Court in Manila from the Regional Trial Court?

          In the same omnibus order, Judge Ocampo explains further that Rusia could have lied about  pushing Marijoy down the ravine. 
            On the issue raised by appellants Uy brothers that James Andrew was only seventeen (17) years and two hundred sixty two (262) days old at the time the crimes were committed, the records bear that on March 1, 1999, James Andrew’s birth certificate was submitted to the trial court as part of the Formal Offer of Additional Evidence,[23] with the statement     that he was eighteen (18) years old.    On March 18, 1999, appellants filed     a Manifestation of Erratum correcting in part the Formal Offer of Additional Evidence by alleging that James Andrew was only seventeen (17) years old.[24]   

Now, James Andrew begs leave and prays that this Court admits at this stage of the proceedings his (1) Certificate of Live Birth issued by the National Statistics Office, and (2) Baptismal Certificate.   He prays that his penalty be reduced, as in the case of his brother James Anthony. 

            The entry of James Andrew’s birth in the Birth Certificate is not legible, thus it is extremely difficult for us to determine the veracity of his claim.  However, considering that minority is a significant factor in the imposition of penalty, we find it proper to require the Solicitor General   (a) to secure from the Local Civil Registrar of Cotobato City, as well as the National Statistics Office, a clear and legible copy of James Andrew’s Birth Certificate, and thereafter, (b) to file an extensive comment on the motion for reconsideration filed by James Andrew and James Anthony Uy, solely on James Andrews’ claim of minority.

 Insofar as James Anthony is concerned, we maintain his conviction and penalty, there being nothing in his motion which warrants a reconsideration of our Decision. 

In resolving the instant motions, we have embarked on this painstaking task of evaluating every piece and specie of evidence presented before the trial court in response to appellants’ plea for the reversal of their conviction.   But, even the element of reasonable doubt so seriously sought by appellants is an ignis fatuus which has eluded any intelligent ratiocination of their submissions.   Verily, our conscience can rest easy on our affirmance of the verdict of the trial court, in light of appellants’ clear culpability which demands retribution. 

WHEREFORE, the motions for reconsideration filed by appellants Francisco Juan Larrañaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caño and Ariel Balansag are hereby DENIED.  The Solicitor General is DIRECTED (a) to secure from the Local Civil Registrar of Cotobato City, as well as the National Statistics Office, a clear and legible copy of James Andrew’s Birth Certificate, and (b) within ten (10) days therefrom, to file an extensive comment on the motion for reconsideration filed by James Andrew and James Anthony Uy, solely on James Andrews’ claim of minority.   The motion is likewise DENIED insofar as James Anthony Uy is concerned. 

SO ORDERED.

 

  Unsigned
(Victims related to Mrs. Davide)


HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR.
Chief Justice

 

 

 

 

Signed: 
REYNATO S. PUNO
Associate Justice

   

  Signed:
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice

   

  Signed:
ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ
Associate Justice

 

  Signed:
MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ
Associate Justice

   

  Signed:
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
               Associate Justice

   

  Signed:
(Took no part former partner
of the counsel)
ADOLFO S. AZCUNA
Associate Justice

 

    Signed:
MINITA CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

 

 

Signed: 
ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Associate Justice

   

Signed:
CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice

   

  Signed:
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

     

  Signed:
    RENATO C. CORONA
      Associate Justice
 

 

  Signed:
ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.
Associate Justice

 

  Signed:
DANTE O. TINGA
Associate Justice

 

 

  Signed:
CANCIO C. GARCIA
Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

CERTIFICATION 

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in  consultation before the case  was  assigned  to  the  writer of  the  opinion of the Court.                                                    

                                     
                                                            SIGNED:
                                              HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR.
                                                        Chief Justice


[1]       As summarized by the Solicitor General, Rollo at 1881. It was filed on March 4, 2004.

[2]       Rollo at 1517. It was filed on March 5, 2004.

[3]       Id. at 1480. It was filed on March 3, 2004.

[4]     Id. at 1789. It was filed on March 23, 2004

[5]     Dated May 5, 2004, Id., at 1841-1845.

[6]     Id., at 1879-1924

[7]     It was filed on January 12, 2005.

[8]     G.R. No. 109645, March 4, 1996, 254 SCRA 234

[9]    Obosa v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 114350, January 16, 1997,266 SCRA 281

[10]      People. v. Bardaje, G.R. No. L-29271.  August 29, 1980, 99 SCRA 3881 ; G.R. Nos. 76416 and 94312, July 5, 1999;. People v. Bermas, G.R. Nos. 76416 and 94312, July 5, 1999, 309 SCRA 741; People v. Sacabin, G.R. No. L-36638, June 28,1974, 57 SCRA 707; People v. Demeterio, G.R. No. L-48255, September 30, 1983, 124 SCRA 914.

[11]     People vs. Rollon, G.R. No. 131915, September 3, 2003, 410 SCRA 295

[12]     Ibid.

[13]     People v. Datingginoo, G.R. No. 95539, June 14, 1993, 223 SCRA 331; People v. Abatayo, G.R. No. 139456.  July 7, 2004, 433 SCRA 562

[14]     People vs. Dela Cruz, G.R. No. 108180, February 8, 1994, 229 SCRA 754.

[15]     TSN, September 15, 1998 at 26-47. 

[16]     At 43-46.

[17]    Consolidated Comment of the Office of the Solicitor General, at 2-4.

[18]     Inspector Lenizo finished Law and Criminology.    He worked for the crime laboratory of the Philippine National Police where he was trained in finger-print examination and where he conducted around 500 finger-print examinations, 30 of which involved dead persons. At the time he testified, Inspector Lenizo was head of the Fingerprint Identification Branch of the PNP Crime Laboratory, Region 7.

[19]     TSN, September 22, 1998 at 31-40.

[20]     See also TSN, September 23, 1998 at 13, 20.

[21]     TSN, August 18, 1998 at 62; August 19, 1998 at 115; September 23, 1998 at 13, 20.

[22]     TSN, August 18, 1998 at 62; August 19, 1998 at 57, 60.

[23]     Rollo, at 1894.

[24] Id. , at 1948.

 

(P.S. With apologies to the justices of the Supreme Court. I am just trying here to save the lives of five young innocent men. I know, three of my daughters were with Paco in Manila when this alleged crime happened here in Cebu.  ...... the webmaster.)

           NOTE:   THE ABOVE TEXT IS THE FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL
        DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR  CLEARER APPRECIATION.              

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