Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. 131807            August 6, 2002

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
JOSE B. CANICULA, accused-appellant.

KAPUNAN, J.:

This is an automatic review of the Decision dated October 7, 1997 of the Regional Trial Court, Fifth Judicial Region, Branch 15, Tabaco, Albay, finding the accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape with Homicide and imposing upon him the supreme penalty of death.

The Information reads as follows:

That in the evening of December 25, 1996, at Barangay Jonop, Municipality of Malinao, Province of Albay, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with lewd design and by means of violence, force and intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with MERLINDA CALLADA, against her will and consent, and by reason and on the occasion thereof, accused with intent to kill, with treachery and taking advantage of nighttime, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously assault, attack, wound, injure and box afore-named Merlinda Callada on the different parts of her body, which caused her death, to the damage and prejudice of her legal heirs.1âwphi1.nęt

ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.1

Upon arraignment on June 16, 1997, the accused-appellant pleaded not guilty. Trial thereby ensued where the prosecution presented seven (7) witnesses. The accused-appellant testified on his own behalf.

The facts as presented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) are as follows:

At about 1:23 in the afternoon of December 26, 1996, Lorenzo Bongkingki, the barangay captain of Jonop, municipality of Malinao, Albay, was informed by Domingo Cierva that there was a body of a naked woman lying on her back in a canal. Lorenzo immediately proceeded to the place mentioned. There he saw the cadaver of the woman confirming Domingo Cierva’s report. Lorenzo immediately reported the matter to the police department (TSN, pp. 3-8, July 30, 1997).

Accompanied by Barangay Captain Lorenzo Bongkingki, a police team was dispatched to Barangay Jonop to investigate. When the police arrived, they saw the cadaver of a woman lying on her back with her face up in the shallow waters of a river. SPO2 Salvador Cestina, a member of the police team, conducted an ocular investigation at the scene. The cadaver was photographed. SPO2 Cestina observed that the dead woman had injuries and bruises on her arms and elbows. She wore a T-shirt which was rolled up to her neck. She had no panty. The police brought the cadaver to the ground. They later placed the cadaver inside the jeep and brought it to the Municipal Health Office of Malinao, Albay (TSN, pp. 7-11, July 14, 1997; TSN, pp. 6-9, July 30, 1997).

Meanwhile, at about 1:00 in the afternoon of December 26, 1996, while Manuel Callada was at home tending their store, he heard a commotion outside about a dead woman who was found naked in the river. Curious, Manuel went out and proceeded to the place where the dead woman was found. Manuel Callada was shocked by what he saw. The dead woman was his wife, Merlinda Callada. He recognized his wife because of the mole on the middle of her upper lip. After identifying his wife, Manuel proceeded to the police headquarters. A police team was dispatched to the crime scene (TSN, pp. 2-4, August 18, 1997).

The cadaver of Merlinda Callada was brought to a funeral parlor for autopsy. Dr. Dante B. Bausa, Municipal Health Officer of Malinao, Albay, conducted an autopsy on the cadaver of the victim. Dr. Bausa prepared an Autopsy Report (Exh. "A", p. 2, Record) which shows the following findings:

"xxx           xxx           xxx

EXTERNAL FINDINGS:

-      cadaver clad in wet white T-shirt with blood stain over the anterior aspect, with no underwear.

-      contusion and swelling located over the forehead, left and right periorbital area, nasal and perinasal area, perioral area and the chin; clotted and non-clotted blood noted to come out of the mouth and nostrils.

-      nasal cavity was noted to be filled with clotted and non-clotted blood.

-      oral cavity was noted to be filled with clotted and non-clotted blood, with lacerated wound 3 cm in length over the inner mucosal surface of the right side of the upper lip.

-      lacerated wound 1 cm in length located 1.5 cm below the right lower eyelid.

-      lacerated wound 2.5 cm in length located 2 cm below the left lower eyelid.

-      linear abrasion 3 cm in length located over the lateral aspect, M/3rd of the right arm.

-      linear abrasion 11 cm in length located over the posterior aspect, M/3rd of the right arm.

-      linear abrasion 12 cm in length located over the posterior aspect of the right deltoid.

-      abrasion 1.5 cm x 1 cm located over the medial aspect of the right elbow.

-      abrasion 6 cm x 2 cm located over the lateral aspect of the left elbow.

-      abrasion 1 cm in diameter located posteriorly over the knuckle area of the second finger, left hand.

GENITAL EXAMINATION:

-      hyperemia with abrasion and minimal bleeding located from 6:00 o’clock to 9’00 o’clock of the vaginal vestibule.

-      speculum exam: no vaginal seminal fluid secretion, no evidence of intravaginal bleeding.

LABORATORY EXAMINATION:

-      vaginal smear and vaginal washing result: negative for spermatozoa

-      skull x-ray result: Fracture of the inferior orbit of the left eyeball socket.

-      chest x-ray result: unremarkable

CAUSE OF DEATH:

-      ASPHYXIA SECONDARY TO UPPER AIRWAY OBSTRUCTION SECONDARY TO TRAUMATIC INJURY, FACE.

On the basis of the genital examination conducted on the victim, Dr. Bausa concluded that the victim was raped because of the presence of "hyperemia with abrasion and minimal bleeding located from 6:00 o’clock and 9:00 o’clock of the vaginal vestibule" (TSN, p. 18, 1997; TSN, pp. 11-12, July 1, 1997). Dr. Bausa testified that at the time he examined the victim he found the wounds on her body still fresh with minimal bleeding. He found no seminal fluid inside the inner vaginal canal, i.e., it was negative for spermatozoa upon smear examination. Dr. Bausa opined that the sexual act might have been aborted and the suspect failed to ejaculate due to some distractions or disturbances by the presence of some passersby (TSN, p. 15, July 1, 1997).

On December 29, 1996, SPO4 Antonio Camano, a member of the investigating team, went home to Barangay Jonop, Malinao, Albay. SPO4 Camano learned from the people there that one Jose Canicula (i.e., appellant) had left the place carrying with him all his belongings, including household items. SPO4 Camano relayed the information to the police headquarters. SPO4 Camano and some policemen rushed to the house of appellant’s wife in the nearby town of Malilipot. In Malilipot, appellant’s wife told the police team that her husband was working in Basud, Tabaco, Albay. The police proceeded to Basud. When SPO4 Camano saw appellant, he (SPO4 Camano) alighted from the car and approached him. Upon seeing SPO4 Camano, whose wife was his (appellant’s) relative, appellant told SPO4 Camano that he would go with him. Appellant was brought to the police station of Malinao, Albay, for investigation (TSN, pp. 14-17, July 30, 1997).

During the investigation, appellant broke down and confessed to the crime. SPO4 Salvador Cestina was assigned to take appellant’s sworn statement. Before taking appellant’s extra-judicial confession, SPO4 Cestina apprised him of his constitutional rights to remain silent, to be assisted by counsel of his choice and if he did not have any, to be provided with one. Since appellant did not have a lawyer of his choice, SPO4 Cestina propounded questions to appellant in the Bicolano dialect to which appellant answered in the same dialect. Atty. Brotamonte was present throughout the proceedings. The questions and answers were translated into the English language (TSN, pp. 14-17, June 14, 1997; TSN, pp. 23-24, August 18, 1997).

On October 7, 1997, the RTC rendered a decision with the following dispositive portion:

Premises considered, the Court having been convinced that proof beyond reasonable doubt has been established against the accused the Court finds him guilty of the crime of Rape with Homicide penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code as amended and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of DEATH and to pay the heirs of Merlinda Callada the amount of P50,000.00 as indemnity for her death.

SO ORDERED.2

In this appeal, the accused-appellant raise the following assignment of errors:

1. The Court a quo gravely erred in finding the accused appellant guilty for the crime charge on the basis of unsupported suspicion of private complainant Manuel Callada.

2. The Court a quo gravely erred by holding the accused-appellant guilty based on his eight (8) uncorroborated circumstances.

3. The Court a quo gravely erred by imposing the capital penalty of death to the accused-appellant and to pay indemnity of P50,000.00 to the heirs of the deceased, based on the extrajudicial statement and admission by the appellant; and

4. The Court a quo gravely erred by disregarding totally appellant’s defenses of denial of the crime charge.3

Contrary to the accused-appellant’s contention, the trial court did not merely rely on the testimonies of private complainant Manuel Callada and SPO4 Antonio Camano who allegedly pointed at the accused-appellant as the perpetrator of the crime because of his sudden flight from the place. While it is true that the accused-appellant’s sudden flight was quite suspicious, there were other evidences considered which point to him as the author of the crime.

The accused-appellant and the victim were both residents of Barangay Jonop, Malinao, Albay. After the commission of the crime, the residents noticed that the accused-appellant left the place bringing with him all his belongings. This sudden flight aroused the curiosity of the police who in turn tried to pursue the accused-appellant in order to find out if he had anything to do with the death of the victim. The police learned that the accused-appellant was merely in the next barangay. Upon seeing the police, the accused-appellant recognized SPO4 Camano who was a relative of his wife, and voluntarily went with them. At the police station, the accused-appellant executed a sworn statement before SPO1 Salvador Cestina with the assistance of counsel where he stated that:

x x x

3. Q      - On or about 7:15 P.M., December 25, 1996, where were you?

     A      - I was at Basod, Tabaco, Albay.

4. Q      - From that place where did you go?

     A      - From Basod, Tabaco, Albay I went home at Bgy. Jonop, Malinao, Albay.

5. Q      - When you went home do you recall of any untoward incident that happened?

     A      - None, sir. However, while I was walking towards Bgy. Jonop, Malinao, Albay from the crossing at Bgy. Cabunturan, Malinao, Albay I was following a woman walking towards Bgy. Jonop, Malinao, Albay.

6. Q      - What happened next?

     A      - When I cath (sic) up with the girl I immediately boxed her hitting the right portion of her head.

     Q      - Do you know the girl you made mentioned?

     A      - Yes sir.

     Q      - Who is that girl?

     A      - Merly Callado sir.

     Q      - When you box (sic) Merly Callada, what happen to her?

     A      - She fell on the river.

     Q      - How many times did you box Merly Callado?

     A      - Four (4) times

     Q      - Why did you box Merly Callada?

     A      - I was drunk.

     Q      - When Merly Callada fell on the river after you box her, what did you do?

     A      - I went home.

     Q      - Do you aware that Merly Callada was found dead on December 26, 1996 at the river at Jonop, Malinao, Albay?

     A      - No sir.

     Q      - Are you sure that you are not aware that Merly Callada was found dead at the river at Jonop, Malinao, Albay on December 26, 1996?

     A      - I came to know that Merly Callada was found dead at about 1:00 PM., of December 26, 1996.

     Q      - Do you know that Merly Callada when found dead was already naked?

     A      - Yes sir.

     Q      - After you box Merly Callada did you remove her pant and panty?

     A      - No sir.

     Q      - When you box (sic) her did Merly Callada ask for help?

     A      - She shouted in Bicol dialect to wit: "NGATA INARAYOT NINDO AKO".

     Q      - Why, was there any body else box Merly Callada?

     A      - None sir, I am the only one box her.

     Q      - When you left her, what happen?

     A      - When I was walking towards my house I meet (sic) a man riding on a pidecab (sic) towards Bgy Cabunturan, Malinao, Albay.

     Q      - Did you know this man?

     A      - No sir.

     Q      - What did this man do when you meet (sic) him?

     A      - He evaded me.

     Q      - How did you know that the one you box is Merly Callada?

     A      - I recognized her voice when she shouted in bicol dialect to wit: "NGATA INARAYOT NINDO AKO".

     Q      - How did you know that the one shouted when you box her was Merly Callada?

     A      - She is my barriomate and very familiar to me and on the n afternoon of December 26, 1996 I came to know that Merly Callada was found dead on the river at Jonop, Malinao, Albay.

x x x4

The trial court admitted the extrajudicial statement executed by the accused-appellant on December 29, 1996 and found it not to be vitiated. The accused-appellant was duly assisted at that time by a competent counsel in the person of Atty. Danilo Brotamonte from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO). When called to testify in court for the prosecution, Atty. Brotamonte asserted that he was called by the police to assist the accused-appellant when the latter’s statement was taken. He made sure that the contents thereof were duly explained and understood by the accused-appellant before his signature was affixed.5 The extrajudicial statement is tantamount to a confession voluntarily given by the accused where the recitals therein are his own and contains details which the accused-appellant is in a position to know.6 A confession is evidence of the highest order because it is supported by the strong presumption that no person of normal mind could deliberately and knowingly confess to a crime unless he is prompted by truth and conscience.7 The presumption of spontaneity and voluntariness stands unless the defense proves otherwise.8

By the extrajudicial statement, the accused-appellant readily admitted that he was at the scene of the crime with the victim. While walking towards Jonop at 7:15 in the evening of December 25, 1996, he was following a woman until he caught up with her. He suddenly boxed her four times which caused the victim to fall into the river. He recognized the victim to be Merly Callada because he recognized her voice when she allegedly shouted back at him. The next day, the victim was discovered dead and naked. The autopsy report sufficiently reveals that the victim suffered serious injuries on her head and face which proved to be fatal.

The extrajudicial statement coupled with the corpus delicti and the autopsy report lead to the conclusion that the accused-appellant is responsible for the death of the victim.

The Court, however, finds that the prosecution has not presented that standard of proof required a law in proving the crime of rape. The extrajudicial statement of the accused-appellant does not mention that he raped the victim. The accused-appellant merely admitted that he boxed the victim four times until the victim fell into the river. The medical report categorically states that there is no finding of spermatozoa in the victim’s vagina. While the medical report states that there are fresh wounds and minimal bleeding found, this does not, however, prove that it was the accused-appellant’s penis which was inserted in the victim’s vagina.9 Absent any conclusive and categorical evidence that the laceration on the victim’s vagina was caused by a male organ, the accused-appellant can not be held for rape.10

There is, however, sufficient evidence to hold the accused-appellant liable for the crime of homicide. He admitted that he was drunk at that time when he boxed the victim four times which caused her to fall into the river. The medical report clearly points that the victim had numerous contusions on the head and face of the victim. It can be safely assumed that the death was the result of the accused-appellant’s physical assault on the victim.

The Court, therefore, finds the accused-appellant guilty for homicide only which is punished with reclusion temporal. There being no mitigating or aggravating circumstances proven in court, the maximum penalty under the Indeterminate Sentence Law shall be imposed in its medium period which is 14 years, 8 months and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months, while the minimum shall be within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by the Revised Penal Code for the offense which is prision mayor or 6 years and 1 day to 12 years.

In addition to the award of P50,000.00, as civil indemnity for the death of Merlinda Callada, the Court also finds that the accused-appellant should be made to pay moral damages of P50,000.00 which is awarded without need of proof, and the amount of P40,600.00 as actual damages for funeral and burial expenses which have been substantiated and duly proven in Court. Manuel Callada also testified that his wife was working as a bodegera in the warehouse of Royal Grocery in Tabaco, Albay receiving P3,000.00 a month.11 Thus, the heirs of the victim is also entitled to an award for the loss of Merlinda Callada’s earning capacity which shall be computed as follows:

Net earning capacity = Life expectancy x [Gross Annual Income – Living Expenses (50% of gross annual income)], where life expectancy = 2/3 (80- the age of the deceased).12

X = [2(80-37)13] x [(P3,000 x 12)- P18,000]

3

= P514,800

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Fifth Judicial Region, Branch 15, Tabaco, Albay in Criminal Case No. T-2817 is hereby MODIFIED. The Accused-appellant, Jose Canicula is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Homicide, as defined and penalized under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code, and sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of 12 years of prision mayor as minimum to 17 years and 4 months of the medium period of reclusion temporal as maximum. The accused-appellant is also ordered to pay the heirs of the victim, Merlinda Callada, the amounts of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, P40,600.00 as actual damages and P514,800.00 as loss of earning capacity.1âwphi1.nęt

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, and Corona, JJ., concur.


Footnotes

1 Rollo, p. 8.

2 RTC Decision, Rollo, p. 104.

3 Rollo, p. 65.

4 Exhibit E-1, Record, p. 6.

5 TSN, August 18, 1997, p. 20.

6 People vs. Paras, 56 SCRA 248 (1974).

7 People vs. Espiritu, 302 SCRA 533 (1999).

8 People vs. Alvarez, 201 SCRA 364 (1991).

9 People of the Philippines vs. Jemreich Matignas y San Pascual, Noel de Guzman y Cruz, Alberto Bautista, Jr. y Capanza and Ruel Tarre y Gonzales, G.R. No. 126146, March 12, 2002.

10 People of the Philippines v. Raymundo Corfin, G.R. No. 131478, April 11, 2002.

11 TSN, August 18, 1997, p. 8.

12 People vs. Jemreich Matignas y San Pascua, et.al, supra.

13 Death Certificate, Exhibit "C," Records, p. 74.


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