Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. L-710             March 5, 1948

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
LEANDRO GONZALES, defendant-appellant.

Iliseo Cuenca for appellant.
Assistant Solicitor General Ruperto Kapunan, Jr., and Solicitor Jaime de los Angeles for appellee.

PARAS, J.:

The defendant-appellant was accused of treason in the People's Court on seven counts. The appealed judgment which found the appellant guilty and sentenced him to reclusion perpetua, with corresponding accessory penalties, and to pay a fine of ten thousand pesos and the costs, contains specific announcement expressly overruling counts 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7. As to the third count, the People's Court merely held that: "The accused, on the night of December 31, 1944, participated in a raid of Barrio Cumba, Lipa, Batangas, made by a patrol of Japanese soldiers and other Filipino followers and on that occasion apprehended fifteen persons and brought them to barrio Mataas-na-Kahoy of the same municipality. However, while those persons who were apprehended were presumably killed because they have not reappeared up to the present time, there is no evidence to show that the accused took part in their execution. The witnesses on this count were Fidel Hernandez, Remigia Lorzano, and Marcelo Peña." With reference to the sixth count, the appealed judgment contains the following conclusions: "The accused on February 27, 1945, participated in the burning of the houses in Barrio Cumba, Lipa, Batangas, which was perpetrated by a patrol of Japanese soldiers and their Filipino followers, because they suspected the people residing therein to be guerrillas. The witnesses who substantiated this count were Fidel Hernandez who testified that he saw the accused burn his house and the house belonging to Crisanto Mendoza, Julian Sara, and Enrique Sara; Remigia Lorzano who testified that he saw the accused set fire to her house and the houses of her brother-in-law and two cousins; and Marcelo Peña who testified that he saw the accused apply a torch to his house and the houses of Asuncion Hernandez, Benito Hernandez, Sofia Katigbak and Melquiades Careng. While it is true that no two witnesses saw the accused burn the same house but instead saw him burn separate group of houses the overt act of treason in this case is the burning of the houses as a whole in the barrio of Cumba. The act was a single, continuous, composite act made of several circumstances and passing through several stages. In such a case it is not necessary that there be two witnesses to each circumstance in each stage; it is sufficient that the witnesses were able to testify to the act as a whole."

Counsel for the appellant has limited the scope of his brief to the task of demonstrating that the People's Court erred in sustaining count 6, thereby assuming that all the other counts upon which the appellant was indicted, did not form part of the basis of appellant's conviction under the appealed judgment. The brief for the Government, however, undertakes to show not only that the error attributed to the People's Court does not exist, but that the appellant was entirely acquitted of count 3 which charges the following treasonable acts: "(a) Appellant's participation in the raid in barrio Cumba by a patrol composed of Japanese soldiers and the Makapilis. (b) His participation in the arrest and apprehension of 15 persons in connection with said raid. (c) The execution of 13 of the persons arrested." In other words, it is contended for the Government that "the fact that the trial court absolved the defendant in the last charge, that is, his participation in the execution of most of the persons arrested does not necessarily mean that he is cleared of all the charges in said count. It simply means that instead of finding him guilty of the complex crime of treason with murder, he was convicted merely of treason."

It is our opinion that the appellant cannot, on the merits, be convicted of treason as defined an penalized in article 114 of the Revised Penal Code, even if the overt acts charged in the sixth count are admitted as having been proved in the manner stated in the appealed judgment, for lack of compliance with the two-witness principle. Indeed, the brief for the appellee points out that "it is true, as the trial court said, that no two witnesses saw the accused burn the same house. Fidel Hernandez testified that at about 10 o'clock a.m. of February 27, 1945, he saw the accused and companion, with rags and gasoline, burn his (Fidel Hernandez') house, and that of Crisanto Mendoza, Julian Sara and Enrique Sara (pp. 19-20, t.s.n.). Remigia Lorzano stated that at about 6:30 a.m. of the same day she saw the accused igniting a piece of rag and setting her house, as well as the houses of his brother-in-law and her two cousins, on fire (p. 96, t.s.n.). The last witness Marcelo Peña testified that at about 9 o'clock a.m. he saw the accused and companion pour gasoline on the houses of Asuncion Hernandez, Benito Hernandez, Sofia Katigbak and Melquiades Garin and burn said houses afterwards (pp. 125-128, t.s.n.)." In People vs. Adriano, L-477, decided on June 30, 1947, 44 Off. Gaz., 4300, we already have had occasion to explain, in quite emphatic terms, the meaning of the two-witness requirement. There we said:

It is necessary to produce two direct witnesses to the whole overt act. It mat be possible to piece bits together of the same overt act; but, if so, each bit must have the support of two oaths.

Appellant's conviction can neither be predicated on the third count, not only because the corresponding pronouncements of the People's Court (hereinabove quoted) do not specifically intimate that the acts charges in said count and proven at the trial constitute treason a failure or silence amounting to acquittal, but because, even supposing said acts to be treasonable, we are inclined to discard the testimony of the witness Remigia Lorzano and Marcelo Peña who had made the glaring contradiction to the effect that while the first testified that Hilaria Peña was at the same house alleged in count 3 to have been raided, Marcelo Peña stated that his father (Hilario Peña) was not in said house. Upon the other hand, there can be no doubt that the People's Court obviously based the judgment of conviction on the acts charged in the sixth count, for it made the express assertion that "the overt act of treason in this case is the burning of the houses as a whole in the barrio of Cumba."

The appealed judgement will therefore be, as the same is hereby, reversed and the defendant-appellant acquitted, with costs de oficio. So ordered.

Moran, C.J., Feria, Perfecto, Bengzon, Briones, and Tuason, JJ., concur.


Separate Opinions

PABLO, M., disidente:

(TWO PAGES OF SPANISH TEXT).


HILADO, J., dissenting:

In my opinion, there is sufficient evidence, satisfying the two-witness rule, to find appellant guilty under count 3, referring to the raid made by the Japanese accompanied by him and other Filipino followers on December 31, 1944, New Year's eve, in Barrio Cumba, Lipa, Batangas, in which raid fifteen persons were apprehended and brought to the barrio of Mataas-na-Kahoy of the same municipality. It would be closing our eyes to the reality of things if we were not to understand that those fifteen persons were apprehended and dealt with in the manner stated, by the Japanese, either because they were guerrillas or guerrilla suspects, or other kind of underground movement members, or suspects of being such.

Under count 6, although the two-witness rule may not have been satisfied, I am of the opinion that conviction for arson as a common crime is in order.


The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation