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SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 123101. November 22, 2000]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. TITING ARANAS @ TINGARDS/RONNIE, ANGELO PARACUELES, JUAN VILLA @
JUANTOY, ELMER MANALILI, ET AL. accused.

ELMER MANALILI, accused-appellant.

DECISION

DE LEON, JR., J.:

Before us is an appeal from the decision[1] of the Regional Trial Court of Bohol, 7th Judicial Region, Branch 3, Tagbilaran City finding
accused-appellant Elmer Manalili guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of qualified piracy and sentencing him to suffer the
penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify certain individuals.

The Information indicting appellant reads:

That on or about the 15th day of December, 1992 in the seawaters of the municipality of Ubay, Province of Bohol, Philippines, which
is part of the Philippine waters and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused, conspiring,
confederating and mutually helping one another, with intent to gain, and by means of violence against or intimidation of persons,
did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously seize by boarding a passenger sea vessel M/V J & N Princess, owned by one
Nelson Uy and under the complement of Gervacio Uy and Saturnino Gaudicos with 19 officers and crew members and while on
board said vessel, seized its radio and subsequently demanded and divested them and its passengers cash in the amount of
P200,000.00, Philippine Currency and valuables and equipments worth P350,000.00, Philippine currency or in the total amount of
Five Hundred Fifty Thousand Pesos (P550,000.00), Philippine Currency, and on the occasion of said piracy, accused committed the
crime of physical injuries on the person of Ernesto Magalona, the quarter master; to the damage and prejudice of the offended
parties in the above stated total amount.

Acts committed contrary to the provisions of Art. 123 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by PD 532.[2]
Accused Titing Aranas alias Tingards, Angelo Paracueles, Juan Villa alias Juantoy, Gaudencio Tolsidas and Rodrigo Salas remain at
large. Hence, this case proceeded only against appellant Elmer Manalili who was arrested on January 21, 1993 in Cebu City.

When arraigned on August 23, 1993, appellant Manalili pleaded not guilty.[3] He also waived his right to pre-trial. Thereafter, trial
ensued.

The prosecution presented the following testimonial evidence:

Prosecution witness Gervacio Ong Uy, 62, operations manager of the cargo-passenger vessel M/V J & N Princess, testified that at
9:40 in the evening of December 15, 1992, Tuesday, he boarded said vessel. The vessel plies the route between Ubay, Bohol and
Cebu (and vice-versa) every other day or every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. It leaves the port of Ubay, Bohol at 10:00 o’ clock in
the evening. About twenty minutes after departure on said date, he went down to urinate at the lower deck. After urinating, two
persons were standing behind him; one was pointing a gun at his back and the other was holding his collar. They ordered him to go
upstairs to the third or upper deck. Arriving there, they told him to open the radio room, and they destroyed the radio. They also
ordered that all lockers of the room be opened. They told him that they were military men looking for firearms and shabu. He
opened all lockers except that of quartermaster Ernesto Magalona, who was not around as he was hiding. The crew members
looked for him, and when he appeared, the pirates scolded and hit him with an armalite. He was about 3 meters away from
Magalona. Magalona opened his locker but the pirates were not able to find anything inside. When the locker was opened, he saw
that the left hand of one pirate had a tattoo with the initials “G.V.”[4]

The pirates took from Gervacio Uy P30,500.00 in cash and his wristwatch worth P1,500.00. From an inventory made by the purser,
the pirates divested from the passengers P200,000.00 in cash, and P300,000.00 worth of personal belongings including radio and
jewelry.[5]

After the robbery, the leader of the pirates told the quartermaster to stop the engine of the vessel, then there was a gunshot, which
was apparently a signal for the get-away pumpboat. Before the pirates left, they told Uy’s group not to go back to Ubay, but to
proceed to Cebu, otherwise the boat would be strafed. Nevertheless, they proceeded to Talibon, Bohol in order to report the
incident to the police. They arrived in Cebu at 5:00 o’ clock in the morning of December 16, 1992.[6]

Gervacio Uy declared that he identified the two persons who initially pointed a gun at him through pictures. The one who pointed
an armalite at him was about 5’6” in height, regular in built, brown complexion, with straight hair and between 25 to 28 years old.
The second man was older, about 42 years old, 5’3” or 5’4” in height, medium built with brown complexion and black hair; he was
carrying what looked like an uzi gun. From pictures presented by the Central Intelligence Service (CIS) when he was investigated, he
identified the two as Titing Aranas and Paracueles, all at large. When appellant Elmer Manalili was presented during the preliminary
investigation before the municipal judge of Ubay, he told Municipal Judge Napuli that his face was familiar among the eight pirates.
However, quartermaster Magalona and Boiser, a passenger, identified him as one of the pirates.[7]

On cross-examination, Gervacio Uy said that out of the 20 pictures presented to him for identification by the CIS, he only positively
identified Titing Aranas and Angelo Paracueles. He saw Elmer Manalili for the first time when he was presented before Judge Napuli
for investigation.[8]
Prosecution witness Ernesto Magalona, 39, quartermaster of M/V J & N Princess since 1991 to the present, testified that on
December 15, 1992, he was on board the said vessel which left the port of Ubay, Bohol bound for Cebu at 10:00 o’ clock in the
evening. He was off-duty then. At the time of the robbery, he was on the second deck of the boat. He was lying on his cot near the
passage way leading to the upper deck when someone shouted, “Ayaw paglihok kay duna miy pangitaon nga shabu ug armas nga
uzi,” meaning, “Do not move, we are searching for shabu and uzi gun.” Then he saw their manager Gervacio Uy being escorted by
two armed men. One was armed with an armalite pointed at Uy. The other man was also armed because something was bulging at
his waist, but he did not see the kind of firearm he was carrying. He could identify the two armed men who escorted Uy, because he
was about three to four meters away from them and the place was well illuminated with fluorescent lights. He identified one of the
said armed men by pointing to a person inside the court room who, when asked his name, answered that he was Elmer Manalili. He
declared that the other man carried a long firearm. Describing the manner Uy was escorted, he said that the man holding the
armalite was also holding the collar of Uy and pushing him while appellant followed. Uy and the two armed men eventually reached
the third deck where the armed men destroyed the radio. He came to know that the radio was destroyed because the purser who
came from the third deck looking for him told him so. He tried to cover his face with his malong, but ultimately a pirate saw him
and struck him with his gun hitting his right ear so he was forced to stand up and go with them to the third deck. When he was at
the third or upper deck, Uy was on his way down to the second deck escorted by appellant. Immediately after his locker was opened,
he was instructed to return to his cot and ordered to lie down.[9]

Magalona said that there were about eight (8) pirates. He could only remember and identify the two armed men who escorted
Gervacio Uy because the movements of the pirates were so fast and coordinated. He could remember Elmer Manalili because he
was facing him and he saw him frontally. The pirates divested the passengers of their belongings. His wallet containing P1,000.00
was taken.[10]

On cross-examination, Magalona stated that when the robbers announced a hold-up, he was lying down. They were ordered to
remain lying down, face down for less than an hour. The robbers were in pairs stationed at the lower deck, second deck and third
deck while the other two made rounds of these decks. When the passengers were divested of their belongings, operations
manager Uy was at the third or upper deck escorted by the two armed men, one of whom was the appellant. He was positive that
from the start, the two armed men escorted Uy from the comfort room at the lower deck to the second deck and then the third or
upper deck where the radio room was located. They did not separate from Uy but always followed him, and he had a good look at
them when they passed by the second deck.[11]

After the incident, Magalona saw the appellant at the office of the chief of police in Ubay, Bohol and then during the investigation at
the office of the municipal judge. He also saw the appellant from pictures of suspects shown to him at the office of the chief of
police.[12]

Prosecution witness SPO2 Alex Henson Reyes, a member of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Ubay, Bohol, testified that on
December 15, 1992 he was a passenger of M/V J & N Princess bound for Cebu. He was asleep when the boat left the port of Ubay,
but was awakened by a gunfire. Then he saw a pirate aiming an armalite rifle, and another one, about 16 years old, aiming his
carbine rifle, at him. Another pirate got his bag, and taken therefrom was his service revolver, a caliber .38 Smith and Wesson,
issued by the Chief of Police. The gun had twelve (12) rounds of ammunition. After the incident, he went to the PNP in Bohol, and
from pictures that were shown to him, he identified the pirate who got his bag as Angelo Paracueles. He did not see the appellant
during the incident.[13]
Due to fright suffered at the time of the incident, SPO2 Reyes asked for moral damages of P50,000.00, and actual damages of
P50,000.00 for the loss of the gun, and P288.00 for the 12 rounds of ammunition.[14]

Prosecution witness PO3 Saul Pino Cuyno,[15] a member of the PNP, Ubay, Bohol, testified that in the evening of December 15, 1992,
he was also a passenger of M/V J & N Princess. The pirates took from him P80.00 in cash and his watch worth P4,000.00 The armed
men mentioned by SPO2 Reyes were the same men who aimed their guns at him. From pictures that were shown to him after the
incident, he identified one of the armed men as Angelo Paracueles.[16]

On the other hand, appellant Elmer Manalili denied that he was involved in the piracy committed on board M/V J & N Princess in the
evening of December 15, 1992 in the seawaters of Ubay, Bohol inasmuch as he was in his residence in Cebu City at that time.

Defense witness Jeffrey Dadula Perandos, 26, single, third year high school, industrial painter, testified that he knew appellant since
they were neighbors at Cabantan St., Mabolo, Cebu City. Appellant started to live there when he was eight (8) years old and stayed
with his elder brother Junior Manalili. He does not know appellant’s father because the latter died in Camotes Island before
appellant transferred to Mabolo, Cebu City. In 1989, appellant married Cherry Mae Elimino from Lutopan, Cebu. After their
marriage, they stayed in Lutopan for a while, and resided in Nivel, Lahug, Cebu City in October or November 1992.[17]

Perandos said that he has been working as an industrial painter since he was 15 years old. In December 1992, he was hired to paint
the house of Mr. Chua in La Guardia, Lahug, Cebu City. His companions were appellant, Reynaldo Cardona, Ernesto Dadula and
master painter Nicomedes Baguio who was the head of their group. They started painting the house of Mr. Chua sometime during
the first week of December, but he did not finish painting the house because he transferred to another painting job at Basak,
Mandaue and stopped working with Mr. Chua about the end of January 1993.[18]

According to Perandos, when they started working at La Guardia, he and Reynaldo Cardona slept at appellant’s house. On
December 14, 1992, he, appellant and Reynaldo Cardona started painting the house of Mr. Chua at 8:00 o’ clock in the morning and
stopped working at 5:00 o’ clock in the afternoon. Then they proceeded to the house of appellant together with Reynaldo Cardona
and ate supper there at 8:00 o’ clock in the evening. Appellant’s wife was not around because she was working as an entertainer in
a karaoke bar. Thereafter, they had a drinking spree, and then slept in appellant’s house. The next day, December 15, 1992, they
went to work at the Chua’s residence early in the morning and stopped working at 5:00 o’ clock in the afternoon. They proceeded to
appellant’s house and arrived there at 6:00 o’ clock in the evening. Appellant’s wife was still around and they ate supper with her.
She left for work at 6:30 in the evening. Appellant was left to take care of their child. After supper, he, Reynaldo Cardona and
appellant were drinking until 10:00 o’ clock in the evening. Appellant slept ahead of them at 11:00 o’ clock that night.[19]

Perandos stated that appellant was working continuously at the Chua’s residence from the first week of December until his arrest at
about 7:00 o’ clock in the evening of January 21, 1993. He knew of the arrest because appellant was arrested at the side of his
house. At that time, appellant went to his house in order for them to borrow money from a close friend, money lender Cecilia Cupta.
After the arrest, he visited appellant at Camp Sotero Cabahug, Cebu City and asked why he was arrested. Appellant said he was only
a suspect.[20]
On cross-examination, Perandos said that he was asked to testify by appellant’s wife, Cherry Mae, and appellant himself in a letter
handcarried by Cherry Mae. In said letter, appellant also asked Reynaldo Cardona, his neighbor, to testify for him. Appellant’s wife
paid for his fare.[21]

Defense witness Reynaldo Cupta Cardona, 21, single, elementary graduate, painter, and a resident of 55-B Cabantan Street,
Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City, testified that appellant resided in Nivel, Lahug, Cebu City. He knew appellant since they worked
together in painting the house of Alfonso Chua at La Guardia, Lahug, Cebu City. Aside from appellant, his other companions were
Jeffrey Perandos, Ernesto Dadula and Nicolas Baguio. They started painting in December 1992 and finished the work in February
1993. However, appellant was arrested on January 21, 1993 so only four of them finished the painting job.[22]

Cardona stated that on December 14, 1992, he, appellant and Jeffrey Perandos started painting the house of Mr. Chua at 7:00 o’
clock in the morning, and stopped working at 5:00 o’ clock in the afternoon. Then they proceeded to the house of appellant where
they slept to save on fare. They ate supper at 6:00 o’ clock in the evening together with appellant’s wife Cherry Mae, who did not
work as it was her day-off. Appellant went to bed at past 7:00 o’ clock in the evening, and slept with his child. He and Cherry Mae
talked about her work, while Jeffrey Perandos listened. They all slept at 10:00 to 11:00 o’ clock that night. The following day,
December 15, 1992, they went to work at Mr. Chua’s residence at 7:00 o’ clock in the morning. They stopped working at 5:00 o’
clock in the afternoon, then proceeded to appellant’s house. They ate supper at 6:00 o’ clock in the evening with Cherry Mae as it
was still her day-off. Appellant slept ahead because he had to make his child sleep. They conversed with Cherry Mae after they
cleaned the house, and slept at past 10:00 o’ clock that night. The following day, December 16, 1992, he woke up ahead and
prepared his “baon” at 5:50 in the morning. Appellant and Jeffrey Perandos woke up at the same time. Appellant played ball with
his child. They left for work at past 6:00 o’ clock in the morning, and started working at 7:00 o’ clock. His companions were
appellant, Jeffrey Perandos, Nicolas Baguio and Ernesto Dadula.[23]

On cross-examination, Cardona said that appellant’s wife requested him to testify in this case, and gave him P70.00 for fare. On
December 3, 1993, she gave him and Jeffrey Perandos more than P200.00.[24]

On re-direct examination, Cardona clarified that while they were staying at appellant’s house when they were then painting the
house of Mr. Chua, they contributed money for their food.[25]

Defense witness Cherry Mae Manalili declared that she was appellant’s wife. In December 1992, her husband was a painter. She
knew Jeffrey Perandos and Reynaldo Cardona since the time they had a painting job together with her husband at the Chua’s
residence in La Guardia, Lahug, Cebu City. At that time, her family consisting of her husband and one-year-old child, was residing at
Nivel, Lahug, Cebu City. They rented a room and kitchen from one Nang Ason in the middle of November. She was then working at
the X-O Karaoke Bar. Her work was from 7:30 in the evening to 2:00 o’ clock in the morning. In June 1993, she transferred to
Steve’s Karaoke Bar where she is presently employed.[26]

Cherry Mae said that while working with her husband at the Chua’s residence, Perandos and Cardona lived with her family at Nivel,
Lahug, Cebu City since December 7, 1992 to minimize travel expenses. They contributed money for their food.[27]

She stated that on December 14, 1992, Perandos and Cardona were still staying with them. When she left for work at 7:30 in the
evening, her husband was at home taking care of their child. On December 15, 1992, she left for work at about 8:00 o’ clock in the
evening. Her husband, their son, Perandos and Cardona were left at home. She arrived home at about 1:20 in the morning after
their Christmas party. It was her husband who opened the door of their house; their child, Perandos and Cardona were still
sleeping.[28]

According to Cherry Mae, Perandos and Cardona stayed in their house from December 7, 1992 to January 21, 1993. They left when
her husband was arrested. At the time of his arrest, she was in Lutopan, Toledo City as she attended the burial of her grandmother
on January 20, 1993. It was Perandos who informed her that her husband was arrested at 7:00 o’ clock in the evening of January 21,
1993 in Mabolo, Cebu City. He was in Mabolo at that time because he wanted to borrow money.[29]

Appellant Elmer Manalili y Pogio, 24 years old, testified that he was a painter by profession. He does not know the co-accused Titing
Aranas, Angelo Paracueles, Juan Villa, Gaudencio Tolsidas and Rodrigo Salas. He denied that in the evening of December 15, 1992,
he was at the wharf of Ubay, Bohol.[30]

He is married to Cherry Mae Elemino who is employed as a disco karaoke entertainer in Cebu City. They got married in 1989, and
then lived with his in-laws in Lutopan for about a year in 1990 before transferring to Lahug, Cebu City.[31]

Appellant stated that in December 1992, they resided in Nivel, Lahug, Cebu City. In the morning and afternoon of December 15,
1992, he was working as a painter in the house of Mr. Chua in La Guardia, Lahug. In the evening, he was at home with his wife and
child, Reynaldo Cardona and Jeffrey Perandos. That night, his wife left after 7:00 o’ clock in the evening and attended a party given
by her employer at the X-O Karaoke Bar.[32]

He was arrested at 7:00 o’ clock in the evening of January 21, 1993, at Cabantan Street, Mabolo, Cebu City by policemen without a
warrant of arrest. He was in Mabolo to borrow money from the spouses Cupta, who were neighbors of Jeffrey Perandos. At that
time, his wife was in Lutopan as she attended the burial of her grandmother. After his arrest, he was brought to Camp Cabahug,
Cebu City and then brought to Bohol on January 24, 1993 and detained at Camp Dagohoy in Tagbilaran City until September 10,
1993. He was later transferred to the Bohol Detention and Rehabilitation Center.[33]

According to appellant, while he was in the municipal jail of Ubay, Bohol, about 30 people, whom he did not know, came to see him
at his prison cell. Two of them were prosecution witnesses Gervacio Uy and Ernesto Magalona. It was Magalona who asked him,
“Who is Elmer Manalili?” He answered that he was the one. There were four inmates then inside the prison cell. Uy did not talk to
him, but just took a good look at him. Magalona pointed at him as one of the pirates and said “mao mao,” which means, “looked
like” one of the pirates.[34]

Appellant denied that he was in the vicinity of Ubay, Bohol in the evening of December 15, 1992. He went to Bohol for the first time
when he was brought to Tagbilaran City after he was arrested by the police in Cebu City.[35]

Although prosecution witness Gervacio Uy testified that one of the pirates who opened the locker of the quartermaster had a tattoo
with the initials “GV” on his left hand, the court found no such tatoo mark on appellant’s left hand. Moreover, appellant’s height is 5
feet 7 and 1/2 inches.[36]
The trial court found that prosecution witnesses Gervacio Uy and Ernesto Magalona identified appellant as one of the pirates. It
held that the defense of alibi could not prevail over said positive identification.[37] On September 2, 1994, the trial court rendered
judgment against appellant, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing premises, this Court finds accused ELMER MANALILI GUILTY of Qualified Piracy beyond
reasonable doubt and hereby sentences him to a penalty of imprisonment of RECLUSION PERPETUA. Further, accused Elmer
Manalili is ordered to reimburse and pay complaining witnesses the following:

Complaining witness Gervacio Ong Uy:

1. P30,500.00 - representing cash taken from him by the pirates:

2. P1,500.00 - value of his Seiko watch;

3. P4,000.00 - value of his diamond ring;

4. P10,000.00 - representing actual, exemplary, and moral damages.

B. Complaining witness Ernesto Rodriguez Magalona:

1. P1,000.00 - representing cash taken from him together with his wallet;

2. P10,000.00 - representing cash taken from him together with his wallet;

C. Complaining witness SPO2 Alex Henson Reyes:

1. P200.00 - cash taken from him together with his wallet;

2. P15,288.00 - value of the government issued firearm and live bullets taken by the pirates;

3. P10,000.00 - representing actual, exemplary, and moral damages.


D. Complaining witness PO3 Saul Cuyno Pino:

1. P80.00 - representing cash taken from him together with his wallet;

2. P4,000.00 - value of his Seiko watch;

3. P10,000.00 - representing actual, exemplary, and moral damages.

But without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.

Without pronouncement as to Costs.

SO ORDERED.[38]

Appellant Elmer Manalili ascribes to the trial court the following errors:

I. THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN THE APPRECIATION OF THE TESTIMONIAL EVIDENCES BOTH FOR THE PROSECUTION AND
THE DEFENSE;

II. THE COURT A QUO COMMITTED GRAVE ERROR IN THE APPRECIATION OF THE EVIDENCES FOR THE DEFENSE REGARDING THE
IDENTITY OF ACCUSED ELMER MANALILI, RESULTING TO GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION.[39]

The appeal is meritorious.

Appellant contends that the trial court erred in appreciating the testimonial evidence of both the prosecution and defense which led
to his conviction. He argues that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he was one of the pirates in this case.

We agree. A careful review of the records shows that about twenty minutes after the vessel M/V J & N Princess left the port of Ubay,
Bohol bound for Cebu on December 15, 1992, prosecution witness Gervacio Uy, the operations manager of the vessel, urinated at
the lower deck. After urinating, two persons were standing behind him; one pointed a gun at his back, while the other held his collar.
He was ordered to go upstairs with them to the third or upper deck where the radio room was located, and they then destroyed the
radio.[40] When asked whether he could identify the two armed men who initially pointed a gun at him, Uy replied in the affirmative,
and stated that he had identified them through pictures presented by the CIS as Titing Aranas and Angelo Paracueles. This is
reflected in the records thus:

FISCAL:

Q. You said that initially there were two persons after they pointed a gun at you, if you can see these persons, can you still identify
them?

A. Yes, I identified them thru the pictures.

Q. Could you describe to this Honorable Court the description of these two persons?

A. The one who pointed an armalite he was about 5’6” in height, regular in built, brown complexion and his age is between 25
and 28 years old.

The second suspect is older, I think about 42 years old, 5’3” or 5’4” in height , medium built, brown complexion.

Q. How about the hair?

A. The hair is straight.

Q. How about the second?

A. Black hair and he was carrying like an uzi gun.

Q. You said a while ago that you were showed pictures, where?

A. There were pictures presented by the CIS when I was investigated.

Q. And did you identify those pictures?


A. I positively identified two, one is Titing Aranas and the other Paracuellos, all at large.[41]

On the other hand, prosecution witness Ernesto Magalona, quartermaster of the same vessel, testified that while he was lying on his
cot at the second deck near the passage way to the upper deck, someone shouted, “Do not move, we are searching for shabu and
uzi gun.” Then he saw their manager, Gervacio Uy, being escorted by two armed men. One was armed with an armalite pointed at
Uy; the other was also armed but he did not see the kind of firearm he was carrying at his waist. He could identify the two armed
men who escorted Uy because he was three to four meters away from them and the place was well illuminated with fluorescent
lights. He identified one of the armed men as appellant. He said that the other man holding the armalite was also holding the collar
of Uy while pushing him, while appellant “followed fast.” Uy and the two armed men eventually reached the third or upper deck
where the armed men destroyed the radio as reported to him by the purser who came down looking for him from the upper
deck.[42] Of the eight pirates, he could only remember and identify the two armed men who escorted Uy, because their movements
were so fast and coordinated.[43] He stated that from the start the two armed men, one of whom he identified as the appellant,
escorted Uy from the comfort room at the lower deck to the second deck and then proceeded to the third or upper deck where the
radio room was located. They did always followed Uy, and he had a good look at them when they passed by the second deck.[44]

From the foregoing, prosecution witness Gervacio Uy identified the two armed men, who initially pointed a gun at him in the
comfort room at the lower deck, and who ordered him to go with them to the radio room at the third or upper deck, as Titing Aranas
and Angelo Paracueles. On the other hand, prosecution witness Ernesto Magalona who saw Gervacio Uy and the two armed men as
they passed by the second deck on their way to the third deck, identified one of those two armed men as appellant Elmer Manalili.

Where eyewitnesses contradict themselves on a vital question, such as the identity of the offender, the element of reasonable
doubt is injected and cannot be lightly disregarded.[45] The identity of the offender, like the crime itself must be proven beyond a
reasonable doubt.[46] In the case at bench, there is no positive identification of the appellant inasmuch as prosecution eyewitnesses
Uy and Magalona contradicted themselves on the identity of the alleged offender.

Moreover, although prosecution witness Gervacio Uy stated that one of the pirates who opened the locker of Ernesto Magalona had
a tattoo on his left hand with the initials “GV,” the trial court did not see any tattoo mark on the appellant’s left hand.[47]

Further, witness Uy declared that he saw appellant for the first time during the investigation before the municipal judge of Ubay.[48]
He told the municipal judge that appellant’s face was “familiar among the eight seajackers,” but Magalona identified appellant as
one of the pirates.[49] Compared with the identification made by Magalona, Uy’s statement that appellant’s face was familiar
among the pirates is characterized by uncertainty. His identification of appellant in the trial court based on the aforementioned
statement retained its doubtful tenor.

Significantly, the passenger named Boiser who allegedly identified the appellant as one of the pirates before the municipal judge of
Ubay was significantly not presented as a witness by the prosecution. The records show thus:

FISCAL LIGASON:
I would like to made (sic) manifestation, Your Honor, that I did not present Ms. Alma Casil and Melecio Boiser, they were listed, but
after I confronted them that they did not identify this accused, so that I did not present them, because there are others who can
identify.[50]

From the foregoing, it appears that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that appellant was one of the eight
men who committed qualified piracy in the instant case.

Appellant’s defense of alibi is generally considered a weak defense. However, it assumes importance when his identification as an
alleged offender in the crime charged is inconclusive or unreliable.[51] Appellant asserted that at the time of the piracy in the
seawaters of Ubay, Bohol, he was in his residence in Cebu City, and which alibi was corroborated by Jeffrey Perandos, Reynaldo
Cardona and his wife, Cherry Mae Manalili. Although alibi can be fabricated, it is not always false and without merit, and when
coupled with the improbabilities and uncertainties of the prosecution evidence, the defense of alibi deserves merit.[52]

Besides, the prosecution has the burden of proof in establishing the guilt of the accused.[53] When the prosecution fails to discharge
its burden, an accused need not even offer evidence in his behalf.[54] In every criminal prosecution, the identity of the offender or
offenders must be established by proof beyond reasonable doubt.[55] There must be moral certainty in an unprejudiced mind that it
was accused-appellant who committed the crime. Absent this required quantum of evidence would mean exoneration for accused-
appellant.[56] It is our view, therefore, and we hold that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that appellant
was one of the pirates who committed the crime charged. Hence, the appellant must be acquitted.

WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the trial court is REVERSED and SET ASIDE, and appellant Elmer Manalili is hereby ACQUITTED
on the ground of reasonable doubt.

The Director of Prisons is hereby directed to cause the immediate release of appellant unless the latter is being lawfully held for
another cause, and to inform the Court accordingly within ten (10) days from notice hereof.

SO ORDERED

Bellosillo, (Chairman), Mendoza, Quisumbing, and Buena, JJ., concur.

=========================================================

IRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 154130. October 1, 2003]

BENITO ASTORGA,, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondent.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This is a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking the reversal of a Decision of the Sandiganbayan in Criminal
Case No. 24986, dated July 5, 2001,[1 as well as its Resolutions dated September 28, 2001 and July 10, 2002.

On October 28, 1998, the Office of the Ombudsman filed the following Information against Benito Astorga, Mayor of Daram, Samar,
as well as a number of his men for Arbitrary Detention:

That on or about the 1st day of September, 1997, and for sometime subsequent thereto, at the Municipality of Daram, Province of
Samar, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, a public officer, being the
Municipal Mayor of Daram, Samar, in such capacity and committing the offense in relation to office, conniving, confederating and
mutually helping with unidentified persons, who are herein referred to under fictitious names JOHN DOES, who were armed with
firearms of different calibers, with deliberate intent, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously detain Elpidio Simon,
Moises dela Cruz, Wenifredo Maniscan, Renato Militante and Crisanto Pelias, DENR Employees, at the Municipality of Daram, by not
allowing them to leave the place, without any legal and valid grounds thereby restraining and depriving them of their personal
liberty for nine (9) hours, but without exceeding three (3) days.

CONTRARY TO LAW.[2

On September 1, 1997, Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
Office No. 8, Tacloban City sent a team to the island of Daram, Western Samar to conduct intelligence gathering and forest
protection operations in line with the governments campaign against illegal logging. The team was composed of Forester II Moises
dela Cruz, Scaler Wenifredo Maniscan, Forest Ranger Renato Militante, and Tree Marker Crisanto Pelias, with Elpidio E. Simon, Chief
of the Forest Protection and Law Enforcement Section, as team leader. The team was escorted by SPO3 Andres B. Cinco, Jr. and
SPO1 Rufo Capoquian.[3

The team stopped at Brgy. Bagacay, Daram, Western Samar at 2:00 p.m., where they saw two yacht-like boats being constructed.
After consulting with the local barangay officials, the team learned that the boats belonged to a certain Michael Figueroa. However,
since Figueroa was not around at the time, the team left Brgy. Bagacay.[4

En route to Brgy. Manungca, Sta. Rita, Samar, the team spotted two more boats being constructed in the vicinity of Brgy. Lucob-
Lucob, Daram, Samar, between 4:30-5:00 p.m., prompting them to stop and investigate. Thus, Maniscan and Militante disembarked
from the DENRs service pump boat and proceeded to the site of the boat construction. There, they met Mayor Astorga. After
conversing with the mayor, Militante returned to their boat for the purpose of fetching Simon, at the request of Mayor Astorga.[5

When Simon, accompanied by dela Cruz, SPO3 Cinco, and SPO1 Capoquian, approached Mayor Astorga to try and explain the
purpose of their mission, Simon was suddenly slapped hard twice on the shoulder by Mayor Astorga, who exclaimed, Puwede ko
kamo papaglanguyon pag-uli ha Tacloban. Ano, di ka maaram nga natupa ako? Natupa baya ako. Diri kamo makauli yana kay
puwede kame e charge ha misencounter. (I can make you swim back to Tacloban. Dont you know that I can box? I can box. Dont you
know that I can declare this a misencounter?)[6 Mayor Astorga then ordered someone to fetch reinforcements, and forty-five (45)
minutes later, or between 5:00-6:00 p.m., a banca arrived bearing ten (10) men, some of them dressed in fatigue uniforms. The men
were armed with M-16 and M14 rifles, and they promptly surrounded the team, guns pointed at the team members.7 At this, Simon
tried to explain to Astorga the purpose of his teams mission.8 He then took out his handheld ICOM radio, saying that he was going to
contact his people at the DENR in Catbalogan to inform them of the teams whereabouts. Suddenly, Mayor Astorga forcibly grabbed
Simons radio, saying, Maupay nga waray kamo radio bis diri somabut an iyo opisina kon hain kamo, bis diri kamo maka aro hin bulig.
(Its better if you have no radio so that your office would not know your whereabouts and so that you cannot ask for help).9 Mayor
Astorga again slapped the right shoulder of Simon, adding, Kong siga kamo ha Leyte ayaw pagdad-a dinhi ha Samar kay diri kamo
puwede ha akon. (If you are tough guys in Leyte, do not bring it to Samar because I will not tolerate it here.)10 Simon then asked
Mayor Astorga to allow the team to go home, at which Mayor Astorga retorted that they would not be allowed to go home and that
they would instead be brought to Daram.11 Mayor Astorga then addressed the team, saying, Kon magdakop man la kamo, unahon
an mga dagko. Kon madakop niyo an mga dagko, an kan Figueroa dida ha Bagacay puwede ko liwat ipadakop an akon. (If you really
want to confiscate anything, you start with the big-time. If you confiscate the boats of Figueroa at Brgy. Bagacay, I will surrender
mine.)[12 Simon then tried to reiterate his request for permission to leave, which just succeeded in irking Mayor Astorga, who
angrily said, Diri kamo maka uli yana kay dad on ko kamo ha Daram, para didto kita mag uro istorya. (You cannot go home now
because I will bring you to Daram. We will have many things to discuss there.)13

The team was brought to a house where they were told that they would be served dinner. The team had dinner with Mayor Astorga
and several others at a long table, and the meal lasted between 7:00-8:00 p.m.[14 After dinner, Militante, Maniscan and SPO1
Capoquian were allowed to go down from the house, but not to leave the barangay.15 On the other hand, SPO3 Cinco and the rest
just sat in the house until 2:00 a.m. when the team was finally allowed to leave.16

Complainants filed a criminal complaint for arbitrary detention against Mayor Astorga and his men, which led to the filing of the
above-quoted Information.

Mayor Astorga was subsequently arraigned on July 3, 2000, wherein he pleaded not guilty to the offenses charged.[17 At the trial,
the prosecution presented the testimonies of SPO1 Capoquian and SPO3 Cinco, as well as their Joint Affidavit.[18 However, the
presentation of Simons testimony was not completed, and none of his fellow team members came forward to testify. Instead, the
members of the team sent by the DENR RSOG executed a Joint Affidavit of Desistance.[19

On July 5, 2001, the Sandiganbayan promulgated its Decision, disposing of the case as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding accused BENITO ASTORGA Y BOCATCAT guilty of Arbitrary
Detention, and in the absence of any mitigating or aggravating circumstances, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, he is
hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment of four (4) months of arresto mayor as minimum to one (1) year and eight (8) months of
prision correctional as maximum.

SO ORDERED.[20

The accused filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated July 11, 200121 which was denied by the Sandiganabayan in a Resolution dated
September 28, 2001.22 A Second Motion for Reconsideration dated October 24, 200123 was also filed, and this was similarly denied in
a Resolution dated July 10, 2002.24
Hence, the present petition, wherein the petitioner assigns a sole error for review:

5.1. The trial court grievously erred in finding the accused guilty of Arbitrary Detention as defined and penalized under Article 124 of
the Revised Penal Code, based on mere speculations, surmises and conjectures and, worse, notwithstanding the Affidavit of
Desistance executed by the five (5) complaining witnesses wherein the latter categorically declared petitioners innocence of the
crime charged.25

Petitioner contends that the prosecution failed to establish the required quantum of evidence to prove the guilt of the accused,26
especially in light of the fact that the private complainants executed a Joint Affidavit of Desistance.[27 Petitioner asserts that
nowhere in the records of the case is there any competent evidence that could sufficiently establish the fact that restraint was
employed upon the persons of the team members.28 Furthermore, he claims that the mere presence of armed men at the scene
does not qualify as competent evidence to prove that fear was in fact instilled in the minds of the team members, to the extent that
they would feel compelled to stay in Brgy. Lucob-Lucob.[29

Arbitrary Detention is committed by any public officer or employee who, without legal grounds, detains a person. 30 The elements of
the crime are:

1. That the offender is a public officer or employee.

2. That he detains a person.

3. That the detention is without legal grounds.31


That petitioner, at the time he committed the acts assailed herein, was then Mayor of Daram, Samar is not disputed. Hence, the first
element of Arbitrary Detention, that the offender is a public officer or employee, is undeniably present.

Also, the records are bereft of any allegation on the part of petitioner that his acts were spurred by some legal purpose. On the
contrary, he admitted that his acts were motivated by his instinct for self-preservation and the feeling that he was being singled
out.[32 The detention was thus without legal grounds, thereby satisfying the third element enumerated above.

What remains is the determination of whether or not the team was actually detained.

In the case of People v. Acosta,33 which involved the illegal detention of a child, we found the accused-appellant therein guilty of
kidnapping despite the lack of evidence to show that any physical restraint was employed upon the victim. However, because the
victim was a boy of tender age and he was warned not to leave until his godmother, the accused-appellant, had returned, he was
practically a captive in the sense that he could not leave because of his fear to violate such instruction.34

In the case of People v. Cortez,35 we held that, in establishing the intent to deprive the victim of his liberty, it is not necessary that
the offended party be kept within an enclosure to restrict her freedom of locomotion. At the time of her rescue, the offended party
in said case was found outside talking to the owner of the house where she had been taken. She explained that she did not attempt
to leave the premises for fear that the kidnappers would make good their threats to kill her should she do so. We ruled therein that
her fear was not baseless as the kidnappers knew where she resided and they had earlier announced that their intention in looking
for her cousin was to kill him on sight. Thus, we concluded that fear has been known to render people immobile and that appeals to
the fears of an individual, such as by threats to kill or similar threats, are equivalent to the use of actual force or violence. 36

The prevailing jurisprudence on kidnapping and illegal detention is that the curtailment of the victims liberty need not involve any
physical restraint upon the victims person. If the acts and actuations of the accused can produce such fear in the mind of the victim
sufficient to paralyze the latter, to the extent that the victim is compelled to limit his own actions and movements in accordance
with the wishes of the accused, then the victim is, for all intents and purposes, detained against his will.

In the case at bar, the restraint resulting from fear is evident. Inspite of their pleas, the witnesses and the complainants were not
allowed by petitioner to go home.37 This refusal was quickly followed by the call for and arrival of almost a dozen reinforcements, all
armed with military-issue rifles, who proceeded to encircle the team, weapons pointed at the complainants and the witnesses. 38
Given such circumstances, we give credence to SPO1 Capoquians statement that it was not safe to refuse Mayor Astorgas orders. 39 It
was not just the presence of the armed men, but also the evident effect these gunmen had on the actions of the team which proves
that fear was indeed instilled in the minds of the team members, to the extent that they felt compelled to stay in Brgy. Lucob-Lucob.
The intent to prevent the departure of the complainants and witnesses against their will is thus clear.

Regarding the Joint Affidavit of Desistance executed by the private complainants, suffice it to say that the principles governing the
use of such instruments in the adjudication of other crimes can be applied here. Thus, in People v. Ballabare, it was held that an
affidavit of desistance is merely an additional ground to buttress the defenses of the accused, not the sole consideration that can
result in acquittal. There must be other circumstances which, when coupled with the retraction or desistance, create doubts as to
the truth of the testimony given by the witnesses at the trial and accepted by the judge. Here, there are no such circumstances.40
Indeed, the belated claims made in the Joint Affidavit of Desistance, such as the allegations that the incident was the result of a
misunderstanding and that the team acceded to Mayor Astorgas orders out of respect, are belied by petitioners own admissions to
the contrary.[41 The Joint Affidavit of Desistance of the private complainants is evidently not a clear repudiation of the material
points alleged in the information and proven at the trial, but a mere expression of the lack of interest of private complainants to
pursue the case. This conclusion is supported by one of its latter paragraphs, which reads:

11. That this affidavit was executed by us if only to prove our sincerity and improving DENR relations with the local Chiefs Executive
and other official of Daram, Islands so that DENR programs and project can be effectively implemented through the support of the
local officials for the betterment of the residence living conditions who are facing difficulties and are much dependent on
government support.42

Petitioner also assails the weight given by the trial court to the evidence, pointing out that the Sandiganbayans reliance on the
testimony of SPO1 Capoquian is misplaced, for the reason that SPO1 Capoquian is not one of the private complainants in the
case.[43 He also makes much of the fact that prosecution witness SPO1 Capoquian was allegedly not exactly privy to, and
knowledgeable of, what exactly transpired between herein accused and the DENR team leader Mr. Elpidio E. Simon, from their
alleged confrontation, until they left Barangay Lucob-Lucob in the early morning of 2 September 1997.[44
It is a time-honored doctrine that the trial courts factual findings are conclusive and binding upon appellate courts unless some facts
or circumstances of weight and substance have been overlooked, misapprehended or misinterpreted. 45 Nothing in the case at bar
prompts us to deviate from this doctrine. Indeed, the fact that SPO1 Capoquian is not one of the private complainants is completely
irrelevant. Neither penal law nor the rules of evidence requires damning testimony to be exclusively supplied by the private
complainants in cases of Arbitrary Detention. Furthermore, Mayor Astorgas claim that SPO1 Capoquian was not exactly privy to
what transpired between Simon and himself is belied by the evidence. SPO1 Capoquian testified that he accompanied Simon when
the latter went to talk to petitioner.46 He heard all of Mayor Astorgas threatening remarks.47 He was with Simon when they were
encircled by the men dressed in fatigues and wielding M-16 and M-14 rifles.[48 In sum, SPO1 Capoquian witnessed all the
circumstances which led to the Arbitrary Detention of the team at the hands of Mayor Astorga.

Petitioner submits that it is unclear whether the team was in fact prevented from leaving Brgy. Lucob-Lucob or whether they had
simply decided to while away the time and take advantage of the purported hospitality of the accused.[49 On the contrary, SPO3
Cinco clearly and categorically denied that they were simply whiling away the time between their dinner with Mayor Astorga and
their departure early the following morning.[50 SPO1 Capoquian gave similar testimony, saying that they did not use the time
between their dinner with Mayor Astorga and their departure early the following morning to enjoy the place and that, given a choice,
they would have gone home.51

Petitioner argues that he was denied the cold neutrality of an impartial judge, because the ponente of the assailed decision acted
both as magistrate and advocate when he propounded very extensive clarificatory questions on the witnesses. Surely, the
Sandiganbayan, as a trial court, is not an idle arbiter during a trial. It can propound clarificatory questions to witnesses in order to
ferret out the truth. The impartiality of the court cannot be assailed on the ground that clarificatory questions were asked during the
trial.[52
Thus, we affirm the judgment of the Sandiganbayan finding petitioner guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Arbitrary Detention. Article
124 (1) of the Revised Penal Code provides that, where the detention has not exceeded three days, the penalty shall be arresto
mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period, which has a range of four (4) months and one (1) day to
two (2) years and four (4) months. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, petitioner is entitled to a minimum term to be taken
from the penalty next lower in degree, or arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods, which has a range of one (1) month
and one (1) day to four (4) months. Hence, the Sandiganbayan was correct in imposing the indeterminate penalty of four (4) months
of arresto mayor, as minimum, to one (1) year and eight (8) months of prision correccional, as maximum.

Before closing, it may not be amiss to quote the words of Justice Perfecto in his concurring opinion in Lino v. Fugoso, wherein he
decried the impunity enjoyed by public officials in committing arbitrary or illegal detention, and called for the intensification of
efforts towards bringing them to justice:

The provisions of law punishing arbitrary or illegal detention committed by government officers form part of our statute books even
before the advent of American sovereignty in our country. Those provisions were already in effect during the Spanish regime; they
remained in effect under American rule; continued in effect under the Commonwealth. Even under the Japanese regime they were
not repealed. The same provisions continue in the statute books of the free and sovereign Republic of the Philippines. This
notwithstanding, and the complaints often heard of violations of said provisions, it is very seldom that prosecutions under them
have been instituted due to the fact that the erring individuals happened to belong to the same government to which the
prosecuting officers belong. It is high time that every one must do his duty, without fear or favor, and that prosecuting officers
should not answer with cold shrugging of the shoulders the complaints of the victims of arbitrary or illegal detention.

Only by an earnest enforcement of the provisions of articles 124 and 125 of the Revised Penal Code will it be possible to reduce to its
minimum such wanton trampling of personal freedom as depicted in this case. The responsible officials should be prosecuted,
without prejudice to the detainees right to the indemnity to which they may be entitled for the unjustified violation of their
fundamental rights.[53

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the petition is hereby DENIED. The Decision of the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. 24986,
dated July 5, 2001 finding petitioner BENITO ASTORGA guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Arbitrary Detention and
sentencing him to suffer the indeterminate penalty of four (4) months of arresto mayor, as minimum, to one (1) year and eight (8)
months of prision correccional, as maximum, is AFFIRMED in toto.

Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Vitug, and Carpio, JJ., concur.

Azcuna, J., on leave.