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G.R. No. 86454 October 18, 1990 THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs.CARMEN LIM !MAMENG LIM!

, defendant-appellant. The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee. Herrera, Laurel, De los Reyes, Roxas & Teehankee for defendantappellant.

G"TIERRE#, $R., J.: This is an appeal from the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Masbate, Branch 46, the dispositive portion of which reads !!! !!! !!! "#$R$%&R$, 'udgment is hereb( rendered finding the accused Carmen )im guilt( be(ond reasonable doubt of the crime charged and sentencing her to reclusion perpetua and to pa( the costs. *Rollo, p. ++, The information filed against the accused and -ohn .oe reads !!! !!! !!! That on or about -ul( /, /016, in the afternoon thereof, at 2urbito 3treet, Municipalit( of Masbate, 4rovince of Masbate, 4hilippines, within the 'urisdiction of this court, the said accused who are private persons conspired and mutuall( helped each other, did then and there willfull(, unlawfull( and feloniousl( 5idnap 6ida and 6vel(n both minors and surnamed 7illanueva8 separating them from their parental care8 6ida 7illanueva was detained for about twent( *+9, da(s in the house of Carmen )im alias :Mameng: while 6vel(n 7illanueva was detained and brought to Cebu Cit( b( the co-accused thereb( depriving the two, 6ida and 6vel(n of their personal liberties. *Records, p./, The prosecution evidence upon which the trial court based its finding

of guilt be(ond reasonable doubt is summari;ed as follows !!! !!! !!! That in the morning of -ul( /, /016, 6ida 7illanueva and her (ounger sister 6vel(n 7illanueva, /9 and < (ears old, respectivel(, were sent on an errand b( their father Charlito *should be Charito, 7illanueva to bu( rice in Masbate, Masbate. The 7illanuevas lived in Mobo, a neighboring town of the capital of the province. =pon their arrival at the poblacion of the capital town of Masbate at around 0 99 o>cloc5 in the morning, 6ida and 6vel(n went to the pier, sta(ing there up to /+ 99 noon, to meet their mother whom the( thought would arrive b( boat from Manila. The( left the pier when their mother did not arrive and went to #elen Theatre on 2urbito 3treet, Masbate, Masbate, to see a picture. 6t around + 99 o>cloc5 in the afternoon of the same da( while the( were in front of the #elen Theatre, the( were called b( the accused Carmen )im, in a loud voice. :Come here ?ene: and as5ed them to go to her house 'ust infront of the moviehouse. 6ida and 6vel(n went to the house of the accused and got inside passing through the front door. 6fter a brief conversation with the two children, the accused gave 6ida and 6vel(n rice and 5ang5ong for lunch. 6fter the( had finished eating, 6ida was told b( the accused to ta5e a bath. The accused gave 6ida a dress to wear. %rom -ul( /, /016 to -ul( /@, /016, 6ida 7illanueva was detained in the house of the accused doing household chores such as cleaning the 5itchen, scrubbing the floor, washing the plates including removing lice from the head of the accused and fanning her. 6vel(n, the (ounger sister of 6ida, was brought b( Carmen>s mother *should be sister, in Cebu on the same da( the( arrived in the house of the accused. &n -ul( /@, /016, Charito 7illanueva, father of the two minor children, found his daughter 6ida in the house of the accused. #e as5ed the accused to let 6ida go home with him, but the accused refused. Charito came bac5 to the house of the accused the following da(,

-ul( /6, /016, accompanied this time b( 3gt. 6ntonio 6riate of the +66th 4C Compan( at Camp Bonn( 3errano, Masbate, Masbate, who had with him an armalite. 6fter Adentif(ing himself to the accused, the soldier told the accused that he was ta5ing 6ida with him. "ithout resistance but uttering slanderous remar5s, the accused released 6ida to 3gt. 6riate. Charito 7illanueva and his daughter 6ida were brought b( 3gt. 6riate to the +66th 4C Compan( #eadBuarters where the complaint of Charito was recorded in the blotter b( CAC 7incent $lliot 7asBue; of the A C A 3ection. *Rollo, p. /+, The appellant>s version, on the other hand, is summari;ed in her brief as follows !!! !!! !!! &n or about / D9 in the afternoon of A -ul( /016, the sisters went to #elen Theater, located along 2urbito 3t., Masbate, Masbate, to loo5 at the pictures displa(ed outside. #elen Theater is located across the store and residence of the appellant. The sisters then proceeded to appellant>s store which she was tending at that time. 6ppellant noticed the sisters and caged them over. 3he inBuired from the sisters as to the whereabouts of their parents as the( were apparentl( alone. The sisters replied that their parents had separated and that their mother had gone to Manila, and that their father was in Buenavista, =son, Masbate. The sisters claimed that the( were driven awa( b( their father and that the( were not given an( food to eat. Ta5ing pit( on the sisters, appellant gave the sisters food and allowed them to ta5e a bath. Concerned for their safet(, appellant offered to shelter the sisters. 6s the (ounger sister of appellant was at that time visiting appellant, appellant proposed to 6ida to let 6vel(n accompan( appellant>s sister to the latter>s home. 6ida agreed, on condition that she and 6vel(n could meet ever( wee5. 6ida sta(ed in appellant>s residence for about two *+, wee5s. To help in the house, 6ida would go to the mar5et to bu( bread, fish and salt for appellant>s household. 6ida also helped watch over appellant>s

store from time to time. &n or about 0 99 a.m. of /@ -ul( /016, Charito 7illanueva, the complainant and father of the sisters, went to appellant>s store. Charito introduced himself to appellant as the father of the two sisters and informed appellant that he was going to bring the sisters home. Charito tal5ed to 6ida and as5ed her to go home with him. 6ida, however, refused to go with her father. 6s a result, Charito left. "hen as5ed b( appellant wh( she refused to go with her father, 6ida replied that she was afraid that her father would beat her up. &n /6 -ul( /016, Charito returned to appellant>s store, this time accompanied b( 3gt. 6ntonio 6riate, -r. of the 4hilippine Constabular(, 3gt. 6riate introduced himself to appellant. Charito again tal5ed to 6ida to convince her to go home with him. This time, 6ida agreed to go home with her father. *Rollo, pp. 44-46, The appellant raises the following assignment of errors in her appeal, to wit A T#$ TRA6) C&=RT $RR$. A? ?&T .A3MA33A?E T#$ C63$ 6E6A?3T T#$ 644$))6?T .$34AT$ T#$ .$3A3T6?C$ &% T#$ C&M4)6A?6?T AA T#$ TRA6) C&=RT $RR$. A? EA7A?E CR$.$?C$ T& T#$ 4R&3$C=TA&? "AT?$33$3> T$3TAM&?F "#AC# "$R$ R$4)$T$ "AT# A?C&?3A3T$?CA$3 6?. C&?TR6.ACTA&?3 AAA T#$ TRA6) C&=RT $RR$. A? C&?7ACTA?E T#$ 644$))6?T .$34AT$ T#$ %6CT T#6T 6A.6 7A))6?=$76 "63 ?&T .$T6A?$. BF T#$ 644$))6?T A7 T#$ TRA6) C&=RT $RR$. A? C&?7ACTA?E T#$ 644$))6?T

.$34AT$ T#$ %6CT T#6T 644$))6?T #6. ?& M&TA7$ T& .$T6A? 6A.6 6?. 67$)F? 7A))6?=$76 *Rollo, pp. 4<-41, The fundamental a!iom underl(ing a criminal prosecution is that before the accused ma( be convicted of an( crime, his guilt must be proved be(ond reasonable doubt. Thus, if there are substantial facts which were overloo5ed b( the trial court but which could alter the results of the case in favor of the accused, then such facts should be carefull( ta5en into account b( the reviewing tribunal. *4eople v. Torre, E.R. ?o. )-4409@, 6pril +@, /009, An the case at bar, after a careful review of the evidence adduced b( the prosecution, we find the same to be insufficient to sustain a conviction. The uncorroborated testimon( of the alleged 5idnapped victim, 6ida 7illanueva, which was mainl( relied upon b( the trial court in convicting the appellant, was not clear and convincing enough to overcome the constitutional presumption of innocence. There is no 5idnapping in this case. The two minors voluntaril( entered the appellant>s residence through the front entrance. The fact of detention which is an essential element in the crime charged, was not clearl( established. There was no showing that there was actual confinement or restriction of the person of the offended part(. *3ee 4eople v. Mercado, /D/ 3CR6 @9/, @96 G/014H8 =3 v. Cabanas, 1 4hil. 64, 6< G/09<H,. The appellant>s residence has a store fronting the street where man( customers presumabl( come and go. The place is bus( with a movie house in front. There is no indication that 6ida was loc5ed up, ph(sicall( restrained of her libert( or unable to communicate with an(one. There are other circumstances which create grave doubts in 6ida>s version of her two wee5 detention. An her testimon(, 6ida claimed that she attempted to escape three times but she was not able to do so. *T3?, -ul( +/, /01<, p. D4,. -ust how she tried to escape or wh( she did not succeed is not e!plained clearl(. "hen 6ida saw her father for the first time on -ul( /@, /016, she ine!plicabl( did not shout for help or run to him but 'ust observed him and the appellant tal5 for half an hour. *T3?, -ul( +/, /01<, p. +D, The 3olicitor Eeneral counters

the appellant>s claim stating that 6ida did as5 for help from her father when the latter was about to leave, but the appellant pushed her and refused to let her go with her father. *T3?, -ul( +/, /01<, pp. +@-+6,. The actuations of both 6ida and her father are highl( incredible. The( are not the natural reactions of a ten-(ear old child who has been detained against her will for two wee5s and who has tried unsuccessfull( to escape three times. The fact that her father was alread( there was the perfect opportunit( for 6ida to tr( and get awa( from the appellant. 3he could have clung to him from the moment he came in instead of Buietl( observing him and the appellant tal5 for some time. 6ida did not go with her father because the appellant allegedl( told her not to go. %or someone who had been detained against her will, as between her father and her detainor, 6ida would have disregarded the appellant>s order and would have run to her father. ?either is it believable that a father who has been desperatel( loo5ing for his two minor daughters for two wee5s would 'ust calml( accept the appellant>s refusal to let go of his daughter. The Court is not unaware of previous pronouncements that the testimon( of a single witness, if positive and credible, is sufficient to support a conviction. *4eople v. 6ldeguer, E.R. ?o. )-4<00/, 6pril D, /0098 4eople v. 3alufrania, /@0 3CR6 49/, 4/@4/6 G/011H, But as discussed above, the testimon( of 6ida 7illanueva does not inspire credibilit(. "ell-settled is the rule that evidence to be believed, must not onl( proceed from the mouth of a credible witness but it must be credible itself. ?o better test has (et been found to measure the value of a witness than its conformit( to the 5nowledge and common e!perience of man5ind. *4eople v. Maspil, E.R. ?o. 1@/<<, 6ugust +9, /0098 4eople v. Maribung, /40 3CR6 +0+, +0< G/01<H, The fact of detention is also denied b( the testimon( of one of the prosecution witnesses. 3gt. 6riate stated that !!! !!! !!! I Fou also saw 6ida 7illanuevaJ 6 Fes, sir.

I "here did (ou see herJ 6 B( the door of her store ... going inside. *T3?, &ctober ++, /01<, p./9, At is apparent that 6ida had free access going in and out of the appellant>s residence. An fact, 6ida could have escaped at that particular period of time. 3he was three feet awa( from the appellant when 3gt. 6riate saw her *T3?, &ctober ++, /01<, p. /9, so she could have made a run for it if she reall( wanted to go. There is also the Buestion of 3gt. 6riate>s conflicting statements as to the answer of 6ida>s father about his missing daughters which was dismissed b( the trial court as a minor inconsistenc(. An his testimon(, he stated that 6ida>s father said that he 'ust sent his two daughters on an errand and the( were alread( missing *T3?, &ctober ++, /01<, p. 0, while in his answer to the Buestions propounded to him he stated that 6ida>s father admitted that his daughter ran awa(. *Records, p. /@, 3uch conflicting statements ta5en together with the statement of Charito 7illanueva, the father of the victim that :6ida 7illanueva and 6vel(n 7illanueva, /9 and 6 (rs. old were *sic, left their house without his consent,: *Records, p. /+6, recorded in the blotter dated -ul( +D, /016 cast doubt on the criminal liabilit( of the appellant. The answer of 3gt. 6riate to the Buestions propounded to him and the statement in the blotter corroborate the appellant>s testimon( that the two children ran awa( from home. *T3?, 6pril ++, /011, pp. 4-@, The unbelievable and conflicting evidence of the prosecution strengthens the version of the appellant that she too5 pit( on the two runawa( children and decided to give them food and shelter. "hether or not she treated them li5e unpaid servants is not in issue. "hat is apparent from the records is the absence of proof showing 5idnapping and serious illegal detention. 6nother circumstance that belies the 5idnapping charge is the une!plained dela( in the lodging of the complaint against the appellant. 6n entire wee5 passed before the complaint was lodged on -ul( +D, /016. *3ee 4eople v. 6ntonio, /6/ 3CR6 <+, 1/ G/011H,

The fourth circumstance present which calls for the reversal of the conviction is that there is no motive whatsoever for the appellant to 5idnap the two children. The appellant is a woman of sufficient means. At is undisputed that she is the owner of a store and was the emplo(er of two maids at the time of the incident. 3he did not 5now the two children prior to the incident. #ad she wanted to hire an additional maid, she could certainl( afford to hire another one without going to the e!tent of committing a crime as serious as 5idnapping. There was no need to 5idnap a minor and force her to wor5 against her will. The appellant had ever(thing to lose and nothing to gain if it is true that she 5idnapped the two children. ?o motive was ever propounded b( the prosecution. "e are thus ushered to appl(ing the precept that though proof of motive is not indispensable to conviction, (et a void in the evidence in this respect discloses a wea5ness in the case for the prosecution. *4eople v. Modesto, +@ 3CR6 D6, 46 G/061H At has also been held in 4eople v. 2amora, @0 4hil. @61, @60, G/0D4H, !!! !!! !!! An the case at bar, no motive for the 5illing has been established, and granting that proof of particular motive for ta5ing the life of a human being is not indispensable to conviction for homicide, the absence of such motive is nevertheless important in determining which of two conflicting theories is more li5el( to be true. *$mphasis supplied, 6nd finall(, the e!ecution of the affidavit of desistance b( Charito 7illanueva, complainant in the 5idnapping case, stating that his daughters were not detained after all b( the appellant ta5en together with the circumstances abovementioned has the effect of e!culpating the appellant from the charge of 5idnapping. 6s held in Gome !. "ntermediate #ppellate $ourt */D@ 3CR6 6+9, 6D9 G/01@H, !!! !!! !!! At is conceded that the 3tate has the sovereign right to prosecute criminal offenses under the full control of the fiscal and that the dismissal of criminal cases b( the e!ecution of an affidavit of desistance b( the complainant is not loo5ed upon with favor. #owever, it is also true that an affidavit of desistance ma( create serious doubts as to the liabilit( of the accused. 6t the ver( least, it

calls for a second hard loo5 at the records of the case and the basis for the 'udgment of conviction. -urisprudence on the effect of desistance notwithstanding, the affidavit should not be peremptoril( dismissed as a useless scrap of paper. *$mphasis supplied, The instant case falls under the e!ception where an affidavit of desistance is given due consideration. 3ignificantl(, the father of the two girls testified in open court on ?ovember +4, /01< that he was withdrawing the case and that his children were not detained. The prosecution had ever( opportunit( to cross-e!amine or tear apart the retraction and prove that the facts were as earlier alleged. At failed to do so. The 3olicitor Eeneral Buotes the trial court>s statement that !!! !!! !!! Af the accused thought that the evidence of the prosecution was fabricated or false, the accused could have presented her two maids as witnesses to testif( to rebut said evidence. #er failure to introduce them as witnesses could onl( mean that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses about the detention of 6ida in her house were all true. *Rollo, p. +/, At is a well-entrenched rule in our 'urisprudence that the prosecution must rel( on the strength of its evidence rather than on the wea5ness of the defense. *4eople v. de .ios, E.R. ?o. @1/<4, -ul( 6, /0098 4eople v. .omingo, /6@ 3CR6 6+9, 6+6 G/011H, An this case, the prosecution has failed to prove the guilt of the appellant be(ond reasonable doubt. "#$R$%&R$, the 'udgment of the trial court is hereb( R$7$R3$. and 3$T 63A.$ and appellant Carmen )im is 6CI=ATT$. of the crime charged for failure to prove her guilt be(ond reasonable doubt.