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LucasvsCA:148859:September24,2002:J.Bellosillo:SecondDivision

SECONDDIVISION

[G.R.No.148859.September24,2002]

HERMINIGILDO LUCAS, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and PEOPLE


OFTHEPHILIPPINES,respondents.
DECISION
BELLOSILLO,J.:

HERMINIGILDO LUCAS was charged with theft before the Regional Trial Court of
Binangonan, Br. 69, Rizal, together with Wilfredo Navarro and Enrique Lovena. The
Information[1] alleged that on or about 8 June 1990 the three (3) accused, conspiring,
confederating and mutually helping one another, with intent to gain, willfully, unlawfully and
feloniouslystoleandcarriedawayonestereocomponent,a14inchcoloredTV,anelectricfan,
twentythree (23) pieces of cassette tapes, one (1) box of car toys, four (4) pieces of Pyrex
crystal bowls, cash of P20,000.00 and jewelry worth P10,000.00, valued at P100,000.00 all
belongingtoLuisitoTuazon.
Petitioner Herminigildo Lucas and his coaccused Wilfredo Navarro pleaded not guilty.
TheircoaccusedEnriqueLovenaremainsatlarge.
Private complainant Luisito Tuazon testified that on 8 June 1990 he arrived home from
workataroundsixo'clockinthemorningtofindthedoorofhishouseajar.Hewasresidingat
BarrioTagpos,Binangonan,Rizal.No one else was at home since his wife was in Singapore
andhischildrenwerewithhisrelatives.Histelevisionsetandstereocomponentweremissing,
as well as an electric fan, kitchen utensils, cassette tapes and toys, cash in the amount of
P20,000.00andjewelryofhiswifeworthP10,000.00.[2]
PatrolmanEdgardoFuentesrespondedtoLuisito'scallforhelp.Pat.Fuentestestifiedthat
intheearlymorningof8June1990acertainTuazonarrivedatthepoliceoutpostinTayuman
and asked for help concerning a burglary in his house. He conducted an investigation of the
house and its surroundings and recovered an empty bag where the cash and jewelry were
placed.HereturnedtotheoutpostbutwasaskedtocomebackbythesameTuazonwhohad
foundsomeofthestolenitemsoutsideaneighbor'shouse.[3]Thesewerethetelevisionset,the
stereocomponent,electricfan,toycarsandcassettetapes.
Ataroundtwoo'clockinthemorningof8June1990ShirleyBlanquiscoanieceofLuisito
TuazonandherboyfriendwereinsidethebalutanfactorywhichwasjustbesideLuisito'shouse.
WhileShirleyandtheboyfriendweretalking,theyheardasoundcomingfromthehouseofher
uncleLuisito.Theypeepedthroughawindowandsawthethree(3)accusedcomingoutofthe
frontdoor.HerminigildoLucaswascarryinganelectricfanwhileWilfredoNavarroandEnrique
Lovenaeachcarriedabox.Shirleyknewwhotheywereastheyboughtsaltedeggsfromher
andshehadseenthempassbyherhousebefore.Shecouldseethemclearlyastherewasa
lightabovethefrontdoorofthehousewhentheypassed.Immediatelyaftertheincident,she
wenthomebutwasnotabletotellherunclewhatshehadseenuntilmuchlater.[4]
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Reynaldo Raymundo corroborated Shirley Blanquisco's testimony.He said that at around


the same time and in the same place, he was on his way home toAngono, Rizal, and was
waitingforaride.Hefeltlikeurinatingsoherelievedhimself.Whiledoingso,hesawthethree
(3)accusedcomingoutofahouse,oneofthemcarryinganelectricfanandtheothertwo(2)
werecarryingoneboxeach.Hecouldseethethree(3)verywellsincethestreetwaslighted
andtheywereonlysomethirty(30)metersawayfromhim.Thethievesloadedthearticlesonto
apassingtricyclewhichthendroveaway.[5]
PetitionerLucasandhiscoaccusedNavarroputupthedefenseofalibianddenial.Lucas
claimed that at around the time the theft took place, he was sound asleep in his home in
Tagpos,Binangonan,Rizal,althoughheworkedasajeepneydriverforhisemployerinProject
4,QuezonCity.Ataroundfouro'clockeverymorninghewouldleavehishouseforQuezonCity
togetthevehiclefromhisemployerandplyhisroutefromfiveo'clockinthe morning to eight
o'clockintheevening.Hewouldreturnhomeataroundnineo'clockintheevening.On7June
1990 he followed this routine. Upon returning home in the evening, he had dinner and
afterwardswatchedtelevision.He went to sleep at around ten o'clock in the evening and did
not wake up until four o'clock the following morning.[6] His wife Violeta Lucas also took the
witnessstandandconfirmedhistestimony.[7]
The trial court found Lucas and Navarro guilty as charged and sentenced them to
imprisonment ranging from four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day of prision
correccionalasminimum,toten(10)yearsofprisionmayorasmaximum,andtopaythecosts.
The court also ordered them to jointly and severally return the amount of P30,000.00
correspondingtocashandthevalueofthejewelrytaken.[8]Asbasisforthepenaltyimposed,
the trial court considered only the P30,000.00 representing the cash and the value of the
jewelry which were unrecovered. In the opinion of the trial court, Luisito's allegation that the
stolenitemswerevaluedatP100,000.00wasinconclusivesincetherewasnodocumentarynor
oralevidencepresentedtoestablishtheactualvalueofallthethingsstolen.[9]
Thetwo(2)accusedwenttotheCourtofAppealswhichaffirmedtheirconvictionandeven
raisedtheperiodoftheirimprisonmenttofromsix(6)yearsofprisioncorreccionalasminimum
to seventeen(17) years ofreclusiontemporalasmaximum.[10] The appellate court based the
penalty on private complainant's claim that the things stolen were valued at P100,000.00. It
citedArt.309,par.(1),of TheRevisedPenalCodewhichprovidesthatwhenthevalueofthe
stolenarticleexceedsP200,000.00,prisionmayorinitsminimumandmediumperiodsshallbe
imposedinthemaximum,plusone(1)yearforeveryP10,000.00inexcessthereofbutthetotal
penaltyshallnotexceedtwenty(20)yearsofreclusiontemporal.[11]
Petitioner Lucas first alleges that it was impossible for conspiracy to have existed among
theaccused.HeclaimshedidnotknowhiscoaccusedNavarroandLovenaneitherdidthey
knowhimonorbefore8June1990.Petitioner raises the possibility that he could have been
mistaken for David Quiozon, a defense witness for coaccused Navarro, and who was with
Navarrofromaround9:00o'clockto10:00o'clockintheeveningon7June1990drinkingbeer
at a store near the place where the crime was committed.[12] Lucas and Quiozon allegedly
resembledeachotherastheybothhadsimilarphysicalappearancewithseven(7)upperteeth
missing.[13]
The finding of conspiracy is further alleged to be without basis because the testimony of
prosecutionwitnessesShirleyandRaymundothatalloftheaccusedplacedthestolenitemsin
a tricycle and boarded the same vehicle in leaving the scene of the crime, negates the
declaration of complainant Tuazon and Pat. Fuentes that the stolen items were recovered
underabougainvillaeaplantataneighbor'shouse.Petitioner explains that theallegedstolen
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items could not have been asported from the house of complainant and placed under the
bougainvillaea plant and at the same time loaded into a tricycle as testified to by Blanquisco
andRaymundo.
Conspiracy need not be proved by direct evidence of a prior agreement to commit the
crime. It may be deduced from the concerted acts of the accused, indubitably demonstrating
theirunityofpurpose,intentandsentimentincommittingthecrime.Thus,itisnotrequiredthat
the accused were acquainted with one another or that there was an agreement for an
appreciableperiodpriortotheoccurrence.Itisenoughthattheaccusedactedinconcertatthe
timeofthecommissionoftheoffenseandthattheyhadthesamepurposeorcommondesign,
andthattheywereunitedinitsexecution.[14]
Inthecasebeforeus,Lucas,NavarroandLovenademonstratedtheiragreementtocommit
the theft by their unified acts of taking Luisito Tuazon's personal belongings away from his
homeandboardingatricycletogethertoleavethelocuscriminis.Conspiracy can be inferred
fromtheiractions.
Thereislikewisenomeritintheargumentthatthetestimoniesoftheprosecutionwitnesses
negatetheconspiracy.Forpurposesofclarification,Blanquiscoonlytestifiedthatshesawthe
three(3)accusedcomingoutofTuazon'shousecarryinganelectricfanandtwo(2)boxes.She
didnotseetheaccusedload those things into a tricycle and make their getaway. Raymundo
corroboratedBlanquisco'stestimonyashetoosawtheaccusedcomingoutofahousecarrying
thethingsmentioned,andinaddition,sawtheaccusedcarrythethingsontoatricycleanddrive
away.Ontheotherhand,LuisitoTuazonandPat.Fuentesrecoveredthetelevisionset,stereo
component,toycars,cassettetapesandelectricfan.
PetitioneralsoassailsthecredibilityofprosecutionwitnessShirleyBlanquisco.He claims
that being a niece of the complainant, Blanquisco has a personal motive in testifying against
him.Hepointedoutinconsistenciesinhertestimonythatallegedlyshowthatshewasbrazenly
lying.First,sheclaimedthat,atthetimeoftheincident,complainant'swifeandchildrenwere
presentinthehouse.ThiswasbeliedbycomplainantTuazon'stestimonythathiswifewasin
Singapore and his children were staying with relatives. Second, she declared during the trial
thatshetoldcomplainantabouttheallegedburglaryasearlyaseighto'clockinthemorningof
8June1990.However,incomplainant'sswornstatement,hestatedthatasofeleveno'clockin
the morning he had as yet no knowledge of the identities of the persons responsible for the
theft. Further, Blanquisco stated in her Sinumpaang Salaysay that it was her father to whom
shefirstdisclosedtheincidentthattranspiredintheeveningof8June1990.
Inpetitioner'sopinion,thebetterandonlywitnesstothecrimeisthechildJasminJamin.
Pat. Fuentes named Jasmin Jamin as a witness in his Sinumpaang Salaysay and in his
testimonyduringthetrial.Itwasalsoduringthetrialthattheprosecutiondeclaredthatitwould
offer Jasmin as its witness. However, the prosecution failed to do so.[15] With her non
presentation, petitioner contends the prosecution is guilty of suppression of evidence. The
prosecution'sfailuretopresenthergivesthepresumptionthatsaidwitness,ifpresented,would
givetestimonyadversetotheprosecution.
Itisasettledrulethatwhentheissueisoneofcredibilityofwitnesses,appellatecourtswill
generally not disturb the findings of the trial court considering that the latter is in a better
position to decide the question, having heard the witnesses themselves and observed their
deportmentandmanneroftestifyingduringthetrial.[16]The rule admits of certain exceptions,
such as when patent inconsistencies in the statements of witnesses are ignored by the trial
court,orwhentheconclusionsarrivedatareclearlyunsupportedbytheevidence.[17]
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Shirley Blanquisco was very categorical and straightforward in her identification of the
accusedastheperpetratorsofthetheft.The inconsistencies cited by petitioner relate only to
trivial matters that do not negate or refute her testimony. Blanquisco explained in open court
that she misunderstood defense counsel's question when she was asked who lived in the
house.[18] She explained that what she meant was that Luisito Tuazon, his wife and their
childrenwereresidentsofthehousewheretheincidenttookplace,buttheywerenotthereat
thattime.This is further bolstered by the testimony of complainant Tuazon himself. Also, the
timewhenBlanquiscowassupposedtohaveinformedTuazonoftheincidenthardlymatters.
Whatisevidentisthatatsomepointshetoldheruncleaboutwhatshesawdespiteherfearsof
beingreprimandedbyherfather.
Itissaidthataffidavitscarrylessweightthantestimoniesgiveninopencourt.Affidavitsare
often hurriedly done, sometimes prepared by persons other than the affiant himself whereas
testimonies in court are tested by the crossexamination of the adverse party.[19] The
inconsistenciesbetweenBlanquisco'sSinumpaangSalaysayand her testimonyin courtrelate
onlytosuchminordetailsthatarenegligible.
We cannot see any ill motive on the part of Blanquisco in testifying against petitioner.As
thenieceofcomplainant,shehadmorereasontoensurethattherealperpetratorofthecrime
wouldbepunished.Itisnotnaturalforavictimsrelativeinterestedinvindicatingthecrimeto
accusesomebodyotherthantherealculprit.[20]Wherethereisnoevidencetoindicatethatthe
prosecutionwitnesswasactuatedbyanyimpropermotive,andabsentanycompellingreason
toconcludeotherwise,thetestimonygivenisaccordedfullfaithandcredit.
To sustain a conviction for theft, the following elements must be present: (1) personal
propertyofanotherpersonmustbetakenwithoutthelatter'sconsent(2)theactoftakingthe
personalpropertyofanothermustbedonewithouttheuseofviolenceagainstorintimidationof
persons nor force upon things and, (3) there must be an intention to gain from the taking of
anotherperson'spersonalproperty.[21]
ThenonpresentationofJasminJaminisofnoconsequence.Thematterofdecidingwhom
topresentaswitnessfortheprosecutionistheexclusiveprerogativeoftheprosecutor.[22]More
importantly, the testimonies of Blanquisco and Raymundo are sufficient to convict petitioner
beyond a reasonable doubt, so that Jasmin Jamin's testimony, if presented, would only be
corroborative. Based on the accounts of prosecution witnesses Shirley Blanquisco and
ReynaldoRaymundo,alltheelementsoftheoffenseandtheidentityoftheperpetratorshave
beenestablished.ThefailuretopresentJaminaswitnessdidnotweakentheevidenceofthe
prosecution,muchlessresultinsuppressionofevidenceonthepartoftheprosecution.
On the other hand, petitioner's only defense is alibi, the weakest of all defenses as it is
easily fabricated. For alibi to prosper, one must not only prove that he was somewhere else
whenthecrimewascommittedbutalsothatitwasphysicallyimpossibleforhimtohavebeen
atthesceneofthecrimeatthetimeitwascommitted.[23]Petitionertestifiedthat,atthetimeof
theincident,hewassleepinginhishousewhichwaslocatedinthesamebarangay.Heeven
testifiedthathishouseisonlyaround200metersfromTuazon'shouse.[24]Hisalibiissupported
onlybythetestimonyofhiswife.[25]Hefailedtoprovethatitwasphysicallyimpossibleforhim
tobeatthecrimesceneatthetimethethefthappened.Moreover,thedefenseofalibicannot
prevailoverthepositiveidentificationbyprosecutionwitnessesBlanquiscoandRaymundo.
Finally, there is a question as to the proper penalty to be imposed on petitioner.The trial
court refused to base the penalty on the claim of private complainant that value of the things
stolen amounted to P100,000.00 since this was merely a sweeping assessment unsupported
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byevidence.Hence,thetrialcourtbaseditsjudgmentonthecashandthevalueofthejewelry
stolen that were not recovered. On the other hand, the appellate court considered the
P100,000.00 assessment made by Luisito Tuazon to be sufficient and imposed a higher
penalty.
Inthecaseatbar,theprosecutionpresentedonlythetestimonyofcomplainantTuazonto
provethevalueofthethingsstolen.Tuazon,however,merelygaveanestimateofthevalueof
the things stolen, unsupported by any document proving their true worth. He even appeared
uncertainaboutthevalueofsomeitemstaken.Itwouldseem,therefore,thattheprosecution
didnotsatisfactorilyestablishthevalueofthestolenproperty.Inthelightoftheinsufficiencyof
thetestimonyofthecomplainantandtherejectionbythetrialcourtofhisestimateoftheloss,
we cannot arbitrarily hold that the loss sustained amounted to P100,000.00 and affirm the
higherpenaltyimposedbytheCourtofAppeals.Wehavenoevidentiarybasistoconcludethat
the total value of the things stolen is P100,000.00. The estimate does not consider the
depreciationofthevalueofthetelevisionset,stereocomponentandelectricfan.Hence,inthe
lightofthelegalprincipleofresolvinganydoubtinfavoroftheaccused,thepenaltyimposedby
thetrialcourtshouldbesustained.
WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals finding the petitioner,
HerminigildoLucas,guiltyofthecrimeoftheftisAFFIRMEDwiththeMODIFICATIONthatthe
imposedpenaltyofsix(6)yearsofprisioncorreccionalasminimumtoseventeen(17)yearsof
reclusiontemporalasmaximumisREDUCEDtoimprisonmentrangingfromfour(4)years,two
(2) months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum to ten (10) years of prision
mayor as maximum. Petitioner is likewise ordered to return to private complainant Luisito
TuazontheamountofP30,000.00representingthemoneyandthevalueofthejewelrystolen
fromhim.Nocosts.
SOORDERED.
Mendoza,Quisumbing,AustriaMartinez,andCallejo,Sr.,JJ.,concur.
[1]Rollopp.9192.
[2]TSN,3March1992,pp.912.
[3]TSN,11February1993,pp.613.
[4]TSN,23April1991,pp.516.
[5]TSN,3March1993,pp.815.
[6]TSN,2March1995,pp.48,11.
[7]TSN,21March1995,pp.56.
[8]DecisionpennedbyJudgePaternoG.Tiamson,RTCBr.69,Binangonan,RizalRollo,pp.116117.
[9]CARecords,pp.3032.
[10]DecisionpennedbyAssociateJusticeSalvadorJ.Valdez,Jr.,concurredinbyAssociateJusticesWenceslaoI.

Agnir,Jr.andEdgardoP.CruzoftheSpecialSeventeenthDivisionRollo,pp.3552.
[11]Id,pp.5556.
[12]TSN,13October1994,pp.111317January1995,pp.78.
[13]TSN,17January1995,p.19.
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[14]Peoplev.ErictoAppeguyMaterum,G.R.No.130657,1April2002.
[15]JasminJaminreportedlyheardNavarroandLucasdiscussingthattheywouldenteracertainhouseRollo,pp.

2628.
[16]Peoplev.MamertoObosa,G.R.No.129688,2April2002.
[17]Id.
[18]TSN,21January1992,p.27.
[19]Peoplev.Canales,G.R.No.126319,12October1998,297SCRA667,675.
[20]Peoplev.Dimailig,G.R.No.120170,31May2000,332SCRA340,350.
[21]Art.308,RevisedPenalCode.
[22]Peoplev.CornelioGelin,G.R.No.135693,1April2002.
[23]Peoplev.YamashitoRonquillo,G.R.No.126136,5April2002.
[24]TSN,2March1995,pp.12and17.
[25]SeeNote7.

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