Implied conspiracy


The accused were found guilty of murder by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in San Pablo City, which sentenced them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. On appeal, the CA promulgated a decision on January 31, 2007, affirming the conviction,[1] with modification as to the award for civil liability. They are now before the Court, pleading for a reversal of their conviction upon the following grounds, to wit:
The undisputed facts as culled from the records are as follows:

On December 4, 2000, an information for murder was filed charging Anacleto "Lito" Barbachano and Hermingol "Mingol" Barbachano. The accusatory portion of the information reads:
That on or about November 22, 2000, in the City of San Pablo, Republic of the Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the accused above-named, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, with intent to kill, with treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, hit and stab one BARTOLOME GAURANO with pipe and knife with which the accused were then conveniently provided, thereby inflicting mortal wounds upon said Bartolome Gaurano which caused his immediate death.
That the aggravating circumstance of nighttime is present at the commission of the crime.

Upon arraignment,[4] the accused pleaded not guilty.At the trial, the State presented Cresencio R. Arida (Cris) as an eyewitness. Cris testified that he and the two accused went on a drinking spree on November 22, 2000 to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Del Remedio;[5] that the three of them ended up in the house of Anacleto Barbachano (Lito) at around 4:00 o'clock p.m.;[6] that while they were drinking lambanog there, Bartolome Gaurano (Bartolome) arrived, and Hermingol Barbachano (Mingol) offered Bartolome a drink of lambanog and then announced that there was no more to drink; that Lito remarked that they should now part ways and go home (Wala na palang alak, uwian na tayo); that irked by Lito's announcement, Bartolome uttered: Putang ina, kararating ko lang wala, na palang alak;[7] that Lito resented Bartolome's remark, and said: Huwag kang mag mura dito, dahil bahay ko to; that Lito then went inside the house, and returned and suddenly smashed Bartolome in the forehead with an 11-inch lead pipe; that Lito dealt another blow at the nape of Bartolome;[8] that Lito ordered Mingol to do something about the prostrate body of Bartolome and re-entered the house; that Mingol dragged the body of Bartolome across the road to a lanzones plantation; and that Mingol stabbed Bartolome several times while shouting: Tang ina ka, and then covered Bartolome with dried coconut leaves.[9]

Dr. Azucena P. Ilagan-Bandoy conducted the autopsy on the cadaver of Bartolome, and found twenty-five stab wounds.[10] She opined that the cause of death was shock and hemorrhage due to the stab wounds in the heart and lungs.[11]

On the other hand, the accused denied the accusation.

Mingol recalled that on November 22, 2000 he, Lito, and Cris were drinking at the house of Lito when an already drunk Bartolome arrived; that Cris gave Bartolome a drink; that Cris then said to Bartolome: Bukas na lamang po, to which Bartolome replied with bad words;[12] that he went home around 8:30 o'clock in the evening after Cris and Bartolome had left; and that he went straight to bed and did not leave his house afterwards.[13]

Lito likewise denied participation in the killing of Bartolome. Lito insisted that Bartolome arrived while he, Mingol and Cris were drinking; that Bartolome was already drunk and swaying at the time; that Cris, who had noticed the inebriation of Bartolome, refused to give the latter another drink; that the refusal led to a heated exchange of words between Bartolome and Cris; that as the owner of the house, he requested all his guests to go home; and that Mingol, Cris and Bartolome then left.[14]

The accused believed that Cris had implicated them in the killing of Bartolome due to his resentment of Mingol's failure to pay his share in the settlement of another murder case involving Cris, Mingol and a certain Winnie.

On March 19, 2002, the RTC convicted both accused for the murder of Bartolome on the basis of the eyewitness account of Cris, and the medico-legal evidence from Dr. Ilagan-Bandoy. The dispositive portion reads:
WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES, the Court hereby finds the two (2) accused ANACLETO BARBACHANO y MARQUEZ and HERMINGOL BARBACHANO y SAMANIEGO, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of MURDER committed in violation of the Revised Penal Code, and hereby sentences each of them to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, and hereby further orders both accused to indemnify, jointly and severally, the heirs of the deceased Bartolome Gaurano in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00) Philippine Currency, as civil indemnity ex delicto, TWENTY THOUSAND (P20,000.00), Philippine Currency, as moral damages; and THIRTY THOUSAND PESOS (P30,000.00), Philippine Currency, for the loss of earning capacity of the said deceased victim, and to pay the costs.
On appeal, the CA affirmed the conviction with modification of the civil liability, viz:
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 32, San Pablo City in Crim. Case No. 12653-SP(2000), finding appellants Anacleto Barbachano y Marquez and Hermingol Barbachano y Samaniego guilty of the murder of Bartolome Gaurano is AFFIRMED with respect to the penalty of reclusion perpetua, and the appellants joint and several obligation to pay the heirs of the victim the amount of P50,000 as death indemnity. However, the decision is MODIFIED in that moral damages are increased to P50,000.000, while the award of loss of earning capacity is DELETED for lack of evidence.
Ruling of the Court

The appeal is without merit.

First of all, the appeal urges a review of the uniform factual findings of the CA and the RTC on the version of the Prosecution and the credibility of Cris as an eyewitness. However, the RTC and the CA did not misappreciate but correctly evaluated and appreciated the evidence. Verily, Cris was highly credible and unassailable as an eyewitness due to his having been present at the scene of the crime during its commission. Both accused even conceded the presence of Cris at the scene of the crime.

Secondly, the denial of their participation in the killing of Bartolome by the accused did not overcome Cris's identification of them as the assailants. The identification was positive and firm, for Cris detailed the acts that each of them executed during the assault on Bartolome. The courts have always viewed the defense of denial with considerable caution. Such defense, like alibi, is inherently weak and unreliable, and could easily be made up. Denial that is unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence is negative and self-serving, and merits no weight in law and cannot be given greater evidentiary value than the testimony of credible witnesses upon affirmative matters.[17]

Also, the accused's imputation against Cris of an ill motive for so implicating them - centering on Cris' anger over Mingol's failure to pay his share in the settlement of another murder case involving Cris, Mingol and a certain Winnie - was implausible considering that Cris, admittedly the close friend of both accused, would not have turned against them upon a very gross matter as a killing unless his testimony was the truth. Moreover, the imputed ill-motive was also not substantiated.

The Court has steadfastly maintained that, the assessment and appreciation of the credibility of the versions of the parties and of the parties themselves as witnesses are matters best left to the determination of the trial court due to its first-hand opportunity to observe the witnesses and to note their demeanor, conduct and attitude during their examination. These are the most significant factors in unearthing the truth, especially in the midst of conflicting testimonies. Through its observations during the entire proceedings, the trial court could be expected to determine, with reasonable discretion, whose testimony to accept and which witness to disbelieve. Accordingly, we will not disturb the findings and appreciation of the trial court on such matters in this final appeal because they have been affirmed by the CA as an intermediate appellate tribunal. To warrant disturbing the findings and appreciation by the trial court, the appellants should project facts or circumstances of weight that the trial court and the CA could have overlooked, misapprehended or misinterpreted so as to materially affect the disposition of the case.[18] Not having done so herein, the Court must perforce concur with the findings and appreciation.

The Court likewise finds that, the RTC and the CA properly appreciated the attendance of the qualifying circumstance of treachery.

The following essential elements of treachery must concur, namely: (1) the employment of means of execution that gives the person attacked no opportunity for self-defense or retaliation; and (2) the deliberate or conscious adoption of the said means of execution. The essence of treachery is the swiftness and the unexpectedness of the attack upon the unsuspecting and unarmed victim. What is decisive is that the execution of the attack made self-defense or retaliation impossible on the part of the victim.[19] Moreover, treachery must be proved by clear and convincing evidence as conclusively as the killing itself. To be appreciated as a qualifying circumstance, treachery must be shown to have been present at the inception of the attack.

The testimony of Cris firmly established that Lito struck the inebriated Bartolome with a lead pipe, without warning and without giving to the latter an opportunity to defend himself, to wit:
Q: What happened after Bartolome Gaurano said "putangina, isang tagay ko lang, wala ng inumin?" 
A: When Bartolome Gaurano uttered, "putangina, kararating ko lang ay wala ng alak", Anacleto Barbachano replied, "huwag kang magmura rito, this is my house" and he went out of the house and he was carrying a lead pipe which he "sinalaksak" the victim on the head, sir.[20]
There was a heated exchange of words between Bartolome and Lito preceding the assault, but such fact did not render treachery inapplicable. Lito knew that Bartolome was already inebriated and was not in any position to defend himself. He further knew that the latter was unarmed, and had no inkling about his impending and sudden assault with the pipe. It is worth noting that treachery was attendant in the first part of the attack without the participation of Mingol, but Mingol was nonetheless equally guilty based on the principle of conspiracy. The records show that Mingol dragged the limp body of Bartolome across the road upon the order of Lito, his uncle, and there stabbed Bartolome several times in succession. Mingol's acts and conduct demonstrated his uniting with Lito in criminal intent to kill Bartolome.

A conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it.[21] It is not always necessary that the agreement required for a conspiracy to exist be express. The agreement may be implied. There is implied conspiracy if it is proved that two or more persons aimed by their acts towards the accomplishment of the same unlawful object, each doing a part so that their combined acts, though apparently independent, were in fact connected and cooperative, indicating a closeness of personal association and a concurrence of sentiment, a conspiracy may be inferred though no actual meeting among them to concert means is proved.[22] The Prosecution clearly established the implied conspiracy between Lito and Mingol. Their acts indicated a commonality of design and unity of purpose in killing Bartolome.

In line with current jurisprudence,[23] we increase the civil indemnity to P75,000.00, moral damages to P75,000.00 and award an additional indemnity of P30,000.00 as exemplary damages.

WHEREFORE, the Court affirms the decision promulgated on January 31, 2007 finding ANACLETO BARBACHANO y MARQUEZ and HERMINGOL BARBACHANO y SAMANIEGO GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of MURDER, subject to the MODIFICATION to increase the civil indemnity from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00, the award of moral damages from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00 as well as an additional indemnity in the amount of P30,000 as exemplary damages which they shall pay jointly and severally, plus interest of 6% per annum from the finality of this Resolution.

The accused shall pay the costs of suit.


[1] Rollo, pp. 3-18; penned by Associate Justice Ricardo R. Rosario, with the concurrence of Associate Justice Rebecca De Guia-Salvador and Associate Justice Magdangal M. De Leon.
[2] CA rollo, p. 66.
[3] Records, p. 1.
[4] Id. at 11.
[5] TSN, January 31, 2001, p. 4-5.
[6] Id. at 13.
[7] Id. at 5-6.
[8] Id. at 6-7.
[9] Id. at 8-9.
[10] TSN, February 12, 2001, p. 12.
[11] Folder of Exhibits for the prosecution, p. 20.
[12] TSN, March 20, 2001, p. 13.
[13] Id. at 14-15.
[14] TSN, November 7, 2001, pp. 8-11.
[15] Records, p. 64.
[16] CA Rollo, pp. 176-177.
[17] People v. Bensig, G.R. No. 138989, September 17, 2002, 389 SCRA 182, 194.
[18] People v. Pili, G.R. No. 124739, April 15, 1998, 289 SCRA 118, 131.
[19] People v. Paracale, G.R. No. 141800, December 9, 2002, 393 SCRA 546, 563.
[20] TSN January 31, 2001, pp. 6-7.
[21] Article 8, Revised Penal Code.
[22] People v. Del Rosario, G.R. No. 127755, April 14, 1999, 305 SCRA 740, 755.
[23] People v. Arbalate, G.R. No. 183457, September 17, 2009, 600 SCRA 239, 255.