People vs. Escote, Jr.

G.R. No. 140756. April 4, 2003


In 1996, Victor Acuyan and Juan Gonzales Escote while on board of Five Star Passenger Bus suddenly announced a holdup and fired their guns upward. Both of them took the money and valuables of the passengers, including the bus conductor’s collections in the amount of P6,000.00. Thereafter, fired several shots to one of the passengers, a policeman, SPO1 Jose C. Manio, Jr. 

The trial court rendered its Decision judgment finding Juan and Victor guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the complex crime of robbery with homicide, meting on each of them the supreme penalty of death, and ordering them to pay the heirs of the victim, SPO1 Jose C. Manio, Jr., the total amount of P300,000.00 by way of actual and moral damages and to pay to Five Star Bus, Inc., the amount of P6,000.00 by way of actual damages.

Juan and Victor contended that the trial court committed a reversible error in

  1.  relying on the testimony of Rodolfo, the bus conductor, for convicting them of the crime charged. They aver that although their counsel was able to initially cross-examine Rodolfo, the former failed to continue with and terminate his cross-examination of the said witness through no fault of his as the witness failed to appear in subsequent proceedings.
  2. that Rodolfo and Romulo failed to identify them as the perpetrators of the crime

  1. Whether the accused were illegally deprived of their constitutional and statutory right to fully cross-examine Rodolfo.
  2. Whether Rodolfo and Romulo failed to identify the accused as the perpetrators of the crime
  3. Whether police line-up for proper identification in every case must be held.
  4. Whether the trial court committed error in convicting Juan and Victor of robbery with homicide.
  5. Whether the supreme penalty of death on Juan and Victor for robbery with homicide is correct.


(1) No. The right to cross-examine is a constitutional right anchored on due process. It is a statutory right found in Section l(f), Rule 115 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which provides that the accused has the right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him at the trial. However, the right has always been understood as requiring not necessarily an actual cross-examination but merely an opportunity to exercise the right to cross-examine if desired. What is proscribed by statutory norm and jurisprudential precept is the absence of the opportunity to cross-examine. The right is a personal one and may be waived expressly or impliedly. There is an implied waiver when the party was given the opportunity to confront and cross-examine an opposing witness but failed to take advantage of it for reasons attributable to himself alone. If by his actuations, the accused lost his opportunity to cross-examine wholly or in part the witnesses against him, his right to cross-examine is impliedly waived. The testimony given on direct examination of the witness will be received or allowed to remain in the record.

(2) No. It may be true that Romulo was frightened when Juan and Victor suddenly announced a holdup and fired their guns upward, but it does not follow that he and Rodolfo failed to have a good look at Juan and Victor during the entire time the robbery was taking place. The Court has held in a catena of cases that it is the most natural reaction of victims of violence to strive to see the appearance of the perpetrators of the crime and to observe the manner in which the crime was committed.35 Rodolfo and Romulo had a good look at both Juan and Victor before, during and after they staged the robbery and before they alighted from the bus. The

Moreover, when he was accosted, Juan was in possession of the identification card of the slain police officer. Juan failed to explain to the trial court how and under what circumstances he came into possession of said identification card. 

(3) NO.  There is no law or police regulation requiring a police line-up for proper identification in every case—even if there was no police line-up, there could still be proper and reliable identification as long as such identification was not suggested or instigated to the witness by the police. While police investigators did not place Juan and Victor in a police line-up for proper identification by Rodolfo and Romulo, it cannot thereby be concluded that absent such line-up, their identification by Romulo and Rodolfo as the authors of the robbery with homicide was unreliable. In this case, there is no evidence that the police officers had supplied or even suggested to Rodolfo and Romulo the identities of Juan and Victor as the perpetrators of the robbery and the killing of SPO1 Manio, Jr.

(4) YES. The intent to rob must precede the taking of human life. In robbery with homicide, so long as the intention of the felons was to rob, the killing may occur before, during or after the robbery. Case law has it that whenever homicide has been committed by reason of or on the occasion of the robbery, all those who took part as principals in the robbery will also be held guilty as principals of robbery with homicide although they did not take part in the homicide, unless it appears that they endeavored to prevent the homicide. Juan and Victor conspired and confabulated together in robbing the passengers of the Five Star Bus of their money and valuables and Romulo of his collections of the fares of the passengers and in killing SPO1 Manio, Jr. with impunity on the occasion of the robbery.

Both Juan and Victor are guilty as principals by direct participation of the felony of robbery with homicide under paragraph 1, Article 294 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. 7659, punishable by reclusion perpetua to death

(5) NO. Under Article 63, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code, the felons should be meted the supreme penalty of death when the crime is committed with an aggravating circumstance attendant in the commission of the crime absent any mitigating circumstance. The trial court did not specify in the decretal portion of its decision the aggravating circumstances attendant in the commission of the crime mandating the imposition of the death penalty. 

Article 62, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code provides that in diminishing or increasing the penalty for a crime, aggravating circumstances shall be taken into account. However, aggravating circumstances which in (1) themselves constitute a crime specially punishable by law or  (2) which are included by the law in defining a crime and prescribing a penalty therefor shall not be taken into account for the purpose of increasing the penalty. Under paragraph 2 of the law, the same rule shall apply with respect to any aggravating circumstances inherent in the crime to such a degree that it must of necessity accompany the commission thereof.

Treachery is not an element of robbery with homicide. Neither does it constitute a crime specially punishable by law nor is it included by the law in defining the crime of robbery with homicide and prescribing the penalty therefor. Treachery is likewise not inherent in the crime of robbery with homicide. Hence, treachery should be considered as a generic aggravating circumstance in robbery with homicide for the imposition of the proper penalty for the crime.

Even if treachery is proven but it is not alleged in the information, treachery cannot aggravate the penalty for the crime. There being no modifying circumstances in the commission of the felony of robbery with homicide, Juan and Victor should each be meted the penalty of reclusion perpetua conformably with Article 63 of the Revised Penal Code.

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