Inexcusable and unacceptable defense
Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - September 19, 2017 - 4:00pm

Oftentimes, people are driven to commit a crime because of poverty. This is a sad reality in our society. But this is not an excuse to commit a crime especially a serious one. Justice must also be given to the victims or their surviving and grieving relatives. This is once more affirmed in this case of Aries.

Aries is a lowly fishball vendor and a helpful brother to a needy sister, Ana. Sometime in the early hours of the morning approximately 3 a.m., while the city slept, Aries was still plying the streets selling fishballs. Then he saw a taxi running along the thoroughfare in apparent search of passengers. Aries hailed the taxi which was owned and driven by Ramon, a former OFW from Saudi who decided to return and earn his living here and stay with his wife and five young children.

Ramon stopped at a junction to pick up Aries whom he thought was a passenger. Instead of riding however, Aries opened the left door of the taxi, leaned on the driver’s seat, and drew his knife in order to rob Ramon. At this juncture, another taxi driven by Joel saw the taxicab curiously parked with the left front door ajar and a man standing and leaning toward the driver’s seat. The man placed something in his waist then in his pocket. His interest pricked, Joel blew his horn at the stalled vehicle, whereupon, the man, apparently not expecting the interruption, suddenly looked to his direction, affording Joel full view of his face. Sensing trouble, Joel parked his taxicab some eight meters away. The man ran toward the nearby overpass and crossed the wide stretch of the road. Seconds later Joel saw the man inside the cab fall drenched in blood. He immediately rushed to help the fallen driver to bring him to the hospital, half dragging him by the armpits towards his cab. Unfortunately he was too late as the man lay dead on the cold and hard pavement of the street.  Later he learned that he was Ramon who was divested of his earnings including $100 bill which he kept in his wallet as a memento of his previous employment in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, just at about the time the above events were transpiring, Abe, a security guard of a Center at the other end of the road overpass saw the man jump from the overpass into the guardhouse as he was shrugging off the temptation of slumber. He told the man that he had no right to enter the compound and the man replied that he was just passing by. But a closer look at this mysterious character revealed to Abe that this was no ordinary trespasser. The man’s white T-shirt was bloodied. A brief frisk yielded an 11-inch knife, which, when removed from its scabbard, was seen to be stained with fresh blood. After cuffing the intruder, Abe turned him over to the police. At the police station, the suspect revealed his name as Aries. Following further investigation, an information for robbery with homicide against Aries was filed before the Regional Trial Court.

When arraigned, Aries pled “not guilty” to the charge and testified that he was a fishball vendor for six years working every day for an employer before the fateful incident. On said date of the crime, he said that after taking a usual rest at his employer’s residence and at about 9 p.m., he was on his way to his sister Ana residing at a squatters area to provide financial assistance as she had just given birth. After giving her P200 and three kilos of rice and after an exchange of pleasantries, he went to sleep, but not before requesting Ana to wake him up at 3 a.m. By that time he was on board a bus and alighted at the corner at 5 a.m. walking directly toward the Center where Abe was posted who poked a gun at him and took him inside the compound where Abe and two other companions tied him and took turns in mauling him for 30 minutes before turning him over to the authorities. When shown the bloodied knife by the security guard, he denied owning it. His sister Ana corroborated his story.

The trial court however did not give credence to Aries’ defense and pronounced him guilty of the crime of robbery with homicide with a penalty of reclusion perpetua.

On appeal by Aries this ruling was affirmed by the Supreme Court (SC) The SC said that while no testimony was given showing Aries in the act of stabbing Ramon and divesting him of his earnings, his conviction has been proven by circumstantial evidence consisting of a series of facts forming an unbroken chain of events that would satisfy a finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. This chain of events was shown by the testimony of Joel and Abe amply establishing that: (a) Aries was seen leaning over the stalled taxi whose driver had been stabbed; (b) he scampered toward the opposite side where he was seen by Abe jumping from the overpass to the premises of the Center; (c) Aries was wearing a bloodied T-shirt when accosted and had a bloodied knife.

Aries denial and alibi cannot prevail over their testimony as it has not been shown that they have motive to testify falsely against Aries. In fact they did not even know him. So Aries is really guilty of the crime charged and sentenced to the penalty of reclusion perpetua (People vs. Caliwan, G.R. 133696, October 19, 2000).

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