[G.R. No. 130144. May 24, 2001]

MELECIA PAA and EMMANUEL TIGUMAN, petitioners, vs. JUDGE FLORIPINAS C. BUYSER, Presiding Judge, Branch 30, RTC, Surigao del Norte and Surigao City, THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and the HEIRS OF JOSE JUANITE, SR. and JOSE JUANITE, JR., respondents.

[G.R. No. 130502-03. May 24, 2001]


EMMANUEL TIGUMAN and MELECIA PAA, accused-appellants.



For a simple land dispute, father and son were sprayed with bullets right in their own house by some goons for hire. The culprits were Jose Bilboro Pomoy, Jr., alias Robert Bayan, accused-appellants Emmanuel Tiguman, a.k.a. Manny, and Melecia Paa, alias Meling, and a certain John Doe. Pomoy pleaded guilty to a lesser offense of homicide. Appellants Tiguman and Paa, who were convicted of murder and sentenced to death by the trial court, filed with this Court a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, docketed as G.R. No. 130144, imputing grave abuse of discretion to the lower court in convicting them. Since their conviction is on automatic review due to the penalty imposed, docketed as G.R. Nos. 130502-03, this Court treated their petition for certiorari as an appeal.[1]

On December 10, 1993, Jose Juanite, Sr. and his son Jose Juanite, Jr. were in their residence in San Pedro, Alegria, Surigao del Norte conversing with members of their family. When someone knocked on the door, ten-year old Teotimo Questo, Jr. opened it. Upon opening the door, a man suddenly burst in and fired at Jose Juanite, Sr. His son, Jose Juanite, Jr., rushed towards the door to close it but he was shot from the window by another man. The gunshot wounds sustained by both father and son caused their instantaneous deaths.

This incident led to the filing of two (2) criminal informations for murder against appellant Tiguman, accused Pomoy, Jr. and one John Doe. Subsequently, the informations[2] were amended to include spouses Efren and appellant Paa, as principals by inducement.

Upon arraignment appellants Tiguman and the spouses Paa pleaded not guilty to the charge. Thereafter, trial ensued.

Pomoy, Jr. was arrested only after the prosecution has rested its case. When he was arraigned, he initially pleaded not guilty to the separate charges of murder. Later however, his motion to plead guilty to the lesser offense of homicide was granted for which he was convicted. The trial court issued an order sentencing Pomoy, Jr. to suffer for each case the indeterminate penalty of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor minimum, as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal medium, as maximum.[3]

After trial, judgment was rendered by the lower court convicting appellant Tiguman, as principal by direct participation, and appellant Paa, as principal by inducement, for the crime of murder and sentenced each of them to death. However, the trial court acquitted appellant Paas husband Efren Paa for insufficiency of evidence. The dispositive portion of the court a quos decision reads:[4]

WHEREFORE, finding the accused Emmanuel (Manny) Tiguman and Melecia Paa GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt in both cases as principals [Emmanuel (Manny) Tiguman, by direct participation; Melecia Paa, by inducement] in the crimes of MURDER qualified by treachery, defined and penalized in Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 6 of Republic Act No. 7659, and after considering against them the aggravating circumstances of evident premeditation, dwelling and price or reward, this Court hereby imposes upon each one of the said accused the penalty of DEATH BY LETHAL INJECTION in each of these cases; and, to pay the costs.

The accused Emmanuel (Manny) Tiguman and Melecia Paa are hereby ordered, jointly and severally, to indemnify the heirs of Jose Juanite, Sr. and Jose Juanite, Jr., respectively in the sum of Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos, for the death of each of the aforenamed deceased; actual damages in the sum of One Hundred Fifty Thousand (P150,000.00) pesos; and, moral damages of One Hundred Thousand (P100,000.00) Pesos, for both deceased.

Pursuant to Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 2-92, dated January 20, 1992, the bail bond posted for the provisional liberty of the accused Melecia Paa is hereby ordered CANCELLED and said accused shall be placed in confinement, pending resolution of her automatic appeal.

Let the records of these cases be transmitted to the Supreme Court for automatic review.

Relative to the accused Efren Paa, he is hereby ACQUITTED of the crime of Murder, charged in each of the herein informations, for insufficiency of evidence. The bail bond, therefore, posted for his provisional liberty is hereby ordered RELEASED.

In regard to the accused John Doe, let Criminal Case No. 4232 be ARCHIVED, subject to be revived as soon as said accused is identified and apprehended.


Sought for before us is the reversal of the foregoing decision on the grounds that the trial court committed errors-[5]

1. when it convicted the appellants in the absence of evidence that would prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt;

2. when it admitted the testimony of accused Jose Bilboro Pomoy, Jr. alias Robert Bayan as evidence in chief during the rebuttal stage of the trial;

3. when it ignored the evidence for the defense which has clearly wrecked that of the prosecutions, just like the Walls of Jericho;

4. when it imposed the death penalty without authority of law.

After a careful and thorough perusal of the evidence on record, the court is convinced that the prosecution had discharged its burden by proving appellants guilt with the requisite quantum of evidence in criminal cases which is proof beyond reasonable doubt.[6]

There is no doubt as to appellant Tigumans direct participation. He was the principal triggerman who shot Jose Juanite, Sr. to death since he was positively identified by Maria Elena Juanite who was present at the scene when the shooting happened. According to Maria Elena, who is the daughter and sister of the victims, at around 6:30 in the evening of December 10, 1993, when knocks on the door were heard, her brother Juanite, Jr. requested the young Questo, Jr. to open the door. Upon opening the door, appellant Tiguman went inside and shot Juanite, Sr. without warning. When her brother Jose Juanite, Jr. rushed to close the door, Pomoy, Jr., who was positioned outside the house of the Juanites, fired at Jose, Jr. from the window.

Moreover, appellant Tigumans participation in the killing was affirmed in open court by no less than his co-accused Pomoy, Jr. who pleaded guilty to a lesser offense of homicide. According to the latter, he was an informer of appellant Tiguman. He also testified how appellant Paa solicited appellant Tiguman, a scout ranger of the Philippine Army,[7] to kill the Juanites for some monetary consideration. The plan to kill was hatched in the house of the Paa spouses in their presence. Pomoy, Jr. described in detail that the plan to kill the victims was on account of a land dispute and that money was paid by appellant Paa to appellant Tiguman to accomplish the task. The killing was facilitated with the aid of two (2) other men unknown to him but were known to appellant Tiguman. After killing the victims, Pomoy, Jr. left the place and settled in Paraaque, Metro Manila upon the advice of appellant Tiguman.[8] Pomoy, Jr. narrated their evil design to the minutest detail, facts which could not have been known except only to the parties and their co-conspirators. All the more this lends credence to the truth that appellants were indeed the culprits behind the fatal shooting.

Appellants, however, assail the admission of the testimony of Pomoy, Jr. as rebuttal witness on the ground that the prosecution had already rested its case. This is misleading, because in the order of trial set by the rules, the parties may present rebuttal evidence.[9] It is settled that the right to present evidence is reserved to the State no less than to the accused.[10] The rules of evidence permit the use of considerable discretion by the trial courts in the admission of rebuttal evidence. It cannot be said that the trial court abused its discretion in this respect, where the defendant is not taken by surprise and is not prevented from introducing evidence in sur-rebuttal.[11]

In any case, assuming that the testimonies of prosecution witness Maria Elena Juanite and rebuttal witness Pomoy, Jr., are inadmissible in evidence, the culpability of appellant Tiguman was clearly established by the positive identification of other prosecution witnesses.

Testifying for the prosecution, the 10-year old Questo, Jr., was actually present with the Juanites at the time the shooting happened. He testified that prior to the shooting, he saw appellants Tiguman, Pomoy, Jr. and an unidentified person on December 10, 1993, between 6:00 to 6:30 in the evening, in the waiting shed of Purok 5, Barangay San Pedro, Alegria, Surigao del Norte, carrying a sack from where the muzzles of firearms were protruding. The young boy, on the witness stand declared and positively identified appellant Tiguman as the person who suddenly shot Juanite, Sr. in the latters house.[12] Another prosecution witness, Arturo Balesteros, testified that moments after he heard gunshots coming from the residence of the Juanites, he saw Manny Tiguman pass by, coming from the direction of the Juanite house.

Against such overwhelming evidence, appellant Tiguman could only offer denial and alibi as his defenses which are inherently weak and unreliable.[13] He claims that at the time of the incident on that fatal night, he was in Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro City, which is a neighboring city of the province of Surigao del Norte. Appellant Tigumans alibi is worthless in the face of his positive identification[14] by prosecution witnesses who have no motive to wrongly accuse him of such ignominious crime. His alibi is self-serving and his bare denial is a negative declaration which deserves no consideration and cannot prevail over the affirmative testimony which was corroborated by further evidence.[15] Another prosecution witness, Graciano Madelo, a driver in the ricemill of a certain engineer in the locality, testified that appellant Tiguman was present in Alegria, Surigao del Norte on the day the Juanites were killed. In fact, Madelo was tasked by Manny Tiguman to drive for him to pick up Pomoy, Jr. and their unidentified companion. These threads of events form a chain of circumstantial evidence which when taken together, clearly established the presence of appellant Tiguman in the crime scene. The record is bereft of evidence that these witnesses were motivated by ill considerations and intent, hence their testimony is given full probative value.[16]

The other appellant, Meling Paa, was convicted below as principal by inducement. Prosecution evidence showed that appellant Paa had motive to kill the Juanites because of a land dispute. It appears that spouses Juanites filed an agrarian case against Efren Paa, husband of accused-appellant who was acquitted in said case, together with other people.[17] When judgment was rendered in favor of spouses Juanite, the spouses Paa harbored a grudge against the Juanites. Prosecution witness Anita Sanchez, wife of Macario Sanchez, who was one of the respondents in the DARAB case, testified that appellant Paa went to her house several times for financial assistance in order to liquidate Jose Juanite, Sr. Sanchez subsequently learned that the Juanites were shot to death.

The domestic helper of the Juanites, Elena Siaboc, testified that appellant Paa requested from her pictures of the victims which she obliged by giving them to appellant Paa. This shows that the killing of the Juanites was conceived by appellant Paa. Since appellant Tiguman could not have known the victims, a picture was necessary to identify the targets.

Andy Acebedo, neighbor of spouses Paa likewise testified in court that on December 8, 1993 he saw Pomoy, Jr., accused-appellant Tiguman, pass by and proceed to the house of the Paas. When he followed them, he overheard accused-appellant Paa telling accused-appellant Tiguman, Pomoy, Jr., and two persons unknown to him, to kill Jose Juanite, Sr. and Jr.

Prosecution witness Gemma Bacor, whose house is located just across the house of the Juanites, testified that on that fateful night, while watching television, she heard gunfire. She opened the door of her house and saw two persons in the street carrying firearms. Bacor further testified that on January 2, 1994, the Paa spouses invited her to their residence and asked her to execute an affidavit to the effect that what she saw on that night were only children and not adults. Such invitation to execute a misleading statement is an indicia of guilt to silence a living witness to their horrible deed, and perpetrate an injustice to the poor victims of their greed.

Testimonies of prosecution witnesses are given weight and credence absent proof of ill will, or motive, to testify against the accused. Prosecution witnesses, Andy Acebedo, Elena Siaboc, Gemma Bacor are not maliciously motivated to testify against appellant Paa. The latter herself testified that there exists no misunderstanding between her and the witnesses mentioned.

In this case, no reason appears for the Court to disregard the trial courts assessments, to wit:

In summary, insofar as the accused Melecia Paa is concerned, there is proof beyond reasonable doubt that, as a result of the adverse DARAB decision dated October 28, 1993, motive exists on the part of said accused to cause the killing of Jose Juanite, Sr. and Jose Juanite, Jr.; that, on November 25, 1993, the accused Melecia Paa procured pictures of the said victims from prosecution witness Elena Siaboc; that, in the evening of December 8, 1993, the accused Melecia Paa, Emmanuel (Manny) Tiguman, Jose Bilboro Pomoy, Jr. a.k.a. Robert Bayan, and a certain Glen and Nonoy met in the Paa residence and there, they planned the killing of the Juanites, during which occasion the accused Melecia Paa instructed Manny Tiguman and Robert Bayan, thus: That is all, ha? You will kill Jose Juanite, Sr. and Jose Juanite, Jr.; that the accused Melecia Paa handed the money to Manny Tiguman, saying: Here is the money. This is one-half of the total price, bahala na nimo(it is up to you); and that, on January 2, 1994, the accused Melecia Paa and her husband, Efren Paa, invited prosecution witness Gemma Bacor to the formers residence and there, the Paa spouses convinced the latter to execute an affidavit that would declare that the persons, whom Gemma Bacor saw passing by her residence in the evening of December 10, 1993, after she heard gunshots, were children and not adults, contrary to what Gemma Bacor had actually seen.

From the facts thus proven, there is no doubt that the accused Melecia Paa induced her co-accused Emmanuel [Manny] Tiguman and Jose Bilboro Pomoy, Jr. (Robert Bayan) to kill Jose Juanite, Sr. and Jose Juanite, Jr. in the evening of December 10, 1993, at San Pedro, Alegria, Surigao del Norte.[18]

The trial court ruled that the crime committed was murder after finding that the killings were attended by treachery, evident premeditation, dwelling and price or reward. Only one aggravating circumstance is enough to qualify the killing to murder, the rest constitute generic aggravating circumstances. We agree with the trial court that treachery was proven since the attack was sudden, unexpected, without warning, and without giving the victims an opportunity to defend themselves or repel the aggression, as in fact the deceased did not sense any danger that they would be shot by the assailants as there was no grudge and misunderstanding between them.[19] Dwelling is also aggravating considering that the assailants were in the sanctity of their own home which is perhaps the last bulwark of their safety. An unsuspecting knock on the door betrayed that trust of peace in the family who were only conversing. Dwelling, or morada, is aggravating when crime is committed in the dwelling of the offended party[20] and the latter has not given provocation.[21] Provocation in dwelling must be: (a) given by the offended party, (b) sufficient, and (c) immediate to the commission of the crime.[22] No such provocation concurs herein. With respect to evident premeditation, the hiring of Tiguman to kill the victims for a price, providing the victims picture and the meeting to carry out the killing provide more than sufficient evidence to appreciate the same. As to the circumstance of price or reward, it can only be appreciated against appellant Tiguman since it was he who committed the felonious act for money. The same evidence on price established conspiracy between the appellants. Consequently the act of one is the act of all.[23]

The fact that the husband of appellant Paa, one of the alleged conspirators or inducers in the killing, was acquitted of the charges does not put to doubt appellants culpability. Though conspiracy is a joint act, there is nothing irregular if the supposed co-conspirator is acquitted and others convicted. Generally, conspiracy is only a means by which a crime is committed as the mere act of conspiring is not by itself punishable. Hence, it does not follow that one person alone cannot be convicted when there is conspiracy. As long as the acquittal of a co-conspirator does not remove the basis of a charge of conspiracy, one defendant may be found guilty of the offense.[24]

Murder committed in 1993 is penalized with reclusion temporal maximum to death.[25] Under Article 64 of the Revised Penal Code, when only an aggravating circumstance is present in the commission of the act, the maximum period shall be imposed, and whatever may be the number and nature of the aggravating circumstances, the courts may not impose a greater penalty than that prescribed by law in its maximum period. Considering however, the proscription in the 1987 Constitution on the imposition of death penalty as well as the non-retroactive application of the restored death penalty, the trial court erred in imposing on appellants Tiguman and Paa the death penalty. The crimes in this case were committed prior to the restoration of the Death Penalty Law on December 31, 1993.[26]

With respect to the monetary awards, the civil indemnity of P50,000.00 awarded to each of the heirs of the two victims, as well as the additional P50,000.00 as moral damages each, are proper. The civil indemnity is automatically granted to the offended party or his heirs in the case of death, without need of further evidence other than the fact of the commission of the crime and the accused-appellants culpability therefor.[27] On the actual damages of P150,000.00 awarded by the court a quo, the same lack evidentiary basis on the records.[28] No receipt or any document was presented in support thereof. Nonetheless, the amount of P15,000.00 as temperate damages would suffice in lieu of the unproven burial expenses.[29] In addition to such monetary awards, P50,000.00 as exemplary damages should have also been granted considering the presence of aggravating circumstances.[30]

WHEREFORE, the decision of the trial court is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION that each appellant is sentenced to suffer the penalty of two counts each of Reclusion Perpetua, and are ordered to SOLIDARILY pay each of the heirs of the victims the civil indemnity of P50,000.00, another P50,000.00 each as moral damages, an additional P50,000.00 per victim as exemplary damages, and P15,000.00 each as temperate damages.


Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Gonzaga-Reyes, Ynares-Santiago, De Leon, Jr., and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ., concur.

Bellosillo, Melo, and Kapunan, JJ., on leave.

[1] Supreme Court Resolution dated September 8, 1997; See Rollo of G.R. 130144.

[2] The separate information reads:


That at 6:30 oclock in the evening of December 10, 1993 at San Pedro, Alegria, Surigao del Norte, Philippines, the above named accused with full freedom, intelligence and criminal intent to kill, conniving, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another did then and there willfully, unlawfully, criminally and feloniously shoot with a long arm JOSE JUANITE JR. just immediately after he had closed the door, by Robert Bayan who was stationed at the window while Manny Tiguman was yet behind the front door and John Doe was outside the house as guard and armed with a long arm, thus hitting Jose Juanite Jr. thereby inflicting the following injuries upon him to wit:

a. Penetrating wound 2 cm diameter at posterior axillary area with smooth edges, (+) powder burns

b. Penetrating wound 1cm diameter at upper third right arm with smooth edges

c. Triangular wound about 7 cm x 7 cm x 8 cm (base) at anterior axillary area, serrated edges, (+) powder burns piercing toward wound a & b

d. Penetrating wound about 0.7 cm at posterolateral right upper third arm thru & thru to 1.5 cm diameter wound piercing only the skin.

which resulted to his untimely instantaneous death, to the damage and prejudice of his heirs by way of actual, compensatory, moral and exemplary damages in the total amount to be established during trial.

Accused Efren Paa and Melecia Paa alias Meling Paa are included as accused in this case for being the mastermind and therefore principal by inducement because on Dec. 8, 1993 at 11:00 oclock in the evening they were the ones who proposed to Manny Tiguman, Robert Bayan and two companions that Jose Juanite be killed for a prize.

Contrary to law with the qualifying circumstance of treachery and the aggravating circumstance of superior strength, dwelling, nighttime crime committed with armed men to insure impunity, evident premeditation and for a price, reward or promise.

Surigao City, December 27, 1993.


That on or about December 10, 1993 at 6:30 oclock in the evening more or less at Brgy. San Pedro, Municipality of Alegria, Province of Surigao del Norte, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above named accused with full freedom, intelligence, and criminal intent to kill, conniving, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, criminally, feloniously shoot with his sidearm JOSE JUANITE SR. by accused Manny Tiguman while accused Robert Bayan stationed himself by the window and John Doe was outside the house of said Jose Juanite, acting as guard, thereby hitting the latter on his face and chest thus causing his instantaneous death, to the damage and prejudice of his heirs by way of actual, moral, compensatory and exemplary damages.

Accused Efren Paa and Melecia Paa alias Meling Paa are included as accused in this case for being the mastermind and therefore principal by inducement because on Dec. 8, 1993 at 11:00 oclock in the evening they were the ones who proposed to Manny Tiguman, Robert Bayan and two companions that Jose Juanite be killed for a prize.

Contrary to law with the qualifying circumstance of treachery and superior strength and the aggravating circumstances that the crime was committed in the dwelling of offended party, nighttime which facilitate the commission of the crime, with aid of armed men who insured impunity, that the crime was committed in consideration of a price, reward or promise and evident premeditation.

Surigao City, December 27, 1993. (records, p. 1).

[3] RTC Joint Judgment [ Branch 30, Surigao City] dated November 14, 1996 penned by Judge Melchor M. Libarnes, records, pp. 306-307.

[4] RTC Decision [Branch 30, Surigao City] dated July 9, 1997 penned by Judge Floripinas C. Buyser, records, pp. 434 459, pp. 458-459.

[5] Rollo, pp. 93 - 94.

[6] Rule 133, Section 2. Proof beyond reasonable doubt. - In a criminal case, the accused is entitled to an acquittal, unless his guilt is shown beyond reasonable doubt. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such a degree of proof as, excluding possibility of error, produces absolute certainty. Moral certainty only is required, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind.

[7] TSN, July 9, 1996, p. 6.

[8] Records, pp. 311-314.

[9] Rule 119, Section 3. Order of trial. The trial shall proceed in the following order.

(a) The prosecution shall present evidence to prove the charge and, in the proper case, the civil liability.

(b) The accused may present evidence to prove his defense, and damages, if any, arising from the issuance of any provisional remedy in the case.

(c) The parties may then respectively present rebutting evidence only, unless the court, in furtherance of justice, permits them to present additional evidence bearing upon the main issue.

(d) Upon admission of the evidence, the case shall be deemed submitted for decision unless the court directs the parties to argue orally or to submit memoranda.

(e) However, when the accused admits the act or omission charged in the complaint or information but interposes a lawful defense, the order of trial may be modified accordingly.

[10] People vs. Francisco, 78 Phil 694 [1947]

[11] United States vs. Razon and Tayag, 37 Phil 856 [ 1918]

[12] TSN, January 18, 1995, p. 42.

[13] People vs. Cortes, 226 SCRA 91[1993].

[14] People vs. Rivera, 242 SCRA 26 [1995]; People vs. Lozano, 296 SCRA 403 [1998].

[15] People vs. Ranido, 351 Phil 610 [1998].

[16] People vs. Merza, 238 SCRA 283 [1994]; People vs. Lorenzo, 240 SCRA 624 [1995]; People vs. Hubilla, Jr., 252 SCRA 471 [1996].

[17] The other respondents in the agrarian case were Edilberto Romero, Felisa Mercado, Macario Sanchez, and Pio Yonson (Department of Agrarian Reform Decision dated October 28, 1993, records pp. 513-516).

[18] RTC Decision p. 25; rollo, pp. 43-68.

[19] Ibid., p. 13.

[20] People vs. Riglos, G.R. No. 134763, September 4, 2000, En Banc - per curiam.

[21] People vs. Caisip, 290 SCRA 451 [1998], People vs. Feliciano, 326 Phil. 719[1996].

[22] People vs. Rios, G.R. No. 132632, June 19, 2000.

[23] People vs. Ordoo, G.R. No. 132154, June 29, 2000.

[24] People vs. Arlalejo, G.R. No. 127841, June 16, 2000 citing US vs. Remigio, 37 Phil. 599[1918].

[25] People vs. Mindanao, G.R. No. 123095, July 6, 2000.

[26] Effectivity of Death Penalty Law (R.A. 7659) December 31, 1993; People vs. Medina, 300 SCRA 98 [1998], citing People vs. Simon, 234 SCRA 555 [1994].

[27] People vs. Pedroso, G.R. No. 125128, July 19, 2000.

[28] People vs. Sanchez, 308 SCRA 264 [1999].

[29] People vs. de la Tongga, G.R. No. 133246, July 31, 2000 citing Article 2224 of the Civil Code that temperate damages may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot, from the nature of the case, be proved with certainty.

[30] People vs. Rios, G.R. No. 132632, June 19, 2000; People vs. Taeza, G.R. No. 121668, June 20, 2000.