FACTS: On April 23, 1991, at around seven o’clock in the evening, Danilo Acbangin was worried when his daughter, four-year old Sweet Grace Acbangin (hereinafter referred to as “Sweet”) did not come home. Sweet’s father, Danilo, testified that he last saw Sweet on the same day, at six o’clock in the evening, playing in Jocelyn’s house. Jocelyn was the common law wife of his second cousin, Remy Acbangin. Danilo went to Jocelyn’s house and looked for Sweet. There was no one there.
At around seven fifteen in the evening, Danilo reported to the Barangay and the Bacoor Police Station that Sweet was missing. On the same day at eleven o’clock in the evening, Jocelyn arrived at Danilo’s house without Sweet. When asked where the child was, Jocelyn denied knowing of the child’s whereabouts.
On April 24, 1991, Danilo made a second report to the Bacoor Police Station, stating that Jocelyn returned without the child. On April 24, 1991, Jocelyn informed Danilo’s mother-in-law that Sweet was in Niu’s house in Tondo, Manila. On April 25, 1991, the case was reported to the Manila police.
Jocelyn accompanied Danilo, Sweet’s grandfather and police officers to Niu’s house. Jocelyn personally knew Niu and was first to enter the house. Jocelyn went up to the second floor of the house. She went down with Niu and Sweet. Sweet was well-dressed and smiling. She ran to her father and embraced him. Niu then voluntarily turned Sweet over to her father and the policemen. Pat. Manuel Lao testified that when he asked Niu how she came to have possession of the child, she answered that a certain “Helen” brought the child to her. This “Helen” could not be found.
However, on the witness stand, Niu told a different story. Niu narrated that it was Jocelyn who brought Sweet to her house on April 23, 1991. Jocelyn told Niu that she was going to leave the child and was going to return to get her.
On April 26, 1991, a complaint for kidnapping a minor was filed against accused appellant Jocelyn Acbangin, accused Niu, Helen Doe and Juana Doe with the Municipal Trial Court, Bacoor, Cavite.
The court convicted Acbangin of the crime of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention and acquitted Niu.
ISSUE: Whether or not Sweet’s testimony may be disregarded on the count of her age
HELD: Sweet’s testimony, stating that it was Jocelyn who brought her to Niu’s house, should not be disregarded. Section 20, Rule 134 of the Revised Rules of Court provides that, “All persons who can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their perception to others may be witnesses.” A witness’ young age will not deter him or her from being a competent and credible witness. To be a competent child witness, the following criteria must be met: (a) capacity of observation; (b) capacity of recollection and (c) capacity of communication. All these were met by Sweet. Besides, the trial court’s assessment of Sweet’s credibility should be upheld and respected since its assessment was not tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of any material fact.
NOTE: UNRELATED: Accused-appellant contends that her guilt was not proven beyond reasonable doubt. IT WAS. Requisites were met. Burdensome and harsh as it may be, the trial court correctly imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua. True, Sweet was not maltreated. True also, that at the time of the crime, Jocelyn was only 21 years old. However, the crime as defined by law was committed. Dura lex sed lex. The law may be harsh, but it is the law. Jocelyn knew for two days where Sweet was. In fact, it was she who brought Sweet to Niu’s house. The fact that she later on felt remorse for taking Sweet to Tondo, Manila and showed Sweet’s father where the child was, cannot absolve her. At that point, the crime was consummated. Jocelyn’s repentance and desistance came too late. The SC agreed with the trial court that a strict application of Art. 267 of the Revised Penal Code would be too harsh, taking into consideration the minimal injury caused by the offense. We agree that the accused be recommended to the Chief Executive for the possible exercise of his pardoning power.