People vs. Aleman

G.R. No. 181539               July 24, 2013

FACTS:  On February 10, 2003, at about 7:00 o’clock in the evening, Mark went out of his house to play ball in the basketball court. He walked to the basketball court, played there, and at about 9:00 o’clock, he stopped playing as he then felt like urinating. He went to a place near the basketball court where there were five cars parked. While urinating, he saw a fat man walking towards a car. The fat man was talking on his cellular phone. He then noticed two men following the fat man, who entered a parked car. The two male persons who were then following the fat man then separated: one went to the left side of the fat man’s car and stood by the door at the driver’s side of the vehicle. While the other positioned himself by the door at the opposite side of the car. Mark made a diagram, rectangular shape and two circles on both sides, (Exhibit “L”) depicting the car and the positions of the two men. The man who stood by the door at the driver’s side had a knife while his companion was armed with a gun. He then witnessed the man with the knife in his hand stabbing the fat man repeatedly on different parts of his body, while the man with the gun fired once. After taking the fat man’s personal belongings, including his ring, watch, wallet and cellular phone, the two men left. He followed them to a place which he described as far and there, he saw them buried the knife and covered it with soil. He made a drawing representing the place where he followed them (Exh. “M”). After burying the knife in the ground, the men left and he followed them again to a place which he described as near. While thereat, he saw one of the culprits uncovered his face. He recognized him as the person who went to the left side of the car and stabbed the victim who was later on identified as the accused Edwin Aleman. After which, the two men left. He decided not to follow them and went home instead.

When he gave his statements to the police, he did not tell them that the knife was buried under the ground. It was 9:56 o’clock when the men took off their bonnets. The man with the knife removed the bloodstained white t-shirt that he was wearing and, along with his bonnet, threw it away in a place he described as flowing or running water. At about 10:00 o’clock, the two men boarded a motorcycle and left.

Accused-appellant was 26 years old and a resident of Area 6, Barangay Botocan, Project 2, Quezon City when he testified. He interposed denial and alibi as his defenses. He claimed that, at the time the incident happened on February 10, 2003, he was at the billiards hall which was a 15-minute walk from his residence. A road separates the billiards hall from Sikatuna Bliss. Accused-appellant also attempted to show that the eyewitness, Mark, failed to identify him during the police line-up. Defense witness SPO1 Leonardo Pasco stated that he was the one who prepared the spot report although it was his superior who signed it. He further stated that Mark failed to identify accused-appellant during the police line-up.

After studying the parties’ respective evidence, the trial court rejected the defenses of accused-appellant for their inherent weakness and implausibility. On the other hand, it viewed the prosecution’s evidence favorably, particularly the eyewitness testimony of Mark and his positive identification of accused-appellant as the one who stabbed the victim. In particular, the trial court found Mark’s testimony simple and credible. He had no ill motive that would make him testify falsely against accused-appellant. While there were minor inconsistencies in his testimony, the discrepancies were inconsequential and did not affect the truthfulness of Mark’s narration. The trial court

ISSUE: Whether or not Mark, being a deaf-mute, is qualified to be a witness.

HELD: The mere fact that Mark is a deaf-mute does not render him unqualified to be a witness. The rule is that “all persons who can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their perception to others, may be witnesses.” A deaf-mute may not be able to hear and speak but his/her other senses, such as his/her sense of sight, remain functional and allow him/her to make observations about his/her environment and experiences. The inability to hear and speak may prevent a deaf-mute from communicating orally with others but he/she may still communicate with others in writing or through signs and symbols and, as in this case, sketches. Thus, a deaf-mute is competent to be a witness so long as he/she has the faculty to make observations and he/she can make those observations known to others. 

The RTC and the Court of Appeals saw no improper motive which would impel Mark to testify falsely against accused-appellant. As the determination of bad faith, malice or ill motive is a question of fact, this Court respects the unanimous finding of the trial and the appellate courts on the matter.

Accused-appellant’s attempt to render doubtful Mark’s identification of him fails.1âwphi1 Indeed, the law requires not simply an eyewitness account of the act of committing the crime but the positive identification of the accused as the perpetrator of the crime. Here, Mark has positively pointed to accused-appellant as the perpetrator of the crime. The Court of Appeals correctly ruled that Mark’s failure to identify accused-appellant in a police line-up on February 13, 2003 was of no moment. There is no law stating that a police line-up is essential to proper identification. What matters is that the positive identification of the accused as the perpetrator of the crime be made by the witness in open court.Nevertheless, the records show that Mark identified accused-appellant as the robber-killer of the victim in a police line-up on February 18, 2003 and, more importantly, in open court in the course of Mark’s testimony.

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