FACTS: That on or about the 29th day of August, 2004, in the municipality of Bocaue, province of Bulacan, Philippines, Wilfredo Atendido y Dohenog (Wilfredo) was invited by Alfredo to a drinking session with Jesus and Edwin making them a party of four. Rachel, Wilfredo’s daughter, an adolescent at the time, was underneath the house (silong in the vernacular) of a neighbor, three (3)meters away from the place where Wilfredo and his companions were ostensibly in merrymaking. Rachel saw her father step away from the group to urinate. While Wilfredo relieved himself, Edwin snatched a t-shirt from a nearby clothesline, and hooded the t-shirt over the head and face of Wilfredo. Robbed of vision as his head was fully covered, Wilfredo was wrestled and pinned down by Edwin, while Alfredo boxed the left side of Wilfredo’s chest. Jesus, armed with a long iron bar, swung at and hit Wilfredo in the head. Terrified, Rachel stood immobilized as she watched the attack on father. Thereafter, she saw her mother running out of their house and crying for help.On that same auspicious date, 29 August 2004, Rowena, Wilfredo’s wife and Rachel’s mother, was inside their house taking care of their youngest daughter. She heard a commotion coming from the neighboring house, about eight (8) steps away, so she rushed in that direction. Once outside their house, she saw Wilfredo prostrate on the ground covered with blood on his face and forehead. Upon reaching Wilfredo, Rowena saw accused Jesus, standing one meter away from Wilfredo, holding an iron bar. Edwin and Alfredo stood beside Jesus; Edwin held a white shirt. Forthwith, Jesus and Alfredo ran away while Edwin went home. Rowena asked for help to bring Wilfredo to the hospital. However, Wilfredo did not reach the hospital alive and was pronounced dead on arrival. The trial court convicted Edwin and Alfredo of Murder. On appeal, Edwin and Alfredo found no reprieve. The Court of Appeals did not deviate from the RTC’s ruling and affirmed in toto its finding of guilt.
ISSUE: Whether or not the testimony of the witness Rachel, an adolescent at the time (10 years old) of the commission of the offense is credible.
HELD: Yes. To discredit the eyewitness testimony of Rachel, they presented Aniceta who testified that she and Rachel were out on that day selling doormats and only returned at 6:00 p.m. Thus, Rachel could not have witnessed the murder of Wilfredo.
Both lower courts, however, found the testimony of Rachel credible: This Court finds the testimony of Rachel clear and convincing. The testimony flows from a person who was present in the place where the killing occurred. They are replete with details sufficient to shift the burden of evidence to appellants. We have no reason to doubt Rachel’s credibility. Her candid account of the incident, standing alone, clearly established the components of the crime of murder. Appellants’ defense of denial, not sufficiently proven, cannot overcome the conclusions drawn from said evidence. We find no cogent reason to deviate from the findings and conclusions of the trial court. Rachel’s testimony was delivered in a firm, candid, and straightforward manner. There is no showing that Rachel wavered from the basic facts of her testimony, even when she was subjected to a rigorous examination.
Rachel was only ten (10) years old when she witnessed the murder of the victim. She testified in open court two (2) years later. Thus, she cannot be expected to give an error-free narration of the events that happened two years earlier. The alleged inconsistencies between her sworn statement and testimony referred to by appellants do not affect her credibility. What is important is that in all her narrations she consistently and clearly identified appellants as the perpetrators of the crime. Inconsistencies between the sworn statement and the testimony in court do not militate against witness’ credibility since sworn statements are generally considered inferior to the testimony in open court. As the lower courts have done, we accord full faith and credence to Rachel’s testimony. She was young and unschooled, but her narration of the incident was categorical, without wavering. It has no markings of a concocted story, impressed upon her by other people. The defense, accused-appellants herein, tried to further discredit Rachel’s testimony by arguing that Rachel was a mere child who had studied only until the first grade of elementary school and could barely read, and did not know how to tell time. We cannot take Rachel’s testimony lightly simply because she was a mere child when she witnessed the incident and when she gave her testimony in court. There is no showing that her mental maturity rendered her incapable of testifying and of relating the incident truthfully. With exceptions provided in the Rules of Court, all persons who can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their perception to others, may be witnesses. That is even buttressed by the Rule on Examination of a Child Witness which specifies that every child is presumed qualified to be a witness. To rebut this presumption, the burden of proof lies on the party challenging the child’s competence. Only when substantial doubt exists regarding the ability of the child to perceive, remember, communicate, distinguish truth from falsehood, or appreciate the duty to tell the truth in court will the court, motu proprio or on motion of a party, conduct a competency examination of a child.Thus, petitioners’ flimsy objections on Rachel’s lack of education and inability to read and tell time carry no weight and cannot overcome the clear and convincing testimony of Rachel as to who killed her father. We likewise note that the line of questioning of the defense during cross-examination on the competency of Rachel to read and tell time did not distract her in recollecting how her father was attacked by accused-appellants. From her position underneath the house of her “Kuya Unyo,” she saw her father, Wilfredo, attacked by accused-appellants. Although she was astonished as the happening unfolded, her ability to perceive, remember, and make known her perception was not diminished.