FACTS: On 23 December 1995, at around 9:00 p.m., Fedrico Gamayon and his 15-year old son Crisanto, who was riding on a carabao, and 6-year old nephew Joemar, who was riding on the sled, were on their way home to Tinagong Dagat from Sandoval, Narra, Palawan, where they had sold copra to certain Gabileo. When they were the house of accused Gonzalo Galas, Federico was called by Gonzalo. When Federico approached Gonzalo, the latter suddenly hacked Federico with a bolo. Federico fell to the ground, then accused Josue Galas, Noe Galas, Dimas Acma, and Maximo Delgado “ganged up” on Federico, according to Crisanto; or “helped each other mauling” Federico, according to Joemar. Josue Galas hacked Federico with a bolo, while Noe Galas, Dimas Acma, and Maximo Delgado were armed with pieces of wood. Federico was unable to fight back; he could not even unsheath his bolo from its scabbard. Crisanto Gamayon could not do anything to help his father because he was afraid; moreover, the accused ran after him. Crisanto ran to his uncle for help, but the latter was not in his house. Crisanto did not return to the crime scene until the next day and after the incident was reported to the police authorities. Federico lay there until the next day when the police and Dr. Dominador Hubo, the municipal health officer, arrived to transport and examine Federico’s cadaver. Federico sustained six hack wounds and two stab wounds inflicted on various parts of his body. The prosecution was commenced by the filing of a criminal complaint for murder in the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Narra, Palawan. The complaint was then amended to charge the accused with the lesser offense of homicide. In his resolution of 7 April 1986, 2 then Provincial Fiscal Aurelio Trampe recommended the filing of an information for murder due to the presence of the qualifying circumstances of evident premeditation and abuse of superior strength. After the reinvestigation, First Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Sesinio B. Belen, with the approval of Acting Provincial Prosecutor Clarito Demaala, filed a Motion to Admit Amended Information which now charges the accused with Homicide. As ground for the downgrading of the offense charged, Prosecutor Belen alleged that the reinvestigation disclosed no evidence of evident premeditation nor treachery, and the victim even had the opportunity to wound accused Gonzalo Galas.
1. W/N the relationship between the deceased and the two main witnesses diminishes the potency of their testimony.
2. W/N the age of one of the main witnesses, Joemar Deocadiz, who was five years old when he allegedly witnessed the killing disqualifies him as a witness.
1. NO. Such emphasis is misplaced. This Court has held in a number of cases that relationship between the witnesses and the deceased does not automatically impair the credibility of the former. We have likewise held that a witness’ relationship to a victim, far from rendering his testimony biased, would even render it more credible as it would be unnatural for a relative who is interested in vindicating the crime to accuse somebody other than the real culpit. They have a definite stake at seeing the guilty person brought before the courts so that justice may be served. It is not to be lightly supposed that relatives of the victim would callously violate their conscience to avenge the death of a dear one by blaming it on persons who are in fact innocent of the crime.
2. NO. It must be stressed that Joemar’s age does not disqualify him as a witness. Section 20, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court provides that all persons who can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their perception to others, may be witnesses. The exceptions thereto are found in the succeeding Section 20 and, insofar as children are concerned, only those whose mental maturity is such so as to render them incapable of perceiving the facts respecting which they are examined and of relating truthfully are disqualified. It is thus clear that any child, regardless of age, can be competent witness if they meet the following criteria: (a) capacity of observation, (b) capacity of recollection, and (c) capacity of communication. 46 The accused urge us to give no weight to Joemar’s testimony because of its unreliability; they claim that he could not even remember the month and the year when the incident happened. A close scrutiny of his testimony discloses, however, that Joemar was clear on the facts he observed surrounding the death of Federico which, according to him took place on a date “nearing Christmas.” 47 Since the date of Federico’s death was indubitably established to be 23 December 1985, which was, indeed, “nearing Christmas,” Joemar’s approximation was sufficient.
The accused also harp on Crisanto Gamayon’s credibility on the ground that if he were really there, he would have unquestionably helped his father instead of merely standing still and simply gaping at the latter’s killing by five men and returning to the scene only on the following day. Crisanto’s testimony that he was afraid 48 sufficiently refutes this objection. Fear has been known to render people immobile, if not useless, in some life-and-death situations. Crisanto and Joemar left Federico’s body overnight at the scene of the crime because darkness had fallen and fear gripped them. Under the circumstances, the 16-year old Crisanto and the 5-year old Joemar could not be expected to act like adults, in full possession of their mental, emotional, and psychological faculties.
While Gonzalo’s co-accused were seen at the scene of the crime by Crisanto and Joemar, no clear and convincing evidence can support a conclusion that the said co-accused were able to inflict any injury — either a stab or hack wound with the use of a bolo, or contusion, abrasion, or hematoma with the use of pieces of wood — on Federico. There is, as well, absolutely no evidence of conspiracy among Gonzalo and his co-accused as to make each of the latter equally liable for all the acts of Gonzalo under the doctrine that once conspiracy is established the act of one is the act of all. Crisanto and Joemar may have thus miscomprehended or misappreciated the sequence of events after the arrival of Gonzalo’s co-accused.
We cannot fully agree with the trial courts’ unqualified reliance on the testimonies of Crisanto and Joemar, nor cast our imprimatur on its assessment of the said witnesses’ credibility pursuant to the rule that the issue of credibility is addressed to the trial court since it heard the witnesses and observed their deportment and manner or testifying during the trial. For one, the trial court overlooked the foregoing facts, viz.; infliction of the wounds by one person with the use of one weapon, and the absence of any injury caused by the mauling or clubbing. Excepted from the rule on the binding character of the trial court’s assessment of credibility of witnesses are instances when trial courts have overlooked, misapplied, and misinterpreted facts and circumstances of great weight and value which would affect the result of the case.
That Crisanto and Joemar could have misapprehended or misappreciated the events, especially as to the participation of Josue Galas, Noe Galas, Dimas Acma, and Maximo Delgado, could easily be deduced from the fact that the incident occurred at nighttime; Crisanto was “a little bit far” from his father, and he ran away. Joemar, who was only six years old, was sitting on a sled. He did not testify as to his distance to Federico when the latter was attacked. We have then serious doubts as to the culpability of accused Josue Galas, Noe Galas, Dimas Acma, and Maximo Delgado. Their acquittal is inevitable for failure of the prosecution to overcome the presumption of innocence which is guaranteed in Section 14(2), Article III of the Constitution.