Facts: an Information for violation of Section 10 (a), Article VI, RA5 71606 in relation to Section 5 (j) of R.A. 8369 was filed against petitioner, Amante and Gepulane. The Information read:

The undersigned 2nd Assistant Provincial Prosecutor accuses Julius Amanquiton, Dominador Amante and Gil Gepulane of the crime of Violations of Section 10 (a) Article VI, Republic Act No. 7610 in relation to Section 5 (j) of R.A. No. 8369 committed as follows:

That on the 30th day of October, 2001, in the Municipality of Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused in conspiracy with one another, armed with nightstick, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and use personal violence, a form of physical abuse, upon the person of Leoselie John A. [Bañaga], seventeen (17) years old, a minor, by then and there manhandling him and hitting him with their nightsticks, thus, constituting other acts of child abuse, which is inimical or prejudicial to child’s development, in violation of the above-mentioned law.

On arraignment, petitioner and Amante both pleaded not guilty. Gepulane remains at-large.

RTC found petitioner and Amante guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged. Amanquiton’s motion for reconsideration was denied.8

Petitioner filed a notice of appeal which was given due course

the CA rendered a decision which affirmed the conviction but increased the penalty. Petitioner’s motion for reconsideration was denied.10

Hence, this petition.

Issue: W/N facts of the case as established did not constitute a violation of Section 10 (a), Article VI of RA 7160 and definitely did not prove the guilt of petitioner beyond reasonable doubt.

Held: The RTC and CA hinged their finding of petitioner’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt (of the crime of child abuse) solely on the supposed positive identification by the complainant and his witness (Alimpuyo) of petitioner and his co-accused as the perpetrators of the crime.

We note Bañaga’s statement that, when he was apprehended by petitioner and Amante, there were many people around.15 Yet, the prosecution presented only Bañaga and his aunt, Alimpuyo, as witnesses to the mauling incident itself. Where were the other people who could have testified, in an unbiased manner, on the alleged mauling of Bañaga by petitioner and Amante, as supposedly witnessed by Alimpuyo?16 The testimonies of the two other prosecution witnesses, Dr. Paulito Cruz and Rachelle Bañaga, did not fortify Bañaga’s claim that petitioner mauled him, for the following reasons: Dr. Cruz merely attended to Bañaga’s injuries, while Rachelle testified that she saw Bañaga only after the injuries have been inflicted on him.

We note furthermore that, Bañaga failed to controvert the validity of the barangay blotter he signed regarding the mauling incident which happened prior to his apprehension by petitioner. Neither did he ever deny the allegation that he figured in a prior battery by gang members.

All this raises serious doubt on whether Bañaga’s injuries were really inflicted by petitioner, et al., to the exclusion of other people

We apply the pro reo principle and the equipoise rule in this case. Where the evidence on an issue of fact is in question or there is doubt on which side the evidence weighs, the doubt should be resolved in favor of the accused.18 If inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations, one consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt, then the evidence does not fulfill the test of moral certainty and will not justify a conviction.19

We emphasize that the great goal of our criminal law and procedure is not to send people to the gaol but to do justice. The prosecution’s job is to prove that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Conviction must be based on the strength of the prosecution and not on the weakness of the defense. Thus, when the evidence of the prosecution is not enough to sustain a conviction, it must be rejected and the accused absolved and released at once.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. The August 28, 2008 decision and January 15, 2009 resolution of Court of Appeals are reversed and SET ASIDE. Petitioner Julius Amanquiton is hereby ACQUITTED of violation of Section 10 (a), Article VI of RA 7160.

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