Facts:

It was six in the evening more than a decade and a half ago, or on November 6, 1992, when the events leading to this case began to unfold. One of the victims, Evelyn Aguirre, was then visiting in the house of the other victim, her daughter Romelyn Diolago, at Victoria St., Intramuros, Manila. With her in the house were her other daughters, Leny and Jovy Aguirre (another victim), and her granddaughter, Cristy-Lyn. At that time, Romelyn was at a night club working. Appellant Mohamad Bong Abdulah, Romelyns brother-in-law, and a companion, entered the house and asked for the latter.[3]

Informed of Romelyns whereabouts, Bong decided to fetch Romelyn at the club. He dragged Evelyn from the house, out of the alley leading to the house, and to a black car. His companion, Latip Mangsungayan, poked a .38 caliber gun at Jovy, dragged her and pushed her inside the car. Three other companions of Bong were already in the car, a certain Racid alias Lumang Kulog, Bagyo alias Muhammad, and Dhats Kamama. Bong then belted out to the neighbors who got curious over the commotion, Kung anong nakikita ninyo, walang magsasalita, totodasin ko lahat, walang makikialam, totodasin ko kayong lahat! Bong then drove the car and sped off. Evelyn and Jovy never returned to the house. That was the last time they were seen alive. 

The following day, November 7, 1992, three female dead bodies were found by the police at the grassy area of the apartment road in Maharlika Village, Taguig, Metro Manila. The bodies had stab wounds, and the necks had ligature marks. The cadavers were then brought to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory for autopsy. On November 15, 1992, prompted by a news report, the relatives of the victims went to Taguig, and there identified the dead bodies as those of Evelyn, Romelyn and Jovy. 

The police theorized that appellant killed the victims to avenge the death of his brother Rex, Romelyns live-in partner. The police further believed that appellant must have been convinced of the familys involvement in the death of Rex, considering that Rexs killer was the former boyfriend of Romelyn and hailed from the same hometown as the family. 

Three separate Informations for murder were filed against appellant

Appellant and his cohorts remained at large for several years. In 1998, appellant was finally brought to trial in these murder cases, following his apprehension and detention for violation of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1866, of the elections gun ban, and of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6425. On arraignment, he pleaded not guilty to the murder charges. 

In his defense, appellant asserted that he was mistakenly identified as Muhammad Abdulah, because he is Musa Dalamban. He was arrested not for the murder of the victims but for violation of special laws. He further denied knowing any of the victims, claiming that, at the time the murder happened, he was in Cotabato City working as a helper of Guapal Saliling in the latters wood business.

However the trial court rendered its Decision finding the appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of three counts of murder. 

On direct appeal, CA, as aforesaid, affirmed in toto the decision of the trial court. Thus, we now finally review the trial and the appellate courts uniform findings.

Issue: WON the circumstantial evidence present was sufficient to convict herein accused?

Held: YES! 

We affirm with modifications. The Court notes that the basis of the trial and the appellate courts in convicting the appellant of three counts of murder is circumstantial evidence, given the absence of any direct evidence as to who actually killed the victims. 

Section 4, Rule 133 of the Rules of Court provides that, for the same to be sufficient for conviction, 

(1) there must be more than one circumstance; 

(2) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and 

(3) the combination of all circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. 

A judgment of conviction based on circumstantial evidence can be upheld only if the circumstances proven constitute an unbroken chain leading to one fair and reasonable conclusion that the defendants are guilty, to the exclusion of any other conclusion.The circumstances proved must be concordant with each other, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty and, at the same time, inconsistent with any hypothesis other than that of guilt. As a corollary to the constitutional precept that the accused is presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, a conviction based on circumstantial evidence must exclude each and every hypothesis consistent with his innocence.

Here, the circumstances proven during the trial are that 

  1. appellant and several companions went to the house of Romelyn in Intramuros, Manila; 
  2. On arrival, appellant asked for the whereabouts of Romelyn; 
  3. Appellant then forcibly dragged the victims Evelyn and Jovy from Romelyns house to the alley leading to the house and pushed them inside a parked black car; 
  4. one of appellants companions poked a gun at Jovy; 
  5. appellant then warned the onlookers to not interfere with them and to be silent over what was happening; 
  6. appellant drove the car and sped off; 
  7. the day after Evelyn and Jovy were taken, their dead bodies, together with that of Romelyn, were recovered in Taguig, Metro Manila; and 
  8. their bodies had stab wounds, and the necks had ligature marks.

Appellant was also positively identified by the prosecution witnesses, Leny Aguirre, Evelyns daughter, who was in the house when appellant arrived, and Sabina Badilla, a neighbor, who saw the commotion. 

Appellants defenses of denial and alibi in this case are not worthy of belief, given that he failed to show that it was physically impossible for him to be present at the time and place of the crime. Established is the rule that denial and alibi, if not substantiated by clear and convincing proof, are negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law. 

In this case, nevertheless, we find appellant liable only for the death of Evelyn and Jovy, there being no evidence to show that he also abducted Romelyn. While the prosecution witnesses testified that appellant intended to proceed to the club where Romelyn worked, no evidence was produced that he, in fact, reached the club and fetched Romelyn from there.

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