Facts:

Five-year old Rowena C. Bangcong, the only girl among her siblings, was beaten, raped and killed. Her bruised and battered body which was flung with a hard object, that caused lacerated wounds, abrasions hematomas and submerging the victim into a swamp that caused her death as well. Victim was discovered the following morning after a massive search.

Accused Aldrin Licaya y Sucano was charged with Rape with Homicide

Appellant Aldrin Licayan and Bernard Agcopra were friends from way back. After years of absence, appellant went to Agcopra who had a machine shop in BarangayInobulan, Salay, Misamis Oriental, to apply for work as a grinder of engine valves. On this occasion, they drank rum to celebrate their reunion. Romeo Bangcong, who was also Agcopras friend, joined them later in their drinking bout. 

The group continued drinking in the house of Wenny Rajal also in Barangay Inobulan, Salay, Misamis Oriental. After consuming two bottles of Beer Grande, they bought a case of the same drink, which they brought to the house of Romeo. When they arrived, Romeos wife Rosalinda and his children, Rey Oriente, Raymundo and five-year old Rowena were there. Agcopra did not stay long and did not drink beer anymore. He went with Romeo to the barangay captain leaving appellant in Romeos house. When Romeo returned to his house, appellant was embracing and kissing Rowena, justifying it by saying that he missed his daughter.

Appellant kept on embracing Rowena. Rowena asked that she be allowed to watch television at neighbor Dorbits house fifteen meters away. An hour later, Romeo told Rey Oriente to fetch Rowena. Thereafter, appellant also left, saying that he would look for Agcopra. When the boy reached Dorbits house, he saw appellant there with Rowena. Appellant told Rowena: Day, come here because your father asked you to go home so you can eat your supper. Appellant then held the hand of Rowena and dragged her into a dark area. Rey Oriente, however, did not go with appellant and his sister, thinking that they were heading for the Bangcong house.

When Romeo got tired of waiting for Rowena, he went to the Dorbit house to inquire about her. Rey Oriente told him what happened, which caused him to cry. Neighbors were alerted and immediately formed a posse to look for the girl. While searching for Rowena, they spotted appellant when they trained a flashlight to him. Appellant ran towards the rice field. The posse chased him, but failed to catch him when he jumped into  the deep River. When appellant passed by a group of men who offered him a drink, his clothes were wet and his body was muddy. He had no slippers. That same night, appellant was arrested by the police.

The following morning, the dead and naked body of Rowena was found at the swamps, where appellant told Rogelio Dahilan, Jr., one of the searchers, she would be. Photographs were taken of the girl.

As stated earlier, after the prosecution had rested its case and formally offered its evidence, accused-appellant escaped detention and has remained at large despite efforts to apprehend him. Once an accused escapes from prison or confinement, he loses his standing in court and is deemed to have waived any right to seek relief from the court unless he surrenders or submits to the jurisdiction of the court.

Upon arraignment, accused pleaded not guilty to the offense charged. The case thereafter proceeded to trial.

Since accused is at large after he escaped detention while the case was still pending but after the prosecution had presented its evidence, let a warrant for his arrest, or alias warrant of his arrest issue.  Once arrested let his custodian ship his person to the National Penitentiary without delay as provided by law, there to await the result of the review of this case by the Highest Tribunal of the land.

Accused-appellant was found guilty. 

On automatic review, accused-appellant faults the trial court with a lone assignment of error, to wit

Issue: WON prosecution has sufficiently presented proof beyond reasonable doubt to convict herein accused and sustaining conviction by extrajudicial confession

Held: YES! 

That accused-appellants admissions indeed partake of an extra-judicial confession, the same would still be admissible not only on account of the foregoing considerations but also because it is corroborated by evidence of corpus delicti

Under Rule 133, Section 3 of the Rules of Court, an extra-judicial confession shall not be sufficient ground for conviction, unless corroborated by evidence of corpus delicti. 

which is defined as the body of the crime and, in its primary sense, means a crime has actually been committed. Applied to a particular offense, it is the actual commission by someone of the particular crime charged. In this case, aside from the admission made by accused-appellant, the bruised and battered body of the victim herself recovered at the exact spot described by accused-appellant conclusively established the corroborating evidence of corpus delicti.

Furthermore, the admission is replete with details on the whereabouts of the victim who at that time had not yet been found, thereby ruling out the probability that it was involuntarily made. The voluntariness of a confession may be inferred from its language such that if, upon its face, the confession exhibits no suspicious circumstances tending to cast doubt upon its it integrity, it being replete with details – which could only be supplied by the accused – reflecting spontaneity and coherence, it may be considered voluntary. 

Contrary to accused-appellants claim, he was in fact seen grabbing and dragging the struggling victim from the house where she was watching television by Rey Oriente, the victims elder brother. 

While accused-appellant indeed did not admit to anyone that he raped and killed Rowena, the prevailing circumstances overwhelmingly point to his guilt. As stated earlier, direct evidence is not always necessary to identify the accused as the perpetrator of the crime. A witness may not have actually seen the very act of commission of a crime, but he may nevertheless identify the accused as the assailant as when the latter is the person last seen with the victim immediately before and right after the commission of the crime. 

*** Added info just in case she’ll ask. 

Accused-appellants escape should be considered a waiver of his right to be present at the trial and the inability of the court to notify him of the subsequent hearings will not prevent the court from continuing with the trial because the escapee is deemed to have received notice. 

The fact of escape made accused-appellants failure to attend unjustified because he has, by escaping, placed himself beyond the pale and protection of the law. Thereafter, the trial court had the duty to rule on the evidence presented by the prosecution against the accused and to render its judgment accordingly. It should not wait for the fugitives appearance or re-arrest, for the State as much as the accused has an interest in and is entitled to a speedy trial and disposition of the case.

In the case at bar, accused-appellant was convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence of the commission of the crime is not the only matrix wherefrom a court may draw its conclusions and findings of guilt. 

The rules on evidence and case law sustain the conviction of the accused through circumstantial evidence when the following requisites concur: 

1.] there must be more than one circumstance; 

2.] the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; 3.] the combination of all circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused.

In assaying the probative value of circumstantial evidence, four basic guidelines must be observed:

1) it should be acted upon with caution;

2) all the essential facts must be consistent with the hypothesis of guilt;

3) the facts must exclude every other theory but that of guilt; and

4) the facts must establish such a certainty of guilt of the accused as to convince the judgment beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is the one who committed the offense.

The peculiarity of circumstantial evidence is that the guilt of the accused cannot be deduced from scrutinizing just one particular piece of evidence. It is more like a puzzle which when put together reveals a convincing picture pointing towards the conclusion the accused is the author of the crime.[14]

The following circumstances pointed out by the trial court lead to the inevitable conclusion that the accused-appellant perpetrated the crime:

First, before 1:00 A.M. of June 25, 1999, accused drank rhum with Bernard Agcopra, an automotive mechanic with whom he applied for work. June 26th was anti-vesperas of the fiesta of Inobulan, Salay, Mis. Or. Having consumed the rhum, the duo decided to take a motorbike to Bernard Agcopras shop in order to test accuseds skill in grinding engine vale[s]. At Agcopra shop, they drank some more rhum where they were joined by Romeo Bangcong. At 5:00 P.M., the three proceeded to the house of the owner of the overhauled engine. While there, Agcopraordered two bottles of beer grande, and after consuming these the group bought one case of the same beer grande. The 3 brought this to the house of Romeo Bangcong which is not far away.

Second, the three, accused, Bernard Agcopra and Romeo Bangcong, reached Romeos house. In the house then were Romeos wife and children, Rosalina and Rowena, 5 years old. Accused was drunk. But no sooner than they arrived that accused and Romeo started drinking the case of beer grande that they had brought. Bernard Agcopra begged off. He went home. When ReyOriente Bangcong, one of Romeos children and elder brother of Rowena, arrived from school that afternoon of June 25th, which was Friday, he saw accused drinking with his father and while so doing he kissed and embraced Rowena, justifying it by saying that he missed his daughter. This happened in the presence of the Bangcong family. At about 6:00 oclock, Rowena asked her fathers permission to view t.v. at the nearby house of Dorbit, to which Romeo gave his permission. About an hour after that Romeo told Rey Oriente to fetch his sister at Dorbits

Third, arriving at Dorbits house, Rey saw accused telling Rowena Day come here because your father asked you to go home so that you can eat your supper. Accused was holding the hand of Rowena and was dragging her. Soon Romeo Bangcong also arrived at Dorbits house looking for Rowena.

Fourth, the Bangcongs neighbors organized a search party. One group spotted accused 20 meters away. He ran toward the direction of the rice field. They chased him but they failed to overtake him as he jumped into the Inobulan River which is 5 arms length wise but deep. The searchers lost him.

Fifth, at about 4:00 oclock of June 26th accused told Jun-jun Dahilan who in turn told the searchers the location of the body of Rowena. Referring to the place they found the dead and naked body of the victim there.

Sixth, with muddy pants, wet and without slippers accused emerged at the place where Wilson Salvaa and companions were drinking at about 9:30 P.M. of June 25th. He wore [a] stripe[d] blue shirt. He accepted the offer to drink and then proceeded away from them.

Seventh, accused was the last person with whom Rowena was last seen.

In the instant case, Rogelio Dahilan, Jr. testified that accused-appellant indeed told him where the victims body can be found. What is more, the victims body was actually recovered at the location pointed by accused-appellant.

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