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G.R. No. 116488 May 31, 2001
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs.
AARON FLORES @ "RONITO", SULPECIO SILPAO y ORTEGA @ "SULPING" and EDGAR VILLERAN y MAGBANUA, accused-appellants.
On the night of September 1992, the victim, Samson Sayam, was drinking beer at the store owned by Terry Cabrillos in Negros Occidental. Sgt. Wennie Tampioc, Aaron Flores, Sulpecio Silpao and Edgar Villeran were at the same store drinking beer.
Sayam joined the four accused at their table. Sometime later, all the accused and the victim left the store and walked towards the direction of the military detachment headquarters. After the accused left the store with Samson Sayam, witnesses heard a single gunshot followed by rapid firing coming from the direction of the detachment headquarters. That was the last time Samson Sayam was seen, and despite diligent efforts of Sayam's mother and relatives, he has not been found.
The trial court gave credence to the prosecution's evidence that Samson Sayam was seen being forcibly dragged out of the store and pulled towards the direction of the detachment headquarters by accused Aaron Flores, Sulpecio Silpao and Edgar Villeran. Since Samson Sayam had not been seen nor heard from since then, the trial court held that the three accused were responsible for the former's disappearance. With regard to Wennie Tampioc, the trial court found that he left the store ahead of the three co-accused and, thus, had nothing to do with the disappearance of Samson Sayam.
Two (2) separate appeals were brought before us. Accused-appellant Sulpecio Silpao raised that the Trial court erred in convicting him of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention since he’s an official. On the other hand, accused-appellants Aaron Flores and Edgar Villeran interposed a joint appeal based on the sole error that the circumstantial evidence used was insufficient.
W/N the accused-appelants are guilty of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention.
The crime of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention is defined and penalized under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659.
Clearly, accused-appellants cannot be charged with or convicted of the crime of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention, since the first element of the said crime is that the offender must be a private individual. In the case at bar, accused-appellants were members of the local CAFGU at the time the alleged crime was committed. The CAFGU was created pursuant to Executive Order No. 264 for the purpose of complementing the operations of the regular force formations in a locality.
Since it is settled that accused-appellants are public officers, the question that remains to be resolved is whether or not the evidence adduced before the trial court proved that Samson Sayam was arbitrarily detained by accused-appellants.
A careful review of the records of the instant case shows no evidence sufficient to prove that Samson Sayam was detained arbitrarily by accused-appellants. While the prosecution witnesses testified that accused-appellants were seen walking with Samson Sayam toward the direction of the detachment headquarters, there is no shred of evidence that he was actually confined there or anywhere else. The fact that Samson Sayam has not been seen or heard from since he was last seen with accused-appellants does not prove that he was detained and deprived of his liberty.
For circumstantial evidence to be sufficient to support a conviction, there must be at least two proven circumstances which in complete sequence leads to no other logical conclusion than that of the guilt of the accused. It is admitted that Samson Sayam was seen drinking with accused-appellants on that fateful night. However, the circumstances that there was a heated argument among them, and that the accused-appellants held and pulled Samson Sayam to the road and brought him towards the direction of the detachment headquarters was not sufficiently proven by material or relevant testimony.
Moreover, the circumstance that gunshots were heard on that night have no relevancy to the case. Even if it were, it cannot be concluded that the gunshots came from the direction of the detachment headquarters.
That Samson Sayam was never seen or heard from again cannot be the basis for the trial court to render judgment convicting the accused-appellants. In fact, it has no bearing in this case because it is not one of the elements of the crime of arbitrary detention. Consequently, only one relevant circumstance was proved, i.e., that accused-appellants were the last persons seen with Samson Sayam. However, said circumstance does not necessarily prove that they feloniously abducted him, then arbitrarily detained him.
Since the pieces of circumstantial evidence do not fulfill the test of moral certainty that is sufficient to support a judgment or conviction, the Court must acquit the accused.