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Digest: CACHUELA vs. IBANEZ

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES vs.
JOSE ARMANDO CERVANTES CACHUELA and BENJAMIN JULIAN CRUZ IBANEZ, Accused.
BENJAMIN JULIAN CRUZ IBANEZ, Accused-Appellant.

G.R. No. 191752. June 10, 2013

BRION, J.:

Facts:

·         (NBI) received an information from an asset that the group of Cachuela was involved in the robbery of WSC and in the killing of one of its employees; and that Cachuela had been looking for prospective buyers of firearms.

·         NBI formed an entrapment team

·         Nabilgas surrendered to the police, and gave the names of the other persons involved in the crime.

·         The NBI agents also arrested Cachuela in an entrapment operation. Same also with IbaƱez 

·         At the NBI Main Office, Zaldy pointed to the appellants, during a police line-up, as the persons responsible for the robbery at WSC and for the killing of Rex. Nabilgas also executed a handwritten confession implicating the appellants and Zaldy in the crime.

·         The prosecution filed an Information for robbery with homicide before the RTC against the appellants, Nabilgas and Zaldy. The accused all pleaded not guilty on arraignment. Trial on the merits ensued thereafter. During trial, Zaldy died.

·         RTC found the appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of robbery with homicide

·         CA affirmed the RTC decision 

Issue:

Whether the out-of-court identification and the extrajudicial confession of Zaldy will merit the conviction.

Held:

No. Zaldy identified the appellants as the persons involved in the robbery of WSC and in the killing of Rex in a police line-up held at the NBI Main Office on Taft Avenue, Manila. We note that Zaldy did not testify in court since he was brought to the National Center for Mental Health, and subsequently died there during the trial. 

People v. Algarmeexplains the procedure for out-of-court identification and the test to determine its admissibility, as follows:

Out-of-court identification is conducted by the police in various ways. It is done thru show-ups where the suspect alone is brought face-to-face with the witness for identification. It is done thru mug shots where photographs are shown to the witness to identify the suspect. It is also done thru line-ups where a witness identifies the suspect from a group of persons lined up for the purpose x x x In resolving the admissibility of and relying on out-of-court identification of suspects, courts have adopted the totality of circumstances test where they consider the following factors, viz.: (1) the witness' opportunity to view the criminal at the time of the crime; (2) the witness' degree of attention at that time; (3) the accuracy of any prior description, given by the witness; (4) the level of certainty demonstrated by the witness at the identification; (5) the length of time between the crime and the identification; and, (6) the suggestiveness of the identification procedure. [italics and emphasis supplied]

In the present case, Lino merely stated that Zaldy, during a police line-up, identified the appellants as the persons involved in the robbery of WSC and in the killing of Rex. Lino did not state when the line-up took place; how this line-up had been conducted; who were the persons in the line-up with the appellants (if there were indeed other persons included in the line-up); and whether the line-up was confined to persons of the same height and built as the appellants. Lino likewise did not indicate who accompanied Zaldy before and during the line-up, and whether there had been the possibility of prior or contemporaneous improper insinuations on Zaldy regarding the appearance of the appellants.

To our mind, Lino’s failure to state relevant details surrounding the police line-up is a glaring omission that renders unreliable Zaldy’s out-ofcourt identification. No way exists for the courts to evaluate the factors used in determining the admissibility and reliability of out-of-court identifications, such as the level of certainty demonstrated by the witness at the identification; the length of time between the crime and the identification; and the suggestiveness of the identification procedure. The absence of an independent in-court identification by Zaldy additionally justifies our strict treatment and assessment of Lino’s testimony.

The Court has consistently held that an extrajudicial confession, to be admissible, must satisfy the following requirements: "(1) the confession must be voluntary; (2) it must be made with the assistance of a competent and independent counsel, preferably of the confessant's choice; (3) it must be express; and (4) it must be in writing."

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