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Digest: People vs. Magbitang

G.R. No. 175592, June 14, 2016


Facts: Magbitang was charged with rape with homicide under the information filed by the Provincial Prosecutor of Nueva Ecija on February 22, 1999 in the Regional Trial Court (RTC). 

Evidence for the State shows that at around 5 p.m. of December 25, 1998, 7-year old AAA asked permission from her mother, BBB, to go to a nearby store. BBB allowed her daughter to leave the house, but the child did not return home. Later that evening, the child's lifeless body was found by the riverbank. The post-mortem examination of her cadaver revealed that she had succumbed to asphyxiation, and that there were "incidental findings compatible to rape." The lone witness to what had befallen AAA was 6-year old CCC, who recalled in court that he and AAA had been playing when Magbitang approached AAA; and that Magbitang brought AAA to his house. CCC testified on re-direct examination that he had witnessed Magbitang raping AAA (inasawa), as well as burning her face with a cigarette (sininit-sinit).

Magbitang, denying the accusation, claimed that he had attended a baptismal party on December 25, 1998, and had been in the party from 4:00 p.m.to 5:00 p.m.; that from the party he had gone looking for his nephew to have the latter tend to his watermelon farm; that he had returned home by around 6 p.m.; that at around 7:30 p.m., he had gone to his farm to check on his nephew; and that he and his wife had remained in the farm until 4 a.m. of the following day.


RTC: Guilty. The RTC held that CCC had the capacity to observe, recollect and communicate what he had witnessed; hence, he was entitled to credence. It ruled that sufficient circumstantial evidence pointing to Magbitang as the author of the rape with homicide existed in the records considering his being the last person seen with AAA; that he had admitted leaving the drinking session at the party around 4:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m., thereby substantiating CCC's testimony; and that AAA's lifeless body had been found at the back of his house.

CA. Affirmed



1. Whether CCC is a competent witness; and

2. Whether RTC and CA convicted the accused based on circumstantial evidence



1. Yes. Under the Rules of Court, a child may be a competent witness, unless the trial court determines upon proper showing that the child's mental maturity is such as to render him incapable of perceiving the facts respecting which he is to be examined and of relating the facts truthfully.13 The testimony of the child of sound mind with the capacity to perceive and make known the perception can be believed in the absence of any showing of an improper motive to testify.14 Once it is established that the child fully understands the character and nature of an oath, the testimony is given full credence.15 In the case of CCC, the Defense did not persuasively discredit his worthiness and competence as a witness. As such, the Court considers the reliance by the trial court on his recollection fully justified.


2. No, we dismiss the argument of Magbitang that the trial court erroneously relied on circumstantial evidence to establish his criminal responsibility for the rape with homicide. The evidence of guilt against him consisted in both direct and circumstantial evidence. The direct evidence was supplied by CCC's testimony, while the circumstantial evidence corroborated CCC's testimony. Such evidence, combined, unerringly pointed to Magbitang, and to no other, as the culprit.


In this connection, it is worth reminding that circumstantial evidence is not necessarily weaker in persuasive quality than direct evidence. As the Court said in People v. Villaflores:

We have often conceded the difficulty of proving the commission of rape when only the victim is left to testify on the circumstances of its commission. The difficulty heightens and complicates when the crime is rape with homicide, because there may usually be no living witnesses if the rape victim is herself killed. Yet, the situation is not always hopeless for the State, for the Rules of Court also allows circumstantial evidence to establish the commission of the crime as well as the identity of the culprit. Direct evidence proves a fact in issue directly without any reasoning or inferences being drawn on the part of the factfinder; in contrast, circumstantial evidence indirectly proves a fact in issue, such that the factfinder must draw an inference or reason from circumstantial evidence. To be clear, then, circumstantial evidence may be resorted to when to insist on direct testimony would ultimately lead to setting a felon free.

The Rules of Court makes no distinction between direct evidence of a fact and evidence of circumstances from which the existence of a fact may be inferred; hence, no greater degree of certainty is required when the evidence is circumstantial than when it is direct. In either case, the trier of fact must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused. Nor has the quantity of circumstances sufficient to convict an accused been fixed as to be reduced into some definite standard to be followed in every instance. Thus, the Court said in People v. Modesto;


The standard postulated by this Court in the appreciation of circumstantial evidence is well set out in the following passage from People vs. Ludday: "No general rule can be laid down as to the quantity of circumstantial evidence which in any case will suffice. All the circumstances proved must be consistent with each other, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty, and at the same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent, and with every other rational hypothesis except that of guilt."


WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the conviction of EDISON C. MAGBITANG for rape with homicide.

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