Radel Gallarde was charged with the special complex crime of rape with homicide in an information, the accusatory portion reads as follows:
That on or about the 6th day of May 1997, in the evening, amidst the field located at Brgy. Trenchera, Tayug, Pangasinan, the above-named accused, and by means of force, violence and intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously have sexual intercourse with one EDITHA TALAN, a minor-10 years of age, against her will and consent, and thereafter, with intent to kill, cover the nose and mouth of the said minor resulting to her death and then bury her in the field, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of said EDITHA TALAN.
The trial court found Gallarde guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder.
- Whether or not the trial court erred in convicting him of murder in an information charging him of rape with homicide.
- Whether or not Gallarde was guilty for the death of Editha.
We sustain Gallarde’s contention that the trial court erred in convicting him of murder in an information charging him of rape with homicide. A reading of the accusatory portion of the information shows that there was no allegation of any qualifying circumstance.
Although it is true that the term “homicide” as used in special complex crime of rape with homicide is to be understood in its generic sense, and includes murder and slight physical injuries committed by reason or on the occasion of rape, it is settled in this jurisdiction that where a complex crime is charged and the evidence fails to support the charge as to one of the component offense, the accused can be convicted of the other.
In rape with homicide, in order to be convicted of murder in case the evidence fails to support the charge of rape, the qualifying circumstance must be sufficiently alleged and proved. Otherwise, it would be a denial of the right of the accused to be informed of the nature of the offense with which he is charged. It is fundamental that every element of the offense must be alleged in the complaint or information. The main purpose of requiring the various elements of a crime to be set out in an information is to enable the accused to suitably prepare his defense. He is presumed to have no independent knowledge of the facts that constitute the offense.
In the absence then in the information of an allegation of any qualifying circumstance, Gallarde cannot be convicted of murder. An accused cannot be convicted of an offense higher than that with which he is charged in the complaint or information under which he is tried. It matters not how conclusive and convincing the evidence of guilt may be, but an accused cannot be convicted of any offense, unless it is charged in the complaint or information for which he is tried, or is necessarily included in that which is charged. He has a right to be informed of the nature of the offense with which he is charged before he is put on trial. To convict an accused of a higher offense than that charged in the complaint or information under which he is tried would be an unauthorized denial of that right.
Nevertheless, we agree with the trial court that the evidence for the prosecution, although circumstantial, was sufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of Gallarde for the death of Editha.
Direct evidence of the commission of a crime is not the only matrix wherefrom a trial court may draw its conclusion and finding of guilt. The prosecution is not always tasked to present direct evidence to sustain a judgment of conviction; the absence of direct evidence does not necessarily absolve an accused from any criminal liability.
Even in the absence of direct evidence, conviction can be had on the basis of circumstantial evidence, provided that the established circumstances constitute an unbroken chain which leads one to one fair and reasonable conclusion which points to the accused, to the exclusion of all others, as the guilty person, i.e., 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 any other hypothesis except that of guilty.
The rules on evidence and precedents sustain the conviction of an accused through circumstantial evidence, as long as the following requisites are present:
(1) there must be more than one circumstance;
(2) the inference must be based on proven facts; and
(3) the combination of all circumstances produces a conviction beyond doubt of the guilt of the accused.
We cannot sustain the contention of Gallarde that he was not positively identified as the assailant since there was no eyewitness to the actual commission of the crime. It does not follow that although nobody saw Gallarde in the act of killing Editha, nobody can be said to have positively identified him. Positive identification pertains essentially to proof of identity and not per se to that of being an eyewitness to the very act of commission of the crime.
As discussed above, the circumstantial evidence as established by the prosecution in this case and enumerated by the trial court positively established the identity of Gallarde, and no one else, as the person who killed Editha.
Homicide, which we find to be the only crime committed by Gallarde, is defined in Article 249 of the RPC and is punished with reclusion temporal. In the absence of any modifying circumstance, it shall be imposed in its medium period.