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RESSEL A. NALOGON MS. KAREN KENNETH B.

BONOTAN

BS-CRIM3 FEBRUARY 8, 2012

ARSON CASE
(People of the Philippines vs. Joel P. Gonzales, JR.) SECOND DIVISION JOEL P. GONZALES, JR., Petitioner, G.R. No. 159950 Present: - versus QUISUMBING, J., Chairperson, CARPIO, CARPIO MORALES, TINGA, and VELASCO, JR., JJ. Promulgated: February 12, 2007 x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x DECISION QUISUMBING, J.: For review on certiorari is the Decision1[1] dated March 11, 2003 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 22157, affirming the guilty verdict against petitioner for arson by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 97. Petitioner Joel P. Gonzales, Jr.2[2] was charged in an Information3[3] dated July 24, 1997, which read as follows: That on or about the 26th day of June, 1997, in Quezon City, Philippines, the said accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, feloniously and deliberately set fire to an inhabited place, to wit: a two-storey residential building which [was] partitioned into dwellings rented out to tenants, owned and occupied likewise by CARLOS C. CANLAS, located at No. 120 corner Halcon and Simon Streets, Brgy. San Isidro Labrador, La Loma, Quezon City, thereby setting said residential building into flames and razing it including other properties; and that the properties that were burned with their corresponding owners and value were as follows: 1. The residential building and other property owned by Carlos C. Canlas valued at . . . .P3,000,000.00 2. Property of Nicasio M. de Jesus valued at . . . 800,000.00 3. Property of Andres V. Villaflor valued at . . . 350,000.00 4. Property of Gloria V. Lacasandile valued at. . . 350,000.00 5. Property of Carmen B. Principio valued at . . . 300,000.00 6. Property of Dante L. Buri valued at . . . . . . 185,000.00 7. Property of Francis F. Simpao valued at . . . . 170,000.00 8. Property of Luisito C. Abonita valued at . . . . 150,000.00 9. Property of Miraflor Saldi Manuel valued at . . 100,000.00 10. Property of Estrella C. Villaflor valued at . . 60,000.00 with the total of FIVE MILLION, FOUR HUNDRED SIXTY FIVE THOUSAND (P5,465,000.00), all belonging to the aforesaid persons, to the damage and prejudice of said owners in the aforesaid amount of P5,465,000.00, Philippine Currency. CONTRARY TO LAW.
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THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

On arraignment, the petitioner pleaded not guilty. At the ensuing trial, the prosecution presented eyewitness Carlos C. Canlas, owner of the two-storey building in the corner of Halcon Street and Simon Street, Brgy. San Isidro Labrador, La Loma, Quezon City. He testified that at about 9:30 p.m. on June 26, 1997, he was watching television in his room when his daughter called his attention to check the commotion in an adjacent room. On his way to the room rented by Gonzales, he smelled gas. He saw Gonzales ignite a flame and throw it on a pile of clothes in the middle of the living room where Gonzales had also placed an M-Gas liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tank. Fire quickly spread to the other parts of the building. The prosecution also presented two tenants, Andres V. Villaflor and Francis F. Simpao, as witnesses. Villaflor testified that he heard Gonzales and his aunt quarreling before the fire. He said he heard Gonzales yell Susunugin ko itong bahay na ito! Alarmed, he went to the Barangay Hall to report the incident but immediately went back to his place when someone informed him his house was on fire. Simpao testified that he saw the fire coming from Gonzaless room. He added that Gonzales was laughing while the building was burning. After the fire was extinguished, the aunt of Gonzales told Simpao that her nephew was to blame. The testimonies were corroborated by Police Officer Alejandro Mendoza, who testified that when he and his fellow officer arrived at the crime scene, Gonzales admitted responsibility for the fire. Gonzales presented a different story. He averred that the fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring. He testified that he was napping inside his room when he was awakened by heat beside his bed. The room was on fire. He shouted for help and Canlas tried to help him but they failed to extinguish it. Gonzales denied he and his aunt were quarreling that evening before the fire started. As his aunt was partly deaf, he said he had to speak in a loud voice. He averred that he merely asked his aunt to buy food because they ran out of MGas LPG. Gonzales said that when he met PO1 Mendoza, he explained that he noticed the fire had started in his room. He sought police protection from his neighbors who accused him of starting it. The defense presented as exhibit the Physical Science Report4[4] prepared by Police Inspector Grace M. Eustaquio showing that the ashes obtained from the burnt premises were negative of any flammable substance. On May 28, 1998, the RTC of Quezon City, Branch 97 rendered a decision convicting Joel P. Gonzales, Jr. of arson, as follows: WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime charged and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment for twelve (12) years of Prision Mayor, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months of Reclusion Temporal as maximum, with full credit for the entire period of preventive imprisonment provided he is qualified therefore (sic) according to Art. 29 of the Revised Penal Code. Civil liability not having been proved, the Court cannot grant the same and can only award nominal damages in the amount of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) each to the private complainants who testified, namely, Carlos Canlas, Andres Villaflor and Francis Simpao. SO ORDERED.5[5] Gonzales appealed, but the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts decision. In its Decision dated March 11, 2003, the Court of Appeals held that the denial of Gonzales cannot prevail over the positive identification of a witness. The Court of Appeals also held that the prosecution established circumstantial evidence sufficient to support the conviction of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. The Court of Appeals noted that although there were discrepancies in the testimony of Canlas and his affidavits, the discrepancies did not necessarily discredit him because affidavits taken ex parte are generally considered to be inferior to the testimony given in open court. Moreover, the Court of Appeals held that the alleged discrepancies pertain to minor matters which negated any suspicion that the testimony was perjured and rehearsed. Gonzales moved for reconsideration but it was denied. Hence, petitioner now raises the following issues for this Courts consideration: I WHETHER THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED CORRECTLY IN CONCLUDING THAT THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED NO SERIOUS REVERSIBLE ERROR OR GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN ITS APPLICATION OF THE PERTINENT RULE AND JURISPRUDENCE WHERE THERE ARE MATERIAL DISCREPANCIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES STATEMENTS MADE IN THEIR AFFIDAVITS AND THOSE TESTIMONIES GIVEN ON THE WITNESS STAND;
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II WHETHER UPON THE AFORESTATED GIVEN SET OF FACTS, THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ACTED CORRECTLY IN AFFIRMING THE TRIAL COURTS JUDGMENT OF CONVICTION FINDING PETITIONER GUILTY OF THE CHARGE OF ARSON.6[6]

Stated simply, in our view, the main issue is whether the discrepancies in the affidavit and the court testimonies of a witness are sufficient to exculpate Gonzales of the crime of arson. Petitioner argues that the trial court and the appellate court erred in giving credence to the testimony of prosecution witness Canlas. He claims that the sworn statements of Canlas before the investigating officer of the fire department on June 27, 1997 and before the city prosecutor of Quezon City on July 17, 1997, were inconsistent. Further, petitioner adds that Canlas had testified that he saw petitioner start the fire, but Canlass testimony on this point was made only for the first time in court. Petitioner points out that in the two prior sworn statements of Canlas, he made no mention of seeing petitioner start the fire. This discrepancy is a material point that ought to cast doubt on the credibility of Canlas. He cites People v. Salik Magonawal,7[7] where the material discrepancies between the court testimony and prior statements of a witness at a preliminary investigation made the testimony incredible. Petitioner seeks to discredit the testimonies of the other prosecution witnesses for being self-serving and illmotivated. He avers that both the trial court and the appellate court failed to consider the Physical Science Report which stated that no flammable substance was found in the specimen ashes. Finally, petitioner claims that although he had in the past threatened to burn the house, he never really meant it. In its comment, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) maintains that the findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals should stand because their findings are well supported by the records. The OSG contends that the discrepancies in the testimonies of the witnesses and their sworn statements were not substantial to warrant a review of the findings of fact of the trial court. The OSG asserts that the testimony of Canlas in court clarified, corroborated and complemented his affidavit. Likewise, the testimony of the other prosecution witnesses corroborated Canlass testimony. The OSG rebuts petitioners dependence on the case of People v. Acosta,8[8] where the court held that evidence that one did or did not do a certain thing at one time is not admissible to prove that he did or did not do the same or similar thing at another time, but, it may be received to prove a specific intent or knowledge, identity, plan, system, habit, custom or usage. After thoroughly considering the submissions including testimonies and exhibits presented by the parties, we hold that the instant petition lacks merit. The arson committed in the instant case involving an inhabited house or dwelling is covered by Section 3(2) of Presidential Decree No. 1613.9[9] In the prosecution for arson, proof of the crime charged is complete where the evidence establishes: (1) the corpus delicti, that is, a fire because of criminal agency; and (2) the identity of the defendant as the one responsible for the crime. In arson, the corpus delicti rule is satisfied by proof of the bare fact of the fire and of it having been intentionally caused. Even the uncorroborated testimony of a single eyewitness, if credible, is enough to prove the corpus delicti and to warrant conviction.10[10] When these are present, the only issue is the credibility of the witness. Whenever there is inconsistency between the affidavit and the testimony of a witness in court, the testimony commands greater weight considering that affidavits taken ex parte are inferior to testimony in court, the former being almost invariably incomplete and oftentimes inaccurate,11[11] sometimes from partial suggestions and sometimes from want of suggestions and inquiries, without the aid of which the witness may be unable to recall the connected circumstances necessary for his accurate recollection of the subject.12[12] In this case, the eyewitness positively identified Gonzales as the culprit who caused the fire. Both the trial and appellate courts found the testimony of eyewitness Canlas credible. As a general rule, when the findings of both courts are in agreement, this Court will not reverse their findings of fact.

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Furthermore, in our view, the findings of the Physical Science Report is a negative evidence and taken together with the bare denial of petitioner, supported only with testimonies of relatives, constitute inferior evidence as against the circumstantial evidence coupled with the positive identification of the accused as the perpetrator of the offense by a credible witness. On the damages, we have consistently held that proof is required to determine the reasonable amount of damages that may be awarded to the victims of conflagration. As a rule, therefore, actual or compensatory damages must be proved and not merely alleged.13[13] The records do not show concrete proof of the amount of actual damages suffered by each complaining witness. Thus, we cannot grant actual damages. However, we may award nominal and temperate damages. The assessment of nominal damages is left to the discretion of the trial court according to the circumstances of the case. Generally, nominal damages by their nature are small sums fixed by the court without regard to the extent of the harm done to the injured party. However, it is generally held that a nominal damage is a substantial claim, if based upon the violation of a legal right; in such a case, the law presumes damage although actual or compensatory damages are not proven. In truth, nominal damages are damages in name only and not in fact, and are allowed, not as an equivalent of wrong inflicted, but simply in recognition of the existence of a technical injury.14[14] Now, temperate damages may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot from the nature of the case be proved with certainty. 15[15] Under the circumstances, we find it reasonable to award Canlas with P500,000 temperate damages, and to the other complaining witnesses, Simpao and Villaflor, the amount of P100,000 as temperate damages each. In addition, exemplary or corrective damages should be awarded as a way to emphasize that any future conduct of this nature is condemned so as to correct the anti-social behavior that is deleterious in its consequences.16[16] Thus, Canlas and the other complaining witnesses, Simpao and Villaflor, should be awarded P50,000 each as exemplary damages. Concerning the penalty to be imposed, Section 3(2) of P.D. No. 1613 prescribes the penalty of reclusion temporal to reclusion perpetua. But there being no mitigating or aggravating circumstances, the penalty should be imposed in its medium period. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum prison term should be within the range of six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years of prision mayor and the maximum, twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal. Hence, the penalty imposed by the trial court on the accused ought to be modified correspondingly. WHEREFORE, the Decision dated March 11, 2003 of the Court of Appeals sustaining the conviction by the RTC finding the accused-petitioner guilty of the crime of arson of an inhabited dwelling is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS. He is hereby sentenced to the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of nine (9) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum, to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal as maximum, with full credit for the entire period of preventive imprisonment provided he is qualified therefor according to Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code. As to his civil liability, he is ordered to pay temperate damages in the amount of P500,000 to Carlos C. Canlas, the owner of the burnt premises, and P100,000 each to Francis F. Simpao and Andres V. Villaflor, together with exemplary damages of P50,000 to each of them. N pronouncement as to costs.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila

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THIRD DIVISION G.R. Nos. 100456-59 September 10, 1993 PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. CELSO AMADOR, RESTY AMADOR and FELIPE ROBLES, accused. CELSO AMADOR, appellant. The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee. Zoilo C. Cruzat for appellant Celso Amador. MELO, J.: This has reference to an appeal from the decision of Branch 49 of the Regional Trial Court of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City, Fourth Judicial Region, dated August 22, 1990. Accused were charged in Criminal Cases No. 6764, No. 6765, No. 6766, and No. 6776 with the crimes of destructive arson, frustrated murder, and murder in separate informations, reading an follows: Criminal Case No. 6764; That on or about the 8th day of January, 1987, in the evening at Sitio Limbasan, Barangay Ipilan, Municipality of Brooke's Point, Province of Palawan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court the aboved-named accused conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping one another with evident premeditation and treachery and with intent to kill, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab with a bladed weapon, to wit: a knife, one Flora Erader, hitting her in various vital parts of her body and inflicting upon her injuries which would ordinarily cause her death thus performing all the acts of execution which would have produced the crime of murder as a consequence but nevertheless did not produce it by reason of causes independent of the will of all the accused, that is by the timely and able medical assistance rendered to Flora Erader which prevented her death. CONTRARY TO LAW and in violation of Article 248 in relation to Article 50 of the Revised Penal Code an amended. Criminal Case No. 6765; That on or about the 8th day of January, 1987 at Sitio Limbasan, Barangay Ipilan, Municipality of Brooke's Point, Province of Palawan, Philippines, and within the Jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping one another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously set fire to the house of one JORGE IRADER, thereby causing complete destruction to the said house and personal belongings therein in the total amount of THIRTY THOUSAND (P30,000.00) PESOS, Philippine Currency, to the damage and prejudice of said JORGE IRADER in the aforesaid amount. CONTRARY TO LAW and in violation of Article 320 of the Revised Penal Code. Criminal Case No. 6766; and That on or about the 8th day of January, 1987 at Sitio Limbasan, Barangay Ipilan, Municipality of Brooke's point, Province of Palawan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating together and mutually helping one another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously set fire to the house of one TEOFILO BANCAIREN, thereby causing complete destruction to the said house and personal belongings therein in the total amount of FIFTY THOUSAND (P50,000.00) PESOS, Philippine Currency, to the damage and prejudice of said Teofilo Bancairen in the aforesaid amount. CONTRARY TO LAW and in violation of Article 320 of the Revised Penal Code. Criminal Case No. 6776. That on or about the 8th day of January, 1987 at Sitio Limbasan, Barangay Ipilan, Municipality of Brooke's Point, Province of Palawan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, tho above-named accused, conspiring and confederating together and mutually assisting one another, with evident premeditation and treachery, armed with bladed weapon, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab one DANIEL ANDRADE, hitting him in the various vital parts of his body and inflicting upon him multiple injuries which were the direct and immediate cause of his death shortly thereafter. CONTRARY TO LAW and in violation of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code. (pp. 66-67, Rollo) Upon arraignment, the accused entered a plea of not guilty. The four cases were tried jointly. On August 22, 1990, the trial court rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court renders judgment in Criminal Case No. 6764 finding Resty Amador guilty of the crime of FRUSTRATED MURDER as defined and penalized under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code as principal by direct participation without mitigating circumstances, and sentences him to suffer imprisonment of from FOUR (4) YEARS, TWO (2) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY of PRISION

CORRECCIONAL to TEN (10) YEARS OF PRISION MAYOR with all its accessory penalties, and to indemnify Flora Irader the sum of Eight Thousand (P8,000.00) Pesos in actual damages. Celso Amador and Felipe Robles are acquitted of the charge of Frustrated Murder. In Criminal Case No. 6776, the Court finds Resty Amador guilty of the crime of MURDER, as defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as principal by direct participation without mitigating circumstances and sentences him to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA, with all its accessory penalties, and to indemnify the heirs of Daniel Andrade the amount of Thirty Thousand (P30,000.00) Pesos for the death of the deceased; Six Thousand Seventy-Nine (P6,079.00) Pesos for funeral and other incidental expenses; Ten Thousand (P10,000.00) Pesos as moral damages and Ten Thousand (P10,000.00) Pesos as exemplary damages. Celso Amador and Felipe Robles are acquitted of the charge of Murder for insufficiency of evidence. In Criminal Cases Nos. 6765 and 6766, the Court finds all three accused guilty of the crime of DESTRUCTIVE ARSON as defined and penalized under Article 320 of the Revised Penal Code as amended, and sentences them to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA on two (2) counts, with all its accessory penalties, and to indemnify Teofilo Bancairen the amount of Five Thousand (P5,000.00) Pesos and Jorge Irader, the amount of Thirty Thousand (P30,000.00) Pesos as actual damages and to pay the costs. (p. 81, Rollo) Atty. Zoilo C. Cruzat filed a notice of appeal for accused Celso Amador and Felipe Robles, while no appeal was interposed by the other accused, Resty Amador. A brief was thereafter filed by Atty. Cruzat only for Celso Amador, for which reason a resolution was issued by this Court on July 14, 1993 requiring him to show cause why he failed to file a brief for Felipe Robles and to forthwith file said brief (p. 127, Rollo). In compliance therewith, Atty. Cruzat filed a Manifestation stating, among other things, that Felipe Robles had escaped during the trial below. Consequently, we issued a resolution on August 25, 1993, to the effect that the appeal of Felipe Robles is dismissed. Withal, this decision shall deal only with appeal of Celso Amador who assigned the following alleged errors: I. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN GIVING CREDIT TO THE TESTIMONY OF PROSECUTION WITNESSES NAMELY: RODRIGO REVILLO AND ORESTES FERNANDO AND IN NOT GIVING CREDIT TO THE TESTIMONIES OF THE DEFENSE. II. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN DECLARING THAT APPELLANT AMONG WITH FELIPE ROBLES WERE POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED BY THE SAID PROSECUTION WITNESSES. III. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT CONSPIRACY AMONG THE ACCUSED WAS DULY ESTABLISHED. IV. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE APPELLANT MERELY BECAUSE, AS APPELLANT BELIEVES, HE OFFERED THE DEFENSE OF ALIBI. (p. 1, Appellant's Brief, p. 99, Rollo) The facts of the same with respect to Criminal Cases No. 6765 and No. 6766, destructive arson, as established by the evidence of record, are as follows: On the night of January 8, 1987, at around 7 o'clock, Rodrigo Revillo was walking home from his farm. When he was about twenty meters away from the house of Teofilo Bancairen, which was along his route, Revillo saw three men, Resty Amador, Felipe Robles, and accused-appellant Celso Amador, setting fire to the house of Bancairen. The three were all known to Revillo. Revillo saw Resty Amador enter the house and bring out a lighted gas lamp. Resty set fire to the cogon grass roof. Then Resty Amador gave the lamp to Robles who poured gas on the wall of the house and lit it. Robles passed on the lamp to Celso Amador who likewise poured gas on another side of the house and set it on fire. Revillo then shouted, "Why did you burn that house?" Without, waiting for an answer and before the house completely burn down, Revillo ran away. Also, at around 7 o'clock that same night, Orestes Fernando while around fifty meters away from Bancairen's house saw Celso Amador and Felipe Robles setting fire to Bancairen's house with a torch. Resty Amador was with Celso Amador and Felipe Robles. Although Fernando did not see Resty Amador participate in setting fire to the house, Resty Amador admitted during the trial that he took part in burning Bancairen's house. Thereafter, Resty Amador, Celso Amador, and Felipe Robles went to the house of Jorge Irader, some 300 meters away from the house of Bancairen, and set Irader's house on fire. The burning of Irader's house was witnessed by Fernando who was around 30 meters away. Accused-appellant assails the testimony of prosecution witnesses Rodrigo Revillo and Orestes Fernando, contending that the testimony of said witnesses is not worthy of belief. Revillo testified that his house is around one kilometer away from the house of Bancairen and that his farm is approximately 1/2 kilometer from his house, and that in going to his farm from his house or vice-versa, he passes by the house of Bancairen. Accused-appellant claims that from said testimony "it could be concluded that his farm is situated between the house of Teofilo Bancairen and his house", and "hence whom he claimed to be walking his way to his house, it means that he was walking away from the house of Teofilo Bancairen and it is impossible for him, while on that process, to come near at a distance of 20 meters from the house of Teofilo Bancairen." (pp. 12-13, Appellant's Brief.) We are not impressed by such argument. Revillo testified that he had to pass by Bancairen's house in going to his farm. Thus on his way to his house from his farm, he chanced upon the three accused setting fire to the house of Bancairen.

Accused-appellant further derides the testimony of Revillo that after accused Felipe Robles received from Resty Amador the gas lamp and removed its cover and poured gas on the wall of the house of Bancairen he handed it over to Celso Amador who again removed the cover and poured gas on the other side of the house. Accused-appellant asks rhetorically, "How could Celso Amador removed the cover of the gas lamp when it was already removed by Felipe Robles? How could Celso Amador pour the gas on the other side of the wall when the same was already poured by Felipe Robles?" (pp. 13-14, Appellant's Brief.) We fail to apprehend anything wrong or illogical in the narration of witness Revillo. Felipe Robles must have recapped the lamp so that the gas would not needlessly spill and he must have left more gas for Celso Amador and Felipe Robles to pour on tho other side of the house. Further, accused-appellant would cast doubt on the testimony of Revillo that he recognized the three accused from a distance of 20 meters at night when the only light came from the gas lamp. It bears emphasis that Revillo was familiar with the malefactors, including accused-appellant, having known them for quite sometime and having worked with them at one time or another doing farm work. Then too, there was sufficient light to enable witness Revillo to recognize the accused, for other than the light from the gas lamp, there was a moon that night, shining with sufficient brightness, and the flames of a burning house were even brighter. Verily, the flames alone of a gas lamp are bright enough for identification (People vs. Almenario, 172 SCRA 268 [1989]). Where conditions of visibility are favorable and the witness does not appear to be biased against the man on the dock, his or her assertion as to the identity of the malefactor should normally be accepted (People vs. Espejo, 186 SCRA 627 [1990]). We, therefore, hold that under the circumstances of the case, the identification of the accused by witness Revillo is credible and reliable. Accused-appellant points out what he calls a glaring inconsistency between the testimony of witness Revillo and that of witness Orestes Fernando in that while Revillo testified that accused-appellant set fire to the house of Bancairen by means of a gas lamp, Fernando testified that he saw accused-appellant set fire to the house of Bancairen using a torch. It must be noted that Revillo was only 20 meters away from the three accused persons when they set on fire the house of Bancairen, while Fernando was about 50 meters away. At that distance, Fernando could have mistaken the gas lamp for a torch. The essential fact elicited from the testimony of said witnesses is that they positively identified the three accused as the perpetrators of the arson. Another circumstance which accused-appellant raises to discredit the testimony of Revillo and Fernando is Fernando's testimony that he did not hear Revillo shout at the accused while they were burning Bancairen's house. Such argument, however, fails to consider the circumstance that Revillo was 20 meters from the house of Bancairen while Fernando was 50 meters away, giving us a situation wherein 70 meters separated Revillo and Fernando. At that distance it would not be surprising for Fernando not to hear Revillo shouting. The noise of the crackling flames would have also added to stifling the shout of Revillo. It bears emphasis that Revillo and Fernando are disinterested witnesses and not a shred of evidence appears on record that they are suborned witnesses. Accused-appellant Celso Amador himself admitted on the witness stand that he holds no grudge against Revillo. Their testimony, therefore, must be accorded full faith and credence. Finally, accused-appellant Celso Amador interposes the defense of alibi in his bid for acquittal. He testified that at the time of the commission of the crime he was fast asleep in his room with his wife and that he did not leave his room after going to bed, until the next morning. Alibi is one of the weakest defenses that can be resorted to by an accused, especially where there is direct testimony of an eyewitness duly corroborated by that of another, not only because it is inherently weak and unreliable but also because of the ease of its fabrication and the difficulty of checking or rebutting it (People vs. Bagasala, 39 SCRA 236 [1971]; People vs. Cornelio, 39 SCRA 435 [1971]. Alibi to be believed must be supported by the physical impossibility of the accused to have been at the scene of the crime (People vs. Brioso, 37 SCRA 336 [1971]). Accused-appellant Celso Amador's house was only 2 kilometers, more or less, from the vicinity of the crimes, and it was, thus, not physically impossible for him to have been present at the scene of the crimes at the time they were committed and thereafter return home, appearing as innocent as a child. Moreover, the defense of alibi cannot prevail over positive testimony of witnesses (People vs. Mercado, 38 SCRA 168 [1971]). Celso Amador's defense of alibi cannot prevail over the positive testimony of Revillo and Fernando that he was one of the perpetrators in the burning of the houses of Bancairen and Jorge Irader. Accused-appellant, of course, maintains that because his alibi was sustained by the trial court when he was acquitted in Criminal Case No. 6764 (Frustrated Murder) and Criminal Case No. 6776 (Murder), it should likewise be given credit in the arson cases. A scrutiny of the appealed decision does not support this contention. The acquittal in the murder and frustrated murder cases was due to the prosecution's failure to present proof beyond reasonable doubt on accused-appellant's participation in said crimes. The trial court merely stated that "as to the allegations of Flora Irader and Daniel Manlapig that Celso Amador and Felipe Robles were present during the stabbing, the Court entertained doubt an to the "truthfulness of their declarations." The court did not accept accused-appellant's alibi as true. Moreover, the conviction of accused-appellant for arson, is based on the testimony of Revillo and Fernando, and not on the testimony of Irader and Manlapig. Finally, it is contended that the prosecution failed to establish that there was conspiracy among the accused. This contention is a superfluity. Nowhere in the appealed decision did the trial court make any finding that there was conspiracy among the accused. There is no necessity to make a finding of conspiracy to convict all the accused of the crime of arson. There is copious evidence on record to show that each accused committed arson by direct participation. The evidence clearly shows that each accused committed the overt acts of arson. As above narrated, each accused set fire to the houses of Bancairen and Jorge Irader. Independent of the acts of his co-accused, accused-appellant's own overt acts constituted arson. WHEREFORE, the decision appealed from is hereby affirmed in toto. SO ORDERED. Bidin, Romero and Vitug, JJ., concur. Feliciano, J., is on leave.