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SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 200954. October 14, 2015.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plainti-appellee, vs.


SAGUITARIO LUMINDA, accused-appellant, AND ERMELITO
ANGEL, RELITO ANGEL, DIODERIO HINGANAN, ERMITO
ANGEL, NOLI DE LA SERNA, BUGOY DAWAT & SEVERAL JOHN
DOES, accused.

NOTICE

Sirs/Mesdames :
Please take notice that the Court, Second Division, issued a Resolution
dated 14 October 2015 which reads as follows:
"G.R. No. 200954 PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plainti-
appellee, v. SAGUITARIO LUMINDA, accused-appellant, AND ERMELITO
ANGEL, RELITO ANGEL, DIODERIO HINGANAN, ERMITO ANGEL, NOLI
DE LA SERNA, BUGOY DAWAT & SEVERAL JOHN DOES, accused. We
resolve the appeal of accused-appellant Saquitario Luminda (Luminda)
assailing the August 17, 2011 decisions 1 of the Court of Appeals ( CA),
docketed as CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 00804-MIN. The CA decision armed in toto
the January 06, 2010 Judgment 2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 11,
Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, nding Luminda guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
the crime of Arson, penalized under Art. 320 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC),
as amended by R.A. No. 7659.
The Case
The prosecution's evidence showed that at around 7:00 A.M. on March
19, 2004, a group of armed men surrounded the house of Renata Sulatan;
red their guns at the house; and provoked Jerry Martin Tamsi (Tamsi), a
security guard, to come out; otherwise they would burn a Mitsubishi Pajero,
with Plate No. CSU 623, registered to Christina Aberasturi. Luminda was part
of the group who were shouting "Tamsi get out" and "we will burn the Pajero."
Thereafter, Relito Angel poured gasoline around the Mitsubishi Pajero and lit it
up with a lighter. They car was engulfed in ames which spread to the house
nearby of Atong Lantong, particularly burning its fascia boards and electric
wirings.
The prosecution charged Luminda and his companions with the crime of
arson under Art. 320 of the RPC, as amended. Luminda pleaded not guilty at
his arraignment. During the trial, he raised the defenses of alibi and denial. He
testied that he was shelling corn inside his house on the morning of March
19, 2004.
In its January 6, 2010 judgment, the RTC found Luminda guilty of the
crime of destructive arson committed by a group. The RTC held, among others,
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that Luminda committed destructive arson because it was perpetrated by two
(2) or more persons or by a group of persons. It found credible the
eyewitnesses' positive identication of Luminda as one of the men who were
around when the Mitsubishi Pajero was torched. It also characterized
Luminda's defense of alibi and denial as very weak, self-serving, and not
worthy of credit.
Accordingly, the RTC sentenced Luminda to suer the penalty of
reclusion perpetua, and ordered him to indemnify Christina Aberasturi
P260,000.00 as actual damages.
On appeal, the CA fully armed the ndings of the RTC that Luminda
conspired with the group as shown by his presence during the incident and his
participation in carrying out the group's common criminal design to burn the
Mitsubishi Pajero, It further held that the minor inconsistencies in the
eyewitness testimonies were too trivial and insignicant to aect their
credibility.
On September 2, 2011, Luminda led his notice of appeal, appealing the
August 17, 2011 decision of the CA. He essentially claimed that the
prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Our Ruling
We arm Luminda's conviction.
The Prosecution suciently proved
the crime of destructive arson under
Art. 320 of the RPC, as amended by
R.A. 7659.
Article 320 of the RPC considers as destructive arson the malicious
burning of structures, both public and private: hotels, buildings, edices, trains,
vessels, aircrafts, factories; and other military, government, or commercial
establishments by any person or group of persons. In arson, the corpus delicti
rule is generally satised by proof of the bare occurrence of the re and its
intentional causation. 3
In this case, Luminda's degree of perversity and viciousness essential
characteristics of destructive arson. is shown by the following: (a) he and
thirty (30) other armed persons surrounded the house of Renato Sulatan and
red at it; (b) they instigated Relito Angel to burn the Mitsubishi Pajero; and
(c) they were indierent to the resulting eects of also burning the house
nearby.
Denial and alibi cannot prevail over
positive and categorical identication.
We are not persuaded by Luminda's defense that he was at home with
his family when the burning incident happened. We note that his house was
in the same town and was near the place where the burning took place. Thus,
the element of physical impossibility to be at the scene of the crime was not
duly established.
We reiterate that Luminda was positively identied to be at the scene of
the crime by the prosecution's eyewitness, Edison Sayanan (Sayanan). A
neighbor of Luminda, Sayanan testied that he saw Luminda in the group of
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armed men calling out to Tamsi and threatening to burn the Mitsubishi Pajero.
Rubycita Belmonte, who was at the house being red at, also recognized
Luminda as one of the armed men who surrounded the house of Renato
Sulatan.
As the RTC and the CA did, we take Luminda's denial to be self-serving;
and undeserving of any credence in view of the testimonies of the eye-
witnesses and their categorical, positive, and forthright identication of him as
one of the perpetrators of the crime. His denial is an inherently weak and
negative defense and cannot prevail over his positive identication.
Existence of Conspiracy
Conspiracy exists when two or more persons agree to commit an
unlawful act. In the face of the positive identication of Luminda, it did not
matter what his participation was in the crime as all of his actions indicated
that he conspired with his companions.
We nd no merit in Luminda's argument that his mere presence, if at
all, during the burning incident does not by itself show concurrence of wills;
and utility of purpose. Assuming that he was merely present, his actions do
not exculpate him. To exempt imself from criminal liability, a conspirator must
have performed an overt act to dissociate or detach himself from the
conspiracy to commit the felony and prevent the commission thereof. 4 In his
case, Luminda did not oer any evidence that he performed an overt act to
escape from the group or to prevent the burning from taking place.
Clearly, Luminda's acts of provoking Tamsi to come out threatening to
burn the Mitsubishi Pajero, and thereafter eeing the scene of the crime with
the other perpetrators show that he was part of the criminal design and its
execution.
WHEREFORE, the August 17, 2011 decision of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 00804-MIN is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED."

Very truly yours,

MA. LOURDES C. PERFECTO


Division Clerk of Court

By:

(SGD.) TERESITA AQUINO TUAZON


Deputy Division Clerk of Court
Footnotes
*. Carpio, J., on ocial leave; Brion, J., designated as acting Chairperson, per
Special Order No. 2222 dated September 29, 2015; Peralta, J., designated as
acting Member in lieu of Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, per Special
Order No. 2223 dated September 29, 2015.
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1. Rollo, pp. 3-20; penned by Associate Justice Pamela Ann Abella Maxino, and
concurred in by Associate Justice Rodrigo F. Lim, Jr. and Associate Justice
Zenaida T. Galapate-Laguilles.

2. CA rollo, pp. 31-39; by Presiding Judge Jose U. Yamut, Sr.


3. People v. Gutierrez, G.R. No. 100699, July 05, 1996, 258 SCRA 70, 76. see:
MORENO, PHILIPPINE LAW DICTIONARY, 3rd ed., p. 218 citing People v.
Bol, 48 O.G. 3933 (per Justice J.B.L. Reyes).

4. Quintos v. People, G.R. No. 205298, September 10, 2014, 735 SCRA 16, 32
citing People v. De Leon, 608 Phil. 701, 721 (2009).

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