Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Conspiracy - G.R. No. 178771

G.R. No. 178771



Under Article 8 of the Revised Penal Code, there is conspiracy when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning a felony and decide to commit it. It may be inferred from the acts of the accused before, during or after the commission of the crime which, when taken together, would be enough to reveal a community of criminal design, as the proof of conspiracy is frequently made by evidence of a chain of circumstances.[13] To be a conspirator, one need not participate in every detail of the execution; he need not even take part in every act or need not even know the exact part to be performed by the others in the execution of the conspiracy. Each conspirator may be assigned separate and different tasks which may appear unrelated to one another but, in fact, constitute a whole collective effort to achieve their common criminal objective. Once conspiracy is shown, the act of one is the act of all the conspirators. The precise extent or modality of participation of each of them becomes secondary, since all the conspirators are principals.[14]

In the present case, prior to the commission of the crime, the group met at the landing field in Carmen, Pangasinan and discussed their plan to rob the house of the Estrellas with the agreement that whoever comes their way will be eliminated.[15] Appellant Al served as a lookout by posting himself across the house of the Estrellas with the task of reporting any movements outside. Fred then climbed the old unserviceable gate of the Estrella compound and then opened the small door and the rest of the group entered the house of the Estrellas through that opening.[16] After almost an hour inside the house, they left on board a vehicle with AAA and Sulpacio. AAA and Sulpacio were brought to Sitio Rosalia, Brgy. San Bartolome, Rosales, Pangasinan. In that place, Sulpacio was killed and AAA was brought to another place and deprived of her liberty. These circumstances establish a community of criminal design between the malefactors in committing the crime. Clearly, the group conspired to rob the house of the Estrellas and kill any person who comes their way. The killing of Sulpacio was part of their conspiracy. Further, Dick's act of arming himself with a gun constitutes direct evidence of a deliberate plan to kill should the need arise.

Appellant Al attempts to evade criminal liability by alleging that he was only forced to participate in the commission of the crime because he and his family were threatened to be killed. Al's defense fails to impress us. Under Article 12[17] of the Revised Penal Code, a person is exempt from criminal liability if he acts under the compulsion of an irresistible force, or under the impulse of an uncontrollable fear of equal or greater injury, because such person does not act with freedom.[18] To avail of this exempting circumstance, the evidence must establish: (1) the existence of an uncontrollable fear; (2) that the fear must be real and imminent; and (3) the fear of an injury is greater than, or at least equal to, that committed.[19] For such defense to prosper, the duress, force, fear or intimidation must be present, imminent and impending, and of such nature as to induce a well-grounded apprehension of death or serious bodily harm if the act be done. A threat of future injury is not enough.[20]

There is nothing in the records to substantiate appellant Al's insistence that he was under duress from his co-accused while participating in the crime that would suffice to exempt him from incurring criminal liability. The evidence shows that Al was tasked to act as a lookout and directed to station himself across the house of the Estrellas. Al was there from 7:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.[21] of the following day, while the rest of the group was waiting in the landing field. Thus, while all alone, Al had every opportunity to escape since he was no longer subjected to a real, imminent or reasonable fear. However, he opted to stay across the house of the Estrellas for almost six (6) hours,[22] and thereafter returned to the landing field where the group was waiting for his report. Subsequently, the group proceeded to the Estrellas’ house. When the group entered the house, Al stayed for almost one (1) hour outside to wait for his companions. Later, when the group left the house aboard a vehicle, Al rode with them in going to Sitio Rosalia, Brgy. San Bartolome, Rosales, Pangasinan, bringing with them Sulpacio and AAA.[23] Clearly, appellant Al had ample opportunity to escape if he wished to, but he never did. Neither did he request for assistance from the authorities or any person passing by the house of the Estrellas during the period he was stationed there. Clearly, Al did not make any effort to perform an overt act to dissociate or detach himself from the conspiracy to commit the felony and prevent the commission thereof that would exempt himself from criminal liability.[24] Therefore, it is obvious that he willingly agreed to be a part of the conspiracy.

x x x."