Tuesday, February 21, 2012

People vs. Hamton [G.R. Nos. 134823-25]

Facts: Teofilo Garcia and his wife Leonida were the sole distributors of Singer sewing machines registered under “Garmer Industrial Sewing Machines” located at Shaw, Mandaluyong. On March 8, 1994, two armed men, later identified as Jun Notarte and Reynaldo Yambot, entered the office and announced a hold-up, taking with them P2,000.00 in cash along with Teofilo. In the car were two other men, later identified as herein appellant Arnold Lopez and Arthur Pangilinan. Teofilo was brought to a house where he was confined in a room with no windows chained to an iron grill. Three or four persons guarded him. Calls were made to Leonida in exchange of Teofilo of which, was agreed upon, through consequent negotiations, a final value of 1.2 Million pesos. Arnold Lopez, identified as Adan Manalo, set up an arrangement for the transaction. While husband was abducted, Antonio Hamton, with the knowledge of the situation, at the same time that appellant was negotiating with Leonida for the ransom money, was also calling up, pretending to be her husband's kidnapper and was able to extort 50,000 pesos from the latter. Leonida sought PACC’s help. Rendezvous with kidnappers was set and upon conformation with instructions fled with the money. PACC chased the kidnappers and was able to detain three of four of the accused while Notarte had escaped. Accused were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the offenses of Kidnapping for ransom and serious illegal detention under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code. Hamton, who was found guilty of robbery, filed an appeal but later withdrew the same. Pangilinan, Lopez, and Yambot submitted individual appeal briefs assailing RTC decision. They allege that the lower court should have imposed individual penalties upon them depending on their degree of participation in the crime. 

Issue: Whether or not conspiracy existed between the herein respondents. 

Held: In the case at bar, as the trial court correctly held, conspiracy may be deduced from the appellants' acts that show concerted action and community of interest. If it can be proven that two (2) or more persons aimed their acts toward the accomplishment of the same unlawful object — so that their acts, though apparently independent, were in fact connected and cooperative, indicating closeness of personal association and concurrence of sentiment — then conspiracy may be inferred, even though no actual meeting among them to concert means can be shown. Consequently, the conspirators shall be held equally liable for the crime, because in a conspiracy the act of one is the act of all. Undoubtedly, in perpetrating the kidnapping for ransom, conspiracy existed among herein accused-appellants. Viewed in its totality, the individual participation of each of them pointed to a joint purpose and criminal design. Notarte and Yambot snatched the victim from his office in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila. Pangilinan and Yambot sandwiched him in the car and transported him, together with the others, to a house where he was detained for ten days. Lopez negotiated with the victim's wife for the ransom payment. Further, all three appellants set out to the designated place of ransom payment. These acts were complementary to one another and were geared toward the attainment of a common ultimate objective. That objective was to extort a ransom of P10 million (which was later reduced to P1.2 million through bargaining by the victim's wife) in exchange for the victim's freedom.

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