Jeweller’s son gets life term for robbing, killing brothers in Laguna
AFTER more than 12 years, justice has finally been served for the families of the victims.
The son of a renowned jeweller was sentenced to reclusion perpetua on Tuesday, more than 12 years after he robbed and killed two brothers in Calamba, Laguna.
In his 48-page decision, the dispositive portion of which was promulgated at the New Bilibid Prison makeshift court, Calamba Regional Trial Court Branch 36 Judge Louis P. Acosta sentenced Jose Maria Panlilio to up to 40 years in prison for robbing and killing Ariel De Castro Real and Albert De Castro Gutierrez over a monetary dispute in 2003.
The son of socialite jeweller Fe Sarmiento Panlilio was also ordered to pay the family of each of the two victims P100,000 as civil indemnity, P100,000 in moral damages and P100,000 in exemplary damages.
He was also ordered to pay actual damages amounting to P250,000 and temperate damages for burial expenses of P25,000.
In arriving at his decision to convict Panlilio for Gutierrez’s killing, Acosta said the prosecution’s witness, tricycle driver Eduardo Elcarte, had provided the “factual circumstances” for such.
Acosta said Elcarte had testified in court that he saw Panlilio shoot Gutierrez twice as he was sprawled on the ground, facts that jibed with information derived by Supt. Roy Camarillo, medico-legal officer of the Philippine National Police Regional Crime Laboratory Office in Camp Vicente Lim from his autopsy of the victims’ bodies. The judge gave the guilty verdict “even” with the expert opinion of Raquel Fortun, renowned pathologist who appeared in court for the accused after studying the trajectory of the bullets that hit Gutierrez based on a sworn statement of Elcarte.
“Indeed Mr. Elcarte’s testimony contained some inconsistencies. However, such inconsistencies are negligible. They do not affect his credibility,” he said.
He added “a witness’ minor lapses of his testimony should be expected when he recounts details.”
“(But) these lapses do not detract from the overwhelming testimony of such a witness positively identifying the malefactor,” he said.
While there was no witness who saw Real’s actual killing, Acosta said that “circumstantial evidence” was “sufficient to support” Panlilio’s conviction for the killing.
Acosta said based on the statement of the doctor who autopsied the bodies of the victims, the two died around the same time.
He added that Elcarte had testified that he saw Panlilio, with blood all over his body, alighting from the Pajero where Real had been shot.
The judge said the fingerprints of the accused were found on that Pajero, and that it had been established that Panlilio was owner of three 9 mm. pistols.
He said a ballistician testified that 9 mm slugs were recovered from Real’s body.
“All the circumstances constitute an unbroken chain, which leads to one and fair and reasonable conclusion pointing to the accused as the author of the crime,” Acosta said.
As for Panlilio’s conviction for robbery, Acosta said that while there was no direct evidence of the offense, “circumstantial evidence may suffice to prove” the crime under the Rules of Court.
“Evidence have been adduced to sufficiently prove that the victims were in the possession of more or less P251,000 at the time..,” Acosta said.
He cited the testimony of Real’s wife, Laura, who said she helped her husband count the money primarily intended to redeem Panlilio’s Starex in Laguna.
He also cited the testimony of Carmencita De Castro, the mother of the two victims, who said Panlilio told her over the phone that he and her sons had a deal they would help him redeem his vehicle from someone in Laguna.
Acosta noted that De Castro received a text from Real prior to their deaths, saying he and his half-brother were already carrying the cash and were on their way to Laguna to redeem the vehicle.
“Although the entire amount of money was not recovered, it has been the rule in this jurisdiction that ‘the production in court of the stolen property is not an indispensable requisite to sustain conviction as long as there is clear proof of the commission of the crime charged,'” Acosta said, quoting People versus Mendoza and Balagtas.
“Wherefore, in the premises, the accused (Panlilio) is hereby found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of robbery with homicide and is hereby sentenced to reclusion perpetua without eligibility of parole. The accused is hereby ordered to pay,” Acosta said.
At the time of his conviction, Panlilio was already serving a 14-year sentence for estafa at the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison, according to Raymond Fortun, his lawyer. (Kristine Felisse Mangunay, Philippine Daily Inquirer)
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