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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 189405 November 19, 2014

SHERWIN DELA CRUZ, Petitioner,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES and CARLOS ALBERTO L. GONZALES, in behalf of his deceased
brother, JEFFREY WERNHER L. GONZALES, Respondents.

Related Topic: (self defense)

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to annul and set aside the
May 7, 2009 Decision1 of the Court of Appeals, in CA-G.R. CV No. 89257, finding petitioner Sherwin Dela Cruz
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Homicide, and its August 19, 2009 Resolution 2 denying his motion
for reconsideration.

Petitioner was charged with the crime of Homicide in an Information 3 dated March 2, 2005, which alleged:

That on or about the 1st day of January 2005, in the City of Makati, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused, with intent to kill and with the use of an unlicensed firearm, did then
and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and shoot one JEFFREY WERNHER GONZALES Y
LIM on the head, thereby inflicting upon the latter serious and moral gunshot wound which directly caused his
death.

CONTRARY TO LAW.4

According to the prosecution, on January 1, 2005, at around 2:30 in the afternoon, petitioner went to the office of
Sykes Asia Inc. located at the 25th Floor of Robinsons Summit Center,Ayala Avenue, Makati City. When petitioner
was already inside the building, he went to the work station of the deceased victim, Jeffrey Wernher L. Gonzales
(Jeffrey), who, by the configuration of the eye witness Antonette Managbanags sketch, was seated fronting his
computer terminal, with his back towards the aisle. As petitioner approached Jeffrey from the back, petitioner was
already holding a gun pointed at the back of Jeffreys head. At the last second, Jeffrey managed to deflect the hand
of petitioner holding the gun, and a short struggle for the possession of the gun ensued thereafter. Petitioner won the
struggle and remained in possession of the said gun. Petitioner then pointed the gun at Jeffreys face, pulled the
trigger four (4) times, the fourth shot finally discharging the bullet that hit Jeffrey in the forehead, eventually killing
him. Finally, after shooting Jeffrey, petitioner fled the office.

The defense recounted a different version of the facts.

Petitioner claimed that on January1, 2005, at around 2:30 in the afternoon, more or less, petitioner, together with his
children, went to Sykes Asia, the workplace of his wife, Darlene Dela Cruz (Darlene), located at the 25th Floor of
Robinsons Summit Building in Makati City, to fetch the latter so that their family could spend time and celebrate
together the New Years Day. Before entering the Robinsons Summit Building, petitioner underwent the regular
security check-up/procedures. He was frisked by the guards-on-duty manning the main entrance of said building and
no firearm was found in his possession. He registered his name at the security logbook and surrendered a valid I.D.
Upon reaching the 25th Floor of the same building, a security guard manning the entrance once again frisked
petitioner and, likewise, found no gun in his possession; hence, he was allowed to enter the premises of Sykes Asia.
The security guard also pointed to him the direction towards his wifes table.

However, as Darlene was then not on her table, petitioner approached a certain man and asked the latter as to the
possible whereabouts of Darlene. The person whom petitioner had talked towas the deceased-victim, Jeffrey. After
casually introducing himself as the husband of Darlene, Jeffrey curtly told him, "Bakit mo hinahanap si Darlene?"to
which he answered, "Nagpapasundo kasi sa akin."The response given by Jeffrey shocked and appalled petitioner:
"Ayaw na nga ng asawa mo sayo sinusundo mo pa!"

Shocked by the words and reaction of Jeffrey, petitioner tried to inquire from Jeffrey who he was. But Jeffrey
suddenly cursed petitioner. Then, Jeffrey suddenly picked up something in his chair which happened to be a gun and
pointed the same at petitioners face followed by a clicking sound. The gun, however, did not fire.

Seeing imminent danger to his life,petitioner grappled with Jeffrey for the possession of the gun.While grappling,
the gunclicked for two (2) to three (3) more times. Again, the gun did not fire.

Petitioner was able to wrest away the gun from Jeffrey and tried to run away to avoid any further confrontation with
the latter.However, Jeffrey immediately blocked petitioners path and shouted, "Guard! Guard!" Immediately then,
Jeffrey took hold ofa big fire extinguisher, aimed and was about to smash the same on petitioners head.

Acting instinctively, petitioner parried the attack while still holding the gun. While in the act of parrying, the gun
accidentally fired due to the reasonable force and contact that his parrying hand had made with the fire extinguisher
and the single bullet discharged hit the forehead of Jeffrey, which caused the latter to fall on the floor and die.

Petitioner left the gun and went out ofthe premises of Sykes Asia and proceeded towards the elevator. On his way to
the elevator, he heard Darlene shout, "Sherwin anong nangyari?", but he was not able to answer.

After said incident, Darlene abandoned petitioner and brought with her their two (2) young children. Petitioner later
learned that Darlene and Jeffrey had an illicit relationship when he received a copy of the blog of Darlene, dated
January 30, 2005, sent by his friend.

During his arraignment, on August 22, 2005, petitioner, with the assistance of counsel, pleaded "Not Guilty" to the
charge. Thereafter, pretrial conference was conducted on even date and trial on the merits ensued thereafter.

During the trial of the case, the prosecution presented the oral testimonies of Marie Antonette Managbanag
(Managbanag), Maria Angelina Pelaez (Pelaez) and Carlos Alberto Lim Gonzales (Gonzales), respectively. The
prosecution likewise formally offered several pieces of documentary evidence to support its claim.

For its part, the defense presented aswitnesses, petitioner himself; his brother, Simeon Sander Dela Cruz III (Cruz),
Greg Lasmarias Elbanvuena (Elbanvuena) and Managbanag, who was recalled to the witness stand as witness for
the defense.

On February 26, 2007, the Regional Trial Court (RTC)of Makati City, Branch 147, rendered a Decision 5 finding
petitioner guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Homicide, as defined and penalized under Article 249 of
the Revised Penal Code (RPC), the fallo thereof reads:

WHEREFORE, Judgment is rendered finding herein accused Sherwin Dela Cruz y Gloria Guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime of Homicide as defined and penalized under Art. 249 of the Revised Penal Code, and sentencing
him to suffer the indeterminate penalty of Eight (8) years and One (1) day of prision mayor medium as Minimum to
Fourteen (14) years eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal medium as Maximum; to indemnify the
Heirs of Jeffrey Wernher Gonzales y Lim in the amount of 50,000.00 plus moral damages in the amount of 1
Million, and to pay the costs.
SO ORDERED.6

On March 28, 2007, petitioner filed a Notice of Appeal, while private respondent, through the private prosecutor,
filed a Notice of Appeal on April 11, 2007 insofar as the sentence rendered against petitioner is concerned and the
civil damages awarded.

After the denial of their motion for reconsideration, petitioner elevated the case to the Court of Appeals (CA).
However, the latter denied their appeal and affirmed the RTC decision with modification on the civil liability of
petitioner. The decretal portion of the Decision7 reads: WHEREFORE, we hereby AFFIRM the Decision of the
Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 147 dated 26 February 2007 finding accused-appellant Sherwin Dela Cruz y
Gloria GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime ofHomicide with the following MODIFICATIONS:

(1) to pay the heirs of the victim the amount of 50,000.00 as civil indemnity;

(2) the amount of 50,000.00 as moral damages;

(3) the amount of 25,000.00 as temperate damages;

(4) the amount of 3,022,641.71 as damages for loss of earning capacity.

(5) to pay the costs of the litigation.

SO ORDERED.8

Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied. Hence, the present petition.

Raised are the following issues for resolution:

1. WHETHER ALL THE REQUISITES OF THE JUSTIFYING CIRCUMSTANCE OF SELF-DEFENSE,


AS PROVIDED FOR BY LAW AND SETTLED JURISPRUDENCE, ARE PRESENT IN THIS CASE.

2. WHETHER THE FIRING OF THE GUN WHEREIN ONLY A SINGLE BULLET WAS
DISCHARGED THEREFROM WAS MERELY ACCIDENTAL WHICH OCCURRED DURING THE
TIME THAT THE PETITIONER-APPELLANT WAS STILL IN THE ACT OF DEFENDING HIMSELF
FROM THE CONTINUOUS UNLAWFUL AGGRESSION OF THE DECEASED VICTIM.

3. WHETHER THE PROSECUTION WAS ABLE TO PROVE ALL THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS
CONSTITUTING THE CRIME OF HOMICIDE.

4. WHETHER THE PRIVILEGED MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCE OF SELF-DEFENSE IS


APPLICABLE IN THIS CASE.

5. WHETHER PETITIONER-APPELLANT MAY BE HELD CIVILLY LIABLE FOR THE DEATH OF


THE VICTIM ARISING FROM THE ACCIDENT THAT TRANSPIRED. 9

There is no question that petitioner authored the death of the deceased-victim, Jeffrey. What is leftfor determination
by this Court is whether the elements of self-defenseexist to exculpate petitioner from the criminal liability for
Homicide.

The essential requisites of self-defense are the following: (1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2)
reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel such aggression; and (3) lackof sufficient
provocation on the part of the person resorting to self-defense.10 In other words, there must have been an unlawful
and unprovoked attack that endangered the life of the accused, who was then forced to inflict severe wounds upon
the assailant by employing reasonable means to resist the attack. 11

Considering that self-defense totally exonerates the accused from any criminal liability, it is well settled thatwhen he
invokes the same, it becomes incumbent upon him to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he indeed acted in
defense of himself.12 The burden of proving that the killing was justified and that he incurred no criminal liability
therefor shifts upon him.13 As such, he must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of the
prosecution for, even if the prosecution evidence is weak, it cannot be disbelieved after the accused himself has
admitted the killing.14

Measured against this criteria, wefind that petitioner's defense is sorely wanting. Hence, his petition must be denied.

First. The evidence on record does not support petitioner's contention that unlawful aggression was employed by the
deceased-victim, Jeffrey, against him.

Unlawful aggression is the most essential element of self-defense. It presupposes actual, sudden, unexpected or
imminent danger not merely threatening and intimidating action. 15 There is aggression, only when the one
attacked faces real and immediate threat to his life.16 The peril sought to be avoided must be imminent and actual,
not merely speculative.17 In the case at bar, other than petitioners testimony, the defense did not adduce evidence to
show that Jeffrey condescendingly responded to petitioners questions or initiated the confrontation before the
shooting incident; that Jeffrey pulled a gun from his chair and tried to shoot petitioner but failed an assault which
may have caused petitioner to fear for his life.

Even assuming arguendothat the gun originated from Jeffrey and an altercation transpired, and therefore, danger
may have in fact existed, the imminence of that danger had already ceased the moment petitioner disarmed Jeffrey
by wresting the gun from the latter. After petitioner had successfully seized it, there was no longer any unlawful
aggression to speak of that would have necessitated the need to kill Jeffrey. As aptly observed by the RTC,
petitioner had every opportunity to run away from the scene and seek help but refused to do so, thus:

In this case, accused and the victim grappled for possession of the gun.1avvphi1 Accused admitted that he wrested
the gun from the victim. From that point in time until the victim shouted "guard, guard", then took the fire
extinguisher, there was no unlawful aggression coming from the victim. Accused had the opportunity to run away.
Therefore, even assuming that the aggression with use of the gun initially came from the victim, the fact remains
that it ceased when the gun was wrested away by the accused from the victim. It is settled that when unlawful
aggression ceases, the defender no longer has any right to kill or wound the former aggressor, otherwise, retaliation
and not self-defense is committed (Peo Vs. Tagana, 424 SCRA 620). A person making a defense has no more right
to attack an aggressor when the unlawful aggression has ceased (PeoVs. Pateo, 430 SCRA 609).

Accused alleged that the victimwas about to smash the fire extinguisher on his (accuseds) headbut he parried it with
his hand holding the gun. This is doubtful as nothing in the records is or would be corroborative of it.In contrast, the
two (2) Prosecution witnesses whose credibility was not impeached, both gave the impression that the victim got the
fire extinguisher to shieldhimself from the accused who was then already in possession of the gun. 18

Thus, when an unlawful aggression that has begun no longer exists, the one who resorts to self-defense has no right
to kill or even wound the former aggressor.19 To be sure, when the present victim no longer persisted in his purpose
or action to the extent that the object of his attack was no longer in peril, there was no more unlawful aggression that
would warrant legal self-defense on the part of the offender.20 Undoubtedly, petitioner went beyond the call of self-
preservation when he proceeded to inflict excessive, atrocious and fatal injuries on Jeffrey, even when the allegedly
unlawful aggression had already ceased.

More, a review of the testimony of the prosecution witness, Pelaez, will show that if there was unlawful aggression
in the instant case, the same rather emanated from petitioner, thus: DIRECT EXAMINATION

Atty. Mariano:
Q: Can you relate to the Court, Ms. Witness, how did this incident happen?

A: We were still at work, we were expecting calls but there were no calls at the moment and I was standing at my
work station and then Sherwin approached Jeff and he pointed a gun at the back of the head of Jeff.

Q: And then what happened?

A: And then Jeff parried the gun and they started struggling for the possession of the gun.

Q: How far were you from this struggle when you witnessed it?

A: Probably 10 to 12 feet.

Q: Going back to your story, Ms. Witness, you mentioned that after Jeffrey warded off the gun, they started to
struggle, what happened after that, if any?

A: After they struggled, the gun clicked three times and then after that Jeff tried to get hold of the fire extinguisher
and the fourth shot went off and then Jeffrey fell down.

Q: And who was holding the gun?

A: Sherwin was holding the gun. (TSN, Oct. 17, 2005, pp. 12-14) CROSS-EXAMINATION: Atty. Agoot:

Q: So you did not see when Sherwin approached Jeffrey because he came from the other side? Atty. Mariano:

Objection, your Honor, witness already answered that.

Atty. Agoot:

I am on cross examination, your Honor.

COURT

You didnt not see when he approached Jeffrey? A: No, as I said, I saw him point the gun at the back of Jeff and he
did not come from my side so that means

COURT

No, the question is, You did not actually see Sherwin approached Jeffrey?

A: I saw him already at the back of Jeffrey.

Atty. Agoot

He was already at the back of Jeffrey when you saw him?

A: Yes, Sir.

(TSN, Oct. 17, 2005, pp. 26-27)21


Clearly, petitioner's allegation that when he approached Jeffrey, the latter pulled a gun from his chair and tried to
shoot him, is not corroborated by separate competent evidence. Pitted against the testimony of prosecution
witnesses, Managbanag and Pelaez, it pales incomparison and loses probative value. We have, on more thanone
occasion, ruled that the plea of self-defense cannot be justifiably entertained where it is not only uncorroborated by
any separate competent evidence but also extremely doubtful in itself. 22

In addition, other than petitioners testimony, there is dearth of evidence showing that the alleged unlawful
aggression on the part of Jeffrey continued when he blocked the path of petitioner while the latter tried to run away
to avoid further confrontation with Jeffrey. We also agree with the findings of the RTC that there was no proof
evincing that Jeffrey aimed and intended to smash the big fire extinguisher on petitioners head. Alternatively, the
prosecution witnesses maintained an impression that Jeffrey used the same to shield himself from petitioner who
was then in possession of the gun, a deadly weapon. An excerpt of the testimony of Managbanag bares just that, to
wit:

Atty. Agoot

Q: And then after pulling the fire extinguisher from the wall Jeffrey again faced the person who was holding the gun
already?

Witness:

A: He was holding the fire extinguisher like this.

COURT

For the record.

Atty. Mariano:

Witness demonstrating how the victim Jeffrey Gonzales was holding the fire extinguisher upright with his right hand
above the fire extinguisher and his left hand below the fire extinguisher.

Witness:

The left hand would support the weight basically.

Atty. Agoot

Q: And then he used that fire extinguisher to protect himself from the slapping of that person who was in possession
of the gun?

Witness

A: Yes, sir.

Atty. Agoot

Q: And then after that there was again a grappling?

Witness
A: No more grappling for possession. Because Jeffrey was still holding the fire extinguisher at thattime. And then he
fell holding on to the fire extinguisher.

Atty. Agoot

Q: You said here which I quote "binaril siya ng lalaki ng sunod-sunod pero hindi pumutok" Do you affirmand
confirm this statement?

Witness

A: Yes, sir. They were pushing each other. The other person was trying to point the gun at Jeffrey and Jeffrey was
trying to cover himself with the fire extinguisher so nagkakatulakan sila at the same time.

Atty. Agoot

Q: You said that the gun clicked, how many times did the gun click without firing?

Witness

A: Three (3) times, sir.

Atty. Agoot

Q: And what did the late Jeffrey do when the gun clicked but did not fire?

Witness

A: They were still pushing each other at that time.

Atty. Agoot

Q: Using the fire extinguisher, heused that to push against the person

Witness

A: Basically trying to cover himself and trying to push away the person who was pointing the gun at him.

Atty. Agoot

Q: And why do you know that Jeffrey was trying hard to push the fire extinguisher?

Witness

A: Because I was seated roughly about 5 to 6 feet away from them. So I clearly saw what was going on at that time.

(Direct Examination of Marie Antonette Managbanag for the Defense, TSN dated 04 September 2006, pp. 12-17,
emphasis supplied)23

Petitioners contention that Jeffreys unlawful aggression was continuous and imminent is, therefore, devoid of
merit.
Given that the criteria of unlawful aggression is indubitably absent in the instant case, the severe wounds inflicted by
petitioner upon Jeffrey was unwarranted and, therefore, cannot be considered a justifying circumstance under
pertinent laws and jurisprudence.

Second. Even assuming that the unlawful aggression emanated from the deceased victim, Jeffrey, the means
employed by petitioner was not reasonably commensurate to the nature and extent of the alleged attack, which he
sought to avert. As held by the Court in People v. Obordo:24

Even assuming arguendo that there was unlawful aggression on the part of the victim, accused-appellant likewise
failed to prove that the means he employed to repel Homer's punch was reasonable. The means employed by the
person invoking self-defense contemplates a rational equivalence between the means of attack and the defense.
Accused appellant claimed that the victim punched him and was trying to get something from his waist, so he
(accused-appellant) stabbed the victim with his hunting knife. His act of immediately stabbing Homer and inflicting
a wound on a vital part ofthe victim's body was unreasonable and unnecessary considering that, as alleged by
accused-appellant himself, the victim used his bare fist in throwing a punch at him. 25

Indeed, the means employed by a person resorting to self-defense must be rationally necessary to prevent or repel an
unlawful aggression. The opposite was, however, employed by petitioner, as correctly pointed out by the RTC, thus:

The victim was holding the fire extinguisher while the second was holding the gun. The gun and the discharge
thereof was unnecessary and disproportionate to repel the alleged aggression with the use of fire extinguisher. The
rule is that the means employed by the person invoking self-defense contemplates a rational equivalence between
the means of attack and the defense (Peo vs. Obordo, 382 SCRA 98).

It was the accused who was in a vantage position as he was armed with a gun, as against the victim who was armed,
so to speak, with a fire extinguisher, which is not a deadly weapon. Under the circumstances, accuseds alleged fear
was unfounded. The Supreme Court has ruled that neither an imagined impending attack nor an impending or
threatening attitude is sufficient to constitute unlawful aggression (Catalina Security Agency Vs. Gonzales-Decano,
429 SCRA 628). It is a settled rule that to constitute aggression, the person attacked must be confronted by a real
threat on his lifeand limb; and the peril sought to be avoided is imminent and actual, not merely imaginary (Senoja
v. Peo., 440 SCRA 695).26

If petitioner had honestly believed that Jeffrey was trying to kill him, he should have just run, despite any
obstruction, considering that he was already in possession of the gun. He could have also immediately sought help
from the people around him, specifically the guard stationed at the floor where the shooting incident happened. In
fact, he could have reported the incident to the authorities as soon as he had opportunity to do so, if it was indeed an
accident or a cry of self-preservation. Yet, petitioner never did any of that.

We find it highly specious for petitioner to go through the process of tussling and hassling with Jeffrey, and inthe
end, shooting the latter on the forehead, not only once, but four times, the last shot finally killing him, if he had no
intention to hurt Jeffrey. Thus:

Moreover, the Prosecutions eyewitnesses were consistent in declaring that while there was prior struggle for the
possession of the gun, it was nevertheless accused who was holding the gun at the time of the actual firing thereof
(TSN, p. 30, October 10, 2005; TSN, p. 14, October 17, 2005). Witness Managbanag even alleged that while the
victim (Jeffrey), who was in possession of the fire extinguisher, and the accused were pushing each other, accused
pointed the gun at the victim. She heard three (3) clicks and on the 4th , the gun fired (TSN, p. 12, October 10,
2005). Under the circumstances, it cannot be safely said that the gun was or could have been fired accidentally. The
discharge of the gun which led to the victims death was no longer made in the course of the grapple and/or struggle
for the possession of the gun.27

The observation of the RTC dispels any doubt that the gun may have been shot accidentally to the detriment of
Jeffrey. The fire was neither a disaster nor a misfortune of sorts. While petitioner may nothave intended to kill
Jeffrey at the onset, at the time he clicked the trigger thrice consecutively, his intent to hurt (or even kill) Jeffrey was
too plain to be disregarded. We have held in the pastthat the nature and number of wounds are constantly and
unremittingly considered important indicia which disprove a plea of self-defense.28 Thus, petitioners contention that
an accident simultaneously occurred while hewas in the act of self-defense is simply absurd and preposterous at
best. There could nothave been an accident because the victim herein suffered a gunshot wound on his head, a vital
part of the body and, thus, demonstrates a criminal mind resolved to end the life of the victim.

Besides, petitioners failure to inform the police of the unlawful aggression on the part of Jeffrey and to surrender
the gun that he used to kill the victim militates against his claim of self-defense.29

In view of the foregoing, we find it illogical to discuss further the third element of self-defense since it is recognized
that unlawful aggression is a conditio sine qua nonfor upholding the justifying circumstance of self-defense.30 If
there is nothing to prevent or repel, the other two requisites of self-defense will have no basis.31 Hence, there is no
basis to entertain petitioners argument that a privileged mitigating circumstance of selfdefense is applicable in this
case, because unless the victim has committed unlawful aggression against the other, there can be no self-defense,
complete or incomplete, on the part of the latter.32

Anent petitioners argument thatthe RTC erred when it failed to consider as suppression of evidence the
prosecutions alleged deliberate omission to present the testimonies of the security guards-on-duty at the time of the
shooting incident, the same fails to persuade. We concur with the decision of the CA on this point, to wit:

Having admitted the killing of the victim, the burden of evidence that he acted in self-defense, shifted to accused-
appellant Dela Cruz. He must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of the prosecutions
evidence, for, even if the latter were weak, it could not be disbelieved after his open admission of responsibility for
the killing.

The security guards on duty at the time of the subject incident were at the disposal of both the prosecution and the
defense. The defense did not proffer proof that the prosecution prevented the security guards from testifying. There
is therefore no basis for it to conclude that the prosecution is guilty of suppression of evidence.

The defense could have easily presented the security guards if it is of the opinion that their [the security guards]
testimonies were vital and material to the case of the defense. It could have compelled the security guards on duty to
appear before the court. xxx.33

It is worthy to note that the question of whether petitioner acted in self-defense is essentially a question of fact.34 It
is the peculiar province of the trial court to determine the credibility of witnesses and related questions of fact
because of its superior advantage in observing the conduct and demeanor of witnesses while testifying. 35 This being
so and in the absence of a showing that the CA and the RTC failed to appreciate facts or circumstances of such
weight and substance that would have merited petitioner's acquittal, this Court finds no compelling reason to disturb
the ruling of the CA that petitioner did not act in self-defense.36

In this regard, we do not subscribe to petitioners contention that since the incident transpired in Jeffreys office, and
the witnesses presented by the prosecution are known officemates of Jeffrey, the witnesses are expected to testify in
favor of Jeffrey and against petitioner. Ascorrectly pointed out by respondent, there appears no motive on the part of
the prosecution witnesses to falsely testify against petitioner.37 The fact that they are officemates of Jeffrey does not
justify a conclusion that Managbanag and Pelaez would concoct or fabricate stories in favorof Jeffrey for the mere
purpose of implicating petitioner with such a serious crime, especially since they are testifying under oath.

All told, we find no basis to doubt ordispute, much less overturn, the findings of the RTC and the CA that the
elements of homicide are present in the instant case as amply shown by the testimonies of the prosecution
eyewitnesses, and they constitute sufficient proof of the guilt of petitioner beyond cavil or doubt.

Nevertheless, with regard to the appreciation of the aggravating circumstance of use of an unlicensed firearm, we
deviate from the findings of the CA. A perusal of the Information will show that the use of unlicensed firearm was
expressly alleged in the killing of Jeffrey. This allegation was further proved during trial by the presentation of the
Certification from the PNP Firearms and Explosives Division, dated November 11, 2005, certifying that petitioner is
not a licensed/registered firearm holder of any kind and calibre, per verification from the records of the said
Division. Accordingly, under Paragraph 3 of Section 1 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8294, amending Section 1 of
Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1866, such use of an unlicensed firearm shall be considered as an aggravating
circumstance, to wit:

xxxx

If homicide or murder is committed with the use of an unlicensed firearm, such use of an unlicensed firearm shall be
considered as an aggravating circumstance.

x x x x.

Under Article 249 of the RPC, the penalty for homicide is reclusion temporal. There being an aggravating
circumstance of use of unlicensed firearm, the penalty imposable on petitioner should be in its maximum
period.38Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the petitioner shall be sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of
from ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor maximum, as the minimum penalty, to seventeen (17) years,
four (4) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal maximum, as the maximum penalty.

As to the award of civil indemnity, moral damages, and damages for loss of earning capacity in favor ofprivate
respondent, we sustain the findings of the CA in so far as they are in accordance with prevailing jurisprudence. In
addition, we find the grant of exemplary damages in the present case in order, since the presence of special
aggravating circumstance of use of unlicensed firearm has been established. 39 Based on current jurisprudence, the
award of exemplary damages for homicide is 30,000.00. 40

Finally, pursuant to this Courts ruling in Nacar v. Gallery Frames,41 an interest of six percent (6%) per annum on
the aggregate amount awarded for civil indemnity and damages for loss of earning capacity shall be imposed,
computed from the time of finality of this Decision until full payment thereof.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The May 7, 2009 Decision and August 19, 2009 Resolution of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 89257, finding petitioner Sherwin Dela Cruz guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of Homicide, are hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS, to wit:

(1) Petitioner shall be sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of from ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor
maximum, as the minimum penalty, to seventeen (17) years, four (4) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal
maximum, as the maximum penalty;

(2) Petitioner is likewise ORDERED to pay the heirs of the victim the following:

a. the amount of 50,000.00 as civil indemnity;

b. the amount of 50,000.00 as moral damages;

c. the amount of 25,000.00 as temperate damages;

d. the amount of 30,000.00 as exemplary damages;

e. the amount of 3,022,641.71 as damages for loss of earning capacity;

f. for the civil indemnity and the damages for loss of earning capacity, an interest of six percent
(6%) per annum, computed from the time of finality of this Decision until full payment thereof;
and
g. the costs of the litigation.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 170462 February 5, 2014

RODOLFO GUEVARRA and JOEY GUEVARRA, Petitioners,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

Related Topic: (self defense)

DECISION

BRION, J.:

We review in this petition for review on certiorari1 the decision2 dated October 24, 2005 of the Court of Appeals
(CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 28899. The CA affirmed, with modification on the amount of damages, the joint
decision3dated April 16, 2004 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 20, Cauayan City, Isabela, finding Rodolfo
Guevarra and Joey Guevarra (petitioners) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of frustrated homicide and
homicide.

Factual Antecedents

Rodolfo and his son, Joey, were charged with the crimes of frustrated homicide and homicide under two
Informations which read:

In Criminal Case No. Br. 20-1560 for Frustrated Homicide:

That on or about the 8th day of January, 2000, in the municipality of Alicia, province of Isabela, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, conspiring, confederating together and helping one
another, with intent to kill and without any just motive, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously,
assault, attack, hack and stab for several times with a sharp pointed bolo one Erwin Ordonez, who as a result thereof,
suffered multiple hack and stab wounds on the different parts of his body, which injuries would ordinarily cause the
death of the said Erwin Ordonez, thus, performing all the acts of execution which should have produced the crime of
homicide as a consequence, but nevertheless, did not produce it by reason of causes independent of their will, that is,
by the timely and able medical assistance rendered to the said Erwin Ordonez, which prevented his death. 4

In Criminal Case No. Br. 20-1561 for Homicide:

That on or about the 8th day of January, 2000, in the municipality of Alicia, province of Isabela, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, conspiring, confederating together and helping one
another, with intent to kill and without any just motive, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously,
assault, attack, hack and stab for several times with a sharp pointed bolo one David Ordonez, who as a result thereof,
suffered multiple hack and stab wounds on the different parts of his body which directly caused his death.5
Although the informations stated that the crimes were committed on January 8, 2000, the true date of their
commission is November 8, 2000, as confirmed by the CA through the records.6 The parties failed to raise any
objection to the discrepancy.7

On arraignment, the petitioners pleaded not guilty to both charges. 8 The cases were jointly tried with the conformity
of the prosecution and the defense. At the pre-trial, the petitioners interposed self-defense, which prompted the RTC
to conduct a reverse trial of the case.9

During the trial, the parties presented different versions of the events that transpired on November 8, 2000.

Version of the Defense

To prove the petitioners' claim of self-defense, the defense presented the testimonies of Rodolfo, Joey, and the
petitioners' neighbor, Balbino Agustin.

Testimony of Rodolfo

Rodolfo, who was then fifty-five (55) years old, narrated that, at around 11 :00 p.m., on November 8, 2000, brothers
Erwin Ordonez and David Ordonez, together with their companion, Philip Vingua, forced their way into his
compound and threw stones at his house and tricycle. Through the back door of his house, Rodolfo went down to the
basement or "silung' and shouted at the three men to stop. David saw him, threatened to kill him, and struck him
with a ''panabas," hitting him on the palm of his left hand. Rodolfo responded by reaching for the bolo tucked in the
"so/era" of his house, and hacked and stabbed Erwin and David until the two brothers fell to the ground. Upon
seeing Erwin and David lying on the ground, Rodolfo called on someone to bring the brothers to the hospital. He
stayed in his house until the policemen arrived.

Testimony of Joey

Joey, who was then thirty-one (31) years old, narrated that, at around 11:00 p.m., on November 8, 2000, he was
awakened by the sound of stones being thrown at their house in Bliss, Paddad, Alicia, Isabela. Through the window,
he saw Erwin, David and Philip breaking into their gate, which was made of wood and interlink wire and located
five ( 5) to six ( 6) meters away from their house. He then heard his father Rodolfo say to the three men, "kung ano
man ang problema bukas na natin pag-usapan,"10 and David retorted in their dialect, "Okininam nga lakay adda ka
gayam dita, patayin taka."11

Testimony of Balbino

Balbino narrated that, from inside his house in Bliss, Paddad, Alicia, Isabela, at around 10:00 p.m., on November 8,
2000, he heard a person from the outside saying "Sige banatan ninyo na." 12 He opened his door and saw David,
Erwin and Philip throwing stones at the house of his neighbor Crisanto Briones. Briones got mad and scolded the
three men, "Why are you hitting my house? Why don't you hit the house of your enemy, mga tarantado
kayo!"13 David, Erwin and Philip then aimed their stones at the petitioners' house. Balbino heard David calling out
to Joey, "Joey, kung tunay kang lalaki lumabas ka diyan sa kalsada at dito tayo magpatayan," 14 but no one came out
of Rodolfo's house. The stoning lasted for about thirty (30) minutes.

Afterwards, Balbino saw David, Erwin and Philip destroy Rodolfo's gate and pull the gate towards the road. He
heard David say to his companions, "koberan ninyo ako at papasok kami." 15 David, Erwin and Philip entered the
petitioners' compound and damaged Rodolfo's tricycle with stones and their ''panabas." Also, he heard Rodolfo say
to David in Filipino that they could just talk about their problems with him the following day. But David approached
Rodolfo and hacked him with a ''panabas." Rodolfo parried the blow with the back of his hand, and David and
Rodolfo struggled for the possession of the ''panabas."
Balbino also saw Erwin hit Rodolfo on the face with a stone and Joey was hit on his right foot, causing Rodolfo and
Joey to retreat to the "silung" of their house from where Rodolfo got "something shiny," and with it stabbed David
and Erwin. He saw the two brothers fall to the ground.

Version of the Prosecution

As its rebuttal witness, the prosecution presented the sole testimony of Erwin who survived the hacking.

Erwin narrated that, at around 10:00 to 11 :00 p.m., on November 8, 2000, he, his brother David and Philip went to a
birthday party and passed in front of the petitioners' compound. He was walking twenty (20) meters ahead of his
companions when, suddenly, Philip ran up to him saying that David was being stabbed by Joey with a bolo. While
approaching the scene of the stabbing, which was three (3) meters away from where his brother David was, Erwin
was met by Rodolfo who then hacked him, hitting his arm and back. Thereafter, Rodolfo and Joey dragged Erwin
inside the petitioners' compound and kept on hacking him. He was hacked and stabbed thirteen (13) times. He
became weak and ultimately fell to the ground.

Erwin denied that he and David threw stones at the petitioners' house and damaged Rodolfo's tricycle.1wphi1 They
did not likewise destroy the petitioners' gate, which was only damaged when his brother David clung on to it while
he was being pulled by Rodolfo and Erwin into their compound. While they were being hacked and stabbed by
Rodolfo and Erwin, stones actually rained on them and people outside the petitioners' gate were saying, "Do not kill
the brothers. Allow them to come out." 16

After the incident, Erwin and David, both unconscious, were brought to the hospital. David died in the hospital
while being treated for his wounds.

The RTC's Ruling

In a decision dated April 16, 2004, the RTC gave credence to the prosecution's version of the incident and found the
petitioners guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of frustrated homicide and homicide. It disbelieved the
defense's version of the events due to material inconsistencies in the testimonies of the defense witnesses. It denied
the petitioners' claim of self-defense for lack of clear, convincing and satisfactory supporting evidence.

The RTC explained in its decision that "[w]hen an accused invokes the justifying circumstance of self-defense, he
loses the constitutional presumption of innocence and assumes the burden of proving, with clear and convincing
evidence, the justification for his act";17 that self-defense is an affirmative allegation which must be proven with
certainty by sufficient, satisfactory and convincing evidence that excludes any vestige of criminal aggression on the
part of the person invoking it.18 The RTC held that the petitioners miserably failed to prove that there was unlawful
aggression on the part of the victims, Erwin and David.

Accordingly, the RTC disposed of the case as follows:

WHEREFORE, finding the accused Rodolfo Guevarra and Joey Guevarra guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crimes for which they are charged, and absent any mitigating or aggravating circumstance/s that attended the
commission of the crimes, the Court hereby sentences each of the accused to suffer -In Criminal Case No. Br. 20-
1560 for Frustrated Homicide - an indeterminate penalty ranging from Three (3) years and one day of prision
correccional as minimum to Nine (9) years of prision mayor as maximum and to indemnify the victim Erwin
Ordonez moral damages in the amount of Twenty Thousand (20,000.00) Pesos, without any subsidiary
imprisonment in case of insolvency. Cost against the accused.

In Criminal Case No. Br. 20-1561 for Homicide - an indeterminate penalty ranging from Eight (8) years and one day
of prision mayor as minimum to Fifteen (15) years of Reclusion Temporal as maximum and to indemnify the heirs
of the deceased David Ordonez Sixty Thousand (60,000.00) Pesos plus Thirty Thousand (30,000.00) Pesos as
moral damages without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. Costs against the accused.
The bail bonds of the accused are CANCELLED.19

The CA's Ruling

On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC's judgment and convicted the petitioners of the crimes charged. As the RTC
did, the CA found that Erwin and David committed no unlawful aggression sufficient to provoke the actions of the
petitioners; that "aggression, to be unlawful, must be actual and imminent, such that there is a real threat of bodily
harm to the person resorting to self-defense or to others whom that person is seeking to defend." 20 Even assuming
the truth of the petitioners' claims that David challenged Joey to a fight and threatened to kill Rodolfo on the night of
November 8, 2000, the CA held that these acts do not constitute unlawful aggression to justify the petitioners'
actions as no real or actual danger existed as the petitioners were then inside the safety of their own home.

The CA further held that the petitioners' plea of self-defense was belied by the nature and number of wounds
inflicted on Erwin, who sustained thirteen (13) stab wounds on his arm and back, and David, who suffered around
ten (10) stab wounds on his back and stomach causing his death. These wounds logically indicated that the assault
was no longer an act of self-defense but a determined homicidal aggression on the part of the petitioners. 21

The CA, however, found error in the amounts of civil indemnity and moral damages awarded by the RTC. Thus, the
CA modified the RTC's decision in this wise:

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. In Crim. Case No. Br. 20-1561,
appellants RODOLFO GUEVARRA and JOEY GUEVARRA are each ordered to pay the heirs of the deceased
David Ordonez the sum of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P.50,000.00) as civil indemnity and another Fifty Thousand Pesos
(50,000.00) as moral damages.22

The Petition

In the present petition, the petitioners raise the following issues:

A.

WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN FAILING TO APPRECIATE THE
PRESENCE OF THE JUSTIFYING CIRCUMSTANCE OF SELF-DEFENSE DESPITE CLEAR AND
CONVINCING EVIDENCE SHOWING THE ELEMENTS OF SELF-DEFENSE.

B.

WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN GIVING FULL CREDENCE TO
THE TESTIMONY OF THE LONE WITNESS OF THE PROSECUTION.

C.

WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN NOT ACQUITTING PETITIONER
JOEY GUEVARRA WHO HAS NO PARTICIPATION IN THE SAID INCIDENT. 23

Our Ruling

We deny the present petition as we find no reversible error in the CA decision of October 24, 2005.

At the outset, we emphasize that the Court's review of the present case is via a petition for review under Rule 45,
which generally bars any question pertaining to the factual issues raised. The well-settled rule is that questions of
fact are not reviewable in petitions for review under Rule 45, subject only to certain exceptions, among them, the
lack of sufficient support in evidence of the trial court's judgment or the appellate court's misapprehension of the
adduced facts.24

The petitioners fail to convince us that we should review the findings of fact in this case. Factual findings of the
RTC, when affirmed by the CA, are entitled to great weight and respect by this Court and are deemed final and
conclusive when supported by the evidence on record. 25 We find that both the RTC and the CA fully considered the
evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense, and they have adequately explained the legal and evidentiary
reasons in concluding that the petitioners are guilty of the crimes of frustrated homicide and homicide.

In the absence of any showing that the trial and appellate courts overlooked certain facts and circumstances that
could substantially affect the outcome of the present case, we uphold the rulings of the RTC and the CA which
found the elements of these crimes fully established during the trial.

The crime of frustrated homicide is committed when: (1) an "accused intended to kill his victim, as manifested by
his use of a deadly weapon in his assault; (2) the victim sustained fatal or mortal wound/s but did not die because of
timely medical assistance; and (3) none of the qualifying circumstance for murder under Article 248 of the Revised
Penal Code is present."26

On the other hand, the crime of homicide is committed when: (1) a person is killed; (2) the accused killed that
person without any justifying circumstance; (3) the accused had the intention to kill, which is presumed; and ( 4) the
killing was not attended by any of the qualifying circumstances of murder, or by that of parricide or infanticide. 27

The petitioners' intent to kill was clearly established by the nature and number of wounds sustained by their victims.
Evidence to prove intent to kill in crimes against persons may consist, among other things, of the means used by the
malefactors; the conduct of the malefactors before, at the time of, or immediately after the killing of the victim; and
the nature, location and number of wounds sustained by the victim. 28 The CA aptly observed that the ten (10)
hack/stab wounds David suffered and which eventually caused his death, and the thirteen (13) hack/stab wounds
Erwin sustained, confirmed the prosecution's theory that the petitioners purposely and vigorously attacked David
and Erwin.29

In fact, the petitioners admitted at the pre-trial that "the wounds inflicted on the victim Erwin Ordonez would have
caused his death were it not for immediate medical attendance." 30

By invoking self-defense, the petitioners, in effect, admitted to the commission of the acts for which they were
charged, albeit under circumstances that, if proven, would have exculpated them. With this admission, the burden of
proof shifted to the petitioners to show that the killing and frustrated killing of David and Erwin, respectively, were
attended by the following circumstances: (1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victims; (2) reasonable necessity
of the means employed to prevent or repel such aggression; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the
persons resorting to self-defense.31

Of all the burdens the petitioners carried, the most important of all is the element of unlawful aggression. Unlawful
aggression is an actual physical assault, or at least a threat to inflict real imminent injury, upon a person.32 The
element of unlawful aggression must be proven first in order for self-defense to be successfully pleaded. There can
be no self-defense, whether complete or incomplete, unless the victim had committed unlawful aggression against
the person who resorted to self-defense.33

As the RTC and the CA did, we find the absence of the element of unlawful aggression on the part of the victims. As
the prosecution fully established, Erwin and David were just passing by the petitioners' compound on the night of
November 8, 2000 when David was suddenly attacked by Joey while Erwin was attacked by Rodolfo. The attack
actually took place outside, not inside, the petitioners' compound, as evidenced by the way the petitioners' gate was
destroyed. The manner by which the wooden gate post was broken coincided with Erwin's testimony that his brother
David, who was then clinging onto the gate, was dragged into the petitioners' compound. These circumstances,
coupled with the nature and number of wounds sustained by the victims, clearly show that the petitioners did not act
in self-defense in killing David and wounding Erwin. The petitioners were, in fact, the real aggressors.
As to the penalties and damages
awarded

We affirm the penalties imposed upon the petitioners, as they are well within the ranges provided by law, but modify
the damages awarded by the CA.

In addition to the 50,000.00 civil indemnity and 50,000.00 moral damages awarded by the CA, we award
25,000.00 to each of the victims as temperate damages, in lieu of the actual damages they sustained by reason of
the crimes. Article 2224 of the Civil Code states that temperate or moderate damages may be recovered when the
court finds that some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot be proved with certainty.

Also, we impose on all the monetary awards for damages interest at the legal rate of six percent ( 6%) per annum
from date of finality of the decision until fully paid. 34

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The decision dated October 24, 2005 of the Court of Appeals is hereby
AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that the petitioners are also ordered to pay Erwin Ordonez and the heirs of
David Ordonez the amount of 25,000.00 as temperate damages.

The petitioners shall pay interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum on the civil indemnity, moral and
temperate damages from the finality of this decision until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 184343 March 2, 2009

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
JESUS DOMINGO, Accused-Appellant.

Related Topic: (insanity)

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Appellant Jesus Domingo assails the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated 30 April 2008 in CA-G.R. CR No.
30511, modifying the Decision2 dated 13 November 2006 of Branch 13 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Malolos, Bulacan. The Court of Appeals found appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder in Criminal
Cases No. 1496-M-2000 and No. 1497-M-2000, attempted murder in Criminal Cases No. 1498-M-2000 and No.
1501-M-2000, frustrated murder in Criminal Case No. 1500-M-2000, and frustrated homicide in Criminal Case No.
1499-M-2000.

On 7 March 2003, six Informations3 were filed before the RTC charging appellant with the following offenses:

Criminal Case No. 1496-M-2000 for Murder


"That on or about the 29th day of March 2000, in the municipality of San Rafael, Province of Bulacan, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a kitchen knife and screw
driver and with intent to kill one Marvin G. Indon, with evident premeditation, treachery and taking advantage of
superior strength, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, stab and hit with the
kitchen knife and screw driver said Marvin G. Indon, hitting him on his body thereby inflicting thereon mortal
wounds which directly caused his death."

Criminal Case No. 1497-M-2000 for Murder

"That on or about the 29th day of March 2000, in the municipality of San Rafael, Province of Bulacan, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a kitchen knife and screw
driver and with intent to kill one Melissa G. Indon, with evident premeditation, treachery and taking advantage of
superior strength, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, stab and hit with the
kitchen knife and screw driver said Melissa G. Indon, hitting her on different parts of her body thereby inflicting
thereon mortal wounds which directly caused her death."

Criminal Case No. 1498-M-2000 for Frustrated Murder

"That on or about the 29th day of March 2000, in the municipality of San Rafael, Province of Bulacan, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with kitchen knife and screw
driver, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with evident premeditation and treachery attack,
assault and hit with the said screw driver one Michelle G. Indon, a minor of 9 years old, hitting her on her back and
buttocks, thereby inflicting on her serious physical injuries which ordinarily would have caused the death of the said
Michelle G. Indon, thus performing all the acts of execution which should have produced the crime of murder as a
consequence, but nevertheless did not produce it by reason of causes independent of his will, this is, by the timely
and able medical assistance rendered to said Michelle G. Indon."

Criminal Case No. 1499-M-2000 for Frustrated Murder

"That on or about the 29th day of March 2000, in the municipality of San Rafael, Province of Bulacan, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a kitchen knife and screw
driver, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with evident premeditation and treachery, attack,
assault, stab and hit with the said kitchen knife and screw driver one Ronaldo Galvez, hitting him on different part of
his body, thereby inflicting on him serious physical injuries which ordinarily would have caused the death of
Ronaldo Galvez, thus performing all the acts of execution which should have produced the crime of murder as a
consequence, but nevertheless did not produce it by reason of causes independent of his will, that is, by the timely
and able medical assistance rendered to said Ronaldo Galvez."

Criminal Case No. 1500-M-2000 for Frustrated Murder

"That on or about the 29th day of March 2000, in the municipality of San Rafael, Province of Bulacan, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a kitchen knife and screw
driver, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with evident premeditation and treachery, attack,
assault, stab and hit with the said kitchen knife and screw driver one Raquel Gatpandan Indon, hitting her on the
different parts of her body, thereby inflicting on her serious physical injuries which ordinarily would have caused
the death of the said Raquel Gatpandan Indon, thus performing all the acts of execution which should have produced
the crime of murder as a consequence, but nevertheless did not produce it by reason of causes independent of his
will, that is, by the timely and able medical assistance rendered to said Raquel Gatpandan Indon."

Criminal Case No. 1501-M-2000 for Attempted Murder

"That on or about the 29th day of March 2000, in the municipality of San Rafael, Province of Bulacan, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a kettle and with intent to
kill one Jeffer G. Indon, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with evident premeditation and
treachery, commence the commission of murder directly by overt acts, that is by attacking, assaulting, and hitting
the said Jeffer G. Indon, a 2 year old boy, with the kettle, hitting the latter on his head, thereby inflicting upon him
physical injuries and if the accused was not able to accomplish his purpose, that is to kill the said Jeffer G. Indon, it
was not because of his voluntary desistance but due to the timely intervention of third persons."

On 7 September 2000, appellant, with the assistance of counsel, was arraigned and he entered separate pleas of "Not
Guilty" to the crimes charged. Thereafter, pre-trial conference was held, and trial ensued accordingly. 4

Evidence for the prosecution consisted of the testimonies of complainants Raquel Indon, Jeffer Indon, and Michelle
Indon; Dr. Jacinto Caluag; Police Officer (PO) 3 Asher Villegas and PO2 Rogelio Santos.

Complainant Raquel Indon testified that between 1:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. of 29 March 2000, she and her minor
children Melissa, Michelle, Marvin and Jeffer were sleeping inside their house in Caingin, San Rafael, Bulacan,
when she was awakened by the sound of appellant kicking their door open. Raquel narrated that she immediately
recognized the accused, since the kitchen light illuminated his face. Armed with a screwdriver and a kitchen knife,
appellant cut the cord of the mosquito net and repeatedly stabbed her, using the six-inch screwdriver, and hit her
right arm three times. She screamed and was heard by her sister-in-law, whose house was contiguous to theirs.
When her sister-in-law asked her for the identity of the assailant, she immediately identified herein appellant as
"Doser," a name by which he is known in the community. Appellant was angered by her reply and said, "Anong
Doser?" and thereafter pulled a kitchen knife from his right side and stabbed her on the stomach. When she tried to
escape from the room, four-year-old Marvin rushed towards her. She then grabbed him and ran towards the gate.
However, before reaching the gate, she fell down and appellant stabbed her right leg. The appellant then proceeded
to stab Marvin, hitting the latter twice on the arm and twice on his left chest. Marvin died on 3 April 2000 as a result
of these injuries. After stabbing Marvin, appellant returned back to the house, towards Raquels two daughters
Michelle and Melissa. When Raquel pleaded that the appellant spare her daughters lives, he retorted: "Ngayon pa,
nagawa ko na." Melissa died because of the stab wounds that the appellant inflicted on her; while Michelle, who was
able to hide under the papag merely sustained serious physical injuries. The appellant also attacked two-year-old
Jeffer by striking him on the head with the screwdriver, but the latter managed to run to the house of Raquels sister-
in-law. Raquel got up and ran for help, but the appellant followed her. Their neighbor, Ronaldo Galvez, came to
their rescue and tried to subdue the appellant. Raquel, thereafter, lost consciousness. She also relayed that she was
later informed that a struggle ensued between appellant and Galvez. Appellant inflicted wounds on Galvezs upper
left chest and arms, after which Galvez was able to hit appellant with a piece of wood, which rendered the latter
unconscious. Raquel, Melissa, Marvin, Jeffer, Galvez and the appellant were taken to the hospital. 5

Raquel also testified that she spent 15,000.00 for the casket of Melissa Indon, 27,000.00 for the burial expenses of
Melissa Indon and Marvin Indon, and approximately 30,000.00 for the food served during their wake. She also
stated that because of her stab wounds, she spent 90,000.00 for hospitalization expenses and medicines. However,
the receipts were lost except those issued by Sagrada Familia Hospital and Bulacan Provincial Hospital. 6

Jeffer Indon, who was five years old at the time he testified, stated that the scar on his forehead was the result of the
stab wound inflicted by Doser. However, on cross-examination, he admitted that he did not know who stabbed him. 7

Michelle Indon identified the appellant as the man who stabbed her mother, her brother Marvin and her sister
Melissa. She testified that the appellant stabbed her in the back once. Thereafter, she hid under the papag. She
related that she did not go to the hospital anymore, because a certain Nanang Ella had already seen to her stab
wound.8

Dr. Jacinto Caluag stated under oath that he treated Raquel Indon for multiple stab wounds. He testified that he also
assisted in the operation on Raquel to repair her liver and gallbladder, which were damaged. He also disclosed that
Raquel would have gone into shock and died had she not been given medical attention. 9

Police officers Asher Villegas and Rogelio Santos testified that they proceeded to the scene of the crime after the
neighbors of the complainant reported the incident. When they arrived at the crime scene, appellant was already tied
up. They took pictures of the victims, while the kitchen knife and the screwdriver allegedly used by the appellant
were turned over to Police Officer Villegas. The complainants and the appellant were then brought to the hospital.
They recorded the incident in the Police Blotter and prepared the statements of the witnesses. After the accused was
treated for injuries, he was brought to the police station and detained. When asked why he committed the crime,
accused denied knowledge of what happened.101avvphi1.zw+

In an Order dated 10 July 2003, the trial court ordered that Ronaldo Galvezs testimony during his direct
examination be stricken off the records due to his absences on the days he was scheduled to be cross-examined.11

The documentary evidence offered by the prosecution included the following: (1) the sketches of Raquel Indons
house, to prove that the light from the kitchen allowed her to identify the appellant, marked as Exhibits "A to A-6;"
(2) the Death Certificate of Marvin Indon marked as Exhibit "D;" (3) the Medico-Legal Certificates of Raquel
Indon, Marvin Indon, Jeffer Indon, and Ronaldo Galvez marked as Exhibits "E," "F," "H," and "L," respectively; (4)
the Birth Certificates of Marvin Indon and Michelle Indon marked as Exhibits "B" and "N;" (5) pictures of Melissa
Indons lifeless body marked as Exhibits "G" and "O;" (6) Sworn Statements of Ronaldo Galvez and Michelle Indon
marked as Exhibits "K" and "M;" (7) Statement of Account of the Medical Expenses incurred by Raquel Indon,
issued by Sagrada Familia Hospital in the amount of 38,500.00, marked as Exhibit "I;" and (8) Statement of
Account of the Medical Expenses incurred by Raquel Indon, issued by the Bulacan Provincial Hospital, in the
amount of 7,843.00, marked as Exhibit "J." 12

In his defense, appellant testified that prior to the incident, he was in good terms with the Indon family and that he
had no record of mental illness. However on 20 March 2000, he went to East Avenue Medical Center for a medical
check-up, and he was advised to have an operation. He suffered from sleeplessness, lack of appetite, and
nervousness. Occasionally, a voice would tell him to kill. He averred that when he regained his memory, one week
had already passed since the incidents, and he was already detained. He only came to know of the incidents from his
sister and his children who visited him. On cross-examination he admitted that when he regained his memory, he did
not even ask the police officers why he was incarcerated.13

Dr. Regienald Afroilan, a witness for the defense, also testified that appellant was first brought to the National
Center for Mental Health (Center) in August 2004 for a psychiatric evaluation, psychological examination and final
testing to determine if he could stand trial. Dr. Afroilan stated that based on his evaluation, appellant suffered from
Schizophrenia, a mental disorder characterized by the presence of delusions and or hallucinations, disorganized
speech and behavior, poor impulse control and low frustration tolerance. He could not find out when the appellant
started to suffer this illness, but the symptoms of Schizophrenia which were manifested by the patient indicated that
he suffered from the illness six months before the Center examined the appellant. On cross-examination, he clarified
that the evaluation finding that appellant suffered from Schizophrenia covered the period when the appellant
submitted himself to examination.14

In a Decision dated 13 November 2006, the RTC decreed that the appellant was guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
homicide in Criminal Cases No. 1496-M-00 and No. 1497-M-00, frustrated homicide in Criminal Cases No. 1499-
M-00 and No. 1500-M-00, and attempted homicide in Criminal Cases No. 1498-M-00 and No. 1501-M-00. The
RTC gave credence to the principal eyewitness, Raquel Indon, whose testimony was corroborated by Michelle
Indon, regarding appellants attack on 29 March 2000. The trial court found the appellants defense of insanity
unmeritorious, since what was presented was proof of appellants mental disorder that existed five years after the
incident, but not at the time the crimes were committed. The RTC also considered it crucial that appellant had the
presence of mind to respond to Raquel Indons pleas that her daughters be spared by saying, "Ngayon pa, nagawa ko
na." It also noted that based on the psychiatrists findings, the appellant was competent to stand trial. However, the
trial court declared that there were no qualifying circumstances to support the charges of Murder, Frustrated Murder
or Attempted Murder.15 The dispositive part of the Decision dated 13 November 2006 reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of:

a) In Crim. Case No. 1496-M-00, Homicide, for the death of Marvin G. Indon, minor and hereby sentences
him to suffer the indeterminate penalty of seven (7) years of prision mayor as minimum to thirteen (13)
years of reclusion temporal as maximum; and to indemnify the heirs of the deceased in the amount of
75,000.00.

b) In Crim. Case No. 1497-M-00, Homicide, for the death of Melissa Indon, and hereby sentences him to
suffer the indeterminate penalty of seven (7) years of prision mayor as minimum to thirteen (13) years of
reclusion temporal as maximum; and to indemnify the heirs of the deceased in the amount of 75,000.00.

c) In Crim. Case No. 1498-M-00, Attempted Homicide, and hereby sentences him to suffer the
indeterminate penalty of six (6) months of aresto mayor as minimum to five (5) years of prision
correccional as maximum; and to indemnify the private complainant in the amount of 10,000.00.

d) In Crim. Case No. 1499-M-00, Frustrated Homicide, and hereby sentences him to suffer the
indeterminate penalty of five (5) years of prision correccional as minimum to eight (8) years of prision
correccional as maximum; and to indemnify the private complainant Ronaldo Galvez in the amount of
30,000.00.

e) In Crim. Case No. 1500-M-00, Frustrated Homicide, and hereby sentences him to suffer the
indeterminate penalty of five (5) years of prision correccional as minimum to eight (8) years of prision
correccional as maximum; and to indemnify the private complainant Raquel Gatpandan Indon in the
amount of 30,000.00. Likewise, accused is further directed to pay to the private complainant herein the
sum of 90,000.00 to cover hospitalization and medical expenses; 42,000.00 to cover the casket and
burial expenses for Melissa and Marvin, and 30,000.00 for food expenses, all by way of actual damages.

f) In Crim. Case No. 1501-M-00, Attempted Homicide, and hereby sentences him to suffer the
indeterminate penalty of six (6) months of aresto mayor as minimum to five (5) years of prision
correccional as maximum, and to indemnify the private complainant in the amount of 10,000.00.16

The appellant filed an appeal before the Court of Appeals docketed as CA-G.R. CR No. 30511, wherein he faulted
the RTC for not taking note of the inconsistencies in Raquel Indons testimony and for not giving due weight to his
defense of insanity.17 In a Decision dated 30 April 2008, the appellate court adjudged that Raquel Indons testimony
was credible, and that the inconsistency pointed out by appellantwhether or not Raquel was standing up or lying
down when appellant stabbed her legsreferred to minor details. Moreover, insanity exempts the accused only
when the finding of mental disorder refers to appellants state of mind immediately before or at the very moment of
the commission of the crime. This was not the case when appellant was first medically examined more than four
years after the commission of the crimes. Appellants response to Raquel Indons pleas also proved that his faculties
of reasoning were unimpaired at the time of the attack against Raquels children. 18

The Court of Appeals nevertheless modified the RTCs Decision dated 13 November 2006 and declared that the
qualifying circumstance of treachery, which was alleged in the six Informations along with evident pre-meditation,
was adequately proven by the prosecution. Raquel Indon, Michelle Indon, Melissa Indon, Marvin Indon, and Jeffer
Indon were merely sleeping inside their bedroom and had not even given the slightest provocation when appellant
attacked them without warning. Furthermore, the killing of Marvin Indon and Melissa Indon, both minors who could
not be expected to defend themselves against an adult, was considered treacherous, and would sustain a conviction
for murder. The penalties imposed were adjusted accordingly. Appellants conviction for frustrated homicide in
Criminal Case No. 1499-M-2000 was affirmed, since prosecution failed to prove appellants treachery or evident
premeditation in his assault against Rolando Galvez, who came to the scene of the crime to subdue the appellant.19

The Court of Appeals also modified the trial courts award of damages. It reduced the civil indemnity of 75,000.00
awarded by the trial court, occasioned by the deaths of Marvin Indon and Melissa Indon, to 50,000.00 and awarded
the heirs of each murder victim moral damages in the amount of 50,000.00. The awards for funeral expenses of
42,000.00 and food expenses of 30,000.00 were deleted by the appellate court for lack of sufficient evidence to
support the same. The appellate court awarded Raquel Indon civil indemnity of 30,000.00 and moral damages of
25,000.00, but reduced the actual damages of 90,000.00 awarded by the RTC to 46,343.00, in accordance with
the Statement of Accounts from Sagrada Familia Hospital and Bulacan Provincial Hospital. It affirmed the trial
courts award for moral damages of 10,000.00 in favor of Michelle Indon and 10,000.00 in favor of Jeffer Indon.
Moral damages of 25,000.00 were also awarded by the appellate court in favor of Ronaldo Galvez. 20

In the Decision dated 30 April 2008, the fallo reads:

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision dated November 13, 2006 of the trial court is modified as follows:

1) In Criminal Case No. 1496-M-2000, accused-appellant Jesus Domingo is convicted of the crime of
murder and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the heirs of the deceased
Marvin Indon the amounts of 50,000.00 as civil indemnity and 50,000.00 as moral damages. The trial
courts award of funeral and food expenses of 42,000.00 and 30,000.00 respectively, are hereby deleted.

2) In Criminal Case No. 1497-M-2000, accused-appellant Jesus Domingo is convicted of the crime of
murder and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the heirs of the
deceased Melissa Indon the amounts of 50,000.00 as civil indemnity and 50,000.00 as moral damages.

3) In Criminal Case No. 1498-M-2000, accused-appellant Jose Domingo is convicted of the crime of
attempted murder and is sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of six (6) years of prision correccional
maximum, as the minimum penalty, to ten (10) years of prision mayor medium, as the maximum penalty
and to pay Michelle Indon 10,000.00 as moral damages.

4) In Criminal Case No. 1499-M-2000, accused-appellant Jose Domingo is convicted of the crime of
frustrated homicide and is sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of five (5) years of prision correccional as
minimum to eight (8) years of prision mayor as maximum and to pay Ronaldo Galvez 25,000.00 as moral
damages.

5) In Criminal Case No. 1500-M-2000, accused-appellant Jose Domingo is convicted of the crime of
frustrated murder and is sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of twelve (12) years of prision mayor
maximum, as the minimum penalty, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months of reclusion temporal
medium, as the maximum penalty and to pay Raquel Indon the amount of 30,000.00 as civil indemnity,
46, 343.00 as actual damages and 25,000.00 as moral damages.

6) In Criminal Case No. 1501-M-2000, accused-appellant Jose Domingo is convicted of the crime of
attempted murder and is sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of six (6) years of prision correccional
maximum, as the minimum penalty, to ten (10) years of prision mayor medium, as the maximum penalty
and to pay Jefferson (sic) Indon 10,000.00 as moral damages. 21

Hence, the present petition where the appellant reiterates the assignment of errors that were raised before the Court
of Appeals, to wit:

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT
FOR THE CRIMES CHARGED HAS BEEN PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT; and

II

ASSUMING THAT THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT COMMITTED THE CRIMES CHARGED, THE TRIAL
COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT EXEMPTING HIM FROM CRIMINAL LIABILITY IN VIEW OF HIS
INSANITY AT THE TIME OF THE COMMISSION OF THE SAME.22

This Court affirms the judgment of conviction.


The testimony of the principal witness of the prosecution, Raquel Indon, is assailed by appellant for not being
credible due to an inconsistency in her testimony and a lack of conformity with the experience of ordinary men.

Appellant refers to Raquels testimony during cross-examination wherein she narrated that after the appellant
entered her bedroom, she screamed. Her sister-in-law, who lived next door, responded by asking Raquel who her
assailant was, and the latter identified the appellant. Appellant claims that the conversation between Raquel and her
sister-in-law was contrary to the ordinary course of things, and that the initial reaction of people in such a situation
would be to ask for help from other people in order to save those who are in danger. Secondly, Raquel also testified
during cross-examination that the appellant stabbed the front of her legs when she fell down. It is also argued that
the appellant could not have stabbed the front of her legs, since she would be lying on front of her legs when she fell
down.

This Court finds no merit in these arguments. To begin with, there was nothing out of the ordinary as regards
Raquels testimony on these two matters. First, there was nothing unusual about the sister-in-laws query as to who
was attacking Raquel. Considering that the exchange merely consisted of this question and the reply to it, it would
not even be accurate to refer to it as a "conversation." Secondly, it was not impossible for the appellant to stab the
front of Raquels legs, had her legs been positioned sideways when she fell. But more importantly, these are
peripheral details that do not affect the substantial aspects of the incident. Raquel clearly and positively testified that
she was carrying her son Marvin when she rushed to the gate and fell down, and the appellant stabbed her legs and
thereafter proceeded to stab Marvin who later died from the stab wounds. Her testimony was supported by the
Medico-Legal Reports marked as Exhibits "E" and "F." Any inconsistencies in such peripheral details would not
exculpate the appellant.

Appellant also asserts that he was insane or completely deprived of intelligence during the commission of the
alleged crimes, and therefore should be exempted from criminal liability in accordance with Article 12, Chapter 2 of
the Revised Penal Code.23 However, this claim is not supported by evidence.

Appellant offers his uncorroborated testimony as the only proof that he was insane at the time he committed the
crime. He testified that nine days before he committed the crime, he suffered from lack of appetite, sleeplessness,
and anxiety. In addition, he allegedly heard voices ordering him to kill bad people. He claims that he does not
remember anything that happened on 29 March 2000, when the crimes were committed, and that he was already
detained when he became conscious of his surroundings.

The law presumes every man to be of sound mind. Otherwise stated, the law presumes that all acts are voluntary,
and that it is improper to presume that acts are done unconsciously. Thus, a person accused of a crime who pleads
the exempting circumstance of insanity has the burden of proving beyond reasonable doubt that he or she was insane
immediately before or at the moment the crime was committed.24

Insanity exists when there is a complete deprivation of intelligence while committing the act; i.e., when the accused
is deprived of reason, he acts without the least discernment because there is a complete absence of power to discern,
or there is total deprivation of freedom of the will. Mere abnormality of the mental faculties is not enough,
especially if the offender has not lost consciousness of his acts. Insanity is evinced by a deranged and perverted
condition of the mental faculties and is manifested in language and conduct. An insane person has no full and clear
understanding of the nature and consequences of his or her acts.25

Even assuming that appellants testimony is credible, his sleeplessness, lack of appetite, nervousness and his hearing
imaginary voices, while suggestive of an abnormal mental condition, cannot be equated with a total deprivation of
will or an absence of the power to discern. Mere abnormality of mental faculties will not exclude imputability. The
popular conception of the word "crazy" is used to describe a person or an act unnatural or out of ordinary.
Testimony that a person acted in a crazy or deranged manner days before the commission of the crime does not
conclusively prove that he is legally insane and will not grant him or her absolution. 26

Raquel Indons narration of the events presents evidence that is more revealing of appellants mental state at the
time the crime was committed. Appellants reply to her pleas that her daughters lives be spared, "Ngayon pa,
nagawa ko na," was a positive sign that he was aware of what he was doing, and that his reasoning faculties were
unimpaired.

The trial court found the testimony of Raquel Indon more credible than that of the accused, and its findings were
affirmed by the Court of Appeals. It is settled that when the trial courts findings have been affirmed by the appellate
court, said findings are generally conclusive and binding upon this Court. This Court does not generally disturb the
findings of fact of the trial court because it is in a better position to examine real evidence, as well as to observe the
demeanor of witnesses while testifying on the stand. Unless there is a clear showing that it overlooked certain facts
and circumstances that might alter the result of the case, the findings of fact made by the trial court will be respected
and even accorded finality by this Court.27

It is also remarkable that appellants testimony is not supported by his familys or intimate friends accounts of his
purported insanity. Appellant testified that he had been suffering from symptoms of insanity nine days before the
incident. Insanity may be shown by the surrounding circumstances fairly throwing light on the subject, such as
evidence of the allegedly deranged persons general conduct and appearance, his conduct consistent with his
previous character and habits, his irrational acts and beliefs, as well as his improvident bargains.28 It is difficult to
believe that appellants behavior, conduct and appearance, which would denote mental disturbance, escaped the
notice of his family and friends.

Appellant draws attention to the results of the medical examination conducted by Dr. Regienald Afroilan in 2004,
showing that he was suffering from Schizophrenia. It should be noted however that the examination was taken four
years after the crimes were committed, and that Dr. Afroilan admitted that his findings did not include the mental
state of petitioner four years before. The alleged insanity of an accused should relate to the period immediately
before or at the very moment the felony is committed, not at any time thereafter. Medical findings of mental
disorder, referring to a period after the time the crime was committed, will not exempt him from criminal liability. 29

Appellant emphasizes the fact that he was a friend of the Indon family and would not have committed such atrocities
against them, unless he was totally deprived of reason. In People v. Madarang,30 this Court ruled that the fact that
the accused had no quarrel with his victim prior to the killing does not prove the unstable mental condition of the
accused. Jurisprudence is replete with cases in which lives have been terminated for the flimsiest reasons.

This Court will now discuss the imposition of penalties and modify those imposed by the Court of Appeals.
Appellant is guilty of Murder in Criminal Cases No. 1496-M-2000 and No. 1497-M-2000. The penalty for murder is
reclusion perpetua to death. There being neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances, the penalty for murder
should be imposed in its medium period, or reclusion perpetua. 31 Thus, for the murder of Marvin Indon and Melissa
Indon, the penalty imposed on appellant is two sentences of reclusion perpetua.

When death occurs due to a crime, the following damages may be awarded: (1) civil indemnity ex delicto for the
death of the victim; (2) actual or compensatory damages; (3) moral damages; (4) exemplary damages; and (5)
temperate damages.32

Civil indemnity is mandatory and granted to the heirs of the victim without need of proof other than the commission
of the crime.33 Under prevailing jurisprudence, the award of 50,000.00 to the heirs of the victim as civil indemnity
is in order.34 Thus, 50,000.00 is awarded to the heirs of Marvin Indon and 50,000.00 to the heirs of Melissa
Indon.

The heirs of Marvin Indon and Melissa Indon are not entitled to actual damages, because said damages were not
adequately proved. The party seeking actual damages must produce competent proof or the best evidence obtainable,
such as receipts, to justify an award therefor.35 The funeral expenses, to which Raquel Indon referred in her
testimony, were not supported by receipts. Nevertheless, the award of 25,000.00 in temperate damages for
homicide or murder cases is proper when no evidence of burial or funeral expenses is presented in the trial
court.36 Under Article 2224 of the Civil Code, temperate damages may be recovered, as it cannot be denied that the
heirs of the victim suffered pecuniary loss although the exact amount was not proved. 37 Thus, the heirs of Marvin
Indon and Melissa Indon are entitled to temperate damages of 25,000.00 for each death.
In cases of murder and homicide, the award of moral damages is mandatory, without need of allegation and proof
other than the death of the victim.38 The award of 50,000.00 as moral damages is in order for the death for Marvin
Indon, and likewise for that of Melissa Indon.

Exemplary damages of 25,000.00 should also be awarded, since the qualifying circumstance of treachery was
firmly established.39 Marvin Indon and Melissa Indon were both minors when they were killed by the appellant. The
killing by an adult of a minor child is treacherous.40 Moreover, the victims in this case were asleep when appellant
barged into their house and attacked their family. The attack was clearly unprovoked, and they were defenseless
against him.

In Criminal Cases No. 1498-M-2000 and No. 1501-M-2000, appellant is guilty of the Attempted Murder of Michelle
Indon and Jeffer Indon. The penalty for Attempted Murder is prision correccional maximum to prision mayor
medium. Thus, the penalty imposed on the appellant is two sentences of six years of prision correccional, as
minimum, to ten years of prision mayor medium, as maximum, for the attempted murder of Michelle Indon and
Jeffer Indon. In addition to the moral damages of 10,000.00 for each victim, which the Court of Appeals imposed,
appellant is also ordered to pay civil indemnity of 20,000.00 41 and exemplary damages of 25,000.00.42

In Criminal Case No. 1499-M-2000, appellant is convicted of the crime of frustrated homicide of Ronaldo Galvez.
The penalty for frustrated homicide, there being no other mitigating or aggravating circumstances attending the
same, is five years of prision correccional as minimum to eight years and one day of prision mayor as maximum.
Moral damages in the amount of 25,000.00, awarded by the Court of Appeals, are affirmed.

Appellant is guilty of Frustrated Murder in Criminal Case No. 1500-M-2000. The penalty for Frustrated Murder is
reclusion temporal, which must be imposed in its medium period, considering that there were neither aggravating
nor mitigating circumstances that were proven in this case. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, appellant
should be sentenced to suffer the penalty of twelve years of prision mayor, as minimum, to seventeen years and four
months of reclusion temporal medium, as the maximum penalty. This Court affirms the award by the Court of
Appeals of (1) Civil Indemnity in the amount of 30,000.00; 43 (2) actual damages of 46,343.00 for medical
expenses, which are supported by receipts marked as Exhibits "I" and "J"; and (3) moral damages of 25,000.00.
Appellant is also ordered to pay exemplary damages of 25,000.00 based on the finding that the assault against
Raquel Indon was attended by treachery.44 The essence of treachery is that the attack is deliberate and without
warning, done in a swift and unexpected manner of execution, affording the hapless and unsuspecting victim no
chance to resist or escape.45 At the time Raquel was attacked, she was in her home, unarmed and sleeping with her
children. She was undoubtedly unprepared and defenseless to resist appellants attack on her and her young children.

All the sums of money awarded to the victims and their heirs will accrue a 6% interest from the time of this
Decision until fully paid.

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 30 April 2008 in CA-
G.R. CR No. 30511 is MODIFIED in accordance with the hereinabove discussion on penalties and award of
damages, to wit:

1. In Criminal Case No. 1496-M-2000, this Court additionally awards 25,000.00 as temperate damages
and 25,000.00 as exemplary damages to the heirs of Marvin Indon.

2. In Criminal Case No. 1497-M-2000, this Court additionally awards 25,000.00 as temperate damages
and 25,000.00 as exemplary damages to the heirs of Melissa Indon.

3. In Criminal Case No. 1498-M-2000, the Court additionally awards civil indemnity of 20,000.00 and
exemplary damages of 25,000.00 to Michelle Indon.

4. In Criminal Case No. 1499-M-2000, the appellant is sentenced to serve an indeterminate penalty of five
years of prision correccional as minimum to eight years and one day of prision mayor as maximum.
5. In Criminal Case No. 1500-M-2000, this Court additionally awards exemplary damages of 25,000.00 to
Raquel Indon.

6. In Criminal Case No. 1501-M-2000, this Court additionally awards civil indemnity of 20,000.00 and
exemplary damages of 25,000.00 to Jeffer Indon.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 171018 September 11, 2009

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
ELLY NAELGA, Accused-Appellant.

Related Topic: (instigation)

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

For Review under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court is the Decision1 dated 30 November 2005 of the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 00304 entitled People of the Philippines v. Elly Naelga, affirming the
Decision2rendered by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Rosales, Pangasinan, Branch 53, in Criminal Case No.
4649-R, finding Elly Naelga guilty of the illegal sale of methamphetamine hydrochloride, more popularly known as
shabu.

By virtue of a Criminal Complaint, accused-appellant Elly Naelga y Bongay (accused-appellant) was indicted before
the RTC of Rosales, Pangasinan, Branch 53, for violation of Sections 5 3 and 11(3),4 Article II of Republic Act No.
9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, the accusatory portion of which reads:

That on or about 3:00 oclock in the afternoon of July 15, 2003, in Poblacion, Municipality of Rosales, Province of
Pangasinan, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and
there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession, control and custody the following, to wit: one (1)
piece of small transparent plastic containing "Shabu" weighing more or less 0.4 grams which he sold to a poseur-
buyer designated by the police, and without having the necessary permit or license to possess the same.

Contrary to Article II, Sec. 5 and Sec. 11(3) of R.A. 9165. 5

Upon arraignment on 27 August 2003, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty.6

A pre-trial conference was held on 16 September 2003 in the presence of the government prosecutor, the accused
and his counsel. Based on the pre-trial order issued by the trial court on 16 September 2003, the defense only
admitted to the identity of the accused-appellant and the fact of his apprehension, but denied any knowledge of the
existence of a buy-bust operation. The defense limited its testimonial evidence to that of accused-appellant himself.
On the other hand, the prosecution limited its testimonial evidence to the stipulations of Police Officer (PO) 2 Noe
Sembran, PO1 Rosauro Valdez, and Forensic Chemist Emelda Besarra Roderos. The prosecutions documentary
evidence included the following: (a) Affidavit executed by PO2 Sembran who acted as poseur-buyer; (b) the marked
money/100 bill with Serial No. GW877766 recovered from accused-appellant; (c) confiscation receipt; (d)
Chemistry Report; and (e) sachet of shabu handed by accused-appellant to PO2 Sembran. Thereafter, trial on the
merits ensued.

The prosecution supported its version of the events through documentary evidence and the testimonies of its two
witnesses from the Rosales Police Station in Rosales, Pangasinan, namely: PO2 Noe Sembran and PO1 Rosauro
Valdez.

PO2 Noe Sembran testified that upon receiving information from a civilian asset that the accused Elly Naelga was
peddling illegal drugs at the public market of Rosales, Pangasinan, Police Chief Inspector Policarpio Cayabyab, Jr.
hatched a plan to conduct a buy-bust operation to apprehend the accused. PO2 Sembran was tasked to act as poseur-
buyer, with PO1 Danilo Asis, Senior Police Officer (SPO) 1 Jesus Caspillo, and PO1 Rosauro Valdez as backup
operatives. The money used for the buy-bust operation was provided by the Rosales Treasurers Office and affixed
thereto were his signature and that of the municipal treasurer of Rosales.

In his testimony, PO2 Sembran narrated that on 15 July 2003, he was informed by an asset that accused-appellant
Elly Naelga was selling illegal drugs at the Rosales Public Market in Pangasinan. Thereafter, at about three oclock
in the afternoon of the same day, PO2 Sembran went inside the public market and approached accused-appellant.
PO2 Sembran was familiar with accused-appellant, because the polices confidential agent had been monitoring
accused-appellants activities for several weeks. PO2 Sembran talked to accused-appellant, who asked the former if
he was a security guard, to which he replied in the affirmative. While engaged in this conversation, PO2 Sembran
asked the accused-appellant what he could use to keep him awake while on duty as a security guard. Accused-
appellant suggested that he drink Red Bull. PO2 Sembran replied that he already did, but this did not work, and that
he was caught sleeping on his post. Accused-appellant then declared that he knew something more effective, as he
passed his index finger under his nose as if sniffing something. When asked what he meant, accused-appellant told
PO2 Sembran that he was referring to bato or shabu. PO2 Sembran said he was willing to try this and to buy Five
Hundred Pesos (500.00) worth of shabu. Accused-appellant told PO2 Sembran to give him the money and
committed to return with the shabu. PO2 Sembran gave appellant four One Hundred Pesos (400.00) in marked
bills. Upon receiving the money, accused-appellant left. PO2 Sembran went back to the police station to plan the
arrest of accused-appellant.1avvphi1

Police Chief Inspector Policarpio C. Cayabyab, Jr. instructed PO2 Sembran to act as a poseur-buyer and the other
members of the team as backup. PO2 Sembran and his fellow police officers returned to the public market almost an
hour later. They waited for accused-appellant until he finally arrived, alighting from a tricycle. PO2 Sembran
followed him in an alley. There were people sleeping on bamboo tables in the alley, and PO2 Sembran expressed
apprehension at being noticed. Accused-appellant reassured him that they would not be disturbed and immediately
asked for the balance of One Hundred Pesos (100.00). PO2 Sembran gave accused-appellant the marked money.
Thereupon, accused-appellant took out a sachet containing white granules and handed it to PO2 Sembran, who then
revealed that he was a policeman. Accused-appellant tried to run, but PO2 Sembran held on to the formers belt.
They struggled and fell to the pavement. PO1 Valdez came to help PO2 Sembran arrest accused-appellant. PO2
Sembran was able to recover the One-Hundred-Peso (100.00) bill from accused-appellant, who had used the Four
Hundred Pesos (400.00) he earlier received to buy shabu. Accused-appellant was taken into custody, and PO2
Sembran executed an affidavit of arrest. The plastic sachet containing 0.04 gram of white crystalline substance
purchased from accused-appellant for 500.00 was marked "EN" and taken to the Philippine National Police (PNP)
Regional Crime Laboratory Office in Camp Florendo, San Fernando, La Union, for laboratory examination. 7 The
four marked One-Hundred-Peso bills earlier given to accused-appellant were no longer with him, but the last
100.00 marked bill later paid to him was recovered.

PO1 Rosauro Valdez corroborated PO2 Sembrans testimony, narrating how he acted as backup in connection with
the buy-bust operation that led to the arrest of accused-appellant.
The parties agreed to dispense with the testimony of the Chemist, Police Inspector Emelda Besarra Roderos, who
conducted the laboratory examination of the subject drug, considering that the defense admitted the existence,
authenticity and due execution of Chemistry Report Number D-260-2003-U dated 16 July 2003, showing that the
laboratory examination of the drug confiscated from accused-appellant yielded a positive result for
methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, a dangerous drug. 8

For the defense, accused-appellant took the witness stand.

Accused-appellant denied the accusations against him. He testified that he was employed by a Muslim named Khadi
to sell compact discs (CDs) in a stall located inside the public market of Rosales, Pangasinan. PO2 Sembran, who
introduced himself as a security guard, had previously been buying CDs from him. One Saturday, the exact date of
which he could not recall, PO2 Sembran came at around 8:30 in the morning and bought a battery worth 5.00. On
Tuesday of the following week or on 15 July 2003, PO2 Sembran returned and asked accused-appellant to buy
shabu for him saying, "We need that this evening." He told PO2 Sembran that he did not know anybody selling
shabu; nonetheless, PO2 Sembran left 400.00, which was placed beside him. He took the money, because it might
get lost. At around 3:00 oclock in the afternoon of the same day, PO2 Sembran came back to the stall and waited
for him. When he arrived, he gave to PO2 Sembran what he bought. Accused-appellant admitted, although not
certain, that what he bought was shabu, which he gave to PO2 Sembran. After accused-appellant handed over the
shabu and while he was leaving the place, PO2 Sembran called him back uttering, "Pare, come here," and then
handcuffed him. PO2 Sembran told him, "Pare, I am a policeman" (pulis ako). On cross examination, accused-
appellant admitted buying the subject shabu in Urdaneta City.

After hearing, the trial court rendered judgment on the merits. Finding that the prosecution had proven accused-
appellants guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the RTC promulgated its Decision on 21 June 2004 convicting him of the
offense charged, sentencing him to Life Imprisonment, and imposing on him a fine of 500,000.00, disposing as
follows:

WHEREFORE, the Court hereby finds the accused Elly Naelga guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
illegal sale of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride or "shabu" as charged, defined and penalized under Article II,
Section 5 of Republic Act (RA) No. 9165. Accordingly, he is sentenced to suffer life imprisonment; to pay a fine of
Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (500,000.00); and, to pay the costs of suit. 9

Accused-appellant appealed the decision of the RTC to the Court of Appeals. On 30 November 2005, the Court of
Appeals rendered a Decision affirming the challenged decision of the trial court, reasoning thus:

[T]here is no rigid or textbook method of conducting buy-bust operations. The choice of effective ways to
apprehend drug dealers is within the ambit of the police authority police officers have the expertise to determine
which specific approaches are necessary to enforce their entrapment operations. The courts duty in these cases is to
ensure that the rights of the accused have not been violated during buy-bust operations.

The failure of the police authorities to comply strictly with the Dangerous Drugs Boards Resolution on the chain of
custody of the seized shabu and its preservation, by itself, is not fatal to the prosecutions case. What is essential or
necessary is that after the subject shabu was seized, the same was duly identified, marked or preserved, and duly
submitted to the crime laboratory for examination. x x x.

xxxx

x x x We always adhere to the well-entrenched doctrine in our jurisdiction that the findings of facts of the trial court,
its calibration of the collective testimonies of the witnesses, its assessment of the probative weight of the evidence of
the parties as well as its conclusions anchored on said findings are accorded by the appellate court high respect. In
the absence of any showing that a judges factual findings were reached arbitrarily or without sufficient basis, these
findings are to be received with great respect by the Supreme Court, and indeed are binding upon it.
Prescinding therefrom, We hold that the court a quo had sufficiently and clearly established both the factual and
legal basis that led to the verdict of conviction of accused-appellant Naelga. The Court a quos findings and
pronouncement that the police officers who conducted the buy-bust operation against accused-appellant Naelga, did
so pursuant to their lawful exercise of police functions should gain respect from Us. This is so because the defense
miserably failed to produce any contrary evidence that would show even how remotely it was, that police officers
Sembran and Valdez were motivated with grudge or ill-will to allow injustice to be committed against the person of
accused-appellant if their accusation was fabricated.10

Via a Notice of Appeal,11 accused-appellant elevated the case to this Court, which thereafter resolved to require the
parties to simultaneously file their respective supplemental briefs, if they so desired, within 30 days from
notice.12 Both the prosecution and the defense opted to adopt their respective supplemental briefs filed before the
Court of Appeals for purposes of expediency.13

In its brief, the defense raises the following issues for resolution by this Court:

I.

THE LOWER COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE INCONSISTENT AND
INCREDIBLE TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES.

II.

THE LOWER COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME CHARGED BASED ON THE DISPUTABLE PRESUMPTION THAT
THE POLICE OFFICERS REGULARLY PERFORMED THEIR OFFICIAL FUNCTIONS.

We sustain accused-appellants conviction.

Accused-appellant denies the charges against him and attacks the credibility of the prosecution witnesses.

The core issue for resolution is the issue of the credibility of the witnesses.

Accused-appellant questions the trial courts reliance on the credibility of the two prosecution witnesses in
convicting him on several grounds. First, material inconsistencies and gross contradictions in the testimonies of the
police officers destroyed their credibility. Second, accused-appellant alleges that the police officers failed to observe
the proper guidelines in securing the chain of custody of the prohibited drugs; this alleged failure to follow proper
procedure raises doubts as to whether the specimen examined by the forensic chemist and presented in court was
indeed the one retrieved from accused-appellant. Thus, there can be no presumption of regularity.

On the other hand, the Office of the Solicitor General is for sustaining accused-appellants conviction, arguing that
the alleged inconsistencies are minor and inconsequential and, in fact, do not negate the occurrence of the buy-bust
operation and accused-appellants involvement.

The instant controversy involves no less than the liberty of accused-appellant. The presumption of innocence of an
accused in a criminal case is a basic constitutional principle, fleshed out by procedural rules that place on the
prosecution the burden of proving that the accused is guilty of the offense charged by proof beyond reasonable
doubt. This being an appeal of a criminal case, opening the entire case up for review, we have carefully reviewed
and evaluated the records and the decisions of the RTC and the Court of Appeals and find no reason to deviate from
their rulings.

At the outset, it should be pointed out that prosecutions involving illegal drugs largely depend on the credibility of
the police officers who conducted the buy-bust operation. Considering that this Court has access only to the cold and
impersonal records of the proceedings, it generally relies upon the assessment of the trial court. 14 This Court will not
interfere with the trial courts assessment of the credibility of witnesses except when there appears on record some
fact or circumstance of weight and influence which the trial court has overlooked, misapprehended, or
misinterpreted.15 This rule is consistent with the reality that the trial court is in a better position to decide the
question, having heard the witnesses themselves and observed their deportment and manner of testifying during the
trial.16 Thus, factual findings of the trial court, its calibration of the testimonies of the witnesses, and its conclusions
anchored on its findings are accorded by the appellate court high respect, if not conclusive effect, more so when
affirmed by the Court of Appeals, as in this case.

A successful prosecution for the illegal sale of dangerous/prohibited drugs must establish the following elements:

(1) identities of the buyer and seller, the object, and the consideration; and

(2) the delivery of the thing sold and the payment therefor. 17

As correctly found by the trial court, accused-appellant was caught in a buy-bust operation. He was caught in
flagrante delicto selling a dangerous drug, methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, to PO2 Noe Sembran on 15
July 2003 at the public market of Rosales, Pangasinan, established not only by the clear, straightforward, and
convincing testimony of poseur-buyer PO2 Noe Sembran and corroborated by PO1 Rosauro Valdez, but also by
accused-appellants testimony.

Accused-appellant himself confirmed and admitted to the occurrence of said transaction. Following his testimony,
he admitted to taking the 400.00 left by PO2 Sembran for the purchase of shabu, thereafter going to his alleged
source in Urdaneta City, and then returning with the shabu to the Rosales Public Market, and handing the sachet
over to PO2 Sembran. The foregoing were not only undisputed but were, in fact, admitted by accused-appellant
himself in his testimony. Thus, there is no denying that the said transaction indeed took place.

Desperate to get himself absolved from culpability, accused-appellant submits in the alternative that the facts as
presented by the prosecution reveal that the law enforcers, specifically PO2 Sembran, instigated him to sell shabu.
Accused-appellant claims that it was PO2 Sembran who approached and asked him to buy shabu, leaving the money
even if he said he did not know anybody selling shabu.

We find no instigation in this case. The general rule is that it is no defense to the perpetrator of a crime that facilities
for its commission were purposely placed in his way, or that the criminal act was done upon the "decoy solicitation"
of persons seeking to expose the criminal, or that detectives feigning complicity in the act were present and
apparently assisting in its commission. This is particularly true in that class of cases where the offense is of a kind
habitually committed, and the solicitation merely furnishes evidence of a course of conduct. Mere deception by the
detective will not shield defendant, if the offense was committed by him free from the influence or the instigation of
the detective.18

Here, the law enforcers received a report from their confidential informant that accused-appellant was engaged in
illegal drug trade in the public market of Rosales. Poseur-buyer PO2 Sembran then pretended to be engaged in the
drug trade himself and, with the help of his fellow buy-bust operatives, arrested accused-appellant in the act of
delivering the shabu to him. In an entrapment, ways and means are resorted to for the purpose of trapping and
capturing the lawbreakers in the execution of their criminal plan. In instigation, the instigator practically induces the
would-be defendant into the commission of the offense, and himself becomes a co-principal. Entrapment is no bar to
prosecution and conviction; in instigation, the defendant would have to be acquitted.

A buy-bust operation is a form of entrapment, which in recent years has been accepted as a valid and effective mode
of arresting violators of the Dangerous Drugs Law. In a buy-bust operation, the idea of committing a crime
originates from the offender, without anybody inducing or prodding him to commit the offense. 19 In the case at bar,
the buy-bust operation was formed by the police officers precisely to test the veracity of the tip and in order to
apprehend the perpetrator.
While accused-appellant claims that it was PO2 Sembran who approached and asked him to buy shabu for him, the
same cannot be considered as an act of instigation, but an act of "feigned solicitation." Instigation is resorted to for
purposes of entrapment, based on the tip received from the police informant that accused-appellant was peddling
illegal drugs in the public market of Rosales. In fact, it was accused-appellant who suggested to PO2 Sembran to use
shabu; and, despite accused-appellants statement that he did not know anybody selling shabu, he still took the
money from PO2 Sembran and directly went to Urdaneta, where he claimed to have bought the illegal drug. Then he
returned to the Rosales public market and gave the drug to PO2 Sembran.

The records of the case disclose that PO2 Noe Sembran, the designated poseur-buyer in the buy-bust operation,
positively identified accused-appellant as the seller of the confiscated shabu. His testimony was corroborated by
PO1 Rosauro Valdez. The object of the corpus delicti was duly established by the prosecution. The sachet
confiscated from accused-appellant was positively identified, marked and preserved as evidence, and upon
laboratory examination yielded positive for shabu.

Accused-appellants assertion that the police operatives failed to comply with the proper procedure in the chain of
custody of the seized drugs is premised on the idea that non-compliance with the procedure in Section 21(a), Article
II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9165 creates an irregularity and overcomes the
presumption of regularity accorded police authorities in the performance of their official duties.

The argument fails.

Contrary to appellants claim, there is no broken chain in the custody of the seized items, later on determined to be
shabu, from the moment of its seizure by the entrapment team, to its delivery to the investigating officer, to the time
it was brought to the forensic chemist at the PNP Crime Laboratory for laboratory examination. It was duly
established by documentary, testimonial, and object evidence, including the markings on the plastic sachet
containing the shabu indicating that the substance tested by the forensic chemist, whose laboratory tests were well-
documented, was the same as that taken from accused-appellant.

Failure of the buy-bust team to strictly comply with the provisions of said section did not prevent the presumption of
regularity in the performance of duty from applying. 20

The procedure for the custody and disposition of confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous drugs, among
others, is provided under Section 21(1), Article II of Republic Act No. 9165:

(1) The apprehending team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure and
confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from
whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the
media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies
of the inventory and be given a copy thereof.

Section 21(a), Article II of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9165, which implements
said provision, reads:

(a) The apprehending officer/team having initial custody and control of the drugs shall, immediately after seizure
and confiscation, physically inventory and photograph the same in the presence of the accused or the person/s from
whom such items were confiscated and/or seized, or his/her representative or counsel, a representative from the
media and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and any elected public official who shall be required to sign the copies
of the inventory and be given a copy thereof; x x x Provided, further, that non-compliance with these requirements
under justifiable grounds, as long as the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items are properly
preserved by the apprehending officer/team, shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said
items.

The above provision further states that non-compliance with the stipulated procedure, under justifiable grounds,
shall not render void and invalid such seizures of and custody over said items, for as long as the integrity and
evidentiary value of the seized items are properly preserved by the apprehending officers. The evident purpose of
the procedure provided for is the preservation of the integrity and evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same
would be utilized in the determination of the guilt or the innocence of the accused. Its absence, by itself, is not fatal
to the prosecutions case and will not discharge accused-appellant from his crime. What is of utmost importance is
the preservation of the integrity and the evidentiary value of the seized items, as the same would be utilized in the
determination of the guilt or innocence of the accused. In the instant case, the integrity of the drugs seized remained
intact, and the crystalline substance contained therein was later on determined to be positive for methamphetamine
hydrochloride (shabu).

Before the enactment of Republic Act No. 9165, the requirements contained in Section 21(1) were already present,
per Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 3, Series of 1979. Despite such regulation and the non-compliance
therewith by the buy-bust team, the Court still applied the presumption of regularity, holding:

The failure of the arresting police officers to comply with said DDB Regulation No. 3, Series of 1979 is a matter
strictly between the Dangerous Drugs Board and the arresting officers and is totally irrelevant to the prosecution of
the criminal case for the reason that the commission of the crime of illegal sale of a prohibited drug is considered
consummated once the sale or transaction is established x x x and the prosecution thereof is not undermined by the
failure of the arresting officers to comply with the regulations of the Dangerous Drugs Board. 21

Assuming arguendo that the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty will not apply due to the
failure to comply with Section 21(a), the same will not automatically lead to the exoneration of the accused.
Accused-appellants conviction was based not solely on said presumption, but on the documentary and real
evidence; and, more importantly, on the oral evidence of prosecution witnesses, whom we found to be credible. One
witness is sufficient to prove the corpus delicti - that there was a consummated sale between the poseur-buyer and
the accused - there being no quantum of proof as to the number of witnesses to prove the same. To emphasize,
accused-appellant himself verified in his testimony that the said transaction took place.

The inconsistencies pointed out by the defense pertaining to whether or not he was already inside the public market
of Rosales at the time the operatives returned, or if the buy-bust team saw him alighting from a tricycle, is an
inconsistency immaterial to the commission of the offense and, thus, cannot affect the overall credibility of the
prosecution witnesses.

The records of the case indicate that after his arrest, accused-appellant was taken into police custody. After the
arrest, the seized item, which had the marking "EN" and alleged to contain shabu, was brought to the PNP crime
laboratory for examination.22 The request for laboratory examination and transfer of the confiscated sachet to the
PNP crime laboratory was prepared by Chief of Police Policarpio C. Cayabyab, Jr. 23 The request indicated that the
seized item was delivered by PO3 Resuello, Jr. and received by Forensic Chemist P/Insp. Emelda Besarra
Roderos,24 the same person who conducted laboratory tests on the substance. The transparent plastic sachet
containing a white crystalline substance was later on determined to be positive for methylamphetamine
hydrochloride or shabu.

PO2 Sembran positively identified the plastic sachet containing shabu, which he had bought from accused-appellant
in the buy-bust operation. Thus, the identity of the shabu taken from accused-appellant had been duly preserved and
established by the prosecution. Besides, the integrity of the evidence is presumed to be preserved, unless there is a
showing of bad faith, ill will, or proof that the evidence has been tampered with. The accused-appellant in this case
bears the burden of making some showing that the evidence was tampered or meddled with to overcome the
presumption of regularity in the handling of exhibits by public officers and the presumption that public officers
properly discharged their duties. There is no doubt that the sachet marked "EN," which was submitted for laboratory
examination and found to be positive for shabu, was the same one sold by accused-appellant to the poseur-buyer
PO2 Sembran during the buy-bust operation.

Finally, accused-appellants claim that he is a victim of a frame-up is viewed by this Court with disfavor, because
being a victim can easily be feigned and fabricated. There being no proof of ill motive on the part of the police
operatives to falsely accuse him of such a grave offense, the presumption of regularity in the performance of official
duty and the findings of the trial court with respect to the credibility of witnesses shall prevail over the claim of the
accused-appellant.25 While the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty by law enforcement
agents should not by itself prevail over the presumption of innocence, for the claim of frame-up to prosper, the
defense must be able to present clear and convincing evidence to overcome this presumption of regularity, which the
defense was not able to proffer.

Accused-appellant was charged with the unauthorized sale and delivery of a dangerous drug in violation of the
provisions of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165.

Under Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, the penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging
from 500,000.00 to 1,000,000.00 shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall sell,
trade, administer, dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in transit or transport any dangerous
drug, including any and all species of opium poppy regardless of the quantity and purity involved.

Thus, the trial court, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals, correctly imposed the penalty of life imprisonment and a
fine of 500,000.00.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 00304 convicting
accused-appellant ELLY NAELGA of violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165, and sentencing
him to suffer the penalty of life imprisonment and to pay a fine of 500,000.00 is hereby AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR. DIOSDADO M. PERALTA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ROBERTO A. ABAD*
Associate Justice

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the
writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Third Division

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons Attestation, it is hereby
certified that the conclusions in the above Decision were reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the
writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.
REYNATO S. PUNO
Chief Justice

Footnotes

* Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad was designated to sit as additional member replacing Associate
Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura per Raffle dated 2 September 2009.

1
Penned by Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes with Associate Justices Godardo A. Jacinto and Arturo
D. Brion (now a member of this Court), concurring; rollo, pp. 2-15.

2
Penned by Judge Teodorico Alfonso P. Bauzon; records, pp. 49-57.

3
Sec. 5. Sale, Trading, Administration, Dispensation, Delivery, Distribution and Transportation of
Dangerous Drugs and/or Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals. - The penalty of life
imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (500,000.00) to Ten million
pesos (10,000,000.00) shall be imposed upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall sell, trade,
administer, dispense, deliver, give away to another, distribute, dispatch in transit or transport any dangerous
drug, including any and all species of opium poppy regardless of the quantity and purity involved, or shall
act as a broker in any of such transactions.

4
SEC. 11. Possession of Dangerous Drugs. - The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging
from Five hundred thousand pesos (500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (10,000,000.00) shall be imposed
upon any person, who, unless authorized by law, shall possess any dangerous drug in the following
quantities, regardless of the degree of purity thereof:

xxxx

Otherwise, if the quantity involved is less than the foregoing quantities, the penalties shall be
graduated as follows:

xxxx

(3) Imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging
from Three hundred thousand pesos (300,000.00) to Four hundred thousand pesos
(400,000.00), if the quantities of dangerous drugs are less than five (5) grams of opium,
morphine, heroin, cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride, marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil,
methamphetamine hydrochloride or "shabu," or other dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to,
MDMA or "ecstasy," PMA, TMA, LSD, GHB, and those similarly designed or newly introduced
drugs and their derivatives, without having any therapeutic value or if the quantity possessed is far
beyond therapeutic requirements; or less than three hundred (300) grams of marijuana.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 168997 April 13, 2007


GREGORIO PELONIA, Petitioner,
vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

Related Topic: (IMMEDIATE VINDICATION OF A GRAAVE OFFENSE)

DECISION

CALLEJO, SR., J.:

Before the Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45, assailing the July 30, 2004 Decision 1 and the
June 24, 2005 Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR No. 17476 which affirmed with
modification the April 2, 1993 Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Davao City, Branch 13, in Criminal
Case No. 14,182.

Petitioner Gregorio Pelonia was indicted for murder in the RTC of Davao City. The accusatory portion of the
Information filed against him reads:

That on or about August 17, 1986, in the City of Davao, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-mentioned accused, armed with a rifle, with treachery and evident premeditation and with intent to
kill, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously shot one Ignacio Nacilla and thereby inflicting upon the latter gunshot
wounds which caused his instantaneous death.

Contrary to law.3

On arraignment, petitioner, assisted by counsel, entered a plea of not guilty.1awphi1.nt

The Case for the Prosecution

As culled by the CA, the case for the People is summarized as follows:

On the evening of 17 August 1986, the deceased, Ignacio Nacilla, along with Winefredo Bustamante, Monico
Betarmos, and Boy Domondon, went to the barrio of Tawan-Tawan, Davao City to attend the celebration of the eve
of the fiesta of the said barrio. Ignacio Nacilla wanted also to see his brother, Lanoy, who lives in the same
barangay. Along the way, they stopped by the residence of the Barangay Captain of Tawan-Tawan to ask permission
to enter the barrio as was the practice there. The Barangay Captain responded favorably by sending three (3)
members of the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF), now CAFGU, to accompany them into the barangay centro.

From the Barangay Captains home, the group stopped at Blacitos Store where the deceased, Nacilla, bought bottles
of beer for the group. They drank the beer there. After a while, Boy Guhiling, one of the CHDF, invited them to
have supper at the house of Gregorio Pelonia, the accused. The group accepted the invitation and proceeded to the
house of the accused. Upon their arrival, the accused bade them to come up to the balcony. The group heeded the
accuseds call, after which the deceased along with Betarmos, Bustamante and Domondon sat themselves at the
balcony while Guhiling went downstairs. The accused, who was then busy preparing some fiesta meals, returned to
the kitchen and finished the chopping of meat with his bolo, at the conclusion of which he left the said bolo in the
kitchen. He prepared the table, set it for dining, laid the food on it and called the group into the sala to enjoy what he
had offered.

Betarmos and Bustamante stood up to approach the table. The deceased, however, remained seated and declared that
his purpose in coming to the accuseds house was not to eat but to kill. The deceased had a long-standing grudge
against the accused because some time ago the accused had reported the deceased to the Marines for being abusive,
for which reason the Marines picked up the deceased and brought him to the camp and manhandled him, obviously
to teach him a lesson. Incidentally, the deceased is husky in built and relatively tall in contrast to the accused whose
head could reach up only until the deceaseds shoulders.

At this point, Betarmos butted in and said that they were at the accuseds house to eat supper, to which the deceased
agreed. But seemingly seething with anger, the deceased could not contain himself. He said that the accused was
perhaps depending so much on his garrand rifle, his issued firearm as member of the CHDF. Enraged by the
deceaseds insulting comment, spoken in his (the accuseds) own home, in front of his visitors and family, by one
whom he had not even invited to the event, the accused rushed to his room to get his rifle. Betarmos and Bustamante
heard the cocking of a gun. Betarmos told the deceased that they had better go down because something bad might
happen to them. The deceased refused to leave. He said that he would not fight back and would just let himself be
killed. Betarmos and Bustamante ran towards the door. The accused returned to the sala and fired a warning shot
towards the ceiling and ordered the deceased to go downstairs because he was being abusive. The deceased declared,
"I will not go down if nobody is killed." The accused ran to the kitchen and jumped to the ground and told Guhiling
to come upstairs and get the deceased. Guhiling and Flor Losica, sister-in-law of the accused, proceeded upstairs just
as Betarmos and Bustamante were rushing out of the house. The belligerent pronouncements of the deceased about
wanting to kill, the rush of movements of flight of those who were in the house, and the sound of the cocking of a
gun must have struck fear in the hearts of the accuseds wife and children. They were all crying. Hearing their cries,
the accused went back upstairs through a hole in his room. His wife was kneeling in front of the deceased imploring
him not to hurt her husband. The deceased was adamant and did not budge from his stance. The accused shot the
deceased with his rifle.4

Petitioner interposed self-defense. The trial court summarized his evidence, as follows:

It was the eve of the fiesta of Barangay Tawan-Tawan when at around 8:00 oclock in the evening of August 17,
1986, Gregorio Pelonia received a group of visitors in his house. They were Winnie Bustamante, Boy Guhiling,
Monico Betarmos and Ignacio Nacilla. Upon the introduction of Boy Guhiling, Gregorio Pelonia invited them to
come up. The group seated themselves in the balcony, while Gregorio Pelonia went back to the kitchen to finish the
chopping of the meat, afterwhich he put aside the meat in a basin, placed the bolo he was using on top of the meat
and placed the whole thing on the native sink. He prepared the table, then he called the group to partake of the food.

Monico Betarmos, Boy Guhiling and Winnie Bustamante came inside the sala but Ignacio Nacilla who also came
forward spoke that his purpose in coming was not to eat but to kill because he has a long standing grudge against
Pelonia and that this is the time to avenge himself. Pelonia asked what he had done against Nacilla but the latter took
hold of Pelonias shoulder and pushed him to a chair. Pelonias wife cried for help and Cipriano Losica came up but
he was collared by Nacilla. Thus, Pelonia was able to run towards his room and got his gun, then he went back to the
sala and fired a warning shot upwards, saying that Nacilla should better go down because he is abusive. Then,
Pelonia ran towards the kitchen and jumped to the ground. He told Boy Guhiling to get Nacilla and Boy Guhiling,
together with Flor Losica, went upstairs. Pelonia heard the shout and crying of his wife and children so he went back
upstairs through the fox hole (an underground passage in his room). Emerging in his room, he proceeded to the sala
where he saw Ignacio Nacilla holding the bolo which he (Pelonia) used to chop meat. Again, he warned Nacilla to
go down but the latter instead attacked Pelonia who was able to evade the blows. When Pelonia saw that Nacilla was
about to thrust the bolo towards him, he shot Nacilla.5

The trial court conducted an ocular inspection of the locus criminus, without, however, a representative from the
prosecution.

On April 2, 1993, the RTC rendered its Decision finding petitioner guilty of homicide, thus:

WHEREFORE, accused Gregorio Pelonia, having been found to be guilty of the crime of Homicide as proved by
the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of
imprisonment of Eight (8) Years and One (1) Day of prision mayor as minimum to Fourteen (14) Years Eight (8)
Months and One (1) Day of reclusion temporal as maximum.

He is further ordered to indemnify the heirs of Ignacio Nacilla, the following amounts, to wit:
1. 50,000.00 for the death of Ignacio Nacilla;

2. 150,000.00 for his loss of earning capacity;

3. 20,000.00 for moral damages;

4. 5,000.00 for and as attorneys fee; and

5. Costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.6

The RTC rejected petitioners theory of self-defense, holding that it was not established by clear and convincing
evidence. The RTC ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove the qualifying circumstances of treachery and
evident premeditation. It held that treachery cannot be presumed and, like evident premeditation, must be proved as
conclusively as the killing itself. According to the trial court, the evidence presented by the prosecution failed to
show the circumstances which would qualify the crime to murder.

Petitioner appealed to the CA, claiming that the following errors were committed by the trial court:

I. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT FINDING THAT THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT MERELY ACTED
IN SELF-DEFENSE WHEN HE SHOT THE DECEASED.

A. There was unlawful aggression on the part of the victim.

B. There was reasonable necessity of the means employed by the accused to prevent or repel the aggression
of the deceased.

C. There was lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the accused who defended himself.

II. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO CONSIDER THE OCULAR INSPECTION OF THE SCENE
OF THE CRIME CONDUCTED ON 16 APRIL 1988.

III. THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT ACQUITTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT.7

On July 30, 2004, the CA rendered the assailed Decision affirming the trial courts judgment of conviction with
modification as to the penalty imposed, to wit:

WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision of the Regional Trial Court dated 02 April 1993 is hereby MODIFIED. The
accused is hereby entitled to the MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES of sufficient provocation, passion and
obfuscation, and voluntary surrender which, taken altogether, constitute a special mitigating circumstance. The
accused shall suffer the indeterminate sentence of six (6) months and one (1) day of Prision Correccional as
minimum to six (6) years and one (1) day of Prision Mayor as maximum. HOWEVER, in light of the circumstances
surrounding this case, this Court recommends the EXECUTIVE CLEMENCY be extended to the hereunder
accused. Without pronouncements as to cost.

SO ORDERED.8

The appellate court affirmed the findings and conclusion of the trial court that petitioner failed to prove by clear and
convincing evidence that he acted in complete or incomplete self-defense. The appellate court gave no credence and
probative weight to his testimony and that of his witnesses:
There is question, however, as to whether such aggression, i.e., the bolo attack on the accused, ever took place. The
lower court gave credence to the prosecutions version that the deceased did not attack the accused with a bolo.

We agree with such findings.1awphi1.nt

1) Flor Losica testified that it took the accused no more than 30 seconds in going downstairs after the
warning shot and going up again to face the deceased. The lower court concluded that in that short a time,
the deceased could not have possibly taken the bolo from the kitchen, else the accused would have found
the deceased in the kitchen or in the dining room and not in the sala as he claimed.

The defense relies heavily on a contradictory testimony offered by witness Helen Pelonia, wife of the
accused, to the effect that the accused took 5 minutes in going down and back up again to the sala to face
the deceased, that such 5-minute period be given credence over the 30-second period as testified by Flor
Losica.

The time-tested doctrine is that a trial courts assessment of the credibility of a witness is entitled to great
weight even conclusive and binding on this Court if not tainted with arbitrariness or oversight of some
fact or circumstance of weight and influence. Credibility is a matter that peculiarly falls within the province
of the trial court as it had the opportunity to watch and observe the demeanor and behavior of the witnesses
at the time of their testimony. Thus, assigning value and weight to each testimony is within its jurisdiction.
The trial courts assessment of the credibility or the lack of it of appellant and his version of the
incident appears supported by the records.

At any rate, whether it is Losicas thirty (30) seconds or Helen Pelonias five (5) minutes, this court
understands that they were only estimates. It could have been more than 30 seconds; it could have been less
than 5 minutes. Whether the deceased had the time or opportunity to get the bolo and use it as an assault
weapon will only be relevant if, indeed, there is proof that there was an attack. In the case at bar, the court a
quos conclusion that there could not have been any bolo used by the deceased during this unfortunate
incident is in accord with the evidence.

2) As for Patm. Galeritas testimony that upon investigation of the incident, he saw a bolo on the floor near
the victims right hand, other prosecution witnesses averred that Nacilla had no bolo or was not holding a
bolo. Again, the trial courts assessment of the credibility or the lack of it appears supported by the
records.

3) The physician who conducted the Necropsy Report, Dr. Napoleon dela Pea, testified that the trajectory
of the bullet, entering at the left maxilla and exiting at the lateral aspect of the right side of the neck, made
it impossible for the assailant and the victim to have been on the same level when the shooting occurred,
and likewise impossible that the victim was merely bending downward in avoiding the bullet because in
that situation the target would still be parallel. The lower court concluded from this that the deceased was
situated lower than the accused when the former was shot, supporting the prosecutions contention that the
deceased was merely seated when the accused propped himself on a chair and shot the deceased.

4) The defense contends that the fact that the deceased sustained only one gunshot wound is a clear
indicium that the accused-appellant merely applied the rational and reasonable means to stop the aggression
he was confronted with. The defense relies on the ruling in Guevarra vs. Court of Appeals, 187 SCRA 484,
where the court held that the nature and number of wounds inflicted by an assailant are constantly and
unremittingly considered indicia which disproves a plea of self-defense. Such ruling, however,
contemplated a situation wherein numerous gunshot wounds would belie a claim of self-defense. It would
be a stretch of the imagination to conclude that automatically, the reverse would hold true, i.e., that a
singular gunshot wound would tend to indicate that self-defense did obtain.

In addition to such findings, We take note of the testimony of Dr. dela Pea, admitted by the court as an expert
witness, where such testimony averred that the exit wound on the deceased indicates that the assailant was at a
distance of 7 to 10 meters from the victim when the rifle was fired. Such physical evidence lends considerable
weight to the prosecutions contention that there was, indeed, no bolo hacking against which the accused defended
himself.

Physical evidence is a mute but eloquent manifestation of truth, and it ranks high in our hierarchy of trustworthy
evidence. In criminal cases such as murder or rape where the accused stands to lose his liberty if found guilty, this
Court has, in many occasions, relied principally upon physical evidence in ascertaining the truth. Physical evidence
is evidence of the highest order. It speaks more eloquently than a hundred witnesses.

Being that the element of unlawful aggression does not obtain in this case, there is no need to discus the other two
elements of: 1) Reasonable necessity of the means employed, and 2) Lack of sufficient provocation on the part of
the accused.9

The appellate court sustained the refusal of the trial court to consider the April 16, 1988 ocular inspection:

The lower court disregarded the ocular inspection conducted on 16 April 1988 in the interest of due process because
the prosecution was not present when such inspection was made. The house of the accused has since then been
destroyed by strong winds thus no subsequent ocular inspection could be had. The defense contends that the court
should have admitted the ocular inspection because the absence of the prosecution during the ocular inspection was
through its own fault. The inspection was conducted upon the instance of the prosecution and they were duly
informed of the set time and date. The defense is of the belief that the said ocular inspection, if admitted, would
show that the bullet hole found in the wall near the victim was of a nature as to contest the prosecutions averment
that the deceased was merely seated on a chair in the sala when the accused propped himself on a bench in the
kitchen and shot the deceased from such distance.

In its Order dated 5 August 1988, the lower court held that the reason for the absence of the Prosecuting Fiscal and
the Private Prosecutor during the ocular inspection was meritorious and thus the ocular inspection held in their
absence was deemed null and void. The Prosecution failed to attend the inspection in view of the trial conducted by
the Supreme Court Judicial Administrator in an administrative case against a certain RTC Judge in Davao wherein
the Private Prosecutor was one of the counsels of the respondent RTC Judge. It is questionable why the court a quo
excused the Prosecuting Fiscals absence during the ocular inspection when it is apparent that only the Private
Prosecutor had a meritorious reason for not being able to attend the inspection. And if, indeed, the Prosecuting
Fiscal too had a valid reason for not being able to attend the inspection, such reason is nowhere stated in the lower
courts Order. In any case, even if such ocular inspection were admitted by the court a quo, the findings of the
commissioner based upon such inspection are not necessarily conclusive and are not binding upon the court.10

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, which the appellate court denied.

Dissatisfied, petitioner filed the instant petition for review on certiorari in this Court, alleging that:

THE COURT OF APPEALS COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN THE APPRECIATION OF


THE FACTS AND IS GUILTY OF MISAPPREHENSION (SIC) OF FACTS WHEN IT DISREGARDED THE
DEFENSE OF ACCUSED-PETITIONER OF SELF-DEFENSE WHEN HE SHOT THE DECEASED.

II

THE COURT OF APPEALS VIOLATED THE RIGHT OF THE ACCUSED-PETITIONER TO DUE PROCESS
WHEN IT DISREGARDED THE FINDINGS OF THE OCULAR INSPECTION OF THE SCENE OF THE
CRIME CONDUCTED ON APRIL 16, 1988.

III
THE COURT OF APPEALS IS GUILTY OF MISAPPREHENSION OF FACTS WHEN IT DID NOT ACQUIT
THE ACCUSED-PETITIONER.11

On October 19, 2005, the Court required respondent to comment on the petition.12 On January 4, 2006, the Office of
the Solicitor General (OSG) filed its Comment13 recommending that the petition be denied.

The petition has no merit.1a\^/phi1.net

First. Like alibi, self-defense is inherently a weak defense and can easily be fabricated. When the accused interposes
self-defense, he hereby admits having caused the injuries of the victim. The burden of proof then shifts on him to
prove, with clear and convincing evidence, the confluence of the essential requisites for such a defense, namely: (a)
unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (b) reasonable necessity of the means employed and to prevent or
repel it; and (c) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. The accused must rely on
the strength of his own evidence and not on the prosecutions, for even if the latter is weak, it cannot be disbelieved
after the accused has admitted the killing.14 Petitioner failed to discharge his burden.

Second. The trial court found the collective testimonies of the witnesses for the prosecution to be credible, while
those of petitioner incredible and barren of probative weight. The legal aphorism is that factual findings of the trial
court, its calibration of the testimonies of the witnesses and its assessment of their probative weight is given high
respect if not conclusive effect, unless cogent facts and circumstances of substance, which, if considered, would
alter the outcome of the case, were ignored, misconstrued or misinterpreted.15 We have meticulously reviewed the
records and found no reason to deviate from the factual findings of the trial court.

Third. The issues raised by petitioner require the determination of factual matters which is beyond the province of
this Court. It is settled that only questions of law are entertained in petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45
of the Rules of Court. The trial courts findings of fact, especially when affirmed by the CA, are generally binding
and conclusive upon this Court. It is true that there are recognized exceptions to this rule, among which are: (1) the
conclusion is grounded on speculations, surmises or conjectures; (2) the inference is manifestly mistaken, absurd or
impossible; (3) there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) the
findings of fact are conflicting; (6) there is no citation of specific evidence on which the factual findings are based;
(7) the finding of absence of facts is contradicted by the presence of evidence on record; (8) the findings of the CA
are contrary to the findings of the trial court; (9) the CA manifestly overlooked certain relevant and undisputed facts
that, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion; (10) the findings of the CA are beyond the issues
of the case; and, (11) such findings are contrary to the admissions of both parties. 16 Unfortunately, however,
petitioner failed to show that any of the exceptions is present in the instant case to warrant a review of the findings
of fact of the lower courts.

We also agree with the disquisition of the CA in supporting its ruling affirming the ruling of the RTC that it was
improper for it to consider the ocular inspection of the source of the crime.

The Court agrees with the CA that mitigating circumstances should be considered in petitioners favor. However,
only two out of the three mitigating circumstances17 considered by the CA can be credited to petitioner. The CA
properly appreciated the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender. It was established that after killing Ignacio,
petitioner submitted himself to the authorities by going to the Airbone Unit, whose commander, thereafter,
surrendered him to the Baguio Station.

The mitigating circumstance of having acted in the immediate vindication of a grave offense was, likewise, properly
appreciated. Petitioner was humiliated in front of his guests and kin in his own house. It is settled, however, that the
mitigating circumstance of sufficient provocation cannot be considered apart from the circumstance of vindication
of a grave offense. These two circumstances arose from one and the same incident so that they should be considered
as only one mitigating circumstance.18

Under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code, homicide is punishable by reclusion temporal. However, considering
that there are two mitigating circumstances and no aggravating circumstance attendant to the crime, the imposable
penalty, following Article 64(5)19 of the Revised Penal Code, is prision mayor, the penalty next lower to that
prescribed by law, in the period that the court may deem applicable. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the
maximum penalty to be imposed shall be taken from the medium period of prision mayor, while the minimum shall
be taken from within the range of the penalty next lower in degree, which is prision correccional. Hence, the
imposable penalty on petitioner is imprisonment from six (6) years of prision correccional, as minimum, to eight (8)
years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum.

WHEREFORE, the Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 17476 are AFFIRMED
WITH MODIFICATIONS. Petitioner Gregorio Pelonia is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Homicide under
Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code, and is sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty from six (6) years of
prision correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor in its medium period, as
maximum. The assailed Decision and Resolution are hereby AFFIRMED in all other respects.

SO ORDERED

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 174064 June 8, 2007

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff,


vs.
HENRY TOGAHAN, EMELDO LAURO, DANILO BALINDO (at large) and MARCO TURGA (at
large), Appellants.

Related Topic: (Treachery)

DECISION

TINGA, J.:

Appellants Henry Togahan (Togahan) and Emeldo Lauro (Lauro) assail the Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals dated
5 May 2006, affirming with modification the Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 28,3 Lianga,
Surigao del Sur, dated 24 September 2003. The RTC had found appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the
murder of Ananias Villar, Sr. (Villar), and his son-in-law David Gene Richardson (Richardson).

On 13 September 2000, appellants, together with their co-accused Danilo Balindo (Balindo) and Marco Turga
(Turga), were charged with two (2) counts of murder, in separate Informations 4 filed by Prosecutor Zacharias P.
Joven, the texts of which read:

Criminal Case No. L-1674

That on the 12th day of May 2000, at about 6:30 oclock in the evening more or less, in Purok 1, Spring, [B]arangay
Amaga, [M]unicipality of Barobo, [P]rovince of Surigao del Sur, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with .38 caliber pistol, conspiring, confederating and mutually
helping each other, with evident premeditation, treachery and intent to kill, did then and there willfully, unlawfully
and felon[i]ously shot one Ananias Villar, Sr. with the use of said deadly weapon, as a result thereof the latter was
hit and sustained the following wounds or injuries:

Gunshot wound[,] suprasternal area


Gunshot wound[,] left flank at the level of umbilicus

Gunshot wound[,] right upper quadrant parasternal

Lacerated wound[,] on left post auricular area

which wounds or injuries caused his instantaneous death to the damage and prejudice of his heirs in the following
amount:

50,000.00 as life indemnity of the victim

15,000.00 as moral damages

15,000.00 as exemplary damages.

CONTRARY TO LAW. (In violation of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code).

Criminal Case No. L-1675

That on the 12th day of May 2000, at about 6:30 oclock in the evening more or less, in Purok 1, Spring, [B]arangay
Amaga, [M]unicipality of Barobo, [P]rovince of Surigao del Sur, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with .38 caliber pistol, conspiring, confederating and mutually
helping each other, with evident prem[e]ditation, treachery and intent to kill, did then and there willfully, unlawfully
and felon[i]ously shot one David Gene Richardson, an [A]merican national, with the use of said weapon, as a result
thereof the latter was hit and sustained the following wounds or injuries:

Gunshot wound[,] right lower quadrant

Hematoma[,] right leg lateral aspect

Abrasion, [l]inear right shoulder

Abrasion, linear lumbar area

which wounds or injuries caused his instantaneous death to the damage and prejudice of his heirs in the following
amount:

100,000.00 as life indemnity of the victim

15,000.00 as moral damages

15,000.00 as exemplary damages.

CONTRARY TO LAW. (In violation of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code).

Custody only of appellants Togahan and Lauro was acquired. Their co-accused Balindo and Turga remained at large
then and to this day. Upon being arraigned separately, both appellants pleaded not guilty. 5 Trial on the merits ensued
with the prosecution espousing the following narration of facts:

On 12 May 2000, at around 6:30 p.m., Magdalena Villar (Mrs. Villar), her daughter Vilma Villar-Richardson (Mrs.
Richardson), son-in-law Richardson, grandchildren Kenneth, Kevin, Junelyn, Jovelyn and Michelle, and brother
Pedro Castillo were all watching television in the living room of their residence in Spring, Amaga, Barobo, Surigao
del Sur. Without warning, two armed men wearing bonnets suddenly arrived. At that time, the victim Villar,
husband of Mrs. Villar, was in his room. When Villar heard the commotion, he went to the door and tried to prevent
the armed men from entering, but he was shot twice, pulled towards the balcony and clubbed to death. 6

One of the armed men, later identified as Togahan, pointed a gun at Mrs. Richardson and pulled the trigger thrice.
The gun did not fire however. The other man, later identified as Lauro, approached Richardson and likewise pointed
a gun at him. When Mrs. Richardson heard gunfire, she asked the men: "Who are you, what do you want?" To this,
Lauro replied: "We are here for war."7 Mrs. Richardson told her husband to run away but the latter, in an attempt to
protect his wife, struggled and tried to wrestle the gun away from Togahan instead. In the course thereof, Lauro shot
Richardson then ran out of the house with Richardsons 3-year old son.8 Richardson, in spite of his wound, chased
Lauro but was later found sitting on the mud, unable to talk and dying. The rest of the family had fled during the
commotion and sought refuge. Villar and Richardson were brought to DO Plaza Memorial Hospital in Patin-ay,
Prosperidad, Surigao del Sur but were dead upon arrival.9

In her testimony, Mrs. Richardson narrated that during the struggle between her husband and Togahan for the gun,
the mask of the latter was removed by Richardson; thus, she was able to recognize Togahan as the assailant who
poked and tried to fire the gun at her. Mrs. Richardson was able to identify Lauro through his voice and physical
appearance as the one who remarked "We are here for war."10 Lauro was alleged to be responsible for shooting her
father, Villar, twice and also for shooting her husband, Richardson.

Eyewitness Lowelito Villar (Lowelito), grandson of victim Villar, testified that on the evening of the incident, he
was in his home about fifteen (15) meters away from his grandparents house when he heard a gun burst. He
immediately ran towards the house of his grandparents and hid behind a coconut tree, also about fifteen (15) meters
from victim Villars house. He claims to have seen three (3) armed and masked men he identified as Togahan, Lauro
and Balindo enter the victims house. According to the witness, Lauro shot Richardson in the house whereas Lauro
and Balindo shot and clubbed his grandfather in the balcony. After the attack, all the accused ran out of the house,
removing their masks in the process. Witness Lowelito maintained that he had been friends with the accused for five
(5) years and recognized them because of their physical features and movements and that he could see the events
that transpired as there were fluorescent lamps lit inside and outside the house. 11

The prosecution likewise presented witnesses to fortify the charges of participation against appellants. Witness
Rosemarie Enriquez, a former sweetheart of Togahan, testified that the pair of slippers recovered from the scene of
the crime belonged to the latter.12 It was witness Federico Sayson, Barangay Kagawad of Purok 1, Spring, Amaga,
Barobo, Surigao del Sur, who discovered the pair of slippers and a dirty white jacket about thirty (30) meters from
the house of Villar.13

SPO2 Santo Ocate, the firearm examiner of the Philippine National Police, Caraga Region who conducted the
physical examination of two bullets recovered from the crime scene, testified that the bullets were discharged from a
.38 caliber revolver.14

Upon request of Mrs. Richardson, Dr. Edgar Savella, Medico-Legal Officer of the National Bureau of Investigation
Caraga Region, conducted an autopsy of the bodies of the victims. Dr. Savella testified that the gunshot wound
sustained by Richardson on his abdomen was fatal and caused his death, the bullet having hit the sciatic artery on his
right leg, as well as his vertebrae in the lumbar area.15 Villar, on the other hand, died of multiple gunshot wounds to
his chest and abdomen.16 Dr. Savella found no indication of self-defense or struggle-related injuries on both Villar
and Richardson.17

Dr. Tomas Centino testified that he conducted the examination of the bodies of the victims who were both clinically
dead upon arrival at the DO Plaza Memorial Hospital.18 He likewise opined that the respective gunshot wounds
sustained by Villar and Richardson were fatal and the immediate cause of their death.19

To counter the prosecution, Togahan presented the defense of alibi. He testified that on 12 May 2000, at 6:30 p.m.,
he was in the home of his parents-in-law in Barangay Bahi, Barobo, Surigao del Sur, with whom he and his family
lived. He averred that he was playing with his children at that time. Thereafter, he had supper with the entire family,
retired with the household to the balcony from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., and then went to sleep at 9:00 p.m. 20 The following
day, appellant maintains that he and his father-in-law repaired the gutter of their house.21 On 14 May 2000, appellant
was allegedly fetched by his brother at 9:00 a.m. to visit their father who was seriously ill in Barangay Tagongon,
Barobo, Surigao del Sur.22

To corroborate Togahans alibi, his father-in-law, Segundo Andalan, testified that on 12 May 2000, appellant helped
him in repairing their house. Beginning around 6:30 p.m., the whole family had dinner, took their rest and then went
to bed. He asserted that appellant did not leave their house that night. Their repair work on the house allegedly
continued the next day. According to the witness, appellants sister fetched him on 14 May 2000, at around 1:00
p.m. as their father was ill.23

Similarly, Lauro denied the charges made against him. Appellant maintains that on 12 May 2000, he was in the
home of his brother in Purok 4, Barobo, Surigao del Sur, helping the latter arrange stones on which their billiard
table was to be placed. At around 6:30 p.m., appellant allegedly rested in the balcony of his brothers house with the
latters wife and neighbor while his brother prepared supper.24

On rebuttal, the prosecution presented two witnesses, the first of whom negated the claims of Lauro that he had
never set foot in Barangay Amaga, Barobo, Surigao del Sur. According to witness Restituto Basada, for about four
(4) to five (5) years commencing in 1980, Lauro and his family lived on his property in the said barangay. However,
Lauro later fled as Basada filed a case against the former for stoning him. 25

The second rebuttal witness of the prosecution, Luzviminda Villar Sabaysabay, was the daughter of victim Villar.
She testified that in March and June 2001, they received letters from Togahan, requesting them to visit him in the
provincial jail where he was then incarcerated. In Togahans second letter, she claimed, he requested a visit to reveal
to them that Lauro was one of his companions in killing Villar. 26

The RTC found appellants guilty of murder on both charges and sentenced each of them to suffer in each case the
penalty of death and to indemnify the respective heirs of the victims in each case in the amounts of 50,000.00 as
civil indemnity, 15,000.00 as moral damages, 15,000.00 as exemplary damages and costs.27

With the death penalty imposed on appellants, the case was elevated to this Court on automatic review. However,
pursuant to this Courts ruling in People v. Mateo,28 the case was transferred to the Court of Appeals.

On 5 May 2006, the appellate court rendered its decision affirming with modification appellants conviction. In
downgrading the penalty from death to reclusion perpetua, the Court of Appeals held that the RTC erred in
appreciating the generic aggravating circumstances of dwelling and nighttime, both of which were not alleged in the
Informations.29 Thus, there being no mitigating or aggravating circumstance attending the commission of the crimes,
the appellate court imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua upon appellants for each count of murder. The
dispositive portion of the said decision states:

"WHEREFORE, in view of the above disquisitions, the decision under review is hereby AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATION that the penalty is reduced to reclusion perpetua for each of the accused-appellants, and in line
with recent jurisprudence the following amounts are awarded to the heirs of the victims in each case, to wit:
50,000.00 as civil indemnity, 50,000.00 as moral damages, and 25,000.00 as exemplary damages.

Conformably to the ruling in People vs. Mateo, We refrain from entering judgment therein. The Division Clerk of
Court is directed to elevate the records of this case to the Honorable Supreme Court for final disposition.

SO ORDERED."30

In their brief,31 appellants challenge their conviction for murder, stressing that there is a great doubt as to the
identities of the persons who perpetrated the crime.
The issue of whether or not appellants were in fact identified by the prosecution witnesses is a question of
credibility. It is well-settled that factual findings of the trial court on credibility of witnesses and their testimonies
are entitled to the highest respect and will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of clear showing that the trial
court overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance that would
have affected the result of the case. Having seen and heard the witnesses themselves and observed their behavior and
manner of testifying, the trial court was in a better position to decide the question of credibility.32

After an exhaustive review of the records, we find no reason to deviate from the trial courts assessment of the
credibility of the witnesses. The trial court did not err in giving credence to the testimony of the prosecution
witnesses that they were able to identify appellants and their co-accused as perpetrators of the crime.

Mrs. Richardson, in recounting her horrifying experience in the hands of the appellants, categorically identified
appellants as the perpetrators of the vicious crimes, viz:

xxxx

Court:

Few clarificatory question (sic) from the Court.

Q In Exh. "A-1", which is the question and answer of your sworn statement, you said that you could not identify the
culprit in this case?

A Yes, sir.

Q But in the direct examination now, you were able to identify the suspects as Emeldo Lauro and Henry Togahan?

A Yes, sir.

Q Why is it now that your testimony is now in conflict with that of your sworn statement?

A Because they asked me a lot of questions. I was then depressed. I dont (sic) know what to do. I lost my husband
and when I was told to go to Barobo, I was in a hurry to call my family in Pennsylvania, sir.

Q The height of your husband is 62 inches?

A Yes, sir.

Q And he tried to grab the bonnet from the assailants?

A Yes, sir.

Q Was he able to grab the bonnets (sic)?

A One of them, sir.

Q Which one of them that (sic) your husband able to grab the bonnets (sic)?

A That guy. (Witness pointing to accused Henry Togahan)

Q Was the bonnet Togahan was wearing held by your husband out of his face?
A Not all the way, sir.

Q Until what part of the face of Henry Togahan?

A Up to the eyebrow, sir.

Q Before the incident, you had not met Henry Togahan?

A No, sir.

Q The other accused Emeldo Lauro, was he wearing also a bonnet at that time?

A Yes, sir.

Q Your husband was not able to pull the bonnet out from his face?

A No, sir.

Q How could you identify Emeldo Lauro as the very person who was responsible in killing your husband and your
father?

A Because when I came here, when I saw his appearance and everything, I remembered I heard his voice. Youre
the one who said were here for war. Dont you. You cant deny it.

Q You can identify him?

A Yes, sir, by his voice and his appearance.

Q As you said, it was Henry Togahan who pointed a gun to your head?

A Yes, sir.

Q Is he the same person who shot to death also (sic) your husband?

A No, sir.

Q Who was the person who shot your husband?

A That guy there. The one in the middle. (Witness pointing to accused Emeldo Lauro)

Q That guy?

A Yes, sir.

Q Who shot your father also (also)?

A Same guy, sir.

x x x33

Two other prosecution witnesses, Mrs. Villar and Lowelito, similarly identified appellants as the malefactors. 34
Appellants failed to show that the prosecution witnesses were prompted by any ill motive to falsely testify or
accused them of so grave a crime as murder. The Court adheres to the established rule that, in the absence of any
evidence showing reason or motive for the witness to perjure, their testimony and identification of the assailant
should be given full faith and credit.35

We cannot see ill-motive on the part of the prosecution witnesses, particularly Mrs. Villar and Mrs. Richardson. As
widows of the victims, they have more reason to desire punishment for the real perpetrators of the crime. It is
unnatural for a victims relative interested in vindicating the crime to accuse somebody other than the real
culprit.36 Human nature tells us that the aggrieved relatives would want the real killer punished for their loss, and not
accept a mere scapegoat to take the rap for the real malefactor.37

Concomitantly, witnesses need not know the names of the malefactors so long as they recognize their faces. What is
imperative is that the witnesses are positive as to the perpetrators physical identification from the witnesses own
personal knowledge, as is obtaining in this case.38 It is the natural reaction of victims of criminal violence to strive to
see the appearance of their assailants and to observe the manner in which the crime was committed. Most often, the
face and body movements of the assailant create an impression which cannot easily be erased from their memory.39

Insofar as the alleged inconsistencies between the testimony of Mrs. Richardson and her sworn testimony on
identifying the appellants are concerned, suffice it to say that the affidavits are generally not prepared by the affiants
themselves but by others, and affiants are only made to sign them. Certain discrepancies between declarations made
in the affidavit and those made at the witness stand seldom discredit the declarant.40Moreover, Mrs. Richardson was
able to satisfactorily explain such inconsistency during her testimony.

Appellants likewise attack the seeming inconsistencies between the testimonies of Mrs. Villar, Mrs. Richardson and
Lowelito. They point to two alleged conflicts in those testimonies which, to their mind, are fatal and discredit the
reliability of the witnesses: the number of assailants and the identification of whom among the culprits shot the
victims. These inconsistencies, in our view, are not sufficiently substantial to impair the veracity of the prosecutions
evidence.

While witnesses may differ in their recollections of an incident, it does not necessarily follow from their
disagreement that all of them should be disbelieved as liars and their testimonies completely discarded as
worthless.41 As long as the mass of testimony jibes on material points, the slight clashing statements neither dilute
the witnesses credibility nor the veracity of their testimony, 42 for indeed, such inconsistencies are but natural and
even enhance credibility as these discrepancies indicate that the responses are honest and unrehearsed. 43

Witnesses cannot be expected to remember all the details of the harrowing event which unfolded before their eyes.
Minor discrepancies might be found in their testimony, but they do not damage the essential integrity of the
evidence in its material whole, nor should they reflect adversely on the witness credibility as they erase suspicion
that the same was perjured.44

The trial court is correct in disregarding appellants defense of alibi and denial. For the defense of alibi to prosper,
the accused must prove not only that he was at some other place at the time of the commission of the crime but also
that it was physically impossible for him to be at the locus delicti or within its immediate vicinity. 45 Apart from
testifying with respect to the distance of their houses from that of the victims, appellants were unable to explain and
show that it was physically impossible for them to be at the scene of the crime.

Between the categorical statements of the prosecution witnesses, on one hand, and the bare denial of appellants, on
the other, the former must perforce prevail.46 An affirmative testimony is far stronger than a negative testimony
especially when it comes from the mouth of a credible witness. Alibi and denial, if not substantiated by clear and
convincing evidence, are negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law. They are considered with
suspicion and always received with caution, not only because they are inherently weak and unreliable but also
because they are easily fabricated and concocted.47
The culpability of appellants and their co-accused is undeniable. Lauro was consistently identified by the witnesses
as the person responsible for shooting both victims. At the same time, the existence of conspiracy among the
assailants is patent. Conspiracy has been deduced by the Court in a case where three malefactors jointly lifted,
carried and dumped their victim in a deep well filled with water head first and threw rocks inside the well to cover
him;48 by the successive acts of three appellants in shooting, clubbing and piercing the eye of the victim;49 where
one appellant put his arms around the body of the victim while his co-appellant held the thighs of the victim and
while they held him down, one poked and fired the gun at the back of the head of the victim; 50 when two accused
chased their victim into his house, kicked open the door to enter and then shot him; 51 and when one malefactor
hacked the victim and two others chased after the latter to finish up the aggression they had started.52

In the instant case, by the concurrent acts of barging into the residence of the victims, holding them at gunpoint and
shooting and attacking the victims, Lauro, Togahan and their co-accused are deemed to have agreed to commit the
crime of murder. Each of their contributory acts without semblance of desistance reflected their resolution to commit
the crime.53 From a legal standpoint, there is conspiracy if, at the time of the commission of the offense, the
appellants had the same purpose and were united in its execution. 54 Direct proof of previous agreement to commit a
crime is not necessary. Conspiracy may be deduced from the mode and manner in which the offense was
perpetrated, or inferred from the acts of the appellants themselves when such acts point to a joint purpose and
design, concerted action, and community of intent.55 Where conspiracy is established, the act of one is the act of
all.56

We agree with the trial court that treachery qualified the killing of the victims. The essence of treachery is the
sudden and unexpected attack by an aggressor on an unsuspecting victim, depriving the latter of any real chance to
defend himself, thereby ensuring its commission without risk to the aggressor, without the slightest provocation on
the part of the victim.57 In the case at bar, four armed men entered the home of the innocent victims and together
used this advantage to facilitate their crime. Aggravating this was the fact that Villar was a 68-year old man who
could not have been reasonably able to put up a defense against the much younger and armed men.

Thus, we reach the inescapable conclusion that the trial court and the Court of Appeals were correct in finding
appellants guilty of two counts of murder and affirm the imposition of reclusion perpetua upon them for each of the
murders committed. Likewise, in line with recent jurisprudence, 58 we affirm the award of damages in favor of the
heirs of the victims.

WHEREFORE, the 5 May 2006 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 00156-MIN finding
Henry Togahan and Emeldo Lauro guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of murder each, is AFFIRMED.
They are sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua for each count of murder and to pay jointly and
severally the legal heirs of each victim 50,000.00 as civil indemnity, 50,000.00 as moral damages and 25,000.00
as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 169246 January 26, 2007

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
NICOLAS GUZMAN y BOCBOSILA, Accused-Appellant.

Related Topic: (treachery, child of tender years)


DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Man is subject to innumerable pains and sorrows by the very condition of humanity, and yet, as if nature had not
sown evils enough in life, we are adding grief to grief and aggravating the common calamity by our cruel treatment
of one another. Joseph Addison.

The passage depicts the tragic fate of the deceased victim in the case at bar. His ultimate dream was to become a
pilot so that he would have enough money to shoulder the schooling and education expenses of his younger siblings.
Sadly, however, this dream will never become a reality as his young life was brutally snuffed out by certain violent
individuals. He was a minor at the time of his death. Now his family is seeking justice for his untimely and senseless
killing.

For review is the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. C.R.-H.C. No. 00095, dated 28 February
2005,1affirming with modification the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 69, in
Criminal Case No. Q-99-88737, dated 12 November 2001,2 finding accused-appellant Nicolas Guzman y Bocbosila
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder, sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua,
and ordering him to pay the heirs of Michael Balber (Michael) the amount of P35,470.00 as actual
damages, P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, and P50,000.00 as moral damages.

On 29 November 1999, appellant was charged in an Information 3 with Murder allegedly committed as follows:

That on or about the 25th day of November 1999 in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused, conspiring
and confederating with two other persons, whose true names/identities and whereabouts are still unknown, and
mutually helping one another with intent to kill, with treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and employ personal violence upon the person of one
MICHAEL ANGELO BALBER Y CASTILLON, a minor, 17 years of age, by then and there stabbing him on the
trunk with the use of a bladed weapon, thereby inflicting upon him serious and grave wound which was the direct
and immediate cause of his untimely death to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of Michael Angelo Balber y
Castillon.

When arraigned on 21 January 2000,4 appellant pleaded "Not Guilty" to the charge therein. Trial on the merits
thereafter ensued.

In building its case against appellant, the prosecution relied on the testimonies of its witnesses, namely: Ronald
Santiago (Ronald), Edgardo Bauto (Edgardo), Danilo Balber (Danilo), Police Inspector Alberto Malaza (Inspector
Malaza), SPO3 Samuel Quinto (SPO3 Quinto), and Dr. Francisco Supe, Jr. (Dr. Supe). Their testimonies are
summarized as follows:

Ronald is a jeepney driver and resident of Barangay Commonwealth, Quezon City. He testified that on 25
November 1999, at about 9:00 in the evening, he stopped by and ate at a carinderia located at the corner of Sto. Nino
Street and Mactan Street, Brgy. Commonwealth, Quezon City. After eating, he sat on a bench just beside the
carinderia and rested. He noticed appellant and two other persons having a drinking spree in a nearby grocery store.
He also saw Michael walking towards the direction of the same grocery store. When Michael was passing in front of
the grocery store, appellant and his two companions suddenly approached and surrounded Michael. Appellant
positioned himself at the back of Michael while his two companions stood in front of Michael. Suddenly, they
grabbed the shoulders of Michael and overpowered the latter. One of appellants companions, whom he described as
a male with long hair, drew out a knife and repeatedly stabbed Michael at the stomach. Afterwards, the appellants
other companion, whom he described as a male with flat top hair, took the knife from the companion with long hair,
and also stabbed Michael at the stomach. Later, appellant went in front of Michael, took the knife from the
companion with flat top hair, and likewise stabbed Michael at the stomach. Appellant also kicked Michael when the
latter was already lying on the ground. He witnessed this stabbing incident at a distance of five arms length. 5
Afraid and confused, he immediately went home. The next day, however, he went to the house of Michaels family
and narrated the incident to Michaels father, Danilo. Subsequently, he was accompanied by Danilo to the Batasan
Hills Police Station 6 where he gave a statement about the incident.6

Edgardo Bauto (Edgardo) is also a tricycle driver and resident of Brgy. Commonwealth, Quezon City. He narrated
that on 25 November 1999, at around 9:00 in the evening, he was standing at the corner of Sto. Nino Street and
Mactan Street, Brgy. Commonwealth, Quezon City, when he heard a female voice shouting "Sinasaksak!" When he
glanced at the direction of the said shouts, he saw, at a distance of about five arms length, appellant and the latters
two companions taking turns in stabbing Michael. One of the appellants companions, whom he described as a
toothless male with a long hair, was the first one to stab Michael. Afterwards, the appellants other companion,
whom he described as a male with flat top hair, took the knife from the toothless male with a long hair and stabbed
Michael. Subsequently, appellant also took the knife from his companion with flat top hair and stabbed Michael
too.7

Thereafter, he immediately ran and proceeded to the house of Michaels family and informed Michaels parents
about the incident. Michaels parents rushed to the crime scene and took Michael to a hospital. The next day, he was
accompanied by Danilo and a certain Ramiro Alfaro to Batasan Hills Police Station 6 where he gave a statement
about the incident.8

Danilo, Michaels father, testified that on 25 November 1999, at about 9:00 in the evening, he was walking on his
way home along the corner of Sto. Nino Street and Mactan Street, Brgy. Commonwealth, Quezon City, when he saw
Michael lying along Sto. Nino Street. He also saw appellant and the latters two male companions near Michaels
body. When he was about to approach them, they immediately ran away. He chased and threw stones at them.
Appellant and his two companions proceeded to the formers house and locked the door. He tried to follow them all
the way to the house but appellants relatives blocked his way to the door and told him to leave. Thereafter, he went
back to Michael and took the latter to Fairview Hospital.9 He was later informed by the doctors that Michael was
already dead.

The next day, he went to Batasan Hills Police Station 6 and gave a statement about the incident. In an effort to settle
the instant case, appellants wife and daughter told Danilo that they would sell a bus which they owned and would
turn over to him the proceeds thereof. He also stated that Michael wanted to become a pilot so that, as the eldest of
the children, he would be the one to shoulder the education of his siblings. 10

Inspector Malaza is a member of the police force assigned at Police Community Precinct No. 1, Batasan Hills,
Quezon City. He testified that on 25 November 1999, at about 9:00 in the evening, he was on his way home on
board his owner type jeep. Upon reaching the corner of Sto. Nino Street and Mactan Street, Brgy. Commonwealth,
Quezon City, he noticed a commotion nearby. He slowed down his vehicle and saw, at a distance of five to ten
meters, appellant stabbing and kicking Michael. He also noticed that the appellants two companions were armed
with bladed weapons. He alighted from his vehicle and approached appellant and his two companions. After
introducing himself as a police officer, appellant and his two companions scampered away. He ran after them but
caught only appellant. The two other companions of the appellant successfully escaped. Thereafter, he handcuffed
appellant and brought him to Batasan Hills Police Station 6. He turned him over to a police investigator therein and
executed an affidavit of arrest.11

SPO3 Quinto is a police investigator at the Batasan Hills Police Station 6. He was the one who investigated the
incident. After the incident was reported to his station on 26 November 1999, he immediately went to the crime
scene upon the advice of the desk officer. Since Michael was already brought to Fairview Hospital at that time, he
proceeded thereto. Upon arriving at the Fairview Hospital, he was informed that Michael was already dead. He then
went back to the station and took the statements of the prosecution witnesses. 12

Dr. Supe is a medico-legal officer of the PNP Crime Laboratory, Camp Crame, Quezon City. He conducted the post
mortem examination on Michaels body. His testimony evolved on the matters stated in the Medico-Legal Report
No. M-3112-99,13 viz:
"POSTMORTEM FINDINGS:

Fairly developed, fairly nourished male cadaver in rigor mortis with postmortem lividity at the dependent portions of
the body. Conjunctivae are pale. Lips and nail beds are cyanotic. Needle puncture mark is noted on the dorsum of
the right hand. There is fungal infection covering the entire groin and extending to the buttocks.

"HEAD AND NECK:

1.) Abrasion, left superior orbital region, measuring 0.2 x 0.7 cm, 3.7 cm, from the anterior midline.

2.) Lacerated wound, left lateral orbital region, measuring 0.5 x 0.8 cm, 5 cm from the anterior midline.

3.) Abrasion, right inferior orbital region, measuring 0.6 x 2 cm, 1 cm from the anterior midline.

"CHEST AND ABDOMEN:

1.) Abrasion, left inferior or mammary region, measuring 0.5 x 8.5 cm. along the anterior midline.

2.) Stab wound, thru and thru, point of entry, left coastal region, measuring 1 x 4 cm, 8 cm from the
anterior midline, directed posteriorwards and medialwards making a point of exit at the left inferior
mammary region, measuring 0.7 x 2.5 cm, 5 cm from the anterior midline, superficial.

3.) Stab wound, left subcostal region, measuring 0.7 x 2.3 cm, 14.2 cm from the anterior midline, 9 cm
deep, directed posteriorwards, slightly upwards and medialwards, lacerating the mesentery, small intestine,
left hemidiaphragm.

4.) Lacerated wound, thru and thru, point of entry, left inferior clavicular region, measuring 2 x 7 cm, 4.5
cm from the posterior midline, extending to the right inferior clavicular region and making a point of exit
thereat, measuring 1 x 3 cm, superficial.

5.) Two and a half liters of blood and blood clots were evacuated from the abdominal cavity.

6.) The stomach is 250 ml full of billous fluid.

"Extremity:

1.) Lacerated wound, distal third of the right arm, measuring 0.4 x 1 cm, 2.5 cm lateral to its anterior midline.

"CONCLUSION:

Cause of death is hemorrhage and shock secondary to multiple stab wounds of the trunk." 14

On the other hand, the defense presented the testimonies of appellant and Antonio Sulficiencia (Antonio) to disprove
the foregoing charges.

Appellant testified that on 25 November 1999, at about 9:00 in the evening, he was inside his store located at No.
886 Mactan St. Brgy. Commonwealth, Quezon City, when he heard shouts outside. He peeped through the window
of his store and saw Danilo and Ronald pulling out a certain Jesus de Guzman (Jesus) from the latters tricycle.
Danilo and Ronald punched Jesus but the latter retaliated. Thereafter, a rumble ensued. At the height of the brawl, he
shouted Hoy! ano ba yan? Tama na yan! Itigil na ninyo yan! Awatin na ninyo yan." Minutes later, Michael passed
by his store and inquired as to what was happening. He told Michael "Yung tatay mo at si Santiago (Ronald)
pinagtulungan si Rommel." Michael rushed to Danilo and pacified the latter. Edgardo, one of the participants
therein, threw stones at Michael. At this point, a certain Lemuel Grans Querubin (Lemuel) arrived and tried to join
the fracas. Michael, however, blocked Lemuels way. The two wrestled and both of them fell to the ground.
Moments later, Lemuel stood up. Lemuel was holding a knife and his hands were bloodied. Michael, on the other
hand, was still lying on the ground. Lemuel then chased Danilo and Ronald but the two were able to escape.
Afterwards, Danilo, Ronald and five other persons returned to the scene. Danilo was carrying a big bolo while the
others were armed with stones and lead pipe. Lemuel and Jesus ran towards the direction of Sto. Nino in order to
escape.15

Appellant went outside his house to observe the situation. Five minutes later, the group of Danilo, together with two
policemen, proceeded to appellants house. The policemen forcibly entered appellants house and pushed the latter
against the wall. They inquired as to the whereabouts of Lemuel and Jesus, who happened to be appellants bus
conductor and driver, respectively. When they could not find the two, the policemen invited him to the police
station. Appellant told them "Bakit ninyo ako dadalhin? wala naman akong kinalaman diyan." From then on, the
policemen held appellant in custody.16

Antonio was a former bus driver of appellant and a resident of Paranaque City. He narrated that on 25 November
1999, at about 9:00 in the evening, he parked a bus owned by appellants cousin named Juanito Palmares (Juanito)
just beside the appellants store. He went to appellants store and conversed with the latter who was inside the same
store. Thereafter, he saw a rumble nearby. He ran and hid inside the parked bus while appellant stayed inside his
store. Later, the participants of the rumble began to stone them. He alighted from the bus and went inside Juanitos
house. He noticed that appellant was still inside the store. Subsequently, he saw Lemuel running and carrying a
knife. He also heard Lemuel saying "Tapos na ang laban, manahimik na kayo." Thereupon, he saw appellant being
apprehended by policemen in civilian clothes.17

On 12 November 2001, the RTC rendered its Decision convicting appellant of murder. 18 It sustained the "clear,
direct and positive" testimony of the prosecution witnesses who all declared that they saw appellant stab Michael. It
found no ill-motive on the part of the prosecution witnesses in testifying against appellant. It also ruled that there
was treachery in the killing of Michael since the latter was unarmed, unsuspecting and very young at the time of the
attack. In ending, the RTC held:

WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered finding accused Nicolas Guzman Y Bocbosila guilty beyond reasonable doubt
of the crime of murder qualified by treachery. Accordingly, he is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion
perpetua to death and further ordered to pay the heirs of the late Michael Angelo Balber the sum of Thirty-Five
Thousand Four hundred Seventy Pesos (P35,470.00), Philippine Currency, as actual damages, excluding the Six
Thousand Pesos (P6,000.00) Bagbag Cemetery as there was no evidence to justify the award of the same; Fifty
Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00), as moral damages and the additional civil indemnity of Fifty Thousand Pesos
(P50,000.00).

Appellant filed a Notice of Appeal on 26 November 2001. 19 On 28 February 2005, the Court Appeals promulgated
its Decision affirming with modification the RTC Decision. 20 The modification pertains only to the penalty imposed
by the RTC, thus:

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 89, in Criminal Case No. Q-99-
88737 is hereby AFFIRMED in all respects except that the sentence be RECLUSION PERPETUA only.

On automatic review before us, appellant assigned the following errors of the lower court:

I.

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY BEYOND


REASONABLE [DOUBT] OF THE CRIME OF MURDER DESPITE THE PALPABLE DISCREPANCIES AND
INCONSISTENCIES IN THE TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES.

II.
THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT GIVING EXCULPATORY WEIGHT TO THE EVIDENCE
PRESENTED BY THE DEFENSE.

III.

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN NOT ALLOWING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT TO PRODUCE


SUBSTITUTE OR ADDITIONAL WITNESSES FOR HIS DEFENSE.

IV.

ASSUMING ARGUENDO THAT THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT CAN BE HELD LIABLE FOR THE DEATH
OF THE VICTIM, THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN APPRECIATING THE QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCE
OF TREACHERY.21

Anent the first issue, appellant claims that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses should not be given any
weight as the same are filled with discrepancies and inconsistencies. According to him, Ronald and Edgardo
testified that appellant and his two companions used only one knife in stabbing Michael. Inspector Malaza, however,
declared that appellant and his two companions were armed with separate knives during the stabbing incident. He
also avers that Inspector Malaza gave contradicting versions of how the latter apprehended him after the incident.
Further, Edgardo testified that after the incident, he immediately went to the house of Michael and informed Danilo
of what he witnessed. Danilo, however, declared that while he was on his way home, he saw Michael lying at the
corner of Sto. Nino St. and Mactan St., and, that the malefactors were running away.

Appellants contention is bereft of merit.

A witness testifying about the same nerve-wracking incident can hardly be expected to be correct in every detail and
consistent with other witnesses in every respect, considering the inevitability of differences in perception,
recollection, viewpoint, or impressions, as well as in their physical, mental, emotional, and psychological states at
the time of the reception and recall of such impressions.22 Thus, we have followed the rule in accord with human
nature and experience that honest inconsistencies on minor and trivial matters serve to strengthen, rather than
destroy the credibility of a witness, especially of witnesses to crimes shocking to conscience and numbing to
senses.23

The inconsistencies cited by appellant refer to minor and unimportant details which do not adversely affect the
credibility of the prosecution witnesses. Although the testimony of Ronald and Edgardo as to the number of knives
used in the stabbing incident differs with that of Inspector Malaza, all of them declared under oath during the trial
that appellant stabbed Michael.

Thus, as aptly stated by the Court of Appeals, such inconsistency should not be considered as a "fatal error," since
what is important and decisive is that they had seen appellant stab Michael and that they testified on the fact during
the trial.

Besides, their testimonies on material and relevant points are substantially consistent with each other. They testified
that three persons, among whom was the appellant, had stabbed Michael. Their descriptions of the faces, physical
attributes, and respective positions of appellant and his two companions during the attack are compatible. They also
stated that appellant was the last person who stabbed Michael.

As regards the alleged inconsistent testimony of Inspector Malaza as to how the latter apprehended the appellant, it
should be borne in mind that the weight of the eyewitness account should be on the fact that the witness saw the
accused commit the crime and was positive of the latters physical identification. 24 Inspector Malaza had seen
appellant stab Michael, and, in fact, apprehended him right after the incident. Hence, the details on the manner by
which Inspector Malaza apprehended the appellant would be immaterial and irrelevant.
Appellant asserts that the testimony of Danilo runs counter to the testimony of the other prosecution witnesses. Even
if we were to disregard as evidence for the prosecution the testimony of Danilo, the categorical and credible
testimonies of the other prosecution witnesses are sufficient to support the finding of guilt on the part of appellant. It
should be emphasized that the testimony of one eyewitness would be enough to support a conviction provided it is
positive, credible, clear and straightforward.25

Apropos the second issue, appellant denied any liability and invoked alibi. He argued that he was inside his store
when the stabbing incident occurred, and, that it was Lemuel who stabbed Michael. He also presented Antonio to
corroborate his testimony.

For alibi to prosper, it is not enough for the accused to prove that he was somewhere else when the crime was
committed. He must likewise prove that it is physically impossible for him to be present at the crime scene or its
immediate vicinity at the time of its commission.26 If appellant was, as he claimed, inside his store at the time of the
incident, then it was not physically impossible for him to be at the crime scene or in its immediate vicinity. His store
is located just beside Mactan Street,27 and that he witnessed the incident at a distance of merely five arms length
from his store.28 Therefore, his defense of alibi must fail.

Antonio testified that he and appellant, who was inside his store, were having a conversation when the incident
occurred. A perusal of the records, however, shows that appellant did not mention anything about such conversation.
In fact, appellant did not even mention the name of Antonio in his entire testimony. Given the foregoing, the
testimony of Antonio cannot be considered as credible.

In arguing the third issue, appellant avers that his constitutional rights to produce evidence on his behalf and to due
process were violated when the trial court denied the motion of his counsel to present substitute witnesses.

In the Pre-Trial Order of the RTC dated 29 February 2000, the defense named only four witnesses, to wit: Antonio,
Lizardo Dedase, Eduardo Bidia, and accused himself.29 In the same order, the RTC stated the following:

All parties are informed that witnesses and documents which were not mentioned in this pre-trial order shall not be
entertained during the trial on the merits.30

During the trial, only appellant and Antonio were able to testify. When the two other witnesses in the pre-trial order,
namely, Lizardo Dedase and Eduardo Bidia, failed to appear and testify in court several times, the defense counsel
moved to substitute them explaining that they were hesitant to testify, and, that one of them went home to his
province.31

The RTC was correct in denying the defense counsels motion for substitution of witnesses since Section 4, Rule
118 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure mandates that the matters agreed upon in the pre-trial conference
and as stated in the pre-trial order shall bind the parties, to wit:

SEC. 4. Pre-trial order. After the pre-trial conference, the court shall issue an order reciting the actions taken, the
facts stipulated, and evidence marked. Such order shall bind the parties, limit the trial to matters not disposed of, and
control the course of the action during the trial, unless modified by the court to prevent manifest injustice (Italics
supplied).

The pre-trial order of the RTC dated 29 February 2000 clearly shows that the defense named only four witnesses.
The parties were also informed therein that witnesses who were not mentioned in the pre-trial order will not be
entertained during the trial on the merits. Thus, pursuant to the afore-stated provision and its purpose of preventing
undue delay in the disposition of criminal cases and ensuring fair trial, the denial of the defense counsels motion for
substitution of witnesses is justified. Moreover, if appellants motion for substitution of witnesses is given due
course, it will amount to an unreasonable disregard of solemn agreements submitted to and approved by the court of
justice and would make a mockery of the judicial process.
This is not to say, however, that such provision is absolute. It can be relaxed in the greater interest of justice.
Nevertheless, the exception does not apply in favor of appellant as the RTC had observed that his motion for
substitution of witnesses appears to be a "fishing expedition" of evidence which is clearly unfair to the case of the
prosecution.32 Moreover, as aptly stated by the Solicitor General, if the two other witnesses of appellant were indeed
afraid or hesitant to testify, he should have moved the RTC to subpoena the said witnesses to testify in
court33 pursuant to his constitutional right to compulsory process to secure the attendance of his
witnesses.34Unfortunately, appellant did not avail himself of this remedy.

As to the fourth issue, appellant contends that even if he were held liable for the death of Michael, there was no
treachery which will qualify the killing as murder. According to him, there is no evidence to show that appellant and
his two companions had deliberately and consciously adopted their mode of attack to ensure its execution without
risk to themselves. The stabbing incident occurred in a place that was properly lighted. There were many people in
the area then walking in different directions. He claims that if he and his two companions wanted to ensure that no
risk would come to them, then they could have chosen another time and place to attack Michael.

Treachery is a sudden and unexpected attack under the circumstances that renders the victim unable and unprepared
to defend himself by reason of the suddenness and severity of the attack. 35 It is an aggravating circumstance that
qualifies the killing of a person to murder. Article 14, paragraph (16) of the Revised Penal Code states the concept
and essential elements of treachery as an aggravating circumstance, thus:

ART. 14. The following are aggravating circumstances:

xxxx

16. That the act be committed with treachery (alevosia).

There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against the person, employing means, methods, or
forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to himself
arising from the defense which the offended party might make.

As can be gleaned from the foregoing, two essential elements/conditions are required in order that treachery may be
appreciated: (1) The employment of means, methods or manner of execution that would ensure the offenders safety
from any retaliatory act on the part of the offended party, who has, thus no opportunity for self-defense or
retaliation; (2) deliberate or conscious choice of means, methods or manner of execution. Further, it must always be
alleged in the information and proved in trial in order that it may be validly considered. 36

In the instant case, treachery was alleged in the Information against appellant. 37 Moreover, all the essential
elements/conditions of treachery were established and proven during the trial.

After attending a worship service at the Iglesia ni Kristo church in his barangay, Michael proceeded home. While
Michael was casually walking along the corner of Sto. Nino Street and Mactan Street, appellant and his two
companions, who were drinking nearby, suddenly approached and surrounded Michael. Appellant positioned
himself at the back of Michael while his two companions stood in front of Michael. In an instant, they grabbed the
shoulders of Michael and overpowered the latter. One of the appellants companions, whom the prosecution
witnesses described as a male with long hair, drew out a knife and repeatedly stabbed Michael on the stomach.
Unsatisfied, the appellants other companion, whom the prosecution witnesses described as a male with flat top hair,
took the knife and stabbed Michael on the stomach. As the finale, appellant went in front of Michael, took the knife
and also stabbed Michael on the stomach. When Michael fell on the ground, appellant kicked him at the body. Upon
noticing that the bloodied Michael was no longer moving, appellant and his two companions fled the scene.

As viewed from the foregoing, the suddenness and unexpectedness of the attack of appellant and his two
companions rendered Michael defenseless, vulnerable and without means of escape. It appears that Michael was
unarmed and alone at the time of the attack. Further, he was merely seventeen years of age then. 38 In such a helpless
situation, it was absolutely impossible for Michael to escape or to defend himself against the assault of appellant and
his two companions. Being young and weak, Michael is certainly no match against adult persons like appellant and
his two companions. Michael was also outnumbered since he had three assailants, and, was unarmed when he was
stabbed to death. Appellant and his two companions took advantage of their size, number, and weapon in killing
Michael. They also deliberately adopted means and methods in exacting the cruel death of Michael by first
surrounding him, then grabbing his shoulders and overpowering him. Afterwards, each of them repeatedly stabbed
Michael with a knife at the stomach until the latter fell lifeless to the ground. The stab wounds sustained by Michael
proved to be fatal as they severely damaged the latters large intestine.39

The fact that the place where the incident occurred was lighted and many people were walking then in different
directions does not negate treachery. It should be made clear that the essence of treachery is the sudden and
unexpected attack on an unsuspecting victim without the slightest provocation on his part. 40 This is even more true if
the assailant is an adult and the victim is a minor. Minor children, who by reason of their tender years, cannot be
expected to put up a defense. Thus, when an adult person illegally attacks a minor, treachery exists. 41As we earlier
found, Michael was peacefully walking and not provoking anyone to a fight when he was stabbed to death by
appellant and his two companions. Further, Michael was a minor at the time of his death while appellant and his two
companions were adult persons.

With regard to the allegation in the Information that the killing of Michael was attended by an aggravating
circumstance of evident premeditation, the RTC and the Court of Appeals were correct in disregarding the same
against appellant. The essence of evident premeditation as an aggravating circumstance is that the execution of the
criminal act was preceded by cool thought and reflection upon the resolution to carry out the criminal intent during a
space of time sufficient to arrive at a calm judgment.42 It implies a deliberate planning of the crime before executing
it. It must also be shown how and when the plan to kill was hatched or what time elapsed before it was carried
out.43 Further, there must be proof that the accused meditated and reflected on his intention between the time when
the crime was conceived by him and the time it was actually perpetrated. 44 In the case at bar, there is no evidence to
show that appellant and his two companions had previously planned and reflected in killing Michael. When
appellant and his two companions saw Michael on that fateful night, they immediately pounced on him. The thought
of killing Michael came into the minds of appellant and his two companions only when they saw Michael walking
on the road. Indeed, the killing of Michael was sudden and unplanned.

On another point, we agree with the penalty imposed by the Court of Appeals. Article 248 of the Revised Penal
Code states that murder is punishable by reclusion perpetua to death. Article 63 of the same Code provides that if the
penalty is composed of two indivisible penalties, as in the instant case, and there are no aggravating or mitigating
circumstances, the lesser penalty shall be applied. Since there is no mitigating or aggravating circumstance in the
present case, and, treachery cannot be considered as an aggravating circumstance as it was already taken as a
qualifying circumstance, the lesser penalty of reclusion perpetua should be imposed. As regards the damages
awarded by the Court of Appeals, we rule that the sum of P35,470.00 as actual damages should be reduced
to P25,670.00 since the receipts on record amounts only to P25,670.00.45 It is well-settled that only expenses
supported by receipts will be allowed for actual damages.46 Furthermore, exemplary damages should also be
awarded to the heirs of Michael since the qualifying circumstance of treachery was firmly established by the
prosecution.47 If a crime is committed with an aggravating circumstance, either qualifying or generic, an award
of P25,000.00 as exemplary damages is justified under Article 2230 of the New Civil Code. 48This kind of damage is
intended to serve as a deterrent to serious wrongdoings, and as a vindication of undue sufferings and wanton
invasion of the rights of an injured person or punishment for those guilty of outrageous conduct. 49lawphil.net

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. C.R.-H.C. No. 00095 dated 28 February 2005 is
hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS. Appellant is hereby found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of murder, for which, he is accordingly sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. Appellant is
further ordered to pay the heirs of Michael P25,670.00 as actual damages; P50,000.00 as moral
damages; P50,000.00 as civil indemnity for Michaels death; and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. 175605

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
ARNOLD GARCHITORENA Y CAMBA a.k.a. JUNIOR; JOEY PAMPLONA a.k.a. NATO and JESSIE
GARCIA Y ADORINO, Accused-Appellants.

Related Topic: (abuse of superior strength)

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

For automatic review is the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR.-HC No. 00765 which affirmed
an earlier Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Binan City, Branch 25 in Criminal Case No.9440-B,
finding accused-appellants Arnold Garchitorena y Gamba, a.k.a. "Junior," Joey Pamplona, a.k.a. "Nato," and Jessie
Garcia y Adorino guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder and sentencing them to suffer the penalty of death and
to indemnify jointly and severally the heirs of the victim in the amount of 50,000.00 as civil indemnity, 50,000.00
as moral damages, 50,000.00 as exemplary damages, 16,700.00 as actual damages, 408,000.00 for loss of
earning capacity and to pay the costs of the suit.

The conviction of accused-appellants stemmed from an Information3 dated January 22, 1996, filed with the RTC for
the crime of Murder, the accusatory portion of which reads:

That on or about September 22, 1995, in the Municipality of Binan, Province of Laguna, Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, accused Arnold Garchitorena y Gamba, alias "Junior", Joey Pamplona alias
"Nato" and Jessie Garcia y Adorino, conspiring, confederating together and mutualy helping each other, with intent
to kill, while conveniently armed with a deadly bladed weapon, with abuse of superior strength, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab one Mauro Biay y Almarinez with the said weapon,
thereby inflicting upon him stab wounds on the different parts of his body which directly caused his death, to the
damage and prejudice of his surviving heirs.

That the crime was committed with the qualifying aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

When arraigned, accused-appellants, duly assisted by their counsel, pleaded not guilty to the charge. Thereafter, trial
ensued.

The prosecution presented three (3) witnesses; namely, Dulce Borero, elder sister of the victim Mauro Biay and
eyewitness to the killing of her brother; Dr. Rolando Poblete, who conducted an autopsy on the body of the victim
and prepared the post-mortem report; and Amelia Biay, the victims widow. The evidence for the prosecution, as
culled from the CA Decision under review, is as follows:

In the proceedings before the trial court, witness for the prosecution Dulce Borero testified that on September 22,
1995, at around 9:00 oclock in the evening, she was selling "balut" at Sta. Inez, Almeda Subdivision, Brgy. Dela
Paz, Binan, Laguna. Her brother, Mauro Biay, also a "balut" vendor", was also at the area, about seven (7) arms
length away from her when she was called by accused Jessie Garcia. Borero testified that when her brother Mauro
approached Jessie, the latter twisted the hand of her brother behind his back and Jessies companions- accused
Arnold Garchitorena and Joey Pamplona began stabbing her brother Mauro repeatedly with a shiny bladed
instrument. Joey was at the right side of the victim and was strangling Mauro from behind. Witness saw her brother
Mauro struggling to free himself while being stabbed by the three (3) accused., until her brother slumped facedown
on the ground. Arnold then instructed his two co-accused to run away. During cross-examination, Borero claims that
she wanted to shout for help but nothing came out from her mouth. When the accused had left after the stabbing
incident, witness claimed that she went home to call her elder brother Teodoro Biay, but when they returned to the
scene, the victim was no longer there as he had already been brought to the Perpetual Help Hospital. They learned
from the tricycle driver who brought Mauro top the hospital that their brother was pronounced dead on arrival.

Dr. Rolando Poblete, the physician who conducted an autopsy on victim Mauro Biay and prepared the post-mortem
report, testified that the victims death was caused by "hypovolemic shock secondary to multiple stab wounds."
Witness specified the eight (8) stab wounds suffered by the victim one in the neck, two in the chest, one below the
armpit, two on the upper abdomen, one at the back and one at the left thigh and also a laceration at the left forearm
of Mauro. According to the expert witness, the nature of stab wounds indicate that it may have been caused by more
than one bladed instrument.

The victims widow, Amelia Biay, testified that she incurred burial expenses amounting to 16,700.00 due to the
death of her husband. Also, her husband allegedly earned a minimum of 300.00 a day as a "balut" vendor and
100.00 occasionally as a part-time carpenter.

The accused-appellants denied the charge against them. Specifically, accused-appellant Joey Pamplona denied that
he participated in the stabbing of Mauro Bay, accused-appellant Jessie Garcia interposed the defense of alibi, while
accused-appellant Arnold Garchitorena interposed the defense of insanity. Succinctly, the CA Decision summed up
their respective defenses:

On the other hand, accused Joey Pamplona denied that he participated in the stabbing of Mauro Biay. Joey
Pamplona claims that he was seated on a bench when co-accused Arnold came along. Then the "balut" vendor
arrived and Joey saw Arnold stand up, pull something from the right side of his pocket and stab the "balut" vendor
once before running away. Joey Pamplona testified that after the stabbing incident, due to fear that Arnold might
also stab him, he also ran away to the store of a certain Mang Tony, a barangay official and related the incident to
Aling Bel, the wife of Mang Tony. Joey Pamplona said that he stayed at Mang Tonys store until his father arrived
and told him to go home.

Danilo Garados testified that on Septemebr 22, 1995, he was at the store of Mang Tony to buy cigarettes and saw
Arnold and Joey seated on the bench near the artesian well. Arnold and Joey allegedly called Mauro Biay and he
saw Arnold stabbing Mauro. Jessie Garcia was not there and Joey allegedly ran away when Arnold stabbed Mauro.

Clavel Estropegan testified that on September 22, 1995, around 9:00 p.m. Joey Pamplona entered her store and told
her that Junior or Arnold Garchitorena was stabbing somebody. She did not hear any commotion outside her house
which is just four houses away from the artesian well. However, she closed her store for fear that Arnold will enter
her house.

Barangay Captain Alfredo Arcega testified that he investigated the stabbing incident and, although he had no
personal knowledge, he found out that it was Arnold Garchitorena who stabbed Mauro Biay. Upon questioning
Arnold, the latter admitted that he did stab Mauro.

Defense witness Miguelito Gonzalgo testified that on September 22, 1995, he was in his shoe factory at his house
located at 186 Sta. Teresita Street, Almeda Subdivision, Binan when he heard Mauro Biay shouting, and so he went
out of his house. He allegedly saw two persons "embracing" each other near the artesian well. He recognized these
two persons as Mauro and Arnold. He saw Arnold pulling out a knife from the body of Mauro and the latter slowly
fell down on his side. After Arnold washed his hands at the artesian well and walked away towards the house of his
aunt, this witness approached Mauro and seeing that the victim was still breathing, went to get a tricycle to bring
Mauro to the hospital. When he got back to the area, there were many people who helped board Mauro in the
tricycle and they brought him to the Perpetual Help Hospital in Binan.

The other co-accused Jessie Garcia took the stand and claimed that on September 22, 1995, between 8:00 and 9:00
in the evening, he was still riding a bus from his work in Blumentritt. He arrived at his home in Binan only at 11:00
p.m. On September 24, 1995, he was fetched by two (2) policemen and two (2) Barangay Tanods from his house
and brought to the Binan Police Station for questioning. Thereafter, he was put in jail and incarcerated for six (6)
months without knowing the charges against him. He was only informed that he was one of the suspects in the
killing of Mauro Biay by his mother.

With respect to Arnold Garchitorena, Dr. Evelyn Belen, Medical Officer III and resident physician of the National
Center for Mental Health, testified that she examined the accused Arnold and based on the history of the patient, it
was found that he had been using prohibited drugs like shabu and marijuana for two (2) years prior to the stabbing
incident in 1995. The patient is allegedly suffering from schizophrenia, wherein he was hearing auditory voices,
seeing strange things and is delusional. However, Dr. Belen also testified that the accused Garchitorena had
remissions or exaservation and understands what he was doing and was aware of his murder case in court. 4

On May 9, 2001, the trial court rendered a Decision, 5 as follows:

WHEREFORE, IN THE LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING CONSIDERATIONS, the Court finds accused
Arnold Garchitorena y Gamboa alias Junior, Joey Pamplona alias Nato and Jessie Garcia y
Adorino GUILTY beyond reasonable of the crime of "MURDER" as defined and penalized under Article 248 of the
Revised Penal Code, as amended, by Republic Act 7659, (Heinous Crimes). Accordingly, all of them are hereby
sentenced to suffer the penalty of DEATH.

Furthermore, all of the accused are hereby ordered to pay jointly and severally Amelia Biay, widow of the victim
Mauro Biay, the following sums:

a) 50,000.00 as and for civil indemnity

b) 50,000.00 as and for moral damages

c) 50,000.00 as and for exemplary damages

d) 16,700.00 as and for actual damages

e) 408,000.00 as and for loss of the earning capacity of Mauro Biay; and

f) To pay the costs of suit.

Likewise, the Provincial Warden of the Provincial Jail, Sta. Cruz, Laguna, is hereby ordered to transfer/commit the
three (3) accused to the New Bilibid Prisons, Muntinlupa City, immediately upon receipt hereof.

Considering that death penalty was meted against all of the accused, let the entire records of the above-entitled case
be forwarded to the Supreme Court for automatic review and judgment pursuant to Rule 122, Sec.10 of the Revised
Rules of Criminal Procedure.

SO ORDERED.6

Accused-appellants appealed to the CA. Pamplona and Garcia reiterated their denial of the charge against them.
Garchitorena who never denied his participation in the killing, insisted, however, insisted that he is exempt from
criminal liability because he was suffering from a mental disorder before, during and after the commission of the
crime.
On May 31, 2006, the CA rendered the Decision7 now under review, affirming RTCs Decision in toto, thus:

WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing premises, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. Accordingly, the appealed
March 9, 2001 Decuision of the Regional Trial Court of Binan, Laguna, Branch 25, in Criminal Case No. 9440-B
finding herein accused-appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder is AFFIRMED in its
entirety.

SO ORDERED.

In arriving at the assailed Decision, the CA ratiocinated as follows:

After studying the records of this case, we do not find any reason to overturn the ruling of the trial court.

Despite the testimony of defense witnesses that it was only accused-appellant Arnold Garchitorena who stabbed the
victim Mauro Biay, we find reason to uphold the trial courts giving credence to prosecution witness Dulce Borero
who testified as an eyewitness on the circumstances surrounding the incident and the manner by which the crime
committed.

Defense witness Garados testified that he was at the store and saw both Arnold and Joey at the vicinity where the
stabbing incident happened, seated on a bench near the artesian well, when they called the victim Mauro. Defense
witness Gonzalgo was in his house when he heard the commotion and went outside to see Arnold and Mauro
"embracing" near the artesian well and the former pulling a knife from the body of the latter. On the other hand,
prosecution witness Borero was merely seven arms length away from the incident and could easily see the victim
Mauro overpowered and attacked by his assailants, Arnold Garchitorena, Joey Pamplona and Jessie Garcia. She
witnessed the stabbing incident in its entirely and positively identified the accused and their criminal acts. It is a
well-settled rule that the evaluation of testimonies of witnesses by the trial court is received on appeal with the
highest respect because such court has the direct opportunity to observe the witnesses on the stand and determine if
they are telling the truth or not. (People vs. Cardel, 336 SCRA 144)

Evidence presented by the prosecution shows that the accused conspired to assault the victim Mauro Biay. Accused
Jessie Garcia was the one who called the victim and prompted the latter to approach their group near the artesian
well. When the victim was near enough, accused Jessie Garcia and co-accused Joey Pamplona restrained Mauro
Biay and overpowered him. Witness Borero then saw the two accused, Jessie Garcia and Joey Pamplona, together
with their co-accused Arnold Garchitorena instructed his two co-accused to run. Conspiracy is apparent in the
concerted action of the three accused. There is conspiracy when two or more persons come to an agreement
concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it (People vs. Pendatun, 434 SCRA 148). Conspiracy
may be deduced from the mode and manner in which the offense was perpetrated or inferred from the acts of the
accused which show a joint or common purpose and design, a concerted action and community of interest among the
accused (People vs. Sicad, et al., 391 SCRA 19).

Likewise, we affirm the trial courts appreciation of the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength to
qualify the crime into murder. "While it is true that superiority in number does not per se mean superiority in
strength, the appellants in this case did not only enjoy superiority in number, but were armed with a weapon, while
the victim had no means with which to defend himself. Thus, there was obvious physical disparity between the
protagonists and abuse of superior strength attended the killing when the offenders took advantage of their combined
strength in order to consummate the offense." (People of the Phils. vs. Parreno, 433 SCRA 591). In the case at bar,
the victim was rendered helpless when he was assaulted by the three accused. He was restrained and overpowered
by the combined strength and the weapons used by his assailants.

We do not find improbable Boreros failure to act or shout for help upon witnessing the stabbing of her brother
Mauro Biay. It is an accepted maxim that different people react differently to a given situation or type of situation
and there is no standard form of behavioral response when one is confronted with a strange or startling experience.
xxx There is no standard form of behavior when one is confronted by a shocking incident. The workings of the
human mind when placed under emotional stress are unpredictable. (People of the Philippines vs. Aspuria, 391
SCRA 404)

Accused-appellant Jessie Garcias denial of any involvement cannot prevail over Boreros positive identification. As
ruled by the trial court, allegations that accused Jessie Garcia was somewhere else when the crime was committed is
not enough. He must likewise demonstrate that he could not have been present at the crime scene, or in its vicinity.
He also could have sought the help of his co-worker, employer or anyone in the area to support his defense of alibi.
Indeed, we affirm that accused Jessie Garcias allegation that he was elsewhere when the crime was committed is
not substantiated by evidence. Alibi can easily be fabricated. Well-settled is the rule that alibi is an inherently weak
defense which cannot prevail over the positive identification of the accused by the victim. (People of the Phils. vs.
Cadampog, 428 SCRA 336)

Finally, the defense of insanity cannot be given merit when the expert witness herself, Dr. Belen, attested that
accused Arnold Garchitorena was experiencing remission and was even aware of his murder case in court. The trial
court had basis to conclude that during the commission of the crime, Arnold was not totally deprived of reason and
freedom of will. In fact, after the stabbing incident, accused Arnold Garchitorena instructed his co-accused to run
away from the scene. We agree that such action demonstrates that Arnold possessed the intelligence to be aware of
his and his co-accuseds criminal acts. A defendant in a criminal case who interpose the defense of mental
incapacity has the burden of establishing the fact that he was insane at the very moment when the crime was
committed. There must be complete deprivation of reason in the commission of the act, or that the accused acted
without discernment, which must be proven by clear and positive evidence. The mere abnormality of his mental
faculties does not preclude imputability. Indeed, a man may act crazy but it does not necessarily and conclusively
prove that he is legally so. (People of the Philippines vs. Galigao, 395 SCRA 195)

Having found the court a quos decision to be supported by the evidence on record, and for being in accord with
prevailing jurisprudence, we find no reason to set it aside.

WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing premises, the instant appeal is DISMISSED. Accordingly, the appealed
March 9, 2001 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Bian, Laguna, Branch 25, in Criminal Case No. 9440-B
finding herein accused-appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder is AFFIRMED in its
entirely.

SO ORDERED.

The case was elevated to this Court for automatic review. The People and the accused-appellants opted not to file
any supplemental brief. The respective assignments of errors contained in the briefs that they filed with the CA are
set forth hereunder.

For accused-appellant Pamplona:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING FULL AND TOTAL CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONY OF
PROSECUTION WITNESS DULCE BORERO

II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO APPRECIATE THE EVIDENCE IN FAVOR OF THE
APPELLANT

III
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING APPELLANT WHEN HIS GUILT HAS NOT BEEN DULY
PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

For accused-appellant Garcia:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING UNDUE WEIGHT AND CREDENCE TO THE ALLEGED
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT GIVEN BY DULCE BORERO, ELDER SISTER OF THE VICTIM AND
PROSECUTION WITNESS, IN RESPECT OF THE PARTICIPATION OF THE HEREIN ACCUSED DESPITE
GLARING INCONSISTENCIES, INHERENT IMPROBABILITIES AND UNRELIABLE DECLARATION
ATTENDING THE SAME; AND, ON THE OTHERHAND, IN DISREGARDING THE COHERENT,
CONSISTENT AND CREDIBLE EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF DEFENSE WITNESSES ALL IN
CONTRAVENTION OF THE RULES GOVERNING QUANTUM OF PROOF IN CRIMINAL CASES AND THE
PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENSE EXISTING IN FAVOR OF ACCUSED GARCIA;

II

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN COMPLETELY DISREGARDING THE DEFENSE OF ALIBI INTERPOSED
BY ACCUSED-APPELLANT JESSIE GARCIA WHO WAS SOMEWHERE ELSE AT THE TIME AS TO
RENDER IT PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO HAVE BEEN AT THE SCENE OF THE CRIME AND
EVEN IF THE SAME IS SUBSTANTIATED BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE, THAT IS, THE
TESTIMONIES OF OITHER DEFENSE WITNESSES WHO WERE ONE IN SAYING THAT HE WAS NOT
PRESENT THEREAT;

III

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN ENTERING A VERDICT OF CONVICTION FOR JESSIE GARCIA
INSTEAD OF ACQUITTAL WHEN NONE OF THE OTHER ACCUSED, AFTER HAVING ADMITTED
THEIR PARTICIPATION IN THE CRIME, IMPLICATED HIM;

IV

THE LOWER COURT ERRED, IN AWARDING MORAL AND EXEMPLARY DAMAGES IN THE ABSENCE
OF EVIDENCE THEREFOR.

For accused-appellant Garchitorena:

THE COURT ERRED IN NOT GIVING WEIGHT AND CREDENCE OVER THE TESTIMONY OF AN
EXPERT WITNESS.

II

THE COURT ERRED IN FINDING ACCUSED ARNOLD GARCHITORENA TO HAVE WILLFULLY


EXECUTED THE ACTS COMPLAINED OF.

Accused-appellant Pamplona capitalized on Dulce Boreros inaction at the time when she had supposedly witnessed
the slaying of her younger brother. He argued that if she really witnessed the crime, she would have had readily
helped her brother Mauro instead of fleeing. Accused-appellant Garcia anchored his acquittal on his defense of alibi,
while accused-appellant Garchitorena used his alleged mental disorder, specifically, schizophrenia, as a ground to
free himself from criminal liability.
The core issues raised by the both accused-appellants Pamplona and Garcia are factual in nature and delve on the
credibility of the witnesses.

Since the accused-appellants raise factual issues, they must use cogent and convincing arguments to show that the
trial court erred in appreciating the evidence. They, however, have failed to do so.

Accused-appellant Pamplona contends that the trial courts decision was rendered by a judge other than the one who
conducted trial. Hence, the judge who decided the case failed to observe the demeanor of the witnesses on the stand
so as to gauge their credibility. This argument does not convince the Court for the reason it has consistently
maintained, to wit:

We have ruled in People v. Sadiangabay (G.R. No. 87214, March 30, 1993, 220 SCRA 551), that the circumstance
alone that the judge who wrote the decision had not heard the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses would not
taint his decision. After all, he had the full record before him, including the transcript of stenographic notes which he
could study. The efficacy of a decision is not necessarily impaired by the fact that its writer only took over from a
colleague who had earlier presided at the trial, unless there is a clear showing of a grave abuse of discretion in the
factual findings reached by him.8

A perusal of the trial courts decision readily shows that it was duly based on the evidence presented during the trial.
It is evident that he thoroughly examined the testimonial and documentary evidence before him and carefully
assessed the credibility of the witnesses. This Court finds no plausible ground to set aside the factual findings of the
trial court, which were sustained by the CA.lavvph!l

The eyewitness Dulce Boreros testimony clearly established Pamplona and Garcias participation and,
consequently, their culpability in the appalling murder of Mauro Biay: 9

"Fiscal Nofuente (To the witness)

Q: Madam witness, do you know Mauro Biay?

A: Yes sir.

xxx

Q: Do you know likewise the cause of his death?

A: Yes sir.

Q: What was the cause of his death?

A: He was repeatedly stabbed sir.

Q: You said that Mauro Biay was repeatedly stabbed, who stabbed Mauro Biay repeatedly?

A: Arnold Gatchitorena, was stabbing repeatedly the victim sir.

Q: Was Arnold Gatchitorena alone when he stabbed Mauro Biay?

A: They were three (3) who were stabbing Mauro Biay, sir.

Q: You said that they were three who were stabbing Mauro Biay, who are the other two?
A: Jessie Garcia and Joey Pamplona sir.

Q: So that when you said three, you are referring to Arnold Gatchitorena, Joey Pamplona and Jessie
Garcia?

A: Yes sir.

Q: Now, when [did] this stabbing incident [happen]?

A: On September 22, 1995 sir.

Q: Do you know what was [the] time when this incident happened on September 22, 1995?

A: 9:00 oclock in the evening sir.

Q: Where [did] this stabbing [happen]?

A: At Sta. Inez, Almeda Subdivision, dela Paz, Bian, Laguna sir.

Q: Could you tell Madam Witness, where in particular place in Sta. Inez, Almeda Subdivision this stabbing
incident happened?

A: In the street near the artesian well sir.

Q: Do you know where is that street?

A: Sta Inez St., Almeda Subdivision, dela Paz, Bian, Laguna sir.

Q: You said a while ago that accused Arnold Gatchitorena, Jessie Garcia, Joey Pamplona repeatedly
[stabbed] Mauro Biay, do you know these three accused?

A: Yes sir.

xxx

Q: Will you kindly step down from your seat and tap the three accused that you have pointed to us to be the
persons who stabbed and killed your brother Mauro Biay?

Court: Police Officer Dionisio will you kindly accompany the witness.

P02 Dionisio: Yes sir.

Fiscal: I would like to manifest Your Honor, that the witness was crying when she was pointing to the three
accused, uttering that "Sila ang pumatay sa aking kapatid!".

xxx

Q: What is the name of that person wearing that blue t-shirts?

A: Arnold Gatchitorena sir.


Q: We would like to confirm if he is really Arnold Gatchitorena pointed to by the witness?

Interpreter: The person pointed to by the witness wearing blue t-shirts identified himself as Arnold
Gatchitorena.

Fiscal: Do you know the name of second person whom you tapped on his side wearing white t-shirts?

A: Yes sir.

Q: What is his name?

A: Jessie Garcia sir.

Interpreter: The person pointed to by the witness identified himself as certain Jessie Garcia.

Fiscal: Likewise Madam Witness, do you know the name of a person in longsleeves polo shirts-checkered?

A: Yes sir, Joey Pamplona sir.

Interpreter: The person pointed by the witness identified himself as certain Joey Pamplona.

xxx

Q: How far were you from Mauro Biay when he was being stabbed by the three accused Joey Pamplona,
Jessie Garcia, and Arnold Gatchitorena?

A: Seven (7) arms length sir.

Q: You said that your brother was stabbed successively by the three accused, how did it [happen] Madam
Witness?

A: They called him sir.

Q: Who was called?

A: Mauro Biay sir.

Q: Who called Mauro Biay?

A: It was Jessie who called sir.

Q: When you said Jessie, are you referring to Jessie Garcia, one of the accused in this case?

A: Yes sir.

Q: When Mauro Biay was called by Jessie Garcia, what was [M]auro Biay doing there?

A: Mauro Biay approached sir.

Q: By the way Madam Witness, do you know why Mauro Biay was in that place where the incident
happened?
A: Yes sir.

Atty. Pajares: Witness would be incompetent Your Honor.

Court: Witness may answer.

Fiscal: Why was he there?

A: He was selling "balot" sir.

xxx

Fiscal: When Mauro Biay approached Jessie Garcia, what [did] Mauro Biay do, if any?

A: Jessie Garcia twisted the hand of my brother and placed the hand at his back sir.

Q: Who were the companions of Jessie Garcia when he called [M]auro Biay?

A: Joey Pamplona and Jr. Gatchitorena sir.

Q: When you said Jr. Gatchitorena are you referring to Arnold Gatchitorena?

A: Yes sir.

Q: So that when Jessie Garcia called Mauro Biay, he was together with Arnold Gatchitorena and Joey
Pamplona?

A: Yes sir.

Q: If you know Madam Witness, what did Joey Pamplona and Arnold Gatchitorena do after Jessie Garcia
twisted the arm of Mauro Biay on his back?

A: Arnold Gatchitorena repeatedly stabbed [M]auro Biay at his back and also Jessie Garcia also stabbed
my brother sir.

xxx

Q: Were you able to know the weapon used to stab Mauro Biay?

A: It was like a shiny bladed instrument sir.

Q: Now, what was the position of Mauro Biay when being stabbed by the three accused?

A: He was struggling to free himself sir.

Q: You said that he was struggling to free himself, why did you say that he was struggling to free himself?

A: Because I could see sir.

Q: You see what?


A: Because that three were repeatedly stabbing Mauro Biay sir.

Q: Aside from stabbing Mauro Biay, what was Joey Pamplona doing to Mauro Biay, if you can still
remember?

A: He was also repeatedly stabbing my brother sir.

Q: Aside from that stabbing, what else if any Joey Pamplona was doing to Mauro Biay?

A: Aside from stabbing Mauro Biay Joey Pamplona was also struggling [strangling] the neck of Mauro
Biay sir.

Q: You said that Mauro Biay was stabbed by the three accused successively, was Mauro Biay hit by these
stabbing?

A: Yes sir.

Q: Why do you know that he was hit by stabbing of the three?

A: Because I saw the blood oozing from the part of his body sir.

Q: Now, what happened to Mauro Biay, when he was stabbed and hit by the successive stabbing of the
three accused?

A: The victim Mauro Biay was suddenly slumped face down on the ground sir.

xxx

Q: What did you learn if any when you went to the hospital to see your brother [M]auro Biay?

A: He was already dead sir.

Even under cross-examination, Dulce Borero was unwavering, straightforward, categorical and
spontaneous in her narration of how the killing of her brother Mauro took place. 10 Notably, her testimony
as to the identification of Garchitorena as the one who stabbed Mauro Biay was even corroborated by
defense witness Miguelito Gonzalgo,11 thus:

Q: From the time you saw these two persons near the artesian well, what happened after that, mr. witness?

A: Mauro Biay slumped on the floor and I saw Junior stabbed once more the victim but I am not sure if the
victim was hit at the back, maam.

Q: How far were you from the two when you saw the incident, mr. witness?

A: More or less 7 to 8 meters, maam.

Q: Were there anything blocking your sight from the place where you were standing to the place of
incident, mr. witness?

A: None, maam.
Absent any showing of ill motive on the part of Borero, we sustain the lower court in giving her testimony full faith
and credence. Moreover, the prosecutions version is supported by the physical evidence.12 Boreros testimony that
the victim was successively stabbed several times conforms with the autopsy report that the latter suffered multiple
stab wounds.13

Accused-appellant Pamplonas argument that there were inconsistencies in the testimony of prosecution witnesses
Borero is not convincing. He specifically points out that in the direct examination of Borero, she stated that it was
Jessie Garcia who twisted the hand of Mauro Biay backwards when the latter approached the former. 14 In the cross-
examination, she stated that it was Joey Pamplona who strangled the victim when the latter approached Jessie
Garcia.

The seeming inconsistencies between her direct testimony and her cross-examination testimonies are not sufficient
ground to disregard them. In People v. Alberto Restoles y Tuyo, Roldan Noel y Molet and Jimmy Alayon y De la
Cruz,15 we ruled that:

minor inconsistencies do not affect the credibility of witnesses, as they may even tend to strengthen rather than
weaken their credibility. Inconsistencies in the testimony of prosecution witnesses with respect to minor details and
collateral matters do not affect either the substance of their declaration, their veracity, or the weight of their
testimony. Such minor flaws may even enhance the worth of a testimony, for they guard against memorized falsities.

Moreover, such inconsistencies did not contradict the credibility of Borero or her narration of the incident. On the
contrary, they showed that her account was the entire truth. In fact, her narration was in harmony with the account of
defense witness Gonzalgo. We note further that both the Sworn Statement 16 of Borero and her testimony before the
lower court17 were in complete congruence.

Undoubtedly, accused-appellants identities as the perpetrators were established by the prosecution. The prosecution
witness was able to observe the entire incident, because she was there. Thus, we find no reason to differ with the
trial courts appreciation of her testimony. Positive identification, where categorical and consistent, and not attended
by any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitnesses on the matter, prevails over alibi and denial. 18

Accused-appellant Garcias alibi has no leg to stand on. In People v. Desalisa, 19 this Court ruled that:

for the defense of alibi to prosper, the accused must prove not only that he was at some other place when the
crime was committed, but also that it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime or its
immediate vicinity through clear and convincing evidence.

Here, the crime was committed at Binan, Laguna. Although Garcia testified that he was still riding a bus from his
work in Blumentritt and arrived in Binan only at 11:00 P.M. or two hours after the killing incident, still, he failed to
prove that it was physically impossible for him to be at the place of the crime or its immediate vicinity. His alibi
must fail.

Accused-appellant Garchitorenas defense of insanity has also no merit. Unlike other jurisdictions, Philippine courts
have established a more stringent criterion for the acceptance of insanity as an exempting circumstance. 20As aptly
argued by the Solicitor General, insanity is a defense in the nature of confession and avoidance. As such, it must be
adequately proved, and accused-appellant Garchitorena utterly failed to do so. We agree with both the CA and the
trial court that he was not totally deprived of reason and freedom of will during and after the stabbing incident, as he
even instructed his co-accused-appellants to run away from the scene of the crime.

Accused-appellant Garcia also argues that there was no conspiracy, as "there was no evidence whatsoever that he
aided the other two accused-appellants or that he participated in their criminal designs." 21 We are not persuaded.
In People v. Maldo,22 we stated:
"Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and
decide to commit it. Direct proof is not essential, for conspiracy may be inferred from the acts of the accused prior
to, during or subsequent to the incident. Such acts must point to a joint purpose, concert of action or community of
interest. Hence, the victim need not be actually hit by each of the conspirators for the act of one of them is deemed
the act of all." (citations omitted, emphasis ours)

In this case, conspiracy was shown because accused-appellants were together in performing the concerted acts in
pursuit of their common objective. Garcia grabbed the victims hands and twisted his arms; in turn, Pamplona,
together with Garchitorena, strangled him and straddled him on the ground, then stabbed him. The victim was trying
to free himself from them, but they were too strong. All means through which the victim could escape were blocked
by them until he fell to the ground and expired. The three accused-appellants prior act of waiting for the victim
outside affirms the existence of conspiracy, for it speaks of a common design and purpose.

Where there is conspiracy, as here, evidence as to who among the accused rendered the fatal blow is not necessary.
All conspirators are liable as co-principals regardless of the intent and the character of their participation, because
the act of one is the act of all.23

The aggravating circumstance of superior strength should be appreciated against the accused-appellants. Abuse of
superior strength is present whenever there is inequality of forces between the victim and the aggressor, considering
that a situation of superiority of strength is notoriously advantageous for the aggressor and is selected or taken
advantage of by him in the commission of the crime. 24 This circumstance was alleged in the Information and was
proved during the trial. In the case at bar, the victim certainly could not defend himself in any way. The accused-
appellants, armed with a deadly weapon, immobilized the victim and stabbed him successively using the same
deadly weapon.

All told, the trial court correctly convicted the accused-appellants of murder, considering the qualifying
circumstance of abuse of superior strength. Since an aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength attended
the commission of the crime, each of the accused-appellants should be sentenced to suffer the penalty of death in
accordance with Article 6325 of the Revised Penal Code. Murder, under Article 248 26 of the Revised Penal Code, is
punishable by reclusion perpetua to death. Following Article 63 of the same code, the higher penalty of death shall
be applied.

In view, however, of the passage of R.A. No. 9346, 27 otherwise known as the Anti-Death Penalty Law, which
prohibits the imposition of the death penalty, reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole should instead be
imposed. Accordingly, accused-appellants shall be sentenced to reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole in
lieu of the penalty of death.

While the new law prohibits the imposition of the death penalty, the penalty provided for by law for a heinous
offense is still death and the offense is still heinous.28 Consequently, the civil indemnity for the victim is still
75,000.00. In People v. Quiachon,29 we explained that even if the penalty of death was not to be imposed on
appellant because of the prohibition in Republic Act No. 9346, the civil indemnity of 75,000.00 was still proper.
Following the ratiocination in People v. Victor,30 the said award is not dependent on the actual imposition of the
death penalty, but on the fact that qualifying circumstances warranting the imposition of the death penalty attended
the commission of the crime.

Hence, we modify the award of civil indemnity by the trial court from 50,000.00 to 75,000.00. Civil indemnity is
mandatory and granted to the heirs of the victim without need of proof other than the commission of the crime.
Likewise the award of 50,000.00 for moral damages is modified and increased to 75,000.00, consistent with
recent jurisprudence31 on heinous crimes where the imposable penalty is death, it is reduced to reclusion perpetua
pursuant to R.A. 9346. The award of moral damages does not require allegation and proof of the emotional suffering
of the heirs, since the emotional wounds from the vicious killing of the victim cannot be denied.32 The trial courts
award of exemplary damages in the amount of 50,000.00 shall, however, be reduced to 30,000.00, also pursuant
to the latest jurisprudence on the matter.33
As to the award of actual damages amounting to 16,700.00, we modify the same. In People v. Villanueva, 34 this
Court declared that "when actual damages proven by receipts during the trial amount to less than 25,000.00, as
in this case, the award of temperate damages for 25,000.00 is justified in lieu of actual damages of a lesser
amount." In the light of such ruling, the victims heirs in the present case should, therefore, be awarded temperate
damages in the amount of 25,000.00.

The award of 408,000.00 for loss of earning capacity is justified. As a rule, documentary evidence should be
presented to substantiate the claim for damages for loss of earning capacity. By way of exception, damages for loss
of earning capacity may be awarded despite the absence of documentary evidence when (1) the deceased is self-
employed and earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws, in which case judicial notice may be
taken of the fact that in the deceaseds line of work no documentary evidence is available; or (2) the deceased is
employed as a daily wage worker earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws. 35 It cannot be
disputed that the victim, at the time of his death, was self-employed and earning less than the minimum wage under
current labor laws. The computation arrived at by the trial court was in accordance with the formula for computing
the award for loss of earning capacity.36 Thus,

Award for lost earnings = 2/3 [80-age at time of death] x [gross annual income 50% (GAI)]

= 2/3 [80-29] x 24,000.00 12,000.00

= (34) x (12,000.00)

= 408,000.00

WHEREFORE, the appealed decision of the CA in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 00765, finding the three-accused
appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder is hereby AFFIRMED WITH the following
MODIFICATIONS: (1) the penalty of death imposed on accused-appellants is REDUCED to RECLUSION
PERPETUA without eligibility for parole pursuant to RA 9346; (2) the monetary awards to be paid jointly and
severally by the accused-appellants to the heirs of the victim are as follows: 75,000.00 as civil indemnity,
75,000.00 as moral damages, 30,000.00 as exemplary damages, and 25,000.00 as temperate damages in lieu of
actual damages; (3) 408,000.00 for loss of earning capacity; and (4) interest is imposed on all the damages awarded
at the legal rate of 6% from this date until fully paid.37

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 177960 January 29, 2009

JEFFREY RESO DAYAP, Petitioner,


vs.
PRETZY-LOU SENDIONG, GENESA SENDIONG, ELVIE SY and DEXIE DURAN, Respondents.

Related Topic: (complex crimes)

DECISION
Tinga, J.:

Before us is a petition for review1 on certiorari of the Decision2 dated 17 August 2006 and Resolution3 dated 25
April 2007 by the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 01179 entitled, Pretzy-Lou P. Sendiong, Genesa R.
Sendiong, Elvie H. Sy and Dexie Duran v. Hon. Judge Cresencio Tan and Jeffrey Reso Dayap.

The case had its origins in the filing of an Information4 on 29 December 2004 by the Provincial Prosecutors Office,
Sibulan, Negros Oriental, charging herein petitioner Jeffrey Reso Dayap with the crime of Reckless Imprudence
resulting to Homicide, Less Serious Physical Injuries, and Damage to Property. The pertinent portion of the
information reads:

That at about 11:55 oclock in the evening of 28 December 2004 at Brgy. Maslog, Sibulan, Negros Oriental,
Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there,
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously drive in a reckless and imprudent manner a 10-wheeler cargo truck with plate
number ULP-955, color blue, fully loaded with sacks of coconut shell, registered in the name of Ruben Villabeto of
Sta. Agueda Pamplona, Negros Oriental, thereby hitting an automobile, a Colt Galant with plate number NLD-379
driven by Lou Gene R. Sendiong who was with two female passengers, namely: Dexie Duran and Elvie Sy, thus
causing the instantaneous death of said Lou Gene R. Sendiong, less serious physical injuries on the bodies of Dexie
Duran and Elvie Sy and extensive damage to the above-mentioned Colt Galant which is registered in the name of
Cristina P. Weyer of 115 Dr. V. Locsin St., Dumaguete City, to the damage of the heirs of the same Lou Gene R.
Sendiong and the other two offended parties above-mentioned.

An act defined and penalized by Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code.

On 10 January 2005, before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Sibulan, Negros Oriental, petitioner was arraigned
and he pleaded not guilty to the charge.5

On 17 January 2005, respondents Pretzy-Lou P. Sendiong, Genesa Sendiong and Dexie Duran filed a motion for
leave of court to file an amended information.6 They sought to add the allegation of abandonment of the victims by
petitioner, thus: "The driver of the 10-wheeler cargo truck abandoned the victims, at a time when said [Lou-Gene]
R. Sendiong was still alive inside the car; he was only extracted from the car by the by-standers."7

On 21 January 2005, however, the Provincial Prosecutor filed an Omnibus Motion praying that the motion to amend
the information be considered withdrawn.8 On 21 January 2003, the MTC granted the withdrawal and the motion to
amend was considered withdrawn.9

Pre-trial and trial of the case proceeded. Respondents testified for the prosecution. After the prosecution had rested
its case, petitioner sought leave to file a demurrer to evidence which was granted. Petitioner filed his Demurrer to
Evidence10 dated 15 April 2005 grounded on the prosecutions failure to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he is
criminally liable for reckless imprudence, to which respondents filed a Comment 11 dated 25 April 2005.

In the Order12 dated 16 May 2005, the MTC granted the demurrer and acquitted petitioner of the crime of reckless
imprudence. The MTC found that the evidence presented by respondents failed to establish the allegations in the
Information. Pertinent portions of the order state:

An examination of the allegations in the information and comparing the same with the evidence presented by the
prosecution would reveal that the evidence presented has not established said allegations. The facts and
circumstances constituting the allegations charged have not been proven. It is elementary in the rules of evidence
that a party must prove his own affirmative allegations.

xxxx
Nowhere in the evidence of the prosecution can this Court find that it was the accused who committed the crime as
charged. Its witnesses have never identified the accused as the one who has committed the crime. The prosecution
never bothered to establish if indeed it was the accused who committed the crime or asked questions which would
have proved the elements of the crime. The prosecution did not even establish if indeed it was the accused who was
driving the truck at the time of the incident. The Court simply cannot find any evidence which would prove that a
crime has been committed and that the accused is the person responsible for it. There was no evidence on the
allegation of the death of Lou Gene R. Sendiong as there was no death certificate that was offered in evidence. The
alleged less serious physical injuries on the bodies of Dexie Duran and Elvie Sy were not also proven as no medical
certificate was presented to state the same nor was a doctor presented to establish such injuries. The alleged damage
to the [C]olt [G]alant was also not established in any manner as no witness ever testified on this aspect and no
documentary evidence was also presented to state the damage. The prosecution therefore failed to establish if indeed
it was the accused who was responsible for the death of Lou Gene R. Sendiong and the injuries to Dexie Duran and
Elvie Sy, including the damage to the Colt Galant. The mother of the victim testified only on the expenses she
incurred and the shock she and her family have suffered as a result of the incident. But sad to say, she could not also
pinpoint if it was the accused who committed the crime and be held responsible for it. This Court could only say that
the prosecution has practically bungled this case from its inception.

xxxx

The defense furthermore argued that on the contrary, the prosecutions [evidence] conclusively show that the
swerving of vehicle 1 [the Colt Galant] to the lane of vehicle 2 [the cargo truck] is the proximate cause of the
accident. The court again is inclined to agree with this argument of the defense. It has looked carefully into the
sketch of the accident as indicated in the police blotter and can only conclude that the logical explanation of the
accident is that vehicle 1 swerved into the lane of vehicle 2, thus hitting the latters inner fender and tires. Exhibit
"7" which is a picture of vehicle 2 shows the extent of its damage which was the effect of vehicle 1s ramming into
the rear left portion of vehicle 2 causing the differential guide of vehicle 2 to be cut, its tires busted and pulled out
together with their axle. The cutting of the differential guide cause[d] the entire housing connecting the tires to the
truck body to collapse, thus causing vehicle 2 to tilt to its left side and swerve towards the lane of vehicle 1. It was
this accident that caused the swerving, not of [sic] any negligent act of the accused.

xxxx

Every criminal conviction requires of the prosecution to prove two thingsthe fact of the crime, i.e., the presence of
all the elements of the crime for which the accused stands charged, and the fact that the accused is the perpetrator of
the crime. Sad to say, the prosecution has miserably failed to prove these two things. When the prosecution fails to
discharge its burden of establishing the guilt of the accused, an accused need not even offer evidence in his behalf.

xxxx

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the demurrer is granted and the accused JEFFREY RESO DAYAP is hereby
acquitted for insufficiency of evidence. The bail bond posted for his temporary liberty is also hereby cancelled and
ordered released to the accused or his duly authorized representative.

SO ORDERED.13

Respondents thereafter filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, 14 alleging that the MTCs dismissal of the case
was done without considering the evidence adduced by the prosecution. Respondents added that the MTC failed to
observe the manner the trial of the case should proceed as provided in Sec. 11, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court as
well as failed to rule on the civil liability of the accused in spite of the evidence presented. The case was raffled to
the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Negros Oriental, Br. 32.

In the order15 dated 23 August 2005, the RTC affirmed the acquittal of petitioner but ordered the remand of the case
to the MTC for further proceedings on the civil aspect of the case. The RTC ruled that the MTCs recital of every
fact in arriving at its conclusions disproved the allegation that it failed to consider the evidence presented by the
prosecution. The records also demonstrated that the MTC conducted the trial of the case in the manner dictated by
Sec. 11, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court, except that the defense no longer presented its evidence after the MTC gave
due course to the accuseds demurrer to evidence, the filing of which is allowed under Sec. 23, Rule 119. The RTC
however agreed that the MTC failed to rule on the accuseds civil liability, especially since the judgment of acquittal
did not include a declaration that the facts from which the civil liability might arise did not exist. Thus, the RTC
declared that the aspect of civil liability was not passed upon and resolved to remand the issue to the MTC. The
dispositive portion of the decision states:

WHEREFORE, the questioned order of the Municipal Trial Court of Sibulan on accuseds acquittal is AFFIRMED.
The case is REMANDED to the court of origin or its successor for further proceedings on the civil aspect of the
case. No costs.

SO ORDERED.16

Both parties filed their motions for reconsideration of the RTC order, but these were denied for lack of merit in the
order17 dated 12 September 2005.

Respondents then filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals under Rule 42, docketed as CA-G.R. SP. No.
01179. The appellate court subsequently rendered the assailed decision and resolution. The Court of Appeals ruled
that there being no proof of the total value of the properties damaged, the criminal case falls under the jurisdiction of
the RTC and the proceedings before the MTC are

null and void. In so ruling, the appellate court cited Tulor v. Garcia (correct title of the case is Cuyos v.
Garcia)18which ruled that in complex crimes involving reckless imprudence resulting in homicide or physical
injuries and damage to property, the jurisdiction of the court to take cognizance of the case is determined by the fine
imposable for the damage to property resulting from the reckless imprudence, not by the corresponding penalty for
the physical injuries charged. It also found support in Sec. 36 of the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 and the
1991 Rule 8 on Summary Procedure, which govern the summary procedure in first-level courts in offenses involving
damage to property through criminal negligence where the imposable fine does not exceed 10,000.00. As there was
no proof of the total value of the property damaged and respondents were claiming the amount of 1,500,000.00 as
civil damages, the case falls within the RTCs jurisdiction. The dispositive portion of the Decision dated 17 August
2006 reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered by Us REMANDING the case to the Regional
Trial Court (RTC), Judicial Region, Branch 32, Negros Oriental for proper disposition of the merits of the case.

SO ORDERED.19

Petitioner moved for reconsideration of the Court of Appeals decision, 20 arguing that jurisdiction over the case is
determined by the allegations in the information, and that neither the 1991 Rule on Summary Procedure nor Sec. 36
of the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980 can be the basis of the RTCs jurisdiction over the case. However, the
Court of Appeals denied the motion for reconsideration for lack of merit in the Resolution dated 25 April 2007. 21 It
reiterated that it is the RTC that has proper jurisdiction considering that the information alleged a willful, unlawful,
felonious killing as well as abandonment of the victims.

In the present petition for review, petitioner argues that the MTC had jurisdiction to hear the criminal case for
reckless imprudence, owing to the enactment of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7691, 22 which confers jurisdiction to first-
level courts on offenses involving damage to property through criminal negligence. He asserts that the RTC could
not have acquired jurisdiction on the basis of a legally unfiled and officially withdrawn amended information
alleging abandonment. Respondents are also faulted for challenging the MTCs order acquitting petitioner through a
special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 in lieu of an ordinary appeal under Rule 42.

The petition has merit. It should be granted.


The first issue is whether the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that jurisdiction over the offense charged pertained to
the RTC.

Both the MTC and the RTC proceeded with the case on the basis of the Information dated 29 December 2004
charging petitioner only with the complex crime of reckless imprudence resulting to homicide, less serious physical
injuries and damage to property. The Court of Appeals however declared in its decision that petitioner should have
been charged with the same offense but aggravated by the circumstance of abandonment of the victims. It appears
from the records however that respondents attempt to amend the information by charging the aggravated offense
was unsuccessful as the MTC had approved the Provincial Prosecutors motion to withdraw their motion to amend
the information. The information filed before the trial court had remained unamended. 23Thus, petitioner is deemed
to have been charged only with the offense alleged in the original Information without any aggravating
circumstance.

Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code punishes any person who, by reckless imprudence, commits any act which,
had it been intentional, would constitute a grave felony, with the penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period
to prision correccional in its medium period. When such reckless imprudence the use of a motor vehicle, resulting
in the death of a person attended the same article imposes upon the defendant the penalty of prision correccional in
its medium and maximum periods.

The offense with which petitioner was charged is reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, less serious physical
injuries and damage to property, a complex crime. Where a reckless, imprudent, or negligent act results in two or
more grave or less grave felonies, a complex crime is committed. 24 Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code provides
that when the single act constitutes two or more grave or less grave felonies, or when an offense is a necessary
means for committing the other, the penalty for the most serious crime shall be imposed, the same to be applied in
its maximum period. Since Article 48 speaks of felonies, it is applicable to crimes through negligence in view of the
definition of felonies in Article 3 as "acts or omissions punishable by law" committed either by means of deceit
(dolo) or fault (culpa).25 Thus, the penalty imposable upon petitioner, were he to be found guilty, is prision
correccional in its medium period (2 years, 4 months and 1 day to 4 years) and maximum period (4 years, 2 months
and 1 day to 6 years).

Applicable as well is the familiar rule that the jurisdiction of the court to hear and decide a case is conferred by the
law in force at the time of the institution of the action, unless such statute provides for a retroactive application
thereof.26 When this case was filed on 29 December 2004, Section 32(2) of Batas Pambansa Bilang 129 had already
been amended by R.A. No. 7691. R.A. No. 7691 extended the jurisdiction of the first-level courts over criminal
cases to include all offenses punishable with imprisonment not exceeding six (6) years irrespective of the amount of
fine, and regardless of other imposable accessory or other penalties including those for civil liability. It explicitly
states "that in offenses involving damage to property through criminal negligence, they shall have exclusive original
jurisdiction thereof." It follows that criminal cases for reckless

imprudence punishable with prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods should fall within the
jurisdiction of the MTC and not the RTC. Clearly, therefore, jurisdiction to hear and try the same pertained to the
MTC and the RTC did not have original jurisdiction over the criminal case.27 Consequently, the MTC of Sibulan,
Negros Oriental had properly taken cognizance of the case and the proceedings before it were valid and legal.

As the records show, the MTC granted petitioners demurrer to evidence and acquitted him of the offense on the
ground of insufficiency of evidence. The demurrer to evidence in criminal cases, such as the one at bar, is "filed
after the prosecution had rested its case," and when the same is granted, it calls "for an appreciation of the evidence
adduced by the prosecution and its sufficiency to warrant conviction beyond reasonable doubt, resulting in a
dismissal of the case on the merits, tantamount to an acquittal of the accused."28 Such dismissal of a criminal case by
the grant of demurrer to evidence may not be appealed, for to do so would be to place the accused in double
jeopardy.29 But while the dismissal order consequent to a demurrer to evidence is not subject to appeal, the same is
still reviewable but only by certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. Thus, in such case, the factual findings of
the trial court are conclusive upon the reviewing court, and the only legal basis to reverse and set aside the order of
dismissal upon demurrer to evidence is by a clear showing that the trial court, in acquitting the accused, committed
grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction or a denial of due process, thus rendering the
assailed judgment void.30

Accordingly, respondents filed before the RTC the petition for certiorari alleging that the MTC gravely abused its
discretion in dismissing the case and failing to consider the evidence of the prosecution in resolving the same, and in
allegedly failing to follow the proper procedure as mandated by the Rules of Court. The RTC correctly ruled that the
MTC did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the criminal complaint. The MTCs conclusions were based on facts
diligently recited in the order thereby disproving that the MTC failed to consider the evidence presented by the
prosecution. The records also show that the MTC correctly followed the procedure set forth in the Rules of Court.

The second issue is whether the Court of Appeals erred in ordering the remand of the case of the matter of civil
liability for the reception of evidence.

We disagree with the Court of Appeals on directing the remand of the case to the RTC for further proceedings on the
civil aspect, as well as with the RTC in directing a similar remand to the MTC.

The acquittal of the accused does not automatically preclude a judgment against him on the civil aspect of the case.
The extinction of the penal action does not carry with it the extinction of the civil liability where: (a) the acquittal is
based on reasonable doubt as only preponderance of evidence is required; (b) the court declares that the liability of
the accused is only civil; and (c) the civil liability of the accused does not arise from or is not based upon the crime
of which the accused is acquitted. 31 However, the civil action based on delict may be deemed extinguished if there
is a finding on the final judgment in the criminal action that the act or omission from which the civil liability may
arise did not exist32 or where the accused did not commit the acts or omission imputed to him. 33

Thus, if demurrer is granted and the accused is acquitted by the court, the accused has the right to adduce evidence
on the civil aspect of the case unless the court also declares that the act or omission from which the civil liability
may arise did not exist.34 This is because when the accused files a demurrer to evidence, he has not yet adduced
evidence both on the criminal and civil aspects of the case. The only evidence on record is the evidence for the
prosecution. What the trial court should do is issue an order or partial judgment granting the demurrer to evidence
and acquitting the accused, and set the case for continuation of trial for the accused to adduce evidence on the civil
aspect of the case and for the private complainant to adduce evidence by way of rebuttal. Thereafter, the court shall
render judgment on the civil aspect of the case.35

A scrutiny of the MTCs decision supports the conclusion that the acquittal was based on the findings that the act or
omission from which the civil liability may arise did not exist and that petitioner did not commit the acts or omission
imputed to him; hence, petitioners civil liability has been extinguished by his acquittal. It should be noted that the
MTC categorically stated that it cannot find any evidence which would prove that a crime had been committed and
that accused was the person responsible for it. It added that the prosecution failed to establish that it was petitioner
who committed the crime as charged since its witnesses never identified petitioner as the one who was driving the
cargo truck at the time of the incident. Furthermore, the MTC found that the proximate cause of the accident is the
damage to the rear portion of the truck caused by the swerving of the Colt Galant into the rear left portion of the
cargo truck and not the reckless driving of the truck by petitioner, clearly establishing that petitioner is not guilty of
reckless imprudence. Consequently, there is no more need to remand the case to the trial court for proceedings on
the civil aspect of the case, since petitioners acquittal has extinguished his civil liability.

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Court of Appeals Decision dated 17 August 2006 and Resolution
dated 25 April 2007 in CA-G.R. SP. No. 01179 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Order dated 16 May 2005 of
the Municipal Trial Court of Sibulan, Negros Oriental in Criminal Case No. 3016-04 granting the Demurrer to
Evidence and acquitting petitioner Jeffrey Reso Dayap of the offense charged therein is REINSTATED and
AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 196735 May 5, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
DANILO FELICIANO, JR., JULIUS VICTOR MEDALLA, CHRISTOPHER SOLIVA, WARREN L.
ZINGAPAN, and ROBERT MICHAEL BELTRAN ALVIR, Accused-appellants.

Related Topic: (treachery)

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

It is in the hallowed grounds of a university where students, faculty, and research personnel should feel safest. After
all, this is where ideas that could probably solve the sordid realities in this world are peacefully nurtured and
debated. Universities produce hope. They incubate all our youthful dreams.

Yet, there are elements within this academic milieu that trade misplaced concepts of perverse brotherhood for these
hopes. Fraternity rumbles exist because of past impunity. This has resulted in a senseless death whose justice is now
the subject matter of this case. It is rare that these cases are prosecuted. It is even more extraordinary that there are
credible witnesses who present themselves courageously before an able and experienced trial court judge.

This culture of impunity must stop. There is no space in this society for hooliganism disguised as fraternity rumbles.
The perpetrators must stand and suffer the legal consequences of their actions. They must do so for there is an
individual who now lies dead, robbed of his dreams and the dreams of his family. Excruciating grief for them will
never be enough.

It is undisputed that on December 8, 1994, at around 12:30 to 1:00 in the afternoon, seven (7) members of the Sigma
Rho fraternity were eating lunch at the Beach House Canteen, near the Main Library of the University of the
Philippines, Diliman, when they were attacked by several masked men carrying baseball bats and lead pipes. Some
of them sustained injuries that required hospitalization. One of them, Dennis Venturina, died from his injuries.

An information1 for murder, docketed as Criminal Case No. Q95-6113 3, was filed against several members of the
Scintilla Juris fraternity, namely, Danilo Feliciano, Jr., Julius Victor L. Medalla, Warren L. Zingapan, Robert
Michael Beltran Alvir, Christopher L. Soliva, Reynaldo G. Ablanida, Carlo Jolette Fajardo, George Morano,
Raymund E. Narag, Gilbert Merle Magpantay, Benedict Guerrero, and Rodolfo Penalosa, Jr. with the Regional Trial
Court of Quezon City, Branch 219. The information reads:

That on or about the 8th day of December 1994, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused, wearing
masks and/or other forms of disguise, conspiring, confederating with other persons whose true names, identities and
whereabouts have not as yet been ascertained, and mutually helping one another, with intent to kill, qualified with
treachery, and with evident premeditation, taking advantage of superior strength, armed with baseball bats, lead
pipes, and cutters, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and employ personal
violence upon the person of DENNIS F. VENTURINA, by then and there hitting him on the head and clubbing him
on different parts of his body thereby inflicting upon him serious and mortal injuries which were the direct and
immediate cause of his death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of said DENNIS F. VENTURINA.
(Emphasis supplied)
Separate informations were also filed against them for the attempted murder of Sigma Rho fraternity members Cesar
Mangrobang, Jr.,2 Cristobal Gaston, Jr.,3 and Leandro Lachica,4 and the frustrated murder of Sigma Rho fraternity
members Mervin Natalicio5 and Amel Fortes.6 Only 11 of the accused stood trial since one of the accused, Benedict
Guerrero, remained at large.

A trial on the merits ensued.

The facts, according to the prosecution, are as follows:

Leandro Lachica, Amel Fortes, Derinis Venturina, Mervin Natalicio, Cristobal Gaston, Jr., Felix Tumaneng, 7 and
Cesar Magrobang, Jr. are all members of the Sigma Rho Fraternity. On December 8, 1994, at around 12:30 to 1 :00
p.m., they were having lunch at Beach House Canteen, located at the back of the Main Library of the University of
the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.8 Suddenly, Dennis Venturina shouted, "Brads, brods!" 9

According to Leandro Lachica, Grand Archon of Sigma Rho Fraternity, he looked around when Venturina shouted,
and he saw about ten (10) men charging toward them. 10 The men were armed with baseball bats and lead pipes, and
their heads were covered with either handkerchiefs or shirts. 11 Within a few seconds, five (5) of the men started
attacking him, hitting him with their lead pipes.12 During the attack, he recognized one of the attackers as Robert
Michael Beltran Alvir because his mask fell off.13

Lachica tried to parry the blows of.his attackers, suffering scratches and contusions.14

He was, however, able to run to the nearby College of Education. 15 Just before reaching it, he looked back and saw
Warren Zingapan and Julius Victor L. Medalla holding lead pipes and standing where the commotion was. 16Both of
them did not have their masks on.17 He was familiar with Alvir, Zingapan, and Medalla because he often saw them
in the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP) and Zingapan used to be his friend. 18 The attack lasted
about thirty (30) to forty-five (45) seconds.19

According to Mervin Natalicio, the Vice Grand Archon of Sigma Rho, he looked to his left when Venturina
shouted.20 He saw about fifteen (15) to twenty (20) men, most of who were wearing masks, running toward
them.21He was stunned, and he started running.22 He stumbled over the protruding roots of a tree. 23 He got up, but
the attackers came after him and beat him up with lead pipes and baseball bats until he fell down. 24 While he was
parrying the blows, he recognized two (2) of the attackers as Warren Zingapan and Christopher L. Soliva since they
were not wearing any masks.25 After about thirty (30) seconds, they stopped hitting him.26

He was lying on his back and when he looked up, he saw another group of four (4) to five (5) men coming toward
him, led by Benedict Guerrero.27 This group also beat him up.28 He did not move until another group of masked men
beat him up for about five (5) to eight (8) seconds. 29

When the attacks ceased, he was found lying on the ground. 30 Several bystanders brought him to the U.P. Infirmary
where he stayed for more than a week for the treatment of his wounds and fractures. 31

According to Cesar Mangrobang, Jr., member of Sigma Rho, he also looked back when Venturina shouted and saw
a group of men with baseball bats and lead pipes. Some of them wore pieces of cloth around their heads.32 He ran
when they attacked, but two (2) men, whose faces were covered with pieces of cloth, blocked his way and hit him
with lead pipes.33 While running and parrying the blows, he recognized them as Gilbert Merle Magpantay and Carlo
Jolette Fajardo because their masks fell off.34 He successfully evaded his attackers and ran to the Main Library. 35 He
then decided that he needed to help his fraternity brothers and turned back toward Beach House. 36There, he saw
Venturina lying on the ground.37 Danilo Feliciano, Jr. was beating Venturina up with a lead pipe while Raymund E.
Narag was aiming to hit Venturina.38 When they saw him, they went toward his direction.39 They were about to hit
him when somebody shouted that policemen were coming. Feliciano and Narag then ran away.40
Cesar Mangrobang, Jr. then saw Amel Fortes. Fortes accompanied him to his car so they could bring Venturina to
the U.P. Infirmary.41 When they brought the car over, other people, presumably bystanders, were already loading
Venturina into another vehicle.42 They followed that vehicle to the U.P. Infirmary where they saw Natalicio. 43 He
stayed at the infirmary until the following morning.44

According to Cristobal Gaston, Jr., member of Sigma Rho, he immediately stood up when he heard someone shout,
"Brods!"45 He saw a group of men charging toward them carrying lead pipes and baseball bats. 46 Most of them had
pieces of cloth covering their faces.47 He was about to run when two (2) of the attackers approached him. 48 One
struck him with a heavy pipe while the other stabbed him with a bladed instrument. 49 He was able to parry most of
the blows from the lead pipe, but he sustained stab wounds on the chest and on his left forearm. 50

He was able to run away.51 When he sensed that no one was chasing him, he looked back to Beach House Canteen
and saw Danilo Feliciano, Jr., Warren Zingapan, and George Morano.52 He decided to go back to the canteen to help
his fraternity brothers.53 When he arrived, he did not see any of his fraternity brothers but only saw the ones who
attacked them.54 He ended up going to their hang-out instead to meet with his other fraternity brothers. 55 They then
proceeded to the College of Law where the rest of the fraternity was already discussing the incident. 56

According to Amel Fortes, member of Sigma Rho, he also ran when he saw the group of attackers coming toward
them.57 When he looked back, he saw Danilo Feliciano, Jr. hitting Venturina. 58 He was also able to see Warren
Zingapan and George Morano at the scene.59

Leandro Lachica, in the meantime, upon reaching the College of Education, boarded a jeepney to the College of
Law to wait for their other fraternity brothers.60 One of his fraternity brothers, Peter Corvera, told him that he
received information that members of Scintilla Juris were seen in the west wing of the Main Library and were
regrouping in SM North.61 Lachica and his group then set off for SM North to confront Scintilla Juris and identify
their attackers.62

When they arrived in SM North, pillboxes and stones were thrown at them. 63 Lachica saw Robert Michael Beltran
Alvir and Warren Zingapan and a certain Carlo Taparan. 64 They had no choice but to get away from the mall and
proceed instead to U.P. where the Sigma Rho Fraternity members held a meeting. 65

On the night of December 8, 1994, the officers of Sigma Rho advised the victims to lodge their complaints with the
National Bureau of Investigation.66 Their counsel, Atty. Frank Chavez, told the U.P. Police that the victims would be
giving their statements before the National Bureau of Investigation, promising to give the U.P. Police copies of their
statements. In the meantime, Venturina was transferred from the U.P. Infirmary to St. Luke's Hospital on December
8, 1994. He died on December 10, 1994.67 On December 11, 1994, an autopsy was conducted on the cadaver of
Dennis Venturina.68 Dr. Rolando Victoria, a medico-legal officer of the National Bureau of Investigation, found that
Venturina had "several contusions located at the back of the upper left arm and hematoma on the back of both
hands,"69 "two (2) lacerated wounds at the back of the head, 70 generalized hematoma on the skull,"71 "several
fractures on the head,"72 and "inter-cranial hemorrhage."73 The injuries, according to Dr. Victoria, could have been
caused by a hard blunt object.74 Dr. Victoria concluded that Venturina died of traumatic head injuries. 75

On December 12, 1994, Lachica, Natalicio, Mangrobang, Fortes, and Gaston executed their respective
affidavits76before the National Bureau of Investigation and underwent medico-legal examinations77 with their
medicolegal officer, Dr. Aurelio Villena. According to Dr. Villena, he found that Mervin Natalicio had "lacerated
wounds on the top of the head, above the left ear, and on the fingers; contused abrasions on both knees; contusion on
the left leg and thigh,"78 all of which could have been caused by any hard, blunt object. These injuries required
medical attendance for a period of ten (10) days to thirty (30) days from the date of infliction. 79

Dr. Villena found on Amel Fortes "lacerated wounds on the head and on the right leg which could have been caused
by a blunt instrument."80 These injuries required hospitalization for a period of ten (10) days to thirty (30) days from
date of infliction.81 He also found on Cesar Mangrobang, Jr. a "healed abrasion on the left forearm which could
possibly be caused by contact with [a] rough hard surface and would require one (1) to nine (9) days of medical
attention."82 He found on Leandro Lachica "contusions on the mid auxiliary left side, left forearm and lacerated
wound on the infra scapular area, left side." 83 On Christopher Gaston, Jr. he found "lacerated wounds on the anterior
chest, left side, left forearm; swollen knuckles of both hands; contusions on the mid auxiliary left side, left forearm
and lacerated wound on the infra scapular area, left side." 84

On September 18, 1997, after the prosecution presented its evidence-in-chief, the court granted the demurrer to
evidence filed by Rodolfo Penalosa, Jr. on the ground that he was not identified by the prosecution's witnesses and
that he was not mentioned in any of the documentary evidence of the prosecution. 85

Upon the presentation of their evidence, the defense introduced their own statement of the facts, as follows:

According to Romeo Cabrera,86 a member of the U.P. Police, he was on foot patrol with another member of the U.P.
Police, Oscar Salvador, at the time of the incident. They were near the College of Arts and Sciences (Palma Hall)
when he vaguely heard somebody shouting, "Rumble!" They went to the place where the alleged rumble was
happening and saw injured men being helped by bystanders. They helped an injured person board the service vehicle
of the Beach House Canteen. They asked what his name was, and he replied that he was Mervin Natalicio. When he
asked Natalicio who hit him, the latter was not able to reply but instead told him that his attackers were wearing
masks. Oscar Salvador87 corroborated his testimony.

Benjamin Lato,88 a utility worker of the Beach House Canteen, likewise testified that the identities of the attackers
were unrecognizable because of their masks. He, however, admitted that he did not see the attack; he just saw a man
sprawled on the ground at the time of the incident.

Frisco Capilo,89 a utility worker of U.P. assigned to the Main Library, was buying a cigarette at a vendor located
nearby. From there, he allegedly saw the whole incident. He testified that ten (10) men, wearing either masks of red
and black bonnets or with shirts covering their faces, came from a red car parked nearby. He also saw three (3) men
being hit with lead pipes by the masked men. Two (2) of the men fell after being hit. One of the victims was lifting
the other to help him, but the attackers overtook him. Afterwards, the attackers ran away. He then saw students
helping those who were injured. He likewise helped in carrying one of the injured victims, which he later found out
to be Amel Fortes.

A U.P. student and member of the Sigma Alpha Nu Sorority, Eda Panganiban, 90 testified that she and her friends
were in line to order lunch at the Beach House Canteen when a commotion happened. She saw around fifteen (15) to
eighteen (18) masked men attack a group of Sigma Rhoans. She did not see any mask fall off. Her sorority sister and
another U.P. student, Luz Perez,91 corroborated her story that the masked men were unrecognizable because of their
masks. Perez, however, admitted that a member of Scintilla Juris approached her to make a statement.

Another sorority sister, Bathalani Tiamzon,92 testified on substantially the same matters as Panganiban and Perez.
She also stated that she saw a person lying on the ground who was being beaten up by about three (3) to five (5)
masked men. She also stated that some of the men were wearing black masks while some were wearing white t-
shirts as masks. She did not see any mask fall off the faces of the attackers.

According to Feliciana Feliciano,93 accused-appellant Danilo Feliciano, Jr.'s motlier, her son was in Pampanga to
visit his sick grandfather at the time of the incident. She alleged that her son went to Pampanga before lunch that day
and visited the school where she teaches to get their house key from her.

According to Robert Michael Beltran Alvir,94 he had not been feeling well since December 5, 1994. He said that he
could not have possibly been in U.P. on December 8, 1994 since he was absent even from work. He also testified
that he wore glasses and, thus, could not have possibly been the person identified by Leandro Lachica. He also
stated that he was not enrolled in U.P. at the time since he was working to support himself.

According to Julius Victor Medalla,95 he and another classmate, Michael Vibas, were working on a school project
on December 8, 1994. He also claimed that he could not have participated in the rumble as he had an injury affecting
his balance. The injury was caused by an incident in August 1994 when he was struck in the head by an unknown
assailant. His testimony was corroborated by Jose Victor Santos96 who stated that after lunch that day, Medalla
played darts with him and, afterwards, they went to Jollibee.

Christopher Soliva,97 on the other hand, testified that he was eating lunch with his girlfriend and another friend in
Jollibee, Philcoa, on December 8, 1994. They went back to U.P. before 1:00 p.m. and went straight to their fraternity
hang-out where he was told that there had been a rumble at the Main Library. He also met several Sigma Rhoans
acting suspiciously as they passed by the hang-out. They were also told by their head, Carlo Taparan, not to react to
the Sigma Rhoans and just go home. Anna Cabahug,98 his girlfriend, corroborated his story.

Warren Zingapan99 also testified that he was not in U.P. at the time of the incident. He claimed to have gone to SM
North to buy a gift for a friend's wedding but ran into a fraternity brother. He also alleged that some Sigma Rhoans
attacked them in SM North that day.

On February 28, 2002, the trial court rendered its decision100 with the finding that Robert Michael Alvir, Danilo
Feliciano, Jr., Christopher Soliva, Julius Victor Medalla, and Warren Zingapan were guilty beyond reasonable doubt
of murder and attempted murder and were sentenced to, among other penalties, the penalty of reclusion
perpetua.101 The trial court, however, acquitted Reynaldo Ablanida, Carlo Jolette Fajardo, Gilbert Magpantay,
George Morano, and Raymund Narag.102 The case against Benedict Guerrero was ordered archived by the court until
his apprehension.103 The trial court, m evaluating the voluminous evidence at hand, concluded that:

After a judicious evaluation of the matter, the Court is of the considered view that of the ten accused, some were
sufficiently identified and some were not. The Court believes that out of the amorphous images during the
pandemonium, the beleaguered victims were able to espy and identify some of the attackers etching an indelible
impression in their memory. In this regard, the prosecution eyewitnesses were emphatic that they saw the attackers
rush towards them wielding deadly weapons like baseball bats, lead pipes, pieces of wood and bladed ones, and
pounce on their hapless victims, run after them, and being present with one another at the scene of the crime during
the assault. Although each victim had a very strong motive to place his fraternity rivals permanently behind bars, not
one .of them testified against all of them. If the prosecution eyewitnesses, who were all Sigma Rhoans, were simply
bent on convicting Scintilla Juris members for that matter, they could have easily tagged each and every single
accused as a participant in the atrocious and barbaric assault to make sure that no one else would escape conviction.
Instead, each eyewitness named only one or two and some were candid enough to say that they did not see who
delivered the blows against them.104

Because one of the penalties meted out was reclusion perpetua, the case was brought to this court on automatic
appeal. However, due to the amendment of the Rules on Appeal, 105 the case was remanded to the Court of
Appeals.106 In the Court of Appeals, the case had to be re-raffled several Times107 before it was eventually assigned
to Presiding Justice Andres B. Reyes, Jr. for the writing of the decision.

On December 26, 2010, the Court of Appeals, in a Special First Division of Five, affirmed 108 the decision of the
Regional Trial Court, with three (3) members concurring109 an one (1) dissenting.110

The decision of the Court of Appeals was then brought to this court for review.

The issue before this court is whether the prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that accused-
appellants attacked private complainants and caused the death of Dennis Venturina.

On the basis, however, of the arguments presented to this court by both parties, the issue may be further refined,
thus:

1. Whether accused-appellants' constitutional rights were violated when the information against them
contained the aggravating circumstance of the use of masks despite the prosecution presenting witnesses to
prove that the masks fell off; and
2. Whether the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals correctly ruled, on the basis of the evidence,
that accused-appellants were sufficiently identified.

An information is sufficient
when the accused is fully
apprised of the charge against
him to enable him to prepare
his defense

It is the argument of appellants that the information filed against them violates their constitutional right to be
informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against them. They argue that the prosecution should not have
included the phrase "wearing masks and/or other forms of disguise" in the information since they were presenting
testimonial evidence that not all the accused were wearing masks or that their masks fell off.

It is enshrined in our Bill of Rights that "[n]o person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due
process of law."111 This includes the right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and "to be
informed of the nature and accusation against him." 112

Upon a finding of probable cause, an information is filed by the prosecutor against the accused, in compliance with
the due process of the law. Rule 110, Section 1, paragraph 1 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that:

A complaint or information is sufficient if it states the name of the accused; the designation of the offense given by
the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense; the name of the offended pary; the
approximate date of the commission of the offense; and the place where the offense was committed.

In People v. Wilson Lab-ea,113 this court has stated that:

The test of sufficiency of Information is whether it enables a person of common understanding to know the charge
against him, and the court to render judgment properly. x x x The purpose is to allow the accused to fully prepare for
his defense, precluding surprises during the trial.114

Contrary to the arguments of the appellants, the inclusion of the phrase "wearing masks and/or other forms of
disguise" in the information does not violate their constitutional rights.

It should be remembered that every aggravating circumstance being alleged must be stated in the information.
Failure to state an aggravating circumstance, even if duly proven at trial, will not be appreciated as such. 115 It was,
therefore, incumbent on the prosecution to state the aggravating circumstance of "wearing masks and/or other forms
of disguise" in the information in order for all the evidence, introduced to that effect, to be admissible by the trial
court.

In criminal cases, disguise is an aggravating circumstance because, like nighttime, it allows the accused to remain
anonymous and unidentifiable as he carries out his crimes.

The introduction of the prosecution of testimonial evidence that tends to prove that the accused were masked but the
masks fell off does not prevent them from including disguise as an aggravating circumstance. 116 What is important
in alleging disguise as an aggravating circumstance is that there was a concealment of identity by the accused. The
inclusion of disguise in the information was, therefore, enough to sufficiently apprise the accused that in the
commission of the offense they were being charged with, they tried to conceal their identity.

The introduction of evidence which shows that some of the accused were not wearing masks is also not violative of
their right to be informed of their offenses.
The information charges conspiracy among the accused. Conspiracy presupposes that "the act of one is the act of
all."117 This would mean all the accused had been one in their plan to conceal their identity even if there was
evidence later on to prove that some of them might not have done so.

In any case, the accused were being charged with the crime of murder, frustrated murder, and attempted murder. All
that is needed for the information to be sufficient is that the elements of the crime have been alleged and that there
are sufficient details as to the time, place, and persons involved in the offense.

II

Findings of the trial court,


when affirmed by the
appellate court, are entitled
to great weight and credence

As a general rule, the findings of fact by the trial court, when affirmed by the appellate court, are given great weight
and credence on review. The rationale for this was explained in People v. Daniel Quijada, 118 as follows:

Settled is the rule that the factual findings of the trial court, especially on the credibility of witnesses, are accorded
great weight and respect. For, the trial court has the advantage of observing the witnesses through the different
indicators of truthfulness or falsehood, such as the angry flush of an insisted assertion or the sudden pallor of a
discovered lie or the tremulous mutter of a reluctant answer or the forthright tone of a ready reply;

or the furtive glance, the blush of conscious shame, the hesitation, the sincere or the flippant or sneering tone, the
heat, the calmness, the yawn, the sigh, the candor or lack of it, the scant or full realization of the solemnity of an
oath, the carriage and mien.119

There are, of course, recognized exceptions to this rule. In People v. Leticia Labarias, 120 this court stated that:

It is the policy of this Court to sustain the factual findings of the trial court on the reasonable assumption that it is in
a better position to assess the evidence before it, particularly the testimonies of the witnesses, who reveal much of
themselves by their deportment on the stand. The exception that makes the rule is where such findings arc clearly
arbitrary or erroneous as when they are tainted with bias or hostility or are so lacking in basis as to suggest that they
were reached without the careful study and perceptiveness that should characterize a judicial decision. 121(Emphasis
supplied)

In criminal cases, the exception gains even more importance since the presumption is always in favor of innocence.
It is only upon proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt that a conviction is sustained.

In this case, a total of eleven (11) witnesses for the prosecution and forty-two (42) witnesses for the defense were
put on the stand from 1995 to 2001. In an eighty-three (83)-page decision, the trial court acquitted six (6) and
convicted five (5) of the accused. On the basis of these numbers alone, it cannot be said that the trial court acted
arbitrarily or that its decision was "so lacking in basis" that it was arrived at without a judicious and exhaustive
study of all the evidence presented.

Inasmuch, however, as the trial court's findings hold great persuasive value, there is also nothing that precludes this
court from coming to its own conclusions based on an independent review of the facts and the evidence on record.

The accused were sufficiently


identified by the witnesses for
the prosecution
The trial court, in weighing all the evidence on hand, found the testimonies of the witnesses for the prosecution to be
credible. In its decision, the trial court stated that:

x x x. Although each victim had a very strong motive to place his fraternity rivals permanently behind bars, not one
testified against all of them. If the prosecution eyewitnesses, who were all Sigma Rhoans, were simply bent on
convicting Scintilla Juris members for that matter, they could have easily tagged each and every accused as a
participant in the atrocious and barbaric assault to make sure no one would escape conviction. Instead, each
eyewitness named only one or two and some were candid enough to say that they did not see who delivered the
blows against them.

Thus, the prosecution witnesses, Ernest Paulo Tan, Dennis Gaio and Darwin Asuncion, testified to have seen it all
but they could not, and did not, disclose any name. Lachica, on the other hand, said that he did not have the
opportunity to see and identify the person who hit him in the back and inflicted a two-inch cut. His forearm was also
hit by a lead pipe but he did not see who did it. Natalicio, one of the other three who were hospitalized, was severely
beaten by three waves of attackers totalling more than 15 but he could only name 3 of them. He added, however,
that he would be able to recognize those he saw if he would see them again. Of them, Mangrobang pointed to at
least 5 but he stressed that he did not see Zingapan, Soliva, Guerrero, Del Rosario, Daraoay, Denoista, and Penalosa
during the onslaught. Gaston could have named any of the accused as the one who repeatedly hit him with a heavy
pipe and stabbed him but he frankly said their faces were covered. Like Natalicio, Fortes was repeatedly beaten by
several groups but did not name any of the accused as one of those who attacked him. The persons he identified
were those leading the pack with one of them as the assailant of Venturina, and the two others who he saw standing
while he was running away. He added that he saw some of the accused during the attack but did not know then their
names.122 (Emphasis supplied)

We agree.

The trial court correctly held that "considering the swiftness of the incident,"123 there would be slight inconsistencies
in their statements. In People v. Adriano Cabrillas,124 it was previously observed that:

It is perfectly natural for different witnesses testifying on the occurrence of a crime to give varying details as there
may be some details which one witness may notice while the other may not observe or remember. In fact,
jurisprudence even warns against a perfect dovetailing of narration by different witnesses as it could mean that their
testimonies were prefabricated and rehearsed.125 (Emphasis supplied)

According to their testimonies, Lachica was able to identify Alvir, Zingapan, and Medalla; 126

Natalicio was able to identify Medalla, Zingapan, and Soliva;127 and Fortes was able to identify Feliciano, Medalla,
and Zingapan.128 Their positive identification was due to the fact that they either wore no masks or that their masks
fell off.

It would be in line with human experience that a victim or an eyewitness of a crime would endeavor to find ways to
identify the assailant so that in the event that he or she survives, the criminal could be apprehended. It has also been
previously held that:

It is the most natural reaction for victims of criminal violence to strive to see the looks and faces of their assailants
and observe the manner in which the crime was committed. Most often the face of the assailant and body
movements thereof, creates a lasting impression which cannot be easily erased from their memory.129

In the commotion, it was more than likely that the masked assailants could have lost their masks. It had been
testified by the victims that some of the assailants were wearing masks of either a piece of cloth or a handkerchief
and that Alvir,130 Zingapan,131 Soliva,132 and Feliciano133 had masks on at first but their masks fell off and hung
around their necks.
Equally telling was the testimony of defense witness Frisco Capilo during cross-examination who observed that
some of the attackers were wearing masks and some were not, thus:

Q Mr. Capilo, do you know this Scintilla Juris Fraternity?

A No, sir.

Q During the incident of December 8, 1994, there were a lot of people eating in the Beach House Canteen, and then
running towards different directions, is it not?

A Yes, sir.

Q And some people were wearing masks and some were not?

A Yes, sir.134

While the attack was swift and sudden, the victims would have had the presence of mind to take a look at their
assailants if they were identifiable. Their positive identification, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, must be
upheld to be credible.

It has been argued that the trial court did not give Mangrobang's testimony credence while Gaston's testimony was
found to be "hazy." This argument is unmeritorious.

It should be noted that it was the trial court itself that stated that the acquittal of the Scintilla Juris members
identified by Mangrobang "should not be. misinterpreted to mean that the tt:'.stimony of Mangrobang was an
absolute fabrication."135 The court went on to state that they "were exonerated merely because they were accorded
the benefit of the doubt as their identification by Mangrobang, under tumultuous and chaotic circumstances were
[sic] not corroborated and their alibis, not refuted." 136 There was, therefore, no basis to say that Mangrobang was not
credible; it was only that the evidence presented was not strong enough to overcome the presumption of innocence.

Gaston's testimony, on the other hand, was considered "hazy"137 by the trial court only with regard to his
identification of Zingapan's companion. Gaston testified that he saw Zingapan with Morano, with Zingapan moving
and Morano staying in place. Fortes, however, testified that both Zingapan and Morano were running after him.
Lachica also testified that it was Medalla, not Morano, who was with Zingapan. Because of this confusion, the trial
court found that there was doubt as to who was really beside Zingapan. The uncertainty resulted into an acquittal for
Morano. Despite this, the court still did not" impute doubt in their testimonies that Zingapan was present at the
scene.

Be that as it may, the acquittals made by the trial court further prove that its decision was brought about only upon a
thorough examination of the evidence presented: It accepted that there were inconsistencies in the testimonies of the
victims but that these were minor and did not affect their credibility. It ruled that "[s]uch inconsistencies, and even
probabilities, are not unusual 'for there is no person with perfect faculties or senses."'138

Evidence as part of the res


gestae may be admissible but
have little persuasive value in
this case

According to the testimony of U.P. Police Officer Salvador, 139 when he arrived at the scene, he interviewed the
bystanders who all told him that they could not recognize the attackers since they were all masked. This, it is argued,
could be evidence that could be given as part of the res gestae.
As a general rule, "[a] witness can testify only to the facts he knows of his personal knowledge; that is, which are
derived from his own perception, x x x." 140 All other kinds of testimony are hearsay and are inadmissible as
evidence. The Rules of Court, however, provide several exceptions to the general rule, and one of which is when the
evidence is part of res gestae, thus:

Section 42. Part of res gestae. - Statements made by a person while a starting occurrence is taking place or
immediately prior or subsequent thereto with respect to the circumstances thereof, may be given in evidence as part
of res gestae. So, also, statements accompanying an equivocal act material to the issue, and giving it a legal
significance, may be received as part of the res gestae.141

In People v. Rodrigo Salafranca,142 this court has previously discussed the admissibility of testimony taken as part of
res gestae, stating that:

A declaration or an utterance is deemed as part of the res gestae and thus admissible in evidence as an exception to
the hearsay rule when the following requisites concur, to wit: (a) the principal act, the res gestae, is a startling
occurrence; (b) the statements are made before the declarant had time to contrive or devise; and (c) the statements
must concern the occurrence in question and its immediately attending circumstances.

xxxx

The term res gestae has been defined as "those circumstances which are the undersigned incidents of a particular
litigated act and which are admissible when illustrative of such act." In a general way, res gestae refers to the
circumstances, facts, and declarations that grow out of the main fact and serve to illustrate its character and are so
spontaneous and contemporaneous with the main fact as to exclude the idea of deliberation and fabrication. The rule
on res gestae encompasses the exclamations and statements made by either the participants, victims, or spectators to
a crime immediately before, during, or immediately after the commission of the crime when the circumstances are
such that the statements were made as a spontaneous reaction or utterance inspired by the excitement of the occasion
and there was no opportunity for the declarant to deliberate and to fabricate a false statement. The test of
admissibility of evidence as a part of the res gestae is, therefore, whether the act, declaration, or exclamation is so
intimately interwoven or connected with the principal fact or event that it characterizes as to be regarded as a part of
the transaction itself, and also whether it clearly negatives any premeditation or purpose to manufacture
testimony.143

There is no doubt that a sudden attack on a group peacefully eating lunch on a school campus is a startling
occurrence. Considering that the statements of the bystanders were made immediately after the startling occurrence,
they are, in fact, admissible as evidence given in res gestae.

In People v. Albarido,144 however, this court has stated that "in accord to ordinary human experience:"

x x x persons who witness an event perceive the same from their respective points of reference. Therefore, almost
always, they have different accounts of how it happened. Certainly, we cannot expect the testimony of witnesses to a
crime to be consistent in all aspects because different persons have different impressions and recollections of the
same incident. x x x145

(Emphasis supplied)

The statements made by the bystanders, although admissible, have little persuasive value since the bystanders could
have seen the events transpiring at different vantage points and at different points in time. Even Frisco Capilo, one
of the bystanders at the time of the attack, testified that the attackers had their masks on at first, but later on, some
remained masked and some were unmasked.
When the bystanders' testimonies are weighed against those of the victims who witnessed the entirety of the incident
from beginning to end at close range, the former become merely corroborative of the fact that an attack occurred.
Their account of the incident, therefore, must be given considerably less weight than that of the victims.

The belated identification by


the victims do not detract from
their positive identification of
the appellants

It is argued that the fact that the victims stayed silent about the incident to the U.P. Police or the Quezon City Police
but instead executed affidavits with the National Bureau of Investigation four (4) days after the incident gives doubt
as to the credibility of their testimonies.

U.P. Police Officer Romeo Cabrera146 testified that on their way to the U.P. Infirmary, he interviewed the victims
who all told him they could not recognize the attackers because they were all wearing masks. Meanwhile, Dr.
Mislang147testified to the effect that when she asked Natalicio who attacked them, Natalicio answered that he did not
know because they were masked.

It must be remembered that the parties involved in this case belong to rival fraternities. While this court does not
condone their archaic and oftentimes barbaric traditions, it is conceded that there are certain practices that are unique
to fraternal organizations.

It is quite possible that at this point in time, they knew the identities of their attackers but chose not to disclose it
without first conferring with their other fraternity brothers. This probability is bolstered by the actions of Sigma Rho
after the incident, which showed that they confronted the members of Scintilla Juris in SM North. Because of the
tenuous relationship of rival fraternities, it would not have been prudent for Sigma Rho to retaliate against the wrong
fraternity.

Their act of not disclosing the correct information to the U.P. Police or to Dr. Mislang does not make the police
officer or the doctor's testimonies more credible than that of the victims. It should not be forgotten that the victims
actually witnessed the entire incident, while Officer Salvador, Officer Cabrera, and Dr. Mislang were merely
relaying secondhand information.

The fact that they went to the National Bureau of Investigation four (4) days after the incident also does not affect
their credibility since most of them had been hospitalized from their injuries and needed to recover first.

Since a fraternity moves as one unit, it would be understandable that they decided to wait until all of them were well
enough to go to the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in order to give their statements.

Seniority is also often the norm in fraternities. It was upon the advice of their senior "brads" and their legal counsel
that they executed their sworn statements before the National Bureau of Investigation four (4) days after the
incident.

The decision to report the incident to the National Bureau of Investigation instead of to the U.P. Police was the call
of their legal counsel who might have deemed the National Bureau of Investigation more equipped to handle the
investigation. This does not, however, affect the credibility of the witnesses since they were merely following the
legal advice of their counsel.

Indeed, there is reason to believe that the National Bureau of Investigation is better equipped than the U.P. Police to
handle the investigation of the case. As stated in the U.P. College of Economics website:

The UP Diliman Police (UPDP) is tasked with maintaining campus security. Their station is located in front of the
College of Architecture.
The primary missions of the UPDP are to maintain peace and order, secure and protect lives and property, enforce
basic laws, applicable Quezon City Ordinances, and University Rules and Regulations including policies and
standards; and to perform such other functions relative to the general safety and security of the students, employees,
and residents in the U.P. Diliman Campus. x x x.148 (Emphasis supplied)

It can be seen that the U.P. Police is employed by U.P. primarily for campus security. They are by no means an
actual police force that is equipped to handle a full-blown murder investigation. Fraternity-related violence in U.P.
has also increasingly become more frequent, which might possibly have desensitized the U.P. Police in such a way
that would prevent their objectivity in the conduct of their investigations. The victims' reliance on the National
Bureau of Investigation, therefore, is understandable.

III

Alibi cannot prevail over the


positive identification of the
victim

It is settled that the defense of alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification of the victim. 149 In People v.
Benjamin Peteluna,150 this court stated that:

It is a time-honored principle that the positive identification of the appellant by a witness destroys the defense of
alibi and denial. Thus:

x x x. It is well-entrenched that alibi and denial are inherently weak and have always been viewed with disfavor by
the courts due to the facility with which they can be concocted. They warrant the least credibility or none at all and
cannot prevail over the positive identification of the appellant by the prosecution witnesses. For alibi to prosper, it is
not enough to prove that appellant was somewhere else when the crime was committed; he must also demonstrate
that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission. Unless
substantiated by clear and convincing proof, such defense is negative, self-serving, and undeserving of any weight in
law. Denial, like alibi, as an exonerating justification[,] is inherently weak and if uncorroborated regresses to blatant
impotence. Like alibi, it also constitutes self-serving negative evidence which cannot be accorded greater
evidentiary weight than the declaration of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters. 151

In this case, the victims were able to positively identify their attackers while the accused-appellants merely offered
alibis and denials as their defense. The credibility of the victims was upheld by both the trial court and the appellate
court while giving little credence to the accused-appellants' alibis. There is, thus, no reason to disturb their findings.

Accused-appellants were
correctly charged with
murder, and there was
treachery in the commission
of the crime

According to the provisions of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, the accused-appellants were correctly charged
with murder. Article 248 states:

ART. 248. Murder.-Any person who, not falling within the provisions of Article 246, shall kill another, shall be
guilty of murder and shall be punished by reclusion perpetua, to death if committed with any of the following
attendant circumstances:

1. With treachery, taking advantage of superior strength, with the aid of armed men, or employing means to weaken
the defense, or of means or persons to insure or afford impunity;
xxxx

It is undisputed that on December 8, 1994, a group of men armed with lead pipes and baseball bats attacked Dennis
Venturina and his companions, which resulted in Venturina's death.

As correctly found by the trial court and the appellate court, the offense committed against Dennis Venturina was
committed by a group that took advantage of its superior strength and with the aid of armed men. The appellate
court, however, incorrectly ruled out the presence of treachery in the commission of the offense.

It has been stated previously by this court that:

[T]reachery is present when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods, or
forms in the execution, which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to the offender arising
from the defense which the offended party might make. 152

Similarly, in People v. Leozar Dela Cruz,153 this court stated that:

There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods, or
forms in the execution, which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to the offender arising
from the defense which the offended party might make. The essence of treachery is that the attack comes without a
warning and in a swift, deliberate, and unexpected manner, affording the hapless, unarmed, and unsuspecting victim
no chance to resist or escape. For treachery to be considered, two elements must concur: (1) the employment of
means of execution that gives the persons attacked no opportunity to defend themselves or retaliate; and (2) the
means of execution were deliberately or consciously adopted.154 (Emphasis supplied)

The appellate court, in affirming the conviction of the accused-appellants, ruled that contrary to the findings of the
trial court, there was no treachery involved. In particular, they ruled that although the attack was sudden and
unexpected, "[i]t was done in broad daylight with a lot of people who could see them" 155 and that "there was a
possibility for the victims to have fought back or that the people in the canteen could have helped the victims." 156

This reasoning is clearly erroneous. The victims in this case were eating lunch on campus. They were not at a place
where they would be reasonably expected to be on guard for any sudden attack by rival fraternity men.

The victims, who were unarmed, were also attacked with lead pipes and baseball bats. The only way they could
parry the blows was with their arms. In a situation where they were unnamed and outnumbered, it would be
impossible for them to fight back against the attackers. The attack also happened in less than a minute, which would
preclude any possibility of the bystanders being able to help them until after the incident.

The swiftness and the suddenness of the attack gave no opportunity for the victims to retaliate or even to defend
themselves. Treachery, therefore, was present in this case.

The presence of conspiracy


makes all of the accused-
appellants liable for murder
and attempted murder

In the decision of the trial court, all of the accused-appellants were found guilty of the murder of Dennis Venturina
and the attempted murder of Mervin Natalicio, Cesar Mangrobang, Jr. Leandro Lachica, Arnel Fortes, and Cristobal
Gaston, Jr. The appellate court, however, modified their liabilities and found that the accused-appellants were guilty
of attempted murder only against Natalicio and Fortes, and not against Mangrobang, Lachica, and Gaston.

It is the appellate court's reasoning that because Lachica and Mangrobang "were no longer chased by the
attackers,"157 it concluded that accused-appellants "voluntary desisted from pursuing them and from inflicting harm
to them, which shows that they did not have the intent to do more than to make them suffer pain by slightly injuring
them."158 It also pointed out that the wound inflicted on Gaston "was too shallow to have been done with an intent to
kill."159

Thus, it concluded that the accused-appellants would have been guilty only of slight physical injuries.

This is erroneous.

It should be remembered that the trial court found that there was conspiracy among the accused-appellants160 and the
appellate court sustainedthis finding.161

Conspiracy, once proven, has the effect of attaching liability to all of the accused, regardless of their degree of
participation, thus: Once an express or implied conspiracy is proved, all of the conspirators are liable as co-
principals regardless of the extent and character of their respective active participation in the commission of the
crime or crimes perpetrated in furtherance of the conspiracy because in contemplation of law the act of one is the act
of all. The foregoing rule is anchored on the sound principle that "when two or more persons unite to accomplish a
criminal object, whether through the physical volition of one, or all, proceeding severally or collectively, each
individual whose evil will actively contributes to the wrong-doing is in law responsible for the whole, the same as
though performed by himself alone." Although it is axiomatic that no one is liable for acts other than his own, "when
two or more persons agree or conspire to commit a crime, each is responsible for all the acts of the others, done in
furtherance of the agreement or conspiracy." The imposition of collective liability upon the conspirators is clearly
explained in one case where this Court held that

... it is impossible to graduate the separate liability of each (conspirator) without taking into consideration the close
and inseparable relation of each of them with the criminal act, for the commission of which they all acted by
common agreement ... The crime must therefore in view of the solidarity of the act and intent which existed between
the ... accused, be regarded as the act of the band or party created by them, and they are all equally responsible

Verily, the moment it is established that the malefactors conspired and confederated in the commission of the felony
proved, collective liability of the accused conspirators attaches by reason of the conspiracy, and the court shall not
speculate nor even investigate as to the actual degree of participation of each of the perpetrators present at the scene
of the crime. x x x.162 (Emphasis supplied)

The liabilities of the accused-appellants m this case arose from a single incident wherein the accused-appellants
were armed with baseball bats and lead pipes, all in agreement to do the highest amount of damage possible to the
victims. Some were able to run away and take cover, but the others would fall prey at the hands of their attackers.
The intent to kill was already present at the moment of attack and that intent was shared by all of the accused-
appellants alike when the presence of conspiracy was proven. It is, therefore, immaterial to distinguish between the
seriousness of the injuries suffered by the victims to determine the respective liabilities of their attackers. What is
relevant is only as to whether the death occurs as a result of that intent to kill and whether there are qualifying,
aggravating or mitigating circumstances that can be appreciated.

The appellate court, therefore, erred in finding the accused-appellants guilty only of slight physical injuries. It would
be illogical to presume that despite the swiftness and suddenness of the attack, the attackers intended to kill only
Venturina, Natalicio, and Fortes, and only intended to injure Lachica, Mangrobang, and Gaston. Since the intent to
kill was evident from the moment the accused-appellants took their first swing, all of them were liable for that intent
to kill.1wphi1

For this reason, the accused-appellants should be liable for the murder of Dennis Venturina and the attempted
murder of Mervin Natalicio, Cesar Mangrobang, Jr., Leandro Lachica, Arnel Fortes, and Cristobal Gaston, Jr.

A Final Note
It is not only the loss of one promising young life; rather, it is also the effect on the five other lives whose once
bright futures are now put in jeopardy because of one senseless act of bravado. There is now more honor for them to
accept their responsibility and serve the consequences of their actions. There is, however, nothing that they can do to
bring back Dennis Venturina or fully compensate for his senseless and painful loss.

This is not the first fraternity-related case to come to this court; neither will it be the last. Perhaps this case and many
cases like it can empower those who have a better view of masculinity: one which valorizes courage, sacrifice and
honor in more life-saving pursuits.

"Giting at dangal" are words of the anthem of the University of the Philippines. It colors the stories of many who
choose to expend their energy in order that our people will have better lives. Fraternity rumbles are an anathema, an
immature and useless expenditure of testosterone. It fosters a culture that retards manhood. It is devoid of "giting at
dangal."

This_ kind of shameful violence must stop.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR N). 01158 dated November 26, 2010 is
AFFIRMED insofar as the accused-appellants Danilo Feliciano, Jr., Julius Victor Medalla, Christopher Soliva,
Warren L. Zingapan, and Robert Michael Beltran Alvir are found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of Murder in.
Criminal Case No. Q95-61133 with the MODIFICATION that they be fouhd GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of
Attempted Murder in Criminal Case Nos. Q95-61136, Q95-61135, Q95-61134, Q95-61138, and Q95-61137.

SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 206381, March 25, 2015

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. DANIEL MATIBAG Y DE VILLA @ DANI OR


DANILO, Accused-Appellant.

Related Topic: (treachery)

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Before the Court is an ordinary appeal1 filed by accused-appellant Daniel Matibag y De Villa @ Dani or Danilo
(Matibag) assailing the Decision2 dated September 13, 2012 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No.
03759 which affirmed in toto the Decision3 dated August 1, 2008 of the Regional Trial Court of Pallocan West,
Batangas City, Branch 3 (RTC) in Criminal Case No. 13941, finding Matibag guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of Murder.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

The Facts

In an Amended Information4 dated May 5, 2005, Matibag was charged with the crime of Murder defined and
penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended,5 the accusatory portion of which
reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

That on or about March 27, 2005 at around 8:40 oclock [sic] in the evening at Iron Street, Twin Villa Subdivision,
Brgy. Kumintang Ibaba, Batangas City, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-
named accused, while armed with a Beretta Caliber .9MM Pistol with Serial No. 3191M9, a deadly weapon, with
intent to kill and with the qualifying circumstance of treachery, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously attack, assault and shoot with said pistol one Enrico Clar de Jesus Duhan, while the latter was
completely defenseless, thereby hitting him and causing gunshot wounds at his head and chest, which directly
resulted to the victims death.

That the special aggravating circumstance of the use of unlicensed firearm is attendant in the commission of the
offense.

CONTRARY TO LAW.6cralawred
cralawlawlibrary

Matibag entered a plea of not guilty during his arraignment. After the termination of the pre-trial, trial on the merits
ensued.7cralawred

The prosecution asserted that at around 8:40 in the evening of March 27, 2005, Enrico Clar de Jesus Duhan (Duhan),
who just came from a meeting with the other officers of the homeowners association of Twin Villa Subdivision,
was walking along Iron Street in Brgy. Kumintang Ibaba, Batangas City when Matibag confronted Duhan, and
asked, ano bang pinagsasasabi mo? Duhan replied wala, and without warning, Matibag delivered a fist blow
hitting Duhan on the left cheek and causing him to teeter backwards. Matibag then pulled out his gun and shot
Duhan, who fell face-first on the pavement. While Duhan remained in that position, Matibag shot him several more
times. PO2 Tom Falejo, a member of the Philippine National Police, positively identified Matibag and stated on
record that he arrested the latter on the night of March 27, 2005. Dr. Antonio S. Vertido who conducted an autopsy
on Duhan confirmed that the latter suffered gunshot wounds in the head and chest which led to his death. 8cralawred

In his defense, Matibag alleged that on said date, he was at the despedida party of his neighbor when Duhan arrived
together with the other officers of the homeowners association. Wanting to settle a previous misunderstanding,
Matibag approached Duhan and extended his hand as a gesture of reconciliation. However, Duhan pushed it away
and said, putang ina mo, ang yabang mo, thereby provoking Matibag to punch him in the face. Matibag saw
Duhan pull something from his waist and fearing that it was a gun and Duhan was about to retaliate, Matibag
immediately drew his own gun, shot Duhan, and hurriedly left the place. Matibag went to see his police friend, Sgt.
Narciso Amante, to turn himself in, but the latter was unavailable at the time. As Matibag headed back home, he was
stopped by police officers who asked if he was involved in the shooting incident. He then readily admitted his
involvement.9cralawred

The RTC Ruling

In a Decision10 dated August 1, 2008, the RTC convicted Matibag as charged, sentencing him to suffer the penalty
of reclusion perpetua, and ordering him to pay the heirs of Duhan the amounts of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity,
P50,000.00 as moral damages, ?59,000.00 as actual damages, and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages.11cralawred

The RTC refused to give credence to Matibags claim of self-defense as he failed to prove the presence of unlawful
aggression on Duhans part, finding that: (a) Duhans words and actions prior to Matibags attack could not be
considered as a real threat against him; (b) no firearm was recovered from the victim; (c) Matibags account that
Duhan was about to pull something from his waist, which thus led him to believe that he was about to be shot,
remained uncorroborated; and (d) the number of gunshot wounds Duhan sustained contradicts the plea of self-
defense.12cralawred

Separately, the RTC appreciated the existence of the qualifying circumstance of treachery since the attack was
sudden, unprovoked, and without any warning on the victim who was unarmed and in a defenseless
position.13 Likewise, the special aggravating circumstance of use of unlicensed firearm was appreciated since a
firearm was used in the commission of a crime and, hence, considered unlicensed. 14cralawred

Dissatisfied, Matibag appealed15 to the CA.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

The CA Ruling
In a Decision16 dated September 13, 2012, the CA affirmed Matibags conviction in toto.17cralawred

The CA agreed with the RTCs findings that: (a) treachery attended the killing of Duhan as the attack on him was
sudden;18 and (b) an unlicensed firearm was used in committing the crime, which is considered as a special
aggravating circumstance.19cralawred

Hence, the instant appeal.

The Issue Before the Court

The sole issue for the Courts resolution is whether or not the CA correctly upheld the conviction of Matibag for
Murder.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

The Courts Ruling

The appeal is bereft of merit.

In the review of a case, the Court is guided by the long-standing principle that factual findings of the trial court,
especially when affirmed by the CA, deserve great weight and respect. These factual findings should not be
disturbed on appeal, unless there are facts of weight and substance that were overlooked or misinterpreted and that
would materially affect the disposition of the case. The Court has carefully scrutinized the records and finds no
reason to deviate from the RTC and CAs factual findings. There is no indication that the trial court, whose findings
the CA affirmed, overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied the surrounding facts and circumstances of the case.
Hence, the Court defers to the trial court on this score, considering too that it was in the best position to assess and
determine the credibility of the witnesses presented by both parties. 20cralawred

On this score, the Court now proceeds to resolve this case on points of law.

Matibag is charged with the crime of Murder, which is defined and penalized under Article 248 of the RPC, as
amended. In order to warrant a conviction, the prosecution must establish by proof beyond reasonable doubt that: (a)
a person was killed; (b) the accused killed him or her; (c) the killing was attended by any of the qualifying
circumstances mentioned in Article 248 of the RPC; and (d) the killing is not Parricide or Infanticide. 21cralawred

Under Article 14 of the RPC, there is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against the person,
employing means, methods, or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specially to ensure its
execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make. In People v.
Tan,22 the Court explained that the essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack, without the slightest
provocation on the part of the person attacked.23 In People v. Perez,24 it was explained that a frontal attack does not
necessarily rule out treachery. The qualifying circumstance may still be appreciated if the attack was so sudden and
so unexpected that the deceased had no time to prepare for his or her defense. 25cralawred

In this case, the prosecution was able to prove that Matibag, who was armed with a gun, confronted Duhan, and
without any provocation, punched and shot him on the chest. 26 Although the attack was frontal, the sudden and
unexpected manner by which it was made rendered it impossible for Duhan to defend himself, adding too that he
was unarmed.27 Matibag also failed to prove that a heated exchange of words preceded the incident so as to forewarn
Duhan against any impending attack from his assailant.28 The deliberateness of Matibags act is further evinced from
his disposition preceding the moment of execution. As the RTC aptly pointed out, Matibag was ready and destined
to effect such dastardly act, considering that he had an axe to grind when he confronted Duhan, coupled with the fact
that he did so, armed with a loaded handgun.29 Based on these findings, the Court concludes that treachery was
correctly appreciated.

This finding of treachery further correlates to Matibags plea of self-defense. Note that by invoking self-defense,
Matibag, in effect, admitted to the commission of the act for which he was charged, albeit under circumstances that,
if proven, would have exculpated him. With this admission, the burden of proof shifted to Matibag to show that the
killing of Duhan was attended by the following circumstances: (a) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (b)
reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel such aggression; and (c) lack of sufficient
provocation on the part of the person resorting to self-defense.30cralawred

Among the foregoing elements, the most important is unlawful aggression. It is well-settled that there can be no self-
defense, whether complete or incomplete, unless the victim had committed unlawful aggression against the person
who resorted to self-defense.31 Jurisprudence states that not every form or degree of aggression justifies a claim of
self-defense.32 For unlawful aggression to be appreciated, there must be an actual, sudden, and unexpected attack or
imminent danger thereof, not merely a threatening or intimidating attitude, 33 as against the one claiming self-
defense.

Evidently, the treacherous manner by which Matibag assaulted Duhan negates unlawful aggression in the sense
above-discussed. As mentioned, the prosecution was able to prove that the attack was so sudden and unexpected,
and the victim was completely defenseless. On the other hand, Matibags version that he saw Duhan pull something
from his waist (which thereby impelled his reaction), remained uncorroborated. In fact, no firearm was recovered
from the victim.34 Hence, by these accounts, Matibags allegation of unlawful aggression and, consequently, his plea
of self-defense cannot be sustained. The foregoing considered, the Court upholds Matibags conviction for the crime
of Murder, qualified by treachery, as charged.

Moreover, as the RTC and CA held, the special aggravating circumstance of use of unlicensed firearm, which was
duly alleged in the Information, should be appreciated in the imposition of penalty. Presidential Decree No. (PD)
1866,35 as amended by Republic Act No. (RA) 8294,36 treats the unauthorized use of a licensed firearm in the
commission of the crimes of homicide or murder as a special aggravating
circumstance:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Section 1. Presidential Decree No. 1866, as amended, is hereby further amended to read as follows:
Section 1. Unlawful Manufacture, Sale, Acquisition, Disposition or Possession of Firearms or Ammunition or
Instruments Used or Intended to be Used in the Manufacture of Firearms or Ammunition. x x x.chanrobleslaw

xxxx

If homicide or murder is committed with the use of an unlicensed firearm, such use of an unlicensed firearm
shall be considered as an aggravating circumstance.

x x x x (Emphasis supplied)
cralawlawlibrary

Further, under Section 5 of RA 8294, the scope of the term unlicensed firearm has already been expanded as
follows:37cralawred

Sec. 5. Coverage of the Term Unlicensed Firearm. The term unlicensed firearm shall include:

1. firearms with expired license; or


2. unauthorized use of licensed firearm in the commission of the crime. (Emphasis supplied)
cralawlawlibrary

Therefore, when Matibag killed Duhan with his firearm, the use thereof was unauthorized under the purview of RA
8294 and is equally appreciated as a special aggravating circumstance. As a result, the imposition of the maximum
penalty of death, which is reduced to reclusion perpetua in light of RA 9346,38 stands proper. To this, the Court adds
that Matibag is not eligible for parole.39cralawred

Finally, case law provides that for death resulting from the crime of Murder, the heirs of the victim are entitled to the
following awards: (a) civil indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim without need of evidence other than the
commission of the crime;40 (b) actual or compensatory damages to the extent proved,41 or temperate damages when
some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot be provided with certainty;42 (c) moral damages;43 and
(d) exemplary damages when the crime was committed with one or more aggravating circumstances. 44cralawred

In line with recent jurisprudence, civil indemnity in the amount of P100,000.00 and moral damages in the amount of
P100,000.00 are awarded to Duhans heirs without need of evidence other than the commission of the crime and
Duhans death. Considering further that the crime was committed with treachery, exemplary damages in the sum of
P100,000.00 is also granted.45cralawred

The award of P59,000.00 as actual damages should, however, be deleted as the records do not show that the
prosecution was able to prove the amount actually expended. In lieu thereof, P25,000.00 as temperate damages is
awarded to conform with prevailing jurisprudence. 46 In addition, interest at the legal rate of six percent (6%) per
annum from date of finality of this Decision until fully paid is imposed on all monetary awards. 47cralawred

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED. The Decision dated September 13, 2012 of the Court of Appeals in CA-
G.R. CR-HC No. 03759 finding accused-appellant Daniel Matibag y De Villa @ Dani or
Danilo GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder, defined and penalized under Article 248 of
the Revised Penal Code, as amended, is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONsentencing him to suffer the
penalty of reclusion perpetua, without eligibility for parole, and ordering him to pay the Heirs of Enrico Clar de
Jesus Duhan the amounts of P100,000.00 as civil indemnity, P100,000.00 as moral damages, P100,000.00 as
exemplary damages, and P25,000.00 as temperate damages, in lieu of actual damages, all with legal interest at the
rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the finality of judgment until full payment.

SO ORDERED.cralawlawlibrary

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 201092 January 15, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff -Appellee,


vs.
JOEL AQUINO y CENDANA @ "AKONG," Accused-Appellant.

Related Topic: (treachery)

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

Before this Court is an appeal from a Decision1 dated July 29, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C.
No. 04265, entitled People of the Philippines v. Joel Aquino y Cendana alias Akong, which affirmed with
modifications the Decision2 dated September 18 2009 of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 12
which convicted appellant Joel Aquino y Cendana alias Akong for the felony of Murder under Article 248 of the
Revised Penal Code in Criminal Case No. 483-M-2003 and for the crime of violation of Republic Act No. 6539
otherwise known as the Anti-Camapping Act of 1972 in Criminal Case No. 484-M-2003.

The pertinent portion of the lnformation3 dated December 9, 2002 charging appellant with Murder in Criminal Case
No. 483-M-2003 is reproduced here:

That on or about the 6th day of September, 2002, in San Jose del Monte City, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with an ice pick and with intent to
kill one Jesus O. Lita, with evident premeditation, treachery and abuse of superior strength, conspiring,
confederating and mutually helping one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack,
assault and stab with the said ice pick the said Jesus O. Lita, hitting him on the different parts of his body, thereby
inflicting upon him mortal wounds which directly caused his death.

On the other hand, the accusatory portion of the Information 4 also dated December 9, 2002 accusing appellant with
violating Republic Act No. 6539 in Criminal Case No. 484-M-2003 reads:

That on or about the 6th day of September, 2002, in San Jose del Monte City, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with an ice pick and by means of
force, violence and intimidation, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, did then and there
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with intent [to] gain and without the knowledge and consent of the owner
thereof, take, steal and carry away with them one (1) tricycle with Plate No. TP-9198 valued at 120,500.00,
belonging to Jesus Lita and Sisinio Contridas, to the damage and prejudice of the said owners in the said amount of
120,500.00; and that on the occasion or by reason of said carnapping, the said accused, pursuant to their conspiracy
and with intent to kill, attack, assault and stab Jesus Lita, owner and driver of the said tricycle, hitting him on the
different parts of his body which directly caused his death.

Arraignment for the two criminal cases was jointly held on February 13, 2004 wherein appellant pleaded "NOT
GUILTY" to both charges.5

As indicated in the Appellees Brief, the following narration constitutes the prosecutions summation of this case:

On September 5, 2005, at around 8:30 in the evening, the victim Jesus Lita, accompanied by his ten-year old son,
Jefferson, went out aboard the formers black Kawasaki tricycle. Upon reaching San Jose del Monte Elementary
School, appellant Joel Aquino together with Noynoy Almoguera a.k.a. Negro, Rodnal, Bing, John Doe and Peter
Doe boarded the tricycle. Noynoy Almoguera instructed the victim to proceed to the nipa hut owned by appellant.

Upon reaching the said nipa hut, Jesus Lita, appellant and his companions had a shabu session while Jefferson was
watching TV. After using shabu, Noynoy Almoguera demanded from the victim to pay Five Hundred Pesos
(500.00), but the victim said that he had no money. Appellant shouted at the victim demanding him to pay. Bing
suggested to her companions that they leave the nipa hut. Thus, the victim mounted his tricycle and started the
engine. Noynoy Almoguera and John Doe rode in the tricycle behind the victim while appellant and Rodnal rode in
the sidecar with Jefferson [sitting] at the toolbox of the tricycle. Inside the tricycle, appellant pointed a knife at
Jefferson while Noynoy Almoguera stabbed the victims side. After the victim was stabbed, he was transferred
inside the tricycle while appellant drove the tricycle to his friends house where they again stabbed the victim using
the latters own knife. Then they loaded the victim to the tricycle and drove to a grassy area where appellant and his
companions dumped the body of the victim. Thereafter, they returned to appellants residence. Jefferson told the
sister of appellant about the death of his father but the sister of appellant only told him to sleep.

The next day, Jefferson was brought to the jeepney terminal where he rode a jeepney to get home. Jefferson told his
mother, Ma. Theresa Calitisan-Lita, about the death of his father.

In the meantime, SPO3 Servillano Lactao Cabading received a call from Barangay Captain Danilo Rogelio of
Barangay San Rafael IV, San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan thru the two (2) way radio, that the body of a male
person with several stab wounds was found dead on a grassy area beside the road of the said barangay. Immediately,
SPO3 Cabading together with a police aide proceeded to the area. Thereat, they found the dead body whom they
identified thru his Drivers License in his wallet as Jesus Lita, the victim. Also recovered were a big stainless ice
pick about 18 inches long including the handle and a tricycle key. The police officers brought the body of the victim
to the Sapang Palay District Hospital. Thereafter, they proceeded to the address of the victim.

Ma. Theresa Calitisan-Lita and Jefferson were about to leave for the morgue when they met SPO3 Cabading outside
their residence. SPO3 Cabading informed Ma. Theresa that the body of the victim was found in Barangay San
Rafael IV. Jefferson told SPO3 Cabading that he was with his father at the time of his death and he brought the
police officers to the place where his father was stabbed and to the hut owned by appellant. Thereat, the police
officers recovered a maroon colored knife case and the sandals of the victim. Appellant was invited to the police
station for questioning but he refused alleging that he does not know anything about the incident. The police officers
were able to obtain a picture of appellant which was shown to Jefferson and he positively identified the same as
"Akong" one of those who stabbed his father. Likewise, a video footage of Noynoy Almoguera alias "Negro" was
shown to Jefferson and he likewise identified the person in the video footage as the same "Negro" who also stabbed
his father.

Dr. Richard Ivan Viray, medico-legal, who conducted an autopsy on the victim, concluded that cause of death is
Hemorrhagic Shock due to multiple stab wounds.6

However, appellant held a different version of the events of this case. In his Appellants Brief, the succeeding
account is entered:

[Appellant] denied the accusations against him. On September 6, 2002, he was working as a laborer/mason in the
construction of his uncles (Rene Cendana) house located at Area C, Acacia Homes, Cavite, together with Paul
Maglaque, Eman Lozada, Raul Lozada and Lorenzo Cendana. They worked from 7:30 x x x in the morning until
4:30 x x x in the afternoon, with lunch and "merienda" breaks from 11:30 x x x to 12:00 oclock noon and 3:00
oclock to 3:15 x x x in the afternoon, respectively. After work, they just stayed in their barracks located within their
workplace. They would prepare their food and take supper at around 7:00 oclock to 7:30 x x x in the evening, after
which, they would smoke cigarettes. They would go to bed at around 8:00 oclock to 9:00 oclock in the evening.

He goes home to Sapang Palay, San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan every Saturday. During Mondays, he would
leave their house at around 4:00 oclock to 5:00 oclock in the morning and would arrive at his workplace at around
8:00 oclock or 9:00 oclock in the morning.

[Appellant] does not know either Ma. Theresa Lita, his son Jefferson, or the victim Jesus Lita. Also, he does not
know a certain Noynoy Almoguera and alias Rodnal. Likewise, he denied using illegal drugs (i.e., shabu).

[Appellant] knew SPO3 Cabading because the former had served as a police aide to him since he was seventeen (17)
years old. He had no misunderstanding with the police officer. He cannot think of any reason why Ma. Theresa Lita
and Jefferson pointed to him as one of the perpetrators of the subject crimes.

Paul Maglague (Paul) corroborated [appellants] testimony. On September 6, 2002, a Friday, [appellant] was
working with him, together with Roldan Lozada and Oweng Cendana, at Area C, Dasmarias, Cavite, in the
construction of Boy Cendanas house, Pauls brother-in-law. Paul was the cement mixer while [appellant], being his
partner, carries it to wherever it is needed. Their work ends at 5:00 oclock in the afternoon. After their work, they
just stayed in their barracks located within their workplace. [Appellant] was their cook. They usually sleep at around
8:00 oclock to 9:00 oclock in the evening. They get their pay only during Saturdays. Hence, they would go home
to Bulacan every Saturday.

At around 6:00 oclock to 7:00 oclock in the evening of September 7, 2002, they left Cavite and went to their
respective homes in Bulacan.

On the night of September 5, 2002, [appellant] slept together with Paul and their other co-workers inside their
barracks. Paul woke up in the middle of the night to urinate and was not able to see whether the accused was there,
as there were no lights in the place where they were sleeping. The following morning, [appellant] was the one who
cooked their food.7 (Citations omitted.)

At the conclusion of trial, a guilty verdict was handed down by the trial court on both criminal charges. The
dispositive portion of the assailed September 18, 2009 Decision states:

WHEREFORE, in Criminal Case No. 483-M-2003, the Court finds the Accused JOEL AQUINO alias "Akong"
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of Reclusion
Perpetua. The Court hereby orders the accused JOEL AQUINO to pay the heirs of Jesus Lita, the expenses incurred
in his burial and funeral services in the total amount of Sixty Thousand One Hundred (60,100.00) Pesos as actual
damages, the sum of Fifty Thousand (50,000.00) Pesos as moral damages, and 30,000.00 as exemplary damages.

In Criminal Case No. 484-M-2003, the Court likewise finds the accused JOEL AQUINO alias "Akong" guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of violating R.A. 6539, otherwise known as the Anti-Carnapping Law, and hereby
sentences him to suffer the penalty of Life Imprisonment pursuant to Section 14 of the said R.A. 6539. The said
accused is also ordered to pay the amount of Sixty-Five Thousand Eight Hundred Seventy-Five (65,875.00) Pesos
representing the total installment payments of the Motorcycle.

The accused is also ordered to pay costs of this suit.8

Insisting on his innocence, appellant filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals. However, the appellate court upheld
the judgment of the trial court along with some modifications. The dispositive portion of the assailed July 29, 2011
Decision of the Court of Appeals, in turn, reads:

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision is hereby MODIFIED, as follows:

a) In Criminal Case No. 483-M-2003, appellant is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua
without eligibility for parole. Appellant is ordered to pay the heirs of the victim actual damages in the sum
of 60,100.00, duly proven during the trial, 75,000.00 civil indemnity, 75,000.00 moral damages and
30,000.00 exemplary damages.

b) In Criminal Case No. 484-M-2003, appellant is sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of
Fourteen (14) years and Eight (8) months, as minimum, to Seventeen (17) years and Four (4) months, as
maximum and to pay the sum of 65,875.00 representing the total installment payments of the motorcycle. 9

Hence, appellant seeks the Courts favorable action on the instant appeal. In his Brief, appellant reiterated the
following errors allegedly committed by the trial court when it adjudged him guilty of the charges leveled against
him:

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIMES CHARGED.

II

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE ALLEGED LONE EYEWITNESS
POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT AS ONE OF THE PERPETRATORS OF THE
CRIMES.

III

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT TREACHERY ATTENDED THE KILLING. 10

Appellant challenges his conviction by arguing that the trial court was not able to prove his guilt beyond reasonable
doubt because it only relied on the incredible and inconsistent testimony of Jefferson Lita the sole eyewitness
presented by the prosecution. He contends that if Jefferson was indeed present during the murder of his father, Jesus
Lita, then it would be highly inconceivable that Jefferson would have lived to tell that tale since he would most
likely be also killed by the perpetrators being an eyewitness to the crime. Furthermore, appellant maintains that he
cannot possibly have committed the crimes attributed to him because, on the night that Jesus was murdered, he was
asleep in the barracks of a construction site somewhere in Dasmarias City, Cavite.
We are not persuaded.

It is settled in jurisprudence that, absent any showing that the lower court overlooked circumstances which would
overturn the final outcome of the case, due respect must be made to its assessment and factual findings, moreover,
such findings, when affirmed by the Court of Appeals, are generally binding and conclusive upon this Court.11 After
a thorough examination of the records of this case, we find no compelling reason to doubt the veracity of the
findings and conclusions made by the trial court.

With regard to appellants inquiry into the credibility of the lone eyewitness of the prosecution, we depend upon the
principle that the trial court is in a better position to adjudge the credibility of a witness. In People v. Vergara,12we
elaborated on this premise in this wise:

When it comes to the matter of credibility of a witness, settled are the guiding rules some of which are that (1) the
appellate court will not disturb the factual findings of the lower court, unless there is a showing that it had
overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some fact or circumstance of weight and substance that would have
affected the result of the case, which showing is absent herein; (2) the findings of the trial court pertaining to the
credibility of a witness is entitled to great respect since it had the opportunity to examine his demeanor as he
testified on the witness stand, and, therefore, can discern if such witness is telling the truth or not; and (3) a witness
who testifies in a categorical, straightforward, spontaneous and frank manner and remains consistent on cross-
examination is a credible witness.13

Jurisprudence also tells us that when a testimony is given in a candid and straightforward manner, there is no room
for doubt that the witness is telling the truth.14 A perusal of the testimony of Jefferson indicates that he testified in a
manner that satisfies the aforementioned test of credibility. More importantly, during his time at the witness stand,
Jefferson positively and categorically identified appellant as one of the individuals who stabbed his father.

We quote the relevant portions of Jeffersons detailed testimony:

[PROSECUTOR CARAIG]

Q Why do you know that your father died on the early morning of September 6, 2002, in Sapang Palay, San Jose del
Monte?

xxxx

A Because we left the house together at 8:30 in the evening, and my father looked at the calendar.

Q You said you were with your father. Do you know where were you going at that time?

A To the house of Akong.

Q And what mode of transportation did you take, as you said, you were going to the house of Akong?

A Our tricycle, sir.

Q Do you know the trade mark of that tricycle of your father?

A Kawasaki, sir.

Q Do you know the color of that tricycle?

A Black, sir.
Q While on your way to the residence of Akong, could you please tell us if there was any unusual incident that took
place?

A Yes, sir, there was.

Q What was that?

A My father was being stabbed. x x x x

Q Did you see who stabbed your father?

A Yes, sir.

Q How many?

A There were three (3) of them.

Q If you will see those three (3) persons again, can you still identify them?

A Yes, sir.

Q Are they inside the courtroom?

A Yes, sir.

Q Will you please look around and point to them.

INTERPRETER

Witness pointed to accused Joel Aquino inside the courtroom.

[PROSECUTOR CARAIG]

Q Who else?

A The others are not here.

Q Now, prior to the stabbing incident and you were able to recognize the three, one of them you identified here
inside the courtroom. What was Joel Aquino doing when you first saw him?

A He was inside our tricycle sitting.

Q You are referring to the sidecar of your tricycle?

A Yes, sir.

Q You said a while ago that you and your father were only the one[s] on board the tricycle. Why was he, that Joel,
now inside the tricycle?

A They rode in our tricycle.


Q You are referring to Aquino together with his two (2) companions?

A Yes, sir.

Q Where in particular did these three (3) persons ride in your tricycle?

A Joel Aquino was inside the sidecar of our tricycle while the other two (2) rode at the back of my father.

Q At that precise moment, where were you seated?

A Also inside the sidecar, sir.

Q You are sitting side by side with Aquino? Is that what you mean?

A No, sir.

Q While inside the tricycle, what did Aquino do, if any?

A He pointed his knife at me.

Q What else?

A Nothing else.

Q What about the two (2) companions, what did they do, if any?

A Inunahan nila agad ang Tatay ko sa tagiliran.

Q What do you mean by "inunahan"?

A They stabbed my father on his side.

Q Did you see what part of the body of your father was stabbed?

COURT:

Witness pointing to the right side of his stomach.

[PROSECUTOR CARAIG]

Q What happened to your father when he was stabbed?

A He appeared dizzy and he was placed inside the sidecar.

Q And who brought your father inside the sidecar?

A The two (2) other persons previously at the back of my father.

Q And at that time, what did Joel do?


A He started driving the tricycle.

Q Did Aquino drive the tricycle after he started it?

A Yes, sir.

xxxx

Q And did you come to know where did Joel Aquino proceed?

A To their house, sir.

Q How far was that house of Aquino from the place where your father was stabbed?

A Quite far, sir.

Q Were you able to reach the house of Joel Aquino?

A Yes, sir.

Q What did Aquino and these two (2) persons do to your father when you reached his house?

A They brought him down from the tricycle.

Q Where did these three (3) persons bring your father?

A They brought my father to their friend.

Q Did you come to know who was that friend where your father was brought?

A I do not know the name of their friend.

Q What happened to your father when he was brought to their friend?

A My father was already dying and they went back to him and stabbed him several times.

Q How many times was your father stabbed at that time?

A I do not know, sir.

Q Did you see who stabbed him again?

A Yes, sir.

Q Who?

A The three (3) of them.

Q Do you mean to say that Aquino at that time stabbed your father?
A Yes, sir.

Q Did you see what kind of weapon did these three (3) persons use in stabbing your father? A My fathers own
knife.

Q Who among the three (3) used your fathers knife?

A Akong po.

Q That Akong was the friend of the three (3) persons to where these three (3) persons brought your father?

A No, sir.

Q You are referring to one of the two (2) companions of Joel?

A Yes, sir.

Q And after that what else transpired next?

A They boarded my father to the tricycle.

Q How about you?

A While they were boarding my father to the tricycle, Akong pointed his knife at my stomach.

Q Were the three (3) persons able to board your father inside your tricycle?

A Yes, sir.

Q And what did the three (3) persons do after your father was already inside the tricycle?

A They started the tricycle.

Q And then what happened next?

A After they started the motorcycle, they drove the tricycle and threw away my father.

Q Did you see the act of these three (3) persons throwing your father away from the tricycle?

A Yes, sir.

Q How far were you from them when they threw your father?

A More or less about 5 to 6 meters, sir.

Q Describe the place where your father was thrown.

A It was a grassy area.

Q The grass are tall?


A Short grass, sir.

Q And after your father was thrown away, what did the three (3) persons do?

A They started our tricycle and left my father.15

In the face of this serious accusation, appellant puts forward the defense of alibi. We have held that for the defense
of alibi to prosper, the accused must prove not only that he was at some other place at the time of the commission of
the crime, but also that it was physically impossible for him to be at the locus delicti or within its immediate
vicinity.16 These requirements of time and place must be strictly met. A review of the evidence presented by
appellant reveals that it falls short of the standard set by jurisprudence. Appellant failed to establish by clear and
convincing evidence that it was physically impossible for him to be at San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan when Jesus
was murdered. His own testimony revealed that the distance between the locus delicti and Dasmarias City, Cavite
is only a four to five hour regular commute.17 Thus, it would not be physically impossible for him to make the round
trip between those two points from dusk till dawn of September 5-6, 2002 and still have more than enough time to
participate in the events surrounding the murder of Jesus.

Furthermore, the only person that could corroborate appellants alibi is his friend and former co-worker, Paul
Maglaque. However, we have consistently assigned less probative weight to a defense of alibi when it is
corroborated by friends and relatives since we have established in jurisprudence that, in order for corroboration to be
credible, the same must be offered preferably by disinterested witnesses. 18 Clearly, due to his friendship with
appellant, Maglaque cannot be considered as a disinterested witness.

Nevertheless, it is jurisprudentially settled that positive identification prevails over alibi since the latter can easily be
fabricated and is inherently unreliable.19 It is likewise settled that where there is nothing to indicate that a witness for
the prosecution was actuated by improper motive, the presumption is that he was not so actuated and his testimony
is entitled to full faith and credit.20 In the case at bar, no allegation was made nor proven to show that Jefferson had
any ill motive to falsely testify against appellant.

With regard to appellants argument that Jefferson would surely have also been killed by his fathers murderers had
he indeed witnessed the crime, we can only surmise and speculate on this point. Whatever may be the killers
motivation to spare Jeffersons life remains a mystery. Nonetheless, it does not adversely affect what has been
clearly established in this case and that is the cold-blooded murder of Jesus by a group of assailants which includes
herein appellant.

According to jurisprudence, to be convicted of murder, the following must be established: (1) a person was killed;
(2) the accused killed him; the killing was with the attendance of any of the qualifying circumstances under Article
248 of the Revised Penal Code; and (4) the killing neither constitutes parricide nor infanticide.21

Contrary to appellants assertion, the qualifying circumstance of treachery did attend the killing of
Jesus.1wphi1 We have consistently held that treachery is present when the offender commits any of the crimes
against persons, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution, which tend directly and specially to insure its
execution, without risk to the offender arising from the defense which the offended party might make.22 On this
point, we quote with approval the Court of Appeals discussion of this aspect of the case, to wit:

The essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack by the aggressor on an unsuspecting victim, depriving
him of any real chance to defend himself. Even when the victim was forewarned of the danger to his person,
treachery may still be appreciated since what is decisive is that the execution of the attack made it impossible for the
victim to defend himself or to retaliate. Records disclose that Jesus was stabbed by the group on the lateral part of
his body while he was under the impression that they were simply leaving the place where they had [a] shabu
session. Judicial notice can be taken that when the tricycle driver is seated on the motorcycle, his head is usually
higher or at the level of the roof of the side car which leaves his torso exposed to the passengers who are seated in
the side car. Hence, there was no way for Jesus to even be forewarned of the intended stabbing of his body both
from the people seated in the side car and those seated behind him. Thus, the trial courts finding of treachery should
be affirmed. There is treachery when the means, methods, and forms of execution gave the person attacked no
opportunity to defend himself or to retaliate; and such means, methods, and forms of execution were deliberately
and consciously adopted by the accused without danger to his person. What is decisive in an appreciation of
treachery is that the execution of the attack made it impossible for the victim to defend himself. 23 (Citations
omitted.)

However, in contrast to the pronouncements of both the trial court and the Court of Appeals, we cannot consider
abuse of superior strength as an aggravating circumstance in this case. As per jurisprudence, when the circumstance
of abuse of superior strength concurs with treachery, the former is absorbed in the latter. 24 Since there is no
aggravating or mitigating circumstance present, the proper penalty is reclusion perpetua, in accordance with Article
63 paragraph 2 of the Revised Penal Code,25 it being the lesser penalty between the two indivisible penalties for the
felony of murder which is reclusion perpetua to death.

However, we concur with the modification made by the Court of Appeals with respect to the penalty of life
imprisonment for carnapping originally imposed by the trial court. Life imprisonment has long been replaced with
the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death by virtue of Republic Act No. 7659. Furthermore, the said penalty is
applicable only to the special complex crime of carnapping with homicide which is not obtaining in this case.
Jurisprudence tells us that to prove the special complex crime of carnapping with homicide, there must be proof not
only of the essential elements of carnapping, but also that it was the original criminal design of the culprit and the
killing was perpetrated in the course of the commission of the carnapping or on the occasion thereof. 26 The appellate
court correctly observed that the killing of Jesus cannot qualify the carnapping into a special complex crime because
the carnapping was merely an afterthought when the victims death was already fait accompli. Thus, appellant is
guilty only of simple carnapping.

It is enshrined in jurisprudence that when death occurs due to a crime, the following damages may be awarded: (1)
civil indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim; (2) actual or compensatory damages; (3) moral damages; (4)
exemplary damages; and (5) temperate damages.27

There being no aggravating circumstance since, as discussed earlier, abuse of superior strength is absorbed in the
qualifying circumstance of treachery, the award of 75,000.00 as moral damages should be decreased to 50,000.00.
Such an amount is granted even in the absence of proof of mental and emotional suffering of the victims heirs. 28

Pursuant to current jurisprudence, the award of civil indemnity in the amount of 75,000.00 29 and exemplary
damages in the amount of 30,000.0030 is correct. The amount of actual damages duly proven in court in the sum of
60,100.00 is likewise upheld. Finally, we impose interest at the rate of 6% per annum on all damages from the date
of finality of this ruling until fully paid.31

With regard to appellants conviction for simple carnapping, we affirm the penalty of imprisonment imposed by the
Court of Appeals which is fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four
(4) months, as maximum. Likewise, we uphold the order upon appellant to pay the sum of 65,875.00 representing
the total amount of the installment payments made on the motorcycle.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision dated July 29, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-
H.C. No. 04265, affirming the conviction of appellant Joel Aquino Cendana alias "Akong" in Criminal Cases No.
483-M-2003 and 484-M-2003, is hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATIONS that:

(1) The amount of moral damages to be paid by appellant Joel Aquino Cendana alias "Akong" in Criminal
Case No. 483-M-2003, is decreased from Seventy-Five Thousand Pesos (75,000.00) to Fifty Thousand
Pesos (PS0,000.00); and

(2) Appellant Joel Aquino Cendana alias Akong is ordered to pay interest on all damages at the legal rate of
six percent ( 6%) per annum from the date of finality of this judgment.

No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 190912, January 12, 2015 - GARY FANTASTICO AND ROLANDO VILLANUEVA, Petitioners, v.
ELPIDIO MALICSE, SR. AND PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 190912, January 12, 2015

GARY FANTASTICO AND ROLANDO VILLANUEVA, Petitioners, v. ELPIDIO MALICSE, SR. AND
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

For this Court's consideration is the Petition for Review on Certiorari1 under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure, dated January 20, 2010 , of petitioners Gary Fantastico and Rolando Villanueva assailing the
Decision2 dated August 31, 2007 and Resolution3 dated January 7, 2010 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G. R.
CR. No. 31719, affirming the Decision4 dated March 31, 2008 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 11, Manila, in
Criminal Case No. 93-127049, finding petitioners guilty of attempted murder.

The following are the antecedents:

On the afternoon of June 27, 1993, Elpidio Malicse, Sr. (Elpidio) was outside the house of his sister Isabelita Iguiron
(Isabelita) in Pandacan, Manila when all of a sudden, he heard Isabelita's son, Winston, throwing invectives at him.
Thus, Elpidio confronted Isabelita but she also cursed him, which prompted the former to slap the latter. On that
occasion, Elpidio was under the influence of alcohol.

The Barangay Chairman heard what transpired and went to the place where the commotion was taking place in
order to pacify those who were involved. Elpidio was eventually persuaded to go home where he drank some coffee.
Thereafter, Elpidio went back to the house of Isabelita to offer reconciliation. On his way there, he passed by the
house of Kagawad Andy Antonio and requested the latter to accompany him, but was instead told to go back home,
leaving Elpidio to proceed alone.

Upon reaching Isabelita's house, Elpidio saw the former's son, Titus Iguiron (Titus) and her son-in-law Gary
Fantastico (Gary) and asked the two where he can find their parents. Titus and Gary responded, putang ina mo, and
kulit mo, lumayas ka, punyeta ka.

In his anger with the response of Titus and Gary, Elpidio kicked the door open and saw Isabelita's elder son,
Salvador Iguiron (Salvador) behind the door holding a rattan stick or arnis. Salvador hit Elpidio on the right side of
his head that forced the latter to bow his head but Salvador delivered a second blow that hit Elpidio on the right
eyebrow. Salvador attempted to hit Elpidio for the third time but the latter got hold of the rattan stick and the two
wrestled on the floor and grappled for the possession of the same rattan stick. Then Titus ran towards the two and
sprayed something on Elpidio's face. Not being able to free himself from the clutches of Salvador and to extricate
himself, Elpidio bit Salvador's head.
Gary hit Elpidio on the right side of his head with a tomahawk axe when the latter was about to go out of the house.
Elpidio tried to defend himself but was unable to take the tomahawk axe from Gary. Elpidio walked away from
Titus but Gary, still armed with the tomahawk axe and Salvador, with his arnis, including Titus, chased him.

Roland (Rolly) Villanueva, without any warning, hit Elpidio on the back of his head with a lead pipe which caused
the latter to fall on the ground. Elpidio begged his assailants to stop, but to no avail. Salvador hit him countless times
on his thighs, legs and knees using the rattan stick. While he was simultaneously being beaten up by Salvador, Titus,
Gary, Rolly, Nestor, Eugene and Tommy, he tried to cover his face with his arm. Gary hit him with the tomahawk
axe on his right leg, between the knees and the ankle of his leg, which caused the fracture on his legs and knees.
Rolly hit Elpidio's head with a lead pipe, while Tommy hit him with a piece of wood on the back of his shoulder.

Thereafter, a certain Mang Gil tried to break them off but Titus and Gary shouted at him: Huwag makialam,
away ng mag-anak ito and the two continued to maul Elpidio. The people who witnessed the incident shouted
maawa na kayo but they only stopped battering him when a bystander fainted because of the incident. Elpidio then
pretended to be dead. It was then that concerned neighbors approached him and rushed him to the emergency room
of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

Thus, a case for Attempted Murder under Article 248, in relation to Article 6 of the Revised Penal Code, was filed
against Salvador Iguiron, Titus Malicse Iguiron, Saligan Malicse Iguiron, Tommy Ballesteros, Nestor Ballesteros,
Eugene Surigao and petitioners Gary Fantastico and Rolando Villanueva. The Information
reads:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
That on or about June 27, 1993, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused conspiring and confederating
together and helping one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with intent to kill and
with treachery and taking advantage of superior strength, commence the commission of the crime of murder directly
by overt acts, to wit: by then and there hitting the head of Elpidio Malicse, Sr. y de Leon with a piece of rattan, axe,
pipe and a piece of wood and mauling him, but the said accused did not perform all the acts of execution which
should have produced the crime of murder, as a consequence, by reason of causes other than their own spontaneous
desistance, that is, the injuries inflicted upon Elpidio Malicse, Sr. y de Leon are not necessarily mortal.
They all pleaded not guilty. The defense, during trial, presented the following version of the events that transpired:

Around 4:30 p.m. of June 27, 1993, Salvador was at the second floor of their house when he heard his tenth son
Winston crying while the latter was being castigated by Elpidio. He went down and told Elpidio to come back the
next day to settle. His wife Isabelita called the Barangay Chairman two blocks away. Barangay Chairman Joseph
Ramos and Elpidio's wife and daughter went to the house and Elpidio was given warm water, but he showered his
daughter and Winston with it. Elpidio was brought to his house and the former told the Barangay Chairman that it
was a family problem. Elpidio went back to the house of Salvador where Titus was sitting on the sofa. Elpidio asked
Titus to open the door until the former kicked the door open. Titus escaped through the open door and Salvador went
out of the house because another child was on the roof, afraid that the said child might fall. Thereafter, Elpidio went
to the street.

According to petitioner Gary Fantastico, he was inside their house with his wife and Titus when the incident
occurred. He and his wife ran upstairs, while Titus went out when Elpidio hit the door. Elpidio had a reputation for
hurting people when drunk and Gary learned that Elpidio was brought to the hospital because he was mauled by the
people.

During trial, one of the accused, Salvador Iguiron died. Eventually, the trial court, in a Decision dated March 31,
2008, acquitted Titus Iguiron, Saligan Iguiron and Tommy Ballesteros but found Gary Fantastico and Rolando
Villanueva guilty beyond reasonable doubt for Attempted Murder. The dispositive portion of the said decision
reads:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the foregoing premises considered, the Court finds Gary Fantastico and Rolando Villanueva
GUILTY of the crime of attempted murder and sentences them to an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of eight
(8) years and one (1) day as minimum, to ten (10) years as maximum. They are also ordered to pay the actual
damages of P17,300.00 and moral damages of P10,000.00.

Accused Titus Iguiron, Saligan Iguiron and Tommy Ballesteros ACQUITTED.


SO ORDERED.
After their motion for reconsideration was denied, petitioners appealed the case to the CA, but the latter court
affirmed the decision of the RTC and disposed the case as follows:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error in the decision appealed from, we hereby AFFIRM the same and
DISMISS the instant appeal.

SO ORDERED.
A motion for reconsideration was filed, but it was denied by the same court.

Hence, the present petition.

Petitioners stated the following arguments:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary


THE CONCLUSIONS DRAWN BY THE COURT OF APPEALS AND THE TRIAL COURT FROM THE
FACTS OF THE CASE ARE INCORRECT.

THE INFORMATION ITSELF IN THIS CASE DOES NOT ALLEGE ALL THE ELEMENTS AND THE
NECESSARY INGREDIENTS OF THE SPECIFIC CRIME OF ATTEMPTED MURDER.

NOT ALL OF THE ELEMENTS OF ATTEMPTED MURDER ARE PRESENT IN THIS CASE.

THERE IS NO TREACHERY OR ANY OTHER QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCE TO SPEAK OF IN THIS


CASE.

THE LOWER COURT AND THE COURT OF APPEALS FAILED TO CONSIDER THE PRESENCE OF
MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES.

THERE ARE MANIFEST MISTAKES IN THE FINDINGS OF FACTS BY THE COURT OF APPEALS AND
THE TRIAL COURT.

THE CONVICTION OF THE PETITIONERS WAS BASED ON THE WEAKNESS OF THE DEFENSE
EVIDENCE, NOT ON THE STRENGTH OF THE PROSECUTION EVIDENCE.

THE TESTIMONY OF THE RESPONDENT THAT IT WAS THE PETITIONERS WHO ATTACKED HIM IS
INDEED UNCORROBORATED AND THUS SELF-SERVING.

CLEARLY, THERE ARE SO MUCH REVERSIBLE ERRORS IN THE DECISION OF THE COURT OF
APPEALS AND THE LOWER COURT THAT INJURIOUSLY AFFECTED THE SUBSTANTIAL RIGHTS OF
THE PETITIONERS AND THESE SHOULD BE CORRECTED BY THIS HONORABLE COURT.
At the outset, it bears stressing that under the Rules of Court, an appeal by certiorari to this Court should only raise
questions of law distinctly set forth in the petition.5chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

In the present case, the issues and arguments presented by the petitioners involve questions of facts. Therefore, the
present petition is at once dismissible for its failure to comply with the requirement of Rule 45 of the Rules of Court,
that the petition should only raise questions of law.

The distinction between a question of law and a question of fact is settled. There is a question of law when the
doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain state of facts, and which does not call for an examination
of the probative value of the evidence presented by the parties-litigants. On the other hand, there is a question of
fact when the doubt or controversy arises as to the truth or falsity of the alleged facts. Simply put, when there is no
dispute as to fact, the question of whether or not the conclusion drawn therefrom is correct, is a question of
law.6chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

At any rate, the arguments of herein petitioners deserve scant consideration.


It is the contention of the petitioners that the Information filed against them was defective because it did not state all
the elements of the crime charged. However, a close reading of the Information would show the contrary. The
Information partly reads:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
x x x but the said accused did not perform all the acts of the execution which should have produced the crime of
murder, as a consequence, by reason of causes other than their own spontaneous desistance, that is, the injuries
inflicted upon Elpidio Malicse, Sr. y de Leon are not necessarily mortal.
From the above-quoted portion of the Information, it is clear that all the elements of the crime of attempted murder
has been included.

The last paragraph of Article 6 of the Revised Penal Code defines an attempt to commit a felony,
thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
There is an attempt when the offender commences the commission of a felony directly by overt acts, and does not
perform all the acts of execution which should produce the felony by reason of some cause or accident other than his
own spontaneous desistance.7chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

The essential elements of an attempted felony are as follows:

The offender commences the commission of the felony directly by overt acts;

He does not perform all the acts of execution which should produce the felony;

The offender's act be not stopped by his own spontaneous desistance;

The non-performance of all acts of execution was due to cause or accident other than his spontaneous desistance.8
The first requisite of an attempted felony consists of two (2) elements, namely:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
(1) That there be external acts;

(2) Such external acts have direct connection with the crime intended to be committed.9
The Court in People v. Lizada10 elaborated on the concept of an overt or external act,
thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
An overt or external act is defined as some physical activity or deed, indicating the intention to commit a particular
crime, more than a mere planning or preparation, which if carried out to its complete termination following its
natural course, without being frustrated by external obstacles nor by the spontaneous desistance of the perpetrator,
will logically and necessarily ripen into a concrete offense. The raison d'etre for the law requiring a direct overt act
is that, in a majority of cases, the conduct of the accused consisting merely of acts of preparation has never ceased to
be equivocal; and this is necessarily so, irrespective of his declared intent. It is that quality of being equivocal that
must be lacking before the act becomes one which may be said to be a commencement of the commission of the
crime, or an overt act or before any fragment of the crime itself has been committed, and this is so for the reason that
so long as the equivocal quality remains, no one can say with certainty what the intent of the accused is. It is
necessary that the overt act should have been the ultimate step towards the consummation of the design. It is
sufficient if it was the "first or some subsequent step in a direct movement towards the commission of the offense
after the preparations are made." The act done need not constitute the last proximate one for completion. It is
necessary, however, that the attempt must have a causal relation to the intended crime. In the words of Viada, the
overt acts must have an immediate and necessary relation to the offense. 11
Petitioners question the inclusion of the phrase not necessarily mortal in the allegations in the Information.
According to them, the inclusion of that phrase means that there is an absence of an intent to kill on their part. Intent
to kill is a state of mind that the courts can discern only through external manifestations, i.e., acts and conduct of the
accused at the time of the assault and immediately thereafter. In Rivera v. People,12 this Court considered the
following factors to determine the presence of an intent to kill: (1) the means used by the malefactors; (2) the nature,
location, and number of wounds sustained by the victim; (3) the conduct of the malefactors before, at the time, or
immediately after the killing of the victim; and (4) the circumstances under which the crime was committed and the
motives of the accused. This Court also considers motive and the words uttered by the offender at the time he
inflicted injuries on the victim as additional determinative factors. 13 All of these, were proven during the trial.
Needless to say, with or without the phrase, what is important is that all the elements of attempted murder are still
alleged in the Information. Section 6, Rule 110 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure
states:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Sec. 6. Sufficiency of complaint or information. A complaint or information is sufficient if it states the name of the
accused; the designation of the offense by the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the
offense; the name of the offended party; the approximate time of the commission of the offense; and the place
wherein the offense was committed.
In any case, it is now too late for petitioners to assail the sufficiency of the Information on the ground that the
elements of the crime of attempted murder are lacking. Section 9, Rule 117 of the Rules of Court
provides:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
SEC. 9. Failure to move to quash or to allege any ground therefor.- The failure of the accused to assert any ground
of a motion to quash before he pleads to the complaint or information, either because he did not file a motion to
quash or failed to allege the same in said motion, shall be deemed a waiver of any objections except those based on
the grounds provided for in paragraphs (a), (b), (g), and (i) of section 3 of this Rule.
Anent the probative value and weight given to the testimony of Elpidio by the CA and the RTC, the same is not
ridden with any error. In People v. Alvarado,14 we held that greater weight is given to the positive identification of
the accused by the prosecution witness than the accused's denial and explanation concerning the commission of the
crime. This is so inasmuch as mere denials are self-serving evidence that cannot obtain evidentiary weight greater
than the declaration of credible witnesses who testified on affirmative matters. 15chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

It is clear from the records that Elpidio was able to make a positive identification of the petitioners as the assailants,
thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Q. Then what happened next Mr. Witness?

A. When I was able to free myself from Salvador Iguiron, I got out of the door of the house, then, I saw Gary was
hiding in the kitchen door holding an axe. Tonahawk with blade of ax was dull and had a handle of one foot, with
the diameter of one inch.

Q. Why did you know that the ax blade of the tom was dull? (sic)

A. I also used that.

Q. Where do you usually keep that in the house of Iguiron?

A. In the kitchen.

Q. How far is that kitchen from where Gary emerged from?

A. He is right in the kitchen.

Q. Then what happened?

A. When I was able to free myself from Salvador, Gary Iguiron was hiding in the kitchen door and holding a
tomhack (sic) whose edge is dull and he hit me on my right side and my head and I got injury (sic) and blood
profusely oozing, I want to get hold of the tomhawk (sic).

Q. Were you able to get of the tomhawk (sic) from Gary?

A. No sir.16chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

xxxx

Q. You said while on that street somebody hit you from behind, who was that?

A. Rolly Villanueva.
Q. Why do you say that it was Rolly Villanueva, considering that it was hit from behind?

A. Because they were about 5 of them at the main gate of the compound.

Q. Who are they?

A. Rolando Villanueva, Nestor Ballesteros, Tommy Ballesteros, Eugene Surigao, Saligan Iguiron.

Q. You said you were hit by Rolando from behind, do you have occasion to see first before you were hit?

A. When I was hit I fell down and I was able to see who hit (sic0, I saw him.

Q. When you fell down, you were able to realize it was Rolando Villanueva who hit you, you mean you realized
what he used in hitting you from behind?

A. It was a pipe. 1/2 inch thick, 24 inches in length.

Q. You said you fell down because of the blow of Rolando Villanueva and you saw him holding that pipe, how was
he holding the pipe when you saw him?

A. When I fell down he was about trying to hit me again.17


In connection therewith, one must not forget the well entrenched rule that findings of facts of the trial court, its
calibration of the testimonial evidence of the parties as well as its conclusion on its findings, are accorded high
respect if not conclusive effect. This is because of the unique advantage of the trial court to observe, at close range,
the conduct, demeanor and deportment of the witness as they testify. 18 The rule finds an even more stringent
application where the said findings are sustained by the Court of Appeals. 19chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

It is also of utmost significance that the testimony of Elpidio is corroborated by the medico-legal findings as testified
by Dr. Edgar Michael Eufemio, PGH Chief Resident Doctor of the Department of Orthopedics. He testified as to the
following:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Q. And as head of that office, Mr. Witness, why are you here today?

A. Actually, I was called upon by the complainant to rectify regarding, the findings supposedly seen when he was
admitted and when I saw him in one of the sessions of our Out Patient Department.

Q. When was this follow-up session at your department did you see this complainant?

A. Based on the chart, I think it was four (4) months post injury when I first saw the patient.

Q. Why does he has (sic) to make a follow up in your department?

A. Based on this chart, he sustained bilateral leg fractures which necessitated casting. Normally, casting would take
around three (3) months only but since the nature of his fracture was relatively unstable, I think it necessitated
prolong immobilization in a case.

PROSECUTOR TEVES:

Q. Did you personally attend on his needs on that date when you saw him?

A. Yes, ma'am.

Q. And what could have been the cause of these injuries he sustained?

A. I think one of his leg has close fracture, meaning, probably it was caused by a blunt injury rather than a hacking
injury, one on the left side, with an open wound which was very much compatible with a hack at the leg area.20
Petitioners also claim that the prosecution was not able to prove the presence of treachery or any other qualifying
circumstance.

In this particular case, there was no treachery. There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes
against persons, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution, which tend directly and specially to insure its
execution, without risk to the offender arising from the defense which the offended party might make. The essence
of treachery is that the attack comes without a warning and in a swift, deliberate, and unexpected manner, affording
the hapless, unarmed, and unsuspecting victim no chance to resist or escape. For treachery to be considered, two
elements must concur: (1) the employment of means of execution that gives the persons attacked no opportunity to
defend themselves or retaliate; and (2) the means of execution were deliberately or consciously adopted. 21From the
facts proven by the prosecution, the incident was spontaneous, thus, the second element of treachery is wanting. The
incident, which happened at the spur of the moment, negates the possibility that the petitioners consciously adopted
means to execute the crime committed. There is no treachery where the attack was not preconceived and deliberately
adopted but was just triggered by the sudden infuriation on the part of the accused because of the provocative act of
the victim.22chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

The RTC, however, was correct in appreciating the qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength,
thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
In the case at bar, the prosecution was able to establish that Salvador Iguiron hit Elpidio Malicsi, Sr. twice on the
head as he was entered (sic) the house of the former. Gary Fantastico hit the victim on the right side of the head with
an axe or tomahawk. The evidence also show that Rolando Rolly Villanueva hit the victim on the head with a lead
pipe. And outside while the victim was lying down, Gary hit the legs of the victim with the tomahawk. lvador also
hit the victim with the rattan stick on the thighs, legs and knees. And Titus Iguiron hit the victim's private organ with
a piece of wood. The Provisional Medical Slip (Exh. D), Medico Legal Certificate and Leg Sketch (Exh. D-2)
and the fracture sheet (Exh. D-4) all prove that the victim suffered injuries to both legs and multiple lacerations on
his head. The injury on one leg which was a close fracture was caused by a blunt instrument like a piece of wood.
This injury was caused by Salvador Iguiron. The other leg suffered an open fracture caused by a sharp object like a
large knife or axe. This was caused by Gary Fantastico who used the tomahawk or axe on the victim. The multiple
lacerations on the head were caused by Gary, Rolly and Salvador as it was proven that they hit Elpidio on the head.
There is no sufficient evidence that the other, accused, namely Saligan Iguiron Y Malicsi, Tommy Ballesteros,
Nestor Ballesteros and Eugene Surigao harmed or injured the victim. Titus having sprayed Elpidio with the tear gas
is not sufficiently proven. Neither was the alleged blow by Titus, using a piece of wood, on the victim's private
organ sufficiently established as the medical certificate did not show any injury on that part of the body of the
victim.

The said injuries inflicted on the complainant after he went back to his sister Isabelita's house. When he kicked the
door, the melee began. And the sequence of the injuries is proven by victim's testimony. But it was a lopsided
attack as the victim was unarmed, while his attackers were all armed (rattan stick, tomahawk and lead pipe).
And the victim was also drunk. This establishes the element of abuse of superior strength. The suddenness of
the blow inflicted by Salvador on Elpidio when he entered the premises show that the former was ready to hit
the victim and was waiting for him to enter. It afforded Elpidio no means to defend himself. And Salvador
consciously adopted the said actuation. He hit Elpidio twice on the head. Treachery is present in this case and
must be considered an aggravating circumstance against Salvador Iguiron. Rolly Villanueva, Gary Fantastico
and Salvador Iguiron were all armed while Elpidio, inebriated, had nothing to defend himself with. There is clearly
present here the circumstance of abuse of superior strength. 23 (Emphasis supplied)
Abuse of superior strength is present whenever there is a notorious inequality of forces between the victim and the
aggressor, assuming a situation of superiority of strength notoriously advantageous for the aggressor selected or
taken advantage of by him in the commission of the crime." 24 "The fact that there were two persons who attacked
the victim does not per se establish that the crime was committed with abuse of superior strength, there being no
proof of the relative strength of the aggressors and the victim." 25 The evidence must establish that the assailants
purposely sought the advantage, or that they had the deliberate intent to use this advantage. 26 "To take advantage of
superior strength means to purposely use excessive force out of proportion to the means of defense available to the
person attacked."27 The appreciation of this aggravating circumstance depends on the age, size, and strength of the
parties.28chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Anent the penalty imposed by the RTC and affirmed by the CA, which is an indeterminate penalty of eight (8) years
and one (1) day as minimum, to ten (10) years as maximum and ordered them to pay actual damages of P17,300.00
and moral damages of P10,000.00, this Court finds an obvious error.

For the crime of attempted murder, the penalty shall be prision mayor, since Article 51 of the Revised Penal Code
states that a penalty lower by two degrees than that prescribed by law for the consummated felony shall be imposed
upon the principals in an attempt to commit a felony.29 Under the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the maximum of the
sentence shall be that which could be properly imposed in view of the attending circumstances, and the minimum
shall be within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by the Revised Penal Code. Absent any
mitigating or aggravating circumstance in this case, the maximum of the sentence should be within the range
of prision mayorin its medium term, which has a duration of eight (8) years and one (1) day to ten (10) years; and
that the minimum should be within the range of prision correccional, which has a duration of six (6) months and one
(1) day to six (6) years. Therefore, the penalty imposed should have been imprisonment from six (6) years of prision
correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum.

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review on Certiorari dated January 20, 2010 of petitioners Gary Fantastico and
Rolando Villanueva is hereby DENIED. Consequently, the Decision dated August 31, 2007 and Resolution dated
January 7, 2010 of the Court of Appeals are hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the petitioners
are sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment from six (6) years of prision correccional, as minimum,
to eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum. Petitioners are also ORDERED to pay P17,300.00
as actual damages, as well as P10,000.00 moral damages as originally ordered by the RTC. In addition, interest is
imposed on all damages awarded at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from date of finality of judgment until
fully paid.

SO ORDERED.cralawlawlibrary

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 194068 July 9, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
BENJIE CONSORTE y FRANCO, Accused-Appellant.

Related Topic: (death of the accused)

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

Before the Court is an appeal from the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated 27 May 2010 in CA-G.R. CR
HC No. 01806. The CA affirmed the Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 67, Binangonan, Rizal,
which found Benjie Consorte y Franco (appellant) guilty of Murder, sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion
perpetua and directed him to indemnify the heirs of Elizabeth Palmar (Elizabeth) the amounts of 50,000.00 as civil
indemnity and 29,500.00 as actual damages. The CA, however, modified the judgment of the trial court in that, in
addition to actual damages, appellant was further directed to pay moral and exemplary damages in the amounts of
50,000.00 and 25,000.00, respectively.

The Antecedents
As found by the CA, the facts ofthe case are as follows:

x x x [Appellant] was a former conductor of Elizabeth Palmars jeepney plying [the route of] Antipolo, Teresa and
Morong, Rizal. Sometime in June 2000, Elizabeths residence was robbed and several personal belongings[,]
including cash[,]were taken. Appellant was the only one who had access [to the] house, aside from [Elizabeths]
family. So [Elizabeths] brother x x x tailed appellant and found outthat the latter pawned her tv [sic] set to Frederic
Francisco. She then sued appellant for robbery. x x x A hearing was scheduled on January 23, 2001, but on the night
of January 22, 2001, Elizabeth was murdered.

On January 22, 2001, Jose Palmar, Elizabeths husband, instructed Rolando Visbe to haul feeds from Morong, Rizal
and deliver them to their piggery in x x x Binangonan, Rizal. Ashe [was driving] the jeepney, Rolando saw
Elizabeth together with her 14-year old daughter Myrna and [her] 3-year old nephew "Big Boy." They went with
him to deliver the feeds to [Binangonan]. On their way back to Morong, Rolando noticed appellant[,] who was
wearing a hat.When they got near him, Rolando slowed down and asked appellant where he was going. Appellant
did not reply. Rolando veered to the right toavoid hitting appellant. In the process, the jeepney ran over a stone, lost
its balance, and rolled [into] a ditch. While struggling to release the vehicle, Rolando heard a gunshot. He looked
around and saw appellant standing near the jeepneys left rear, holding a handgun. Appellant immediately fled. He
(Rolando) then heard Myrna x x x shouting "Ninong, may dugo si Nanay!" They rushed Elizabeth to Angono
District Hospital. But due to her fatal gunshot wound on the forehead, she died x x x.

Aneline Mendoza, a resident of Greenpark, Cainta, Rizal, testified that on January 22, 2001, around 8:45 pm while
on her way home, a stranger greeted her "magandang gabipo." He was carrying something wrapped in a black cloth
which looked like a gun. She was somewhat frightened so she let him walk ahead of her. She saw him turn to a
corner. Immediately after she entered her house, she heard a gunshot. She opened her window and saw the stranger,
standing by the side of the jeepney. The [stranger] immediately ran toward the direction of Elizabeths house. She
also heard the driver saying "Putang ina, sinong bumaril?" 2

Appellant was arrested the following day in Morong, Rizal while attending the hearing of the robbery case against
him.3 He was charged with murder under an Information which reads: That on or about the night of the 22 nd day of
January 2001 in the Municipality of Binangonan, Province ofRizal, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a deadly weapon (hand gun), withintent to kill and by
means of treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack,
assault and shoot one Elizabeth V. Palmar on the vital part of her body, thereby inflicting upon the latter mortal
wound which directly caused her death.4

When arraigned, appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge against him. Trial thereafter ensued, during which,
appellant interposed the defense of alibi. He claimed that at around 8 or 9 oclock in the evening of 22 January 2001,
he was at his brothers house in Antipolo. He had dinner with his brothers family and left at 10 oclock in the
evening, after his brother gave him 100.00 as fare. His sister-in-law corroborated his statement, testifying that
appellant was at their house on the questioned date from 5 to 10 p.m.

The Ruling of the RTC

The trial court found that the pieces of evidence presented by the prosecution leaves no doubt that it was indeed
appellant who shot Elizabeth. According to the RTC:

Against the eyewitness testimony who [sic] positively identified the [appellant] as the perpetrator of the crime, the
alibi of the defense will die. x x x

Other than himself[,] the accused presented only two witnesses, her [sic] sister-in-law and the forensic chemist. As
for the testimony of her [sic] sister-in-law, she could not reason out why, the [appellant] who is gainfully employed
as a tricycle driver would beasking for a one hundred peso fare, just to appear at the hearing [the following day]. Her
answers are full of open ends, which give [her testimony] little credence.
The testimony of the Forensic chemist is also not conclusive. She testified that the [appellant] testednegative for
powder burns. On crossexamination, she testified that the lack or presence of nitrates in the hands of the [appellant]
could be affectedby several factors, like cloth or coverings on the hand that fired the gun; gun fired at a downward
direction; wind velocity; efficiency of the gun; and finally[,] the kind of gun used[,] whether automatic or pistol.

xxxx

In a line of cases, the rulings on the weight and conclusiveness of [the] presence and absence of gunpowder in [sic]
the hands of the accused is dependent entirely on the evidencepresented [by] the prosecution as a whole. Absence or
lack of trace of gunpowder in [sic] the hands of the apparent shooter does not necessarily equate that he did not fire
a gun. This defense will not defeat what the two witnesses for the prosecution saw on the night of the shooting. 5

x x x On the element of treachery, the rulings has [sic] been consistent that in order for the court to appreciate
treachery it must be established by the prosecution that the victim did not have any opportunity to defend themselves
(sic), or that the attack was so sudden or immediate that the victims were in no position to defend or protect
themselves.

xxxx

In the case at bar, [appellant] took advantage of the situation when he shot the unsuspecting victim. The unexpected
attack on the victim rendered her unable and unprepared todefend herself by reason of the suddenness and severity
of the attack. [The] [f]acts [of this] case show that the victim [had] her back [to] her assailant when attacked, [and]
she was not aware of any danger on her part. She was likewise cuddling a baby in [sic] her lap when the shot was
fired. Clearly[,] she was in no position to make any defense.

The eyewitness testimony likewise sufficiently established that [appellant] consciously adopted the particular means,
method or form of attack[.] [A]ccused was armed and stealthily performed the criminal act at nighttime at an
unexpected time whilethe victim was defenseless. x x x Add to this scenario the fact that on January 23, 2005 [sic],
the [appellant] and [the] victim will meet at the Municipal Trial Court hearing for the robbery case filed by the
victim. Thisonly shows that the [appellant] took into consideration these factors[,] hence he was bent on committing
the crime on the day prior to the robbery hearing. [Appellant] therefore has set the time frame within when (sic) to
commit [the] crime, and on the said day x x x he did not resist in perpetrating the crime. There is no other
construction in this picture other that [sic] the fact [that] the shooting was treacherous and well planned. 6

The Ruling of the Court of Appeals

The CA dismissed the appeal on the ground that appellants attack on the credibility of prosecution witnesses
Rolando Visbe and Aneline Mendoza has no merit. The CA pointed out that:

x x x Rolando and Aneline never wavered in their respective testimonies regarding appellants presence in the situs
criminis and his possession of the gun before and after the fatal shooting of Elizabeth Palmar. Although Visbe may
have shouted "x x x, sinong bumaril?", it did not mean he did not recognize appellant. It was simply an instinctive
reaction of one who heard a gunshot in the middle of nowhere and saw his companion fatally wounded. At any rate,
Rolando did not ask any further question when right after the shooting, he saw appellant holding a gun beside the
jeepney he was driving. Rolando saw appellant twice that night and it was not improbable for him to remember
appellant. Precisely because of the unusual acts of violence committed right before his eyes, Rolando remembered
with a high degree of reliability appellants identity.

xxxx

True, Rolando and Aneline did not see appellant actually fire the gun on Elizabeth, but the circumstances
surrounding the incident unerringly point to him as the perpetrator, viz:
First. Appellant had an axe to grind against Elizabeth for filing a robbery case against him. Elizabeth got murdered
the night before the initial hearing of the case;

Second. Rolando saw appellant near the jeepneys left rear, holding a gun, right after he heard a gunshot;

Third. Right before the incident, Aneline saw appellant holding something in his hand wrapped in a black cloth,
which looked like a gun;

Fourth. Immediately after Aneline entered her house, she heard a gunshot and when she peeped through the window,
she saw appellant standing by the side of the jeepney where Elizabeths lifeless body was sprawled. Shortly after,
Aneline saw appellant running towards the direction of Elizabeths house. x x x;

Fifth. Notably, appellant himself did not accuse Rolando and Aneline of any [ill] motive to falsely testify against
him and cause his damnation for such a serious crime of murder. Although he claims their loyalty belonged to the
victim and her family, loyalty does not equate with perjury, let alone, persecution of an innocent peron [sic]. Settled
is the rule that when there is no evidence to show any dubious reason or improper motive why the prosecution
witnesses should testify falsely against the accused or implicate him in a serious offense, their testimonies deserve
full faith and credit.

xxxx

Appellant, nonetheless, claims that the negative result of the paraffin test done on him isproof of his innocence.

On this score, suffice it to state that the only thing a paraffin test can definitely establish is the presence or absence
of nitrates or nitrites on the hand. From this test alone, it cannotestablish that the source of the nitrates or nitrites was
the discharge of firearm.7 x x x

The CA likewise concurred with the trial court with respect to its finding on the presence of the aggravating
circumstance of treachery. According to the CA, the trial court correctly found that the two elements of treachery,
which are: (1) the employmentof means of execution that gives the person attacked no opportunity to defend himself
or retaliate; and (2) the deliberate or conscious adoption of the means of execution,are present in this case. In
addition to the foregoing, the CA granted moral and exemplary damages to the heirs of Elizabeth, aside from the
civil indemnity and actual damages previously granted by the trial court.

Our Ruling

We deny the appeal but modify the award of damages.

Both the CA and the trial court haveexhaustively discussed the merits of the case at bench and concur on their
findings and conclusions. In this connection, it bears repeating that factual findings of the trial court, when affirmed
by the CA, are generally binding and conclusive upon the Supreme Court. 8 The rule is that, the findings of the trial
court, its calibration of the testimonies of the witnesses, and its assessment of the probative weight thereof, as well
as its conclusions anchored on such findings are accorded respect, if not, conclusive effect. This specially holds true
if such findings were affirmed by the appellate court. When the trial courts findings have been affirmed by the
appellate court, as in the case at bar, said findings are generally binding upon us. We find no compelling reason in
this case to depart from the general rule.9

In the first place, appellant relies on alibi for his defense. As invariably held by this Court, however, alibi is an
inherently weak defense and has always been viewed with disfavor by the courts due to the facility with which it can
be concocted.10 Indeed, denial is an intrinsically weak defense which must be buttressed withstrong evidence of non-
culpability to merit credibility. 11 For alibi to prosper, appellantmust prove not only that he was at some other place
when the crime was committed but that it was physically impossible for him to be at the locus criminisat the time of
its commission.12 In the case at bench, the defense failed to present convincing evidence to reinforce appellants
denial and alibi. It is significant to note that the distance between Binangonan (the scene of the crime) and Antipolo
(where appellant claimed hewas at the time of the incident in question) is only about twenty (20) kilometers.

In People v. Bation,13 this Court held that there was no physical impossibility for the appellant to be atthe scene of
the crime, considering that appellant was merely twenty-six (26) kilometers away from said scene. In People v.
Ignas,14 the distance was even much farther:

x x x the defense admitted that the distance between La Trinidad, Benguet and Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya is 79
kilometers, which can be negotiated in 4 or 5 hours. Clearly, it was not physically impossible for appellant to be at
the locus criminisat the time of the killing. Hence, the defense of alibi must fail.

"Physical impossibility in relation toalibi takes into consideration not only the geographical distance between the
scene of the crime and the place where accused maintains he was, but more importantly, the accessibility between
these points. In this case, the element of physical impossibility of appellants presence that fateful night at the crime
scene has not been established."15

More importantly, the Court gives even less probative weight to a defense of alibi when it is corroborated by friends
and relatives. One can easily fabricate an alibi and ask friends and relatives to corroborate it. When a defense
witness is a relative of an accused whose defense is alibi, as in this case, courts have more reason to view such
testimony with skepticism.16

In any case, the positive identification of the appellant by witnesses destroys the defense of alibi.1wphi1 Alibi
warrants the least credibility, or none at all and cannot prevail over the positive identification of the appellant by the
prosecution witnesses.17 Absent any ill motive on the part of witnesses, their positive identification of the
appellantas the perpetrator of the crime prevails over the defense of denial or alibi. 18

Here, two witnesses established appellants presence at the scene of the crime and the fact that he had, in his
possession at that time, a gun. While, as pointed out by the CA, the said witnesses did not actually see appellant fire
the gun at Elizabeth,the circumstances surrounding the incident, as enumerated by the CA, "unerringly points to him
as the perpetrator."

Indeed, no prosecution witness has actually seen the commission of the crime. But jurisprudence tells us that direct
evidence of the crime is not the only matrix from which a trial court may draw its conclusion and finding of guilt.
The rules on evidence allow a trial court to rely on circumstantial evidence to support its conclusion of guilt. 19The
lack of direct evidence does not ipso facto bar the finding of guilt against the appellant. As long as the prosecution
establishes the appellantsparticipation in the crime through credible and sufficient circumstantial evidence that
leads to the inescapable conclusion that the appellant committedthe imputed crime, the latter should be
convicted.20 In the case at bar, those circumstances were enumerated by the CA in its decision, as follows:

First. Appellant had an axe to grind against Elizabeth for filing a robbery case against him. Elizabeth got murdered
the night before the initial hearing of the case;

Second. Rolando saw appellant near the jeepneys left rear, holding a gun, right after he heard a gunshot;

Third. Right before the incident, Aneline saw appellant holding something in his hand wrapped in a black cloth,
which looked like a gun;

Fourth. Immediately after Aneline entered her house, she heard a gunshot and when she peeped through the window,
she saw appellant standing by the side of the jeepney where Elizabeths lifeless body was sprawled. Shortly after,
Aneline saw appellant running towards the direction of Elizabeths house. x x x;

Fifth. Notably, appellant himself did not accuse Rolando and Aneline of any [ill] motive to falsely testify against
him and cause his damnation for such a serious crime of murder. Although he claims their loyalty belonged to the
victim and her family, loyalty does not equate with perjury, let alone, persecution of an innocent peron [sic]. Settled
is the rule that when there is no evidence to show any dubious reason or improper motive why the prosecution
witnesses should testify falsely against the accused or implicate him in a serious offense, their testimonies deserve
full faith and credit.

"[C]ircumstantial evidence is sufficient to sustain a conviction if (i) there is more than one circumstance; (ii) the
facts from which the inference is derived are proven; and (iii) the combination of all circumstances is such as to
produce conviction beyond reasonable doubt. All the foregoing elements were sufficiently established in this
case."21

Anent the amount of damages, we sustain the grant of actual damages in the amount of 29,500.00, the same being
supported by official receipts. We likewise affirm the CAs award of 50,000.00 as moral damages to the heirs of
the victim in addition to civil indemnity. The grant of moral damages is mandatory in cases of murder and homicide
without need of allegation and proof other thanthe death of the victim. 22

In conformity with current jurisprudence, however, we increase the amount of civil indemnity from 50,000.00 to
75,000.00.23 Civil indeminity is given without need of proof other than the fact of death as a result of the crime and
proof of appellants responsibility for it.24 We also increase the award of exemplary damages granted by the CA
from 25,000.00 to 30,000.00 consisted with prevailing jurisprudence. 25

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 27 May 2010 in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 01806 is
AFFIRMED with the following MODIFICATIONS (1) that the amount of civil indemnity is increased from
PS0,000.00 to 75,000.00; and (2) that the amount of exemplary damages is increased from 25,000.00 to
30,000.00. An interest, at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum shall be imposed on all the damages awarded in
this case from the date of finality of this judgment until they are fully paid. 26

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 179280 August 27, 2009

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee,


vs.
PEDRO CALANGI alias HAPLAS, Appellant.

Related Topic: (death of the accused: effects)

Related Topic: (death of the accused)

DECISION

CARPIO MORALES, J.:

Pedro Calangi (appellant) was charged before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Gumaca, Quezon with two (2)
counts of rape of his daughter-in-law AAA and another two (2) counts of rape of his granddaughter BBB, 1allegedly
committed as follows:

CRIM. CASE NO. 6886-G


"The undersigned accuses Pedro Calangi @ Haplas (prisoner), of the crime of rape, committed as follows:

That on or about the month of July 1996, at Sitio Mangahan, Barangay Pagsangahan, Municipality of San Francisco,
Province of Quezon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused,
armed with handgun of unknown caliber, with lewd design, by means of force, violence, threats and intimidation,
did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of one [AAA], his daughter-in-law,
against her will.

CONTRARY TO LAW."2 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

CRIM. CASE NO. 6887-G

"The undersigned accuses Pedro Calangi @ Haplas (prisoner), of the crime of rape, committed as follows:

That on or about the month of July 1996, at Sitio Mangahan, Barangay Pagsangahan, Municipality of San Francisco,
Province of Quezon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused,
armed with handgun of unknown caliber, with lewd design, by means of force, violence, threats and intimidation,
did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of one [AAA], his daughter-in-law,
against her will.

CONTRARY TO LAW."3 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

CRIM. CASE NO. 6888-G

"The undersigned accuses Pedro Calangi alias Haplas (prisoner), of the crime of rape, in violation of Article 266-B
of Republic Act No. 8353, committed as follows:

That on or about the month of August 1999, at Sitio Mangahan, Barangay Pagsangahan, Municipality of San
Francisco, Province of Quezon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, armed with a firearm of unknown caliber with lewd design, by means of force, violence, threats and
intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of one [BBB], his
granddaughter who is within his second degree of consanguinity, a minor, 15 years of age, against her will.

CONTRARY TO LAW."4 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

CRIM. CASE NO. 6889-G

"The undersigned accuses Pedro Calangi alias Haplas (prisoner), of the crime of rape, in violation of Article 266-B
of Republic Act No. 8353, committed as follows:

That on or about the month of August 1999, at Sitio Mangahan, Barangay Pagsangahan, Municipality of San
Francisco, Province of Quezon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, armed with a firearm of unknown caliber with lewd design, by means of force, violence, threats and
intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of one [BBB], his
granddaughter who is within his second degree of consanguinity, a minor, 15 years of age, against her will.

CONTRARY TO LAW."5 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

From the evidence for the prosecution, the following version is established:

At 5:00 p.m. of a day in July 1996, while AAA, a mother of two, was cooking at her house in Sitio Mangahan,
Barangay Pagsangahan, San Francisco, Quezon, appellant who was brandishing a small gun, arrived. He asked AAA
if his son, who is her husband, was at home, to which she replied in the negative. Appellant at once embraced her
and removed her clothes. As he poked his gun at her, he succeeded in having carnal knowledge with her. Having
been overcome by fear, she could not shout or fight him off.

Appellant, who succeeded in having sexual intercourse with AAA a second time6 on the same occasion, was "on top
of her" for four hours.7

AAA reported her defilement to her husband CCC who told her to "just let the thing pass and let the law do
something about it." She and CCC eventually reported the matter to the authorities, in order to deter appellant from
doing the same to others. As to when she reported the rape, she could not remember. She was later to learn that
appellant had also raped her eldest daughter BBB.8

As regards the charge complaint of AAAs daughter BBB, by BBBs account, appellant held her hands, removed her
clothes, and touched her breasts before he inserted his penis in her vagina. How old she was and when she was raped
by appellant, she does not remember. Only after appellant abused her a second time did she report to her mother
AAA what befell her. She in fact begot a child who was adopted by the Department of Social Welfare and
Development.9

CCC, AAAs husband and father of BBB, could not remember when BBB actually reported the incidents of rape to
him, but he recalled that it was when she was about to give birth. 10 He remembered that AAA subsequently told him
that she was also sexually abused by appellant.11 Despite those reports, he did not confront his father-appellant as he
wanted him to himself disclose them.12 He later sought assistance from a barangay captain and kagawad who
assisted him in reporting to the police.13

BBB was examined by Dr. Teofista Ojeda on March 1, 200014 when she was found to be five to six months
pregnant.

Upon the other hand, appellant, interposing alibi, denied going in July 1996 to the house of AAA which can be
reached on foot in two hours. He likewise denied raping AAA, or BBB whom he described as "abnormal." He could
not, however, think of any reason why his son CCC, together with AAA and BBB, would charge him of rape. 15

Defense witnesses Jonaskie Moromoto and Ric Ric Revolio averred that they were with appellant at the time the
alleged rape of AAA took place in July 1996.16

By Decision17 of June 23, 2005, the trial court convicted appellant in all cases, disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE AND IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the court finds accused PEDRO CALANGI guilty of
Rape of [AAA] for two counts defined and penalized under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by
R.A. [No.] 7659 in Criminal Cases Nos. 6886-G and 6887-G and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of
RECLUSION PERPETUA and to pay the amount of Php50,000.00 as moral damages and Php50,000.00 as civil
indemnity for each count of rape.

The Court finds PEDRO CALANGI guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Rape of [BBB] for two (2)
counts defined and penalized under Articles 266-A and 266-B of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R.A. [No.]
8353 in criminal cases nos. 6888-G and 6889-G and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of DEATH and to pay
the amount of Php75,000.00 as civil indemnity and Php50,000.00 as moral damages and Php25,000.00 as exemplary
damages for each count of rape.

SO ORDERED.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals,18 by Decision19 of March 21, 2007, acquitted appellant in Criminal Case Nos.
6887-G and 6889-G for insufficiency of evidence, but affirmed appellants conviction in Criminal Case Nos. 6886-
G and 6888-G of which AAA and BBB were the private complainants, respectively. Thus the appellate court
disposed:

WHEREFORE, the June 23, 2005 Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 61, Gumaca, Quezon, in Criminal
Case Nos.6886-G to 6889-G, is hereby MODIFIED to read as follows:

WHEREFORE, in Criminal Cases [sic] No. 6886-G, finding the accused Pedro Calangi guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime of Rape committed against [AAA], the Court hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of
reclusion perpetua and to pay the amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages and P50,000.00 as civil indemnity.

In Criminal Case No. 6887-G, there being no sufficient evidence, the Court hereby acquits the accused.

In Criminal Cases [sic] No. 6888-G, finding the accused Pedro Calangi guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime
of Rape committed against [BBB], the Court hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to
pay the amount [of] P50,000.00 as moral damages and P50,000.00 as civil indemnity.

In Criminal Case No. 6889-G, there being no sufficient evidence, the Court hereby acquits the accused.

SO ORDERED.

In affirming appellants conviction in Criminal Case Nos. 6886-G and 6888-G, the appellate court noted that

[w]hat makes the complaints of the two victims all the more credible is the fact that the accused is the father-in-law
of [AAA] and the grandfather of [BBB]. Even his very own son, [CCC], took the witness stand against him even if
his testimony was only on the fact that [AAA] immediately reported what his father did to her and that he reported
the crimes to the kagawads in their place. A son, a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter would not falsely impute
the offense of rape against him if it were not true. It is hardly conceivable that they would fabricate matters and
undergo the travails of a public trial, exposing themselves to humiliation and embarrassment by revealing what they
underwent because of his insatiable lust. x x x x. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) 20

Hence, the present appeal, appellant proffering the following

ASSIGNMENT OF ERRORS

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF RAPE OF


[BBB] DESPITE THE INDEFINITENESS OF TIME WHEN THE ALLEGED RAPE INCIDENTS WERE
COMMITTED.

xxxx

III

THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT OF RAPE IN


CRIMINAL CASE NOS. [6886]-G AND [6888]-G WHEN THE LATTERS GUILT WAS NOT PROVEN
BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.21 (Underscoring supplied)

Appellant contends that the prosecution failed to prove that he twice raped BBB sometime in August 1999 as
alleged in each of the last two Informations, quoted above as BBB could not even recall the month or the year when
the alleged rapes took place; and that even if BBBs pregnancy were true, this does not necessarily mean that he
raped her and was responsible for her pregnancy. He adds that the prosecution did not even present the birth
certificate of the purported child.22

Appellant underscores that due consideration should be given to his defense of alibi in view of the glaring
inconsistencies and improbabilities of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses.

The Solicitor General counters that the alleged inconsistencies in the private complainants testimonies do not delve
on the elements of rape; that as against the complainants positive identification of appellant as the perpetrator of the
crimes, the latter merely raised denial and alibi as defense; and that the complainants testimonies, corroborated by
medical findings, sufficiently prove that, indeed, they had been ravished. 23

During the pendency of the present appeal, the Court received on June 19, 2009 a communication from the Bureau
of Corrections informing that appellant died on April 1, 2009 at the National Bilibid Prisons Hospital in Muntinlupa
City.

In view of appellants death, the dismissal of the cases under review, Criminal Case Nos. 6886-G and 6888-G is in
order. The dismissal by reason of appellants death has the force and effect of an acquittal, 24 the constitutionally
mandated presumption of innocence in his favor not having been overcome by a final finding of guilt. His civil
liability ex delicto is accordingly extinguished.25

The intervening death and resulting absolution of appellant from secular accountabilities notwithstanding, the Court
is not precluded from reviewing the present cases, especially as it finds the appeal to be impressed with merit, in
order to vindicate his name. The Court thus resolved to take a judicious review of the evidence presented in the
cases.

While in rape cases, the lone testimony of the supposed victim is enough to sustain a conviction, the testimony must
meet the test of credibility which requires that it should not only come from the mouth of a credible witness but
should likewise be credible and reasonable in itself.26 It must conform to human knowledge, observation and
experience, and whatever is repugnant to these is outside of juridical cognizance.27 The Court finds that the
testimony of BBB does not measure up to this test of credibility.

Consider the following testimony of BBB, quoted verbatim:

Q [BBB], was there a thing or had you been violated by your grandfather?

A Yes, Madam.

Q When you said "pinagsamantalahan," or you had been violated, what did he do to you?

A He held my hand

Q Then after holding your hands, what did he do?

A He removed my clothes.

Q After he removed your clothes, what else did he do?

A None, Madam.

Q Did he undress himself also?

A Yes, Madam.
Q And after he had undressed himself, did he touch you?

A Yes, Madam.

Q What part of your body did he touch you?

A Here (witness pointing [to] her front body)

Q Did he touch your breast?

A Yes, Madam.

Q Did he touch your private part?

A Yes, Madam.

Q And aside from holding your private parts, did he insert his penis to your vagina?

A Yes, Madam.

Q What did you feel?

A None, Madam.

xxxx

Q For how many times did he do that to you?

A Twice, Madam.

Q Could you still remember when?

A No Madam.

Q Miss Witness, did you report what he did to you to anybody in your family?

A Yes, Madam.

Q To whom did you report what your grandfather had done to you?

A To my mother.

Q And what did your mother tell you?

A None, Madam. (Italics, emphasis and underscoring supplied) 28

xxxx

Q After he removed your shorts and panty, and [after] he removed his brief, what did your grandfather do
to you?
A He put himself on top of me.

Q What did he do on your top?

A He held my breast.

Q After holding your breast, what did he do next?

A None.

Q What do you mean by none?

A None, sir.

Q Why, did you not say he inserted his penis to your vagina?

A Yes, sir, I said it.

Q After he inserted [h]is penis into your vagina, what did he do?

A He put himself on top of me.

Q Did he move up and down?

A Yes, sir.

Q How long if you know?

A For quite a long time.

Q What time of the day was that?

A I donot know.

Q Did you eat your breakfast already?

A Not yet, sir.

Q Very early in the morning?

A Yes, sir.

Q And you donot know the date?

A Yes, sir.

Q And you donot know the year?

A No sir.29
xxxx

Q When did you give birth to a child?

A I donot know, sir.

Q How many child do you have?

A Only one, sir.

Q Have you seen your child?

A No, sir. (Italics, emphasis and underscoring supplied) 30

The prosecution, in a bid to explain BBBs stunted narrative, informed that she was only able to finish Grade 1,
hence, her low intelligence.31 To be sure, the Court had ruled that the mental deficiency or low intelligence of a
victim does not lessen her credibility as long as she has communicated her ordeal clearly and consistently. 32 In
BBBs case, however, the Court finds her assertions to be utterly vague and disjointed for the most part, despite the
leading questions thrown her way.

Human experience teaches that even mentally deficient persons or individuals having low intelligence can still
narrate their ordeals in detailed manner and recall painful experiences like any average individual could. Here, BBB
notably could not even recall feeling anything after appellant supposedly penetrated her private part.

Indeed, BBB left out rudimentary particulars that would establish that appellant sexually abused her. The fact is, it
was the prosecutor who supplied the details of BBBs supposed ordeal to which she merely affirmed or replied with
irresponsive answers.

Remarkably, the prosecution failed to establish the date or even the year when the crime was committed. It thus
comes as a surprise how the prosecution was able to allege in the Information that BBB was raped on two occasions
in August 1999. Even in her Sinumpaang Salaysay,33 BBB did not mention the date of the alleged rape as it was her
father who supplied the same.34

As for AAA, who was fairly descriptive of the supposed rape done on her by appellant, her testimony centered on
another alleged rape that occurred in 1986. Thus in 2001 when she took the witness stand, AAA testified as follows:

Q Now, Mrs. Witness, you said you were raped two times by your father-in-law Pedro Calangi, as a result
of the said rape, did you get pregnant?

A Yes, Mam.

Q How old is the child now?

A Twelve (12) years old, Mam.

Q Mrs. Witness, how about [BBB] after she was raped by her grandfather, did she get pregnant?

A Yes, Mam.

Q How many times [was] [BBB] . . . raped by her grandfather?

A Two (2) times, Mam.


Q Can you remember the dates when she was raped?

A No, Mam. (Italics, emphasis and underscoring supplied)35

On further examination by the prosecutor, AAA appeared confused all the more.

Q Mrs. Witness, during the direct examination, you were asked how old was the child of yours fathered by
Pedro Calangi whom you said had raped you in 1996? Can you explain why you said that the child was
twelve years old when you were raped in 1996?

RECORD: NO ANSWER from the witness

PROS. FLORIDO:

I withdraw the question, the witness may probably not understand the question.

Q Actually when was the first time that you were raped by your father-in-law[?] [W]hat year was that?

A 1986. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)36

On cross-examination, AAA recounted:

Q For how long was he on top of you?

A About four (4) hours, sir.

Q You mean to say mrs. witness, that he stayed on your top [sic] for four (4) hours?

A Yes, sir.

Q And for that length of almost four hours, he continued the pumping?

A Yes, sir.

Q And how many times were there ejaculation?

A Many, sir.

xxxx

Q After that almost four (4) hours this Mr. Calangi was on your top [sic], what did he do?

A He went home, sir.

Q Now, Mrs. witness, for purposes of curiousity [sic], was he very tired after he went down from you?

A Yes, sir.

Q How did you know that he was tired?

ATTY. HASIM:
We wanted [sic] to manifest that it takes a long time for the witness to answer, up to now theres no answer
given.

xxxx

Q How about the food that you are cooking?

A It was burned, sir.

Q How about your two (2) children who were inside your house for that almost length of time/hours, what
did they do?

A They were crying, sir.

Q Where were they crying?

A Inside our house and they were calling me, sir.

Q Did you not say that you become [sic] pregnant because of that rape of your father-in-law?

A Yes, sir.

Q When did you deliver that child?

A 1986, sir.

Q What month in 1986 did you give birth to your child as a result of the rape?

A 1987, sir. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)37

Clearly, AAAs narration centered on a purported sexual episode that occurred in 1986, not in July 1996 as alleged
in each of the Information in Criminal Case No. 6886-G. Even if a rape in 1986 is proved, still, appellant cannot be
convicted of rape in said case without violating his right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation
against him.38 The disparity of the dates is too wide to prejudice him in the preparation of his defense.1avvphi1

More. AAAs claim that appellant was on top of her "continuously pumping" for four (4) hours in the course of
which her two children were crying and calling her name is incredulous. Would not her childrens cries and calls
have at least given cause for her to free herself? And would not the same have curbed appellants libido? And since,
it would appear that her children were aware of what happened to her, why was not the incident immediately
reported?

Respecting the medical findings of Dr. Ojeda, the same bear no probative value on the case. If any, they merely
dinned in on BBBs purported pregnancy but not on the fact of rape.

In fine, as its witnesses contradictory and confounding statements on important and material details erode the
integrity of their testimonies, the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt appellants guilt.

WHEREFORE, Criminal Cases Nos. 6886-G and 6888-G against the late PEDRO CALANGI alias "HAPLAS" are,
in light of the foregoing discussions, DISMISSED.

Costs de oficio.
SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Baguio City

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 168641 April 27, 2007 (Article 100 RPC)

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Petitioner,


vs.
CLEMENTE BAUTISTA, Respondent.

Related Topic: (prescription of crimes)

DECISION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Before us is a Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by the People of the Philippines assailing the Decision1 of the
Court of Appeals (CA) dated June 22, 2005 in CA-G.R. SP No. 72784, reversing the Order of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC), Branch 19, Manila and dismissing the criminal case for slight physical injuries against respondent on
the ground that the offense charged had already prescribed.

The undisputed facts are as follows.

On June 12, 1999, a dispute arose between respondent and his co-accused Leonida Bautista, on one hand, and
private complainant Felipe Goyena, Jr., on the other.

Private complainant filed a Complaint with the Office of the Barangay of Malate, Manila, but no settlement was
reached. The barangay chairman then issued a Certification to file action dated August 11, 1999. 2

On August 16, 1999, private complainant filed with the Office of the City Prosecutor (OCP) a Complaint for slight
physical injuries against herein respondent and his co-accused. After conducting the preliminary investigation,
Prosecutor Jessica Junsay-Ong issued a Joint Resolution dated November 8, 1999 recommending the filing of an
Information against herein respondent. Such recommendation was approved by the City Prosecutor, represented by
First Assistant City Prosecutor Eufrocino A. Sulla, but the date of such approval cannot be found in the records. The
Information was, however, filed with the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Manila, Branch 28 only on June 20,
2000.

Respondent sought the dismissal of the case against him on the ground that by the time the Information was filed,
the 60-day period of prescription from the date of the commission of the crime, that is, on June 12, 1999 had already
elapsed. The MeTC ruled that the offense had not yet prescribed.

Respondent elevated the issue to the RTC via a Petition for Certiorari, but the RTC denied said petition and
concurred with the opinion of the MeTC.

Respondent then filed a Petition for Certiorari with the CA. On June 22, 2005, the CA rendered its Decision
wherein it held that, indeed, the 60-day prescriptive period was interrupted when the offended party filed a
Complaint with the OCP of Manila on August 16, 1999. Nevertheless, the CA concluded that the offense had
prescribed by the time the Information was filed with the MeTC, reasoning as follows:
In the case on hand, although the approval of the Joint Resolution of ACP Junsay-Ong bears no date, it effectively
terminated the proceedings at the OCP. Hence, even if the 10-day period for the CP or ACP Sulla, his designated
alter ego, to act on the resolution is extended up to the utmost limit, it ought not have been taken as late as the last
day of the year 1999. Yet, the information was filed with the MeTC only on June 20, 2000, or already nearly six (6)
months into the next year. To use once again the language of Article 91 of the RPC, the proceedings at the CPO
was "unjustifiably stopped for any reason not imputable to him (the accused)" for a time very much more
than the prescriptive period of only two (2) months. The offense charged had, therefore, already prescribed when
filed with the court on June 20, 2000. x x x3 (Emphasis supplied)

The dispositive portion of the assailed CA Decision reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, we hereby REVERSE and SET ASIDE the appealed Orders of both courts below and Criminal
Case No. 344030-CR, entitled: "People of the Philippines, Plaintiff, -versus- Clemente Bautista and Leonida
Bautista, Accused," is ordered DISMISSED. Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.4

Petitioner now comes before this Court seeking the reversal of the foregoing CA Decision. The Court gives due
course to the petition notwithstanding the fact that petitioner did not file a Motion for Reconsideration of the
decision of the CA before the filing of herein petition. It is not a condition sine qua non for the filing of a petition for
review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.5

The Court finds merit in the petition.

It is not disputed that the filing of the Complaint with the OCP effectively interrupted the running of the 60-day
prescriptive period for instituting the criminal action for slight physical injuries. However, the sole issue for
resolution in this case is whether the prescriptive period began to run anew after the investigating prosecutors
recommendation to file the proper criminal information against respondent was approved by the City Prosecutor.

The answer is in the negative.

Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code provides thus:

Art. 91. Computation of prescription of offenses. - The period of prescription shall commence to run from the day on
which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents, and shall be interrupted by the
filing of the complaint or information, and shall commence to run again when such proceedings terminate
without the accused being convicted or acquitted, or are unjustifiably stopped for any reason not imputable
to him.

The term of prescription shall not run when the offender is absent from the Philipppine Archipelago. (Emphasis
supplied)

The CA and respondent are of the view that upon approval of the investigating prosecutor's recommendation for the
filing of an information against respondent, the period of prescription began to run again. The Court does not agree.
It is a well-settled rule that the filing of the complaint with the fiscals office suspends the running of the
prescriptive period.6

The proceedings against respondent was not terminated upon the City Prosecutor's approval of the investigating
prosecutor's recommendation that an information be filed with the court. The prescriptive period remains tolled from
the time the complaint was filed with the Office of the Prosecutor until such time that respondent is either convicted
or acquitted by the proper court.
The Office of the Prosecutor miserably incurred some delay in filing the information but such mistake or negligence
should not unduly prejudice the interests of the State and the offended party. As held in People v. Olarte,7 it is unjust
to deprive the injured party of the right to obtain vindication on account of delays that are not under his control. All
that the victim of the offense may do on his part to initiate the prosecution is to file the requisite complaint. 8

The constitutional right of the accused to a speedy trial cannot be invoked by the petitioner in the present petition
considering that the delay occurred not in the conduct of preliminary investigation or trial in court but in the filing of
the Information after the City Prosecutor had approved the recommendation of the investigating prosecutor to file
the information.

The Office of the Solicitor General does not offer any explanation as to the delay in the filing of the information.
The Court will not be made as an unwitting tool in the deprivation of the right of the offended party to vindicate a
wrong purportedly inflicted on him by the mere expediency of a prosecutor not filing the proper information in due
time.

The Court will not tolerate the prosecutors apparent lack of a sense of urgency in fulfilling their mandate. Under the
circumstances, the more appropriate course of action should be the filing of an administrative disciplinary action
against the erring public officials.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby GRANTED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No.
72784 is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE and the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila in Civil
Case No. 02-103990 is hereby REINSTATED.

Let the Secretary of the Department of Justice be furnished a copy of herein Decision for appropriate action against
the erring officials.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 163753 January 15, 2014

DR. ENCARNACION C. LUMANTAS, M.D., Petitioner,


vs.
HANZ CALAPIZ, REPRESENTED BY HIS PARENTS, HILARIO CALAPIZ, JR. and HERLITA
CALAPIZ,Respondent.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

The acquittal of the accused does not necessarily mean his absolution from civil liability.

The Case

In this appeal, an accused desires the reversal of the decision promulgated on February 20, 2003, 1 whereby the Court
of Appeals (CA) affirmed the judgment rendered on August 6, 1999 by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 13,
in Oroquieta City ordering him to pay moral damages despite his acquittal of the crime of reckless imprudence
resulting in serious physical injuries charged against him.2

Antecedents
On January 16, 1995, Spouses Hilario Calapiz, Jr. and Herlita Calapiz brought their 8-year-old son, Hanz Calapiz
(Hanz), to the Misamis Occidental Provincial Hospital, Oroquieta City, for an emergency appendectomy. Hanz was
attended to by the petitioner, who suggested to the parents that Hanz also undergo circumcision at no added cost to
spare him the pain. With the parents consent, the petitioner performed the coronal type of circumcision on Hanz
after his appendectomy. On the following day, Hanz complained of pain in his penis, which exhibited blisters. His
testicles were swollen. The parents noticed that the child urinated abnormally after the petitioner forcibly removed
the catheter, but the petitioner dismissed the abnormality as normal. On January 30, 1995, Hanz was discharged
from the hospital over his parents protestations, and was directed to continue taking antibiotics.

On February 8, 1995, Hanz was confined in a hospital because of the abscess formation between the base and the
shaft of his penis. Presuming that the ulceration was brought about by Hanzs appendicitis, the petitioner referred
him to Dr. Henry Go, an urologist, who diagnosed the boy to have a damaged urethra. Thus, Hanz underwent
cystostomy, and thereafter was operated on three times to repair his damaged urethra.

When his damaged urethra could not be fully repaired and reconstructed, Hanzs parents brought a criminal charge
against the petitioner for reckless imprudence resulting to serious physical injuries. On April 17, 1997, the
information3 was filed in the Municipal Trial Court in Cities of Oroquieta City (MTCC), to which the latter pleaded
not guilty on May 22, 1998.4 Under the order of April 30, 1999, the case was transferred to the RTC pursuant to
Supreme Court Circular No. 11-99.5

At the trial, the Prosecution presented several witnesses, including Dr. Rufino Agudera as an expert witness and as
the physician who had operated on Hanz twice to repair the damaged urethra. Dr. Agudera testified that Hanz had
been diagnosed to have urethral stricture and cavernosal injury left secondary to trauma that had necessitated the
conduct of two operations to strengthen and to lengthen the urethra. Although satisfactorily explaining that the
injury to the urethra had been caused by trauma, Dr. Agudera could not determine the kind of trauma that had
caused the injury.

In his defense, the petitioner denied the charge. He contended that at the time of his examination of Hanz on January
16, 1995, he had found an accumulation of pus at the vicinity of the appendix two to three inches from the penis that
had required immediate surgical operation; that after performing the appendectomy, he had circumcised Hanz with
his parents consent by using a congo instrument, thereby debunking the parents claim that their child had been
cauterized; that he had then cleared Hanz on January 27, 1995 once his fever had subsided; that he had found no
complications when Hanz returned for his follow up check-up on February 2, 1995; and that the abscess formation
between the base and the shaft of the penis had been brought about by Hanzs burst appendicitis.

Ruling of the RTC

In its decision rendered on August 6, 1999,6 the RTC acquitted the petitioner of the crime charged for insufficiency
of the evidence. It held that the Prosecutions evidence did not show the required standard of care to be observed by
other members of the medical profession under similar circumstances. Nonetheless, the RTC ruled that the petitioner
was liable for moral damages because there was a preponderance of evidence showing that Hanz had received the
injurious trauma from his circumcision by the petitioner. The decision disposed as follows:

WHEREFORE, for insufficiency of evidence, this court renders judgment acquitting the accused, Dr. Encarnacion
Lumantas, of reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries, but ordering him to pay Hanz Calapiz
50,000.00 as moral damages. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Ruling of the CA

On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC,7 sustaining the award of moral damages. It opined that even if the petitioner
had been acquitted of the crime charged, the acquittal did not necessarily mean that he had not incurred civil liability
considering that the Prosecution had preponderantly established the sufferings of Hanz as the result of the
circumcision.

The petitioner moved for reconsideration, but the CA denied the motion on April 28, 2004. 8

Hence, this appeal.

Issue

Whether the CA erred in affirming the petitioners civil liability despite his acquittal of the crime of reckless
imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries.

Ruling

The petition for review lacks merit.

It is axiomatic that every person criminally liable for a felony is also civilly liable.9 Nevertheless, the acquittal of an
accused of the crime charged does not necessarily extinguish his civil liability. In Manantan v. Court of
Appeals,10the Court elucidates on the two kinds of acquittal recognized by our law as well as on the different effects
of acquittal on the civil liability of the accused, viz:

Our law recognizes two kinds of acquittal, with different effects on the civil liability of the accused.1wphi1 First is
an acquittal on the ground that the accused is not the author of the act or omission complained of. This instance
closes the door to civil liability, for a person who has been found to be not the perpetrator of any act or omission
cannot and can never be held liable for such act or omission. There being no delict, civil liability ex delicto is out of
the question, and the civil action, if any, which may be instituted must be based on grounds other than the delict
complained of. This is the situation contemplated in Rule 111 of the Rules of Court. The second instance is an
acquittal based on reasonable doubt on the guilt of the accused. In this case, even if the guilt of the accused has not
been satisfactorily established, he is not exempt from civil liability which may be proved by preponderance of
evidence only.

The Rules of Court requires that in case of an acquittal, the judgment shall state "whether the evidence of the
prosecution absolutely failed to prove the guilt of the accused or merely failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable
doubt. In either case, the judgment shall determine if the act or omission from which the civil liability might arise
did not exist."11

Conformably with the foregoing, therefore, the acquittal of an accused does not prevent a judgment from still being
rendered against him on the civil aspect of the criminal case unless the court finds and declares that the fact from
which the civil liability might arise did not exist.

Although it found the Prosecutions evidence insufficient to sustain a judgment of conviction against the petitioner
for the crime charged, the RTC did not err in determining and adjudging his civil liability for the same act
complained of based on mere preponderance of evidence. 12 In this connection, the Court reminds that the acquittal
for insufficiency of the evidence did not require that the complainants recovery of civil liability should be through
the institution of a separate civil action for that purpose.13

The petitioners contention that he could not be held civilly liable because there was no proof of his negligence
deserves scant consideration. The failure of the Prosecution to prove his criminal negligence with moral certainty
did not forbid a finding against him that there was preponderant evidence of his negligence to hold him civilly
liable.14 With the RTC and the CA both finding that Hanz had sustained the injurious trauma from the hands of the
petitioner on the occasion of or incidental to the circumcision, and that the trauma could have been avoided, the
Court must concur with their uniform findings. In that regard, the Court need not analyze and weigh again the
evidence considered in the proceedings a quo. The Court, by virtue of its not being a trier of facts, should now
accord the highest respect to the factual findings of the trial court as affirmed by the CA in the absence of a clear
showing by the petitioner that such findings were tainted with arbitrariness, capriciousness or palpable error.

Every person is entitled to the physical integrity of his body.1wphi1 Although we have long advocated the view
that any physical injury, like the loss or diminution of the use of any part of ones body, is not equatable to a
pecuniary loss, and is not susceptible of exact monetary estimation, civil damages should be assessed once that
integrity has been violated. The assessment is but an imperfect estimation of the true value of ones body. The usual
practice is to award moral damages for the physical injuries sustained. 15 In Hanzs case, the undesirable outcome of
the circumcision performed by the petitioner forced the young child to endure several other procedures on his penis
in order to repair his damaged urethra. Surely, his physical and moral sufferings properly warranted the amount of
50,000.00 awarded as moral damages.

Many years have gone by since Hanz suffered the injury. Interest of 6% per annum should then be imposed on the
award as a sincere means of adjusting the value of the award to a level that is not only reasonable but just and
commensurate. Unless we make the adjustment in the permissible manner by prescribing legal interest on the award,
his sufferings would be unduly compounded. For that purpose, the reckoning of interest should be from the filing of
the criminal information on April 17, 1997, the making of the judicial demand for the liability of the petitioner.

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the decision promulgated on February 20, 2003, with the modification that
legal interest of 6% per annum to start from April 17, 1997 is imposed on the award of:50,000.00 as moral
damages; and ORDERS the petitioner to pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.