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REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES

SUPREME COURT

G. R. No. L-3634

Promulgated: May 30, 1951

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,

-versus-

BARTOLO SALADINO and ANASTACIA ALEJO, Defendants-Appellants.

Present:

Paras, C.J., Feria, Pablo, Bengzon, Tuason, Montemayor, Jugo, & Baustista Angelo, JJ.

DECISION

Bartolo Saladino and Anastacio Alejo have appealed from two decisions of the court of
first instance of Ilocos Norte convicting them of the murder of Luis Bernabe.

Accused in one information, they asked, and were granted, separate trials. But with their
consent, the prosecution presented its evidence against both at the same time. Bartolo Saladino
submitted his defense first. Judge Manuel F. Barcelona found him guilty and sentenced him to
reclusion perpetua, with the accessories, and to indemnify the heirs of the deceased in the sum of
P6000, without subsidiary imprisonment, and to pay one half of the costs. Thereafter Anastacio
Alejo presented his witnesses. Rebuttal and sub-rebuttal testimony followed. Judge Antonio
Belmonte, convicted and sentenced him to reclusion perpetua with the accessories, and to
indemnify the heirs of the deceased in the amount of P3000 with subsidiary imprisonment and to
pay on half of the costs.

In this appeal, the appellants submitted, by their respective counsel, two briefs, which the
Solicitor-General answered in one.
The evidence for the prosecution consisted of documentary evidence and the testimony of
five witnesses:

Januaria Corpus, Dr. Juan Pedro Blanco, Melchor Quevedo, Wilfredo Oaman and Jesus Menor.
These related in substance the following facts and circumstances:

In the night of June 23, 1948 Corporal Bartolo Saladino and Private Anastacia Alejo of
the Philippine Constabulary were resting in the house of Celso Abucay in Paoay, Ilocos Norte,
together with policemen Melchor Quevedo, Wilfredo Osman and George Plan of that
municipality. They had gone on patrol duty to the barrio for the purpose of apprehending those
who on a previous night had fired upon the dwelling. About midnight they were suddenly
awakened by cries for help. They went down and were approached by one Felix Pasion who
reported he had been robbed, one of the robbers being Luis Bernabe. The next morning,
Saladino and Alejo, accompanied by the policemen proceeded to the house of Luis Bernabe in
Barrio Samac of San Nicolas same province. Having found the suspect, they brought him, for
questioning, to the residence of Felix Pasion in Barrio Singao same municipality. It was about
ten in the morning. As Pasion reiterated his imputation, Saladino led Bernabe up the house for
further investigation. He was followed by Anastacio Alejo and the policemen. Bernabe denied
the charge. To extract a confession, Saladino repeatedly boxed and kicked him in different parts
of the body. Bernabe continued denying his guilt. Saladino got a piece of wood, two inched
thick and one yard long, and clubbed him several times on the chest, abdomen and the back.
Then he called on Alejo to take his turn. Alejo reluctantly whipped Bernabe four times with the
branch of a tree, and then retired to the kitchen. Saladino again questioned his prisoner and as
the latter would not admit his culpability, he repeated the severe beating, and tying Bernabe’s
wrists together with a rubber strap, made him stand on a chair, tied the strap to a beam in the
ceiling and then pushed the chair from under Bernabe with the result that the latter was left
hanging in the air. While in that position Bernabe was cudgeled by Saladino, with the wooden
club, on the sides, armpits, stomach, hips and back. It was at this juncture that policeman Plan
interceded for the victim saying, Stop now corporal. Better bring him to your headquarters and
there you will investigate him”. But Saladino ignored plea, and resumed the maltreatment,
loudly predicting that Bernabe would confess before noon. After Bernabe had remained
suspended for five minutes, Saladino untied him, made him sit on a chair and urged him to
acknowledge his offense. As Bernabe persisted in his refusal, Saladino kicked the chair and
Bernabe fell on the floor, even as Saladino pouncing on his captive booted him several times
until the latter lay motionless on the floor. “It seems he is dead,” Policeman Oaman exclaimed.
Saladino replied “No, he is only feigning death” and presently stepped on Bernabe’s throat and
chest. Then Saladino let him alone for fifteen minutes, during which time Bernabe did not stir
nor breathe. An old man approaching Bernabe and taking his pulse said that the man was dead.
Suddenly realizing his predicament, Saladino ordered two civilians to carry Bernabe down and
told Alejo: “shoot him now and we will say that he ran away”. Complying with the corporal’s
order Alejo shot Bernabe four times with his carbine, after the latter had been laid down flat on
his stomach about thirty meters away from the house. Three days afterwards Bernabe was
intered.

Saladino lost no time preparing his defense. On that same day, June 24, he swore before
the assistant fiscal an affidavit stating that, while he was conversing with Pasion inside the
house, Luis Bernabe was downstairs under the vigilance of Anastacio Alejo; that four shots were
suddenly heard; and that Alejo, it turned out, had fired at Bernabe because the latter had
attempted to escape.

We also wrote a joint affidavit of the three policemen corroborating his own version of
the affair. He requested the said officers to sign, and they had not the courage to decline.

However a few days afterwards the fiscal quizzed Quevedo, and this man gave a different
story: one that subsequently accorded with the account given by the People’s witnesses during
the trial.

On the witness stand, Bartolo Saladino stuck to his version, which was corroborated by
Felix Pasion, the man who having charged Luis Bernabe, was indirectly the cause of the outrage,
and who was understandably interested in Saladino’s exoneration. However it was rejected by
the trial judge, correctly we believe, because it was contradicted (1) by the three policemen who
had no reason to falsify (2) by the nature and direction of the wounds described by the doctor
who saw them, wounds which could not have been inflicted while Bernabe was running away
and (3) by the discovery of one of the bullets embedded in the ground underneath the corpse of
Luis Bernabe. There is no doubt in our minds that this man is guilty of having cruelly tortured
and treacherously caused the death of Luis Bernabe.

On the other hand Anastacio Alejo admitted having whipped and shot Luis Bernabe upon
orders of Saladino, who allegedly backed his command to shoot by pointing his pistol at Alejo.
His attorneys also insist that Luis Bernabe was already dead when Alejo fired at the corpse.

Of course obedience to the order of a superior official is not an excuse where the order
was not for a lawful purpose. (People v. Bañaga 54 Phil. 247; People v. Moreno 43 Of. Gaz.
4644)

Like the trial judge, we do not believe Alejo fired the shots at the point of Saladino’s gun.
We believe the shooting occurred in the manner described by the prosecution witnesses.

Yet the matter of Bernabe’s moment of death is of grave doubt. Two eye-witnesses who
declared for the prosecution, namely, policemen Quevedo and Oaman repeatedly stated on the
witness stand that after the maltreatment, and before Bernabe was carried downstairs to be shot,
he had already expired. Policeman Jorge Plan, another eye-witness confirming Alejo’s
testimony declared that when Bernabe lay flat on the floor and did not stir, an old man felt his
pulse and pronounced him dead.
The medical expert, on the contrary, asserted that death was due to the loss of blood
occasioned by the three shots that pierced the body of Bernabe. Alejo’s attorney-de-officio made
a thorough analysis of such testimony, pointing out that the medical examination was superficial,
because it took place a few moments before the burial when the body was already in a
“moderately advance state of decomposition”, and that the conclusion derived by said expert
from the amount of blood in the garments worn by the corpse which he examined were not those
worn at the time of the shooting; second because the cadaver had been embalmed and the stains
on the clothing might have been produced by the embalming fluid that oozed out; and third
because in post-mortem wounds blood comes out too from the blood vessels. (Angeles, Legal
Medicine Sec. 105) All of which raise, at least, a doubt that Bernabe, was already dead when
shot. Such doubt must be resolved in favor of appellant Alejo.

From the foregoing it is plain that Bernabe having died as a consequence of the violent
mauling by Saladino, the latter must be declared guilty of assassination. Anastacio Alejo does
not appear to have conspired with him, and is not liable either as principal or as accomplice of
the murder. But he is guilty as accessory after the fact for having performed acts tending to
conceal Saladino’s crime by making it appear that Bernabe had run away.

U.S. v. Cuison 20 Phil. 433 is a relevant example. Facundo Balangac was shot from
behind by Private Valentin Fortuna in the cemetery of Barili, Cebu. “Some hours afterwards, the
defendant Cuison with several constabulary privates, among them Valentin Fortuna, went by
order of Lieutenant Poggi to the place where the body of the deceased lay, and commanded the
soldiers to spread out in skirmish like and discharge their firearms into the air; then the
defendant, with the private Fortunam, went to the house of Epimaco Sosa to ask him for a dagger
to place beside the body of a man whom they had shot, thereby to give the appearance that the
deceased had been carrying a dagger.”

This court declared the defendant Cuison guilty of accessory after the fact saying:

“But we do find criminal liability in the acts performed by Corporal Cuison, even
though he obeyed orders from his Lieutenant, Poggi; such liability consists in his having
intervened subsequently to the commission of the crime, by furnishing the means to make
it appear that the deceased was armed and that it was necessary to kill him on account of
his resistance to the constabulary man, who, to lend color to such pretended resistance,
discharged their firearms into the air, under the direction of Cuison, at the place there
where the corpse was lying; and also consists in his having tried to find a dagger to place
beside the deceased. Such acts must be characterized as concealment, and since they are
not only wrong but also unlawful, the defendant is not exempt from liability, even though
he acted in obedience to a command from his superior, because such command was
illegal and in conflict with law and justice. Therefore it can not be alleged that obedience
was due, or that it exempts the defendant from criminal liability.”
As accessory after the fact, Alejo is liable to a penalty lower by two degrees than that prescribed
by law for the consummated felony of murder, namely, prision correctional in its maximum
period to prision mayor in its medium period. (Art. 53 in connection with Art. 248 of the
Revised Penal Code.)

Therefore, inasmuch as the penalty imposed on appellant Saladino accords with the law,
the judgment against him is affirmed, with costs.

As to appellant Alejo the appealed decision is revoked and one will be entered sentencing
him to imprisonment for not less than 3 years of prision correctional nor more than six years and
two months, of prision mayor; and in case of insolvency of Saladino to indemnify the heirs of the
deceased in the sum of P6000 without subsidiary imprisonment in case of his own inability to
pay. No costs against this appellant. So ordered.

(SGD) CESAR BENGZON

WE CONCUR:

(SGD) RICARDO PARAS


“ F. R. FERIA
“ GUILLERMO F. PABLO
“ PEDRO TUASON
“ MARCELIANO R. MONTEMAYOR
“ FERNANDO JUGO

Reyes J., took no part.


Bautista Angelo J., took no part.