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People vs.

Catbagan
December 23, 2012 by Lagangang Butas

People vs. Catbagan (G.R. Nos. 149430-32. February 23, 2004) Appellee: People of the Philippines Appelant: Carmelo Catbagan Ponente: J. Panganiban FACTS: After receiving complaints about the gunshots coming from the residence of Danilo Lapidante, who was then was celebrating his birthday, appellant Carmelo Catbagan, an investigator of the Criminal Investigation Service, Philippine National Police, went to the latters house to verify who among their group had been firing the Armalite rifle. Suddenly, a piece of stone was hurled from the direction of the celebrants house, hitting Catbagan. Irritated, he ordered his companion, Zosimo Pavabier, to look for the one who threw the stone. At that moment, Sgt. Celso Suico of the Philippine Air Force and of the Presidential Security Group, the one responsible for firing the shots, approached and extended his hand towards Catbagan as he introduced himself. Completely ignoring the gesture of the latter, Catbagan drew out his .9mm automatic pistol and fired successively at Suico. Ernesto Lacaden, companion of Suico, who was abruptly awakened as the shots were fired, disembarked from the parked owner-type jeep where he was sleeping. Unexpectedly, two shots were also fired at him by Catbagan. Almost simultaneously, Catbagan directed his attention to Lapidante who was then inside their compound and running towards the main door of their house upon the prompting of his wife to evade the assailant. But before he could reach the safety of their abode, two rapid shots were fired by Catbagan, one of which hit him in the upper part of his body. As a consequence of the injuries they sustained, Suico and Lapidante died, whereas Lacaden had to be treated and confined in the hospital. In his defense, Catbagan argued that he was justified in shooting the victims, as he was merely defending himself and fulfilling his sworn duties. He claimed that the victims were rushing and encircling him, Lacaden toting an ice-pick while Suico drew a gun from his waist and aimed the pistol at him. Simultaneously, he heard Lapidante shouting, which he believed was asking for a long gun. Threatened of his safety, he drew his own gun fired at the aggressors. He then surrendered himself and his firearms to his superior officer at the CIDG Office. The lower court, nonetheless, convicted him with the crime of homicide, murder, and frustrated murder. ISSUE: 1) Whether or not the appellant was justified in shooting the victims as a direct result of his fulfillment of a duty. 2) Whether or not the appellant was entitled to a justifying circumstance of self-defense. 3) Whether or not the appellant was entitled to a mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender. 4) Whether or not the characterization of the crimes charged by the trial court was correct.

HELD: 1) No. Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) provides that a person who acts in the fulfillment of a duty or in the lawful exercise of a right or office does not incur any criminal liability, provided that the following requisites must concur: 1) the accused must have acted in the performance of a duty or in the lawful exercise of a right or office; and 2) the injury caused or the offense committed should have been the necessary consequence of such lawful exercise. In the instant case, the above mentioned requisites were absent. The appellant was not performing his duties at the time of the shooting as there was no proof that he had personal knowledge on who had been firing the Armalite, nor he was there to effect an arrest. The fatal injuries that he inflicted on the victims were not a necessary consequence of the performance of his duty as a police officer. 2) No. Article 11 of the RPC provides that anyone who acts in defense of his person or rights do not incur criminal liability, provided that the following circumstances concur: 1) unlawful aggression; 2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it; and 3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. In the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Suico, only a majority of the elements of self-defense were present. However, he may still be credited with a mitigating circumstance in accordance with Article 13 of the RPC. With regard to the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Lapidante and Lacaden, no unlawful aggression was shown. Thus, the justifying circumstance of self-defense will not apply. 3) Yes. In order for voluntary surrender to mitigate criminal liability, the following elements must concur: 1) the offender has not been actually arrested; 2) the offender surrendered himself to a person in authority; and 3) the surrender was voluntary. It is sufficient that that act be spontaneous and clearly indicative of the intent of the accused to surrender unconditionally. At the time of his surrender, appellant had not actually been arrested. He surrendered himself and his firearm to a person in authority, the chief of the Assistant Directorate for Intelligence of the Philippine National Police. Finally, the surrender was voluntary and spontaneous; it thus showed intent to surrender unconditionally to the authorities. Thus, he was credited with the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender. 4) No. The crimes were not properly characterized except with the case of Suico. Treachery was alleged in the case, thus qualifying the shooting of Lapidante and Lacaden as murder and frustrated murder respectively. In order to establish treachery, the following must be proven: 1) the employment of such means of execution as would give the person attacked no opportunity for self-defense or retaliation; and 2) the deliberate and conscious adoption of the means of execution. With regard to the shooting of Lapidante and Lacaden, the Court held that even if the positions of the victims were vulnerable, there was still no treachery, as the appellant did not deliberately adopt such mode of attack. His decision to shoot them was clearly sudden. Thus, in the case of Lapidante, the Court modified the crime from murder to homicide; while in the case of Lacaden, the crime was modified from frustrated murder to less serious physical injuries.