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People vs.

Catbagan
GR Nos. 149430-32
February 23, 2004
Facts:
When his attention was caught from 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:
Whether or not the characterization of the crimes charged by the trial court
was correct.
HELD:
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.
For the shooting of Lacaden, a careful review must be made of the crime that
was actually committed. It bears stressing that such intent determines whether the
infliction of injuries should be punished as attempted or frustrated murder, homicide
or parricide; or as consummated physical injuries. The intent to kill, an essential
element of the offense of frustrated or attempted homicide, must be proved by
clear and convincing evidence and with the same degree of certainty as that
required of the other elements of the crime. If it was absent but wounds were
inflicted, the crime is not frustrated murder, but only physical injuries. In this case,
the expert opinion of the doctor who treated Lacaden was that it would take the
latter thirty days to heal and recover from the lone gunshot wound and to resume
his normal work. Thus, a finding of less serious physical injuries is proper.