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CrimLaw - Case 1 of 20

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 102772 October 30, 1996

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
ROGELIO DEOPANTE y CARILLO, accused-appellant.

PANGANIBAN, J.:p

In deciding this appeal, the Court finds occasion to reiterate some well-settled doctrines in appreciating evident
premeditation as a qualifying circumstance in the crime of murder, and in evaluating claims of self-defense, voluntary
surrender and physical defect.

This is an appeal from the decision1 dated September 6, 1991 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig, Metro Manila, National
Capital Judicial Region, Branch 164,2 in Criminal Case No. 85155, convicting accused Rogelio Deopante y Carillo of the
crime of murder and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua.

On January 11, 1991, an Information3 was filed against the appellant charging him as follows:

That on or about the 10th day of January, 1991, in the Municipality of Pasig, Metro Manila, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a fan knife (balisong), with intent to kill and
with evident premeditation and treachery did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously stab with a fan knife one
Dante Deopante on the different parts of his body, thereby inflicting upon the latter mortal wounds which directly caused
his death.

Contrary to law.

Arraigned on March 8, 1991, the accused, assisted by counsel de oficio, pleaded not guilty to the charge.4

The Facts

According to the Prosecution

The facts as summarized by the Solicitor General, who added the page references to the transcript of stenographic notes,
are as follows:5

At around nine o'clock in the evening (9:00 p.m.) of January 10, 1991 at Alkalde Jose Street, Barrio Kapasigan, Pasig,
Metro Manila, Dante Deopante was having a conversation with his friend Renato Molina when they saw appellant Rogelio
Deopante coming towards their direction. Renato noticed that as appellant was fast approaching, the latter was drawing
out an open fan knife (balisong) from his right back pants pocket. Sensing danger, Renato immediately called out to Dante
and told the latter to flee the place. As Dante took flight, so did Renato in another direction. (pp. 3-4, 6, 8, t.s.n. June 3,
1991)

Appellant ran after Dante and overpowered the latter at a basketball court located in a lot between Alkalde Jose and
Pariancillo Streets. Appellant and victim grappled with each other and both fell on the ground. Appellant was able to
assume the dominant position and as Dante lay flat on his back the former proceeded to stab the latter twice with his fan
knife. Immediately thereafter, appellant stood up and fled the scene leaving Dante mortally wounded. Bystanders milling
around Pariancillo Street then rushed victim to the Rizal Medical Pariancillo Street then rushed victim to the Rizal Medical
Center. (pp. 3-5, t.s.n., April 25, 1991; pp. 8, 9, 11, t.s.n. June 3, 1991)
At about the same time on the aforesaid date, the Pasig Police Station received a telephone call from the Rizal Medical
Center informing them that a stabbing victim has been brought to said hospital for treatment. Patrolman Crispin Pio
proceeded to the hospital and there received the information that appellant was the one who stabbed Dante. Said
policeman later obtained the sworn statement of Nestor Deopante indicating that appellant stabbed the victim. Renato
refused to give his sworn statement to the police, but insisted that indeed it was appellant who stabbed Dante. (pp. 5-7,
t.s.n., May 15, 1991)

At around eleven o'clock (11:00 p.m.) of the same evening, Patrolman Crispin Pio and two (2) other police officers went to
the house of appellant located at No. 12 Alkalde Jose Street, Barrio Kapasigan, Pasig, Metro Manila. After informing
appellant of the allegation against him, they invited the former to the police station for investigation. Appellant went with
the police officers and maintained his innocence throughout the investigation. Patrolman Crispin Pio recovered a fan knife
from appellant measuring around ten (10") inches when opened. He sent the fan knife to the P.N.P. Crime Laboratory
Service for examination. (pp. 8-9, t.s.n., May 15, 1991)

The autopsy report shows a total of seven (7) wounds all over victim's body. Of these wounds, two (2) were stab wounds
(Wound Nos. 2 & 3) and the rest mere abrasions. Dr. Emmanuel Aranas, the medico-legal officer of the P.N.P. Crime
Laboratory Service who conducted the autopsy testified that the stab wounds were caused by a sharp pointed object like
a balisong or fan knife. He further declared that Wound No. 2, a stab wound located at the left side of the chest, lacerated
the diaphragm, liver (left lobe) and stomach of the victim causing the latter's instantaneous death. Moreover, he concluded
that the fan knife sent to him for examination could have been used in stabbing a person since it showed minute traces of
human blood. (pp. 7-8, t.s.n., April 19, 1991; p. 17. t.s.n., May 30, 1991)

The prosecution presented six witnesses. Aside from Dr. Emmanuel L. Aranas, who testified on the results of the autopsy,
the other witnesses included Manolo Angeles and Renato Molina, who gave eyewitness accounts of the stabbing.
Patrolman Crispin Pio of the Pasig Police Station testified that he invited the accused for investigation after receiving a
report on the killing, and that upon frisking the accused, he found and recovered from him a 10-inch fan knife which he
submitted to the crime lab for examination. Alfonso Reyes, barangay captain of Barangay Kapasigan, Pasig, Metro
Manila, testified that on August 19, 1989, Dante Deopante made a personal complaint to him as barangay captain, that
Rogelio Deopante had threatened to kill him (Dante). He testified that his office kept a logbook of all the incidents that
happened in the barangay and that the same contained a record of the said complaint6 of Dante Deopante. However, on
cross-examination, he admitted that he was not the one who personally made the entry.

Version of the Defense

In contrast to the prosecution's theory that the victim was killed with evident premeditation, the defense claimed that the
fatal injuries inflicted by accused-appellant upon the victim were done in self-defense.7 The defense presented three
witnesses, viz.: the accused himself, his longtime friend Benito Carrasco, and the son of the accused, Vladimir Deopante.
Their version of the event was as follows:

On January 10, 1991, at about 9:00 o'clock in the evening, in Alcalde Jose Street, Pasig, Metro Manila, while the
appellant was allegedly on his way home he was seen by his nephew, the victim (Dante Deopante) and the witness for
the prosecution, Renato Molina, who at that time were allegedly both drunk. (TSN June 6, 1991, page 3). The victim
(Dante Deopante) suddenly boxed him and the said appellant ran away and (was) pursued by the victim and Renato
Molina. The appellant was overtaken by the victim by holding the back portion of his shirt. Both
of them fell. The victim pulled-out a knife which appellant allegedly wrested . . . away from Dante Deopante. After he
(appellant) wrested the knife from the victim, they continued rolling over and over the ground and he does not know
whether he stab (sic) the victim or not. (TSN June 6, 1991, page 4). Said appellant sustained also injuries on (the) little
finger of his right hand and abrasion on his right leg, left knee and left hand (sic). The said appellant was treated by one
Dr. Leonides Pappa on January 11, 1991, and issued medical certificate, marked as Exhibits "1, 1-A, 1-B and 1-C" for the
defense. (TSN June 6, 1991, pages 5-6); Appellant claimed that he placed behind bars (incarcerated) the victim for being
a drug addict when he was still a policeman and member of the Police Department of Pasig. Renato Molina eluded arrest
by him, for being a drug addict too. (TSN June 6, 1991, page 6).8

On cross-examination, accused Rogelio Deopante testified that he was a former member of the Pasig Police Department
but was discharged for having been absent without leave, by reason of a complaint filed against him by Manolo Angeles
before the National Police Commission, and in which case the victim, Dante Deopante, was presented as witness for
complainant Angeles. He further testified that his left hand was completely severed at the wrist when it was hacked off by
his brother Nestor Deopante.

The Trial Court's Ruling


On September 6, 1991, the trial court rendered a decision convicting the appellant of murder, the decretal portion of which
reads as follows:

ACCORDINGLY, the Court finds the accused Rogelio Deopante y Carillo GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime
of Murder as charged; and therefore hereby imposes upon him the penalty of reclusion perpetua, there being no other
generic aggravating or mitigating circumstance adduced; and to indemnify the heirs of the victim the amount of
P50,000.00 as well as to pay the costs.

SO ORDERED.

The Issues

In his brief, the appellant charges that the trial court erred:

I. In considering the entry in the (barangay) peace and order chairman's blotter under entry no. 0097, page 58 (logbook)
as a basis in holding the commission of the offense with evident premeditation.

II. In not affording the accused-appellant the mitigating circumstances of voluntary surrender and his physical condition.

III. In not considering appellant's claim of self-defense.

IV. In not considering the flaws and inconsistencies of the testimonies of the prosecution's witnesses and its biased
character and wanting of credibility (sic).

V. In not considering the provision of Article 69 of the Revised Penal Code in the imposition of penalty.

The Court's Ruling

First Issue: Evident Premeditation

Very familiar by now to members of the legal profession are the elements which need to be proven before evident
premeditation can be appreciated. These are: (1) the time when the accused decided to commit the crime; (2) an overt act
manifestly indicating that the accused had clung to his determination to commit the crime; and (3) a sufficient lapse of time
between the decision to commit the crime and the execution thereof, to allow the accused to reflect upon the
consequences of his act. Mere lapse of time is not enough, however, because premeditation is not presumed from the
mere lapse of time.9 It must be "evident" from his overt act.

Considering the evidence on record, and the events leading up to the killing, we cannot agree with appellant's contention
that the lower court based its finding of evident premeditation on the victim's report to the barangay captain that the
accused-appellant had threatened to kill him. We hold that the record contains sufficient basis for the finding of evident
premeditation. The first and third elements were proven by the testimony of the barangay captain, Alfonso Reyes, as to
the report made by the deceased about the threat on his life, taken together with the record of the report in the barangay
logbook,10 all of which established the time when appellant decided to commit the crime. The period of time between the
said report and the killing (January 10, 1991) constituted a sufficient lapse of time between the determination to commit
the crime and the execution of the same, the enable the accused to coolly consider and reflect upon his resolution to do
away with the victim. Finally, the second element was proven by the eyewitness testimony of Renato Molina, friend of the
victim since childhood, who was present from the inception to the culmination of the assault launched by appellant against
the victim. We quote with approval the trial court's ratiocination, to wit:

That at around 9:00 o'clock in the evening of January 10, 1991, he (Renato Molina) and Dante Deopante were conversing
at Alkalde Jose St., Pasig, Metro Manila when the accused Rogelio Deopante arrived. He told Dante Deopante to run
away. Both of them ran but in different directions.

That he told Dante Deopante to run away because the latter and the accused had a previous (sic) misunderstanding and
the accused always threatened Dante Deopante after the latter testified against the accused for shooting a certain Maning
Angeles.

That he also told Dante Deopante to run away because he saw the accused carrying a fan knife in his back pocket. He
saw it because the place was lighted as there as a lamp post.
xxx xxx xxx

This witness (Molina) testified that when he saw the accused more than six feet away and was approaching them, he
immediately warned his childhood friend and victim Dante Deopante to run away which the latter did. At the time, the
accused was seen by this witness about to draw a knife from his back pant's pocket; and that he, too, ran away but took
the opposite direction. Having traversed a short distance, he stopped and looked back and saw the accused chasing his
victim and nephew until the former caught up with the latter, took hold of him and they both fell to the ground.

The accused could have desisted from carrying his plan to kill into effect had he stopped when his nephew took off and
ran away from him. The latter did so because he knew in his heart that his uncle was about to kill him and this was also
felt by eyewitness Molina because of the immediate warning given by him to his friend.

But then, although he saw his nephew sprinting away, he nevertheless did chase him for a distance and all the while he
could have stopped and go home to his residence situated only a few meters away.

Again he could have let go the victim when he caught up and took hold of him. He did not, but on the contrary, when they
both fell and rolled on the ground, he grappled with his victim and at the very first opportune moment, mercilessly stabbed
his nephew, not only once but twice, inflicting very serious blows, one of which was most fatal and could have caused
instantaneous death of his prey.

So it is that from this very actuation of the accused at the time, it is obviously clear that he clung to this determination to
kill Dante Deopante when he could have stopped at anytime between the moment that his nephew ran away until the time
that he dealt the fatal blows that ultimately caused the death of Dante Deopante. 11 (emphasis ours)

The three elements having been duly proven, the presence of evident premeditation in the case at bar is therefore
conclusive.

Second Issue: Voluntary Surrender and Physical Defect


as Mitigating Circumstances?

Contrary to appellant's protestations, the trial court was correct in finding no voluntary surrender in this case. In order to appreciate
voluntary surrender by an accused, the same must be shown to have been "spontaneous and made in such a manner that it shows the
intent of the accused to surrender unconditionally to the authorities, either because he acknowledges his guilt or he wishes to save
them the trouble and expense necessarily incurred in his search and capture. In the absence of any of these reasons, and in the event
that the only reason for an accused's supposed surrender is to ensure his safety, his arrest being inevitable, the surrender is not
spontaneous and, hence, not voluntary.12 It will be observed in this case that there was no conscious effort on the part of the accused
— who was fetched from his house by police officers to go to police headquarters for investigation — to voluntarily surrender and/or
acknowledge his guilt. He went with them for the purpose of clearing his name as he in fact tried to do during the investigation where he
professed his innocence. The fact alone that he did not resist but went peacefully with the lawmen does not mean that he voluntarily
surrendered.13 On this point, it is apt to quote the decision of this Court in People vs. Flores14 where we stated that:

Neither can we accept accused-appellant's plea of voluntary surrender. He did not surrender to the police. In fact, the evidence
adduced shows that it was the police authorities who came to the factory looking for him. It was there that accused-appellant was
pointed to them. With the police closing in, accused-appellant actually had no choice but to go with them. Seeing that the police were
already approaching him, accused-appellant did not offer any resistance and peacefully went with them. To be sure, no surrender was
made by accused-appellant.

The fact that appellant suffers from a physical defect, a severed left hand, does not mean that he should automatically be credited with
the mitigating circumstance contained in paragraph 8, Article 13 of the Revised Penal Code. In order for this condition to be
appreciated, it must be shown that such physical defect limited his means to act, defend himself or communicate with his fellow beings
to such an extent that he did not have complete freedom of action, consequently resulting in diminution of the element of
voluntariness.15 Such cannot be appreciated in the case at bar where the appellant's physical condition clearly did not limit his means of
action, defense or communication, nor affect his free will. In fact, despite his handicap, appellant nevertheless managed to attack,
overcome and fatally stab his victim.

At this point, one might wonder how a one-handed attacker can open a fan knife and grapple with and overcome his two-handed prey.
This was answered by the testimony of Renato Molina who revealed that at the time the accused closed in for the kill, his balisong was
already open and ready for use in his back pocket, and that he had already drawn the same even during the chase. Molina's
testimony16 is as follows:

Q You said that this Rogelio Deopante arrived while you were conversing with Dante Deopante and you ask (asked) Dante Deopante to
run away, why did you ask Dante Deopante to run away?
A Because, Sir I saw the open fan knife on his pocket, Sir at his back.

Q When you said that you have seen an open fan knife at his pocket, to whom are you referring to?

A Rogelio Deopante's, Sir.

xxx xxx xxx

Q How did you notice the fan knife which is placed at the back if (sic) his pocket?

A Because at the time, Sir he was drawing it out.

Hence, at the time the accused-appellant chased the victim, the former already had the balisong in hand. Clearly, the fact that he had
only one hand in no way limited his freedom of action to commit the crime.

Third Issue: Self-defense

Equally well-known and well-understood by now are the requirements in order for self-defense to be appreciated. The accused must
prove that there was unlawful aggression by the victim, that the means employed to prevent or repel the unlawful aggression were
reasonable, and that there was lack of sufficient provocation on his part. 17 And having admitted that he killed his nephew Dante
Deopante, "the burden of the evidence that he acted in self-defense was shifted to the accused-appellant. It is hornbook doctrine that
when self-defense is invoked, the burden of evidence shifts to the appellant to show that the killing was justified and that he incurred no
criminal liability therefor. He must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of the prosecution's evidence, for,
even if the latter were weak, it could not be disbelieved after his open admission of responsibility for the killing.18 Hence, he must prove
the essential requisites of self-defense aforementioned.

In the case at bar, appellant failed to prove unlawful aggression by the victim, hence, his claim of self-defense cannot be sustained. The
self-serving and unsupported allegation of appellant that he wrested the knife away from the victim while they were struggling and
rolling around on the ground (in the process sustaining only a minor scratch on his little finger and abrasion on the right knee) does not
inspire belief, when contrasted with the positive and categorical eyewitness accounts of Renato Molina and Manolo Angeles that
appellant ran after and stabbed the victim. The latter's testimonies are corroborated by the number and extent of the stab wounds
sustained by the victim.

(Testimony of Manolo Angeles)

Q While you were urinating at a post in Pariancillo, can you remember if there was an unusual incident that happened at that time?

A Yes, sir.

Q What was that unusual incident?

A Nakita ko po si Rogelio Deopante na tikad-tikad ng saksak si Dante Deopante (I saw Rogelio Deopante chasing Dante Deopante with
intention of stabbing).

COURT:

Q You mean by "tikad-tikad", habol?

A Yes, your Honor.

ATTY. VALERIO:

Q How far were you when you were urinating from the place where the victim was chased by the accused?

A More or less twenty (20) meters, sir.

Q What happened after that?

A He overtook him and stabbed him.

Q Can you remember how many stabs that the deceased received from the accused?
A Two (2), Sir.

Q Did you see the position of the deceased while he was being stabbed?

A At that time Dante Deopante was lying on his back and this Rogelio Deopante stabbed him. 19

(Testimony of Renato Molina)

Q If you know, what did Rogelio Deopante do with the knife that he was then carrying?

xxx xxx xxx

COURT:

Witness may answer.

A He used (it) in stabbing Dante Deopante.

Q How did he (use) it?

A They were both lying on the ground when this Rogelio Deopante used that Balisong or fan knife in stabbing the victim, only I did not
know how many stabs he made on the victim (but witness demonstrating as if he is stabbing somebody from his right hand going
downward).20

Due to appellant's failure to prove unlawful aggression by the victim, and in view of the prosecution's evidence conclusively showing
that it was appellant who was the unlawful aggressor, appellant's claims of self-defense must be completely discounted, since even
incomplete self-defense "by its very nature and essence, always would require the attendance of unlawful aggression initiated by the
victim which must clearly be shown." 21 We agree with the finding of the trial court that:

There is no gainsaying the fact that the accused herein was responsible for slaying his nephew and victim Dante Deopante. Only, by
way of avoidance, the accused stated that while he and his nephew were rolling and grappling on the ground, the latter took a knife out
of nowhere but he managed to wrest it away from his nephew and he stabbed him (Dante Deopante) with it.

Such a posture adopted by the accused deserves scant consideration from the Court.

For one, the victim would not have time to draw a knife from his person and then opened it while at the same time grappling with his
uncle while both were rolling on the ground.

For another, such declaration was self-serving on the part of the accused and remains unsupported by the evidence. Even the
accused's own witness and friend for a long time Benito Carrasco who professed that he was only about five to seven meters away
from the accused and who witnessed the latter grappling with the victim on the ground, did not see Dante took out a knife and that the
accused manage to wrest it away or else the defense would certainly underscore such an event and made much of it during his
testimony in court. The fact that he did not state such a circumstance gave the lie to such posture taken by the accused.22

Furthermore, based on the number of stab wounds sustained by the victim, we are convinced that the accused did not act in self-
defense in killing the former. "It is an oft-repeated rule that the presence of a large number of wounds on the part of the victim negates
self-defense; instead it indicates a determined effort to kill the victim. 23 Accused, after struggling with the victim, had the latter on his
back and in an obviously helpless and vulnerable position. Even assuming arguendo that it was the deceased who had initiated the
attack and accused was merely defending himself, clearly there could not have been any need for him to stab the victim twice if the
purpose was simply to disable the victim or make him desist from his unlawful assault.

Forth Issue: Credibility of Witnesses

We see no reason to disturb the trial court's evaluation and assessment of the credibility of witnesses, the same not being tainted by
any arbitrariness or palpable error. "Jurisprudence teaches us that the findings of the trial court judge who tried the case and heard the
witnesses are not to be disturbed on appeal unless there are substantial facts and circumstances which have been overlooked and
which, if properly considered, might affect the result of the case. The trial judge's evaluation of the witness' credibility deserves utmost
respect in the absence of arbitrariness.24 Furthermore, "conclusions and findings of the trial court are entitled to great weight on appeal
and should not be disturbed unless for strong and valid reasons because the trial court is in a better position to examine the demeanor
of the witnesses while testifying on the case.25
We reviewed the entire record of the case, and found that the trial court correctly gave credence to the testimonies of Manolo Angeles
and Renato Molina. As aptly stated by it:

So it is that the Court gave full credence to the eyewitnesses accounts of prosecution witnesses Manolo Angeles and Renato Molina.

Both are disinterested eyewitnesses.

Manolo Angeles would not testify falsely against accused because the latter is the uncle of the full blood of his wife, being the daughter
of the sister of the accused. He would not dare incur the wrath of his wife and her family, specially of the accused whose temperament
he well knew.

The same is true with Renato Molina. He resides nearby and in the same locality as the accused and the victim, the latter being his
childhood friend.

Knowing the accused very well and his reputation, he dare not trifle with the truth and testify falsely against him. In fact, he was very
reluctant to testify and it look coercive process of the Court to bring him to the witness stand.

Besides his presence at the scene of the stabbing incident was even acknowledged by the accused himself during the trial so that this
witness' testimony is well worth considering.26

Furthermore, we note and concur in the court a quo's assessment of the testimony of the son of the accused, which definitely tends to
negate the theory of self-defense.

Again, another defense witness presented was Vladimir Deopante, son of the accused who mentioned in passing during the course of
his testimony that when informed of an on-going quarrel involving his father, he immediately proceeded to the place where the incident
was going on and there and then saw his father grappling on the ground with his cousin Dante and the latter was holding a weapon with
his left hand so much so that he went back home and informed his mother about the matter and he was instructed to go back and
pacify the protagonists.

This portion of the testimony of Vladimir Deopante sounded incredulous and unbelievable.

Confronted with a like situation, a son, seeing that his father being (beleaguered) and in immediate danger of being stabbed and
possibly killed, would instinctively and intuitively rush in, come (to) succor and render immediate assistance to his endangered parent
and would not turn his back on his father and go back home to await instructions on what to do under the premises.

It may be that this witness was actually at the scene when he saw his father and cousin were grappling on the ground and seeing that
his father had a knife in his hand and had the upper hand as well as in control of the situation, he did not interfere but turned back and
went home and informed his mother. This would be more in keeping with the natural course of events. 27

Fifth Issue: Incomplete Self-defense

Appellant argues that the trial court should have applied Art. 69 of the Revised Penal Code which provides for imposition of a penalty
lower by one or two degrees than that prescribed by law where the killing "is not wholly excusable", as in the case at bar, given the
absence of some of the requisites to justify the killing. Appellant is in error. Said provision of law applies only where a majority of the
conditions required to justify a criminal act or exempt from liability are present. Such is not the situation in the case at bar. Unlawful
aggression is indispensable in self-defense, complete or otherwise. When unlawful aggression (by the victim) alone is proved, such
incomplete self-defense is to be appreciated as an ordinary mitigating circumstance under Article 13, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal
Code. When it is combined with another element of self-defense, such incomplete self-defense becomes a privileged mitigating
circumstance under Article 69 of the same Code.28 But in the instant case, as already mentioned above, it was conclusively shown that
appellant was the aggressor.

WHEREFORE, the herein appealed Decision convicting appellant Rogelio Deopante y Carillo of the crime of murder and imposing on
him the penalty of reclusion perpetua and the payment to the victim's heirs of civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00 is hereby
AFFIRMED in toto. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Davide, Jr., Melo and Francisco, JJ., concur.


CrimLaw - Case 2 of 20

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 114007 September 24, 1996

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
GONZALO GALAS, JOSUE GALAS, NOE GALAS, DIMAS ACMA alias "DIMAY," and MAXIMO DELGADO, accused-
appellants.

DAVIDE, JR., J.:

Federico Gamayon, a farmer and resident of Apoaporawan, Palawan, died on 23 December 1985 in Tinagong Dagat,
Narra, Palawan, due to six hack wounds and two stab wounds inflicted on various parts of his body. Held to account for
his death the accused herein.

The prosecution was commenced by the filing of a criminal complaint for murder in the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of
Narra, Palawan. The complaint was then amended to charge the accused with the lesser offense of homicide. 1They were
released by the said court upon the approval of their bail bonds and the record of the case was forwarded to the Office of
the Provincial Fiscal of Palawan. In his resolution of 7 April 1986,2 then Provincial Fiscal Aurelio Trampe recommended
the filing of an information for murder due to the presence of the qualifying circumstances of evident premeditation and
abuse of superior strength.

On 8 April 1986, an Information3 was filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Palawan by Provincial Fiscal Trampe
charging the accused with the crime of murder committed as follows:

That on or about the 23rd day of December, 1985 at Barangay Tinagong Dagat Municipality of Narra, Province of
Palawan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused conspiring,
confederating together and mutually helping one another with intent to kill, with evident premeditation and
treachery and by the use of superior strength, did then and there deadly weapons one Federico Gamayon hitting
him in different vital parts of his body thereby inflicting upon him several injuries which was the direct and
immediate cause of his instantaneous death.

Contrary to law and committed with aggravating circumstances of evident premeditation and use of superior
strength.

No bond was recommended for the temporary liberty of the accused.

The case was docketed as Criminal Case No. 6233 and initially assigned to Branch 48 of the said court.

On 10 February 1988, the court, per Judge Singuat Guerra, granted the motion of 9 February 1987 filed by Third Assistant
Fiscal Reynaldo R. Guayco with the approval of Provincial Fiscal Eustaquio Z. Gacott, Jr., for the cancellation of the bail
bonds of the accused and the issuance of a warrant for their arrest in view of the filing of the information for murder which
recommended no bond for them.4

On 30 October 1987, Judge Guerra ordered the case archived and directed the issuance of an alias warrant of arrest
since no return was made of the warrant of arrest issued on 10 February 1987. Two more alias warrants of arrest were
subsequently issued, but no returns were likewise made. Thus, on 12 July 1988, Judge Guerra directed the Station
Commander of Narra, Palawan, to show cause and explain why he should not be held for indirect contempt. 5

On 15 December 1988, accused Gonzalo Galas was turned over the court.6 Whether he voluntarily surrendered or was
arrested is unclear from the record. Since the other accused remained outside the jurisdiction of the court and the
warrants for their arrest had not been returned, Judge Guerra, on 12 July 1988, again directed the Station Commander of
Narra, Palawan, to explain why he should not be held for indirect contempt. 7
On 9 May 1989, with Judge Angel Miclat as the new presiding Judge of Branch 48, accused Gonzalo Galas was finally
arraigned. As he entered a plea of not guilty, the court scheduled the pre-trial and initial trial of the case, as against, him,
on 5 and 6 July 1989. The court further issued another alias warrant of arrest for the other accused.8

On 4 October 1989, with another judge, Judge Amor A. Reyes, presiding over Branch 48, the trial court ordered the
forfeiture of the bail bonds of Gonzalo Galas' co-accused and granted counsel for the accused five days to file his
announced petition for reinvestigation and the prosecution to resolve it within twenty days from receipt. 9 The petition10 was
filed with the trial court on 6 October 1989 and the latter referred it to the Provincial Prosecutor for resolution within twenty
days.11

After the reinvestigation, First Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Sesinio B. Belen, with the approval of Acting Provincial
Prosecutor Clarito Demaala, filed a Motion to Admit Amended Information which now charges the accused with Homicide.
As ground for the downgrading of the offense charged, Prosecutor Belen alleged that the reinvestigation disclosed no
evidence of evident premeditation nor treachery, and the victim even had the opportunity to wound accused Gonzalo
Galas.12

On 29 January 1990, Criminal Case No. 6233 was transferred to Branch 47 of the RTC of Palawan, which was then
presided by Judge Eustaquio Z. Gacott, Jr., former Provincial Fiscal of Palawan.

On 22 March 1990, accused Josue Galas, Noe Galas, Dimas Acma, and Maximo Delgado filed a motion to lift the order of
arrest and of the forfeiture of their bail bonds.13

On 23 March 1990, Branch 47 of the RTC, per Judge Gacott, denied for lack of merit the prosecution's motion to admit the
Amended Information,14 and arraigned accused Josue Galas, Noe Galas, Dimas Acma, and Maximo Delgado on the
basis of the information for murder. Each entered a plea of not guilty and trial on the merits ensued, commencing on 14
May 1990 and ending on 13 July 1993. 15

The prosecution established the following facts:

On 23 December 1995, at around 9:00 p.m., Fedrico Gamayon and his 15-year old son Crisanto, who was riding on a
carabao, and 6-year old nephew Joemar,16 who was riding on the sled, were on their way home to Tinagong Dagat from
Sandoval, Narra, Palawan, where they had sold copra to certain Gabileo. When they were the house of accused Gonzalo
Galas, Federico was called by Gonzalo. When Federico approached Gonzalo, the latter suddenly hacked Federico with a
bolo.17 Federico fell to the ground,18 then accused Josue Galas, Noe Galas, Dimas Acma, and Maximo Delgado "ganged
up" on Federico, according to Crisanto;19 or "helped each other mauling" Federico, according to Joemar.20 Josue Galas
hacked Federico with a bolo, while Noe Galas, Dimas Acma, and Maximo Delgado were armed with pieces of wood. 21

Federico was unable to fight back; he could not even unsheath his bolo from its scabbard. 22

Crisanto Gamayon could not do anything to help his father because he was afraid; moreover, the accused ran after
him.23 Crisanto ran to his uncle for help, but the latter was not in his house.24 Crisanto did not return to the crime scene
until the next day25 and after the incident was reported to the police authorities.

Federico lay there until the next day when the police and Dr. Dominador Hubo, the municipal health officer, arrived to
transport and examine Federico's cadaver. Dr. Hubo conducted the autopsy and his findings are quoted
verbatim:26

The cadaver in the state of rigor mortiz [sic] wearing red jacket and red short pants. The cadaver is covered with a
twig and leaves of cacawate tree and a small plastic canvass in a right side double up position. Several blood
scattered the water where he is laying and a dry place. The cadaver is located approximately 200 yards from the
house of Mr. Galas.

Autopsy findings:

1. Hack wound 8 inches in length, 3 inches deep running from the left side to the back of the neck, severing the
8th cervical.

2. Hack wound 6 inches in length, 3 inches in deep [sic] one inch above the first wound, severing the 4th cervical
vertebrae.
3. Hack wound 6 inches in length, 2 inches in deep [sic], 2 inches above the second wound, severing the 2nd
cervical vertebrae.

4. Hack wound 5 inches in length, 2 inches in deep [sic] severing the left parietal bone.

5. Stab wound 2 inches in length left infra mammary area, perching the left thoraxic cavity and lung.

6. Hack wound 4 inches in length 2 inches in deep [sic], right arm.

7. Stab wound, one inch in length right and left inguinal area, perching the abdominal cavity.

8. Hack wound, 3 inches in length, 2 inches in deep [sic], anteromedial right leg.

Dr. Hubo opined that the cause of death of Federico was:

Cardio respiratory arrest secondary to —

1. Multiple hack and stab wound [sic].

2. Internal and external hemorrhage27

Dr. Hubo declared that he did not find any contusions nor abrasions on Federico's body as it was covered with mud
caused by occasional showers.28

As to the accused's motive, Crisanto intimated that Gonzalo was angry because Federico demanded payment from
Gonzalo for hiring his carabao29 for one year,30 with the payment supposed to be in kind: ten sacks of palay.31

Each of the accused had a different version of what transpired.

Accused Gonzalo Galas claimed that on 23 December 1985 at around 9:00 p.m., he was twenty meters away from his
house in Sandoval, Narra, Palawan, helping a baby carabao nurse from its mother. He was then called and challenged to
a fight by Federico Gamayon, and when he approached Federico, the latter stabbed him with a bolo. He grabbed his bolo
and used it to defend himself. He treated; but Federico still hit him. They hacked each other. Federico fell; Gonzalo went
home to ask for help to get to the doctor. He was brought to the doctor by Maximo Delgado and Joel Buncag. The medical
certificate issued to him (Exhibit "1") by the doctor indicates that he was wounded on the right arm and on the left part of
his abdomen. According to Gonzalo, nobody witnessed the fight and nobody helped him fight Federico. He asserted that
he had no previous quarrel with Federico and that the latter was drunk that night.32

On their part, accused Josue and Noe Galas declared that on the date and time Federico was killed, they were in
Tigsiapo, Apu-aporaoan, Aborlan, Palawan, which is five kilometers away from the scene of the crime, where they were
hauling palay for Sergio Gabileo. They came to know of the incident only the day after it happened. 33

Accused Maximo Delgado testified that on 23 December 1985 at 9:00 p.m., he was in his house in Tinagong Dagat,
Narra, Palawan,34 about half a kilometer away from Gonzalo's home. He was summoned by Gonzalo's wife and one Joel
Buncag to help bring Gonzalo to the hospital. He denied having inflicted any injury upon Federico. 35

Accused Dimas Akma testified that on 23 December 1985 at 9:00 p.m. he was at Sandoval, Narra, Palawan, at the house
of one Decena which is approximately three kilometers away from the scene of the crime. At that time they had just
finished threshing palay for Sergio Gabileo and were roasting chicken for little get-together.36

The accused also presented corroborating witnesses, viz., (a) Joel Buncag, who said he saw Federico hack Gonzalo; and
that the two eyewitnesses, Crisanto Gamayon and Joemar Deocadiz, as well as the four other accused were not at the
scene of the crime when the killing occurred; however, Maximo Delgado arrived to help bring Gonzalo to the hospital; 37 (b)
Policarpio Gabello, who corroborated the testimony of Maximo Delgado who had said that his only participation was to
help bring Gonzalo to the hospital for treatment and that of Dimas Akma who had said that he was in the house of one
Decena at the time of the killing;38 and (c) Sergio Gabileo, who corroborated the testimonies of accused Josue Galas and
Noe Galas who earlier testified that they were on his farm hauling palay on the day of the killing and that the two slept in
his house that night.39
In its decision dated 23 August 1993,40 the trial court found all the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
murder as charged, and rendered judgment as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court hereby holds that the prosecution has proven the guilt of the
accused Gonzalo Galas, Noel Galas, Josue Galas, Maximo Delgado and Dimas Akma beyond reasonable doubt
of the crime of Murder as defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code for having mutually
helped, connived and conspired with each other in killing the victim, Federico Gamayon with treachery, evident
premeditation and the use of superior strength. They are, therefore, sentenced each to suffer the penalty
of RECLUSION PERPETUA and to indemnify the heirs of the victim the sum of P150,000.00 (or P30,000.00 each
accused) as actual, moral and exemplary damages, with costs.

With this conviction that makes the accused herein maximum security prisoners, they are hereby ordered shipped
immediately to the national penitentiary, Muntinlupa, Metro Manila, to serve their sentence there.

The accused seasonably file their notice of appeal and in their Appellants' Brief they impute upon the trial court the
commission of the following errors:

THE TRIAL COURT ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LOSS OF
JURISDICTION IN RELYING ENTIRELY ON THE MANIFESTLY PERJURED TESTIMONY OF THE TWO
SUPPOSED EYEWITNESSES FOR THE PROSECUTION AND IN DISREGARDING EVIDENCE FAVORABLE
TO THE ACCUSED.

II

THE TRIAL COURT ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LOSS OF
JURISDICTION IN NOT ACCORDING ACCUSED THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO BE PRESUMED
INNOCENT AND TO AN IMPARTIAL TRIBUNAL.41

In the first assigned error, the accused make it appear that the relationship between the deceased and the two main
witnesses diminishes the potency of their testimony. Such emphasis is misplaced. This Court has held in a number of
cases that relationship between the witnesses and the deceased does not automatically impair the credibility of the
former.42 We have likewise held that a witness' relationship to a victim, far from rendering his testimony biased, would
even render it more credible as it would be unnatural for a relative who is interested in vindicating the crime to accuse
somebody other than the real culpit.43 They have a definite stake at seeing the guilty person brought before the courts so
that justice may be served.44 It is not to be lightly supposed that relatives of the victim would callously violate their
conscience to avenge the death of a dear one by blaming it on persons who are in fact innocent of the crime. 45

They also put in issue the age of one of the main witnesses, Joemar Deocadiz, who was five years old when he allegedly
witnessed the killing.

It must be stressed that Joemar's age does not disqualify him as a witness. Section 20, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court
provides that all persons who can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their perception to others, may be
witnesses. The exceptions thereto are found in the succeeding Section 20 and, insofar as children are concerned, only
those whose mental maturity is such so as to render them incapable of perceiving the facts respecting which they are
examined and of relating truthfully are disqualified. It is thus clear that any child, regardless of age, can be competent
witness if they meet the following criteria: (a) capacity of observation, (b) capacity of recollection, and (c) capacity of
communication.46 The accused urge us to give no weight to Joemar's testimony because of its unreliability; they claim that
he could not even remember the month and the year when the incident happened. A close scrutiny of his testimony
discloses, however, that Joemar was clear on the facts he observed surrounding the death of Federico which, according
to him took place on a date "nearing Christmas."47Since the date of Federico's death was indubitably established to be 23
December 1985, which was, indeed, "nearing Christmas," Joemar's approximation was sufficient.

The accused also harp on Crisanto Gamayon's credibility on the ground that if he were really there, he would have
unquestionably helped his father instead of merely standing still and simply gaping at the latter's killing by five men and
returning to the scene only on the following day. Crisanto's testimony that he was afraid 48 sufficiently refutes this objection.
Fear has been known to render people immobile, if not useless, in some life-and-death situations. Crisanto and Joemar
left Federico's body overnight at the scene of the crime because darkness had fallen and fear gripped them. Under the
circumstances, the 16-year old Crisanto and the 5-year old Joemar could not be expected to act like adults, in full
possession of their mental, emotional, and psychological faculties.

In the second assigned error, the accused insist that Gonzalo Galas alone killed Federico Gamayon in self-defense; and
assuming arguendo that self-defense was not found to be satisfactorily established, an impartial tribunal could not but rule
that the crime committed was not murder, but only homicide.

In its Appellee's Brief filed by the Office of the Solicitor General, the People agree with the trial court except as to its order
directing each of the accused to pay P30,000.00 to the heirs of the victim as indemnity, which, it submits, is not in accord
with Article 110 of the Revised Penal Code and prevailing jurisprudence on the matter. They should be held solidarily
liable in the amount of P50,000.00 pursuant to People vs. Macam.49

We have no doubt whatsoever that prosecution witnesses Crisanto Gamayon and Joemar Deocadiz were with Federico
Gamayon on that fateful evening of 23 December 1985. But, whether their testimony given only after the lapse of five
years presented an authentic picture of what actually happened is an entirely different matter, especially as regards the
accused Josue Galas, Noe Galas, Dimas Acma, and Maximo Delgado whose alibis have, nevertheless, to be rejected in
light of their positive identification by Crisanto and Joemar. It is doctrinally settled that alibi cannot prevail over and is
worthless in the face of the positive identification by prosecution witnesses. 50

Our meticulous scrutiny of the evidence discloses that accused Josue Galas, Noe Galas, Dimas Acma, and Maximo
Delgado were not with accused Gonzalo Galas when the latter and Federico Gamayon met for the first time. They arrived
at the scene of the incident after accused Gonzalo Galas had hacked Federico with a bolo and the latter had fallen. Then
and there they "ganged up" (according to Crisanto) or "mauled" (according to Joemar) Federico. Thus, on direct
examination, Crisanto testified:

PROSECUTOR DELOVINO:

xxx xxx xxx

Q You said you were in that place, what happened in that place?

A Gonzalo Galas suddenly called my father, Ma'am.

Q What did your father do after he called my Gonzalo Galas?

A He went near Gonzalo Galas and suddenly he was hacked.

COURT:

Q Who hacked you father?

A Gonzalo Galas, Your Honor.

xxx xxx xxx

PROSECUTOR DELOVINO:

Q When he was hacked by Gonzalo Galas, what happened next?

A He was ganged up by the companions of Gonzalo Galas.

xxx xxx xxx

Q You said that after your father was hacked he was ganged up by the companions of Gonzalo
Galas, who ganged up on him?

A Josue Galas, Noe Galas, Maximo Delgado and a certain alias Dimay.
xxx xxx xxx

COURT:

Q You said that these people ganged up on him, what do you mean by that?

A Gonzalo Galas used a bolo in hacking my father; also Josue Galas; Noe Galas, Maximo
Delgado and alias Dimay were bringing pieces of wood, each of them.51

That Gonzalo Galas' co-accused participated only after Federico had already fallen or was already lying on the ground
was further elicited by the trial court from Crisanto, thus:

COURT:

Q Did your father not shout for help?

A No, sir.

Q Who actually killed him?

A Gonzalo Galas, Your Honor.

Q So, when Gonzalo Galas hacked him, he was already dead?

A No, Sir, because he was also being clubbed by the other accused.

Q The other accused was already clubbing him when he was already lying down?

A Yes, Your Honor.52

On additional cross-examination by the defense counsel, Crisanto even admitted that Gonzalo had already hacked
Federico three time before the latter fell to the ground and that it was after the fall that he was attacked by Gonzalo's co-
accused. Thus:

ATTY. RUELO:

Q How many seconds elapsed after the start of the incident before your father fell to the ground?

A He fell down after three hacks, Sir.

Q I said seconds.

A He fell down immediately.

Q After he fell only the accused went near your father and nobody else?

A Yes, Sir.

xxx xxx xxx

Q And you said that the incident took so long and most of the time spent was when your father
was already lying down on the ground?

A Yes, Sir.53

This answer prompted the court to ask:


Q Was it possible that your father was already dead when he fell and he was still being clubbed?

to which, Crisanto answered:

A It was possible, Your Honor.54

Joemar Deocadiz corroborated Crisanto's testimony that it was only after Federico had fallen that Gonzalo's co-accused
attacked Federico. However, contrary to Crisanto's claim, Joemar asserted that Federico fell after he was hacked twice by
Gonzalo. Thus:

PROSECUTOR DELOVINO:

Q How many times was Federico Gamayon hacked by Gonzalo Galas?

A Twice, Ma'am.

Q Where was Federico Gamayon hit?

A On the right neck. (As demonstrated by the witness).

Q And where else was he hit?

A On the right side of the dead, Ma'am. (As demonstrated by the witness).

Q What happened to Federico Gamayon?

A He fell down, Ma'am.

Q After Federico Gamayon fell down, what happened next?

A They helped each other in mauling him.

Q Who mauled him?

A Dimay, Noe, and Ming.55

The "mauling" was explained by Joemar to mean "clubbing" with the use of wood. Thus:

PROSECUTOR DELOVINO:

Q You said that Federico Gamayon was ganged up or mauled by these accused whom you have
just identified. How did they gang up on Federico Gamayon?

A They clubbed Federico Gamayon.

Q With what weapon?

A Wood, Ma'am.56

Whether Gonzalo had hacked Federico — thrice according to Crisanto or twice according to Joemar — before Federico
had fallen, the fact remains that it was after that fall when Gonzalo's co-accused arrived to "maul" of "club" Federico.

Assuming that, indeed, Federico was "mauled" or "clubbed," did accused Josue Galas, Noe Galas, Dimas Acma, and
Maximo Delgado succeed in inflicting any injury on Federico Gamayon? If full credit is to be given to Crisanto and Joemar,
the answer would be in the affirmative.
Unfortunately, there is no convincing evidence that proves that the wounds sustained by Federico Gamayon were inflicted
by two persons with the use of two different weapons to justify a conclusion that anyone of Gonzales' co-accused also
stabbed Federico with the use of another weapon. Dr. Hubo was uncertain as to the first. He merely stated that they could
have been caused by one or two persons. Thus:

FISCAL DELOVINO:

Q Doctor, with all these injuries, could you tell us how many persons inflicted those injuries?

xxx xxx xxx

A By the manner of the wounds and the size of the wounds, they were caused by one or two persons.57

As to the second, Dr. Hubo admitted on cross-examination the possibility that only one weapon was used. Thus:

ATTY. AUSTRIA:

xxx xxx xxx

Q Is there a possibility that there is only one instrument that was used by the assailant in inflicting this kind of
injuries to the victim?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now, if that bladed instrument particularly say for example a bolo, Doctor, which was used by the assailant in
hacking the victim was used also by him in stabbing the victim, could the victim also sustain stabbed [sic] wounds,
similar stabbed [sic] wounds as appearing in this autopsy report?

A If that bolo is so thin and the size of the bolo is 2 inches, that is possible.

Q So, Doctor, [y]ou will agree with me that it is possible that only one bladed instrument or bolo was used in
inflicting all these injuries by the assailant to the victim?

A It is possible if the bladed instrument is pointed and the size of 2 inches.

Q That is also your basis in stating that those injuries could have been caused by only one or two persons, isn't it?

A Yes, sir.58

And on cross-examination by another defense lawyer, Dr. Hubo emphatically declared that only one weapon was used in
inflicting the wounds on Federico. Thus:

ATTY. DE LOS REYES:

I will repeat for emphasis, your Honor.

Q Do you agree that only one weapon could have been used in inflicting all the wounds?

A Yes, sir.59

There is, as well, no evidence that the "mauling" or "clubbing" by Gonzalo Galas' co-accused had produced any injury on
any part of Federico's body. Dr. Hubo explained that he failed to detect any contusions nor abrasions because the
cadaver was covered with mud due to occasional showers.60 The People suggest, however, that the failure of Dr. Hubo to
detect the contusions or abrasions does not mean that Federico did not sustain any injury from the mauling or
clubbing.61 This is plain speculation which finds no support in the rule on evidence in criminal cases.
Furthermore, there is no evidence on record that Gonzalo Galas was with his co-accused when he called Federico
Gamayon, or that all the accused arrived simultaneously at the place where Federico was hacked by Gonzalo. While
Gonzalo's co-accused were seen at the scene of the crime by Crisanto and Joemar, no clear and convincing evidence
can support a conclusion that the said co-accused were able to inflict any injury — either a stab or hack wound with the
use of a bolo, or contusion, abrasion, or hematoma with the use of pieces of wood — on Federico. There is, as well,
absolutely no evidence of conspiracy among Gonzalo and his co-accused as to make each of the latter equally liable for
all the acts of Gonzalo under the doctrine that once conspiracy is established the act of one is the act of all.62 Crisanto and
Joemar may have thus miscomprehended or misappreciated the sequence of events after the arrival of Gonzalo's co-
accused.

We cannot fully agree with the trial courts' unqualified reliance on the testimonies of Crisanto and Joemar, nor cast our
imprimatur on its assessment of the said witnesses' credibility pursuant to the rule that the issue of credibility is addressed
to the trial court since it heard the witnesses and observed their deportment and manner or testifying during the trial. 63 For
one, the trial court overlooked the foregoing facts, viz.; infliction of the wounds by one person with the use of one weapon,
and the absence of any injury caused by the mauling or clubbing. Excepted from the rule on the binding character of the
trial court's assessment of credibility of witnesses are instances when trial courts have overlooked, misapplied, and
misinterpreted facts and circumstances of great weight and value which would affect the result of the case. 64

For another, Judge Gacott, who tried the case, heard the witnesses, and rendered the decision, cannot be said to have
possessed the cold neutrality of an impartial judge. As noted early on in this ponencia, he approved, in his capacity as the
Provincial Fiscal, the motion of Third Assistant Provincial Fiscal Reynaldo R. Guayco to cancel the bail bonds of the
accused and to issue the warrant of their arrest65 in view of the filing of the information for murder which recommended no
bond for the accused.66 As such, Judge Gacott, as the then Provincial Fiscal, was deemed to have concurred with the
view of Fiscal Guayco that the evidence of guilt of the accused in this case was strong. In light of the presumption of
regularity in the performance of official duty,67 he must have read the supporting evidence, such as the sworn statements
of Crisanto Gamayon and Joemar Deocadiz. Finally, after the case was transferred from Branch 48 to his branch —
Branch 47 — Judge Gacott denied the prosecution's motion to admit an amended information charging the accused with
the lesser offense of homicide.68 Such acts merely evinced his belief in the trustworthiness of the testimony of Crisanto
and Joemar and an impression of prejudgment is thus unavoidable.

Under these circumstances, it was discretionary upon Judge Gacott to voluntarily inhibit himself pursuant to Section 1(2),
Rule 137 of the Rules of Court,69 and returned the case of Branch 48 where it originated. However, while Judge Gacott's
voluntary inhibition would have been preferable, it cannot be said that his failure caused substantial prejudice to the
accused. Initially, let it be clear that Judge Gacott's previous participation in the case as Provincial Fiscal was not raised
either before us nor the court a quo. On this score, it has been held:

[T]he disqualification of a judge is not a matter that affects his jurisdiction and power to act such as to render his
decision null and void, so much so that failure on the part of a party, to timely interpose such an objection of
disqualification prior to the decision has been held to be a fatal obstacle to raising such objection on appeal. In
Government of the Philippines vs. Abella [49 Phil. 374-378], we held: . . . The attorneys for the appellants should
have been familiar with the pleadings in the cause, as well as other documents in the record. Reference to these
would at once have revealed the fact that Judge Carballo had participated administratively to the extent above
stated. A litigant, having these facts before him, cannot be permitted to speculate upon the action of a court and
raise an objection to this sort after [the] decision has been rendered. The grounds for disqualification specified in
section 8 of the Code of Civil Procedure (now Rule 137) supply matter for preliminary exception, and timely
objection should be submitted in writing as is required in said section. The inadvertent failure of the court to
disqualify himself in the case there mentioned does not supply a ground for reversing the judgment; but of course
if this court were of the opinion that the litigant had not had a fair trial, a new trial could be granted. . . .

xxx xxx xxx

The question of a judge's disqualification, therefore, is one that should be timely raised in the first instance, so that
it may properly be raised and considered on appeal. At the same time . . . if this Court were of the opinion upon a
review of the case that the litigant had not had a fair trial, it would grant a new trial, although the judge may not
have been disqualified under Rule 137, not on the ground of lack of jurisdiction but in the best interest of justice. .
. .70

Further, given that the guarantee of an impartial judge concerns itself with procedural due process,71 any defect therein
may be waived as implied above and is subject to the curative effect of filing a motion for reconsideration or an appeal.
That Crisanto and Joemar could have misapprehended or misappreciated the events, especially as to the participation of
Josue Galas, Noe Galas, Dimas Acma, and Maximo Delgado, could easily be deduced from the fact that the incident
occurred at nighttime; Crisanto was "a little bit far" 72 from his father, and he ran away. Joemar, who was only six years
old, was sitting on a sled.73 He did not testify as to his distance to Federico when the latter was attacked.

We have then serious doubts as to the culpability of accused Josue Galas, Noe Galas, Dimas Acma, and Maximo
Delgado. Their acquittal is inevitable for failure of the prosecution to overcome the presumption of innocence which is
guaranteed in Section 14(2), Article III of the Constitution.

The fate of accused Gonzalo Galas is entirely different. He admitted that he killed Federico Gamayon; however, he
interposed self-defense to justify his act. The rule is unbending that where the accused admits the killing of the victim but
invokes self-defense, it is incumbent upon him to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he indeed acted in defense
of himself, i.e., the burden is shifted to him to prove that the killing was justified and he incurred no criminal liability
therefor. For that purpose, he must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of the prosecution's
evidence for, even if the latter were weak, it would not be disbelieved after his open admission of responsibility for the
killing.74

The three requisites of self-defense which accused Gonzalo Galas has to satisfy by clear and convincing evidence are:
(1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim, Federico Gamayon, (2) the reasonable necessity of the means he
(Gonzalo) employed to prevent or repel it; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on his (Gonzalo's) part. 75

The prosecution and Gonzalo Galas have contrariant versions as to how the incident started. The former claimed that
when Federico was near Gonzalo's house, Gonzalo called the former who then approached the latter. The latter then
suddenly hacked Federico with a bolo. Upon the other hand, Gonzalo contended that while he was helping a baby
carabao nurse from its mother at a place about twenty meters from his house, Federico called and challenged him to a
fight and when he approached Federico, the latter stabbed him with a bolo. He then grabbed his own bolo to defend
himself and retreated; but since Federico still hit him, they hacked each other.

Assuming Gonzalo's version to be true and accurate, he, therefore, accepted a challenge to fight. Both had bolos with
them. By accepting the challenge and immediately approaching Federico, Gonzalo placed himself in an unlawful status.
Settled is the rule that when parties mutually agree to fight, it is immaterial who attacks or receives the wound first, for the
first act of force is an incident of the fight itself and in nowise is it unwarranted and unexpected aggression which alone
can legalize self-defense. A personal fight freely and voluntarily accepted creates an illegal state of affairs which comes
within the sanction of criminal law, during which no application can be made to either party of the circumstances modifying
criminal liability, arising from facts or accidents, physical or otherwise, of the fight itself. 76

Consequently, Gonzalo's claim of self-defense claim hardly merits even a semblance of sympathy.

That both had a fight was confirmed by Joemar in his answers during cross-examination. Thus:

ATTY. DE LOS REYES:

Q So that you saw the fight between your uncle, Federico Gamayon and accused Gonzalo
Galas?

A Yes, sir.

Q And it was very near the house of the accused Gonzalo Galas?

A Yes, Sir.

Q And inspite of the fact that it was already 9:00 o'clock that night you saw actually the fighting?

A Yes, Sir.77

Crisanto Gamayon likewise admitted that Gonzalo Galas sustained wounds. Thus:

ATTY. RUELO:
xxx xxx xxx

Q And you knew that Gonzalo Galas also suffered wounds?

A Yes, sir.

Q And you are trying to tell the Honorable Court it was the other accused who inflicted his
wound?

A I don't know, Sir.78

The claim of the prosecution that it was not possible that Federico inflicted the injuries on Gonzalo because the former
was unable to pull out his bolo from its scabbard does not inspire belief. There is no evidence that Gonzalo's wounds were
self-inflicted and the speculation of the prosecution that they would have been inflicted by his co-accused remains
speculative. The best evidence that Federico was unable to use of his bolo was his bolo and its scabbard; yet, they were
not presented.

The challenge hurled by Federico was not unmotivated. Crisanto provided the motive: Gonzalo did not pay Federico the
rental for one year for the former's carabao which the latter leased.

The foregoing considered, we rule that accused Gonzalo Galas is liable only for the crime of homicide as defined and
penalized in Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code. Since no mitigating or aggravating circumstances have been proven,
the medium period of the penalty of reclusion temporal prescribed in Article 249 may be imposed upon him. He is also
entitled to the benefits of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, and as such, may be sentenced to suffer an indeterminate
penalty ranging from ten (10) years of prision mayor medium, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months
of reclusion temporal medium, as maximum.

WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is partly granted and the judgment appealed from is modified. As modified, (1) accused
JOSUE GALAS, NOE GALAS, DIMAS ACMA alias "Dimay," and MAXIMO DELGADO are hereby detention unless some
other lawful cause warrants their further detention; and (2) accused GONZALO GALAS is CONVICTED of the crime of
homicide, as defined and penalized in Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code, his guilt therefor having been proven
beyond reasonable doubt, and applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law after having determined the absence of
mitigating or aggravating circumstances, he is hereby sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty ranging from TEN (10)
years of prision mayor medium, as minimum, to SEVENTEEN (17) years and FOUR (4) months of reclusion
temporal medium, as maximum, with all the accessory penalties provided by law, to indemnify the heirs of Federico
Gamayon in the sum of P50,000.00, and to pay the costs in the trial court and in his instance.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Melo, Francisco and Panganiban, JJ., concur.


CrimLaw - Case 3 of 20

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 133580 July 20, 2001

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff and appellee,


vs.
MAXIMO GENEBLAZO, accused-appellant.

BUENA, J.:

Accused-appellant Maximino Geneblazo appeals the decision of the Regional Trial Court at Calauag, Quezon,
Branch 63 in Criminal Case No. 2151-C, entitled "The People of the Philippines versus Maximino Geneblazo",
convicting him of murder and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua.

On October 16, 1992, an information was filed against Maximino Geneblazo charging him of murder committed as
follows:

"That on or about the 15th day of January 1988, at Barangay Pinagtalyeran, Municipality of Calauag,
Province of Quezon, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, armed with a bladed weapon, with intent to kill, and with treachery, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab with the said weapon one Domingo Opalsa, thereby
inflicting upon the latter wounds on the different parts of his body which directly caused his death."That the
accused attacked and stabbed said Domingo Opalsa suddenly and unexpectedly without giving the latter
any opportunity to defend himself or to escape.

"Contrary to law."[1]

Upon arraignment on December 3, 1992, accused Maximino Geneblazo, assisted by counsel, pleaded not guilty to
the crime charged. The Regional Trial Court thereafter proceeded with the trial.

Culled from the records are the following:

Alex Obien, the first witness for the prosecution, testified that on January 15, 1988, at around 12:00 midnight he and
Domingo Opalsa were walking along Quezon Street, Calauag, Quezon, bound for home when Maximino Geneblazo
and around six unknown companions stoned them. Obien and Opalsa retaliated by also throwing stones at
Geneblazo and company. However, upon seeing that Geneblazo was about to draw his knife, they ran away.

Maximino Geneblazo caught up with Domingo Opalsa and stabbed the latter twice – the first stab landed on the left
side of the body in the area of the armpit, while the second landed on the left side of the face.

SPO1 Emmanuel Quiogue of the Philippine National Police, at Calauag, Quezon was at home on the night in
question. He heard a commotion outside. Peeping out the window he saw some men throwing stones at each other.
He got his gun and went outside. Noticing the chase which ensued, he went after the men.

At the scene of the incident, SPO1 Quiogue saw two men almost locked in an embrace. He fired his gun but the two
did not draw apart so he stood between them so as to separate them. One of the men fell to the ground while the
person who was left standing stabbed him. Only his finger was hit. He recognized the person who stabbed him as
Maximino Geneblazo.
Thereafter SPO1 Quiogue, Obien and Barangay Captain Torres of Pinagtalyeran brought Opalsa to St. Peter’s
Hospital where the latter was pronounced dead on arrival.

Maximino Geneblazo, who was the lone witness for the defense, testified that he was standing in front of the market
at about 12:00 midnight on January 15, 1988, when two men who were drunk passed by. They challenged him to a
fight. He recognized these two men as Adie Obien and Momoy (Domingo Opalsa). When he refused to fight them,
the latter threw stones and flowerpots at him. Thereafter, Geneblazo chased them for he wanted to know why he
was being stoned and because he wanted to get even.

Geneblazo caught up with Momoy. When he was about to box the latter, Momoy drew out a knife. Momoy struck the
bridge of the nose and finger of Geneblazo with the knife. When Geneblazo fell down he heard a gunshot. Momoy
was about to stab Geneblazo again but when he heard the shot he was startled so the latter was able to wrest the
weapon from Momoy.

Geneblazo then stabbed Momoy in the abdomen. He was about to stab Momoy again when SPO1 Quiogue arrived
on the scene. While SPO1 Quiogue was pacifying them, Geneblazo hit Momoy in the neck. As he did not recognize
SPO1 Quiogue he accidentally hit the latter’s left hand with the knife but when recognition dawned on him who
SPO1 Quiogue was, he ran away and hid until his surrender to a police officer Baloloy.

Salvacion Opalsa y Conohan, the mother of the victim, testified for the prosecution declaring that her family incurred
expenses in the total amount of P45,000.00 for the burial and wake of the victim. The P45,000.00 is broken down as
follows: P5,000.00 for funeral expense, P16,000.00 was spent during the wake, P6,000.00 was expenses for the
cemetery, P8,000.00 was spent to look for the accused, an additional P5,000.00 for funeral services and P5,000.00
spent during the nine-day prayers for the deceased after the interment. A certification from the Sutarez Funeral
Homes stating that it rendered funeral services to the late Domingo Opalsa in the amount of P5,000.00[2] and a
handwritten list of the expenses[3] were presented as evidence.

On February 2, 1998, the trial court rendered a decision convicting the accused the decretal position of which reads:

"WHEREFORE, finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder, the Court
hereby sentences the said accused to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA and to pay P50,000.00
as moral damages and an additional P45,000.00 as actual damages to the heirs of Domingo Opalsa and to
pay the costs.

"SO ORDERED."[4]

Hence, this appeal where accused-appellant assigns the following errors allegedly committed by the trial court:

"I

"THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT FOR THE CRIME OF MURDER,
HAVING APPRECIATED THE QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCE OF TREACHERY.

"II

"THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT CONSIDERING THE JUSTIFYING CIRCUMSTANCE OF SELF-DEFENSE
INTERPOSED BY THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT."

The appeal is meritorious in the sense that the penalty should be lowered.

Accused-appellant Maximino Geneblazo alleges that he killed the victim Domingo Opalsa in self-defense.

Well-settled is the rule that in interposing self-defense, the offender admits authorship of the killing. The onus
probandi is thus shifted to him to prove the elements of self-defense and that the killing was justified; otherwise,
having admitted the killing, conviction is inescapable. Concomitantly, he must rely on the strength of his own
evidence and not on the weakness of the prosecution’s evidence. For self-defense to prosper, it must be established
that: (1) there was unlawful aggression by the victim; (2) that the means employed to prevent or repel such
aggression was reasonable; and (3) that there was lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending
himself.[5]

It was sufficiently established by the prosecution that the victim Domingo Opalsa and his companion Alex Obien
were merely walking on the road when they were pelted with stones by Maximino Geneblazo and his companions;
that Opalsa and Obien retaliated; that they ran away when they saw that Geneblazo was about to draw his knife;
that Geneblazo pursued them; that Geneblazo stabbed Opalsa when he caught up with the latter.

It is quite apparent that it was not the victim who committed the unlawful aggression but the accused-appellant
himself.

Unlawful aggression contemplates an actual, sudden and unexpected attack, or imminent danger thereof, and not
merely a threatening or intimidating attitude -- there has to exist a real danger to the life or personal safety of the
person claiming self-defense.[6]

Assuming arguendo that the accused-appellant’s version of the events of the night in question is the truth and that
the unlawful aggression emanated from the victim and his companion who were drunk at the time, the aggression
ceased to exist when the victim and his companion ran away. There was no longer any real danger to the life or
personal safety of the accused. An act of aggression, when its author does not persist in his purpose, or when he
discontinues his attitude to the extent that the object of his attack is no longer in peril, is not unlawful aggression
warranting self-defense.[7]

When accused-appellant Geneblazo pursued the two men, it was then that he became the aggressor.

Finally, belying accused-appellant’s claim of self-defense is his testimony that as soon as he grabbed the knife from
the victim he stabbed the latter in the abdomen. Still he didn’t stop there. He again stabbed the victim in the neck
even in the presence of SPO1 Quiogue who arrived to pacify them.

Having divested the victim of his knife, the accused-appellant was placed at an advantage as he already had control
of the bladed weapon. The victim was therefore left unarmed and accused-appellant Geneblazo did not testify nor is
there anything on record to show that the vicitm tried to grapple with him for possession of the knife. A third person
(a police officer, at that) was present to pacify them. There was really no need for the accused-appellant to stab the
victim. And his doing so revealed his murderous intent.

However, the matter of whether or not the deceased was the aggressor is factual. It is a settled rule that the trial
court is in a better position to ascertain the facts under the circumstances. In the absence of any justifiable reason,
this Court is bound to uphold the findings of the trial court.

The accused-appellant admitted that he recognized SPO1 Quiogue after he had stabbed the victim for the second
time. His taking flight and going into hiding instead of surrendering to SPO1 Quiogue on the spot was highly
evidentiary of guilt, and incompatible with his claim of self-defense. Flight negates self-defense and indicates
guilt.[8]

The prosecution failed to prove that the qualifying circumstance of treachery was present in this case. Treachery
must be proven as clearly and as cogently as the crime itself.[9]

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 and thereby ensuring its commission without risk to
himself.[10]

When Opalsa and Obien were pelted with stones, they had the option of retaliating or running away. They did both.
First they threw stones at their attackers, and when they saw that the accused-appellant was about to draw his knife
they ran away. While the stoning incident was sudden, the attack upon the victim was not. The victim, aware that the
accused-appellant was armed with a weapon, knew that the latter was of a mind to use the weapon and that the
only thing he could do to avoid being wounded was to outrun the accused-appellant. Unfortunately the accused-
appellant caught up with Opalsa and inflicted a fatal stab on him which led to his demise. We do not agree with the
trial court that the killing was attended by treachery that would make the accused-appellant guilty of the crime of
murder. We find the accused-appellant guilty of homicide only.

The trial court ordered the accused-appellant to pay P50,000.00 as moral damages and an additional P45,000.00 as
actual damages to the heirs of Domingo Opalsa and to pay the costs.

The award of actual damages amounting to P45,000.00 to the heirs of the victim cannot be sustained. Said amount
was allegedly incurred in the interment of the deceased. Except for the amount of P5,000.00 that was supported by
a certification/receipt, the sum of P40,000.00 was not substantiated by competent evidence. The award of actual
damages cannot rest on the bare allegation of the heirs of the offended party.[11]

In accordance with prevailing jurisprudence, civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00 should be awarded to the
heirs of the victim.

Based on our findings that homicide, not murder, was committed, the penalty imposed upon accused-appellant
should correspondingly be lowered to reclusion temporal. There being no aggravating nor mitigating circumstance,
the proper imposable penalty should be reclusion temporal in its medium period. Applying the Indeterminate
Sentence Law, the minimum term is anywhere within the range of prision mayor, or from 6 years and 1 day to 12
years, and the maximum within the range of reclusion temporal in its medium period, or from 14 years, 8 months
and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision of the Regional Trial Court at Calauag, Quezon Br. 63, finding accused-appellant
guilty of the crime of murder, is MODIFIED. Instead, this Court finds accused-appellant Maximino Geneblazo guilty
of the crime of Homicide, and sentenced 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
temporalmedium, as maximum. The accused is ORDERED to pay the heirs of the victim civil indemnity in the
amount of P50,000.00, actual damages of P5,000.00, moral damages in the sum of P50,000.00, and to pay the
costs.

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, (Chairman), Mendoza and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.


Quisumbing, J., on official business.
CrimLaw - Case 4 of 20

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

C.A. No. 384 February 21, 1946

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
NICOLAS JAURIGUE and AVELINA JAURIGUE, defendants.
AVELINA JAURIGUE, appellant.

Jose Ma. Recto for appellant.


Assistant Solicitor General Enriquez and Solicitor Palma for appellee..

DE JOYA, J.:

Nicolas Jaurigue and Avelina Jaurigue were prosecuted in the Court of First Instance of Tayabas, for the crime of murder,
of which Nicolas Jaurigue was acquitted, but defendant Avelina Jaurigue was found guilty of homicide and sentenced to
an indeterminate penalty ranging from seven years, four months and one day of prision mayor to thirteen years, nine
months and eleven days of reclusion temporal, with the accessory penalties provided by law, to indemnify the heirs of the
deceased, Amando Capina, in the sum of P2,000, and to pay one-half of the costs. She was also credited with one-half of
the period of preventive imprisonment suffered by her.

From said judgment of conviction, defendant Avelina Jaurigue appealed to the Court of Appeals for Southern Luzon, and
in her brief filed therein on June 10, 1944, claimed —

(1) That the lower court erred in not holding that said appellant had acted in the legitimate defense of her honor
and that she should be completely absolved of all criminal responsibility;

(2) That the lower court erred in not finding in her favor the additional mitigating circumstances that (a) she did not
have the intention to commit so grave a wrong as that actually committed, and that (b) she voluntarily surrendered
to the agents of the authorities; and

(3) That the trial court erred in holding that the commission of the alleged offense was attended by the
aggravating circumstance of having been committed in a sacred place.

The evidence adduced by the parties, at the trial in the court below, has sufficiently established the following facts:

That both the defendant and appellant Avelina Jaurigue and the deceased Amado Capina lived in the barrio of Sta. Isabel,
City of San Pablo, Province of Laguna; that for sometime prior to the stabbing of the deceased by defendant and
appellant, in the evening of September 20, 1942, the former had been courting the latter in vain, and that on one
occasion, about one month before that fatal night, Amado Capina snatched a handkerchief belonging to her, bearing her
nickname "Aveling," while it was being washed by her cousin, Josefa Tapay.

On September 13, 1942, while Avelina was feeding a dog under her house, Amado approached her and spoke to her of
his love, which she flatly refused, and he thereupon suddenly embraced and kissed her and touched her breasts, on
account of which Avelina, resolute and quick-tempered girl, slapped Amado, gave him fist blows and kicked him. She kept
the matter to herself, until the following morning when she informed her mother about it. Since then, she armed herself
with a long fan knife, whenever she went out, evidently for self-protection.

On September 15, 1942, about midnight, Amado climbed up the house of defendant and appellant, and surreptitiously
entered the room where she was sleeping. He felt her forehead, evidently with the intention of abusing her. She
immediately screamed for help, which awakened her parents and brought them to her side. Amado came out from where
he had hidden under a bed in Avelina's room and kissed the hand of Nicolas Jaurigue, her father, asking for forgiveness;
and when Avelina's mother made an attempt to beat Amado, her husband prevented her from doing so, stating that
Amado probably did not realize what he was doing. Nicolas Jaurigue sent for the barrio lieutenant, Casimiro Lozada, and
for Amado's parents, the following morning. Amado's parents came to the house of Nicolas Jaurigue and apologized for
the misconduct of their son; and as Nicolas Jaurigue was then angry, he told them to end the conversation, as he might
not be able to control himself.

In the morning of September 20, 1942, Avelina received information that Amado had been falsely boasting in the
neighborhood of having taken liberties with her person and that she had even asked him to elope with her and that if he
should not marry her, she would take poison; and that Avelina again received information of Amado's bragging at about 5
o'clock in the afternoon of that same day.

At about 8 o'clock in the evening of the same day, September 20, 1942, Nicolas Jaurigue went to the chapel of the
Seventh Day Adventists of which he was the treasurer, in their barrio, just across the provincial road from his house, to
attend religious services, and sat on the front bench facing the altar with the other officials of the organization and the
barrio lieutenant, Casimiro Lozada. Inside the chapel it was quite bright as there were electric lights.

Defendant and appellant Avelina Jaurigue entered the chapel shortly after the arrival of her father, also for the purpose of
attending religious services, and sat on the bench next to the last one nearest the door. Amado Capina was seated on the
other side of the chapel. Upon observing the presence of Avelina Jaurigue, Amado Capina went to the bench on which
Avelina was sitting and sat by her right side, and, without saying a word, Amado, with the greatest of impudence, placed
his hand on the upper part of her right thigh. On observing this highly improper and offensive conduct of Amado Capina,
Avelina Jaurigue, conscious of her personal dignity and honor, pulled out with her right hand the fan knife marked Exhibit
B, which she had in a pocket of her dress, with the intention of punishing Amado's offending hand. Amado seized
Avelina's right hand, but she quickly grabbed the knife with her left hand and stabbed Amado once at the base of the left
side of the neck, inflicting upon him a wound about 4 1/2 inches deep, which was necessarily mortal. Nicolas Jaurigue,
who was seated on one of the front benches, saw Amado bleeding and staggering towards the altar, and upon seeing his
daughter still holding the bloody knife, he approached her and asked: "Why did you do that," and answering him Avelina
said: "Father, I could not endure anymore." Amado Capina died from the wound a few minutes later. Barrio lieutenant
Casimiro Lozada, who was also in the same chapel, approached Avelina and asked her why she did that, and Avelina
surrendered herself, saying: "Kayo na po ang bahala sa aquin," meaning: "I hope you will take care of me," or more
correctly, "I place myself at your disposal." Fearing that Amado's relatives might retaliate, barrio lieutenant Lozada
advised Nicolas Jaurigue and herein defendant and appellant to go home immediately, to close their doors and windows
and not to admit anybody into the house, unless accompanied by him. That father and daughter went home and locked
themselves up, following instructions of the barrio lieutenant, and waited for the arrival of the municipal authorities; and
when three policemen arrived in their house, at about 10 o'clock that night, and questioned them about the incident,
defendant and appellant immediately surrendered the knife marked as Exhibit B, and informed said policemen briefly of
what had actually happened in the chapel and of the previous acts and conduct of the deceased, as already stated above,
and went with said policemen to the police headquarters, where her written statements were taken, and which were
presented as a part of the evidence for the prosecution.

The high conception of womanhood that our people possess, however humble they may be, is universal. It has been
entertained and has existed in all civilized communities.

A beautiful woman is said to be a jewel; a good woman, a treasure; and that a virtuous woman represents the only true
nobility. And they are the future wives and mothers of the land. Such are the reasons why, in the defense of their honor,
when brutally attacked, women are permitted to make use of all reasonable means available within their reach, under the
circumstances. Criminologists and courts of justice have entertained and upheld this view.

On the other hand, it is the duty of every man to protect and show loyalty to womanhood, as in the days of chivalry. There
is a country where women freely go out unescorted and, like the beautiful roses in their public gardens, they always
receive the protection of all. That country is Switzerland.

In the language of Viada, aside from the right to life on which rests the legitimate defense of our own person, we have the
right to property acquired by us, and the right to honor which is not the least prized of our patrimony (1 Viada, Codigo
Penal, 5th ed., pp. 172, 173).

The attempt to rape a woman constitutes an unlawful aggression sufficient to put her in a state of legitimate defense,
inasmuch as a woman's honor cannot but be esteemed as a right as precious, if not more, than her very existence; and it
is evident that a woman who, thus imperiled, wounds, nay kills the offender, should be afforded exemption from criminal
liability, since such killing cannot be considered a crime from the moment it became the only means left for her to protect
her honor from so great an outrage (1 Viada, Codigo Penal, 5th ed., p. 301; People vs. Luague and Alcansare, 62 Phil.,
504). .

As long as there is actual danger of being raped, a woman is justified in killing her aggressor, in the defense of her honor.
Thus, where the deceased grabbed the defendant in a dark night at about 9 o'clock, in an isolated barrio trail, holding her
firmly from behind, without warning and without revealing his identity, and, in the struggle that followed, touched her
private parts, and that she was unable to free herself by means of her strength alone, she was considered justified in
making use of a pocket knife in repelling what she believed to be an attack upon her honor, and which ended in his death,
since she had no other means of defending herself, and consequently exempt from all criminal liability (People vs. De la
Cruz, 16 Phil., 344).

And a woman, in defense of her honor, was perfectly justified in inflicting wounds on her assailant with a bolo which she
happened to be carrying at the time, even though her cry for assistance might have been heard by people nearby, when
the deceased tried to assault her in a dark and isolated place, while she was going from her house to a certain tienda, for
the purpose of making purchases (United States vs. Santa Ana and Ramos, 22 Phil., 249).

In the case, however, in which a sleeping woman was awakened at night by someone touching her arm, and, believing
that some person was attempting to abuse her, she asked who the intruder was and receiving no reply, attacked and
killed the said person with a pocket knife, it was held that, notwithstanding the woman's belief in the supposed attempt, it
was not sufficient provocation or aggression to justify her completely in using deadly weapon. Although she actually
believed it to be the beginning of an attempt against her, she was not completely warranted in making such a deadly
assault, as the injured person, who turned out to be her own brother-in-law returning home with his wife, did not do any
other act which could be considered as an attempt against her honor (United States vs. Apego, 23 Phil., 391)..

In the instant case, if defendant and appellant had killed Amado Capina, when the latter climbed up her house late at night
on September 15, 1942, and surreptitiously entered her bedroom, undoubtedly for the purpose of raping her, as indicated
by his previous acts and conduct, instead of merely shouting for help, she could have been perfectly justified in killing him,
as shown by the authorities cited above..

According to the facts established by the evidence and found by the learned trial court in this case, when the deceased
sat by the side of defendant and appellant on the same bench, near the door of the barrio chapel and placed his hand on
the upper portion of her right thigh, without her consent, the said chapel was lighted with electric lights, and there were
already several people, about ten of them, inside the chapel, including her own father and the barrio lieutenant and other
dignitaries of the organization; and under the circumstances, there was and there could be no possibility of her being
raped. And when she gave Amado Capina a thrust at the base of the left side of his neck, inflicting upon him a mortal
wound 4 1/2 inches deep, causing his death a few moments later, the means employed by her in the defense of her honor
was evidently excessive; and under the facts and circumstances of the case, she cannot be legally declared completely
exempt from criminal liability..

But the fact that defendant and appellant immediately and voluntarily and unconditionally surrendered to the barrio
lieutenant in said chapel, admitting having stabbed the deceased, immediately after the incident, and agreed to go to her
house shortly thereafter and to remain there subject to the order of the said barrio lieutenant, an agent of the authorities
(United States vs. Fortaleza, 12 Phil., 472); and the further fact that she had acted in the immediate vindication of a grave
offense committed against her a few moments before, and upon such provocation as to produce passion and obfuscation,
or temporary loss of reason and self-control, should be considered as mitigating circumstances in her favor (People vs.
Parana, 64 Phil., 331; People vs. Sakam, 61 Phil., 27; United States vs. Arribas, 1 Phil., 86).

Defendant and appellant further claims that she had not intended to kill the deceased but merely wanted to punish his
offending hand with her knife, as shown by the fact that she inflicted upon him only one single wound. And this is another
mitigating circumstance which should be considered in her favor (United States vs. Brobst, 14 Phil., 310; United States vs.
Diaz, 15 Phil., 123).

The claim of the prosecution, sustained by the learned trial court, that the offense was committed by the defendant and
appellant, with the aggravating circumstance that the killing was done in a place dedicated to religious worship, cannot be
legally sustained; as there is no evidence to show that the defendant and appellant had murder in her heart when she
entered the chapel that fatal night. Avelina is not a criminal by nature. She happened to kill under the greatest
provocation. She is a God-fearing young woman, typical of our country girls, who still possess the consolation of religious
hope in a world where so many others have hopelessly lost the faith of their elders and now drifting away they know not
where.
The questions raised in the second and third assignments of error appear, therefore, to be well taken; and so is the first
assignment of error to a certain degree.

In the mind of the court, there is not the least doubt that, in stabbing to death the deceased Amado Capina, in the manner
and form and under the circumstances above indicated, the defendant and appellant committed the crime of homicide,
with no aggravating circumstance whatsoever, but with at least three mitigating circumstances of a qualified character to
be considered in her favor; and, in accordance with the provisions of article 69 of the Revised Penal Code, she is entitled
to a reduction by one or two degrees in the penalty to be imposed upon her. And considering the circumstances of the
instant case, the defendant and appellant should be accorded the most liberal consideration possible under the law
(United States vs. Apego, 23 Phil., 391; United States vs. Rivera, 41 Phil., 472; People vs. Mercado, 43 Phil., 950)..

The law prescribes the penalty of reclusion temporal for the crime of homicide; and if it should be reduced by two degrees,
the penalty to be imposed in the instant case is that of prision correccional; and pursuant to the provisions of section 1 of
Act No. 4103 of the Philippine Legislature, known as the Indeterminate Sentence Law, herein defendant and appellant
should be sentenced to an indeterminate penalty ranging from arresto mayor in its medium degree, to prision
correccional in its medium degree. Consequently, with the modification of judgment appealed from, defendant and
appellant Avelina Jaurigue is hereby sentenced to an indeterminate penalty ranging from two months and one day
of arresto mayor, as minimum, to two years, four months, and one day of prision correccional, as maximum, with the
accessory penalties prescribed by law, to indemnify the heirs of the deceased Amado Capina, in the sum of P2,000, and
to suffer the corresponding subsidiary imprisonment, not to exceed 1/3 of the principal penalty, in case of insolvency, and
to pay the costs. Defendant and appellant should also be given the benefit of 1/2 of her preventive imprisonment, and the
knife marked Exhibit B ordered confiscated. So ordered..

Ozaeta, Perfecto, and Bengzon, JJ., concur.

Separate Opinions

HILADO, J., concurring:

In past dissenting and concurring opinions my view regarding the validity or nullity of judicial proceedings in the Japanese-
sponsored courts which functioned in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation has been consistent. I am not
abandoning it. But in deference to the majority who sustain the opposite view, and because no party litigant herein has
raised the question, I have taken part in the consideration of this case on the merits. And, voting on the merits, I concur in
the foregoing decision penned by Justice De Joya.
CrimLaw - Case 5 of 20

EN BANC

G.R. No. 146687 August 22, 2002

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
BONNIE R. RABANAL, accused-appellant.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

In the early dawn of August 11, 1996, a drunken and armed Roberto Pascua was fatally shot by the security guard
of a building in Dagupan City, Pangasinan. The prosecution asserts that Pascua was treacherously shot while the
defense contends that it was an act of self-preservation.

The security guard, Bonnie R. Rabanal, was charged with Murder committed as follows:

That on or about the 11th day of August 1996, in the City of Dagupan, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused BONNIE R. RABANAL, being then armed with a gun, with treachery
and with intent to kill one ROBERTO PASCUA, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and criminally attack, assault
and use personal violence upon the latter by shooting him, hitting him several times on vital parts of his body with
the said gun, thereby causing his death shortly thereafter due to "Cardio Respiratory Arrest, Massive Intra-thoracic
and Intra-Abdominal Hemorrhage, Gunshot Wound[s]" as per Autopsy Report and Certificate of Death, both issued
by Dr. Thomas G. Cornel, to the damage and prejudice of the legal heirs of said deceased, ROBERTO PASCUA, in
the amount of not less than FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00), Philippine currency, and other consequential
damages.

Contrary to Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. 7659.1

The case was docketed as Criminal Case No. 96-01443-D of the Regional Trial Court of Dagupan City, Branch 44.
Accused-appellant entered a negative plea when arraigned.2 The case thereafter proceeded to trial.

The prosecution’s version of the incident:

At 2:00 a.m. of August 11, 1996, Freddie Soriano, a security guard of the CSI building in Dagupan City, saw
accused-appellant Bonnie Rabanal, a security guard of the McDonald’s restaurant located in the same building,
repeatedly shoot at close range the victim Rudy Pascua, the security coordinator of the building. After the victim fell
down, accused-appellant fired another shot and then took the victim’s gun and fled.3

The victim was rushed to the Pangasinan Provincial Hospital, Dagupan City, where he was declared dead on arrival.
The victim suffered four gunshot wounds on the chest, all of which were fatal.4

Accused-appellant, on the other hand, asserts that the fatal shooting of Rudy Pascua was an act of self-defense. He
alleges that on August 11, 1996, at 2:00 a.m., Pascua, who was armed and reeking of alcohol, approached him at
his usual post in front of the McDonald’s restaurant and suddenly kicked the podium, causing it to fall on him. When
accused-appellant asked what was the matter, Pascua uttered, "You’re hard-headed security guards, I told you to
give me P100.00 per head monthly but you refused to give, are you going to give me or not?" He then drew his
firearm and said, "If that’s the thing you want to happen, I better kill you."5
Accused-appellant pleaded for his life while Pascua demanded that he surrender his firearm. While Pascua was
1âwphi1

reaching for accused-appellant’s holster, the latter pushed him and grabbed his gun. Pascua lost his balance and
staggered backwards. At that instant, accused-appellant drew his pistol and pulled the trigger four times. Pascua fell
to the ground. Accused-appellant then took the gun from Pascua’s hand and brought it to the security agency as
proof that somebody attempted to kill him.6

That same day, accused-appellant voluntarily surrendered himself and Pascua’s firearm to Supt. Enrique Galang at
Camp Crame. He did not surrender at Dagupan because of Pascua’s influence as bodyguard of Belen Fernandez.
He was brought to the Lingayen Police Station the following day.7

On October 24, 2000, the trial court rendered judgment convicting accused-appellant and imposing on him the
supreme penalty of death, thus:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds accused Bonnie R. Rabanal guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder
attended by the aggravating circumstance of cruelty and not offset by any mitigating circumstances, and pursuant to
law, accused Bonnie R. Rabanal is sentenced to suffer the Death Penalty and to pay an indemnity of P50,000.00 to
the heirs of the deceased.

The accused is ordered to pay P100,000.00 representing expenses during the wake and P60,000.00 for the coffin
and tomb; P5,440,800.00 as indemnity for loss of earnings; and P50,000.00 as moral damages.

The Service Revolver (caliber .38 with Serial No. 54913 [Exhibit 9] ) and the firearm with Serial Number FG66801, 9
mm pistol, Colt MK IV, Exhibit "10", all in the possession of the City Prosecutor, are ordered confiscated and
forfeited in favor of the Government. The evidence custodian in the City Prosecutor’s Office, Dagupan City, is
ordered and directed to turn over the firearms immediately to the Firearms and Explosives Division, Camp Crame,
Quezon City.

With costs against the accused.

SO ORDERED.8

Before us on automatic review, accused-appellant argues that:

A. THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT ALL ELEMENTS OF SELF-DEFENSE WERE NOT
OBTAINING BASED ON CONJECTURAL, PREPOSTEROUS, AND ILLOGICAL REASONS.

B. THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING TREACHERY. THERE WAS NO TREACHERY IN A FACE
TO FACE ENCOUNTER WITH DECEASED WHOSE FIREARM WAS WITHIN EASY REACH. FURTHERMORE
ACCUSED-APPELLANT NEVER EMPLOYED MEANS TO ENSURE SUCCESS WITHOUT RISK TO HIMSELF.

C. THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED FINDING CRUELTY BASED ON THE NUMBER OF ALLEGED
MORTAL WOUNDS SUSTAINED BY THE DECEASED. IT IS SUBMITTED THAT CRUELTY REFERS TO THE
MANNER OF EXECUTION AND NOT THE NUMBER OF MORTAL WOUNDS INFLICTED IN SELF-DEFENSE.

D. THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT SINCE ACCUSED-APPELLANT SURRENDERED
AT CAMP CRAME AND NOT AT DAGUPAN VOLUNTARY SURRENDER MUST NOT BE APPRECIATED. NO
OTHER SUBMISSION COULD BEST ADDRESS SUCH RULING THAN THAT THE PROFFERED REASON IS
UTTERLY WHIMSICAL, TWISTED, AND SHAMEFUL IN A SOCIETY OF THINKING MEN.

E. THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN COMMITTING HIGHWAY ROBBERY BY AWARDING AN


UNCONSCIONABLE AMOUNT OF DAMAGES.9

For self-defense to prosper, accused-appellant must prove by clear and convincing evidence the following elements:
(1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (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.10 Although all the three
elements must concur, self-defense must rest firstly on proof of unlawful aggression on the part of the victim. If no
unlawful aggression has been proved, no self-defense may be successfully pleaded, whether complete or
incomplete.11 In other words in self-defense, unlawful aggression is a primordial element. It presupposes an actual,
sudden and unexpected attack or imminent danger on the life and limb of a person – not a mere threatening or
intimidating attitude – at the time the defensive action was taken against the aggressor.12

In the case at bar, even if we sustain the version of accused-appellant that the initial act of aggression came from
the deceased, we cannot uphold his plea of self-defense. While indeed, the drunken victim initially brandished his
handgun and aimed it at accused-appellant, the evidence shows that he laid it down on the nearby concrete
porchshortly before he was shot several times by accused-appellant.13

When the deceased laid down his gun, unlawful aggression had already ceased and it was no longer necessary for
accused-appellant to have fired successively the way he did at the victim.14 Furthermore, we note that accused-
appellant had shoved the intoxicated victim who staggered backwards. Hence, it was accused-appellant who
became the aggressor when he, despite such prevailing conditions, not to mention the inebriated physical state of
the deceased, proceeded to fire several shots at the victim. His act can no longer be interpreted as an act of self-
preservation but a perverse desire to kill.15

Accused-appellant, however, insists that the unlawful aggression of the victim was a "continuing one whether or not
he momentarily tripped, lost his balance or did similar acts of temporary character."16 Thus, he argues that even if the
deceased lowered his guard at some point, he was still the aggressor. He also cites the fact that the victim was
"predisposed to using violence and intimidation while accused-appellant was simply a security guard doing his job;"
and that the victim was armed with the more powerful and sophisticated .9mm Colt MK IV series 80, while accused-
appellant merely had an inferior .38 caliber pistol.17

These arguments fail to persuade.

There is unlawful aggression when the peril to one’s life, limb or right is either actual or imminent. Actual peril to
one’s life means that the danger must be present, that is, actually in existence, or imminent in that the danger is on
the point of happening.18 This cannot be said in this case because the victim was unarmed when he was shot by
accused-appellant.19 Indeed, the danger had already ceased when the victim laid his gun down on the pavement,
thus enabling accused-appellant to push him away.

Furthermore, even assuming that the victim was a gun club member armed with a more powerful handgun than that
of accused-appellant, it must be pointed out that the deceased was at the time of the incident a middle-aged and
drunken 46 year-old,20 with impaired and slowed physical reflexes on account of his intoxication. Accused-appellant,
on the other hand, was a youthful and sober 27 year-old security guard, in full possession of his physical
faculties.21Accused-appellant stands 5’5"22 while the victim’s height was only 5’2".23 Suffice it to state that under such
conditions, it would have been easy for the bigger, sober accused-appellant to subdue the intoxicated and already
unarmed victim.

It must be remembered that the means employed by the person making a defense must be rationally necessary to
prevent or repel an unlawful aggression.24 What the law requires is a rational equivalence, in the consideration of
which will enter as principal factors the emergency, the imminent danger to which the person attacked is exposed,
and the instinct more than reason, that moves or impels the defense; and the proportionateness thereof does not
depend upon the harm done, but upon the imminent danger of such injury.25

In other words, whether or not the means employed is reasonable will depend upon the nature and quality of the
weapon used by the aggressor, his physical condition, character, size and other circumstances and those of the
person defending himself as well as the place and occasion of the assault.26

In the case at bar, assuming arguendo that the aggression was continuing, the means employed by accused-
appellant in repelling the assault of the unarmed victim was not reasonable. It must be noted that the deceased
sustained four (4) gunshot wounds fired at close range, all of them concentrated on the chest area and each of them
fatal.27 It bears repeating in this regard that the nature and number of wounds inflicted by the accused are constantly
and unremittingly considered as important indicia which disprove the plea for self-defense because they
demonstrate a determined effort to kill the victim and not just defend oneself.28

All told, the Court finds no reason to reverse the ruling of the court a quo insofar as accused-appellant’s culpability is
concerned.
This brings us to the second issue, concerning the propriety of the imposition by the trial court of the death penalty
on the ground that the killing was qualified by treachery and aggravated by cruelty.

It must be borne in mind that qualifying and aggravating circumstances which are taken into consideration for the
purpose of increasing the degree of the penalty imposed must be proven with equal certainty as the commission of
the act charged as criminal offense.29

Murder is the unlawful killing of any person when qualified by any of the circumstances listed under Article 248 of
the Revised Penal Code.30 Treachery or alevosia, which is alleged in the information, is one such qualifying
circumstance.

We do not agree with the trial court that the killing of Rudy Pascua was attended by alevosia. There is treachery
when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, 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.31 In this case, the two elements of treachery are not present, i.e. (1) that at the
time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself, and (2) that the offender consciously adopted
the particular means, method or form of attack employed by him.32 The essence of treachery is the swift and
unexpected attack on the unarmed victim without the slightest provocation on the part of the victim.33

For treachery to be appreciated, it must be present and seen by the witness right at the inception of the
attack.34Where no particulars are known as to how the killing began, its perpetration with treachery cannot merely be
supposed.35 In the case at bar, there was neither a description of how the attack was commenced – whether it was
sudden, unexpected and whether the victim was caught totally unaware – nor has there been a showing that the
method of execution in the commission of the crime was consciously or deliberately adopted by the malefactor.

To reiterate, the existence of alevosia must be based on positive or conclusive proof, not mere suppositions or
speculations,36 and must be proved as clearly and as convincingly as the killing itself.37 Any doubt as to the existence
of treachery must be resolved in favor of the accused.38

Likewise, the aggravating circumstance of cruelty cannot be appreciated in this case. There is cruelty when the
1âwphi1

culprit enjoys and delights in making his victim suffer slowly and gradually, causing him unnecessary physical pain
in the consummation of the criminal act.39 In other words, for cruelty to be appreciated, it must be shown that the
accused, for his pleasure and satisfaction, caused the victim to suffer slowly and painfully as he inflicted on him
unnecessary physical and moral pain. The crime is aggravated because by deliberately increasing the suffering of
the victim, the offender denotes sadism and, consequently, a marked degree of malice and perversity.40

The test for determining the presence of cruelty is whether the accused deliberately and sadistically augmented the
victim’s suffering.41 Consequently, there must be proof that that the victim was made to agonize before he was
killed.42 In this case, the wounds sustained by the victim came from four (4) gunshots fired in quick succession.
Furthermore, other than the number and location of the wounds, there is absolutely no evidence that would show
accused-appellant’s cruelty and sadism. The mere fact of inflicting several wounds successively upon a person to
cause his death, with no appreciable time intervening between the infliction of said injuries to show that the
malefactor wanted to prolong the suffering of the victim, is not sufficient to prove the existence of this aggravating
circumstance.43

The mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender cannot be appreciated given the factual milieu of this case. 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.44 For the circumstances of voluntary surrender, it is sufficient that it be spontaneous and made in a
manner clearly indicating the intent of the accused to surrender unconditionally, either because he acknowledges
his guilt or wishes to save the authorities the trouble and expense which will necessarily be incurred in searching for
and capturing him.45

In the case at bar, accused-appellant fled after the commission of the crime, taking with him the victim’s gun,
although the Dagupan City Police Station was just a few meters away from the locus criminis. His supposed fear for
the victim’s influence in the community has no basis, and, if at all, even betrays his feelings of guilt at what
transpired. As has been aptly ruled in People v. Herrera:46
Flight strongly indicates a guilty mind and betrays the existence of a guilty conscience. Indeed, flight is an implied
1âwphi1

admission of guilt and accused-appellant’s act of fleeing to Batangas after shooting the victims cannot but betray his
guilt and his desire to evade responsibility therefor. Certainly, a righteous individual will not cower in fear and
unabashedly admit the killing at the earliest possible opportunity if he were morally justified in doing so. If
the accused-appellant honestly believed that his acts constituted self-defense against the unlawful aggression of the
victim, he should have reported the incident to the police instead of escaping and avoiding the
authorities. (Emphasis and italics supplied)

The circumstances that accused-appellant neither resisted arrest nor did he struggle to free himself when he was
taken into custody by the authorities do not amount to voluntary surrender.47 Indeed, it was only later that he decided
to turn himself in. Needless to state, his surrender can hardly be deemed spontaneous.

In the absence of the qualifying circumstance of treachery, the crime committed is Homicide and not Murder.48 The
penalty therefor, under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code, is Reclusion Temporal, to be imposed in its medium
period considering that there is no modifying circumstance to aggravate or to mitigate criminal liability.49 Applying the
Indeterminate Sentence Law, accused-appellant shall be entitled to a minimum term, to be taken from the penalty
next lower in degree, Prision Mayor. Thus, accused-appellant shall be sentenced to an indeterminate penalty 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.

Coming now to the matter of damages, we affirm the award of civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00, pursuant
to prevailing jurisprudence.50 Such award requires no proof other than the death of the victim.51 Likewise, the award of
moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00 is consistent with controlling case law taking into consideration the
pain and anguish of the victim’s family brought about by his death.52

However, the award of P26,000.00 for the Eternal Garden plot, P60,000.00 for the coffin of the victim and
P100,000.00 for the wake and other expenses incurred in connection with the death of the deceased, amounting to
a total of P186,000.00, should be modified. The trial court did not present any computation to justify such an
amount. In fact, other than the bare allegations of the victim’s widow to this effect, the records are totally bereft of
any receipt or voucher to justify the trial court’s award for burial and other expenses. The rule is that every pecuniary
loss must be established by credible evidence before it may be awarded.53 Credence can be given only to claims
which are duly supported by receipts or other credible evidence.54 Thus, the amount of actual damages should
accordingly be reduced to P66,000.00, which is borne out by the evidence.55

In the same vein, loss of earning capacity cannot be awarded to the victim’s heirs in the absence of competent proof
thereof. While the widow in this case testified on the victim’s income,56 the same can no longer serve as basis for lost
earnings, in the light of our recent ruling in People v. Panabang,57 and reiterated in People v. Cuenca.58 There we held
that indemnification for loss of earning capacity partakes of the nature of actual damages which must be duly
proven; and a self-serving statement, being unreliable, is not enough. For lost income to be recovered, there must
be an unbiased proof of the deceased’s average, not just gross, income.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Dagupan City, Branch 44, in
Criminal Case No. 96-01443-D is MODIFIED. Accused-appellant Bonnie R. Rabanal is found GUILTY beyond
reasonable doubt of Homicide and is sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty 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 ORDERED to pay the heirs of the victim, Roberto Pascua, the amounts of P50,000.00 as civil
indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages and P66,000.00 as burial and other expenses. The award of damages for
lost income is DELETED. The decision under review is AFFIRMED in all other respects.

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, and Corona, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., on official leave.
Sandoval-Gutierrez, J., on leave.
CrimLaw - Case 6 OF 20

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 202847 October 23, 2013

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee,


vs.
ANTERO GAMEZ y BALTAZAR, Accused-Appellant.

RESOLUTION

REYES, J.:

For review1 is the Decision2 dated May 25, 2011 of the Court of Appeals CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00671 which
affirmed the Judgment3 dated May 9, 2006 of the Regional Trial Court RTC) of Burauen, Leyte, Branch 15
convicting and sentencing accused-appellant Antero Gamez y Baltazar accused-appellant) to reclusion perpetua for
the crime of parricide.

The Facts

Accused-appellant was accused of killing his own father, Apolinario Gamez (Apolinario) through an Information
articulating the following criminal charges, viz:

That on or about the 21st day of August, 2004, in the Municipality of Burauen, Province of Leyte, Philippines and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with intent to kill and with treachery, did
then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, hack and wound one APOLINARIO GAMEZ y
AMORILLO, his father, with the use of a long bladed weapon (sundang) and sickle (sarad) which the accused
provided himself for the purpose, thereby hitting and inflicting upon Apolinario Gamez y Amorillo multiple hacking
and incised wounds on the different parts of his body which were the direct and approximate cause of his death.

CONTRARY TO LAW.4

When arraigned, he entered a "Not Guilty" plea. He thereafter desired to amend his plea to "Guilty" during the pre-
trial conference held on September 26, 2005 but the RTC denied the said plea bargaining. In view however of the
accused-appellant’s invocation of self-defense, an inverted trial scheme ensued.5

Through the testimonies of the accused-appellant himself, Dr. Irene Astilla Dacut, his attending physician, and
eyewitness Bienvenido Buhalog, the defense narrated the events that culminated into the encounter that claimed
Apolinario’s life.6

The accused-appellant and 69-year old Apolinario had a less than ideal father and son relationship with the former
claiming that the latter did not treat him well when he was a child. Their relationship got more strained when
Apolinario meddled with the accused-appellant’s personal relationship with his wife. Apolinario apparently told the
accused-appellant that his wife was being unfaithful. The unsolicited information irked the accused-appellant.

On August 21, 2004, the accused-appellant had a drinking spree in his house at Barangay Gamay, Burauen, Leyte,
with his two brothers, Nicolas and Cornelio from 12 noon until 3:00 p.m. As he was about to go out of the kitchen
door, the accused-appellant saw Apolinario standing at the doorway with a long bolo. Apolinario appeared to be
drunk.
To prevent any commotion, Nicolas held Apolinario but he was able to free himself from his son’s grip. The accused-
appellant then spoke to Apolinario: " I think that you are looking for me and I believe it is since last night ." An
argument ensued between them. In order not to prolong the spat, the accused-appellant and his brothers took their
father to his nipa hut about 500 meters away. But before the accused-appellant could leave, he got into another
argument with Apolinario.

The accused-appellant then set out to the place where he gathered tuba while his brothers went back to his house.
After gathering tuba and tethering his carabao, the accused-appellant proceeded home. He met Apolinario along a
pathway. With no one to pacify them, they decided to resume their quarrel.

The accused-appellant first remarked: "Father, what are the words that you uttered?" to which Apolinario responded,
"It is better if one of us will perish." Apolinario then instantaneously hacked the accused-appellant with a long bolo
hitting him twice on the head for which he sustained a 5-centimeter long and scalp-deep incised wound with fracture
of the underlying bone and another 5-cm long incised wound on the frontal right portion of his head.

The accused-appellant fell to his knees as Apolinario delivered another blow which the former was able to parry by
raising his left arm. The accused-appellant was wounded on the left 3rd interdigital space posterior to his palm.

The accused-appellant then held Apolinario’s hands, grabbed the bolo and used the same to hack the latter several
times, the count of which escaped the accused-appellant’s consciousness as he was already dizzy. The accused-
appellant thereafter left the scene and went home. His brother brought him to the hospital upon seeing that his head
was teeming with blood. He was hospitalized for six (6) days before he was taken to the municipal hall by the police
officers.

The rebuttal evidence for the prosecution, on the other hand, principally consisted of the testimony of Maura Anadia
(Maura), Apolinario’s daughter and the accused-appellant’s sister. According to Maura, at around 4:30 p.m. of
August 21, 2004, she was with her father at their house located at Barangay Gamay, Burauen, Leyte when his elder
brother, the accused-appellant, arrived. He was carrying a long bolo and a scythe was tucked on his waist.

He approached her and said: "Will you join the killing spree today including your child that you are carrying? "before
turning to Apolinario with this query: "What are the stories that you were talking?"

Frightened, Maura ran away and hid at a grassy portion near the house. She then saw her father flee but the
accused-appellant gave him a chase. Apolinario was able to run for about 20 m before the accused-appellant was
able to catch up.

The accused-appellant then hacked the unarmed Apolinario on the right side of his head using the bolo. Apolinario
fell down and the accused-appellant finished him off by slashing his neck with the scythe. Maura thereafter left to
report the incident to the police.

The autopsy conducted on Apolinario’s cadaver by Dr. Leonita Azores, MD,7 showed that he sustained two (2) fatal
wounds one of which almost decapitated his head while the other hit the parietal aspect thereof exposing the skin
and connective tissue. Apolinario also obtained two (2) incised wounds on his neck and left forearm and two (2)
lacerations on his fingers. He perished at the crime scene.8

Ruling of the RTC

In its Judgment9 dated May 9, 2006, the RTC found that both the prosecution and the defense deliberately withheld
vital details of the incident. The prosecution did not reveal that the initial unlawful aggression was committed by
Apolinario who, based on medical records, hacked the accused-appellant in the parietal area of his head. The
defense, on the other hand, concealed that accused-appellant pursued the victim after the latter fled. These findings
completed the sequence of the incident and revealed that the accused-appellant’s claim of self-defense is
unmeritorious.

The RTC held that when accused-appellant hacked and killed Apolinario, the unlawful aggression which the latter
initially perpetrated has already ceased because he has already ran away for 20 m. Hence, accused-appellant’s act
was not self-defense but rather one of retaliation which, in turn, props up the conclusion that he intentionally killed
his father. The decretal portion of the RTC decision thus reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court finds the accused ANTERO GAMEZ y Baltazar GUILTY BEYOND
REASONABLE DOUBT of the crime of Parricide penalized under Art. 246 of the Revised Penal Code and
considering the presence of one (1) mitigating circumstance without any aggravating to offset it, hereby sentences
him to suffer imprisonment of RECLUSION PERPETUA; to pay the Heirs of Apolinario Gamez Php50,000.00 as civil
indemnity for his death and to pay the costs of this suit.

The accused who underwent preventive imprisonment since August 21, 2004 shall be credited with the full time
during which he was deprived of his liberty if he agreed voluntarily and in writing to abide by the same disciplinary
rules imposed upon convicted prisoners, otherwise, he will be entitled to only four-fifths (4/5) thereof.10

Ruling of the CA

The CA adopted the RTC’s findings and similarly concluded that the accused-appellant put up retaliation and not
self-defense because the aggression proffered by the victim has already ended when the accused-appellant
attacked him. From the time Apolinario ran away and was disarmed by the accused-appellant, the aggression
originally heaved by the former has ceased. Hence, when the accused-appellant chased and hacked Apolinario
several times, self-defense can no longer be invoked. The CA affirmed the conviction and sentence rendered by the
RTC as well as the award of civil indemnity but an additional award of moral damages was granted for Apolinario’s
heirs. The CA Decision11 dated May 25, 2011 disposed thus:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing premises, the assailed May 9, 2006 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of
Burauen, Leyte, Branch 15, in CRIM. CASE NO. Bn-05-03-4125, is hereby AFFIRMED with modification. Aside from
the civil indemnity already awarded, the accused is also hereby directed to pay the heirs of Apolinario Gamez the
amount of Php50,000.00 as moral damages in accordance with the recent jurisprudence.

No pronouncement as to cost.

SO ORDERED.12

The accused-appellant manifested before the Court that in the present review, he is adopting the arguments
contained in his Brief filed before the CA whereby he argued that his guilt for the crime of parricide was not proved
beyond reasonable doubt and that the trial court erred in ruling that he failed to prove self-defense.

The Court’s Ruling

The Court affirms the accused-appellant’s conviction.

The arguments proffered by the accused-appellant essentially attack the evaluation by the trial court of the
testimony of the prosecution’s principal witness, Maura, and its ruling that the same satisfactorily repudiate his claim
of self-defense.

This Court has consistently adhered to the rule that the matter of assigning values to declarations on the witness
stand is best and most competently performed by the trial judge, who had the unmatched opportunity to observe the
witnesses and to assess their credibility by the various indicia available but not reflected on the record. Hence, the
corollary principle that absent any showing that the trial court overlooked substantial facts and circumstances that
would affect the final disposition of the case, appellate courts are bound to give due deference and respect to its
evaluation of the credibility of an eyewitness and his testimony as well as its probative value amidst the rest of the
other evidence on record.13

We see no compelling reason to depart from the foregoing tenets especially in view of the accused-appellant’s
failure to identify significant details, which if considered, will alter the outcome of the trial court’s judgment and the
affirmation accorded it by the CA. At any rate, an examination of the records at hand shows that the factual basis of
accused-appellant’s plea of self-defense cannot relieve him from criminal liability.
Self-defense, when invoked, as a justifying circumstance implies the admission by the accused that he committed
the criminal act.14 Generally, the burden lies upon the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond
reasonable doubt rather than upon the accused that he was in fact innocent. However, if the accused admits killing
the victim, but pleads self-defense, the burden of evidence is shifted to him to prove such defense by clear,
satisfactory and convincing evidence that excludes any vestige of criminal aggression on his part.15

In order to escape criminal liability, it becomes incumbent upon the accused to prove by clear and convincing
evidence the concurrence of the following requisites under the second paragraph of Article 11 of the Revised Penal
Code, viz: (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.16

Unlawful aggression is a condition sine qua non for the justifying circumstance of self-defense. Without it, there can
be no self-defense, whether complete or incomplete, that can validly be invoked.17 "There is an unlawful aggression
on the part of the victim when he puts in actual or imminent danger the life, limb, or right of the person invoking self-
defense. There must be actual physical force or actual use of a weapon."18 It is present only when the one attacked
faces real and immediate threat to one’s life. It must be continuous; otherwise, it does not constitute aggression
warranting self-defense.19

Here, the accused-appellant, miserably failed to discharge his burden of proving that unlawful aggression justifying
self-defense was present when he killed Apolinario.

The aggression initially staged by Apolinario was not of the continuous kind as it was no longer present when the
accused-appellant injured Apolinario. As testified by the accused-appellant himself, he was able to grab the bolo
from Apolinario. From that point on, the aggression initially staged by Apolinario ceased to exist and the perceived
threat to the accused-appellant’s life was no longer attendant.

Hence, the accused-appellant was no longer acting in self-defense, when he, despite having already disarmed
Apolinario, ran after the latter for about 20 m and then stabbed him. The accused-appellant’s claim of self-defense is
further negated by the fatal incision on Apolinario’s neck that almost decapitated his head, a physical evidence
which corroborates Maura’s testimony that after stabbing Apolinario with the bolo, the accused-appellant pulled out
the scythe on his waist and used the same to slash Apolinario’s neck. The use of a weapon different from that
seized from the victim and the nature of the injury inflicted show the accused-appellant’s determined resolve to kill
Apolinario.

When unlawful aggression ceases, the defender no longer has any justification to kill or wound the original
aggressor. The assailant is no longer acting in self-defense but in retaliation against the original aggressor.
Retaliation is not the same as self-defense. In retaliation, the aggression that was begun by the injured party already
ceased when the accused attacked him; while in self-defense the aggression still existed when the aggressor was
injured by the accused.20

The CA was thus correct in upholding the findings and conclusions of the RTC, thus:

Although, it is supported by the medical report, that the accused-appellant was indeed initially attacked by the victim,
the act of the accused-appellant of going after the victim, who was already running away from the accused-appellant
after the latter has gained possession of the weapon, is anathema to the self-defense theory invoked by the
accused appellant.

xxxx

In the instant case, the trial court gave credence to the testimony of the prosecution witness that the victim tried to
run away from the accused-appellant but the accused-appellant ran after him. When the accused-appellant was
able to overtake the victim, the latter was hacked on the right side of his head. To finish him off, the accused-
appellant slashed the victim’s neck with the use of a scythe until the victim (his own father) died. Thus, assuming
arguendo that the father was indeed the first aggressor, the aggression ceased the moment the accused-appellant
disarmed him and the victim tried to run away from the accused-appellant. When the accused-appellant then
continued to chase his 69 year-old father and hacked several times the already disarmed victim, self-defense can no
longer be invoked.21
In fine, there is no justifiable cause exempting the accused-appellant from criminal liability and the courts a quo were
correct in convicting him for parricide.

Parricide is committed when: (1) a person is killed; (2) the deceased is killed by the accused; and (3) the deceased
is the father, mother, or child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, or a legitimate other ascendant or other descendant,
or the legitimate spouse of the accused.22 Here, it is an undisputed fact that Apolinario was the accused-appellant’s
father.

Under Article 246 of the Revised Penal, the crime of parricide is punishable by reclusion perpetua to death. It must
1âwphi1

be noted that the declaration of the RTC in its Judgment dated May 9, 2006 on the presence of a mitigating
circumstance is not supported by any allegation or evidence on record. Nonetheless, in view of Republic Act (R.A.)
No. 934623 prohibiting the imposition of death penalty, the courts a quo correctly sentenced the accused-appellant to
reclusion perpetua.24

It must be emphasized, however, that the accused-appellant shall not be eligible for parole pursuant to Section 3 of
R.A. No. 9346 which states that "persons convicted of offenses punished with reclusion perpetua , or whose
sentences will be reduced to reclusion perpetua , by reason of this Act, shall not be eligible for parole under Act No.
4180, otherwise known as the Indeterminate Sentence Law, as amended."25

The award of ₱50,000.00 as civil indemnity to the heirs of Apolinario is proper and in line with current
jurisprudence.26 Civil indemnity is mandatory upon proof of the fact of death of the victim and the culpability of the
accused for such death.27 The award of ₱50,000.0028 as moral damages is likewise correct. Even in the absence of
any allegation and proof of the heirs’ emotional suffering, it has been recognized that the loss of a loved one to a
violent death brings emotional pain and anguish.29

The Court finds that an award of exemplary damages in the amount of ₱30,000.0030 is in order considering that the
qualifying circumstance of relationship is present in the crime of parricide.31

Lastly, in conformity with current policy, we impose on all the monetary awards for damages an interest at the legal
rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the date of finality of this judgment until fully paid.32

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision dated May 25, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C.
No. 00671 finding the accused-appellant, Antero Gamez y Baltazar, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of
Parricide, is hereby AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATIONS. Antero Gamez y Baltazar is sentenced to suffer the
penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole and ordered to pay the heirs of the victim, Apolinario
Gamez, the amounts of ₱50,000.00 as civil indemnity, ₱50,000.00 as moral damages and ₱30,000.00 as exemplary
damages. The award of damages shall earn legal interest at the rate of six percent (6) per annum from the finality of
this judgment until fully paid.

SO ORDERED.
CrimLaw - Case 7 OF 20

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. Nos. 104942-43 November 25, 1993

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
NAPOLEON SUBINGSUBING, accused-appellant.

The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.

Public Attorney's Office for accused-appellant.

PADILLA, J.:

Accused-appellant Napoleon Subingsubing was charged with the crime of rape in three (3) separate informations
reading thus:

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 772

That on or about noontime of November 28, 1989 at Barangay Fiangtin, Barlig, Mountain Province and within
the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused by means of force, threat and intimidation by
poking his garand rifle and then boxing the belly of the complainant, MARY JANE S. ESPILAN, which rendered
the latter unconscious, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with the
complainant, against her will and without her consent.

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 773

That on or about the afternoon of November 30, 1989, at Barangay Fiangtin, Barlig, Mountain Province and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused by means of force, threat and
intimidation by putting over the nose of the victim handkerchief soaked with chemical which rendered the latter
unconscious did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with the complainant,
against her will and without her consent.

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 774

That on or about noontime of November 25, 1989, at Barangay Fiangtin, Barlig, Mountain Province, and within
the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused by means of force, threat and intimidation by
poking his garand rifle and then boxing the belly of the complainant, MARY JANE S. ESPILAN, which rendered
the latter unconscious, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge with the
complainant, against her will and without her consent.

Upon arraignment, the accused entered pleas of not guilty to the three (3) criminal informations which were then
consolidated and tried jointly to expedite proceedings.

After trial on the merits, the trial court found the case meritorious for the prosecution in Criminal Case Nos. 772 and
774 in view mainly of the testimony of the complainant which was found credible. Accused-appellant was, therefore,
convicted for rape in said cases. However, insofar as Criminal Case No. 773 was concerned, the trial court found
the testimony of the complainant therein inadequate to sustain conviction and "surmised that perhaps out of her
bitterness, the said complainant wanted to ensure that the accused be meted out the highest penalty possible."
Accused was accordingly acquitted in said Criminal Case No. 773.

Hence, this appeal in Criminal Case Nos. 772 and 774, docketed in this Court as G.R. No. 104942-104943.

The case for the prosecution, anchored mainly on the testimony of the complainant Mary Jane Espilan, was
summarized by the trial court1 the pertinent portion of which states:

The complainant Mary Jane Espilan in all of these actions is sixteen years old, unmarried and resident of Philex
Mines, Baguio. For the past three years immediately preceding 1990, she continuously lived with her
grandmother at the latter's house at Bo. Fiangtin, Barlig, Mountain Province while her parents were residing in
Baguio. At that time she was a high school student. The accused Napoleon Subingsubing is the complainant's
uncle, the brother of her mother and the son of her grandmother. Said accused was then living with his mother
and his niece in the same house as mentioned. On Nov. 25, 1989, at 1:00 P.M., Mary Jane and Napoleon were
alone in the house, the grandmother having gone to the fields. When Mary Jane was about to go out to attend
her afternoon classes in school, Napoleon forcibly pulled her to the bedroom of the grandmother, pointed his
Garand rifle at her, then punched her in the stomach as a result of which the former lost consciousness. When
the complainant regained her senses, she noticed that she was en dishabille and her vagina was bloody. She
felt pain in her private parts and is quite certain she was raped or abused. The accused who was then standing
outside the room warned the complainant not to tell anybody what happened or else he will kill her. Hence Mary
Jane did not report the incident to her grandmother or to anyone for that matter. In the morning of November 28,
1989, at 10:30 o' clock A.M., Mary Jane arrived from school and Napoleon was alone in the house. The latter
again leveled his Garand Rifle at the former and pushed her into her bedroom. The complainant tried to get out
of the house but the accused held unto her. Inside the room, the said accused pulled down the skirt of Mary
Jane, pushed her down on the floor, stripped her of her panties and laid down on top of her with the zipper of his
pants open. Forcing the complainant's legs apart, the accused abused or took advantage of the former second
time around. All the while, Napoleon was holding unto his rifle and Mary Jane was afraid to scream for he might
squeeze the trigger. Immediately thereafter, the complainant gathered up all her clothes and went to their own
family house at Bo. Pat-tog, Barlig which is less than a kilometer away from her grandmother's residence. She
wanted to get away from her uncle, hence she stayed alone in the house until November 30, 1989 in the
morning when the accused followed her. She was then cleaning the ceiling of their house when Napoleon
sneaked up behind her, and when the former tried to scream, the accused placed a piece of cloth with some sort
of chemical over the nose of the complainant and the latter fainted. When she awoke, Mary Jane found herself
lying on the floor stark naked. She felt that she had again been sexually molested. The accused who was
outside the house menacingly ordered the complainant to pack her clothes and go back home with him. The
afternoon of the same day, Mary Jane and Napoleon went back to the house of the former's grandmother. The
complainant did not reveal to anybody the things that happened to her for fear that the accused might really kill
her as the accused had threatened to do. Months later, when she was with her parents in Baguio, Mary Jane
finally divulged everything to her mother Rosita Espilan. They went back to Barlig and reported the incidents to
the police station where the statement of the complainant was taken (Exhs. "A," Crim. Case No. 772, pp. 4-5;
Crim. Cases Nos. 773-774, pp. 2-3). Thereafter, she had herself physically examined at the Barlig hospital by a
government physician and was found pregnant (Exh. "C"; p. 6, Crim. Case No. 772). On August 29, 1990 in
Baguio, the complainant delivered a baby boy. The latter before all these things happened to her was a virgin
with no prior sexual experience. She did not even have a boyfriend. In open court, Mary Jane Espilan singled
out the accused Napoleon Subingsubing as the culprit in all of the incidents she earlier testified to.

xxx xxx xxx

At the trial, the accused Napoleon Subingsubing denied the charge of rape as narrated above and proferred a
different story. Interposing consent on the part of the complainant as a defense, he testified2 that at around 10:00 o'
clock in the morning of 25 November 1989, he arrived at his mother's house at Bo. Fiangtin, Barlig, Mountain
Province after fetching wood. Shortly thereafter, the complainant arrived from school, massaged the back of the
accused and then prepared their lunch. After eating, the accused went to his room to rest but was followed by the
complainant who laid down beside him, placed her hand on the accused's stomach, and then the pair embraced.
They both removed their clothes and then had sexual intercourse. At this time, the complainant was smiling, tightly
embracing the accused. After the intercourse, the complainant put on her clothes, went to her room to change and
then went back to school. That evening, the accused brought the complainant to attend a wake. The accused also
professed that the incident on 25 November 1989 was the only occasion when he had sexual intercourse with the
complainant.

On 28 November 1989, the complainant asked him to help clean their house located at Pat-tog, Barlig, Mountain
Province, as witnessed by a neighbor's child. The accused denied that he had sexual intercourse with the
complainant on 28 November and 30 November 1989.

To bolster the claim of the accused, his mother, Rufina Subingsubing, who is also the grandmother of the
complainant, testified,3 among others, that the three (3) of them were living in one house and that their relationship
was happy, even after the month of November 1989; that the complainant left her house in March 1990 for a
vacation and was fetched by her mother; that the only thing she observed about the complainant was that her
breasts were becoming bigger; that the complainant and the accused got food for the pigs on Saturdays and that
when the latter would receive his monthly salary, the complainant would ask him to take her to the movies.

Three (3) other witnesses for the defense were presented who corroborated the story of the accused and testified
that indeed, the complainant and the accused were seen going out together and sharing happy moments months
after November 1989 (when the alleged rapes were committed).

It is a fundamental rule in criminal procedure that the prosecution has the onus probandi in establishing the guilt of
the accused, as a consequence of the tenet ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat, that is, he who asserts, not
he who denies, must prove. This is especially significant in rape cases for, generally, in the prosecution thereof, the
only two (2) parties who can testify as to the occurrence are the complainant and the accused. Very often, their
respective testimonies are diametrically contradictory as to what really happened.4

A careful perusal of the records of the present case reveals, even if were to assume arguendo that the defense of
consent on the part of the complainant was not sufficiently established, that the evidence for the prosecution cannot,
on its own, stand and suffice to establish the guilt of the accused for the crime of rape beyond reasonable doubt.

Although the general rule is that this Court by and large respects the factual findings of the trial court because of its
better position in assessing the credibility of witnesses through close scrutiny of their demeanor, mannerism and
attitude, the present case falls short of convincing us that it falls under such general rule.

A perusal of the records and the testimony of the complainant discloses contradictions and inconsistencies on vital
details which lead one to seriously doubt the veracity of her story.

On 05 March 1991, during her direct examination, complainant described the incidents when the accused allegedly
raped her, as follows:5

Q: Will you tell this Honorable Court what was the incident?

A: When I was about to leave for school (this was on 25 November 1989) and was almost to go out, my uncle
pulled me and when I resisted trying to go out, he poked his gun at me and boxed me on my stomach and I was
unconscious. When I woke up, I was conscious already.

xxx xxx xxx (Emphasis supplied).

Q: When you regain (sic) consciousness miss witness, what was your position?

A: I was naked, sir.

Q: When you say were naked, you mean to say that your panty was removed?

A: Yes.

Q: Your shirt, underwear, and even your panty were removed?


A: Yes, sir.

Q: But before the accused boxed you, do you remember if you were wearing all your clothings?

A: I was wearing my school uniform?

Q: And when you regained consciousness, you noticed that your clothings were removed?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you know who removed your clothings?

A: Yes.

xxx xxx xxx

COURT:

Q: You said that when the accused was on top of (you) you don't (sic) have any underwear?

A: When he was on top of me I was forcing myself to get out.

Q: But you don't (sic) have your panty?

A: He removed my panty.

Q: About him how did he look?

A: Only the zipper of his pant was down.

Q: And when he went on top of you?

A: Yes and I forced to get out but he was strong.

Q: When he was on top of you, you forced yourself to get out, that was all?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What else happened?

A: He did again what he did to me.

Q: And what is that he did to you?

A: He abused me again, sir.

Q: And what do you mean by abuse?

A: He took advantage again of me for the second time.

xxx xxx xxx

Q: Did you not shout for help?

A: I tried, sir, but his gun was poked to (sic) me.


xxx xxx xxx

Q: Did he tell you anything?

A: Yes, he said that if I will scream, he will kill me.

xxx xxx xxx

Q: And when you went to your house at Barangay Pat-tog, what happened there, if any?

A: When I went to our house at Pat-tog I did not know that he still followed me there, that was on the 30th of
November, 1989.

Q: He followed you at Barangay Pat-tog on November 30, 1989?

A: Yes.

Q: And when he followed you there, what happened?

A: While I was cleaning the ceiling of our house, I did not know that he entered the second floor of the house.

Q: And after that what happened?

A: When I was about to shout, he immediately came to me and put a piece of cloth with chemical on my nose
then I felt unconscious already.

Q: And were you able to regain consciousness?

A: I regained consciousness after all the thing happened to me.

Q: And when you regained consciousness, what did you notice?

A: I was lying on the floor naked, sir.

Q: And what do you think happened to you?

ATTY. DOMALSIN:

The witness will be incompetent to answer what happened to her because she was made unconscious.

COURT:

Being the person herself she is competent to feel what happened to her.

Q: After you regained consciousness, you stated that you were lying on the floor?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What did you feel at that time?

A: I felt uneasy.

Q: That was all?

A: Yes.
Q: You did not feel what happened to any part of your body?

A: I felt. He did again what he has done to me for the third time.

xxx xxx xxx

Q: Do you remember miss witness if during those times when you said the accused boxed you and you felt
unconscious. . . .?

A: I did not feel anything when I felt unconscious.

Q: When he threatened you telling you that will kill you if you tell anybody what happened, what did you say?

A: I just kept quiet.

Q: Do you have neighbors?

A: We have neighbors but they were out that time.

xxx xxx xxx

Q: On March (November) 28, 1989, do you remember where were you?

A: I was in the same house of my grandmother.

Q: And what were you were doing at that time?

A: I just arrived from school, sir.

Q: And when you arrived from school, what happened?

A: When I was in the house, he poked his gun at me and stripped my shirt.

Q: Who poked the garand rifle at you?

A: My uncle, sir.

Q: Will you please tell this Honorable Court what happened ?

A: At about 11:30 P.M., I entered the house and my uncle poked his gun at me. I don't know why he poked his
gun at me then he did again what he did to me.

Q: When he poked his gun at you, what did you do?

A: I forced my way out.

Q: And were you able to go out?

A: No, sir because he was strong.

Q: What did he tell you, if any?

A: The same threat as the first.

Q: After he poked his gun at you, what did you do next?


A: He took advantage of me again, sir.

Q: Will you be more specific, miss witness. When you said he took advantage of you, what do you mean?

A: He did the same thing that he did to me.

Q: What is that thing that he did to you?

A: He again abused my dignity as a woman.

Q: When he poked his gun at you, were you wearing clothes?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And after that what did he do?

A: He removed my panty.

Q: And after removing your panty, what did he do next?

A: He did it again.

Q: When he removed your panty, what was your position?

A: I was standing and I was forcing to leave when he forced me to remove my panty while his gun was poked at
me.

Q: And after he removed your panty, you said you were standing?

A: Yes.

Q: Then what did he do next?

A: He pushed me down the floor.

Q: And after that what did he do next?

A: He did the same thing to me.

Q: When he pushed you down to the floor, what else happened?

A: He was on top of me.

Q: When he was on top of you, was he wearing clothes at that time.

A: Yes, sir.

Q: He did not remove any of his clothes.

A: He removed his pants.

Q: What else did he do?

A: He put down the zipper of his pant.


Q: And after he put down the zipper of his pant, what happened next?

A: I tried to get out but he was strong.

Q: And after he removed the zipper of his pant, what did he do?

A: He abused the dignity of my woman (sic).

xxx xxx xxx

Q: Miss witness you said a while back that the accused poked a gun to (sic) you then removed your panty and
then after that he pushed you down the floor?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Aside from that he also removed the zipper of his pant then went on top of you?

A: I was unconscious.

xxx xxx xxx (Emphasis supplied.)

Q: Aside from going on top of you, what else did he do?

A: He poked his gun at me.

Q: Then what else?

A: He did the same thing.

Q: The specific thing?

A: He raped me again, sir.

xxx xxx xxx

In short, the complainant on 05 March 1991 testified that on 25 November 1989 and 28 November 1989, the
accused employed force and threats which rendered her unconscious and unable to feel anything when ravished by
the accused. However, when recalled to the witness stand on 02 April 1991, the same complainant Mary Jane
Espilan testified:6

Q: Miss Witness, you declared during the prior examination that the accused, Napoleon Subingsubing raped,
abused your dignity or "pinagsamantalahan ka" and that was on March (November) 28, my question is what do
you mean when you said he abused your dignity on March (November) 28, 1991?

A: He pointed his gun to (at) me, then pushed me to my lola's room, let me down trying to separate my legs and
then he placed his penis into my vagina.

COURT:

Q: When you said that the accused pointed a gun at you, what kind of gun?

A. Rifle, M-14, sir.

Q. When he pushed you down, was he still holding his gun?


A. Yes, sir.

Q. When he was doing the act, was he still holdng his gun?

A. Yes.

Q. You did not resist.

A. I resisted but he was stronger than me.

Q. The second time he did the sme, was he still holding the gun?

A. Yes, sir.

xxx xxx xxx

The complainant's theory of force and intimidation manifested in her sworn statement and her testimony on 05
March 1991, and which rendered her "unconscious," is belied by her own testimony on 02 April 1991. Complaint
speaks of resistance, intimidation, and loss of consciousness attributed to accused's violence and threats. However,
and this must be carefully noted, the complainant's testimony on 02 April 1991 gave a detailed description of what
transpired during those incidents.

The Court also cannot help but question the conduct of the complainant after the alleged incidents of rape. The
complainant did not reveal tghe incidents to her randmother allegedly because the accused told her not to and that
he would kill the complainant and her grandmother if she told anyone. Neither did she tell her mother upon the
latter's arrival at barlig on 28 April 1990 or soon after the complainant was brought by her mother to Philex Mines in
Baguio City. The mother was told of the alleged incidents only on 15 May 1990. It is quite unnatural for a girl not to
reveal such assaults on her virtue (if indeed they occurred) immediately after they happened or when the alleged
threat on her life and her grandmother's had ceased, as in this case, when complainant had gone to Baguio. The
complainant likewise admitted that after the alleged incidents in November 1989, she still went out with the accused
to watch betamax movies or get food for the pigs in the ricefields. Such behaviour directly contradicts the normal or
expected behaviour of a rape victim. There is no way she could possibly forgive, to say the least; and yet,
complainant interacted immediately with her assailant. Viewed in its entirety, such behaviour of the complainant
appears to be inconsistent with her charge of rape.

The accused, on the other hand, while admitting that indeed he had sexual intercourse with the complainant on 25
November 1989, set up the defense that the latter consented to such act. The Two (2) succeeding incidents were
however denied by the accused. While we find such defenses weak, we nevertheless stress once more the time-
honored principle that the prosecution must rely on the strength of its evidence rather than on the weakness of the
defense.

Appellant's exculpation from the offense of rape does not mean, however, that his responsibility is merely moral and
not penal in character. If that were so, considering the facts of this case, it may be cause for right-thinking men and
women to discern a gap or fissure in the legal order, one that cries moreover to be bridged. 7

As things stand, for failing to meet the exacting test of moral certainty, it is incumbent upon us to set aside the trial
court's judgments of conviction for rape. However, the Court must state that it finds conclusive evidence (no less
than the accused-appellant's admission) that on 25 November 1989, the accused Napoleon Subingsubing had
sexual intercourse with Mary Jane Espilan when she was only 16 years of age. The complainant and the accused
were living in the same house. The accused is the uncle of the complainant, brother of her own mother.

Qualified seduction is the act of having carnal knowledge of a virgin over 12 years to 18 years of age and committed
by any of the persons enumerated in Art. 337 of the Revised Penal Code, to wit: any person in public authority,
priest, home-servant, domestic, guardian, teacher, or any person who, in any capacity, shall be entrusted with the
education and custody of the woman seduced. Abuse of confidence is the qualifying circumstance in the offense.
Notably, among the persons who can commit qualified seduction is a "domestic". And a "domestic," for purposes of
said legal provision, has been interpreted judicially as —
. . . Upon the word domestic being employed in said legal provision segregating it from that of a
servant, the term is applied to persons usually living under the same roof, pertaining to the same
house, and constituting, in the sense, a part thereof, distinguishing it from the term servant whereby
a person serving another on a salary is designated; in this manner, it has been properly used. 8

Under the circumstances of the case at bench, we hold that a conviction for qualified seduction is proper in Criminal
Case No. 774. The verified complaint for rape contains allegations, sans averment on the use of force, which impute
the crime of qualified seduction. Any deficiency in the complaint is supplied by the supporting affidavit,9 where
complainant averred that the accused Napoleon Subingsubing, her uncle,10 who was living in the same house as the
complainant, 11 had sexual intercourse with her. The accused took advantage of his moral ascendancy if not
dominance over the complainant. She was presumably a virgin. As already stated, the accused was a domestic in
relation to the complainant within the meaning of Art. 337 of the Revised Penal Code.

WHEREFORE, in G.R. No. 104943, the judgment of the trial court in Criminal Case No. 774 is hereby MODIFIED by
convicting the accused of the crime of QUALIFIED SEDUCTION instead of RAPE. The accused is hereby
sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of six (6) months of ARRESTO MAYOR, as minimum to two (2) years, eleven
(11) months and ten (10) days of PRISION CORRECCIONAL as maximum. Accused is likewise ordered to
indemnify the complainant in the amount of P30,000.00 and to support the child of the complainant. Costs against
accused-appellant.

The accused-appellant is ACQUITTED in G.R. No. 104942 (Criminal Case No. 772) based on reasonable doubt.

Upon the finality of this decision, let the records of this case be remanded to the court of origin for the sole purpose
of determining the amount of support to which the child in Criminal Case No. 774 is entitled.12

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Regalado, Nocon and Puno, JJ., concur.


CrimLaw - Case 8 OF 20

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 124670 June 21, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
PATROLMAN DOMINGO BELBES, accused-appellant.

QUISUMBING, J.

Before the Regional Trial Court of Tabaco, Albay, Branch 18, Patrolman Domingo Belbes stood charge of Murder.
The information against him reads:

The on or about the 16th of February, 1990 at 9:00 o'clock in the evening, more or less, inside the campus
of Pili National High School, at Barangay Pili, Municipality of Bacacay, Province of Albay, Philippines and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with treachery, taking advantage
of nighttime, employing means to insure or afford impunity, with the use of high powered firearm, and with
intent to kill, did then and there willfully, feloniously, suddenly unexpectedly and without any warning, attack,
fire and shoot successively with an armalite rifle (M-16) FERNANDO B. BATALLER while the latter was
intoxicated, thereby hitting and inflicting upon him multiple serious and mortal wounds on his head, at the
right lower face, the chest (front) at the left antero lateral approximately 5 cm. below but lateral to the left
nipple, at the left lateral waistline, thereby lacerating the liver, hitting the stomach portions of the large and
small intestines and lower vertebrae, and the chest (back) at the middle back and another at the left back,
lateral level of the lower rib, which caused Fernando B. Bataller's direct and instantaneous death, to the
damage and prejudice of his legal heirs. 1âwphi1.nêt

ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.1

When arraigned, he pleaded not guilty.

The facts established during trial by the prosecution is summarized by the appellee in its brief, thus:

In the evening of February 16, 1990, appellant Pat. Domingo Belbes and Pat. Jose Pabon were assigned by
the Bacacay Station Commander to maintain peace and order at the Junior and Senior Prom of Pili
Barangay High School, Pili, Bacacay, Albay.

Around 9:00 p.m. while Teacher-In-Charge Mila Ulanca, appellant, Pat. Pabon and Elmo Bes were watching
the dance, two students, Riselle Banares and Juliana Basaysay, approached Mrs. Ulanca and said "Mam, it
seems that there is somebody making trouble." Appellant and Pat. Pabon, armed with an armalite rifle and a
.38 caliber revolver, respectively, responded forthwith. Moments after the two police officers left, bursts of
gunfire — "Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat" filled the air. Fernando Bataller, a graduating student of Pili Barangay High
School, was hit on different parts of his body and died.

Moments before the gruesome incident, Fernando Bataller, then drunk, was in the company of Carlito
Bataller and Rosalio Belista. While Fernando was vomiting and holding on to the bamboo wall of the
school's temporary building, the bamboo splits broke. At this instance, appellant and Pat. Pabon appeared.
Without warning, appellant fired his gun. Fernando slumped on the ground, bathed with his own blood.
Appellant and Pat. Pabon fled from the crime scene.
Fernando was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. As shown in the autopsy report, Fernando
suffered the following gunshot wounds: (1) head, located at the right lower face, skin, muscles, blood
vessels, nerves, bone torn away; (2) chest (front, located at left, antero lateral approximately 5 cm. below
but lateral to the left nipple, another gunshot wound on the same location with tattooing locates at left lateral
waistline; (3) chest (back) located at the middle back at the level of the lowest rib, skin and superficial
muscles torn away, another gunshot wound located at the left back, lateral level of the lowest rib, with
tattooing. (Citations omitted)2

In his defense, the accused-appellant presented his version, of the fatal incident, summed up by the trial court as
follows:

The accused, Domingo Belbes in his defense testified that he was at Pili Barangay High School with P/Cpl.
Jose Pabon because they were detailed by their Station Commander. . . . At 9:00 p.m. two female students
reported to them and Mrs. Ulanca that somebody was making trouble at the back of the temporary building.
They were requested by Mrs. Ulanca to see what happened and they went to the place. There they came
upon somebody who was making trouble and destroying the wall of the temporary building. He came to
know that it was Fernando Bataller. Fernando Bataller had some companions, Carlito Bataller and certain
Belista. Fernando Bataller was more than 20 years old at that time and Carlito was about Fernando's age.
He saw Fernando destroying the wall of the temporary building which was made of bamboo splits. Pabon
was in front of him. The two companions were prevailing upon Fernando. Fernando was drunk or a little bit
tipsy. He was not vomiting but he smelled of wine. They approached Fernando and identified themselves as
policemen. Fernando did not mind them. Fernando stabbed Pabon with a knife. Belbes knew because he
saw the glint of the blade when the thrust was made on Pabon. Pabon and Bataller were about one (1)
meter away from each other. Pabon was not hit, for he was able to move backward. Fernando made two
thrusts on Pabon. After Pabon retreated because of the knife thrust, he (Belbes) was also stabbed by
Fernando. He was hit on his lower left shoulder. He was able to hold Fernando's hand because he wanted to
get the knife from him. His firearm was slung on his shoulder. Fernando was able to free himself. Fernando
made another thrust and Belbes moved to his left. Then he made a warning shot. After the warning shot,
Fernando suddenly grabbed his firearm. Belista was quite aggressive at that moment, while Carlito wanted
to kick him. Fernando was able to hold the barrel of the armalite. They struggled with each other and the gun
went off considering that his armalite was semi-automatic, with one squeeze of the trigger one shot came
out. During the process of grappling for the armalite he could not recall how many shots came out. When his
service armalite went off he was Fernando fall to the ground. When Fernando fell, he took the knife from his
hand. The people gathered around them. They asked that Fernando be brought to the hospital. After one
hour, the police mobile car arrived. They proceeded to the Police Station. There they turned over the knife to
the Desk Officer. The knife is now with the Provincial Command.3

Defense witness Jose Pabon, also a policeman, who was present when the incident happened, corroborated the
testimony of the appellant. However, on cross-examination, Pabon belied the fact that the appellant fired a warning
shot. Pabon likewise failed to mentioned anything about aggression on the part of the companions of the deceased,
namely Carlito Bataller and Rosalio Belista. He only recalled that said companions ganged up on Belbes after he
shot the deceased.

Finding the defense weak, while the evidence for the prosecution sufficiently strong, the trial court convicted the
appellant of murder and sentenced him to reclusion perpetua.

In this appeal, counsel de oficio raised one issue:

WAS THE TRIAL [Court] CORRECT IN HOLDING ACCUSED- APPELLANT GUILTY OF MURDER?4

We shall now consider this matter as well as the more basic issues of self-defense claimed by appellant and the
credibility of the witness for the prosecution. Appellant policeman admits firing the fatal gunshots that hit the
deceased student. But he claims that did so in self-defense. He contends that he was only performing his official
functions when he responded in the course of police duties to the information that somebody was making trouble
and disturbing the peace. Being in charge of maintaining peace and order within the vicinity, he ascertained the
veracity of the information given by the students concerned. He asserts that in the absence of intent and
voluntariness, he cannot be faulted for the death of the deceased.
At the outset, we note that appellant questions the credibility of the sole eye-witness for the prosecution, Carlito
Bataller. He states that Carlito is the cousin and friend of the deceased. In his view, Carlito had strong motive to
falsely testify against him. Moreover, appellant says that Carlito kindled some moral guilt because he contributed to
the sudden death of his cousin. Appellant alleges that if only Carlito had prevailed over Fernando (instead of
tolerating the hostility of the deceased), he could have prevented the shooting incident.

Regrettably, appellant offers no material evidence to sufficiently support his claim of self-defense on the face of
mortal danger while on police duty. The cross-examination of Carlito Bataller did not bear out his averments of
fraternal bias and psychological guilt or moral taint in Carlito's testimony. The testimony of the single witness, if
positive and clear, is sufficient to sustain a judgment of conviction, even in a charge for murder.5 Moreover, when the
issue boils down to the credibility of witnesses, the findings of the trial court deserve great respect since it is in a
better position to observe the demeanor of the witnesses while testifying in court, and to discern its dimensions, both
verbal and non-verbal.6 The relationship of a witness to the victim does not necessarily diminish the former's
credibility.7

It is a settled rule that the findings and conclusions of the trial court on the credibility of a witness deserve respect
because it is in a better position to determine whether the witness was telling the truth or not, having observed the
demeanor of the witness while testifying on the witness stand.8 In the case at bar, there appears to be no cogent
reason why we should not adhere to this rule.

Where the accused owns up to killing the victim in self-defense, the burden of evidence shifts to him. He must show
by clear and convincing evidence that he indeed acted in self-defense, or in defense of a relative or a stranger.9 To
prove self-defense, the accused must show with clear and convincing evidence, that: (1) he is not the unlawful
aggressor; (2) there was lack of sufficient provocation on his part; and (3) he employed reasonable means to
prevent or repel the aggression. Self-defense, like alibi, is a defense which can easily be concocted. It is well settled
in this jurisdiction that once an accused had admitted that he inflicted the fatal injuries on the deceased, it was
incumbent upon him, in order to avoid criminal liability, to prove the justifying circumstance claimed by him with
clear, satisfactory and convincing evidence. He cannot rely on the weakness of the prosecution but on the strength
of his own evidence, "for even if the evidence of the prosecution were weak it could not be disbelieved after the
accused himself had admitted the killing." 10

Appellant testified that upon responding to the report of two students, he and Patrolman Pabon, saw Fernando
Bataller destroying the bamboo wall of the school's temporary building. Fernando appeared to be drunk and a little
bit tipsy. They approached Fernando and identified themselves as policemen but the former ignored them. Instead,
Fernando lunged with a knife at Patrolman Pabon but the latter avoided the thrust. Afterwards, Fernando also
stabbed the appellant and hit his left shoulder. As another thrust was coming, appellant claims he fired a warning
shot. Fernando grabbed the armalite and they struggled until the gun went off hitting Fernando, according to
appellant.

We have serious questions on accused-appellant's claim of self-defense, on his part, against the alleged
aggressiveness of the deceased student. First, why was the knife allegedly used by the deceased mishandled? It
was not even subjected to fingerprinting. Second, why was the wound on appellant's shoulder medically examined
only after the lapse of more than twenty-one hours? Was it possibly self-inflicted? According to the doctor who
examined him, Dr. Evelyn Amador, it was a possibility. 11 Lastly, as observed by the trial court, if it was true that they
grappled face to face with each other, why was the victim hit sideways, as testified to by Amador?

The time factor here appears significant. Mrs. Mila Ulanca testified that it only took about six seconds from the time
Patrolman Belbes left his seat until she heard the burst of gunshots. 12 This testimony is not contradicted or rebutted.

Thus, appellant's claim of self-defense could not prosper. The evidence on record, however, reveals an incomplete
justifying circumstance defined in Article 11, paragraph number 5 of the Revised Penal Code. 13 A person incurs no
criminal liability when he acts in the fulfillment of a duty or in the lawful exercise of a right or office. But we must
stress there are two requisites for this justifying circumstance: (a) that the offender acted in the performance of a
duty or in the lawful exercise of a duty or in the lawful exercise of a right: and (b) that the injury or offense committed
be the necessary consequence of the due performance of such right or office. 14 In the instant case, only the first
requisite is present; admittedly appellant acted in the performance of his duty. However, the second requisite is
lacking, for the killing need not be a necessary consequence of the performance of his duty. His duty is to maintain
peace and order during the Junior and Senior Prom. But he exceeded such duty, in our view, when he fired his
armalite without warning. No doubt, the concept of mitigating circumstance is founded on leniency in favor of an
accused who has shown less perversity in the commission of an offense. 15 Though his protestation of innocence is
unavailing, his offense could only be characterized as homicide, not murder, as hereafter shown.

On one hand, treachery did not attend the commission of the crime as to rule out murder. Treachery cannot be
presumed but must be proved by clear and convincing as conclusively as the killing itself. For the same to be
considered as a qualifying circumstance, two conditions must concur: (a) the employment of means, method or
manner of execution which would ensure the safety of the malefactor from defensive or retaliatory acts on the part of
the victim, no opportunity being given the latter to defend himself or to retaliate; and (b) the means, method or
manner of execution were deliberately or consciously adopted by the offender. 16 There is no showing that the
shooting was premeditated or that appellant, in shooting the victim, employed means, methods or forms to ensure
its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended victim might make. Likewise, mere
suddenness of the attack does not necessarily imply treachery. 17

On the other hand, the offense is definitely not reckless imprudence resulting in homicide because the shooting was
intentional. 18 Illustrations of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide are: (1) exhibiting a loaded revolver to a
friend, who was killed by the accidental discharge brought about by negligent handling; 19 or (2) discharging a firearm
from the window of one's house and killing a neighbor who just at the moment leaned over the balcony front; 20 or (3)
where the defendant, to stop a fist fight, fired his .45 caliber pistol twice in the air, and, as the bout continued, he
fired another shot at the ground, but the bullet ricocheted and hit a bystander who died soon thereafter. 21 In this
case, appellant intended to fire AT the victim, and in fact hit ONLY the victim.

We conclude that appellant is guilty only of homicide, mitigated by the incomplete justifying circumstance of
fulfillment of duty. The penalty for homicide is reclusion temporal. There being one mitigating circumstance, the
maximum of the penalty should be reclusion temporal in its minimum period, which is 12 years and 1 day to 14
years and 8 months. Applying the indeterminate sentence law, the minimum of said penalty should be taken
fromprision mayor.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the trial court convicting appellant Domingo Belbes of the crime of murder is hereby
MODIFIED. Appellant is found guilty of the crime of homicide and sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of eight (8)
years of prision mayor, minimum, as minimum, to fourteen (14) years of reclusion temporal minimum, as maximum.
He is also ordered to pay the heirs of the victim the amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity and P20,000.00 as
moral damages, and to pay the costs. 1âwphi 1.nêt

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, Mendoza, Buena and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.


CrimLaw - Case 9 OF 20

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT

EN BANC

G.R. No. 130487 June 19, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
ROBERTO ESTRADA, accused-appellant.

PUNO, J.:

This is an automatic review of the death penalty imposed on accused-appellant by the Regional Trial Court, Branch
44, Dagupan City in Criminal Case No. 94-00860-D. 1 We nullify the proceedings in the court a quo and remand the
case for proper disposition.

In an Information dated December 29, 1994, accused-appellant Roberto Estrada y Lopez was charged with the
crime of murder for the killing of one Rogelio P. Mararac, a security guard. The Information reads:

That on or about the 27th day of December 1994 in the City of Dagupan, Philippines and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, ROBERTO ESTRADA Y LOPEZ, being then
armed with a butcher's knife, with intent to kill one ROGELIO P. MARARAC with treachery and committed in
a holy place of worship, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and criminally, attack, assault and use
personal violence upon the latter by stabbing him, hitting him on vital parts of his body with the said weapon,
thereby causing his death shortly thereafter due to "Cardiorespiratory Arrest, Massive Intrathoracic
Hemorrhage, Stab Wound" as per Autopsy Report and Certificate of Death both issued by Dr. Tomas G.
Cornel, Assistant City Health Officer, this City, to the damage and prejudice of the legal heirs of said
deceased ROGELIO P. MARARAC in the amount of not less than FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS
(P50,000.00), Philippine currency, and other consequential damages.

Contrary to Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code.

Dagupan City, Philippines December 29, 1994. 2

At the arraignment on January 6, 1995, accused-appellant's counsel, the Public Attorney's Office, filed an "Urgent
Motion to Suspend Arraignment and to Commit Accused to Psychiatric Ward at Baguio General Hospital." It was
alleged that accused-appellant could not properly and intelligently enter a plea because he was suffering from a
mental defect; that before the commission of the crime, he was confined at the psychiatric ward of the Baguio
General Hospital in Baguio City. He prayed for the suspension of his arraignment and the issuance of an order
confining him at the said hospital. 3

The motion was opposed by the City Prosecutor. The trial court, motu proprio, propounded several questions on
accused-appellant. Finding that the questions were understood and answered by him "intelligently," the court denied
the motion that same day. 4

The arraignment proceeded and a plea of not guilty was entered by the court on accused-appellant's behalf. 5

The prosecution presented four (4) witnesses, namely: (1) Dr. Tomas Cornel, the Assistant Health Officer of
Dagupan City who issued the death certificate and conducted the autopsy on the victim; (2) Crisanto Santillan, an
eyewitness to the incident; (3) SPO1 Conrado Francisco, one of the policemen who apprehended accused-
appellant; and (4) Rosalinda Sobremonte, the victim's sister. The prosecution established the following facts:
In the morning of December 27, 1994, at the St. John's Cathedral, Dagupan City, the sacrament of confirmation was
being performed by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dagupan City on the children of Dagupan. The cathedral was
filled with more than a thousand people. At 11:00 A.M., nearing the close of the rites, the Bishop went down the altar
to give his final blessing to the children in the front rows. While the Bishop was giving his blessing, a man from the
crowd went up and walked towards the center of the altar. He stopped beside the Bishop's chair, turned around and,
in full view of the Catholic faithful, sat on the Bishop's chair. The man was accused-appellant. Crisanto Santillan,
who was assisting the Bishop at the rites, saw accused-appellant. Santillan approached accused-appellant and
requested him to vacate the Bishop's chair. Gripping the chair's armrest, accused-appellant replied in Pangasinese:
"No matter what will happen, I will not move out!" Hearing this, Santillan moved away. 6

Some of the churchgoers summoned Rogelio Mararac, the security guard at the cathedral. Mararac went near
accused-appellant and told him to vacate the Bishop's chair. Accused-appellant stared intensely at the guard.
Mararac grabbed his nightstick and used it to tap accused-appellant's hand on the armrest. Appellant did not budge.
Again, Mararac tapped the latter's hand. Still no reaction. Mararac was about to strike again when suddenly
accused-appellant drew a knife from his back, lunged at Mararac and stabbed him, hitting him below his left throat.
Mararac fell. Accused-appellant went over the victim and tried to stab him again but Mararac parried his thrust.
Accused-appellant looked up and around him. He got up, went to the microphone and shouted: "Anggapuy nayan
dia!" (No one can beat me here!). He returned to the Bishop's chair and sat on it again. Mararac, wounded and
bleeding, slowly dragged himself down the altar. 7

Meanwhile, SPO1 Conrado Francisco, who was directing traffic outside, received a report of a commotion inside the
cathedral. Rushing to the cathedral, SPO1 Francisco saw a man, accused-appellant, with red stains on his shirt and
a knife in one hand sitting on a chair at the center of the altar. He ran to accused-appellant and advised him to drop
the knife. Accused-appellant obeyed. He dropped the knife and raised his hands. Thereupon, Chief Inspector
Wendy Rosario, Deputy Police Chief, Dagupan City, who was attending the confirmation rites at the Cathedral, went
near accused-appellant to pick up the knife. Suddenly, accused-appellant embraced Chief Inspector Rosario and
the two wrestled with each other. Chief Inspector Rosario was able to subdue accused-appellant. The police came
and when they frisked appellant, they found a leather scabbard tucked around his waist. 8 He was brought to the
police station and placed in jail.

In the meantime, Mararac, the security guard, was brought to the hospital where he expired a few minutes upon
arrival. He died of cardio-respiratory arrest, massive, intra-thoracic hemorrhage, stab wound." 9 He was found to
have sustained two (2) stab wounds: one just below the left throat and the other on the left arm. The autopsy
reported the following findings:

EXTERNAL FINDINGS

1. Stab wound, along the parasternal line, level of the 2nd intercostal space, left, 1 1/2" x 1 1/2"
penetrating. The edge of one side of the wound is sharp and pointed.

2. Stab wound, antero-lateral aspect, distal 3rd, arm, left, 1/2" x 1/4" x 1/2". The edge of one side of
the wound is sharp and pointed.

INTERNAL FINDINGS

Massive intrathoracic, left, hemorrhage with perforation of the upper and lower lobe of the left lung. The left
pulmonary blood vessel was severely cut. 10

After the prosecution rested its case, accused-appellant, with leave of court, filed a "Demurrer to Evidence." He
claimed that the prosecution failed to prove the crime of murder because there was no evidence of the qualifying
circumstance of treachery; that there was unlawful aggression by the victim when he tapped accused-appellant's
hand with his nightstick; and that accused-appellant did not have sufficient ability to calculate his defensive acts
because he was of unsound mind. 11

The "Demurrer to Evidence" was opposed by the public prosecutor. He alleged that the accused "pretended to be
weak, tame and of unsound mind;" that after he made the first stab, he "furiously continued stabbing and slashing
the victim to finish him off undeterred by the fact that he was in a holy place where a religious ceremony was being
conducted;" and the plea of unsound mind had already been ruled upon by the trial court in its order of January 6,
1995. 12

On February 21, 1995, a letter was sent by Inspector Wilfredo F. Valdez, Jail Warden of Dagupan City to the trial
court. Inspector Valdez requested the court to allow accused-appellant, who was confined at the city jail, to be
treated at the Baguio General Hospital to determine whether he should remain in jail or be transferred to some other
institution. The other prisoners were allegedly not comfortable with appellant because he had been exhibiting
unusual behavior. He tried to climb up the jail roof so he could escape and see his family. 13

As ordered by the trial court, the public prosecutor filed a Comment to the jail warden's letter. He reiterated that the
mental condition of accused-appellant to stand trial had already been determined; unless a competent government
agency certifies otherwise, the trial should proceed; and the city jail warden was not the proper person to determine
whether accused-appellant was mentally ill or not. 14

In an order dated August 21, 1995, the trial court denied the "Demurrer to Evidence". 15 Accused-appellant moved for
reconsideration.

While the motion for reconsideration was pending, on February 26, 1996, counsel for accused-appellant filed a
"Motion to Confine Accused for Physical, Mental and Psychiatric Examination." Appellant's counsel informed the
court that accused-appellant had been exhibiting abnormal behavior for the past weeks; he would shout at the top of
his voice and cause panic among the jail inmates and personnel; that appellant had not been eating and sleeping;
that his co-inmates had been complaining of not getting enough sleep for fear of being attacked by him while asleep;
that once, while they were sleeping, appellant took out all his personal effects and waste matter and burned them
inside the cell which again caused panic among the inmates. Appellant's counsel prayed that his client be confined
at the National Center for Mental Health in Manila or at the Baguio General Hospital. 16 Attached to the motion were
two (2) letters. One, dated February 19, 1996, was from Inspector Pedrito Llopis, Jail Warden, Dagupan City,
addressed to the trial court judge informing him of appellant's irrational behavior and seeking the issuance of a court
order for the immediate psychiatric and mental examination of accused-appellant. 17 The second letter, dated
February 21, 1996, was addressed to Inspector Llopis from the Bukang Liwayway Association, an association of
inmates in the Dagupan City Jail. The letter, signed by the president, secretary and adviser of said association,
informed the jail warden of appellant's unusual behavior and requested that immediate action be taken against him
to avoid future violent incidents in the jail. 18

On September 18, 1996, the trial court denied reconsideration of the order denying the "Demurrer to Evidence." The
court ordered accused-appellant to present his evidence on October 15, 1996. 19

Accused-appellant did not take the witness stand. Instead, his counsel presented the testimony of Dr. Maria
Soledad Gawidan, 20 a resident physician in the Department of Psychiatry at the Baguio General Hospital, and
accused-appellant's medical and clinical records at the said hospital. 21 Dr. Gawidan testified that appellant had been
confined at the BGH from February 18, 1993 to February 22, 1993 and that he suffered from "Schizophrenic
Psychosis, Paranoid Type—schizophrenia, paranoid, chronic, paranoid type;" 22 and after four (4) days of
confinement, he was discharged in improved physical and mental condition. 23 The medical and clinical records
consisted of the following: (1) letter of Dr. Alfredo Sy, Municipal Health Officer, Calasiao, Pangasinan to Dr. Jesus
del Prado, Director, BGH referring accused-appellant for admission and treatment after "a relapse of his violent
behavior;" 24 (2) the clinical cover sheet of appellant at the BGH; 25 (3) the consent slip of appellant's wife voluntarily
entrusting appellant to the BGH; 26 (4) the Patient's Record; 27 (5) the Consent for Discharge signed by appellant's
wife; 28 (6) the Summary and Discharges of appellant; 29 (7) appellant's clinical case history; 30 (8) the admitting
notes; 31 (9) Physician's Order Form; 32 (10) the Treatment Form/medication sheet; 33 and (11) Nurses' Notes. 34

The trial court rendered a decision on June 23, 1997. It upheld the prosecution evidence and found accused-
appellant guilty of the crime charged and thereby sentenced him to death, viz:

WHEREFORE, the court finds accused Roberto Estrada y Lopez guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of Murder and in view of the presence of the aggravating circumstance of cruelty which is not offset by
any mitigating circumstance, the accused is sentenced to suffer the Death Penalty and to indemnify the
heirs of the deceased in the amount of P50,000.00. 1âwphi 1.nêt
The accused is ordered to pay the sum of P18,870.00 representing actual expenses and P100,000.00 as
moral damages.

SO ORDERED. 25

In this appeal, accused-appellant assigns the following errors:

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN FINDING ACCUSED-APPELLANT GUILTY OF THE CRIME CHARGED,
DESPITE CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE ON RECORD, SUPPORTING HIS PLEA OF INSANITY.

II

THE LOWER COURT LIKEWISE ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE STABBING TO DEATH OF ROGELIO
MARARAC WAS ATTENDED WITH TREACHERY AND AGGRAVATED BY CRUELTY,
GRANTING ARGUENDO THAT ACCUSED-APPELLANT'S PLEA OF INSANITY CANNOT BE
CONSIDERED AN EXEMPTING CIRCUMSTANCE. 36

The basic principle in our criminal law is that a person is criminally liable for a felony committed by him. 37 Under the
classical theory on which our penal code is mainly based, the basis of criminal liability is human free Will. 38 Man is
essentially a moral creature with an absolutely free will to choose between good and evil. 39 When he commits a
felonious or criminal act (delito doloso), the act is presumed to have been done voluntarily, 40 i.e., with freedom,
intelligence and intent. 41 Man, therefore, should be adjudged or held accountable for wrongful acts so long as free
will appears unimpaired. 42

In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the law presumes that every person is of sound mind 43 and that all acts
are voluntary. 44 The moral and legal presumption under our law is that freedom and intelligence constitute the
normal condition of a person. 45 This presumption, however, may be overthrown by other factors; and one of these is
insanity which exempts the actor from criminal liability. 46

The Revised Penal Code in Article 12 (1) provides:

Art. 12. Circumstances which exempt from criminal liability. — The following are exempt from criminal
liability:

1. An imbecile or an insane person, unless the latter has acted during a lucid interval.

When the imbecile or an insane person has committed an act which the law defines as a felony
(delito), the court shall order his confinement in one of the hospitals or asylums established for
persons thus afflicted, which he shall not be permitted to leave without first obtaining the permission
of the same court.

An insane person is exempt from criminal liability unless he has acted during a lucid interval. If the court
therefore finds the accused insane when the alleged crime was committed, he shall be acquitted but the
court shall order his confinement in a hospital or asylum for treatment until he may be released without
danger. An acquittal of the accused does not result in his outright release, but rather in a verdict which is
followed by commitment of the accused to a mental institution. 47

In the eyes of the law, insanity exists when there is a complete deprivation of intelligence in committing the act.
Mere abnormality of the mental faculties will not exclude imputability. 48 The accused must be "so insane as to be
incapable of entertaining a criminal intent." 49 He must be deprived of reason and act without the least discernment
because there is a complete absence of the power to discern or a total deprivation of freedom of the will. 50

Since the presumption is always in favor of sanity, he who invokes insanity as an exempting circumstance must
prove it by clear and positive evidence. 51 And the evidence on this point must refer to the time preceding the act
under prosecution or to the very moment of its execution. 52
To ascertain a person's mental condition at the time of the act, it is permissible to receive evidence of the condition
of his mind within a reasonable period both before and after that time. 53 Direct testimony is not required. 54 Neither
are specific acts of derangement essential to establish insanity as a defense. 55 Circumstantial evidence, if clear and
convincing, suffices; for the unfathomable mind can only be known by overt acts. A person's thoughts, motives, and
emotions may be evaluated only by outward acts to determine whether these conform to the practice of people of
sound mind. 56

In the case at bar, there is no direct proof that accused-appellant was afflicted with insanity at the time he killed
Mararac. The absence of direct proof, nevertheless, does not entirely discount the probability that appellant was not
of sound mind at that time. From the affidavit of Crisanto Santillan 57 attached to the Information, there are certain
circumstances that should have placed the trial court on notice that appellant may not have been in full possession
of his mental faculties when he attacked Mararac. It was highly unusual for a sane person to go up to the altar and
sit in the Bishop's chair while the Bishop was administering the Holy Sacrament of Confirmation to children in a
jampacked cathedral. It goes against normal and ordinary behavior for appellant, without sufficient provocation from
the security guard, to stab the latter at the altar, during sacramental rites and in front of all the Catholic faithful to
witness. Appellant did not flee, or at least attempt to flee after the stabbing. He nonchalantly approached the
microphone and, over the public address system, uttered words to the faithful which the rational person would have
been made. He then returned to the Bishop's chair and sat there as if nothing happened.

Accused-appellant's history of mental illness was brought to the court's attention on the day of arraignment. Counsel
for accused-appellant moved for suspension of the arraignment on the ground that his client could not properly and
intelligently enter a plea due to his mental condition. The Motion for Suspension is authorized under Section 12,
Rule 116 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure which provides:

Sec. 12. Suspension of arraignment. — The arraignment shall be suspended, if at the time thereof:

(a) The accused appears to be suffering from an unsound mental condition which effectively renders him
unable to fully understand the charge against him and to plead intelligently thereto. In such case, the court
shall order his mental examination and, if necessary, his confinement for such purpose.

(b) x x x xxx xxx

The arraignment of an accused shall be suspended if at the time thereof he appears to be suffering from an
unsound mental condition of such nature as to render him unable to fully understand the charge against him and to
plead intelligently thereto. Under these circumstances, the court must suspend the proceedings and order the
mental examination of the accused, and if confinement be necessary for examination, order such confinement and
examination. If the accused is not in full possession of his mental faculties at the time he is informed at the
arraignment of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, the process is itself a felo de se, for he can
neither comprehend the full import of the charge nor can he give an intelligent plea thereto. 58

The question of suspending the arraignment lies within the discretion of the trial court. 59 And the test to determine
whether the proceedings will be suspended depends on the question of whether the accused, even with the
assistance of counsel, would have a fair trial. This rule was laid down as early as 1917, thus:

In passing on the question of the propriety of suspending the proceedings against an accused person on the
ground of present insanity, the judges should bear in mind that not every aberration of the mind or exhibition
of mental deficiency is sufficient to justify such suspension. The test is to be found in the question whether
the accused would have a fair trial, with the assistance which the law secures or gives; and it is obvious that
under a system of procedure like ours where every accused person has legal counsel, it is not necessary to
be so particular as it used to be in England where the accused had no advocate but himself. 60

In the American jurisdiction, the issue of the accused's "present insanity" or insanity at the time of the court
proceedings is separate and distinct from his criminal responsibility at the time of commission of the act. The
defense of insanity in a criminal trial concerns the defendant's mental condition at the time of the crime's
commission. "Present insanity" is commonly referred to as "competency to stand trial" 61 and relates to the
appropriateness of conducting the criminal proceeding in light of the defendant's present inability to participate
meaningfully and effectively. 62 In competency cases, the accused may have been sane or insane during the
commission of the offense which relates to a determination of his guilt. However, if he is found incompetent to stand
trial, the trial is simply postponed until such time as he may be found competent. Incompetency to stand trial is not a
defense; it merely postpones the trial. 63

In determining a defendant's competency to stand trial, the test is whether he has the capacity to comprehend his
position, understand the nature and object of the proceedings against him, to conduct his defense in a rational
manner, and to cooperate, communicate with, and assist his counsel to the end that any available defense may be
interposed. 64 This test is prescribed by state law but it exists generally as a statutory recognition of the rule at
common law. 65 Thus:

[I]f is not enough for the . . . judge to find that the defendant [is] oriented to time and place, and [has] some
recollection of events, but that the test must be whether he has sufficient present ability to consult with his
lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding—and whether he has a rational as well as factual
understanding of the proceedings against him. 66

There are two distinct matters to be determined under this test: (1) whether the defendant is sufficiently coherent to
provide his counsel with information necessary or relevant to constructing a defense; and (2) whether he is able to
comprehend the significance of the trial and his relation to it. 67 The first requisite is the relation between the
defendant and his counsel such that the defendant must be able to confer coherently with his counsel. The second
is the relation of the defendant vis-a-vis the court proceedings, i.e., that he must have a rational as well as a factual
understanding of the proceedings. 68

The rule barring trial or sentence of an insane person is for the protection of the accused, rather than of the
public. 69It has been held that it is inhuman to require an accused disabled by act of God to make a just defense for
his life or liberty. 70 To put a legally incompetent person on trial or to convict and sentence him is a violation of the
constitutional rights to a fair trial 71 and due process of law; 72 and this has several reasons underlying it. 73 For one, the
accuracy of the proceedings may not be assured, as an incompetent defendant who cannot comprehend the
proceedings may not appreciate what information is relevant to the proof of his innocence. Moreover, he is not in a
position to exercise many of the rights afforded a defendant in a criminal case, e.g., the right to effectively consult
with counsel, the right to testify in his own behalf, and the right to confront opposing witnesses, which rights are
safeguards for the accuracy of the trial result. Second, the fairness of the proceedings may be questioned, as there
are certain basic decisions in the course of a criminal proceeding which a defendant is expected to make for himself,
and one of these is his plea. Third, the dignity of the proceedings may be disrupted, for an incompetent defendant is
likely to conduct himself in the courtroom in a manner which may destroy the decorum of the court. Even if the
defendant remains passive, his lack of comprehension fundamentally impairs the functioning of the trial process. A
criminal proceeding is essentially an adversarial proceeding. If the defendant is not a conscious and intelligent
participant, the adjudication loses its character as a reasoned interaction between an individual and his community
and becomes an invective against an insensible object. Fourth, it is important that the defendant knows why he is
being punished, a comprehension which is greatly dependent upon his understanding of what occurs at trial. An
incompetent defendant may not realize the moral reprehensibility of his conduct. The societal goal of
institutionalized retribution may be frustrated when the force of the state is brought to bear against one who cannot
comprehend its significance. 74

The determination of whether a sanity investigation or hearing should be ordered rests generally in the discretion of
the trial court. 75 Mere allegation of insanity is insufficient. There must be evidence or circumstances that raise a
"reasonable doubt" 76 or a "bona fide doubt" 77 as to defendant's competence to stand trial. Among the factors a judge
may consider is evidence of the defendant's irrational behavior, history of mental illness or behavioral abnormalities,
previous confinement for mental disturbance, demeanor of the defendant, and psychiatric or even lay testimony
bearing on the issue of competency in a particular case. 78

In the case at bar, when accused-appellant moved for suspension of the arraignment on the ground of accused's
mental condition, the trial court denied the motion after finding that the questions propounded on appellant were
intelligently answered by him. The court declared:

xxx xxx xxx

It should be noted that when this case was called, the Presiding Judge asked questions on the accused, and
he (accused) answered intelligently. As a matter of fact, when asked where he was born, he answered, in
Tayug.
The accused could answer intelligently. He could understand the questions asked of him.

WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, the Urgent Motion to Suspend Arraignment and to Commit Accused to
Psychiatric Ward at Baguio General Hospital, is hereby DENIED.

SO ORDERED. 79

The fact that accused-appellant was able to answer the questions asked by the trial court is not conclusive evidence
that he was competent enough to stand trial and assist in his defense. Section 12, Rule 116 speaks of an unsound
mental condition that "effectively renders [the accused] unable to fully understand the charge against him and to
plead intelligently thereto." It is not clear whether accused-appellant was of such sound mind as to fully understand
the charge against him. It is also not certain whether his plea was made intelligently. The plea of "not guilty" was not
made by accused-appellant but by the trial court "because of his refusal to plead." 80

The trial court took it solely upon itself to determine the sanity of accused-appellant. The trial judge is not a
psychiatrist or psychologist or some other expert equipped with the specialized knowledge of determining the state
of a person's mental health. To determine the accused-appellants competency to stand trial, the court, in the instant
case, should have at least ordered the examination of accused-appellant, especially in the light of the latter's history
of mental illness.

If the medical history was not enough to create a reasonable doubt in the judge's mind of accused-appellants
competency to stand trial, subsequent events should have done so. One month after the prosecution rested its
case, the Jail Warden of Dagupan City wrote the trial judge informing him of accused-appellant's unusual behavior
and requesting that he be examined at the hospital to determine whether he should remain in jail or be placed in
some other institution. The trial judge ignored this letter. One year later, accused-appellant's counsel filed a "Motion
to Confine Accused for Physical, Mental and Psychiatric Examination." Attached to this motion was a second letter
by the new Jail Warden of Dagupan City accompanied by a letter-complaint of the members of the Bukang
Liwayway Association of the city jail. Despite the two (2) attached letters, 81 the judge ignored the "Motion to Confine
Accused for Physical, Mental and Psychiatric Examination." The records are barren of any order disposing of the
said motion. The trial court instead ordered accused-appellant to present his evidence. 82

Dr. Gawidan, testified that the illness of accused-appellant, i.e., schizophrenia, paranoid type, is a "lifetime illness"
and that this requires maintenance medication to avoid relapses. 83 After accused-appellant was discharged on
February 22, 1993, he never returned to the hospital, not even for a check-up. 84

Accused-appellant did not take the witness stand. His counsel manifested that accused-appellant was waiving the
right to testify in his own behalf because he was "suffering from mental illness." 85 This manifestation was made in
open court more than two (2) years after the crime, and still, the claim of mental illness was ignored by the trial
court. And despite all the overwhelming indications of accused-appellant's state of mind, the judge persisted in his
personal assessment and never even considered subjecting accused-appellant to a medical examination. To top it
all, the judge found appellant guilty and sentenced him to death!

Sec. 12, Rule 116 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure speaks of a "mental examination." 86 The human mind is
an entity, and understanding it is not purely an intellectual process but depends to a large degree upon emotional
and psychological appreciation. 87 Thus, an intelligent determination of an accused's capacity for rational
understanding ought to rest on a deeper and more comprehensive diagnosis of his mental condition than laymen
can make through observation of his overt behavior. Once a medical or psychiatric diagnosis is made, then can the
legal question of incompetency be determined by the trial court. By this time, the accused's abilities may be
measured against the specific demands a trial will make upon him. 88

If the mental examination on accused-appellant had been promptly and properly made, it may have served a dual
purpose 89 by determining both his competency to stand trial and his sanity at the time of the offense. In some
Philippine cases, the medical and clinical findings of insanity made immediately after the commission of the crime
served as one of the bases for the acquittal of the accused. 90 The crime in the instant case was committed way back
in December 1994, almost six (6) years ago. At this late hour, a medical finding alone may make it impossible for us
to evaluate appellant's mental condition at the time of the crime's commission for him to avail of the exempting
circumstance of insanity. 91 Nonetheless, under the present circumstances, accused-appellant's competence to stand
trial must be properly ascertained to enable him to participate, in his trial meaningfully.
By depriving appellant of a mental examination, the trial court effectively deprived appellant of a fair trial. The trial
1awphil

court's negligence was a violation of the basic requirements of due process; and for this reason, the proceedings
before the said court must be nullified. In People v. Serafica, 92 we ordered that the joint decision of the trial court be
vacated and the cases remanded to the court a quo for proper proceeding. The accused, who was charged with two
(2) counts of murder and one (1) count of frustrated murder, entered a plea of "guilty" to all three charges and was
sentenced to death. We found that the accused's plea was not an unconditional admission of guilt because he was
"not in full possession of his mental faculties when he killed the victim;" and thereby ordered that he be subjected to
the necessary medical examination to determine his degree of insanity at the time of commission of the crime. 93

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 44, Dagupan City in Criminal Case No. 94-
00860-D convicting accused-appellant Roberto Estrada and sentencing him to death is vacated and the case is
remanded to the court a quo for the conduct of a proper mental examination on accused-appellant, a determination
of his competency to stand trial, and for further proceedings. 1âwphi 1.nêt

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-
Reyes, Ynares-Santiago and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
Vitug, J., on official leave.
CrimLaw - Case 10 OF 20

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. L-52688 October 17, 1980

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,


vs.
HONORATO AMBAL, accused-appellant.

AQUINO, J.:

Honorato Ambal appealed from the decision of the Court of First Instance of Camiguin convicting him of parricide,
sentencing him to reclusion perpetua and ordering him to pay an indemnity of twelve thousand pesos to the heirs of
his deceased wife, Felicula Vicente-Ambal (Criminal Case No. 155-C).

In the morning of January 20, 1977, the barangay captain found under some flowering plants near the house of
Honorato Ambal located in Barrio Balbagon, Mambajao, Camiguin, Felicula Vicente-Ambal, 48, mortally wounded.
She asked for drinking water and medical assistance.

She sustained seven incised wounds in different parts of her body. She was placed in an improvised hammock and
brought to the hospital where she died forty minutes after arrival thereat (Exh. B and G).

On that same morning, Honorato Ambal, husband of Felicula, after entrusting his child to a neighbor, went to the
house of the barangay captain and informed the latter's spouse that he (Honorato) had killed his wife Feling. After
making that oral confession, Ambal took a pedicab, went to the municipal hall and surrendered to a policeman, also
confessing to the latter that he had liquidated his wife.

The policeman confiscated Ambal's long bolo, the tip of which was broken (Exh. F). Ambal was bespattered with
blood. His shirt was torn. He appeared to be weak.

The killing was the climax of a fifteen-year-old marriage featured by quarrels and bickerings which were exacerbated
by the fact that the wife sometimes did not stay in the conjugal abode and chose to spend the night in the poblacion
of Mambajao. The couple had eight children.

The immediate provocation for the assault was a quarrel induced by Felicula's failure to buy medicine for Ambal who
was afflicted with influenza. The two engaged in a heated alteration. Felicula told her husband that it would be better
if he were dead ("Mas maayo ka pang mamatay"). That remark infuriated Ambal and impelled him to attack his wife
(Exh. 1).

On January 27, 1977, a police lieutenant charged Ambal with parricide in the municipal court. After a preliminary
examination, the case was elevated to the Court of First Instance where on March 4, 1977 the fiscal filed against
Ambal an information for parricide. At the arraignment, Ambal, assisted by counsel de oficio, pleaded not guilty.

After the prosecution had presented its evidence, accused's counsel de oficio manifested that the defense of Ambal
was insanity.
The trial court in its order of September 15, 1977 directed the municipal health officer, Doctor Maximino R. Balbas,
Jr., a 1960 medical graduate who had undergone a six-month training in psychiatry in the National Mental Hospital,
to examine Ambal and to submit within one month a report on the latter's mental condition (p. 65, Record).

Doctor Balbas in his report dated November 3, 1977 found that Ambal was a "passive-aggressive, emotionally
unstable, explosive or inadequate personality" (Exh. 1).

Doctor Balbas testified that during the period form February 1 (twelve days after the killing) to November 3, 1977,
when he placed Ambal under observation, the latter did not show any mental defect and was normal (44-46 tsn
November 3,1977).

Asked directly whether Ambal suffered from a mental disease or defect, Doctor Balbas replied: "Before the
commission of the crime, he was normal. After the commission of the crime, normal, but during the commission of
the crime, that is what we call "Psychosis" due to short frustration tolerance" (45 tsn).

Doctor Cresogono Llacuna,a 1937 medical graduate who undertook a two-month observation of mental cases and
who in the course of his long practice had treated around one hundred cases of mental disorders, attended to Ambal
in 1975. He found that Ambal suffered from a psychoneurosis, a disturbance of the functional nervous system which
is not insanity (65 November 15, 1977). The doctor concluded that Ambal was not insane. Ambal was normal but
nervous (68 He had no mental disorder.

Ambal, 49, who reached Grade four, testified on November 16, 1977 or about ten months after the incident. He said
that at the time of the killing he did not know what he was doing because he was allegedly not in full possession of
his normal mental faculties. He pretended not to know that he was charged with the capital offense of having killed
his wife.

But he admitted that he knew that his wife was dead because he was informed of her death. During his confinement
in jail he mopped the floor and cooked food for his fellow prisoners. Sometimes, he worked in the town plaza or was
sent unescorted to buy food in the market.

He said that his wife quarrelled with him. She was irritable. he admitted that he rode on a tricycle when he
surrendered on the day of the killing. He remembered that a week before the incident he got wet while plowing. He
feel asleep without changing his clothes. At midnight, when he woke up, he had chills. That was the
commencement, his last illness.

The trial court concluded from Ambal's behavior immediately after the incident that he was not insane and that he
acted like a normal human being. We agree with the court's conclusion.

Courts should be careful to distinguish insanity in law from passion or eccentricity, mental weakness
or mere depression resulting from physical ailment. The State should guard against sane murderers
escaping punishment through a general plea of insanity. (People vs. Bonoan, 64 Phil. 87, 94.)

Article 12 of the Revised Penal Code exempts from criminal liability an imbecile or an insane person unless the
latter has acted during a lucid interval. *

According to the dictionary imbecile is a person marked by mental deficiency while an insane person is one who has an unsound mind or suffers from a mental
disorder. "imbecil vale tanto como escaso de razon y es loco el que ha perdido el juico." An insane person may have lucid intervals but "el embecil no puede tener,
no tiene estos intervalos de Corazon, pues en el no hay una alteracion, sino una carencia del juico mismo" (1 Viada, Codigo Penal, 4th Ed., p. 92.)

Insanity has been defined as "a manifestation in language or conduct of disease or defect of the brain, or a more or
less permanently diseased or disordered condition of the mentality, functional or organic, and characterized by
perversion, inhibition, or disordered function of the sensory or of the intellective faculties, or by impaired or
disordered volition" (Sec. 1039, Revised Administrative Code).

The law presumes that every person is of sound mind, in the absence of proof to the contrary (Art.
800, Civil Code re Testamentary Succession; U.S. vs. Martinez, 34 Phil. 305, 308). The law always
presumes all acts to be voluntary. It is improper to presume that acts were executed unconsciously
(People vs. Cruz, 109 Phil. 288, 292; People vs. Tagasa, 68 Phil. 147, 153; U.S. vs. Guevara, 27
Phil. 547; People vs. Fausto, 113 Phil. 841).

When there is no proof that the defendant was not of sound mind at the time he performed the
criminal act charged to him, or that he performed it at the time of madness or of mental
derangement, or that he was generally considered to be insane — his habitual condition being, on
the contrary, healthy — the legal presumption is that he acted in his ordinary state of mind and the
burden is upon the defendant to overcome this presumption (U.S. vs. Zamora, 32 Phil. 218.)

Without positive proof that the defendant had lost his reason or was demented, a few moments prior
to or during the perpetration of the crime, it will be presumed that he was in a normal condition (U.S.
vs. Hontiveros Carmona, 18 Phil. 62).

A defendant in a criminal case, who interposes the defense of mental incapacity, has the burden of establishing that
fact, meaning that he was insane at the very moment when the crime was committed (People vs. Bascos, 44 Phil.
204.)

What should be the criterion for insanity or imbecility? We have adopted the rule, based on Spanish jurisprudence,
that in order that a person could be regarded as an imbecile within the meaning of article 12 of the Revised Penal
Code, he must be deprived completely of reason or discernment and freedom of the will at the time of committing
the crime (People vs. Formigonez, 87 Phil. 658, 660)

In order that insanity may be taken as an exempting circumstance, there must be complete deprivation of
intelligence in the commission of the act or that the accused acted without the least discernment. Mere abnormality
of his mental faculties does not exclude imputability. (People vs. Cruz, 109 Phil. 288,292; People vs. Renegado, L-
27031, May 31,1974,57 SCRA 275, 286.)

A man who could feel the pangs of jealousy and who tried to vindicate his honor by taking violent measures to the
extent of killing his wife (whom he suspected of infidelity) can hardly be regarded as an imbecile (Formigones case).

Where the accused had a passionate nature, with a tendency to having violent fits when angry, his acts of breaking
glasses and smashing dishes are indications of an explosive temper and not insanity, especially considering that he
did not turn violent when a policeman intercepted him after he had killed his wife. (Cruz case.)

There is a vast difference between an insane person and one who has worked himself up into such
a frenzy of anger that he fails to use reason or good judgment in what he does. Persons who get into
a quarrel or fight seldom, if ever, act naturally during the fight. An extremely angry man, often, if not
always, acts like a madman. The fact that a person acts crazy is not conclusive that he is insane.
The popular meaning of the word I "crazy" is not synonymous with the legal terms "insane", "non
compos mentis," "unsound mind","idiot", or "lunatic" (U.S. vs. Vaquilar, 27 Phil. 88, 91.)

The heat of passion and feeling produced by motives of anger, hatred, or revenge is not insanity.
(People vs. Foy, 138 N.Y. 664, cited in Vaquilar case, on p. 92.)

One who, in possession of a sound and, commits a criminal act under the impulse of passion or
revenge, which may temporarily dethrone reason and for the moment control the will, cannot
nevertheless be shielded from the consequences of the act by the plea of insanity. Insanity will only
excuse the commission of a criminal act, when it is made affirmatively to appear that the person
committing it was insane, and that the offense was the direct consequence of his insanity (State vs.
Strickly, 41 Iowa 232, cited in Vaquilar case, on p. 94.)

The defense of insanity was rejected in a case where the accused killed by strangulation a sixteen-year-old girl, who
got leaves from his banana plants, and sliced the flesh of her legs, thighs and shoulders, cooked the flesh and ate it
like a cannibal. (People vs. Balondo, L-27401, October 31, 1969, 30 SCRA 155).

Being weak-minded does not necessarily mean that the accused is insane (People vs. Martin, 120 Phil. 14, 20-21).
Justice Cardozo in his article, "What Medicine Can Do For The Law", traces briefly the origin of the rule regarding
insanity as a defense. He says:

In the early stages of our law, way back in medieval times, insanity was never a defense for crime.
The insane killer, like the man who killed in self-defense, might seek a pardon from the king, and
would often get one. He had no defense at law. Gradually insanity was allowed, but only within
narrow limits This was what was become known as the wild-beast stage of the defense. Then the
limits of the defense were expanded, but still slowly and narrowly. The killer was excused if the
disease of the mind was such that he was incapable of appreciating the difference between right and
wrong. At first this meant, not the right and wrong of particular case, but right and wrong generally or
in the abstract, the difference, as it was sometimes said, between good and evil. Later, the rule was
modified in favor of the prisoner so that capacity to distinguish between right and wrong generally
would not charge with responsibility if there was no capacity to understand the difference in relation
to the particular act, the subject of the crime.

The rule governing the subject was crystallized in England in 1843 by the answer made by the
House of Lords to questions submitted by judges in the famous case of McNaghten, who was tried
for the murder of one Drummond, the secretary of Sir Robert Peel.

In the M'Naghten case, 8 Eng. Rep. 718, Clark and Finelly 200, the following rule was laid down: "To establish a
defense on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of committing the act, the party accused
was laboring under such a defect of reason from disease of the mind, as not, to know the nature and quality of the
act he was doing, or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong."

In the M'Naghten case, it appears that Daniel M'Naghten shot Edward Drummond on January 20, 1843. Drummond
died as a consequence of the gunshot wound on April 25, 1843. Drummond was the private secretary of Sir Robert
Peel, prime minister M'Naghten shot Drummond, thinking he was Sir Robert. M'Naghten labored under the the
insane delusion that he was being hounded by his enemies and that the prime minister was one of them. Medical
evidence tended to prove that M'Naghten was affected by morbid delusions which carried him beyond the power of
his own control, leaving him unable to distinguish right and wrong, and that he was incapable of controlling his
conduct in connection with the delusion. The jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity.

As stated in another case, the "test of the responsibility for criminal acts, when insanity is asserted, is the capacity of
the accused to distinguish between right and wrong at the time and with respect to the act which is the subject of the
inquiry. (Coleman's case,1 N.Y. Cr. Rep. 1.)

Another test is the so-called "irresistible impulse" test which means that "assuming defendant's knowledge of the
nature and quality of his act and his knowledge that the act is wrong, if, by reason of disease of the mind, defendant
has been deprived of or lost the power of his will which would enable him to prevent himself from doing the act, then
he cannot be found guilty." The commission of the crime is excused even if the accused knew what he was doing
was wrong provided that as a result of mental disease he lacked the power to resist the impulse to commit the act.
(State v. White, 270 Pac. 2d. 727, 730; Leslie Kast, 31 North Dakota Law Review, pp. 170, 173.)

The latest rule on the point is that "the so-called right wrong test, supplemented by the irresistible impulse test, does
not alone supply adequate criteria for determining criminal responsibility of a person alleged mental incapacity." "An
accused is not criminally responsible if his unlawful act is the product of a mental disease or a mental defect. A
mental disease relieving an accused of criminal responsibility for his unlawful act is a condition considered capable
of improvement or deterioration; a mental defect having such effect on criminal responsibility is a condition not
considered capable of improvement or deterioration, and either congenital, or the result of injury or of a physical or
mental disease." (Syllabi, Durham v. U.S., 214 F. 2nd. 862, 874, 45 A.L.R. 2d. 1430 [1954].)

As stated in 22 C.J.S. 203, "the general test of criminal responsibility may be stated to be the capacity to understand
the nature and consequences of the act charged and the ability to distinguish between right and wrong as to such
act, and in a majority of jurisdictions this is the exclusive test."

And, as noted in 21 Am Jur 2d. 118, the rule in the M'Naghten case exists along with the "irresistible impulse" test or
some other formula permitting a defendant to be exculpated on the ground that, although he knew the act was
wrong, he was unable to refrain from committing it.
Since the broadest test suggested, which is the Durham or "Product" rule, also permits inability to
distinguish between right and wrong to be considered, even though it refuses to limit the inquiry to
that topic, it would appear that insanity which meets this test is a defense in all Anglo-American
jurisdictions and that the only controversy is over whether there are some cases in which the right-
and-wrong test is not met, but in which a defense on grounds of insanity should nevertheless be
recognized. (21 Am Jur 2d 118.)

In the instant case, the alleged insanity of Ambal was not substantiated by any sufficient evidence. The presumption
of sanity was not overthrown. He was not completely bereft of reason or discernment and freedom of will when he
mortally wounded his wife. He was not suffering from any mental disease or defect.

The fact that immediately after the incident he thought of surrendering to the law-enforcing authorities is
incontestable proof that he knew that what he had done was wrong and that he was going to be punished for it.

Ambal is guilty of parricide with the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender to the authorities. Article 246 of
the Revised Penal Code punishes parricide with reclusion perpetua to death. The lesser penalty should be imposed
because of the presence of one mitigating circumstance and the absence of aggravating circumstances (Art. 63[3],
Revised Penal Code).

WHEREFORE, the trial court's decision is affirmed. Costs against the appellant.

SO ORDERED.

Barredo, Fernandez and De Castro, JJ., concur.

Justice Concepcion, Jr., is on leave.

Justice Fernandez was designated to sit in the Second Division.

Separate Opinions

BARREDO, J., (Chairman), concurring:

I concur in the judgment in this case on the bases of existing local jurisprudence cited in the main opinion. The
brilliant and scholarly dissertation by Justice Aquino in his main opinion deserve full study and consideration, but I
prefer to lavish myself to the rulings on insanity in our jurisprudence which I feel adequately provide enough basis
for clear judgment.

ABAD SANTOS, J., concurring:

I concur in finding Honorato Ambal guilty of parricide and reclusion perpetua is the correct penalty. However, I wish
to add these observations: The wife of the appellant appears to have been a shrew. The worst thing that can
happen to a person is to have an unbearable spouse. The deceased was a neglectful wife. She stayed away from
the conjugal home at time and prior to her death she failed to buy medicine for her husband who had influenza and
even had the gall to tell him, "mas maayo ka pangpatay." This, together with the mental condition of Ambal
described in the main opinion, should entitle him to two additional mitigating circumstances, namely: obfuscation
(Art. 13, par. 6, R.P.C.) and illness (Idem., par. 9.) To be sure, the presence of these additional mitigating
circumstances will not cause the reduction of the penalty because Art. 63, par. 3 of the Revised Penal Code prevails
over Art. 64, par. 5 of the same Code. (People vs. Relador, 60 Phil. 593 [1934].) But under the circumstances the
appellant is deserving of executive clemency and I so recommend.
Separate Opinions

BARREDO, J., (Chairman), concurring:

I concur in the judgment in this case on the bases of existing local jurisprudence cited in the main opinion. The
brilliant and scholarly dissertation by Justice Aquino in his main opinion deserve full study and consideration, but I
prefer to lavish myself to the rulings on insanity in our jurisprudence which I feel adequately provide enough basis
for clear judgment.

ABAD SANTOS, J., concurring:

I concur in finding Honorato Ambal guilty of parricide and reclusion perpetua is the correct penalty. However, I wish
to add these observations: The wife of the appellant appears to have been a shrew. The worst thing that can
happen to a person is to have an unbearable spouse. The deceased was a neglectful wife. She stayed away from
the conjugal home at time and prior to her death she failed to buy medicine for her husband who had influenza and
even had the gall to tell him, "mas maayo ka pangpatay." This, together with the mental condition of Ambal
described in the main opinion, should entitle him to two additional mitigating circumstances, namely: obfuscation
(Art. 13, par. 6, R.P.C.) and illness (Idem., par. 9.) To be sure, the presence of these additional mitigating
circumstances will not cause the reduction of the penalty because Art. 63, par. 3 of the Revised Penal Code prevails
over Art. 64, par. 5 of the same Code. (People vs. Relador, 60 Phil. 593 [1934].) But under the circumstances the
appellant is deserving of executive clemency and I so recommend.

Footnotes

* Article 8 of the Spanish Penal Code of 1870 (from which article 12 of the Revised Penal Code was
taken) provides that "no delinquen, y por consiguiente estan exentos de responsabilidad criminal: (1)
El imbecil y el loco, a no ser que este haya obrado en un intervalo de razon. "

This was modified in the existing Spanish Penal Code which in its article 8 (1) provides "que
established exento de responsabilidad criminal el enajenado y el que se halla en situacion de
transtorno mental transitorio, a no ser que este haya sido buscado de proposition para delinquir" (1
Cuello Calon, Derecho Penal, 1975 Ed., p. 495).
CrimLaw - Case 11 OF 20

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 209464 July 1, 2015

DANDY L. DUNGO and GREGORIO A. SIBAL, JR., Petitioners,


vs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

DECISION

MENDOZA, J.:

The fraternal contract should not be signed in blood, celebrated with pain, marred by injuries, and perpetrated
through suffering. That is the essence of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995.

This is a petition for review on certiorari seeking to reverse and set aside the April 26, 2013 Decision1 and the
October 8, 2013 Resolution2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 05046, which affirmed the
February 23, 2011 Decision3 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 36, Calamba City (RTC). The RTC found petitioners
Dandy L. Dungo (Dungo) and Gregorio A. Sibal, Jr. (Sibal), guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of violation
of Section 4 of R.A. No. 8049, and sentenced them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

The Facts

On February 1, 2006, the Office of the City Prosecutor of Calamba, Laguna, filed the Information4 against the
petitioners before the R TC, the accusatory portion of which reads: That on or about 2:30 in the early morning of
January 14, 2006, at Villa Novaliches, Brgy. Pansol, Calamba ,City, Province of Laguna and within the jurisdiction of
the Honorable Court, the above-named accused, during an initiation rite and being then members of Alpha Phi
Omega fraternity and present thereat, in conspiracy with more or less twenty other members and officers, whose
identity is not yet known, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously assault and use personal violence
upon one M4-RLON VILLANUEVA y MEJILLA, a neophyte thereof and as condition for his admission to the
fraternity, thereby subjecting him to physical harm, resulting to his death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of
the victim.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

On February 7, 2006, upon motion, the RTC admitted the Amended Information5 which reads:

That on or about 2:30 in the early morning of January 14, 2006, at Villa Novaliches, Brgy. Pansol, Calamba City,
Province of Laguna and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the above-name accused, during a planned
initiation rite and being then officers and members of Alpha Phi Omega fraternity and present thereat, in conspiracy
with more or less twenty other members and officers, whose identity is not yet known, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously assault and use personal violence upon one MARLON VILLANUEVA y MEJILLA, a
neophyte thereof and as condition for his admission to the fraternity, thereby subjecting him to physical harm,
resulting to his death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the victim. CONTRARY TO LAW.

On February 7, 2006, Dungo filed a motion to quash for lack of probable cause,6 but it was denied by the trial court
because the ground cited therein was not provided by law and jurisprudence. When arraigned, the petitioners
pleaded not guilty to the crime charged.7 Thereafter, trial ensued.
Version of the Prosecution

The prosecution presented twenty (20) witnesses to prove the crime charged. Their testimonies are summarized as
follows:

At around 3:20 o'clock in the morning of January 14, 2006, the victim Marlon Villanueva (Villanueva) was brought to
the emergency room of Dr. Jose P. Rizal District Hospital (JP Rizal Hospital). Dr. Ramon Masilungan (Dr.
Masilungan), who was then the attending physician at the emergency room, observed that Villanueva was
motionless, not breathing and had no heartbeat. Dr. Masilungan tried to revive Villlanueva for about 15 to 30
minutes. Villanueva, however, did not respond to the resuscitation and was pronounced dead. Dr. Masilungan
noticed a big contusion hematoma on the left side of the victim's face and several injuries on his arms and legs. He
further attested that Villanueva 's face was cyanotic, meaning that blood was no longer running through his body
due to lack of oxygen; and when he pulled down Villanueva's pants, he saw large contusions on both legs, which
extended from the upper portion of the thighs, down to the couplexial portion, or back of the knees.

Dr. Masilungan disclosed that two (2) men brought Villanueva to the hospital. The two told him that they found
Villanueva lying motionless on the ground at a store in Brgy. Pansol, Calamba City, and brought him to the hospital.
When he asked them where they came from, one of them answered that they came from Los Baños, Laguna, en
route to San Pablo City. He questioned them on how they found Villanueva, when the latter was in Brgy. Pansol,
Calamba City. One of the men just said that they were headed somewhere else.

Dr. Masilungan reduced his findings in a medico-legal report.8 Due to the nature, extent and location of the injuries,
he opined that Villanueva was a victim of hazing. He was familiar with hazing injuries because he had undergone
hazing himself when he was a student, and also because of his experience in treating victims of hazing incidents.

Dr. Roy Camarillo (Dr. Camarillo), Medico-Legal Officer of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory (PNP-CL)
in Region IV, Camp Vicente Lim, Canlubang, Calamba City, testified that he performed an autopsy on the body of
Villanueva on January 14, 2006 and placed down his findings in an autopsy report.9 Upon examination of the body,
he found various external injuries in the head, trunk and extremities. There were thirty-three (33) external injuries,
with various severity and nature. He concluded that the cause of death was subdural hemorrhage due to head injury
contusion-hematoma. Based on multiple injuries and contusions on the body, and his previous examinations of
hazing injuries, Dr. Camarillo opined that these injuries were hazing-related. During the autopsy, he retrieved two (2)
matchsticks from the cadaver with the marking of Alpha Phi Omega (APO) Fraternity.10

Susan Ignacio (Ignacio) was the owner of the sari-sari store located at Purok 5, Pansol, Calamba City, in front of
Villa Novaliches Resort, which was barely ten steps away. On January 13, 2006, at around 8:30 to 9:00 o'clock in
the evening, she was tending her store when she saw a jeepney with more than twenty (20) persons arrive at the
resort. Ignacio identified Dungo as the person seated beside the driver of the jeepney.11 She estimated the ages of
these persons in the group to be between 20 to 30 years old. They were in civilian clothes, while the other men wore
white long-sleeved shirts. Before entering the resort, the men and women shook hands and embraced each other.
Three (3) persons, riding on a single motorcycle, also arrived at the resort.

Ignacio saw about fifteen (15) persons gather on top of the terrace of the resort who looked like they were praying,
and then the lights of the resort were turned off. Later that evening, at least three (3) of these persons went to her
store to buy some items. During her testimony, she was shown photographs and she identified Christopher
Braseros and Sibal as two of those who went to her store.12 It was only on the morning of January 14, 2006 that she
learned from the policemen visiting the resort that the deceased person was Villanueva.

Donato Magat (Magat), a tricycle driver plying the route of Pansol, Calamba City, testified that at around 3:00 o'clock
in the morning of January 14, 2006, he was waiting for passengers at the comer of Villa Novaliches Resort. A man
approached him and told him that someone inside the resort needed a ride. Magat went to the resort and asked the
two (2) men at the gate who needed a ride. Afterwards, he saw three (3) men in their 20's carrying another man,
who looked very weak, like a vegetable, towards his tricycle. Magat touched the body of the man being carried and
sensed it was cold.

Magat asked the men what happened to their companion. They replied that he had too much to drink. Then they
instructed Magat to go to the nearest hospital. He drove the tricycle to JP Rizal Hospital. Upon their arrival, two of
his passengers brought their unconscious companion inside the emergency room, while their other companion paid
the tricycle fare. Magat then left to go home. Several days after, he learned that the person brought to the hospital
had died.

Abelardo Natividad (Natividad) and Seferino Espina y Jabay (Espina) were the security guards on duty at JP Rizal
Hospital, from 11 :00 o'clock in the evening of January 13, 2006 until 7:00 o'clock in the morning of January 14,
2006. In the early morning of January 14, 2006, two men, who signed on the logbook13 under the names Brandon
Gonzales and Jerico Paril, brought the lifeless body of a person. Pursuant to the standard operating procedure of
the hospital, the security guards did not allow the two men to leave the hospital because they called the police
station .so that an investigation could be conducted. Two policemen arrived later at the hospital. During his
testimony, Natividad identified Sibal and Dupgo as the two persons who brought Villanueva to the hospital.

PO2 Alaindelon Ignacio (P02 Ignacio). testified that on January 14, 2006 at around 3:30 o'clock in the early morning,
Natividad called up the PNP Calamba City Station to report that a lifeless body of a man was brought to JP Rizal
Hospital. When P02 Ignacio arrived, he saw Villanueva' s corpse with contusions and bite marks all over his body.
P02 Ignacio and his policemen companions then brought Dungo and Sibal to the police station. He asked them
about what happened, but they invoked their right to remain silent. The policemen then proceeded to Brgy. Pansol
at around 9:00 o'clock in the morning. After finding Villa Novaliches Resort, they knocked on the door and the
caretaker, Maricel Capillan (Capillan), opened it.

The police asked Capillan if there were University of the Philippines Los Baños (UP Los Baños) students who rented
the resort on the evening of January 13, 2006. Capillan said yes and added that about twenty (20) persons arrived
onboard a jeepney and told her that they would be renting the resort from 9:30 o'clock in the evening up to 7:00
o'clock the following morning.

Gay Czarina Sunga (Sunga) was a food technology student at UP Los Baños during the academic year of 2005-
2006 and a member of the Symbiosis UPLB Biological Society. Around 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon of January 13,
2006, she was at their organization's tambayan in the UPLB Biological Sciences Building, when she noticed three
(3) men seated two meters away from her. She identified the two of the three men as Sibal and Dungo.14 They were
wearing black shirts with the logo of APO. Later at 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon, two more men arrived and, with
their heads bowed, approached the three men. One of them was Villanueva, who was carrying a 5-gallon water
container. Dungo then stood up and asked Villanueva why the latter did not report to him when he was just at their
tambayan. Dungo then punched Villanueva twice, but the latter just kept quiet with his head bowed. Fifteen minutes
later, all the men left.

Joey Atienza (Atienza) had been a good friend of Villanueva since 2004. They were roommates at the UP Los
Baños Men's Dormitory and housemates at the DPS Apartment in Umali Subdivision, Los Baños, Laguna.
According to Atienza, on January 9, 2006, Villanueva introduced him to Daryl Decena (Decena) as his APO - Theta
Chapter batchmate, who was also to undergo final initiation rites on January 13, 2006.

Severino Cuevas, Director of the Students Affairs at UP Los Baños, testified that Dungo and Sibal were both
members of the APO Fraternity, and that there was no record of any request for initiation or hazing activity filed by
the said fraternity.

McArthur Padua of the Office of the Registrar, UP Los Baños, testified that Villanueva was a B.S. Agricultural
Economics student at the UP Los Baños,15 as evidenced by his official transcript of record.16

Atty. Eleno Peralta and Dina S. Carlos, officers of the Student Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) of the UP Los Baños,
testified that an administrative disciplinary case was filed on March 31, 2006 against the APO Fraternity regarding
the death of Villanueva. They confirmed that Capilla of Villa Novaliches Resort and Irene Tan (Tan) of APO Sorority
Theta Chapter appeared as witnesses for the complainant.17

Roman Miguel De Jesus, UP - Office of the Legal Aid (UP-OLA) supervising student, testified that he met Tan of the
APO Sorority sometime between July and August 2006 in UP Diliman: to convince her to testify in the criminal case.
Tan, however, refused because she feared for her safety. She said that after testifying in the SDT hearing, her place
in Imus, Cavite was padlocked and vandalized.

Evelyn Villanueva, mother of victim Villanueva, testified that, as a result of the death of her son, her family incurred
actual damages consisting of medical, burial and funeral expenses in the aggregate amount of ₱140,000.00 which
were evidenced by receipts.18 Her husband also incurred travel expenses in the amount of ₱7,000.00 in returning to
the Philippines to attend his son's wake and burial, as supported by a plane ticket.19 She further attested that she
experienced mental anguish, sleepless nights, substantial weight loss, and strained family relationship as a result of
her son's death.

Version of the Defense

The defense presented seven (7) witnesses to prove the innocence of the petitioners. Their testimonies are
summarized as follow:

Richard Cornelio (Cornelio), an APO Fraternity member, testified that on January 13, 2006, around 4:00 to 4:30
o'clock in the afternoon, he met Dungo at the UP Los Baños Graduate School. Dungo asked him if he would attend
the initiation ceremony, and Cornelio answered in the negative because he had other things to do. At 10:00 o'clock
in the evening of the same day, Cornelio again met Dungo and his girlfriend while eating a hamburger at the Burger
Machine along Raymundo Street, Umali Subdivision, Los Baños, Laguna (Raymundo Street). He asked Dungo if he
would attend the initiation ceremony. Dungo replied that he would not because he and his girlfriend had something
to do.

Ana Danife Rivera (Rivera), the girlfriend of Dungo, testified that on January 13, 2006 at around 1 :00 o'clock in the
afternoon, Dungo came and visited her at her boarding house on Raymundo Street. Around 4:00 o'clock of the
same afternoon, they went to the UP Los Baños Graduate School and saw Cornelio. Afterwards, they went back to
her boarding house and stayed there from 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon to 7:00 o'clock in the evening. Then, they
went to Lacxo Restaurant for dinner and left at around 10:00 o'clock in the evening. On their way back to her
boarding house, they encountered Cornelio again at the Burger Machine. Dungo then stayed and slept at her
boarding house. Around 2:00 o'clock in the early morning of January 14, 2006, they were roused from their sleep by
a phone call from Sibal, asking Dungo to go to a resort in Pansol, Calamba City. Dungo then left the boarding
house.

Dungo testified that around 1:00 o'clock in the early afternoon of January 13, 2006, he arrived at the boarding house
of his girlfriend, Rivera, on Raymundo Street. At around 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon, they went to the UP Los
Baños Graduate School and inquired about the requirements for a master's degree. They walked back to the
boarding house and met Cornelio. They talked about their fraternity's ,final initiation ceremony for that night in
Pansol, Calamba City. Dungo and Rivera then reached the latter's boarding house around 5:00 o'clock in the
afternoon. At around 7:00 o'clock in the evening, they went out for dinner at the Lacxo Restaurant, near Crossing
Junction, Los Baños. They ate and stayed at the restaurant for at least one and a half hours. Then they walked back
to the boarding house of Rivera and, along the way, they met Cornelio again at the Burger Machine along
Raymundo Street. Cornelio asked Dungo if he would attend their fraternity's final initiation ceremony, to which he
replied in the negative. Dungo and Rivera reached the boarding house around 9:00 o'clock in the evening and they
slept there.

Around 2:00 o'clock in the early morning of January 14, 2006, Dungo was roused from his sleep because Sibal was
palling him on his cellphone. Sibal asked for his help, requesting him to go to Villa Novaliches Resort in Pansol,
Calamba City. Upon Dungo 's arrival at the resort, Sibal led him inside. There, he saw Rudolfo Castillo (Castillo), a
fellow APO fraternity brother, and Villanueva, who was unconscious. Dungo told them that they should bring
Villanueva to the hospital. They all agreed, and Castillo called a tricycle that brought them to JP Rizal Hospital. He
identified himself before the security guard as Jerico Paril because he was scared to tell his real name.

Gilbert Gopez (Gopez) testified that he was the Grand Chancellor of the APO -Theta Chapter for years 2005-2006.
At around 7:00 o'clock in the evening of January 13, 2006, he was at the tambayan of their fraternity in UP Los
Baños because their neophytes would be initiated that night. Around 8:30 o'clock in the evening, they met their
fraternity brothers in Bagong Kalsada, Los Baños. He noticed that their neophyte, Villanueva, was with Castillo and
that there was a bruise on the left side of his face. Then they boarded a jeepney and proceeded to Villa Novaliches
Resort in Pansol, Calamba City. There, Gopez instructed Sibal to take Villanueva to the second floor of the resort.
He confronted Castillo as to what happened to Villanueva. Around 11:00 or 11:30 o'clock in the evening, Gopez
decided to cancel the final rites. He told Sibal to stay at the resort and accompany Villanueva and Castillo. Together
with the other neophytes, Gopez left the resort and went back to UP Los Baños.
Sibal testified that he was a DOST Scholar at the UP Los Baños from 2002 to 2006, taking up B.S. Agricultural
Chemistry. He was a Brother Actuary of the APO - Theta Chapter, and was in charge of fraternity activities, such as
tree planting, free medical and dental missions, and blood donations. On January 13, 2006, at around 6:00 o'clock
in the evening, he was at the fraternity's tambayan for the final initiation rites of their neophytes. After preparing the
food for the initiation rites, Sibal, together with some neophytes, went to Bagong Kalsada, Los Baños, where he saw
fellow fraternity brother Castillo with their neophyte Villanueva, who had a bruised face. Thereafter, they boarded a
jeepney and proceeded to Villa Novaliches Resort in Pansol, Calamba City. Once inside the resort, he accompanied
Villanueva upstairs for the latter to take a rest. A few minutes later, he went down and confronted Castillo about the
bruises on Villanueva's face. He was angry and irritated with Castillo. He then stayed outside the resort until Gopez
and the other neophytes came out and told him that the final initiation rite was cancelled, and that they were
returning to UP Los Baños. Sibal wanted to go with them but ;he was ordered to stay with Villanueva and Castillo.

After the group of Gopez left, Sibal checked on the condition of Villanueva, who was sleeping on the second; floor of
the resort. Then he went outside for one hour, or until 1 :00 o 'dock in the early morning of January 14, 2006. Sibal
entered the resort again and saw Villanueva, who looked unconscious, seated in one of the benc6es on the ground
floor. Sibal inquired about Villanueva's condition but he was ignored by Castillo. He then called Dungo for help. After
Dungo arrived at the resort, they hailed a tricycle and brought Villanueva to JP Rizal Hospital. There, he gave a
false name to the security guard as he heard that Dungo had done the same.

The RTC Ruling

On February 23, 2011, the RTC found Dungo and Sibal guilty of the crime of violating Section 4 of the Anti-Hazing
Law and sentenced them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. The trial court stated that the prosecution
established the presence of Dungo and Sibal (1) at the UP Los Banos Campus on January 13, 2006 around 3:00
o'clock in the afternoon, by the testimony of Sunga and (2) at the Villa Novaliches Resort around 9:00 o'clock in the
evening of the same day by the testimony of Ignacio. With the extensive testimonies of Dr. Masilungan and Dr.
Camarillo, the prosecution also proved that Villanueva died from hazing injuries.

According to the RTC, the evidence of the prosecution undeniably proved that Villanueva, a UP Los Bafios student,
was a neophyte of the APO - Theta Chapter Fraternity; that Dungo and Sibal were members of the said fraternity;
that on the evening of January 13, 2006, Dungo and Sibal, together with the other fraternity members, officers and
alumni, brought and transported Villanueva and two other neophytes to Villa Novaliches Resort at Barangay Pansol,
Calamba City, for the final initiation rites; that the initiation rites were conducted inside the resort, performed under
the cover of darkness and secrecy; that due to the injuries sustained by Villanueva, the fraternity members and the
other two neophytes haphazardly left the resort; and that Dungo and Sibal boarded a tricycle and brought the
lifeless body of Villanueva to JP Rizal Hospital, where Villanueva was pronounced dead.

The RTC explained that even if there was no evidence that Dungo and Sibal participated to bodily assault and harm
the victim, it was irrefutable that they brought Villanueva to the resort for their final initiation rites. Clearly, they did
not merely induce Villanueva to attend the final initiation rites, but they also brought him to Villa Novaliches Resort.

The RTC held that the defense of denial and alibi were self-serving negative assertions. The defense of denial and
alibi of Dungo, which was corroborated by the testimony of his girlfriend Rivera and his co-fraternity brother, could
not be given credence. The witnesses presented by the defense were partial and could not be considered as
disinterested parties. The defense of denial of Sibal likewise failed. The corroborative testimonies of his fraternity
brothers were suspect because they had so much at stake in the outcome of the criminal action.

The decretal portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused Dandy Dungo and Gregorio Sibal GUILTY of violating Section 4 of the
Anti-Hazing Law and sentenced them to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA and order them to jointly
and severally pay the family /heirs of Deceased Marlon Villanueva the following sums of money:

1. ₱141,324.00 for and as actual damages;

2. ₱200,000.00 for and as moral damages;


3. ₱100,000.00 for and as exemplary damages; and

4. ₱50,000.00 for the death of Marlon Villanueva.

SO ORDERED.20

Aggrieved, the petitioners filed a notice of appeal. In their brief, they contended that the prosecution failed to
establish their guilt beyond reasonable doubt for violating R.A. No. 8049. They also assailed the constitutionality of
Section 4 of the said law, which stated that mere presence in the hazing was prima facie evidence of participation
therein, because it allegedly violated the constitutional presumption of innocence of the accused.

The CA Ruling

The CA ruled that the appeal of Dungo and Sibal was bereft of merit. It stated that, in finding them guilty of violating
R.A. No. 8049, the RTC properly relied on circumstantial evidence adduced by the prosecution. The CA
painstakingly discussed the unbroken chain of circumstantial evidence to convict Dungo and Sibal as principals in
the crime of hazing.

It further found that the defense of denial and alibi of Dungo and Sibal failed to cast doubt on the positive
identification made by the prosecution witnesses; and that denial, being inherently weak, could not prevail over the
positive identification of the accused as the perpetrators of the crime. The CA also stated that Dungo and Sibal were
not only convicted based on their presence in the venue of the hazing, but also in their act of bringing the victim to
Villa Novaliches Resort for the final initiation rites.

The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the February 23, 2011 Decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 36 of
Calamba City in CRIM. Case No. 13958-2006-C, finding accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
Violation of R.A. 8049 is hereby AFFIRMED in TOTO.

SO ORDERED.21

Dungo and Sibal moved for reconsideration but their motion was denied by the CA in the assailed October 8, 2013
Resolution.

Hence, this petition.

SOLE ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR HE JUDGMENTS OF THE RTC AND THE CA A QUO CONSTITUTE A
VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF THE ACCUSED TO BE INFORMED OF THE NATURE AND
CAUSE OF ACCUSATION AGAINST THEM BECAUSE THE OFFENSE PROVED AS FOUND AND
PRONOUNCED THEREBY IS DIFFERENT FROM THAT CHARGED IN THE INFORMATION, NOR DOES ONE
INCLUDE OR NECESSARILY INCLUDE THE OTHER.22

Petitioners Dungo and Sibal argue that the amended information charged them as they "did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously assault and use personal violence upon one Marlon Villanueva y Mejilla."23 Yet, both the
RTC and the CA found them guilty of violating R.A. No. 8049 because they "[i]nduced the victim to be
present"24during the initiation rites. The crime of hazing by inducement does not necessarily include the criminal
charge of hazing by actual participation. Thus, they cannot be convicted of a crime not stated or necessarily
included in the information. By reason of the foregoing, the petitioners contend that their constitutional right to be
informed of the nature and cause of accusation against them has been violated.

In its Comment,25 filed on May 23, 2014, the Office of the Solicitor General (DSG) asserted that Dungo and Sibal
were charged in the amended information with the proper offense and convicted for such. The phrases "planned
initiation" and "in conspiracy with more or less twenty members and officers" in the amended information sufficiently
cover "knowingly cooperated in carrying out the hazing by inducing the victim to be present thereat." The planned
initiation rite would not have been accomplished were it not for the acts of the petitioners in inducing the victim to be
present thereat and it was obviously conducted in conspiracy with the others.26 In their Reply27 filed on September
10, 2014, Dungo and Sibal insisted that there was a variance between the, offense charged of "actually participated
in the infliction of physical harm," and the offense "knowingly cooperated in carrying out the hazing by inducing the
victim to be present thereat."28 The prosecution, moreover, failed to establish conspiracy because no act or
circumstance was proved pointing to a joint purpose and design between and among the petitioners and the other
twenty accused.

The Court's Ruling

The petition lacks merit.

Procedural Matter

An appeal is a proceeding undertaken to have a decision reconsidered by bringing it to a higher court authority.29The
right to appeal is neither a natural right nor is it a component of due process. It is a mere statutory privilege, and
may be exercised only in the manner and in accordance with the provisions of law.30

Section 13(c), Rule 124 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, as amended by A.M. No. 00-5-03, dated
October 15, 2004, governs the procedure on the appeal from the CA to the Court when the penalty imposed is either
reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.31 According to the said provision, "[i]n cases where the Court of Appeals
imposes reclusion perpetua, life imprisonment or a lesser penalty, it shall render and enter judgment imposing such
penalty. The judgment may be appealed to the Supreme Court by notice of appeal filed with the Court of Appeals."

Hence, an accused, upon whom the penalty of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment had been imposed by the
CA, can simply file a notice of appeal to allow him to pursue an appeal as a matter of right before the Court. An
appeal in a criminal case opens the entire case for review on any question including one not raised by the
parties.32Section 13(c), Rule 124 recognizes the constitutionally conferred jurisdiction of the Court in all criminal
cases in which the penalty imposed is reclusion perpetua or higher.33

An accused, nevertheless, is not precluded in resorting to an appeal by certiorari to the Court via Rule 45 under the
Rules of Court. An appeal to this Court by petition for review on certiorari shall raise only questions of
law.34Moreover, such review is not a matter of right, but of sound judicial discretion, and will be granted only when
there are special and important reasons.35 In other words, when the CA imposed a penalty of reclusion perpetua or
life imprisonment, an accused may: (1) file a notice of appeal under Section 13( c ), Rule 124 to avail of an appeal
as a matter of right before the Court and open the entire case for review on any question; or (2) file a petition for
review on certiorari under Rule 45 to resort to an appeal as a matter of discretion and raise only questions of law.

In this case, the CA affirmed the R TC decision imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua upon the petitioners. The
latter opted to appeal the CA decision via a petition for certiorari under Rule 45. Consequently, they could only raise
questions of law. Oddly, the petitioners began to assail the existence of conspiracy in their reply,36 which is a
question of fact that would require an examination of the evidence ;presented. In the interest of justice, however,
and due to the novelty of the issue presented, the Court deems it proper to open the whole case for
review.37Substantive Matter

In our contemporary society, hazing has been a nightmare of parents who send their children to college or
university. News of deaths and horrible beatings primarily among college students due to hazing injuries continue to
haunt us. Horrid images of eggplant-like buttocks and thighs and pounded arms and shoulders of young men are
depicted as a fervent warning to those who dare undergo the hazing rites. The meaningless death of these
promising students, and the agony, cries and ordeal of their families, resonate through the very core of our beings.
But no matter how modem and sophisticated our society becomes, these barbaric acts of initiation of fraternities,
sororities and other organizations continue to thrive, even within the elite grounds of the academe.

The history and phenomenon of hazing had been thoroughly discussed in the recent case of Villareal v. People.38 It
is believed that the fraternity system and its accompanying culture of hazing were transported by the Americans to
the Philippines in the late 19th century.39 Thus, a study of the laws and jurisprudence of the United States (US) on
hazing can enlighten the current predicament of violent initiations in fraternities, sororities and other organizations.
United States Laws and
Jurisprudence on Hazing

There are different definitions of hazing, depending on the laws of the states.40 In the case of People v. Lenti,41 the
defendant therein challenged the constitutionality of the state law defining hazing on the ground of vagueness. The
court rejected such contention and held that it would have been an impossible task if the legislature had attempted
to define hazing specifically

because fraternal organizations and associations never suffered for ideas in contriving new forms of hazing.
Presently, the acceptable definition of hazing is the practice of physically or emotionally abusing newcomers to an
organization as a means of initiation.42

Hazing can be classified into various categories including, but not limited to, acts of violence, acts of humiliation,
sexual-related acts, and alcohol-related acts.43 The physical form of hazing may include beating, branding, paddling,
excessive exercise, drinking, and using drugs. Sexual hazing have included simulated sex acts, sodomy and forced
kissing.44 Moreover, hazing does not only result in physical injuries and hospitalization, but also lead to emotional
damage and traumatic stress.45

Based on statistics and alarming frequency of hazing, states have attempted to combat hazing through the passage
of state laws that prohibit such acts.46 Forty-four states, with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico,
South Dakota, and Wyoming, have passed anti-hazing laws.47 The severity of these laws can range from minor
penalties to a prison sentence for up to six years.48 In the states of Illinois, Idaho, Missouri, Texas, Virginia,
Wisconsin, hazing that result in death or "great bodily harm" is categorized as a felony.49

In Florida, the Chad Meredith Act,50 a law named after a student who died in a hazing incident, was enacted on July
1, 2005. It provides that a person commits a third degree felony when he or she intentionally or recklessly commits
any act of hazing and the hazing results in serious bodily injury or death. If a person only creates substantial risk of
physical injury or death, then hazing is categorized as a first degree misdemeanor. A similar provision can be
observed in the Penal Law of New York.51

Interestingly, some states included notable features in their anti-hazing statute to increase its effectiveness. In
Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Texas, the law imposes a duty on school
personnel to report hazing.52 In fact, in Alabama, no person is allowed to knowingly permit, encourage, aid, or assist
any person in committing the offense of hazing, or willfully acquiesces in its commission.53

Also, some states enacted statutes that have been interpreted to mean that persons are guilty of hazing even if they
have the consent of the victim.54 In New Jersey, consent is not a defense to a hazing charge, and its law permits the
prosecution of offenders under other applicable criminal statutes.55 By including these various provisions in their anti-
hazing statutes, these states have removed the subjective inquiry of consent from consideration, thus, presumably
allowing courts to effectively and properly adjudicate hazing cases.56

In the US, hazing victims can either file a criminal action, based on anti-hazing statutes, or a civil suit, arising from
tort law and constitutional law, against the members of the local fraternity, the national fraternity and even against
the university or college concerned.57 Hazing, which threatens to needlessly harm students, must be attacked from
whatever legal means are possible.58

In State v. Brown,59 a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha at Kent State University was indicted for complicity to
hazing. The group physically disciplined their pledges by forcing them to stand on their heads, beating them with
paddles, and smacking and striking initiates in the face and head. The Ohio court held that evidence presented
therein was more than sufficient to sustain a conviction.

Excessive intake of alcohol in the fraternity initiations can be considered as hazing. In Oja v. Grand Chapter of
Theta Chi Fraternity Inc.,60 a 17-year old college freshman died as a result of aspirating his own vomit after
consuming excessive amounts of alcohol in a fraternity initiation ritual. The defendants in the said case contended
that they only furnished the alcohol drinks to the victim. The court denied the defense because such acts of the
fraternity effectively contributed to the death of the victim as part of their hazing.
Even in high school, hazing could exist. In Nice v. Centennial Area School District,61 a tenth-grade wrestler at William
Tennet High School was subjected to various forms of hazing, including; a ritual where the victim was forcibly held
down, while a teammate sat on his face with his buttocks exposed. The parents of the student sued the school
because it failed to prevent the incident despite its knowledge of the hazing rites. The court approved the settlement
of the parties in the amount ofUS$151,000.00.

More recently, the case of Yost v. Wabash College62 involved the hazing of an 18-year old freshman, who suffered
physical and mental injuries in the initiation rites conducted by the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. As a pledge, the victim
was thrown into a creek and was placed in a chokehold, until he lost consciousness. The court upheld that action
against the local fraternity because, even if the student consented, the fraternity had the duty to ensure the safety of
its activities.

The US anti-hazing laws and jurisprudence show that victims of hazing can properly attain redress before the court.
By crafting laws and prosecuting offenders, the state can address the distinct dilemma of hazing.

Anti-Hazing Law in the


Philippines

R.A. No. 8049, or the Anti-Hazing Law .of 1995, has been enacted to regulate hazing and other forms of initiation
rites in fraternities, sororities, and other organizations. It was in response to the rising incidents of death of hazing
victims, particularly the death of Leonardo "Lenny" Villa.63 Despite its passage, reports of deaths resulting from i
hazing continue to emerge. Recent victims were Guillo Servando of the College of St. Benilde, Marc Andre Marcos
and Marvin Reglos of the San', Beda College - Manila, and Cris Anthony Mendez of the University of the Philippines
- Diliman. With the continuity of these senseless tragedies, one question implores for an answer: is R.A. No. 8049 a
sufficient deterrent against hazing?

To answer the question, the Court must dissect the provisions of the law and scrutinize its effect, implication and
application.

Criminal law has long divided crimes into acts wrong in themselves called acts mala in se; and acts which would not
be wrong but for the fact that positive law forbids them, called acts mala prohibita. This distinction is important with
reference to the intent with which a wrongful act is done. The rule on the subject is that in acts mala in se, the intent
governs; but in acts mala prohibita, the only inquiry is, has the law been violated? When an act is illegal, the intent of
the offender is immaterial.64 When the doing of an act is prohibited by law, it is considered injurious to public welfare,
and the doing of the prohibited act is the crime itself.65

A common misconception is that all mala in se crimes are found in the Revised Penal Code (RPC), while all mala
prohibita crimes are provided by special penal laws. In reality, however, there may be mala in se crimes under
special laws, such as plunder under R.A. No. 7080, as amended.66 Similarly, there may be mala prohibita crimes
defined in the RPC, such as technical malversation.67

The better approach to distinguish between mala in se and mala prohibita crimes is the determination of the inherent
immorality or vileness of the penalized act. If the punishable act or .omission is immoral in itself, then it is a crime
mala in se,- on the contrary, if it is not immoral in itself, but there is a statute prohibiting its commission b)". reasons
of public policy, then it is mala prohibita. In the final analysis, whether or not a crime involves moral turpitude is
ultimately a question of fact and frequently depends on all the circumstances surrounding the violation of the
statute.68

The crime of hazing under R.A. No. 8049 is malum prohibitum. The Senate deliberations would show that the
lawmakers intended the anti-hazing statute to be ma/um prohibitum, as follows: SENATOR GUINGONA: Most of
these acts, if not all, are already punished under the Revised Penal Code.

SENATOR LINA. That is correct, Mr. President.

SENATOR GUINGONA If hazing is done at present and it results in death, the charge would be murder or homicide.

SENATOR LINA. That is correct, Mr. President.


SENATOR GUINGONA. If it does not result in death, it may be frustrated homicide or serious physical injuries.

SENATOR LINA. That is correct, Mr. President.

SENATOR GUINGONA. Or, if the person who commits sexual abuse does so it can be penalized under rape or acts
of lasciviousness.

SENATOR LINA. That is correct, Mr. President.

SENATOR GUINGONA. So, what is the rationale for making a new offense under this definition of the crime of
hazing?

SENATOR LINA. To discourage persons or group of persons either composing a sorority, fraternity or any
association from making this requirement of initiation that has already resulted in these specific acts or results, Mr.
President.

That is the main rationale. We want to send a strong signal across the land that no group or association can require
the act of physical initiation before a person can become a member without being held criminally liable.

xxx xxx xxx

SENATOR GUINGONA. Yes, but what would be the rationale for that imposition? Because the distinguished
Sponsor has said that he is not punishing a mere organization, he is not seeking the punishment of an initiation into
a club or organization, he is seeking the punishment of certain acts that resulted in death, etcetera as a result of
hazing which are already covered crimes.

The penalty is increased in one, because we would like to discourage hazing, abusive hazing, but it may be a
legitimate defense for invoking two or more charges or offenses, because these very same acts are already
punishable under the Revised Penal Code

That is my difficulty, Mr. President.

SENATOR LINA. x x x

Another point, Mr. President, is this, and this is a very telling difference: When a person or group of persons resort to
hazing as a requirement for gaining entry into an organization, the intent to commit a wrong is not visible or is not
present, Mr. President. Whereas, in these specific crimes, Mr. President, let us say there is death or there is
homicide, mutilation, if one files a case, then the intention to commit a wrong has to be proven. But if the crime of
hazing is the basis, what is important is the result from the act of hazing.

To me, that is the basic difference and that is what will prevent or deter the sororities or fraternities; that they should
really shun this activity called "hazing." Because, initially, these fraternities or sororities do not even consider having
a neophyte killed or maimed or that acts of lasciviousness are even committed initially, Mr. President.

So, what we want to discourage, is the so-called initial innocent act. That is why there is need to institute this kind of
hazing. Ganiyan po ang nangyari. Ang fraternity o ang sorority ay magre-recruit. Wala talaga silang intensiybng
makamatay. Hindi ko na babanggitin at buhay pa iyong kaso. Pero dito sa anim o pito na namatay nitong nakaraang
taon, walang intensiyong patayin talaga iyong neophyte. So, kung maghihintay pa tayo, na saka lamang natin
isasakdal ng murder kung namatay na, ay after the fact ho iyon. Pero, kung sasabihin natin sa mga kabataan na:
"Huwag ninyong gagawin iyong hazing. Iyan ay kasalanan at kung mamatay diyan, mataas ang penalty sa inyo."

xxx xxx xxx

SENATOR GUINGONA. I join the lofty motives, Mr. President, of the distinguished Sponsor. But I am again
disturbed by his statement that the prosecution does not have to prove the intent that resulted in the death, that
resulted in the serious physical injuries, that resulted in the acts of lasciviousness or deranged mind. We do not
have to prove the willful intent of the accused in proving or establishing the crime of hazing. This seems, to me, a
novel situation where we create the special crime without having to go into the intent, which is one of the basic
elements of any crime.

If there is no intent, there is no crime. If the intent were merely to initiate, then there is no offense. And even the
distinguished Sponsor admits that the organization, the intent to initiate, the intent to have a new society or a new
club is, per se, not punishable at all. What are punishable are the acts that lead to the result. But if these results are
not going to be proven by intent, but just because there was hazing, I am afraid that it will disturb the basic concepts
of the Revised Penal Code, Mr. President.

SENATOR LINA. Mr. President, the act of hazing, precisely, is being criminalized because in the context of what is
happening in the sororities and fraternities, when they conduct hazing, no one will admit that their intention is to
maim or to kill. So, we are already criminalizing the fact of inflicting physical pain. Mr. President, it is a criminal act
and we want it stopped, deterred, discouraged.

If that occurs, under this law, there is no necessity to prove that the masters intended to kill or the masters intended
to maim. What is important is the result of the act of hazing. Otherwise, the masters or those who inflict the physical
pain can easily escape responsibility and say, "We did not have the intention to kill. This is part of our initiation rites.
This is normal. We do not have any intention to kill or maim."

This is the lusot, Mr. President. They might as well have been charged therefore with the ordinary crime of homicide,
mutilation, etcetera, where the prosecution will have a difficulty proving the elements if they are separate offenses.

xxx xxx xxx

SENATOR LINA. x x x

I am very happy that the distinguished Minority Leader brought out the idea of intent or whether it is mala in se or
mala prohibita. There can be a radical amendment if that is the point that he wants to go to.

If we agree on the concept, then, maybe, we can just make this a special law on hazing. We will not include this
anymore under the Revised Penal Code. That is a possibility. I will not foreclose that suggestion, Mr. President.69

[Emphases Supplied]

Having in mind the potential conflict between the proposed law and the core principle of mala in se adhered to under
the RPC, the Congress did not simply enact an amendment thereto. Instead, it created a special law on hazing,
founded upon the principle of mala prohibita.70 In Vedana v. Valencia,71 the Court noted that in our nation's very
recent history, the people had spoken, through the Congress, to deem conduct constitutive of hazing, an act
previously considered harmless by custom, as criminal.72 The act of hazing itself is not inherently immoral, but the
law deems the same to be against public policy and must be prohibited. Accordingly, the existence of criminal intent
is immaterial in the crime of hazing. Also, the defense of good faith cannot be raised in its prosecution.73

Section 1 of R.A. No. 8049 defines hazing as an initiation rite or practice as a prerequisite for admission into
membership in a fraternity, sorority or organization by placing the recruit, neophyte or applicant in some
embarrassing or humiliating situations such as forcing him to do menial, silly, foolish and other similar tasks or
activities or otherwise subjecting him to physical or psychological suffering or injury. From the said definition, the
elements of the crime of hazing can be determined:

1. That there is an initiation rite or practice as a prerequisite for admission into membership in a fraternity,
sorority or organization;

2. That there must be a recruit, neophyte or applicant of the fraternity, sorority or organization; and

3. That the recruit, neophyte or applicant is placed in some embarrassing or humiliating situations such as
forcing him to do menial, silly, foolish and other similar tasks or activities or otherwise subjecting him to
physical or psychological suffering or injury.
From the said definition of hazing, it is apparent that there must be an initiation rite or practice performed by the
fraternities, sororities or organization. The law, however, did not limit the definition of these groups to those formed
within academic colleges and universities.74 In fact, the second paragraph of Section 1 provides that the term
"organization" shall include any club or the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP),
Philippine Military Academy (PMA), or officer and cadet corp of the Citizen's Military Training and Citizen's Army
Training. Even the president, manager, director or other responsible officer of a corporation engaged in hazing as a
requirement for employment are covered by the law.75 R.A. No. 8049 qualifies that the physical, mental and
psychological testing and training procedure and practices to determine and enhance the physical, mental and
psychological fitness of prospective regular members of the AFP and the PNP, as approved by the Secretary of
National Defense and the National Police Commission, duly recommended by the Chief of Staff of the AFP and the
Director General of the PNP, shall not be considered as hazing.

And not all forms of initiation rites are prohibited by the law. Section 2 thereof provides that initiation rites of
fraternities, sororities or organizations shall be allowed provided that the following requisites are met:

1. That the fraternity, sorority or organization has a prior written notice to the school authorities or head of
organization;

2. The said written notice must be secured at least seven (7) days before the conduct of such initiation;

3. That the written notice shall indicate:

a. The period of the initiation activities, which shall not exceed three (3) days;

b. The names of those to be subjected to such activities; and

c. An undertaking that no physical violence be employed by anybody during such initiation rites.
Section 3 of R.A. No. 8049 imposes an obligation to the head of the school or organization or their
representatives that they must assign at least two (2) representatives, as the case may be, to be
present during these valid initiations. The duty of such representative ,is to see to it that no physical
harm of any kind shall be inflicted upon a recruit, neophyte or applicant.

Noticeably, the law does not provide a penalty or sanction to fraternities, sororities or organizations that fail to
comply with the notice requirements of Section 2. Also, the school and organization administrators do not have a
clear liability for non-compliance with Section 3.

Any person who commits the crime of hazing shall be liable in accordance with Section 4 of the law, which provides
different classes of persons who are held liable as principals and accomplices.

The first class of principals would be the actual participants in the hazing. If the person subjected to hazing or other
forms of initiation rites suffers any physical injury or dies as a result thereof, the officers and members of the
fraternity, sorority or organization who actually participated in the infliction of physical harm shall be liable as
principals. Interestingly, the presence of any person during the hazing is prima facie evidence of actual participation,
unless he prevented the commission of the acts punishable herein.76

The prescribed penalty on the principals depends on the extent of injury inflicted to the victim.77 The penalties appear
to be similar to that of homicide, serious physical injuries, less serious physical injuries, and slight physical injuries
under the RPC,78 with the penalties for hazing increased one degree higher. Also, the law provides several
circumstances which would aggravate the imposable penalty.79

Curiously, although hazing has been defined as consisting of those activities involving physical or psychological
suffering or injury, the penalties for hazing only covered the infliction of physical harm. At best, the only
psychological injury recognized would be causing insanity to the victim. Conversely, even if the victim only sustained
physical injuries which did not incapacitate him, there is still a prescribed penalty.80

The second class of principals would be the officers, former officers, or alumni of the organization, group, fraternity
or sorority who actually planned the hazing.81 Although these planners were not present when the acts constituting
hazing were committed, they shall still be liable as principals. The provision took in consideration the non-resident
members of the organization, such as their former officers or alumni.

The third class of principals would ht; officers or members of an organization group, fraternity or sorority who
knowingly cooperated in carrying out the hazing by inducing the victim to be present thereat.82 These officers or
members are penalized, not because of their direct participation in the infliction of harm, but due to their
indispensable cooperation in the crime by inducing the victim to attend the hazing.

The next class of principals would be the fraternity or sorority's adviser who was present when the acts constituting
hazing were committed, and failed to take action to prevent them from occurring.83 The liability of the adviser arises,
not only from his mere presence in the hazing, but also his failure to prevent the same.

The last class of principals would be the parents of the officers or members of the fraternity, group, or
organization.84The hazing must be held in the home of one of the officers or members. The parents must have actual
knowledge of the hazing conducted in their homes and failed to take any action to avoid the same from occurring.

The law also provides for accomplices in the crime of hazing. The school authorities, including faculty members,
who consented to the hazing or who have actual knowledge thereof, but failed to take any action to prevent the
same from occurring shall be punished as accomplices.85 Likewise, the owner of the place where the hazing was
conducted can also be an accomplice to the crime.86 The owner of the place shall be liable when he has actual
knowledge of the hazing conducted therein and he failed to take any steps to stop the same. Recognizing the
malum prohibitum characteristic of hazing, the law provides that any person charged with the said crime shall not be
entitled to the mitigating circumstance that there was no intention to commit so grave a wrong.87 Also, the framers of
the law intended that the consent of the victim shall not be a defense in hazing. During the discussion of whether
sodomy shall be included as a punishable act under the law, the issue of consent was tackled: SENATOR LINA x x
x

But sodomy in this case is connected with hazing, Mr. President. Such that the act may even be entered into with
consent. It is not only sodomy. The infliction of pain may be done with the consent of the neophyte. If the law is
passed, that does not make the act of hazing not punishable because the neophyte accepted the infliction of pain
upon himself.

If the victim suffers from serious physical injuries, but the initiator said, "Well, he allowed it upon himself. He
consented to it." So, if we allow that reasoning that sodomy was done with the consent of the victim, then we would
not have passed any law at all. There will be no significance if we pass this bill, because it will always be a defense
that the victim allowed the infliction of pain or suffering. He accepted it as part of the initiation rites.

But precisely, Mr. President that is one thing that we would want to prohibit. That the defense of consent will not
apply because the very act of inflicting physical pain or psychological suffering is, by itself, a punishable act. The
result of the act of hazing, like death or physical injuries merely aggravates the act with higher penalties. But the
defense of consent is not going to nullify the criminal nature of the act.

So, if we accept the amendment that sodomy can only aggravate the offense if it is committed without consent of the
victim, then the whole foundation of this proposed law will collapse.

SENATOR BIAZON. Thank you, Mr. President.

SENATOR LINA. Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT. Is there any objection to the committee amendment? (Silence.) The Chair hears none; the same
is approved.88

[Emphasis supplied]

Further, the law acknowledges that the offended party in the crime of hazing can seek different courses of action. n
'.'provides that the responsible officials of the school or of the police, military or citizen's army training organization,
may impose the appropriate administrative sanctions on the person or the persons charged under this provision
even before their conviction.89 Necessarily, the offended party can file either administrative, civil, or criminal actions
against the offenders.90

The study of the provisions of R.A. No. 8049 shows that, on paper, it is complete and robust in penalizing the crime
of hazing. It was made malum prohibitum to discount criminal intent and disallow the defense of good faith. It took
into consideration the different participants and contributors in the hazing activities. While not all acts cited in the law
are penalized, the penalties imposed therein involve various and serious terms of imprisonment to discourage
would-be offenders. Indeed, the law against hazing is ideal and profound. As to whether the law can be effectively
implemented, the Court begs to continue on the merits of the case.

The Information properly

charged the offense proved

The petitioners claim that the amended ,information avers a criminal charge of hazing by actual participation, but the
only offense proved during the trial was hazing by inducement. Their1 contention must fail. The Amended
Information reads:

That on or about 2:30 in the early morning of January 14, 2006, at Villa Novaliches, Brgy. Pansol, Calamba City,
Province of Laguna and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the above-named accused, during a planned
initiation rite and being then officers and members of Alpha Phi Omega fraternity and present thereat, in conspiracy
with more or less twenty other members and officers, whose identity is not yet known, did then and there willfully,
unlawfully and feloniously assault and use personal violence upon one MARLON VILLANUEVA y MEJILLA, a
neophyte thereof and as condition for his admission to the fraternity, thereby subjecting him to physical harm,
resulting to his death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the victim. CONTRARY TO LAW.91

On the manner of how the Information should be worded, Section 9, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court, is enlightening:

Section 9. Cause of the accusation. The acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense and the
qualifying and aggravating circumstances must be stated in ordinary and concise language and not necessarily in
the language used in the statute but in terms sufficient to enable a person of common understanding to know what
offense is being charged as well as its qualifying and aggravating circumstances and for the court to pronounce
judgment.

It is evident that the Information need not use the exact language of the statute in alleging the acts or omissions
complained of as constituting the offense. The test is whether it enables a person of common understanding to know
the charge against him, and the court to render judgment properly.92

The Court agrees with the OSG that the "planned initiation rite" as stated in the information included the act of
inducing Villanueva to attend it. In ordinary parlance, a planned event can be understood to have different phases.
Likewise, the hazing activity had different stages and the perpetrators had different roles therein, not solely inflicting
physical injury to the neophyte. One of the roles of the petitioners in the hazing activity was to induce Villanueva to
be present. Dungo and Sibal not only induced Villanueva to be present at the resort, but they actually brought him
there. They fulfilled their roles in the planned hazing rite which eventually led to the death of Villanueva. The hazing
would not have been accomplished were it not for the acts of the petitioners that induced the victim to be present.

Secrecy and silence are common characterizations of the dynamics of hazing.93 To require the prosecutor to indicate
every step of the planned initiation rite in the information at the inception of the criminal case, when details of the
clandestine hazing are almost nil, would be an arduous task, if not downright impossible. The law does not require
the impossible (lex non cognit ad impossibilia).

The proper approach would be to require the prosecution to state every element of the crime of hazing, the
offenders, and the accompanying circumstances in the planned initiation activity which has been satisfied in the
present case. Accordingly, the amended information sufficiently informed the petitioners that they were being
criminally charged for their roles in the planned initiation rite.
Conspiracy of the
offenders was duly proven

The petitioners assail that the prosecution failed to establish the fact of conspiracy.

The Court disagrees.

A conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and
decide to commit it. To determine conspiracy, there must be a common design to commit a felony.94 The overt act or
acts of the accused may consist of active participation in the actual commission of the crime itself or may consist of
moral assistance to his co-conspirators by moving them to execute or implement the criminal plan.95

In conspiracy, it need not be shown that the parties actually came together and agreed in express terms to enter into
and pursue a common design. The assent of the minds may be and, from the secrecy of the crime, usually inferred
from proof of facts and circumstances which, taken together, indicate that they are parts of some complete
whole.96Responsibility of a conspirator is not confined to the accomplishment of a particular purpose of conspiracy
but extends to collateral acts and offenses incident to and growing out of the purpose intended.97

The lawmakers deliberated on whether the prosecution was still obliged to prove the conspiracy between the
offenders under R.A. 8049, to wit:

SENATOR GUINGONA. Mr. President, assuming there was a group that initiated and a person died. The charge is
murder. My question is: Under this bill if it becomes a law, would the prosecution have to prove conspiracy or not
anymore?

SENATOR LINA. Mr. President, if the person is present during hazing x x x

SENATOR GUINGONA. The persons are present. First, would the prosecution have to prove conspiracy? Second,
would the prosecution have to prove intent to kill or not?

SENATOR LINA. No more. As to the second question, Mr. President, if that occurs, there is no need to prove intent
to kill.

SENATOR GUINGONA. But the charge is murder.

SENATOR LINA. That is why I said that it should not be murder. It should be hazing, Mr. President.98

The Court does not categorically agree that, under R.A. No. 8049, the prosecution need not prove conspiracy.
Jurisprudence dictates that conspiracy must be established, not by conjectures, but by positive and conclusive
evidence. Conspiracy transcends mere companionship and mere presence at the scene of the crime does not in
itself amount to conspiracy. Even knowledge, acquiescence in or agreement to cooperate, is not enough to
constitute one as a party to a conspiracy, absent any active participation in the commission of the crime with a view
to the furtherance of the common design and purpose.99

R.A. No. 8049, nevertheless, presents a novel provision that introduces a disputable presumption of actual
participation; and which modifies the concept of conspiracy. Section 4, paragraph 6 thereof provides that the
presence of any person during the hazing is prima facie evidence of participation as principal, unless he prevented
the commission of the punishable acts. This provision is unique because a disputable presumption arises from the
mere presence of the offender during the hazing, which can be rebutted by proving that the accused took steps to
prevent the commission of the hazing.

The petitioners attempted to attack the constitutionality of Section 4 of R.A. No. 8049 before the CA, hut did not
succeed. "[A] finding of prima facie evidence x x x does not shatter the presumptive innocence the accused enjoys
because, before prima facie evidence arises, certain facts have still to be proved; the trial court cannot depend
alone on such evidence, because precisely, it is merely prima facie. It must still satisfy that the accused is guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of the offense charged. Neither can it rely on the weak defense the latter may adduce."100
Penal laws which feature prima facie evidence by disputable presumptions against the offenders are not new, and
can be observed in the following: (1) the possession of drug paraphernalia gives rise to prima facie evidence of the
use of dangerous drug;101 (2) the dishonor of the check for insufficient funds is prima facie evidence of knowledge of
such insufficiency of funds or credit;102 and (3) the possession of any good which has been the subject of robbery or
thievery shall be prima facie evidence of fencing.103

Verily, the disputable presumption under R.A. No. 8049 can be related to the conspiracy in the crime of hazing. The
common design of offenders is to haze the victim. Some of the overt acts that could be committed by the offenders
would be to (1) plan the hazing activity as a requirement of the victim's initiation to the fraternity; (2) induce the
victim to attend the hazing; and (3) actually participate in the infliction of physical injuries.

In this case, there was prima facie evidence of the petitioners' participation in the hazing because of their presence
in the venue. As correctly held by the RTC, the presence of Dungo and Sibal during the hazing at Villa Novaliches
Resort was established by the testimony of Ignacio. She testified that she saw Sibal emerge from the resort and
approach her store, to wit:

MR. DIMACULANGAN

Q: And how many persons from this group did you see again?

WITNESS

A: Three (3), sir.

Q: Where did they come from, did they come out from the resort? Where did this 3 people or this group of people
coming from?

A: Inside the resort, sir.

Q: And around what time was this?

A: Around 9:00, sir.

Q: And what did they do if any if they came out of the resort?

A: They went to my store, sir.

xxxx

Q: Did you have any other visitors to your store that night?

xxxx

A: "Meron po".

Q: Who were these visitors?

A: I don't know their names but I recognize their faces, sir.

Q: If I show you pictures of these people, will you be able to identify them before this Court.

A: Yes, sir.

xxxx
Q: Mrs. Ignacio, I am showing you this picture of persons marked as Exhibit "L" in the Pre-Trial, can you please look
over this document carefully and see if any of the persons whom you said visited your store is here?

xxxx

A: "Siya rin po."

COURT:

Make it of record that the witness pinpointed to the first picture appearing on the left picture on the first row.

xxxx

ATIY. PAMAOS:

For the record, your Honor, we manifest that the picture and the name pointed by the witness has been previously
marked as Exhibit "L-3" and previously admitted by the defense as referring to Gregorio Sibal, Jr., accused in this
case…104

Ignacio, also positively identified Dungo as among the guests of Villa Novaliches Resort on the night of the hazing,
to wit:

COURT

Q: xx x Now, when you say other people you could identify who are not in the pictures then how would you know
that these people are indeed those people you could identify?

WITNESS

A: "Iyon pong ... di ba po nagkuwento ako na dumating sila tapos nag shake hands at saka iyong nagyakapan po ...
"

Q: And what will be the significance of the alleged embrace and shake hands for you to say that you could identify
those people?

A: "Hindi po. Noong dumating po sila nasa isang jeep, meron pong lalaki doon sa may tabi ng driver bumaba siya
tapos po noong bumaba siya tapos iyong mga kasamahan nya sa likod nagbaba-an din, iyon po nagbati-an po sila."

Q: And from these greeting, how could you identify these people?

A: "Ngayon ko lang po napag masdan ang taong iyon, hindi ko po alam na akusado po sa kabila iyon."

Q: And who was that person?

A: "Siya po, iyon po."

Q: Who are you pointing to?

A: "Iyon pong naka-dilaw na ... " (Witness pointing to Dandy Dungo)

Q: So, are you telling the Court that this person you positively saw seated beside the driver came out and
subsequently embraced and shook hands with the other people from the jeepney, is that your testimony?

A: Yes, your Honor.105


The testimony of Ignacio was direct and straightforward. Her testimony was given great weight because she was a
disinterested and credible witness. The prosecution indubitably established the presence of Dungo and Sibal during
the hazing. Such gave rise to the prima facie evidence of their actual participation in the hazing of Villanueva. They
were given an opportunity to rebut and overcome the prima facie evidence of the prosecution by proving that they
prevented the commission of the hazing, yet they failed to do so.

Because of the uncontroverted prima facie evidence against the petitioners, it was shown that they performed an
overt act in the furtherance of the criminal design of hazing. Not only did they induce the victim to attend the hazing
activity, the petitioners also actually participated in it based on the prima facie evidence. These acts are sufficient to
establish their roles in the conspiracy of hazing.

Hence, generally, mere presence at the scene of the crime does not in itself amount to conspiracy.106 Exceptionally,
under R.A. No. 8049, the participation of the offenders in the criminal conspiracy can be proven by the prima facie
evidence due to their presence during the hazing, unless they prevented the commission of the acts therein.

The guilt of the


petitioners was proven
beyond reasonable doubt

Aside from inducing Villanueva to attend the initiation rites and their presence during the hazing, the petitioners?
guilt was proven beyond reasonable doubt by the sequence of circumstantial evidence presented by the
prosecution. Their involvement in the hazing of Villanueva is not merely based on prima facie evidence but was also
established by circumstantial evidence.

In considering a criminal case, it is critical to start with the law's own starting perspective on the status of the
accused - in all criminal prosecutions, he is presumed innocent of the charge laid unless the contrary is proven
beyond reasonable doubt.107 In criminal law, proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean such degree of proof
that produces absolute certainty. Only moral certainty is required or that degree of proof which produces conviction
in an unprejudiced mind.108

While it is established that nothing less than proof beyond reasonable doubt is required for a conviction, this
exacting standard does not preclude resort to circumstantial evidence when direct evidence is not available. Direct
evidence is not a condition sine qua non to prove the guilt of an accused beyond reasonable doubt. For in the
absence of direct evidence, the prosecution may resort to adducing circumstantial evidence to discharge its burden.
Crimes are usually committed in secret and under conditions where concealment is highly probable. If direct
evidence is insisted on under all circumstances, the prosecution of vicious felons who commit heinous crimes in
secret or secluded places will be hard, if not impossible, to prove.109 Needless to state, the crime of hazing is
shrouded in secrecy. Fraternities and sororities, especially the Greek organizations, are secretive in nature and their
members are reluctant to give any information regarding initiation rites.110 The silence is only broken after someone
has been injured so severely that medical attention is required. It is only at this point that the secret is revealed and
the activities become public.111 Bearing in mind the concealment of hazing, it is only logical and proper for the
prosecution to resort to the presentation of circumstantial evidence to prove it.

The rules on evidence and precedents to sustain the conviction of an accused through circumstantial evidence
require the existence of the following requisites: (1) there are more than one circumstance; (2) the inference must be
based on proven facts; and (3) the combination of all circumstances produces a conviction beyond reasonable
doubt of the guilt of the accused.112 To justify a conviction upon circumstantial evidence, the combination of
circumstances must be such as to leave no reasonable doubt in the mind as to the criminal liability of the accused.
Jurisprudence requires that the circumstances must be established to form an unbroken chain of events leading to
one fair reasonable conclusion pointing to the accused, to the exclusion of all others, as the author of the crime.113

The CA meticulously wrote in detail the unbroken chain of circumstantial evidence which established the petitioners'
gult in the death of Villanueva as follows:

1. Marlon Villanueva is a neophyte of Alpha Phi Omega, as testified by his roommate Joey Atienza.

2. At around 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon of January 13, 2006, Sunga was staying at their tambayan, talking
to her organization mates. Three men were seated two meters way from her. She identified two of the men
as appellants Sibal and Dungo, while she did not know the third man. The three men were wearing black
shirts with the seal of the Alpha Phi Omega.

3. Later at 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon, two more men coming from the entomology wing arrived and
approached the three men. Among the men who just arrived was the victim, Marlon Villanueva. One of the
men wearing black APO shirts handed over to the two fraternity neophytes some money and told the men
"Mamalengke na kayo." He later took back the money and said, "Huwag na, kami na lang."

4. One of the men wearing a black APO shirt, who was later identified as appellant Dungo, stood up and
asked Marlon if the latter already reported to him, and asked him why he did not report to him when he was
just at the tambayan. Dungo then continuously punched the victim on his arm. This went on for five minutes.
Marlon just kept quiet with his head bowed down. Fifteen minutes later, the men left going towards the
Entomology wing.

5. The deceased Marlon Villanueva was 'last seen alive by Joey Atienza at 7:00 in the evening of 13
January 2006, from whom he borrowed the shoes he wore at the initiation right [sic]. Marlon told Joey that it
was his "finals" night.

6. On January 13, 2006 at around 8:30 to 9:00 o'clock in the evening, Susan Ignacio saw more than twenty
(20) persons arrive at the Villa Novaliches Resort onboard a jeepney. She estimated the ages of these
1âw phi1

persons to be between 20 to 30 years old. Three (3) persons riding a single motorcycle likewise arrived at
the resort.

7. Ignacio saw about fifteen (15) persons gather on top of the terrace at the resort who looked like they were
praying. Later that evening, at least three (3) of these persons went to her store to buy some items. She did
not know their names but could identity [sic] their faces. After she was shown colored photographs, she
pointed to the man later identified as Herald Christopher Braseros. She also pointed out the man later
identified as Gregorio Sibal, Jr.

8. Donato Magat, a tricycle driver plying the route of Pansol, Calamba City, testified that around 3:00 o'clock
in the morning of January 14, 2006, he was waiting for passengers at the corner of Villa Novaliches Resort
when a man approached him and told him that someone inside the resort needed a ride. Magat then went to
the resort and asked the two (2) men standing by the gate who will be riding his tricycle.

9. The four (4) men boarded his tricycle but Magat noticed that when he touched the body of the man who
was being carried, it felt cold. The said man looked very weak like a vegetable.

10. Seferino Espina y Jabay testified that he worked as a security guard at the J.P. Rizal Hospital and was
assigned at the emergency room. At around 3:00 o'clock in the early morning of January 14, 2006, he was
with another security guard, Abelardo Natividad and hospital helper Danilo Glindo a.k.a. Gringo, when a
tricycle arrived at the emergency room containing four (4) passengers, excluding the driver. He was an arm's
length away from said tricycle. He identified two of the passengers thereof as appellants Dungo and Sibal.
Espina said he and Glinda helped the passengers unload a body inside the tricycle and brought it to the
emergency room.

11. Afterwards, Espina asked the two meq for identification cards. The latter replied that they did not bring
with them any I.D. or wallet. Instead of giving their true names, the appellants listed down their names in the
1âwphi1

hospital logbook as Brandon Gonzales y Lanzon and Jericho Paril y Rivera. Espina then told the two men
not to leave, not telling them that they secretly called the police to report the incident which was their
standard operating procedure when a dead body was brought to the hospital.

12. Dr. Ramon Masilungan, who was then the attending physician at the emergency room, observed that
Marlon was motionless, had no heartbeat and already cyanotic.

13. Dr. Masilungan tried to revive Marlon for about 15 to 20 minutes. However, the latter did not respond to
resuscitation and was pronounced dead. Dr. Masilungan noticed a big contusion hematoma on the left side
of the victim's face and several injuries on his arms and legs. He further attested that Marlon's face was
already cyanotic.

14. When Dr. Masilungan pulled down Marlon's pants, he saw a large contusion on both legs which
extended from the upper portion of his thigh down to the couplexial portion or the back of the knee.

15. Due to the nature, extent and location of Marlon's injuries, Dr. Masilungan opined that he was a victim of
hazing. Dr. Masilungan is familiar with hazing injuries, having undergone hazing when he was a student and
also because of his experience treating victims of hazing incidents.

16. Dr. Roy Camarillo, Medico-Legal Officer of the PNP Crime Laboratory in Region IV, Camp Vicente Lim,
Canlubang, Calamba City, testified that he performed an autopsy on the cadaver of the victim on January
14j 2006; that the victim's cause of death was blunt head trauma. From 1999 to 2006, he was able to
conduct post-mortem examination of the two (2) persons whose deaths were attributed to hazing. These two
(2) persons sustained multiple contusions and injuries on different parts of their body, particularly on the
buttocks, on both upper and lower extremities. Both persons died of brain hemorrhage. Correlating these
two cases to the injuries found on the victim's body, Dr. Camarillo attested that the victim, Marlon Villanueva,
sustained similar injuries to those two (2) persons. Based on the presence of multiple injuries and
contusions on his body, he opined that these injuries were hazing-related.114

Petitioners Dungo and Sibal, on the other hand, presented the defense of denial and alibi. These defenses,
however, must fail. Time and time again, this Court has ruled that denial and alibi are the weakest of all defenses,
because they are easy to concoct and fabricate.115 As properly held by the RTC, these defenses cannot prevail over
the positive and unequivocal identification of the petitioners by prosecution witnesses Sunga and Ignacio. The
testimonies of the defense witnesses also lacked credibility and reliability. The corroboration of defense witness
Rivera was suspect because she was the girlfriend of Dungo, and it was only logical and emotional that she would
stand by the man she loved and cared for. The testimonies of their fellow fraternity brothers, likewise, do not hold
much weight because they had so much at stake in the outcome of the case. Stated differently, the petitioners did
not present credible and. disinterested witnesses to substantiate their defenses of denial and alibi.

After a careful review of the records, the Court agrees with the CA and the R TC that the circumstantial evidence
presented by the prosecution was overwhelming enough to establish the guilt of the petitioners beyond a reasonable
doubt. The unbroken chain of events laid down by the CA leaves us no other conclusion other than the petitioners'
participation in the hazing. They took part in the hazing and, together; with their fellow fraternity officers and
members, inflicted physical injuries to Villanueva as a requirement of his initiation to the fraternity. The physical
injuries eventually took a toll on the body of the victim, which led to his death. Another young life lost.

With the fact of hazing, the identity ,of the petitioners, and their participation therein duly proven, the moral certainty
that produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind has been satisfied.

Final Note

Hazing has been a phenomenon that has beleaguered the country's educational institutions and communities. News
of young men beaten to death as part of fraternities' violent initiation rites supposedly to seal fraternal bond has sent
disturbing waves to lawmakers. Hence, R.A. No. 8049 was signed into to law on June 7, 1995. Doubts on the
effectiveness of the law were raised. The Court, however, scrutinized its provisions and it is convinced that the law
is rigorous in penalizing the crime of hazing.

Hopefully, the present case will serve as a guide to the bench and the bar on the application of R.A. No. 8049.
Through careful case-build up and proper presentation of evidence before the court, it is not impossible for the
exalted constitutional presumption of innocence of the accused to be overcome and his guilt for the crime of hazing
be proven beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution must bear in mind the secretive nature of hazing, and
carefully weave its chain of circumstantial evidence. Likewise, the defense must present a genuine defense and
substantiate the same through credible and reliable witnesses. The counsels of both parties must also consider
hazing as a malum prohibitum crime and the law's distinctive provisions.

While the Court finds R.A. No. 8049 adequate to deter and prosecute hazing, the law is far from perfect. In Villareal
v. People,116 the Court suggested that the fact of intoxication and the presence of non-resident or alumni fraternity
members during hazing should be considered as aggravating circumstances that would increase the applicable
penalties. Equally, based on the discussion earlier, this Court suggests some further amendments to the law. First,
there should be a penalty or liability for noncompliance with Section 2, or the written notice requirement, and with
Section 3, or the representation requirement. Second, the penalties under Section 4 should also consider the
psychological harm done to the victim of hazing. With these additional inputs on R.A. No. 8049, the movement
against hazing can be invigorated. R.A. No. 8049 is a democratic response to the uproar against hazing. It
demonstrates that there must, and should, be another way of fostering brotherhood, other than through the culture
of violence and suffering. The senseless deaths of these young men shall never be forgotten, for justice is the spark
that lights the candles of their graves.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The April 26, 2013 Decision and the October 8, 2013 Resolution of the Court
of Appeals in CAG.R. CR-H.C. No. 05046 are hereby AFFIRMED in toto. Let copies of this Decision be furnished to
the Secretary of the Department of Justice as guidance for the proper implementation and prosecution of violators of
R.A. No. 8049; and to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives for possible
consideration of the amendment of the Anti-Hazing Law to include the penalty for noncompliance with its Section 2
and 3, and the :penalty for the psychological harms to the surviving victims of hazing.

SO ORDERED.

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN* MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARVIC M.V.F. LEONEN


Associate Justice

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned
to the writer of the opinion of the Court's Division.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the
conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of
the opinion of the Court's Division.

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO


Chief Justice