- People v. Antonio y Diolata
- G.R. No. 144933
- YNARES-SANTIAGO, J :
- Decision Date
G.R. No. 144933. July 3, 2002.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. JERRY ANTONIO y DIOLATA, accused-appellant.
D E C I S I O N
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J p:
This is an appeal from the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City, Branch 28, in Criminal Case No. DU-6619 convicting accused-appellant of the crime of murder; sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua; and ordering him to pay the heirs of the deceased the amounts of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity and P20,000.00 as moral damages, plus the costs of suit.
The information against accused-appellant reads:
That on or about the 11th day of October, 1998, in the City of Mandaue, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the aforenamed accused, with deliberate intent to kill and with evident premeditation and treachery, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab one Jomar Cardosa Ephan with a sharp bladed weapon, thereby inflicting upon the latter mortal wound at his vital portion namely:
"Stab wound (L) Lumbar Level of L1 & L2 with grade IV Spleenic injury & grade II Renal (L) injury."
Which caused his death soon thereafter.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Upon arraignment on November 16, 1998, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty. Trial thereafter ensued.
The facts as presented by the prosecution show that at 1:00 in the early morning of October 11, 1998, the victim, Jomar Ephan, was engaged in a drinking session with Reynaldo Ephan and Roselito Dacillo in front of a store in Barangay Pakna-an, Mandaue City. Accused-appellant arrived and bought cigarettes. Then, he ordered Jomar, Reynaldo and Roselito to count the cigarettes he bought, but the three told accused-appellant to let the storekeeper do the counting. Rebuked, accused-appellant left the store. He returned minutes later and suddenly stabbed the victim at the back, after which he immediately fled. The victim was rushed by his companions to the hospital but died the following day.
Meanwhile, Eduardo Juban, a Barangay Tanod, was awakened by one of his neighbors and was told that there was trouble at a nearby store. When Eduardo went out, he saw accused-appellant being chased by a crowd who were shouting, "thief." The group mauled accused-appellant when they caught up with him. Eduardo, however, pacified the mob and brought accused-appellant to the barangay hall. Eduardo later learned from the group that accused-appellant had stabbed somebody.
The examination conducted by Dr. Reynaldo Baclig revealed that the victim sustained a stab wound near the spinal column, three inches above the waist line, and died from spleen and renal injury and massive blood loss.
On the other hand, the defense tried to prove that: at around 1:00 a.m. of October 11, 1998, accused-appellant was in the house of his friend, Fernando Gelig, at Pakna-an, Mandaue City. While they were drinking liquor, accused-appellant went out and bought cigarettes from a store across the street. As a token of friendship, accused-appellant offered the cigarettes to the people in front of the store, but nobody accepted his offer. Accused-appellant went back to the house of his friend. After a short while, he went back to the same store to buy "pulutan." For no reason at all, somebody struck him with a stool hitting him on the left eyebrow. Accused-appellant fell on the ground but the group of the deceased, who were then in front of the store, ganged up on him. The deceased attempted to hit accused-appellant but because the former was very drunk, he missed and fell on his belly. It was at this point when accused-appellant got hold of a knife he saw under the table and stabbed the deceased at the back. Thereafter, accused appellant immediately fled but the crowd chased and mauled him. Fortunately, a Barangay Tanod came and stopped the mob.
On July 12, 2000, the trial court promulgated the assailed judgment of conviction. The dispositive portion thereof reads:
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing premises, the Court hereby finds the accused Jerry Antonio y Diolata GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of MURDER as defined and penalized under Article 248 of theReclusion Perpetua with all the accessory penalties provided for by law. Let him be given full credit for the preventive imprisonment he has served. Likewise, the accused is ordered to indemnify the heirs of Jomar Ephan the sum of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity ex delicto and the sum of P20,000.00 as moral damages. The Court hereby orders too that the accused should pay the cost of this suit.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Hence, this appeal based on the following grounds:
FOR FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION TO ADDUCE EVIDENCE THAT THE ACCUSED WAS THE UNLAWFUL AGGRESSOR, HE SHOULD BE CONVICTED FOR A LESSER OFFENSE AS CHARGED (sic).
THE TRIAL COURT FAILED TO APPRECIATE THE PRESENCE OF A MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCE OF ILLNESS OF THE OFFENDER AS WOULD DIMINISH THE EXERCISE OF THE WILL-POWER OF THE OFFENDER WITHOUT HOWEVER DEPRIVING HIM OF CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS ACTS.
Faced with the conflicting versions of the prosecution and the defense, the trial court's choice of which version to believe is generally viewed as correct and entitled to the highest respect because it is more competent to conclude so, having had the opportunity to observe the witnesses' demeanor and deportment on the witness stand, and the manner in which they gave their testimonies, and therefore could better discern if such witnesses were telling the truth. The trial court is thus in the best position to weigh conflicting testimonies. Therefore, unless the trial judge plainly overlooked certain facts of substance and value which, if considered, might affect the result of the case, his assessment on credibility must be respected.
A thorough review of the records of the case at bar shows that the trial court did not miss any such material circumstance nor did it commit any palpable error in upholding the facts as established by the prosecution. The positive and direct narration of the prosecution witnesses that accused-appellant suddenly stabbed the victim at the back, and that no altercation preceded the attack, deserves full faith and credence. These witnesses were not shown to have been impelled by ill-motive to falsely testify against accused-appellant. Moreover, being friends and relatives of the deceased, they would naturally be interested in having the real culprit punished.
The trial court did not likewise err in rejecting accused-appellant's self-defense theory. Where an accused invokes self-defense, he thereby admits authorship of the crime. The burden of proof is thus shifted on him to prove all the elements of self-defense, to wit: (1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to repel the aggression; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the accused.
In the case at bar, even if we sustain the version of accused-appellant that the initial act of aggression came from the group of the deceased, still we cannot uphold his plea of self-defense. As testified by accused-appellant himself, the deceased who was at that time very drunk tried to hit him but missed and fell on the ground. At that point, unlawful aggression ceased and it was no longer necessary for him to stab the deceased. It was accused-appellant, therefore, who became the aggressor when he, despite the condition of the deceased, proceeded to stab the latter at the back. His act can no longer be interpreted as an act of self-preservation but a perverse desire to kill. Hence, he cannot successfully claim the benefit of self-defense. Furthermore, if it were true that the companions of the deceased ganged up on him, his attack should have been directed against them and not against the deceased who was already defenseless and lying on the ground. Pertinent portion of accused-appellant's testimony reads:
xxx xxx xxx
Q: What happened when you bought "pulutan" in the same store where you bought the cigarettes?
A: I was struck by a person on the head. (Witness indicating left eyebrow.)
Q: Were you bloodied when you were hit?
A: Yes. I fell down.
Q: When you fell down, what happened next?
A: I stood up.
Q: Could you recognize the person who hit you with a chair on your left eyebrow?
Q: When you stood up after you were hit, what happened next?
A: I saw a kitchen knife under the table upon standing up and they were ganging up on me by striking me. So, I happened to have stab (sic) him.
Q: What was the position of the person that you stabbed?
A: He was very drank (sic) and he fell down.
Q: Could you show to the Honorable Court the position? Could you demonstrate the position of the alleged victim that was hit by the knife?
A: When he struck me, I was able to evade the blow and by his force and momentum, he fell towards the ground on all force (sic) and so, I stabbed him this way (witness demonstrating by delivering a blow downwards) and I happen to hit him may be at the back.
Q: After hitting him with the knife what happened?
A: I ran.
The qualifying circumstance of treachery was properly appreciated by the trial court. Accused-appellant's attack on the deceased from behind completely caught the latter by surprise. Accused-appellant therefore effectively executed the assault without any risk to himself arising from the defense which the deceased might make.
The injury sustained by accused-appellant after he was allegedly struck by a stool on the head will not entitle him to a mitigating circumstance. The alleged injury hardly qualifies as mitigating circumstance analogous to illness or defect that would diminish the exercise of will-power. More importantly, accused-appellant failed to prove that he was assaulted by the deceased and the latter's companions.
The penalty for murder under Article 248 of thereclusion perpetua to death. Since no modifying circumstance was established by the prosecution, the trial court correctly imposed the lesser penalty of reclusion perpetua on accused-appellant.
As to accused-appellant's civil liability, the amount of P50,000.00, as indemnity ex delicto is affirmed. The moral damages awarded by the trial court in the amount of P20,000.00 should, however, be increased to P50,000.00 in line with current jurisprudence.
WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City, Branch 28, in Criminal Case No. DU-6619, finding accused-appellant Jerry Antonio y Diolata guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and ordering him to pay the heirs of the deceased Jomar C. Ephan the amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the moral damages to be paid by accused-appellant is increased to P50,000.00.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Vitug, Kapunan and Austria-Martinez, JJ., concur.
1. Penned by Judge Isaias P. Dicdican.
2. Rollo, p. 7.
3. Records, p. 12.
4. TSN, January 18, 1999, pp. 4-8.
5. TSN, January 25, 1999, pp. 2-5.
6. TSN, January 14, 1999, pp. 5-7.
7. TSN, April 19, 1999, pp. 4-12.
8. Rollo, p. 22.
9. Rollo, p. 49.
10. 257 SCRA 658, 669 1996, citing , 244 SCRA 685, 691 1995; , 229 SCRA 332 1994; 204 SCRA 535 1991;
11. , 229 SCRA 638, 645 1994, citing , 216 SCRA 375 1992.
12. , 262 SCRA 381, 391 1996, citing , 225 SCRA 361 1993.
13. , 265 SCRA 547, 566 1996.
14. , 258 SCRA 115, 124-125 1996, citing 247 SCRA 708 1995; ., 247 SCRA 220 1995; 222 SCRA 801 1993; 235 SCRA 444 1994.
15. TSN, April 19, 1999, pp. 7-8.
16. , 247 SCRA 300, 310 1995, citing , 217 SCRA 653 1993.
17. , G.R. No. 126136, April 5, 2002, citing G.R. No. 134634, July 31, 2001; 348 SCRA 663 2000.