PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES G.R. No. 172752
- versus - AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
VELASCO, JR.,* and
Accused-Appellant. June 18, 2008
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D E C I S I O N
REYES, R.T., J.:
on appeal by certiorari the Decision
of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming with modification that
of the Regional Trial Court (
Bernabe walked towards appellant and Sendaydiego to confront them. Unexpectedly, appellant drew a gun and shot Bernabe thrice, hitting him in the chest and stomach. Bernabe cried out in pain and clutched his stomach. After the shooting, the duo fled the crime scene post-haste. Bernabe was brought to a hospital. He later expired as efforts to revive him proved futile.
The undersigned hereby accuses DANNY SISON @ Pagong and CORLETO SENDAYDIEGO @ Kolet of the crime of MURDER, committed as follows:
That on or about the 25th day of November 1993 in the evening, in Balang Street, barangay Maniboc, Municipality of Lingayen, province of Pangasinan, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, armed with a gun, with treachery and evident premeditation and intent to kill, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, shoot and hit Bernabe dela Cruz, inflicting upon him, the following:
x x x x
which injuries directly caused his death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the said Bernabe dela Cruz.
CONTRARY to Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code.
Appellant was also charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm, in a separate Information which reads:
That on or about the 25th day of November 1993 in the evening, in barangay Maniboc, municipality of Lingayen, province of Pangasinan, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the above named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have in his possession, custody and control an unlicensed firearm without first securing the necessary permit and/or license from the lawful authorities to possess the same.
Contrary to P.D. 1866.
He was arrested after the lapse of almost five (5) years since the death of Bernabe. Co-accused Sendaydiego, however, has remained at large.
Appellant pleaded not guilty to both Informations. Joint trial ensued after the arraignment.
Dr. Jose U. Martinez conducted an autopsy on the victim and submitted an Autopsy Report, which reads:
Gunshot wound over the (L) chest, about 3 inches above and medial to the (L) nipple, measuring about 1/5 x 1/5 inches in diameter, the trajectory cannot be determined until the chest and the abdominal cavity was opened, by following the hole found over the chest wall and the information that the gun used was desabog, point of entrance.
Multiple abrasion like wounds over the chest and abdomen, with 3 small metal places recovered embedded in the abrasive wounds over the chest and abdomen.
Gunshot wound over (L) back, lat. aspect about the level of the 8th thoracic certibra about 7 inches lateral to it, measuring 1/5 x 1/5 inches in diameter, suspected point of exist of above gunshot wound.
On exposing the thoracic wall shows a hole over the 3rd & 4th intercostal space, medial aspect, measuring about x inches in diameter.
On opening the thoracic cavity shows accumulation of fresh and clotted blood of about 700-800 cc.
Perforation of the (L) surface of the (L) lung.
The heart is clean.
Cause of death:
Respiratory arrest, shock and hemorrhage sec. to lung damage and loss of blood due to gunshot wound to the (L) chest.
Dr. Martinez also testified that he recovered three metal pellets embedded in Bernabes chest wounds and in the left part of his abdomen. He concluded that the firearm used in the crime was possibly a desabog (shotgun).
Dr. Ronald Bandonill, Medico-Legal
Officer II of the NBI
defense anchored its evidence on denial.
Lone defense witness, appellant Rodolfo
Sison himself, claimed that on
When they reached the house of Bernabe, Sendaydiego started throwing stones at the house of the victim. He tried to pacify Sendaydiego. Sendaydiego, however, was adamant. As Sendaydiego persisted in his mischief, appellant hid himself behind the fence of a neighbor.
After the stoning incident, appellant heard Sendaydiego fire four to five shots. Appellant ran away and went home. When they met later, Sendaydiego told him that he only wanted to avenge his father who was mauled and killed by Bernabe. Appellant then told Sendaydiego to go as far away as possible.
The following day, appellant returned to
On cross-examination, appellant admitted that Bernabe had previously filed a case against him for frustrated homicide; that it resulted to his conviction for less serious physical injuries. He claimed he did not harbor any ill-feelings against Bernabe. Appellant likewise admitted that he did not surrender to the police although he knew of the filing of the murder charge.
Meanwhile, let a warrant be issued for the arrest of accused Corleto Sendaydiego @ Kolet in Criminal Case No. L-4976.
The case was then elevated to Us but conformably with Our decision in People v. Mateo, this Court transferred the case to the CA for proper disposition.
in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Lingayen,
Pangasinan finding accused-appellant Rodolfo Sison alias Danny and Pagong
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION.
In addition to the penalty of reclusion
perpetua imposed, and the award of
P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P75,000.00
as actual damages and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages, accused-appellant
is likewise ordered to pay the heirs of the victim the amount of P50,000.00
as moral damages.
Hence, the present recourse.
Appellant imputes to the CA twin errors, viz.:
THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING
THAT THE GUILT OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT FOR THE CRIME CHARGED
ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT COMMITTED THE ACTS COMPLAINED OF, THE COURT A QUO NEVERTHELESS ERRED IN CONVICTING HIM OF THE CRIME OF MURDER INSTEAD OF HOMICIDE.
The guilt of appellant was proven beyond reasonable doubt. His bare denial cannot prevail over his positive identification by eyewitnesses.
that the prosecution fell short of its duty to prove his guilt beyond
reasonable doubt. He claims he was innocently
implicated in the killing of Bernabe. He
points to co-accused Sendaydiego as the gunman. Appellant also questions the
It is settled that appellate courts will not interfere with the judgment of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses, unless there appears in the record some facts or circumstances of weight and influence which have been overlooked and, if considered, would affect the result. Findings of facts and assessment of credibility of witnesses is a matter best left to the trial court because of its unique position and opportunity of being able to observe the witnesses deportment on the stand while testifying.
opportunity is denied to the appellate courts.
We find that the
The said witnesses testified in a clear, straightforward, and convincing manner on the material events that led to the shooting of Bernabe, to wit: (1) the stoning of their house; (2) how they immediately stood up and peeped through the window and saw appellant and Sendaydiego sitting on their fence; (3) how Bernabe came out from their house; (4) how appellant shot Bernabe while the latter was about to approach the place where appellant and Sendaydiego were situated; (5) how they vividly witnessed the shooting of Bernabe by appellant because of the moonlight and the illumination coming from street lamp; (6) how Bernabe held his stomach and jumped after the shooting; and (7) how appellant and Sendaydiego ran away after the shooting.
Bernadette, on direct examination, testified that she saw appellant shoot his father, thus:
Q: Will you please tell the Court on that
A: Yes, Sir. On that night time someone stone our house.
Q: When your house was stone, what did you do?
A: After the stoning, I woke up, together with my sister, and we peep at the hole of our window.
x x x x
Q: And so from the second storey, you saw this two persons from the distance of 8 to 10 meters?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: What were those two persons doing?
A: Danny Sison and his companion were sitting in the fence.
Q: Were you able to recognize the companion of Danny Sison?
A: Yes, Sir, person with a nickname Kulot.
Q: Do you know his true name?
A: Corleto Sendaydiego, Sir.
Q: You saw these two persons Corleto Sendaydiego and Danny Sison, what happened next?
A: I saw these persons and after a while my father coming out to our house passing at the back door, he went to see these persons who stone our house.
x x x x
Q: When your father came out to your house and see those person who stone your house, what happened next?
A: Then we saw that they shot my father.
Q: Do you know who shot your father?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: Who shot your father?
A: Rodolfo Sison alias Danny. (Witness pointing to the accused Danny Sison.)
Q: Could you tell this Honorable Court how far were the two persons when Danny Sison shot your father?
A: (Witness pointing about 2 to 3 meters away.)
Q: And how were you able to recognize that it was the accused Rodolfo Sison alias Danny who shot your father?
A: The moon was bright and there was a straight [street] lamp to the road.
Bernadette remained unwavering on cross examination. She was categorical that it was appellant who shot her father:
Q: You said that when you peeped, you noticed the accused, Pagong, did I get you right?
A: Yes, Sir. Two of them.
x x x x
Q: You were still peeping when your father was shot?
A: The incident happened so fast and my mother, followed by my brother came out of the house and shouting for help, Sir.
Q: You claimed that you were then peeping when you saw your father in relation to the sketch near the Pepsi stand. Did you see actually Pagong fired a gun at your father at the time you were peeping?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: Are you sure of that?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: What kind of firearm did Pagong use if you really see?
A: I do not know what kind of caliber the gun but it is short gun, Sir. (Emphasis supplied)
The testimony of Bernadette that it
was appellant who shot her father was corroborated by Bernie and Bernalyn, who
also witnessed the incident. The widow
of the victim,
Q: When you said somebody stoned your house, what did your husband do?
A: My husband went out.
Q: What about you, what did you do when your husband went out?
A: I was following him.
Q: When your husband went out of your house, will you please tell the Honorable Court if there was anything unusual that happened?
A: There was, Sir.
Q: Will you please tell the Honorable Court what is that incident that happened?
A: My husband was already shot.
Q: You said that you were following him and he was shot, will you please tell the Honorable Court how far were you, from your husband when he was shot?
A: From here up to there?
Q: You said that your husband was shot from that distance which is 4-5 meters away from you, could you please tell the Honorable Court how many shots did you hear?
A: Three (3) shots.
Q: And when your husband was shot according to you, what happened to him?
A: He fell down.
Q: And when he fell down, what did your husband say, if there was anything?
A: There was, Sir.
Q: What did he utter or tell?
A: When my husband fell down, he uttered, Baon-inam Pagong, nak-naak, which means in English vulva of your mother, Pagong, Im shot.
Q: When you saw your husband fell down and you heard those words uttered, what happened?
A: I went out and went to see what happened.
x x x x
Q: You said that you went out to see what happened and you saw those two (2) persons running, will you please tell the Honorable Court who were those persons who were running whom you saw?
A: Danny Sison and Kolet. (Emphasis supplied)
The bare denial of appellant cannot succeed in light of the positive testimonies of the prosecution witnesses. It is settled that denials which are unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence are negative and self-serving evidence. It merits no weight in law and cannot be given greater evidentiary value over the testimony of credible witnesses who testified on affirmatives matters. Denial, like alibi, is an inherently weak defense and cannot prevail over the positive and categorical identification provided by eyewitnesses.
Appellant was correctly convicted of murder. Although there was no evident premeditation, the qualifying circumstance of treachery was proven.
Appellant argues that assuming it was he who shot Bernabe, the lower court nevertheless erred in convicting him of murder because the qualifying circumstances of treachery and evident premeditation were not adequately proven. According to him, if ever he is guilty, he should be convicted only of homicide.
In order that evident premeditation may be appreciated, the following requisites must concur: (1) the time when accused decided to commit the crime; (2) an overt act manifestly indicating that he has clung to his determination; and (3) sufficient lapse of time between decision and execution to allow accused to reflect upon the consequences of the act.
We agree with appellant that there was no evident premeditation. There is no evidence that appellant and Sendaydiego planned to kill Bernabe. Even the Solicitor General admits that the lapse of time from the stoning incident until the shooting cannot be considered sufficient for appellant to reflect upon the consequences of his act. The interval of time was only for several minutes. Evident premeditation should not be appreciated where, as in this case, there is neither evidence of planning or preparation to kill nor of the time when the plot was conceived.
We, however, find that the qualifying circumstance of treachery attended the killing of the victim.
Article 14(6) of the Revised Penal Code provides that there is treachery (alevosia) when the offender commits any of the crimes against the person, 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.
The essence of treachery lies in the attack which comes without warning, and is swift, deliberate and unexpected, and affords the hapless, unarmed and unsuspecting victim no chance to resist or escape, ensuring its commission without risk to the aggressor, without the slightest provocation on the part of the victim. What is decisive in treachery is that the execution of the attack made it impossible for the victim to defend himself or retaliate. Treachery may also be appreciated even if the victim was warned of the danger to his life where he was defenseless and unable to flee at the time of the infliction of the coup de grace.
Here, Bernabe was suddenly shot without any warning by appellant at a distance of about 3 to 4 meters. An unexpected and sudden attack, which renders the victim unable and unprepared to defend himself by reason of the suddenness of the attack, constitutes alevosia. Even a frontal attack could be treacherous when unexpected and on an unarmed victim would be in no position to repel the attack or avoid it.
On the penalty and
award of damages
We, however, modify the award of damages.
P75,000.00 as actual damages.
It is settled that actual damages must
be duly substantiated by documentary evidence, such as receipts to prove the
expenses incurred as a result of the death of the victim.
Here, only the amount of P6,030.00
is supported by the evidence on record. Too, the alleged miscellaneous expenses of P68,970.00
cannot be the basis of an award because they were not sufficiently proven.
consistent with Our ruling in People v.
affirmed the case of People v. Villanueva,
We award temperate damages in the amount of
P25,000.00 in lieu of the actual damages of a lesser amount. As well stated in said cases, to rule
otherwise would be anomalous and unfair because the victims heirs who tried
but succeeded in proving actual damages of an amount less than P25,000
would be in a worse situation than those who might have presented no receipts
at all but would now be entitled to P25,000
The award of
exemplary damages in the amount of
P25,000.00 is likewise justified when
treachery is proved,
as in this case.
WHEREFORE, the appealed judgment is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION. Appellant Rodolfo Sison, alias Danny and Pagong, is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of murder qualified by treachery and sentenced to suffer reclusion perpetua.
is ordered to pay the heirs of Bernabe
dela Cruz the amounts of
P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, P25,000.00 as temperate damages, and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages.
RUBEN T. REYES
MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice Associate Justice
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
A T T E S T A T I O N
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 Courts Division.
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairpersons 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 Courts Division.
REYNATO S. PUNO
* Designated as additional member vice
Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura per raffle dated
pp. 3-12. CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 01502. Penned by Associate Justice Eliezer R. de
 CA rollo, pp. 110-111.
G.R. Nos. 147678-87,
 Rollo, p. 11.
 People v. Agbayani, G.R. No. 122770,
 People v. Sernadilla, G.R. No. 137696,
 Olivarez v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No.
 CA rollo, pp. 106-108.
 People v. Ventura, G.R. Nos. 148145-46, July 5, 2004, 433 SCRA 389, 400; People v. Manlansing, G.R. Nos. 131736-37, March 11, 2002, 378 SCRA 685, 701; People v. Cabote, G.R. No. 136143, November 15, 2001, 369 SCRA 65; People v. Kinok, G.R. No. 104629, November 13, 2001, 368 SCRA 510, 521; People v. Bautista, G.R. No. 131840, April 27, 2000, 331 SCRA 170; People v. Valdez, G.R. No. 127663, March 11, 1999, 304 SCRA 611, 626; People v. Raquipo, G.R. No. 90766, August 13, 1990, 188 SCRA 571, 577.
 People v. Arca, G.R. No. 135857, June 18, 2003, 404 SCRA 311; People v. Mesa, G.R. No. 120072, July 28, 1997, 276 SCRA 407; People v. Patrolla, Jr., G.R. No. 112445, March 7, 1996, 254 SCRA 467; People v. Lacao, Sr., G.R. No. 95320, September 4, 1991, 201 SCRA 317; People v. Velaga, Jr., G.R. No. 87202, July 23, 1991, 199 SCRA 518, 523.
 People v. Baltazar, G.R. No. 143126,
 People v. Gregorio, G.R. No. 153781,
 People v. Almedilla, G.R. No. 150590,
 People v.
Escote, Jr., G.R. No. 140756,
 People v. Pinuela, G.R. Nos. 140727-28,
 People v. Gumayao, G.R. No. 138933, October 28, 2003, 414 SCRA 539; People v. Dala, G.R. No. 134563, October 28, 2003, 414 SCRA 532; People v. Perez, G.R. No. 134485, October 23, 2003, 414 SCRA 106; People v. Pedrigal, G.R. No. 152604, September 18, 2003, 411 SCRA 339; People v. Vicente, G.R. No. 137296, June 26, 2003, 405 SCRA 40; People v. Caballero, G.R. Nos. 149028-30, April 2, 2003, 400 SCRA 424; People v. Alfon, G.R. No. 126028, March 14, 2003, 399 SCRA 64.
 Revised Penal Code, Art. 248.
 Id., Art. 63(2).
 People v. Ibaez, G.R. Nos. 133923-24,
 Id. at 430-431, citing People v. Mercado, G.R. No. 116239, November 29, 2000, 346 SCRA 256, 291; People v. Nullan, G.R. No. 126303, April 14, 1999, 305 SCRA 679, 706, citing People v. Cordero, G.R. No. 108919, October 11, 1996, 263 SCRA 122; People v. Degoma, G.R. Nos. 89404-05, May 22, 1992, 209 SCRA 266.
 People v. Werba, supra at 499, citing People v. Villanueva, id.
 People v. Mostrales, G.R. No. 125937,
v. Malinao, G.R. No. 128148,