THE UNITED STATES, plaintiff-appellee,
JOSE LAUREL, ET AL., defendants-appellants.
This appeal was raised by the four above-named defendants, from the judgment of conviction, found on page 117 of the record, rendered by the Honorable Mariano Cui.
The facts in this case are as follows: On the night of December 26, 1909, while the girl Concepcion Lat was walking along the street, on her way from the house of Exequiel Castillo, situated in the pueblo of Tanauan, Province of Batangas, accompanied by several young people, she was approached by Jose Laurel who suddenly kissed her and immediately thereafter ran off in the direction of his house, pursued by the girl’s companions, among whom was the master of the house above mentioned, Exequiel Castillo; but they did not overtake him.
On the second night after the occurrence just related, that is, on the 28th, while Exequiel Castillo and Jose Laurel, together with Domingo Panganiban and several others of the defendants, were at an entertainment held on an upper floor of the parochial building of the said pueblo and attended by many residents of the town, it is alleged that the said Castillo and Laurel were invited by Panganiban, the former through his brother, Roque Castillo, and the latter, directly, to come out into the yard, which they did, accompanied by Panganiban and the other defendants referred to. After the exchange of a few words and explanations concerning the kiss given the girl Lat on the night of the 26th of that month, a quarrel arose between the said Jose Laurel and Exequiel Castillo, in which Domingo Panganiban, Vicente Garcia, and Conrado Laurel took part, and as a result of the quarrel Exequiel Castillo was seriously wounded. He succeeded in reaching a drug store near by where he received first aid treatment; Jose Laurel also received two slight wounds on the head.
Dr. Sixto Rojas, who began to render medical assistance to Exequiel Castillo early in the morning of the following day, stated that his examination of the latter’s injuries disclosed a wound in the left side of the chest, on a level with the fourth rib, from 3 to 4 centimeters in depth, reaching into the lung; another wound in the back of the left arm and in the conduit through which the ulnar nerve passes, from 10 to 11 centimeters in length, penetrating to the bone and injuring the nerves and arteries of the said region, especially the ulnar nerve, which was served; a contusion on the right temple, accompanied by ecchymosis and hemorrhage of the tissues of the eye; and, finally, another contusion in the back of the abdomen near the left cavity, which by reaction injured the stomach and the right cavity. According to the opinion of the physician above named, the wound in the left side of the breast was serious on account of its having fully penetrated the lungs and caused the patient to spit blood, as noticed the day after he was wounded, and there must have been a hemmorhage of the lung, an important vital vascular organ; by reason of this hemorrhage or general infection the patient would have died, had it not been for the timely medical aid rendered him. The wound on the back of the left arm was also of a serious nature, as the ulnar nerve was cut, with the result that the title and ring fingers of the patient’s left hand have been rendered permanently useless. With respect to the contusion on the right temple, it could have been serious, according to the kind of blows received, and the contusion on the back of the abdomen was diagnosed as serious also, on account of its having caused an injury as a result of which the wounded man complained of severe pains in the stomach and left spleen. The said physician stated that he had attended the patient fourteen consecutive days; that the contusion on the abdomen was cured in four or five days, and that on the right temple in ten or twelve days, although this latter injury was accompanied by a considerable ecchymosis which might not disappear for about three months, the time required for the absorption of the coagulated blood; that the stitches in the wound of the left arm were taken out after twelve days, and when witness ceased to attend the patient, this wound was healing up and for its complete cure would require eight or more days’ time; and that the wound in the breast, for the reason that it had already healed internally and the danger of infection had disappeared, was healing, although still more time would be required for its complete cure, the patient being able to continue the treatment himself, which in fact he did.
In view of the strikingly contradictory evidence adduced by the prosecution and by the defense, and in order to decide what were the true facts of the case we shall proceed to recite the testimony of the party who was seriously wounded and of his witnesses, and afterwards, that of his alleged assailants and of their witnesses, in order to determine the nature of the crime, the circumstances that concurred therein and, in turn, the responsibility of the criminal or criminals.
Exequiel Castillo testified that while he, together with Primitivo Gonzalez, was in the hall of the parochial building of Tanauan, attending an entertainment on the night of December 28, 1909, he was approached by his brother, Roque Castillo, who told him, on the part of Domingo Panganiban, that Jose Laurel desired to speak with him and was awaiting him on the ground floor of the said building, to give him an explanation with regard to his (Laurel’s) having kissed Concepcion Lat on the night of the 26th in the street and in the presence of the witness and other young people; that the witness, Exequiel Castillo, therefore, left the parochial building, accompanied by his brother Roque and Primitivo Gonzalez, and met Sofronio Velasco, Gaudencio Garcia, and Alfonso Torres, at the street door; that after he had waited there for half an hour, Jose laurel, Conrado Laurel, Vicente Garcia, Jose Garcia, and Domingo Panganiban, likewise came down out of the building and Jose Laurel approached him and immediately took him aside, away from the door of the building and the others; that Laurel then said to him that, before making any explanations relative to the said offense against the girl Concepcion Lat, he would ask him whether it was true that he (the witness, Castillo) had in his possession some letters addressed by Laurel to the said girl, to which the witness replied that as a gentleman he was not obliged to answer the question; that thereupon Jose Laurel suddenly struck him a blow in the left side of the breast with a knife, whereupon the witness, feeling that he was wounded, struck in turn with the cane he was carrying at his assailant, who dodged and immediately started to run; thereupon witness received another knife thrust in the left arm followed by a blow in the left side from a fist and witness, upon turning, saw Vicente Garcia and Domingo Panganiban in the act of again assaulting him; just then he was struck a blow with a cane on his right temple and, on turning, saw behind him Conrado Laurel carrying a stick, and just at the moment Primitivo Gonzalez and several policemen approached him calling of peace; his assailants then left him and witness went to the neighboring drug store where he received first aid treatment. Witness further testified that he had been courting the girl Concepcion Lat for a month; that, because his sweetheart had been kissed by Jose Laurel, he felt a little resentment against the latter, and that since then he had no opportunity to speak with his assailant until the said night of the attack.
Roque Castillo, a witness for the prosecution, testified that, at the request of Domingo Panganiban, he had suggested to his brother, Exequiel Castillo, that the latter should go down to the door of the ground floor of the parochial building, where Jose Laurel was waiting for him, so that the latter might make explanations to him with regard to what had taken place on the night prior to the 26th of December; that Exequiel, who was in the hall beside Primitivo Gonzalez, immediately upon receiving the notice sent him in Laurel’s name, got up and went down with Gonzalez and the witness, though the latter remained at the foot of the stairs in conversation with Virginio de Villa, whom he found there; that, after a little while, witness saw Jose Laurel, Jose Garcia, Domingo Panganiban, Vicente Garcia, and Conrado Laurel come down from the said building, and, on observing something bulging from the back of the latter’s waist he asked him what made that bulge, to which Laurel replied that it meant “peace;” witness thereupon said to him that if he really desired “peace,” as witness also did, he might deliver to the latter the revolver he was carrying, and to prove that he would not make bad use of the weapon, Laurel might take the cartridges out and deliver the revolver to witness. This he did, the witness received the revolver without the cartridges, and his fears thus allayed, the witness returned to the upper floor to the entertainment; but that, at the end of about half an hour, he heard a hubbub among the people who said that there was a quarrel, and witness, suspecting that his brother Exequiel had met with some treachery, ran down out of the house; on reaching the ground floor he met Primitivo Gonzalez, who had blood stains on his arms; that Gonzalez then informed him that Exequiel was badly wounded; that he found his said brother in Arsenio Gonzalez’ drug store; and that his brother was no longer able to speak but made known that he wanted to be shriven. Witness added that on that same night he delivered the revolver to his father, Sixto Castillo, who corroborated this statement.
The other witness, Primitivo Gonzalez, corroborated the testimony given by the preceding witness, Roque Castillo, and testified that, while he was that night attending the entertainment at the parochial building of Tanauan, in company with Exequiel Castillo, the latter received notice from his (Castillo’s) brother, through Domingo Panganiban, to the effect that Jose Laurel desired to speak with him concerning what occurred on the night of December 26; that thereupon Exequiel, the latter’s brother, Roque and the witness all went down out of the house, though Roque stopped on the main stairway while witness and Exequiel went on until they came to the main door of the ground floor where they met Alfonso Torres and Gaudencio Garcia; that, after a while, Jose Laurel, Conrado Laurel, Vicente Garcia, Jose Garcia Aquino, and Domingo Panganiban came up; that when Jose Laurel met Exequiel Castillo he caught the latter by the hand and the two separated themselves from the rest and retired to a certain distance, although Vicente and Jose Garcia, Conrado Laurel, and Alfonso Torres placed themselves the nearest to the first two, Jose Laurel and Exequiel Castillo; that at this juncture witness, who was about 6 or 7 meters away from the two men last named, observed that Jose Laurel, who had his hand in his pocket while he was talking with Exequiel, immediately drew out a handkerchief and therewith struck Exequiel a blow on the breast; that the latter forthwith hit his assailant, Laurel, with a cane which he was carrying; that Laurel, upon receiving a blow, stepped back, while Exequiel pursued him and continued to strike him; that thereupon Vicente Garcia stabbed Exequiel, who had his back turned toward him and Conrado Laurel struck the said Exequiel a blow on the head with a cane; that when witness approached the spot where the fight was going on, several policemen appeared there and called out for peace; and that he did not notice what Jose Garcia Aquino and Alfonso Torres did.
Lucio Villa, a policeman, testified that on the hearing the commotion, he went to the scene of it and met Jose Laurel who was coming away, walking at an ordinary gait and carrying a bloody pocketknife in his hand; that witness therefore arrested him, took the weapon from him and conducted him to the municipal building; and that the sergeant and another policemen, the latter being the witness’s companion, took charge of the other disturbers.
The defendant, Jose Laurel, testified that early in the evening of the 28th of December he went to the parochial building, in company with Diosdado Siansance and several young people, among them his cousin Baltazara Rocamora, for the purpose of attending an entertainment which was to be held there; that, while sitting in the front row of chairs, for there were as yet but few people, and while the director of the college was delivering a discourse, he was approached by Domingo Panganiban who told him that Exequiel Castillo wished to speak with him, to which witness replied that he should wait a while and Panganiban thereupon went away; that, a short time afterwards, he was also approached by Alfredo Yatco who gave him a similar message, and soon afterwards Felipe Almeda came up and told him that Exequiel Castillo was waiting for him on the ground floor of the house; this being the third summons addressed to him, he arose and went down to ascertain what the said Exequiel wanted; that, when he stepped outside of the street door, he saw several persons there, among them, Exequiel Castillo; the latter, upon seeing witness, suggested that they separate from the rest and talk in a place a short distance away; that thereupon Exequiel asked witness why he kissed his, Exequiel’s sweetheart, and on Laurel’s replying that he had done so because she was very fickle and prodigal of her use of the word “yes” on all occasions, Exequiel said to him that he ought not to act that way and immediately struck him a blow on the head with a cane or club, which assault made witness dizzy and caused him to fall to the ground in a sitting posture; that, as witness feared that his aggressor would continue to assault him, he took hold of the pocketknife which he was carrying in his pocket and therewith defended himself; that he did not know whether he wounded Exequiel with the said weapon, for, when witness arose, he noticed that he, the latter, had a wound in the right parietal region and a contusion in the left; that witness was thereupon arrested by the policemen, Lucio Villa, and was unable to state whether he dropped the pocketknife he carried or whether it was picked up by the said officer; that it took more than a week to cure his injuries; that he had been courting the girl Concepcion Lat for a year, but that in October, 1909, his courtship ended and Exequiel Castillo then began to court her; and that, as witness believed that the said girl would not marry him, nor Exequiel, he kissed her in the street, on the night of December 26, 1909, and immediately thereafter ran toward his house.
Baltazara Rocamora stated that, while she was with Jose Laurel on the night of December 28, 1909, attending an entertainment in the parochial building of Tanauan, the latter was successively called by Domingo Panganiban, Alfredo Yatco, and Felipe Almeda, the last named saying: “Go along, old fellow; you are friends now.” Casimiro Tapia testified that, on the morning following the alleged crime, he visited Jose Laurel in the jail, and found him suffering from the bruises or contusions; that to cure them, he gave him one application of tincture of arnica to apply to his injuries, which were not serious.
Benito Valencia also testified that, while the entertainment, he saw Domingo Panganiban approach Jose Laurel and tell him that Exequiel Castillo was waiting for him downstairs to talk to him; that Laurel refused to go, as he wished to be present at the entertainment, and that Panganiban then went away; that, soon afterwards, witness also went down, intending to return home, and, when he had been on the ground floor of the parochial building for fifteen minutes, he saw, among the many people who were there, Exequiel Castillo and Jose Laurel who were talking apart from a group of persons among whom he recognized Roque Castillo, Primitivo Gonzalez and Conrado Laurel; that soon after this, witness saw Exequiel Castillo strike Jose Laurel a blow with a cane and the latter stagger and start to run, pursued by the former, the aggressor; that at this juncture, Conrado Laurel approached Exequiel and, in turn, struck him from behind; and that the police presently intervened in the fight, and witness left the place where it occurred.
The defendant Domingo Panganiban testified that, while he was at the entertainment that night, he noticed that it threatened to rain, and therefore left the house to get his horse, which he had left tied to a post near the door; that, on reaching the ground floor, the brothers Roque and Exequiel Castillo, asked him to do them the favor to call Jose Laurel, because they wished to talk to the latter, witness noticing that the said brothers were then provided with canes; that he called Jose Laurel, but the latter said that he did not wish to go down, because he was listening to the discourse which was then being delivered, and witness therefore went down to report the answer to the said brothers; that while he was at the door of the parochial building waiting for the drizzle to cease, Jose Laurel and Felipe Almeda came up to where he was, and just then Exequiel Castillo approached the former, Laurel, and they both drew aside, about 2 brazas away, to talk; that soon afterwards, witness saw Exequiel Castillo deal Jose Laurel two blows in succession and the latter stagger and start to run, pursued by his assailant; the latter was met by several persons who crowded about in an aimless manner, among whom witness recognized Roque Castillo and Conrado Laurel; and that he did not see Primitivo Gonzalez nor Gaudencio Garcia at the place where the fight occurred, although he remained where he was until a policeman was called.
Conrado Laurel, a cousin of Jose Laurel, testified that, on the night of December 28, 1909, he was in the parochial building for the purpose of attending the entertainment; that he was then carrying a revolver, which had neither cartridges nor firing pin, for the purpose of returning it to its owner, who was a Constabulary telegraph operator on duty in the pueblo of Tanauan; that the latter, having been informed by a gunsmith that the said revolver could not be fixed, requested witness, when they met each other in the cockpit the previous afternoon, to return the weapon to him during the entertainment; that, on leaving the said building to retire to his house and change his clothes, he met Roque Castillo, his cousin and confidential friend, on the ground floor of the parochial building or convent and the latter, seeing that witness was carrying a revolver, insisted on borrowing it, notwithstanding that witness told him that it was unserviceable; that, after he had changed his clothes, he left his house to return to the parochial building, and near the main door of said building he found Exequiel Castillo and Jose Laurel talking by themselves; that a few moment afterwards, he saw Exequiel strike Jose two blows with a cane that nearly caused him to fall at full length on the ground, and that Jose immediately got up and started to run, pursued by his assailant, Exequiel; that witness, on seeing this, gave the latter in turn a blow on the head with a cane, to stop him from pursuing Jose, witness fearing that the pursuer, should he overtake the pursued, would kill him; that, after witness struck Exequiel Castillo with the cane, the police intervened and arrested them; and that, among those arrested, he saw Panganiban and Vicente Garcia, and, at the place of the disturbance, Roque Castillo and Primitivo Gonzalez.
Vicente Garcia denied having taken part in the fight. He testified that he also was attending the entertainment and, feeling warm, went down out of the parochial building; that, upon so doing, he saw Domingo Panganiban and Jose Laurel, but was not present at the fight, and only observed, on leaving the building, that there was a commotion; then he heard a policeman had arrested Jose Laurel.
Well-written briefs were filed in first instance, both by the prosecution and by the defense; but, notwithstanding the large number of persons who must have been eyewitnesses to what occurred, it is certain that the prosecution was only able to present the witness, Primitivo Gonzalez, a relative of Exequiel Castillo, to testify as to how and by whom the assault was begun.
Each one of the combatants, Exequiel Castillo and Jose Laurel accused the other of having commenced the assault. Castillo testified that Laurel, after the exchange of few words between them, suddenly and without warning stabbed him with a knife, while Laurel swore that, after a short conversation Castillo struck him two blows with a cane, on which account, in order to defend himself, he seized a pocketknife he carried in his pocket. In view, therefore, of these manifest contradictions, and in order to determine the liability of the defendant, Jose Laurel, who, it is proved, inflicted the serious wound on Exequiel Castillo, it is necessary to decide which of the two was the assailant.
Taking for granted that Jose Laurel did actually kiss Concepcion Lat in the street and in the presence of Exequiel Castillo, the girl’s suitor, and of others who were accompanying her, the first query that naturally arises in the examination of the evidence and the circumstances connected with the occurrence, is: Who provoked the encounter between Laurel and Castillo, and the interview between the same, and who invited the other, on the night of December 28, 1909, to come down from the parochial building of Tanauan, to the lower floor and outside the entrance of the same? Even on this concrete point the evidence is contradictory, for, while the witnesses of Exequiel Castillo swore that the latter was invited by Jose Laurel, those of the latter testified, in turn, that Laurel was invited three consecutive times by three different messengers in the name and on the part of the said Castillo.
In the presence of this marked contradiction, and being compelled to inquire into the truth of the matter, we are forced to think that the person who would consider himself aggrieved at the kiss given the girl Concepcion Lat, in the street and in the presence of several witnesses, would undoubtedly be Exequiel Castillo, the suitor of the girl, and it would appear to be a reasonable conclusion that he himself, highly offended at the boldness of Jose Laurel, was the person who wished to demand explanation of the offense.
Upon this premise, and having weighed and considered as a whole the testimony, circumstantial evidence, and other merits of the present case, the conviction is acquired, by the force of probability, that the invitation, given through the medium of several individuals, came from the man who was offended by the incident of the kiss, and that it was the perpetrator of the offense who was invited to come down from the parochial building to the ground floor thereof to make explanations regarding the insult to the girl Lat, the real suitor of whom was at the time the said Exequiel Castillo. All this is not mere conjecture; it is logically derived from the above related facts.
Both Jose and Exequiel were attending the entertainment that night in the upper story of the parochial building. Exequiel was the first who went below, with his cousin, Primitivo Gonzalez, knowing the Laurel remained in the hall above, and he it was who waited for nearly half an hour on the ground floor of the said building for the said Jose Laurel to come down. The latter was notified three times, and successively, in the name and on the part of Exequiel Castillo, first by Domingo Panganiban, then by Alfredo Yatco and finally by Felipe Almeda–three summonses which were necessary before Jose Laurel could be induced, after the lapse of nearly half an hour, to come down. Meanwhile, for that space of time, Exequiel Castillo was awaiting him, undoubtedly for the purpose of demanding explanations concerning the offensive act committed against his sweetheart. The natural course and the rigorous logic of the facts can not be arbitrarily be rejected, unless it be shown that other entirely anomalous facts occurred.
If, in the natural order of things, the person who was deeply offended by the insult was the one who believed he had a right to demand explanations of the perpetrator of that insult, it is quite probable that the aggrieved party was the one who, through the instrumentality of several persons, invited the insulter to come down from the upper story of the parochial building, where he was, and make the explanations which he believed he had a right to exact; and if this be so, Exequiel Castillo, seriously affected and offended by the insult to his sweetheart, Concepcion Lat, must be held to be the one who brought about the encounter gave the invitation and provoked the occurrence, as shown by his conduct in immediately going down to the entrance door of the said building and in resignedly waiting, for half an hour, for Jose Laurel to come down.
Moreover, if the latter had provoked the encounter or interview had on the ground floor of the building, it is not understood why he delayed in going down, nor why it became necessary to call him three times, in such manner that Exequiel Castillo had to wait for him below for half an hour, when it is natural and logical to suppose that the provoking party or the one interested in receiving explanations would be precisely the one who would have hastened to be in waiting at the place of the appointment; he would not have been slow or indisposed to go down, as was the case with Jose Laurel.
If, as is true, the latter was the one who insulted the girl Concepcion Lat – an insult which must deeply have affected the mind of Exequiel Castillo, the girl’s suitor at the time – it is not possible to conceive, as claimed by the prosecution, how and why it should be Jose Laurel who should seek explanations from Exequiel Castillo. It was natural and much more likely that it should have been the latter who had an interest in demanding explanations from the man who insulted his sweetheart. In view of the behavior of the men a few moments before the occurrence, we are of the opinion that Castillo was the first to go down to the entrance door of the parochial building, knowing that Jose Laurel was in the hall, and, notwithstanding the state of his mind, he had the patience to wait for the said Laurel who, it appears, was very reluctant to go down and it was necessary to call him three times before he finally did so, at the end of half an hour.
After considering these occurrences which took place before the crime, the query of course arises as to which of the two was the first to assault the other, for each lays the blame upon his opponent for the commencement of the assault. Exequiel Castillo testified that after he had replied to Jose Laurel that he, the witness, was not obliged to say whether he had in his possession several letters addressed by laurel to the girl Concepcion Lat, Laurel immediately stabbed him in the breast with a knife; while Jose Laurel swore that, upon his answering the question put to him by Castillo as to why the witness had kissed his sweetheart, saying that it was because she was very fickle and prodigal of the word “yes” on all occasions, Exequiel said to him in reply that he ought not to act in that manner, and immediately struck him a couple of blows on the head with a club, wherefore, in order to defend himself, he drew the knife he was carrying in his pocket.
Were the statements made by Exequiel Castillo satisfactorily proven at the trial, it is unquestionable that Jose Laurel would be liable as the author of the punishable act under prosecution; but, in view of the antecedents aforerelated, the conclusions reached from the evidence, and the other merits of the case, the conclusion is certain that the assault was commenced by Exequiel Castillo, who struck Jose Laurel two blows with a cane, slightly injuring him in two places on the head, and the assaulted man, in self-defense, wounded his assailant with a pocketknife; therefore, Jose Laurel committed no crime and is exempt from all responsibility, as the infliction of the wounds attended by the three requisites specified in paragraph 4, article 8 of the Penal Code.
From the evidence, then, produced at the trial, it is concluded that it was Exequiel Castillo who, through the mediation of several others, invited Laurel to come down from the upper story of the parochial building, and that it was he, therefore, who provoked the affray aforementioned, and, also, it was he who unlawfully assaulted Jose Laurel, by striking the latter two blows with a cane inasmuch as it is not likely that after having received a dangerous wound in the left breast, he would have been able to strike his alleged assailant two successive blows and much less pursue him. It is very probable that he received the said wounds after he had assaulted Jose Laurel with the cane, and Laurel, on his part, in defending himself from the assault, employed rational means by using the knife that he carried in his pocket.
For all the foregoing reasons, Jose Laurel must be acquitted and held to be exempt from responsibility on the ground of self-defense. The case falls within paragraph 4 of article 8 of the Penal Code, inasmuch as the defensive act executed by him was attended by the three requisites of illegal aggression on the part of Exequiel Castillo, there being a lack of sufficient provocation on the part of Laurel, who, as we have said, did not provoke the occurrence complained of, nor did he direct that Exequiel Castillo be invited to come down from the parochial building and arrange the interview in which Castillo alone was interested, and, finally, because Laurel, in defending himself with a pocketknife against the assault made upon him with a cane, which may also be a deadly weapon, employed reasonable means to prevent or repel the same.
Under the foregoing reasoning, the other accused, Conrado Laurel and Vicente Garcia, who likewise, were convicted as principals of the crime under prosecution, are comprised within the provisions of paragraph 5 of the said article 8 of the Penal Code, which are as follows:
He who acts in defense of the person or rights of his spouse, ascendants, descendants, or legitimate, natural, or adopted brothers or sisters, or of his relatives by affinity in the same degrees and those by consanguinity within the fourth civil degree, provided the first and second circumstances mentioned in the foregoing number are attendant, and provided that in case the party attacked first gave provocation, the defender took no part therein.
Conrado Laurel and Vicente Garcia, first cousins of Jose Laurel, as shown in the trial record to have been proven without contradiction whatsoever, did not provoke the trouble, nor did they take any part in the invitation extended to Jose Laurel in the name of and for Exequiel Castillo; in assisting in the fight between Castillo and Laurel, they acted in defense of their cousin, Jose Laurel, when they saw that the latter was assaulted, twice struck and even pursued by the assailant, Castillo; consequently Conrado Laurel and Vicente Garcia have not transgressed the law and they are exempt from all responsibility, for all the requisites of paragraph 4 of the aforecited article attended the acts performed by them, as there was illegal aggression on the part of the wounded man, Exequiel Castillo, reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel the said aggression on the part of the aforementioned Conrado Laurel and Vicente Garcia, who acted in defense of their cousin, Jose Laurel, illegally assaulted by Exequiel Castillo, neither of the said codefendants having provoked the alleged crime.
With regard to Domingo Panganiban, the only act of which he was accused by the wounded man, Exequiel Castillo, was that he struck the latter a blow on the left side with his fist, while Castillo was pursuing Laurel.
Domingo Panganiban denied that he took part in the quarrel and stated that he kept at a distance from the combatants, until he was arrested by a policeman. His testimony appears to be corroborated by that of Primitivo Gonzalez, a witness for the prosecution and relative of Exequiel Castillo, for Gonzalez positively declared that Panganiban was beside him during the occurrence of the fight and when the others surrounded the said Exequiel Castillo; it is, therefore, neither probable nor possible that Panganiban engaged in the affray, and so he contracted no responsibility whatever.
Exequiel Castillo’s wounds were very serious, but, in view of the fact that conclusive proof was adduced at the trial, of the attendance of the requisites prescribed in Nos. 4 and 5 of article 8 of the Penal Code, in favor of those who inflicted the said wounds, it is proper to apply to this case the provision contained in the next to the last paragraph of rule 51 of the provisional law for the application of the said code.
With respect to the classification of the crime we believe that there is no need for us to concern ourselves therewith in this decision, in view of the findings of fact and of law made by the court below upon the question of the liability of the defendants.
By reason, therefore, of all the foregoing, we are of opinion that, with a reversal of the judgment appealed from, we should acquit, as we do hereby, the defendants Jose Laurel, Vicente Garcia, Conrado Laurel, and Domingo Panganiban. They have committed no crime, and we exempt them from all responsibility. The costs of both instances shall be de oficio, and the bond given in behalf of the defendants shall immediately be canceled.
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, plaintiff-appellee,
NARCISO CABUNGCAL, defendant-appellant.
The appellant, Narciso Cabungcal, was sentenced by the Court of First Instance of Tayabas for the crime of homicide to fourteen years, eight months and one day reclusion temporal, with the accessories of the law, to indemnify the heirs of the deceased in the sum of P500 and to pay the costs of the action.
On March 21, 1926 the appellant invited several persons to a picnic in a fishery of his property in thebarrio of Misua, municipality of Infanta, Province of Tayabas. They spent the day at said fishery and in the afternoon returned in two boats, one steered by the appellant and the other by an old woman named Anastasia Penaojas. Nine persons were in the boat steered by the appellant, the great majority of whom were women and among them the appellant’s wife and son and a nursing child, son of a married couple who had also gone in this boat. The deceased Juan Loquenario was another passenger in this boat. Upon reaching a place of great depth the deceased rocked the boat which started it to take water, and the appellant, fearing the boat might capsize, asked the deceased not to do it. As the deceased paid no attention to this warning and continued rocking the boat, the appellant struck him on the forehead with an oar. The deceased fell into the water and was submerged, but a little while after appeared on the surface having grasped the side of the boat, saying that he was going to capzise it and started to move it with this end in view, seeing which the women began to cry, whereupon the appellant struck him on the neck with the same oar, which submerged the deceased again. With the movement that the appellant made in giving him the second blow, the boat upset and then the appellant proceeded to save his passengers. In the meantime the aged Anastasia Penaojas, who steered the other boat, and who at that time was about 200 or 300 meters away, having heard the cries of the wrecked persons, quickened its speed, repaired to and arrived in time to pick up the passengers who are clinging to the side of the capsized boat, taking them later to the river bank. The appellant, after having thus saved his passengers, proceeded to search for the deceased but was unable to find him and his body was recovered later.
The Attorney-General is of the opinion that the mitigating circumstances described in the first, third, fourth and seventh paragraphs of article 9 of the Penal Code are present without any aggravating circumstance, and the penalty to be imposed on the appellant should be one or two degrees less than that prescribed by the law.
In view of the facts stated, we are of the opinion that the appellant is completely exempt from all criminal liability.
Due to the conditions of the river at the point where the deceased started to rock the boat, if it had capsized the passengers would have run the risk of losing their lives, the majority of whom were women, especially the nursing child. The conduct of the deceased in rocking the boat until the point of it having taken water and his insistence on this action, in spite of the appellant’s warning, gave rise to the belief on the part of the plaintiff that it would capsize if he did not separate the deceased from the boat in such a manner as to give him no time to accomplish his purpose. It was necessary to disable him momentarily. For this purpose the blow given him by the appellant on the forehead with an oar was the least that could reasonably have been done. And this consideration militates with greater weight with respect to the second blow given in his neck with the same oar, because, then the danger was greater that the boat might upset, especially as the deceased had expressed his intention to upset it.
In view of all the circumstances of the case, in doing what the appellant did was in lawful defense of the lives of the passengers of the boat, two of whom were his wife and child. The recourse of taking the boat to the shore was not adequate in those circumstances, because that would require sometime, whereas the deceased might in an instant cause the boat to capsize without giving time to arrive at the shore.
The appellant having acted in defense of his wife and child and the other passengers in the boat and the means employed having been reasonably necessary in this defense, while it was at the cost of the life of the deceased, he is completely exempt from criminal liability.
Reversing the judgment appealed from, the appellant is acquitted, with the costs de oficio. So ordered.
Johnson, Street, Malcolm, Villamor, Ostrand, Romualdez and Villa-Real, JJ., concur.
Mahawan v PeopleFacts:
On October 5, 1996 at about 3 P.M., Diosdada Paradero was tending to her store when FernandoMahawan (petitioner) arrived and asked for a bottle of beer. The former told the latter that there was no more beer. When Paradero was about to open the refrigerator to show the petitioner that there was really no beer, the latter sneaked inside the store. The lady closed the refrigerator door and faced the petitioner. Suddenly, the petitioner pulled put his gun and shot her at the left chest. Paradero fell down. When the petitioner was going near, Paradero grabbed a knife to defend herself. The petitioner fired his gun again but this time merely grazing the left ear of Paradero. Petitioner snatched the knife from her hand and then fled. Paradero underwent operation as her vital organs were hit by the trajectory of the bullet. Being convicted for frustrated homicide, the petitioner tried to invoke self-defense.
Whether or not self-defense can be invoked by the petitioner in this case.
Self-defense cannot be invoked since the petitioner failed to establish the concurrence of the three elements necessary to prove its existence.
The burden of proof lies on the person claiming self defense. To be able prove the existence of self-defense, three elements must concur:
. Petitioner went to the store and asked for beer. Upon knowing that there was already none, he confronted Paradero and shot his gun at her. From the given facts, it can be deduced that during the encounter, the petitioner was clearly the ‘aggressor’. Furthermore, the stark contrast between the injuries incurred by either parties (Paradero incurring fatal wounds and petitioner merely incurring slashes)militate against petitioner’s claim of unlawful aggression on the part of Paradero.
Reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it.
In the case at bar, it can be clearly seen that there was no reasonable necessity to shoot Paradero since she was merely tending to her store. It is also worth noting the discrepancy between Paradero and the petitioner in terms of height, built, and the difference in sex.
Moreover, even alluding to the petitioner’s version of events, there is still no reasonable necessity on his part. He claimed that they were outside when the event happened. He could have runaway and called for the police or his neighbors. And since Paradero was merely holding a knife, he could have made a warning shot first instead of immediately firing at the victim’s chest. In sum, he could have employed less harmful ways to defend himself.
Lack of sufficient provocation
. It was already mentioned that the petitioner fired his gun at the lady. The latter merely used the knife for self-defense. Clearly, the petitioner provoked Paradero and not the other way around
MAHAWAN vs PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINESG.R. No. 176609FACTS:
Private complainant Diosdada S. Paradero operates a store on the ground floor of her house in B. Aranas Extension, Cebu City. On 5 October 1996, Paradero was tending her store when petitioner
Fernando Estabas Mahawan arrived and asked her for a bottle of beer. She told petitioner that there was no more beer. When she was about to open the refrigerator in the store to show petitioner that there was really no more beer, petitioner sneaked inside the store. Suddenly, petitioner pulled out a gun (caliber .38 revolver) and shot her on the left chest. She retreated and fell on the ground. Private complainant grabbed a kitchen knife nearby to defend herself. Petitioner shot Paradero again but the bullet this time merely grazed her left earlobe. Petitioner snatched the kitchen knife from her hand and escaped from the store.
Paradero’s sister and some neighbors brought her to Chong Hua Hospital where the gunshot wound in her left chest was treated. She also underwent a surgical operation on her colon, liver and diaphragm as these vital organs were hit by the trajectory of the bullet. After the incident, petitioner immediately went to his brother’s house and thereupon called via telephone a policeman named SPO2Quevedo. He told SPO2 Quevedo that he wanted to surrender. On 18 October 1996, Information was filed before the RTC charging petitioner with frustrated homicide.
(1) Whether or not petitioner failed to establish unlawful aggression on the part of Paradero(2) Whether or not second and third elements of self-defense are wanting in the case at bar(3) Whether or not petitioner had intent to kill
(1) Yes, petitioner failed to establish unlawful aggression on the part of Paradero. The fact that petitioner sustained injuries on his hand and stomach, allegedly caused by Paradero’s knife, does not signify that he was a victim of unlawful aggression. The medical certificate presented by petitioner states that the latter sustained incised wounds on the 2nd and 5th fingers measuring 2 centimeters and abdominal abrasion measuring 2.5 centimeters. Petitioner was discharged on the same day he was treated in the hospital. It is clear from the foregoing that the injuries he sustained were not serious or severe. The superficiality of the injuries was not an indication that his life and limb were in actual peril.(2) Yes, both second and third elements are wanting in the case. Second Element: Reasonable means employed to prevent or repel it. The second element of self-defense requires that the means employed by the person defending himself must be reasonably necessary to prevent or repel the unlawful aggression of the victim.
There was no reason or necessity for petitioner to shoot Paradero with a gun. Paradero was merely tending her store and did not attack or place in danger the life of petitioner during the incident. Further, when Paradero allegedly approached and tried to stab him, petitioner was not trapped or cornered in a specific area such that he had no way out. Third Element: Lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person making the defense. Petitioner shot Paradero when she told him there was no more stock of cigarettes. Paradero then was forced to grab a knife to defend herself. Clearly, petitioner provoked Paradero and not the other way around. Hence, the element of lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person making the defense is also wanting in the present case.(3) Yes, there was intent to kill on the part of the petitioner. An essential element of homicide, whether in its consummated, frustrated or attempted stage, is intent of the offender to kill the victim immediately before or simultaneously with the infliction of injuries. The injury on Paradero’s colon was fatal and would have caused her death were it not for the timely medical attention given her.
The seriousness of Paradero’s injuries was also shown by the fact that she was confined and operated on twice in different hospitals for the wound sustained in the colon. Verily, the foregoing circumstances clearly manifest intent to kill on the part of petitioner
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
TEODORO SABIO, defendant-appellant.
At about six p.m. of April 12, 1963, Teodoro Sabio was squatting with a friend, Irving Jurilla, in the plaza of Central Manapla, Manapla, Negros Occidental. Romeo Bacobo and two others – Ruben Miñosa and Leonardo Garcia – approached them. All of them were close and old friends.
Romeo Bacobo then asked Sabio where he spent the holy week. At the same time, he gave Sabio a “footkick greeting”, touching Sabio’s foot with his own left foot. Sabio thereupon stood up and dealt Romeo Bacobo a fist blow, inflicting upon him a lacerated wound, 3/4 inch long, at the upper lid of the left eye. It took from 11 to 12 days to heal and prevented Romeo Bacobo from working during said period as employee of Victorias Milling Co., Inc.
Sabio was thereafter prosecuted for less serious physical injuries. In the municipal court he was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment of 5 months and 10 days plus costs. In the Court of First Instance, however, to which he appealed, he was found guilty but with the mitigating circumstance of provocation, so that the penalty imposed was one (1) month and five (5) days of arresto mayor plus indemnity of P100 and costs.1äwphï1.ñët
Defendant appealed from this judgment to Us to raise as a pure question of law the sole issue of whether, under the facts is determined below, a fist blow delivered in retaliation to a “foot-kick greeting” is an act of self-defense and/or justifying circumstance entitling the accused to acquittal and relief from all liabilities, civil and criminal.
A primordial requisite for self-defense is unlawful aggression (Art. 11, Rev. Penal Code). And for unlawful, aggression to be present, there must be real danger to life or personal safety (People vs. Beatriz Yuman, 61 Phil. 786). For this reason, a mere push or a shove, not followed by other acts, has been held insufficient to constitute unlawful aggression (People vs. Yuman, supra). A playful kick – the lower court rejected defendant’s claim that it was a “vicious kick” – at the foot my way of greeting between friends may be a practical joke, and may even hurt; but it is not a serious or real attack on a person’s safety. Appellant’s submission that it amounts to unlawful aggression cannot therefore be sustained. As rightly found by the Court of First Instance, such kick was only a mere slight provocation.
Reference is made to a decision of the Supreme Court of Spain (prom. Jan. 20, 1904, 72 Jur. Crim. 123-125), considering a slap on the face an unlawful aggression. No parity lies between said case and the present. Since the face represents a person and his dignity, slapping, it is a serious personal attack. It is a physical assault coupled with a willful disregard, nay, a defiance, of in individual’s personality. It may therefore be frequently regarded as placing in real danger a person’s dignity, rights and safety. A friendly kick delivered on a person’s foot obviously falls short of such personal aggression.
Wherefore, the judgment appealed from is hereby affirmed in toto. Costs against appellant. So ordered.
Petitioner PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES
This case comes before this Court as an appeal, by way of a Petition for Review on Certiorariunder Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, from the Decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the conviction of herein petitioner, Ladislao Espinosa, for the crime of Serious Physical Injuries under the third paragraph of Article 263 of the Revised Penal Code. The dispositive portion of the assailed decision reads:
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Iba, Zambales, Branch 71 dated 30 March 2005, finding appellant Ladislao Espinosa GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime ofSERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURIES is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that he will suffer the straight penalty of six (6) months of Arresto Mayor and pay the amount of P54,925.50 as actual damages.
With costs against accused-appellant.
The undisputed facts of the case, as found by the Regional Trial Court, and as confirmed by the Court of Appeals on appeal, may be so summarized:
On 6 August 2000, at about 10 o’clock in the evening, private complainant Andy Merto, bearing a grudge against the petitioner, went to the house of the latter in the Municipality of Sta. Cruz, Zambales. While standing outside the house, private complainant Merto shouted violent threats, challenging the petitioner to face him outside.
Sensing the private complainant’s agitated state and fearing for the safety of his family, petitioner went out of his house to reason with and pacify Merto. However, as soon as he drew near the private complainant, the latter hurled a stone at the petitioner. The petitioner was able to duck just in time to avoid getting hit and instinctively retaliated by hitting the left leg of the private complainant with a boloscabbard. The private complainant fell to the ground. Petitioner then continuously mauled the private complainant with a bolo scabbard, until the latter’s cousin, Rodolfo Muya, restrained him.
As a consequence of the incident, private complainant Merto sustained two (2) bone fractures, one in his left leg and another in his left wrist. It took about six (6) months for these injuries to completely heal.
On 22 September 2000, petitioner was originally charged with Frustrated Homicide, under an Information which reads as follows:
That on or about the 6th day of August 2006 at about 10 o’clock in the evening, at Brgy.Pagatpat, in the Municipality of Sta. Cruz, Province of Zambales, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, with treachery, evide[nt] premeditation and intent to kill, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, assault, attack and hack several times one Andy Merto, thereby inflicting upon the latter the following physical injuries, to wit:
1. Fracture open III A P/3 Tibia left secondary to Hacking Wound;
2. Incised wound, wrist joint with Incised Extensor Pollicis Brevis Tendon, Left S/P F Debridement Right Wrist S/P Long Circular Cast, Left
thus performing all the acts of execution which would produce the crime of murder as a consequence, but nevertheless, did not produce it by reason of causes independent of his will, that is by the timely and able medical assistance rendered to said Andy Merto which prevented his death.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Petitioner pleaded not guilty, and trial thereafter ensued.
On 14 December 2004, the Regional Trial Court of Iba, Zambales, Branch 71, convicted petitioner only of Serious Physical Injuries under the third paragraph of Article 263 of the Revised Penal Code, noting that the prosecution had failed to prove the element of “intent to kill,” which is necessary to a conviction for Frustrated Homicide. The dispositive portion of the ruling reads:
WHEREFORE premises considered, judgment is rendered finding accused Ladislao Espinosa GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Serious Physical Injuries defined and penalized under Art. 263, paragraph 3 of the Revised Penal Code and is hereby sentenced [to] suffer the penalty of six (6) months of Arresto Mayor as minimum to two (2) years, eleven (11) months and ten (10) days ofprision correccional as maximum. Accused is ordered to pay private complainant Andy Merto the amount of P54,925.50 as and by way of actual damages.
Undeterred, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated 7 February 2005, before the trial court, invoking for the first time complete self-defense, under the first paragraph of Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code. In a Resolution dated 30 March 2005, the trial court denied petitioner’s motion for reconsideration holding that self-defense cannot be appreciated to justify the act of petitioner. The trial court cites the means adopted by the petitioner in repelling the attack as not reasonably necessary in view of the surrounding circumstances and the severity of the victim’s injuries.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction with the modification that the penalty imposed by the trial court should be lowered by one degree in accordance with the privileged mitigating circumstance of incomplete self-defense under Article 69 of the Revised Penal Code. Consequently, the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the petitioner was also denied by the Court of Appeals via a Resolution dated 4 January 2008.
Hence, this appeal.
The sole issue raised in this appeal is whether under the set of facts given in this case, complete self-defense may be appreciated in favor of the petitioner.
The Ruling of the Court
The Court rules in the negative.
The requirements of self-defense as a justifying circumstance are found in the first paragraph of Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code, to wit:
Article 11. Justifying circumstances. – The following do not incur any criminal liability:
1. Anyone who acts in defense of his person or rights, provided that the following requisites concur:
First. Unlawful aggression;
Second. Reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it;
Third. Lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.
In their decisions, both the trial court and the Court of Appeals found that the first and third elements of self-defense are present in the case at bar. This finding was never questioned by either of the parties and, as such, may be taken as established for purposes of this appeal. Nonetheless, to dispel any doubts, the Court hereby affirms the existence of the first and third elements of self-defense, based on the following reasons:
First, unlawful aggression on the part of private complainant Merto was manifested by his attack upon the person of the petitioner in throwing a stone at the latter. This sudden and unexpected assault posed actual danger on the life or limb of the petitioner, prompting the latter to take steps in his defense. To the mind of the Court, this is an offensive positively strong enough to be the basis for a defensive action.
Second, there is lack of sufficient, if not total absence of, provocation on the part of the petitioner. The facts are clear that it is private complainant Merto who invited the confrontation with petitioner-by shouting violent threats at the latter.
The argumentation is on the existence of the second element, i.e., reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel the unlawful aggression. The trial court and the Court of Appeals were in agreement that the means employed by the petitioner in conducting his defense is disproportionate to what was necessary to prevent or deter the attack of private complainant Merto.
In arguing that the means employed was reasonable to repel the unlawful aggression, the petitioner invokes the application of the “doctrine of rational equivalence,” delineated in People v. Gutual, to wit:
x x x It is settled that reasonable necessity of the means employed does not imply material commensurability between the means of attack and defense. What the law requires is rational equivalence, in the consideration of which will enter the principal factors the emergency, the imminent danger to which the person attacked is exposed, and the instinct, more than the reason, that moves or impels the defense, and the proportionateness thereof does not depend upon the harm done, but rests upon the imminent danger of such injury. (Emphasis supplied)
Tersely put, petitioner contends that the trial court and the Court of Appeals erred in citing the severity of the injuries sustained by private complainant Merto, as an indicator that belies the reasonableness of the means adopted by the former to repel the attack of the latter. Instead, petitioner wants to place emphasis on the fact that he merely acted out of instinct and that he used a bolo scabbard-as opposed to using the bolo itself-in incapacitating the private complainant.
The Court is not impressed.
The very application of the doctrine of rational equivalence, invoked by the petitioner, militates against his claim. The doctrine of rational equivalence presupposes the consideration not only of the nature and quality of the weapons used by the defender and the assailant-but of the totality of circumstances surrounding the defense vis-à-vis, the unlawful aggression.
Significantly, a perusal of the facts shows that after petitioner was successful in taking down private complainant Merto-the former continued to hack the latter, who was, by then, already neutralized by the blow. This fact was clearly established by the testimony of Rodolfo Muya, who recounted having seen the petitioner continuously hacking the private complainant with the boloscabbard, even as the latter lay almost motionless upon the muddy ground. Clearly, this “continuous hacking” by the petitioner constitutes force beyond what is reasonably required to repel the private complainant’s attack-and is therefore unjustified.
People v. Beltran, Jr., which also involves repetitious hacking by the accused even after the aggressor had been neutralized, is especially instructive:
The act of appellant in repeatedly hacking Norman on his head and neck was not a reasonable and necessary means of repelling the aggression allegedly initiated by the latter. As stated earlier, no convincing evidence was presented to show that Norman was armed with an ice-pick at the time of the incident. In fact, no ice-pick was found in the crime scene or in the body of the victim. There was also no proof showing that Norman attempted to stab appellant or tried to barge into the latter’s house. Granting arguendo that Norman was armed with an ice-pick, the repeated hackings were not necessary since he can overpower or disable Norman by a single blow on non-vital portion/s of his body.
Again, as correctly observed by the OSG, had the appellant merely wanted to protect himself from what he perceived as an unlawful aggression of Norman, he could have just disabled Norman.When Norman fell on the ground, appellant should have ceased hacking the former since the alleged aggression or danger no longer exists. By appellant’s own testimony, however, he hacked Norman with his bolo even when the latter was already lying on the ground. It appears, therefore, that the means used by appellant, which were simultaneous and repeated hackings, were adopted by him not only to repel the aggression of Norman but to ensure the latter’s death. In sum, such act failed to pass the test of reasonableness of the means employed in preventing or repelling an unlawful aggression. (Emphasis supplied)
Notwithstanding the fact that the petitioner merely used a scabbard in fending off the unlawful aggression-the totality of the circumstances shows that after the aggressor was taken down to the ground, the petitioner ceased to be motivated with the lawful desire of defending himself. He was, by then, acting with intent to harm the private complainant whose aggression had already ceased.
Finally, in trying to disprove the testimony of Rodolfo Muya that there was “continuous hacking,” the petitioner also posits that the injuries sustained by the private complainant could not have been serious enough to be the product of repeated hacks, and claims that the same are merely a product of a single blow. This contention has had ample study and consideration in the trial court and in the Court of Appeals. It deserves no further ado.
As to whether the fractures suffered by the private complainant resulted from a single blow or a product of multiple hackings is a question of fact best left to the judgment of the trial court. It is a well-settled principle that factual findings of the trial court-especially if already affirmed by an appellate court-are binding and conclusive upon this Court, save only for certain compelling reasons which are absent in this case. Hence, the Court refuses to disturb the facts, and defers to the determination of the Regional Trial Court and of the Court of Appeals.
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DENIED for lack of merit. Accordingly, the appealed Decision of the Court of Appeals, dated 25 September 2007, in CA-G.R. CR No. 29633 is herebyAFFIRMED IN TOTO. No pronouncement as to costs.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. ALEJANDRO CAMPOS y ARMADO, RENATO DE LA CRUZ y BORAC, accused.
The case is an appeal from the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Caloocan City, Branch 124, convicting Alejandro Campos y Armado and Renato dela Cruz y Borac of robbery with homicide with frustrated homicide, and sentencing each of them to reclusion perpetua and to indemnify jointly and severally Felipa Jacobe in the amount of P30,000.00 for burial expenses of Mercelina Alfaro Jacobe, the amount of P60,000.00 for hospital expenses of Felicidad Alfaro, and the amount of P10,000.00 representing the amount stolen from the victims, and to pay the costs.
On August 18, 1989, Assistant City Fiscal Bartolome G. Viola, Jr. filed with the Regional Trial Court, Caloocan City, an information charging Alejandro Campos y Armado and Renato dela Cruz y Borac with robbery with homicide, committed as follows:
“That on or about the 17th day of August 1989, in Kalookan City, Metro-Manila and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring together and mutually helping one another, with intent to gain and by means of force, violence and intimidation employed on the person of one MERCELINA ALFARO DE JACOBE, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously take, rob and carry away cash money amounting to P10,000.00 belonging to said complainant, to the damage and prejudice of the latter in the aforestated amount of P10,000.00; that on the occasion of the said robbery and for the purpose of enabling them to take, rob and carry away the said amount of P10,000.00, the herein accused in pursuance of their conspiracy did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously with intent to kill the victim, attack and stab on the different vital parts of the body, thereby inflicting upon said MERCELINA ALFARO DE JACOBE, serious physical injuries, which directly caused her death; and also with deliberate intent to kill, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab with a bladed instrument on the vital parts of the body one FELICIDAD ALFARO y CRUZ, thus, performing all the acts of execution which would have produced the crime of Homicide as a consequence, but which nevertheless did not produce it by reason of causes independent of the will of the herein accused, that is due to the timely, able and efficient medical attendance rendered the victim at the Quezon City General Hospital, which prevented the victim’s death.
“CONTRARY TO LAW.”
On August 29, 1989, at the arraignment, both accused pleaded not guilty.
Felicidad Alfaro and Mercelina Alfaro Jacobe resided inside Maxim’s Mini Mart at Cefel’s Park Subdivision, Tala, Novaliches, Caloocan City. Beside the mini mart was Cefel’s General Merchandise, a hardware store owned by Felipa Jacobe, the mother-in-law of Mercelina Alfaro Jacobe.
On August 16, 1989, at around 10:00 in the evening, Felicidad and Mercelina prepared to sleep. Their bedroom and the kitchen were located inside the mini mart. Felicidad turned off all lights in the store except the kitchen light. Mercelina laid on the bed with her two-year old son, Christopher, while Felicidad laid on the floor beside them.
At around midnight, Felicidad roused from her sleep and stood up. Suddenly, someone stabbed her on her left arm. She started to shout as her assailant continued to stab her. She was hit on her abdomen, left arm, and left side. She fell to the floor in a sitting position and she looked at the person who stabbed her. She recognized accused Alejandro Campos, who worked at the neighboring gravel and sand area and frequented their store to buy gas. She also noticed accused Renato dela Cruz standing near the door of the room. She knew accused dela Cruz because they used to work together in the Cefel’s General Merchandise Store, a hardware store adjacent to the mini-mart.
Suddenly, accused Campos moved towards Mercelina and started stabbing her. Mercelina, still lying on the bed, woke up and shouted for help. Accused Campos kept stabbing her.
Thereafter, the two accused left hurriedly, exiting through the storeroom of the minimart.
At around midnight of August 17, 1989, Barangay Captain Federico Hallig was inside the Barangay Hall at Malaria, Tala, Caloocan City together with Barangay Tanods Romulo Meglares, Jesus Sienda, Marcos Manalo and Maximo Baylon. Suddenly, they saw a man running outside the barangay hall with blood on his chest and on his short pants. The man was holding a kitchen knife about eleven inches long. After questioning the man, who identified himself as Alejandro Campos, the barangay officials brought him to the police station.
Meanwhile, Felicidad, though wounded, managed to call for help from her mother-in-law, Felipa Jacobe, who resided beside the store. Felicidad was brought to Tala Hospital but was later transferred to Quezon City General Hospital. Mercelina was taken to Tala Hospital. She was pronounced dead on arrival.
Dr. Amancio Angustia of the Quezon City General Hospital found that Felicidad Alfaro had several stab wounds on the chest and a fractured left arm. Two teams of surgeons immediately operated on Felicidad, thereby saving her life.
Dr. Dario Gajardo of the medico-legal unit of the Philippine Constabulary Crime Laboratory conducted an autopsy on the body of Mercelina Alfaro Jacobo. He found eight stab wounds on different parts of the body of the deceased. He also found internal injuries in the heart, right lung, liver, stomach and the diaphragm. The cause of death was cardio-respiratory arrest due to shock and hemorrhage secondary to multiple stab wounds.
On August 17, 1989, Felicidad, still in her hospital bed, asked her father, Ramon Alfaro, to look for a bag containing money, amounting to ten thousand (P10,000.00) pesos, from the store. Ramon Alfaro went to the store and found the bag on the floor, empty.
That afternoon, policemen brought accused dela Cruz and accused Campos to Felicidad. Felicidad identified accused Campos and accused dela Cruz as the persons who entered the room in the early morning of August 17, 1989 and stabbed her and her sister.
Accused Alejandro Campos denied any participation in the stabbing incident. He testified that at that time, he was at home in Malaria, Ilang-Ilang Street, Tala, Caloocan City.
Upon further questioning, accused Alejandro Campos admitted that he went to the mini-mart on the evening of August 16, 1989, at the call of accused Renato dela Cruz. Accused Campos claimed that he stayed outside the store when accused dela Cruz entered the minimart. Moments later, accused Campos heard shouts of women inside and saw accused dela Cruz emerge from the store. Accused dela Cruz entrusted a knife into the hands of accused Campos and told him to keep it. Accused Campos walked away from the store, holding the knife. He failed to notice that the knife was bloodied. Later, barangay officials intercepted him and brought him to police headquarters for questioning.
Accused Renato dela Cruz, driver and caretaker of the hardware store owned by Felipa Jacobe, denied any involvement in the crime. He alleged that Alejandro Campos implicated him in this serious crime because the latter was envious that he was receiving a higher salary than the other employees of Felipa Jacobe. He claimed that at around 9:00 in the evening of August 16, 1989, he was at his residence, 40 meters away from the minimart, on the night in question. He played several games of Russian poker or pusoy with his friends until 11:00 in the evening when his wife told him to go to sleep. At around 1:00 in the morning, his wife woke him up because somebody was calling him outside their house. When accused dela Cruz opened the door, he saw several policemen who told him that Mrs. Felipa Jacobe wanted to see him. He went with the policemen but later realized that he was being taken to the police station. There, the policemen informed him that something happened to Mercelina and Felicidad Alfaro. Accused dela Cruz stated that he knew nothing about the incident. Later, policemen took him to the hospital where Felicidad Alfaro was lying unconscious. Accused dela Cruz saw Patrolman Antonio Paras attempting to talk to Felicidad. Later, accused dela Cruz and the policemen left the hospital. Accused dela Cruz did not see Felicidad point to him as one of the suspects. It was only Pat. Antonio Paras who told him that Felicidad identified him as one of the suspects.
On October 24, 1990, the trial court rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of which states:
“WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, this Court finds the accused Alejandro Campos y Armado and Renato dela Cruz y Borac guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Robbery with Homicide with Frustrated Homicide as charged and hereby sentences each accused to suffer imprisonment of RECLUSION PERPETUA. Both accused are also directed to indemnify jointly and severally Felipa Jacobe the amount of P30,000.00 for shouldering the burial and miscellaneous expenses of Mercelina Alfaro Jacobe, the amount of P60,000.00 for shouldering the hospitalization, operation and the purchase of medicine in the treatment of Felicidad Alfaro and to jointly and severally indemnify the heirs of Mercelina Alfaro Jacobe the amount of P10,000.00 which was stolen from Mercelina Alfaro. Both accused are also directed to pay the costs.
“Both of the accused shall be entitled to be credited with the full period of their preventive imprisonment pursuant to Art. 29 of the Revised Penal Code provided the requirements listed therein have been complied with.
“Promulgated in open court on this 24th day of October 1990 at Kalookan City, Metro Manila.
Only accused Renato dela Cruz appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.
Accused-appellant Renato dela Cruz contended that the trial court erred in convicting him because his participation in the crime was not clearly established. The prosecution witness failed to see anyone taking the contents of the bag containing the store earnings. The prosecution also failed to prove conspiracy between the two accused in the stabbing incident.
In order to be convicted of robbery with homicide, four (4) elements are necessary: (a) the taking of personal property with the use of violence or intimidation against the person; (b) the property taken belongs to another; (c) the taking is characterized by intent to gain or animus lucrandi; and, (d) on the occasion of the robbery or by reason thereof the crime of homicide was committed.
We find insufficient evidence to show that accused-appellant dela Cruz was guilty of the first three elements of robbery with homicide. In robbery with homicide cases, the robbery itself must be proved as conclusively as any other essential element of the crime. Robbery is the taking of personal property belonging to another, with intent to gain, by means of violence against or intimidation of any person or by using force upon things. In this case, all that the witness Felicidad saw that night was the stabbing of her sister, not the taking of personal property. The taking cannot be assumed from the actions of accused-appellant as seen by Felicidad. She saw him at the doorway and then noticed him running out the store after the stabbing occurred. Felicidad claimed that the bag purportedly containing money was recovered empty the next day. However, it was undisputed that various persons had entered the store of the victims after the incident, including investigators and onlookers. The bag was not conclusively shown to contain money nor was the money ever recovered. Further, there was no substantial link from the loss of the contents of the bag to the accused, for the money was never seen in the possession of the accused.
Thus, accused may not be held liable for robbery.
Regarding the stabbing involving Felicidad and Mercelina, the testimony of one of the victims, namely, Felicidad, who survived the stabbing, becomes crucial.
Felicidad categorically stated that accused Campos stabbed her and her sister. “The most natural reaction of victims of violence is to strive to look at the appearance of the perpetrators of the crime and observe the manner in which the crime is being committed.” Even as she fell to the floor, Felicidad endeavored to see the identity of her assailant. She saw accused Campos as he stabbed her at close range and watched as he moved on to stab her sister.
However, accused-appellant dela Cruz alleged that the prosecution witness failed to establish his actual participation in the stabbing of Felicidad and Mercelina, as well as his overt acts that tended to show his conspiracy with accused Campos. We agree.
Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. Direct proof is not essential to prove conspiracy; however, the evidence to prove the same must be positive and convincing. Similar to the physical act constituting the crime itself, the conspiracy must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. It must be founded on facts, not on mere surmises or conjectures.
In this case, there was no clear indication of the existence of conspiracy. First, eyewitness’ identification of accused-appellant at the scene of the crime was not clear. Although the witness was familiar with the accused-appellant, the lack of lighting in the store at the time left doubt as to her proper identification of accused-appellant, who was several meters away from her. Second, Felicidad merely stated that she saw him standing by the door of the store. Mere presence at the scene of the crime is insufficient to prove conspiracy. A conspirator must perform an overt act in furtherance of the plan to commit a felony; mere presence at the scene of the incident, knowledge of the plan or acquiescence thereto are not sufficient grounds to hold a person liable as a conspirator. Mere presence, knowledge, acquiescence to 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.
Undoubtedly, accused-appellant did not stab Felicidad and Mercelina. Considering the scant evidence showing conspiracy and accused-appellant’s involvement in the stabbing incident, accused-appellant can not be convicted of the crime charged. It is axiomatic that the accused is accorded in his favor the disputable presumption of innocence.Unless the guilt of the accused is proven beyond reasonable doubt, the constitutional presumption of innocence applies.
WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Caloocan City, Branch 124, convicting accused-appellant Renato dela Cruz y Borac of robbery with homicide. Accused-appellant Renato dela Cruz is hereby ACQUITTED on reasonable doubt and is ordered released immediately from confinement unless he is held for another case.