1. CRIMINAL LAW; AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCE; EVIDENT PRE-MEDITATION; ELEMENTS. — Very familiar by now to members of the legal profession are the elements which need to be proven before evident premeditation can be appreciated . These are: (1) the time when the accused decided to commit the crime; (2) an overt act manifestly indicating that the accused had clung to his determination to commit the crime; and (3) a sufficient lapse of time between the decision to commit the crime and the execution thereof, to allow the accused to reflect upon the consequences of his act. Mere lapse of time is not enough, however, because premeditation is not presumed from the mere lapse of time. It must be "evident" from his overt act.
2. ID., MITIGATING; CIRCUMSTANCE; VOLUNTARY SURRENDER; ELEMENTS. — In order to appreciate voluntary surrender by an accused the same must be shown to have been spontaneous and made in such a manner that it shows the intent of the accused to surrender unconditionally to the authorities, either because he acknowledges his guilt or he wishes to save them the trouble and expense necessarily incurred in his search and capture . In the absence of any of these reasons, and in the event that the only reason for an accused’s supposed surrender is to ensure his safety, his arrest being inevitable, the surrender is not spontaneous and, hence, not voluntary. The fact alone that he did not resist but went peacefully with the lawmen does not mean that he voluntarily surrendered.
3. ID.; ID.; PHYSICAL DEFECT TO BE APPRECIATED MUST BE SHOWN TO LIMIT THE ACCUSED MEANS TO ACT, DEFEND HIMSELF, OR COMMUNICATE. — The fact that appellant suffers from a physical defect, a severed left hand, does not mean that he should automatically be credited with the mitigating circumstance contained in paragraph 8, Article 13 of the Revised Penal Code. In order for his condition to be appreciated, it must be shown that such physical defect limited his means to act, defend himself or communicate with his fellow beings to such an extent that he did not have complete freedom of action, consequently resulting in diminution of the element of voluntariness. Such cannot be appreciated in the case at bat- where the appellant’s physical condition clearly did not limit his means of action, defense or communication, nor affect his free will.
4. ID.; JUSTIFYING CIRCUMSTANCE; SELF-DEFENSE; UNLAWFUL AGGRESSION IS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT THEREOF. — Equally well-known and well-understood by now are the requirements in order for self-defense to be appreciated. The accused must prove that there was unlawful aggression by the victim, that the means employed to prevent or repel the unlawful aggression were reasonable, and that there was lack of sufficient provocation on his part. Unlawful aggression is indispensable in self-defense, complete or otherwise. When unlawful aggression (by the victim) alone is proved, such incomplete self-defense is to be appreciated as an ordinary mitigating circumstance under Article 13, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code. When it is combined with another element of self-defense such incomplete self-defense becomes a privileged mitigating circumstance under Article 69 of the same Code.
5. ID.; ID.; ID.; THE PRESENCE OF A LARGE NUMBER OF WOUNDS NEGATES SELF-DEFENSE. — It is an oft-repeated rule that the presence of a large number of wounds on the part of the victim negate self-defense: instead it indicates a determined effort to kill the victim.
6. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; FINDINGS OF THE TRIAL COURT; SHOULD NOT BE DISTURBED ON APPEAL: EXCEPTION. — Jurisprudence teaches us that the findings of the trial court judge who tried the case and heard the witnesses are not to be disturbed on appeal unless there are substantial facts and circumstances which have been overlooked and which, if properly considered, might affect the result of the case. The trial judge’s evaluation of the witness’ credibility deserves utmost respect in the arbitrariness. Furthermore, conclusions and findings of the trial court are entitled to great weight on appeal and should not be disturbed unless for strong and valid reasons because the trial court is in a better position to examine the demeanor of the witnesses while testifying on the case.
7. ID.; ID.; THE BURDEN SHIFTS TO THE ACCUSED TO PROVE THAT THE KILLING WAS JUSTIFIED. — It is hornbook doctrine that when self-defense is invoked, the burden of evidence shifts to the appellant to show that the killing was justified and that he incurred no criminal liability therefor. He must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of the prosecution’s evidence, for, even if the latter were weak, it could not be disbelieved after his open admission of responsibility for the killing.
In deciding this appeal, the Court finds occasion to reiterate some well-settled doctrines in appreciating evident premeditation as a qualifying circumstance in the crime of murder, and in evaluating claims of self-defense, voluntary surrender and physical defect.
This is an appeal from the decision 1 dated September 6, 1991 of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig, Metro Manila, National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 164, 2 in Criminal Case No. 85155, convicting accused Rogelio Deopante y Carillo of the crime of murder and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua
On January 11, 1991, an Information 3 was filed against the appellant charging him as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"That on or about the 10th day of January, 1991, in the Municipality of Pasig, Metro Manila, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a fan knife (balisong), with intent to kill and with evident premeditation and treachery did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously stab with a fan knife one Dante Deopante on the different parts of his body, thereby inflicting upon the latter mortal wounds which directly caused his death.
Contrary to law."cralaw virtua1aw library
Arraigned on March 8, 1991, the accused, assisted by counsel de oficio, pleaded not guilty to the charge. 4
According to the Prosecution
The facts as summarized by the Solicitor General, who added the page references to the transcript of stenographic notes, are as follows: 5
"At around nine o’clock in the evening (9:00 p.m.) of January 10, 1991 at Alkalde Jose Street, Barrio Kapasigan, Pasig, Metro Manila, Dante Deopante was having a conversation with his friend Renato Molina when they saw appellant Rogelio Deopante coming towards their direction. Renato noticed that as appellant was fast approaching, the latter was drawing out an open fan knife (balisong) from his right back pants pocket. Sensing danger, Renato immediately called out to Dante and told the latter to flee the place. As Dante took flight, so did Renato in another direction. (pp. 3-4, 6, 8, t.s.n. June 3, 1991)
Appellant ran after Dante and overpowered the latter at a basketball court located in a lot between Alkalde Jose and Pariancillo Streets. Appellant and victim grappled with each other and both fell on the ground. Appellant was able to assume the dominant position and as Dante lay flat on his back the former proceeded to stab the latter twice with his fan knife. Immediately thereafter, appellant stood up and fled the scene leaving Dante mortally wounded. Bystanders milling around Pariancillo Street then rushed victim to the Rizal Medical Center. (pp. 3-5, t.s.n., April 25, 1991; pp. 8, 9, 11, t.s.n. June 3, 1991)
At about the same time on the aforesaid date, the Pasig Police Station received a telephone call from the Rizal Medical Center informing them that a stabbing victim has been brought to said hospital for treatment. Patrolman Crispin Pio proceeded to the hospital and there received the information that appellant was the one who stabbed Dante. Said policeman later obtained the sworn statement of Nestor Deopante indicating that appellant stabbed the victim. Renato refused to give his sworn statement to the police, but insisted that indeed it was appellant who stabbed Dante. (pp. 5-7, t.s.n., May 15, 1991)
At around eleven o’clock (11:00 p.m.) of the same evening, Patrolman Crispin Pio and two (2) other police officers went to the house of appellant located at No. 12 Alkalde Jose Street, Barrio Kapasigan, Pasig, Metro Manila. After informing appellant of the allegation against him, they invited the former to the police station for investigation. Appellant went with the police officers and maintained his innocence throughout the investigation. Patrolman Crispin Pio recovered a fan knife from appellant measuring around ten (10") inches when opened. He sent the fan knife to the P.N.P. Crime Laboratory Service for examination. (pp. 8-9, t.s.n., May 15, 1991)
The autopsy report shows a total of seven (7) wounds all over victim’s body. Of these wounds, two (2) were stab wounds (Wound Nos. 2 & 3) and the rest mere abrasions. Dr. Emmanuel Aranas, the medico-legal officer of the P.N.P. Crime Laboratory Service who conducted the autopsy testified that the stab wounds were caused by a sharp pointed object like a balisong or fan knife. He further declared that Wound No. 2, a stab wound located at the left side of the chest, lacerated the diaphragm, liver (left lobe) and stomach of the victim causing the latter’s instantaneous death. Moreover, he concluded that the fan knife sent to him for examination could have been used in stabbing a person since it showed minute traces of human blood. (pp. 7-8, t.s.n., April 19, 1991; p. 17, t.s.n., May 30, 1991)
The prosecution presented six witnesses. Aside from Dr. Emmanuel L. Aranas, who testified on the results of the autopsy, the other witnesses included Manolo Angeles and Renato Molina, who gave eyewitness accounts of the stabbing. Patrolman Crispin Pio of the Pasig Police Station testified that he invited the accused for investigation after receiving a report on the killing, and that upon frisking the accused, he found and recovered from him a 10-inch fan knife which he submitted to the crime lab for examination. Alfonso Reyes, barangay captain of Barangay Kapasigan, Pasig, Metro Manila, testified that on August 19, 1989, Dante Deopante made a personal complaint to him as barangay captain, that Rogelio Deopante had threatened to kill him (Dante). He testified that his office kept a logbook of all the incidents that happened in the barangay and that the same contained a record of the said complaint 6 of Dante Deopante. However, on cross-examination, he admitted that he was not the one who personally made the entry.
Version of the Defense
In contrast to the prosecution’s theory that the victim was killed with evident premeditation, the defense claimed that the fatal injuries inflicted by accused-appellant upon the victim were done in self-defense. 7 The defense presented three witnesses, viz.: the accused himself, his long-time friend Benito Carrasco, and the son of the accused, Vladimir Deopante. Their version of the event was as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"On January 10, 1991, at about 9:00 o’clock in the evening, in Alcalde Jose Street, Pasig, Metro Manila, while the appellant was allegedly on his way home he was seen by his nephew, the victim (Dante Deopante) and the witness for the prosecution, Renato Molina, who at that time were allegedly both drunk. (TSN June 6, 1991, page 3). The victim (Dante Deopante) suddenly boxed him and the said appellant ran away and (was) pursued by the victim and Renato Molina. The appellant was overtaken by the victim by holding the back portion of his shirt. Both of them fell. The victim pulled-out a knife which appellant allegedly wrested . . . away from Dante Deopante. After he (appellant) wrested the knife from the victim, they continued rolling over and over the ground and he does not know whether he stab (sic) the victim or not. (TSN June 6, 1991, page 4). Said appellant sustained also injuries on (the) little finger of his right hand and abrasion on his right leg, left knee and left hand (sic). The said appellant was treated by one Dr. Leonides Pappa on January 11, 1991, and issued medical certificate, marked as Exhibits "1, 1-A, 1-B and 1-C" for the defense. (TSN June 6, 1991, pages 5-6); Appellant claimed that he placed behind bars (incarcerated) the victim for being a drug addict when he was still a policeman and member of the Police Department of Pasig. Renato Molina eluded arrest by him, for being a drug addict too. (TSN June 6, 1991, page 6)." 8
On cross-examination, Accused
Rogelio Deopante testified that he was a former member of the Pasig Police Department but was discharged for having been absent without leave, by reason of a complaint filed against him by Manolo Angeles before the National Police Commission, and in which case the victim, Dante Deopante, was presented as witness for complainant Angeles. He further testified that his left hand was completely severed at the wrist when it was hacked off by his brother Nestor Deopante.
The Trial Court’s Ruling
On September 6, 1991, the trial court rendered a decision convicting the appellant of murder, the decretal portion of which reads as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"ACCORDINGLY, the Court finds the accused Rogelio Deopante y Carillo GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder as charged; and therefore hereby imposes upon him the penalty of reclusion perpetua
, there being no other generic aggravating or mitigating circumstance adduced; and to indemnify the heirs of the victim the amount of P50,000.00 as well as to pay the costs.
SO ORDERED."cralaw virtua1aw library
In his brief, the appellant charges that the trial court erred:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"I. in considering the entry in the (barangay) peace and order chairman’s blotter under entry no. 0097, page 58 (logbook) as a basis in holding the commission of the offense with evident premeditation.
II. In not affording the accused-appellant the mitigating circumstances of voluntary surrender and his physical condition.
III. In not considering appellant’s claim of self-defense.
IV. In not considering the flaws and inconsistencies of the testimonies of the prosecution’s witnesses and its biased character and wanting of credibility (sic).
V. In not considering the provision of Article 69 of the Revised Penal Code in the imposition of penalty."cralaw virtua1aw library
The Court’s Ruling
First Issue: Evident Premeditation
Very familiar by now to members of the legal profession are the elements which need to be proven before evident premeditation can be appreciated. These are: (1) the time when the accused decided to commit the crime; (2) an overt act manifestly indicating that the accused had clung to his determination to commit the crime; and (3) a sufficient lapse of time between the decision to commit the crime and the execution thereof, to allow the accused to reflect upon the consequences of his act. Mere lapse of time is not enough, however, because premeditation is not presumed from the mere lapse of time. 9 It must be "evident" from his overt act.
Considering the evidence on record, and the events leading up to the killing, we cannot agree with appellant’s contention that the lower court based its finding of evident premeditation on the victim’s report to the barangay captain that the accused-appellant had threatened to kill him. We hold that the record contains sufficient basis for the finding of evident premeditation. The first and third elements were proven by the testimony of the barangay captain, Alfonso Reyes, as to the report made by the deceased about the threat on his life, taken together with the record of the report in the barangay logbook, 10 all of which established the time when appellant decided to commit the crime. The period of time between the said report and the killing (January 10, 1991) constituted a sufficient lapse of time between the determination to commit the crime and the execution of the same, to enable the accused to coolly consider and reflect upon his resolution to do away with the victim. Finally, the second element was proven by the eyewitness testimony of Renato Molina, friend of the victim since childhood, who was present from the inception to the culmination of the assault launched by appellant against the victim. We quote with approval the trial court’s ratiocination, to wit:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"That at around 9:00 o’clock in the evening of January 10, 1991, he (Renato Molina) and Dante Deopante were conversing at Alkalde Jose St., Pasig, Metro Manila when the accused Rogelio Deopante arrived. He told Dante Deopante to run away. Both of them ran but in different directions.
That he told Dante Deopante to run away because the latter and the accused had a previous (sic) misunderstanding and the accused always threatened Dante Deopante after the latter testified against the accused for shooting a certain Maning Angeles.
That he also told Dante Deopante to run away because he saw the accused carrying a fan knife in his back pocket. He saw it because the place was lighted as there was a lamp post.
x x x
This witness (Molina) testified that when he saw the accused more than six feet away and was approaching them, he immediately warned his childhood friend and victim Dante Deopante to run away which the latter did. At the time, the accused was seen by this witness about to draw a knife from his back pant’s pocket; and that he, too, ran away but took the opposite direction. Having traversed a short distance, he stopped and looked back and saw the accused chasing his victim and nephew until the former caught up with the latter, took hold of him and they both fell to the ground.
The accused could have desisted from carrying his plan to kill into effect had he stopped when his nephew took off and ran away from him. The latter did so because he knew in his heart that his uncle was about to kill him and this was also felt by eyewitness Molina because of the immediate warning given by him to his friend.
But then, although he saw his nephew sprinting away, he nevertheless did chase him for a distance and all the while he could have stopped and go home to his residence situated only a few meters away.
Again he could have let go the victim when he caught up and took hold of him. He did not, but on the contrary, when they both fell and rolled on the ground, he grappled with his victim and at the very first opportune moment, mercilessly stabbed his nephew, not only once but twice, inflicting very serious blows, one of which was most fatal and could have caused instantaneous death on his prey.
So it is that from this very actuation of the accused at the time, it is obviously clear that he clung to this determination to kill Dante Deopante when he could have stopped at anytime between the moment that his nephew ran away until the time that he dealt the fatal blows that ultimately caused the death of Dante Deopante." 11 (Emphasis ours
The three elements having been duly proven, the presence of evident premeditation in the case at bar is therefore conclusive.
Second Issue: Voluntary Surrender and Physical Defect
as Mitigating Circumstances?
Contrary to appellant’s protestations, the trial court was correct in finding no voluntary surrender in this case. In order to appreciate voluntary surrender by an accused, the same must be shown to have been "spontaneous and made in such a manner that it shows the intent of the accused to surrender unconditionally to the authorities, either because he acknowledges his guilt or he wishes to save them the trouble and expense necessarily incurred in his search and capture. In the absence of any of these reasons, and in the event that the only reason for an accused’s supposed surrender is to ensure his safety, his arrest being inevitable, the surrender is not spontaneous and, hence, not voluntary." 12 It will be observed in this case that there was no conscious effort on the part of the accused — who was fetched from his house by police officers to go to police headquarters for investigation — to voluntarily surrender and/or acknowledge his guilt. He went with them for the purpose of clearing his name as he in fact tried to do during the investigation where he professed his innocence. The fact alone that he did not resist but went peacefully with the lawmen does not mean that he voluntarily surrendered. 13 On this point, it is apt to quote the decision of this Court in People v. Flores 14 where we stated that:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Neither can we accept accused-appellant’s plea of voluntary surrender. He did not surrender to the police. In fact, the evidence adduced shows that it was the police authorities who came to the factory looking for him. It was there that accused-appellant was pointed to them. With the police closing in, Accused
-appellant actually had no choice but to go with them. Seeing that the police were already approaching him, Accused
-appellant did not offer any resistance and peacefully went with them. To be sure, no surrender was made by Accused-Appellant
."cralaw virtua1aw library
The fact that appellant suffers from a physical defect, a severed left hand, does not mean that he should automatically be credited with the mitigating circumstance contained in paragraph 8, Article 13 of the Revised Penal Code. In order for this condition to be appreciated, it must be shown that such physical defect limited his means to act, defend himself or communicate with his fellow beings to such an extent that he did not have complete freedom of action, consequently resulting in diminution of the element of voluntariness. 15 Such cannot be appreciated in the case at bar where the appellant’s physical condition clearly did not limit his means of action, defense or communication, nor affect his free will. In fact, despite his handicap, appellant nevertheless managed to attack, overcome and fatally stab his victim.
At this point, one might wonder how a one-handed attacker can open a fan knife and grapple with and overcome his two-handed prey. This was answered by the testimony of Renato Molina who revealed that at the time the accused closed in for the kill, his balisong was already open and ready for use in his back pocket, and that he had already drawn the same even during the chase. Molina’s testimony 16 is as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Q. You said that this Rogelio Deopante arrived while you were conversing with Dante Deopante and you ask (asked) Dante Deopante to run away, why did you ask Dante Deopante to run away?
A. Because, Sir I saw the open fan knife on his pocket, Sir at his back.
Q. When you said that you have seen an open fan knife at his pocket, to whom are you referring to?
A. Rogelio Deopante’s, Sir.
x x x
Q. How did you notice the fan knife which is placed at the back if (sic) his pocket?
A. Because at the time, Sir he was drawing it out."cralaw virtua1aw library
Hence, at the time the accused-appellant chased the victim, the former already had the balisong in hand. Clearly, the fact that he had only one hand in no way limited his freedom of action to commit the crime.
Third Issue: Self-defense
Equally well-known and well-understood by now are the requirements in order for self-defense to be appreciated. The accused must prove that there was unlawful aggression by the victim, that the means employed to prevent or repel the unlawful aggression were reasonable, and that there was lack of sufficient provocation on his part. 17 And having admitted that he killed his nephew Dante Deopante, "the burden of the evidence that he acted in self-defense was shifted to the Accused-Appellant
. It is hornbook doctrine that when self-defense is invoked, the burden of evidence shifts to the appellant to show that the killing was justified and that he incurred no criminal liability therefor. He must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of the prosecution’s evidence, for, even if the latter were weak, it could not be disbelieved after his open admission of responsibility for the killing." 18 Hence, he must prove the essential requisites of self-defense aforementioned.
In the case at bar, appellant failed to prove unlawful aggression by the victim, hence, his claim of self-defense cannot be sustained. The self-serving and unsupported allegation of appellant that he wrested the knife away from the victim while they were struggling and rolling around on the ground (in the process sustaining only a minor scratch on his little finger and abrasion on the right knee) does not inspire belief, when contrasted with the positive and categorical eyewitness accounts of Renato Molina and Manolo Angeles that appellant ran after and stabbed the victim. The latter’s testimonies are corroborated by the number and extent of the stab wounds sustained by the victim.
(Testimony of Manolo Angeles)
"Q While you were urinating at a post in Parancillo, can you remember if there was an unusual incident that happened at that time?
A Yes, sir.
Q What was that unusual incident?
A Nakita ko po si Rogelio Deopante na tikad-tikad ng saksak si Dante Deopante (I saw Rogelio Deopante chasing Dante Deopante with intention of stabbing).
COURT:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q You mean by "tikad-tikad", habol?
A Yes, your Honor.
ATTY. VALERIO:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q How far were you when you were urinating from the place where the victim was chased by the accused?
A More or less twenty (20) meters, sir.
Q What happened after that?
A He overtook him and stabbed him.
Q Can you remember how many stabs that the deceased received from the accused?
A Two (2), Sir.
Q Did you see the position of the deceased while he was being stabbed?
A At that time Dante Deopante was lying on his back and this Rogelio Deopante stabbed him. 19
(Testimony of Renato Molina)
Q If you know, what did Rogelio Deopante do with the knife that he was then carrying?
x x x
COURT:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Witness may answer.
A He used (it) in stabbing Dante Deopante.
Q How did he (use) it?
A They were both lying on the ground when this Rogelio Deopante used that Balisong or fan knife in stabbing the victim, only I did not know how many stabs he made on the victim (but witness demonstrating as if he is stabbing somebody from his right hand going downward)." 20
Due to appellant’s failure to prove unlawful aggression by the victim, and in view of the prosecution’s evidence conclusively showing that it was appellant who was the unlawful aggressor, appellant’s claims of self-defense must be completely discounted, since even incomplete self-defense, "by its very nature and essence, always would require the attendance of unlawful aggression initiated by the victim which must clearly be shown." 21 We agree with the finding of the trial court that:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"There is no gainsaying the fact that the accused herein was responsible for slaying his nephew and victim Dante Deopante. Only, by way of avoidance, the accused stated that while he and his nephew were rolling and grappling on the ground, the latter took a knife out of nowhere but he managed to wrest it away from his nephew and he stabbed him (Dante Deopante) with it.
Such a posture adopted by the accused deserves scant consideration from the Court.
For one, the victim would not have time to draw a knife from his person and then opened it while at the same time grappling with his uncle while both were rolling on the ground.
For another, such declaration was self-serving on the part of the accused and remains unsupported by the evidence. Even the accused’s own witness and friend for a long time Benito Carrasco who professed that he was only about five to seven meters away from the accused and who witnessed the latter grappling with the victim on the ground, did not see Dante took out a knife and that the accused managed to wrest it away or else the defense would certainly underscore such an event and made much of it during his testimony in court. The fact that he did not state such a circumstance gave the lie to such posture taken by the accused." 22
Furthermore, based on the number of stab wounds sustained by the victim, we are convinced that the accused did not act in self-defense in killing the former. "It is an oft-repeated rule that the presence of a large number of wounds on the part of the victim negates self-defense; instead it indicates a determined effort to kill the victim." 23 Accused, after struggling with the victim, had the latter on his back and in an obviously helpless and vulnerable position. Even assuming arguendo that it was the deceased who had initiated the attack and accused was merely defending himself, clearly there could not have been any need for him to stab the victim twice if the purpose was simply to disable the victim or make him desist from his unlawful assault.
Fourth Issue: Credibility of Witnesses
We see no reason to disturb the trial court’s evaluation and assessment of the credibility of witnesses, the same not being tainted by any arbitrariness or palpable error. "Jurisprudence teaches us that the findings of the trial court judge who tried the case and heard the witnesses are not to be disturbed on appeal unless there are substantial facts and circumstances which have been overlooked and which, if properly considered, might affect the result of the case. The trial judge’s evaluation of the witness’ credibility deserves utmost respect in the absence of arbitrariness." 24 Furthermore, "conclusions and findings of the trial court are entitled to great weight on appeal and should not be disturbed unless for strong and valid reasons because the trial court is in a better position to examine the demeanor of the witnesses while testifying on the case.25cralaw:red
We reviewed the entire record of the case, and found that the trial court correctly gave credence to the testimonies of Manolo Angeles and Renato Molina. As aptly stated by it:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"So it is that the Court gave full credence to the eyewitnesses accounts of prosecution witnesses Manolo Angeles and Renato Molina.
Both are disinterested eyewitnesses.
Manolo Angeles would not testify falsely against accused because the latter is the uncle of the full blood of his wife, being the daughter of the sister of the accused. He would not dare incur the wrath of his wife and her family, specially of the accused whose temperament he well knew.
The same is true with Renato Molina. He resides nearby and in the same locality as the accused and the victim, the latter being his childhood friend.
Knowing the accused very well and his reputation, he dare not trifle with the truth and testify falsely against him. In fact, he was very reluctant to testify and it took the coercive process of the Court to bring him to the witness stand.
Besides his presence at the scene of the stabbing incident was even acknowledged by the accused himself during the trial so that this witness’ testimony is well worth considering." 26
Furthermore, we note and concur in the court a quo’s assessment of the testimony of the son of the accused, which definitely tends to negate the theory of self-defense:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Again, another defense witness presented was Vladimir Deopante, son of the accused who mentioned in passing during the course of his testimony that when informed of an on-going quarrel involving his father, he immediately proceeded to the place where the incident was going on and there and then saw his father grappling on the ground with his cousin Dante and the latter was holding a weapon with his left hand so much so that he went back home and informed his mother about the matter and he was instructed to go back and pacify the protagonists.
This portion of the testimony of Vladimir Deopante sounded incredulous and unbelievable.
Confronted with a like situation, a son, seeing that his father being (beleaguered) and in immediate danger of being stabbed and possibly killed, would instinctively and intuitively rush in, come (to) succor and render immediate assistance to his endangered parent and would not turn his back on his father and go back home to await instructions on what to do under the premises.
It may be that this witness was actually at the scene when he saw his father and cousin were grappling on the ground and seeing that his father had a knife in his hand and had the upper hand as well as in control of the situation, he did not interfere but turned back and went home and informed his mother. This would be more in keeping with the natural course of events." 27
Fifth Issue: Incomplete Self-defense
Appellant argues that the trial court should have applied Art. 69 of the Revised Penal Code which provides for imposition of a penalty lower by one or two degrees than that prescribed by law where the killing "is not wholly excusable", as in the case at bar, given the absence of some of the requisites to justify the killing. Appellant is in error. Said provision of law applies only where a majority of the conditions required to justify a criminal act or exempt from liability are present. Such is not the situation in the case at bar. Unlawful aggression is indispensable in self-defense, complete or otherwise. When unlawful aggression (by the victim) alone is proved, such incomplete self-defense is to be appreciated as an ordinary mitigating circumstance under Article 13, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code. When it is combined with another element of self-defense, such incomplete self-defense becomes a privileged mitigating circumstance under Article 69 of the same Code. 28 But in the instant case, as already mentioned above, it was conclusively shown that appellant was the aggressor.
WHEREFORE, the herein appealed Decision convicting appellant Rogelio Deopante y Carillo of the crime of murder and imposing on him the penalty of reclusion perpetua
and the payment to the victim’s heirs of civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00 is hereby AFFIRMED in toto. No costs.
, Davide, Jr., Melo and Francisco, JJ.
1. Rollo, pp. 14-30.
2. Judge Apolonio R. Chavez, Jr. presiding.
3. Rollo, p. 3.
4. Record, pp. 9-10.
5. Rollo, pp. 73-76.
6. Entry No. 0098, page 58.
7. Appellant’s brief, p. 11.
8. Ibid., p. 3.
9. People v. Silvestre 244 SCRA 479, 494-495, May 29, 1995; People v. Manalo 148 SCRA 98, 109, February 27, 1987, citing Padilla, Criminal Law, 1979 ed., p. 449.
10. TSN, May 30, 1991, pp. 2-4, 8-9.
11. Decision, pp. 7, 16-17.
12. People v. Camahalan, 241 SCRA 558, 572, February 22, 1995, citing People v. Devaras, 205 SCRA 676, February 3, 1992, and People v. Lee, 204 SCRA 900, December 20, 1991.
13. Ibid, pp. 572-573, citing People v. Ramilla, 227 SCRA 583, November 8, 1993.
14. 237 SCRA 653, p. 662, October 19, 1994.
15. Reyes, Criminal Law, p. 309 (1993).
16. TSN, p. 6, June 3, 1991.
17. People v. Morin, 241 SCRA 709, 715, February 24, 1995, citing People v. Boniao, 217 SCRA 653, January 27, 1993, and People v. Apolinario, 58 Phil. 586, October 18, 1933.
18. People v. Rivero, 242 SCRA 354, 358, March 15, 1995.
19. TSN, April 25, 1991, pp. 3-4.
20. TSN, June 3, 1991, pp. 8-9.
21. De Luna v. Court of Appeals, 244 SCRA 758, 763, June 2, 1995, citing People v. Delgado, 182 SCRA 343, February 15, 1990; People v. Canete, 175 SCRA 111; July 5, 1989; People v. Agapinay, 186 SCRA 812, June 27, 1990; United States v. Carrero, 9 Phil. 544, January 10, 1908.
22. Decision, p. 11.
23. People v. Rivero, 242 SCRA 354, 360, March 15, 1995.
24. People v. Gonzales, 222 SCRA 697, May 28, 1993, citing People v. Yambao, 193 SCRA 571, February 6, 1991, and People v. Tongson, 194 SCRA 257, February 19, 1991.
25. Collado v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 206 SCRA 206, 212-213, February 13, 1992, citing People v. Lutanez, 192 SCRA 588, December 21, 1990, and People v. Tasarra, 192 SCRA 266, December 10, 1990.
26. Decision, p. 12.
27. Decision, p. 11.
28. De Luna v. Court of Appeals, supra, at pp. 762-763.