The factual findings of a trial court, especially when affirmed by the appellate court, are binding upon this Court. Without convincing evidence of cause and effect, herein petitioner’s claim that the victim’s death might have been caused by an existing heart ailment cannot overturn the two courts’ conclusion that the death was caused by traumatic head injuries inflicted by the accused.cralaw : red
Before us is a Petition for Review under Rule 45, assailing the April 7, 1998 Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals 2 (CA) in CA-GR CR No. 19672, which affirmed the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 48, in Crim. Case No. 93-119989. 3
In an Information 4 filed on May 3, 1993, Petitioner Isabelo Lorenzana y Sison was charged with homicide allegedly committed as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"That on or about the 24th day of November 1992, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the accused, with intent to kill, did then and there wilfully, feloniously and criminally attack, assault, and gun[-]whip on the right side of his head NAPOLEON NAZARETH, SR., causing him traumatic head injuries resulting [in] his death." 5
With the assistance of Atty. Edita Lacsamana, 6 petitioner entered a plea of not guilty during his arraignment on June 1, 1993. Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued. In its 17-page Decision, the trial court convicted petitioner, as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, and [the] finding [that] the accused [is] guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of [h]omicide, judgment is hereby rendered convicting accused Isabelo Lorenzana y Sison [of] the crime of [h]omicide.
"The Court hereby imposes upon him an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of 6 years and 1 day of prision mayor, in its minimum period, to 14 years and 8 months of reclusion temporal in its maximum period. Accused is further directed to indemnify the heirs of the victim in the amount of P50,000.00 for damages."cralaw virtua1aw library
On appeal, 7 the CA affirmed the trial court in this wise:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"THE FOREGOING CONSIDERED, the appealed Decision is hereby affirmed."cralaw virtua1aw library
In its May 21, 1998 Resolution, 8 the appellate court denied reconsideration.
Hence, this Petition for Review. 9
Petitioner Isabelo Lorenzana was a member of the towing and impounding unit of the Western Police District Traffic Bureau. Shortly after midnight on November 24, 1992, he and his colleagues were about to tow several passenger jeepneys parked along Vito Cruz, Manila. At that point, Napoleon Nazareth Jr. arrived and told them that he had overnight parking permits kept by his father, Napoleon Sr. Subsequently, the father himself arrived at the scene and showed the permits to petitioner. The circumstances after this incident, which culminated in the death of the former, were narrated by the trial court in this wise:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Two witnesses for the prosecution, namely Reynaldo Santos and Allan Transmonte, both pedicab drivers, who were at the place of the incident waiting for passengers, testified that they saw accused [show] off the documents from the victim. And while victim was picking the documents, the accused pulled his gun from his holster and pistol whipped the victim who was hit at the right side [of the] back portion of the head, above the right ear. The victim, then, turned to face the accused, trying to embrace him and asking for his help. Instead of helping the victim, Accused
even pushed the victim away [and the latter] fell on the pavement trembling. When the young Nazareth [was] informed that his father was ‘pinalo’, he rushed outside and his father [was] already lying down while accused was already seated in the tow truck. They took his father and brought him to the Medical Center Manila Hospital but was already dead upon arrival at said hospital. Upon request of the family of the victim, the body of the victim was examined by Dr. Alberto Reyes, a medical specialist of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). And as per his Report (Exhibit ‘D’) the cause of death [was] traumatic head injuries." 10
Petitioner, on the other hand, vigorously contests the foregoing narration, insisting that the victim’s fatal fall was due to a heart attack. In his Memorandum, 11 he presents his version of what happened on that fateful day, as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"On October 20, 1992, the Superintendent in charge of the Traffic Management Division of the Western Police District Command, Metro Manila, issued a Memorandum (Exh. "15", "15-A" and "15-B") directing the WPD Towing and Impounding Unit to enforce strictly MMA Ordinance 82-03 (Exh. "13") against the overnight parking of motorized vehicles within certain areas. The police officers were specifically ordered to conduct an active campaign against illegal parking between the hours of 10:00 p.m. [and] 5:00 am.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
"It was these orders and their implementation which directed Petitioner Isabelo Lorenzana to proceed with his helpers [i]n their tow truck sometime after midnight of November 24, 1992 to Vito Cruz St., Singalong, Manila (TSN, Aug. 10, 1994, p. 10)
"The group encountered, among others, three passenger jeepneys along Vito Cruz., near the [corner] of A. Aquino and Taal Streets (Exh. "6", "6-A" up to "6-F"). The jeepneys were parked chained to one another (TSN, Aug. 10, 1994, p. 17.)
"While the petitioner was inspecting the parked vehicle[s], a fat man later identified as Napoleon Nazareth, Jr., arrived on board an owner-type jeep. Nazareth, Jr. shouted at the petitioner and his four companions, "May mga parking permit iyan." He then added, "Kapwa ninyo Pilipino, pinahihirapan ninyo." (TSN, Aug. 10, 1994, p. 20)
"Lorenzana told Nazareth Jr. that there was a complaint about the parked vehicles. After a while, an old man, Napoleon Nazareth, Sr., arrived, "nanginginig sa galit" at the sidewalk on the other side of the street. Vito Cruz is around fourteen (14) to fifteen (15) meters wide. Lorenzana walked over to the old man who was trembling [in] anger. Nazareth, Sr. shouted, "May mga permit iyan." He then pointed to the four helpers of Lorenzana and asked, "Ano kayo, mga squatters." (TSN, Aug. 10, 1994, pp. 18-23).
"Nazareth, Sr. showed parking permits and a sticker to Lorenzana (TSN, Nov. 29, 1994, p. 13). The old man was about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and bigger than his son, the fat man (id. p. 20). He was about 62 years old. At this juncture, the son Nazareth, Jr. brought the jeep from the middle of the street to the side of the street, near his father.
"The petitioner and Nazareth Sr. faced each other for only a few minutes (TSN, Aug. 10, 1994, p. 25). After looking at the permits, Lorenzana asked permission to leave from the old man. He asked, ‘Tatang, aalis na kami.’ Lorenzana and his companions turned around and went straight to the tow truck on the other side. Suddenly, Lorenzana heard somebody shout, ‘Ang matanda, bumagsak.’ According to Enrico Baking, driver of the tow truck, it was their companion, Rommel, who did the shouting. At this time, Lorenzana was already seated at the front of the tow truck with the driver while the helpers were in the rear part of the tow truck. Lorenzana turned, ‘Napalingon po ako sa sumigaw.’ He saw the old man slumped down on the pavement, Lying with his face upward (TSN, November 29, 1994, pp. 20 to 27).
"Lorenzana alighted from the tow truck and called his companion to help the old man stand up. They proceeded to carry the old man (id. p. 23). The petitioner and his companion were not able to [load] Nazareth, Sr. [into] the tow truck to carry him to a hospital because Nazareth, Jr. suddenly pulled out a revolver and shouted at them, ‘Dito na lang sa owner ko’ (TSN, November 29,1994, pp. 35-37).
"Officer Lorenzana told Nazareth, Jr., ‘Itabi mo iyan, Tulungan mo kami sa Tatay mo.’ The fat man insisted on the father being loaded [into] the son’s jeep. So, they [loaded] the old man [into] the owner type jeep. The jeep sped away, ‘Pasabit na umalis.’ Only later did the defense witnesses learn that the old man died (TSN, Sept. 21, 1994, pp. 19-20).
"According to Allan Transmonte, he (Allan), Nazareth, Jr. and [another man] brought Nazareth, Sr. to the Manila Doctors Hospital along United nations Avenue. There is no dispute over the fact that the old man was declared ‘dead-on-arrival’ at the hospital (TSN, Aug. 3, 1994, pp. 59-60).
"There is also no dispute over the fact that Napoleon Nazareth, Sr. was a very sick man. The old man was confined at the Philippine Heart Center from December 31, 1991 up to January 6, 1992 (TSN, Aug. 3, 1994, pp. 14-20).
"The heart patient, Nazareth, Sr. had to be examined by his cardiologist regularly every month, from March, April, May up to the time of the incident because of his ailment. He had to be confined at the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital from October 29, 1992 up to November 5, 1992. He was discharged only nineteen (19) days before his death (id. pp. 24-25).
"The exact nature of the heart condition appearing in his medical records is described by his cardiologist, Dr. Teresita Savaga, who is with the Philippine Heart Center, St. Luke’s Medical Center, and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Q. May I approach the witness and show her the documents. In these various documents, the documents captioned, patients data sheet inside the enclosed patient, with [the] heading final diagnosis, there appear terms. Can you tell this Court in layman’s language the meaning of CAD unstable angina dysfunction [--] HASHD urosimia?chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
A. CAD means Coronary Artery Disease, and in layman[’s] term, . . . there is an obstruction in the blood vessel of the heart. Unstable angina is pain in the heart which is more or less unstable. Pain is progressing in character or frequent in occurrence and severity. The[re is a] probable severe [condition] in this unstable angina, left ventricular m[al]function, if is there is a sign of failure of the heart. HASHD is Hypertensive Arteriosclerosis Heart Disease, hyper urosimia, [in which] hyper uric acid is elevated.’
— TSN, August 3,1994, p. 15."cralaw virtua1aw library
The CA Ruling
In upholding the RTC, the CA gave more credence to the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, pointing out that witnesses, to whom no improper motive could be imputed, had positively identified petitioner as the perpetrator of the crime. The CA held that their testimonies were in accord with the Autopsy Report indicating that the victim’s death was caused by traumatic head injuries. It further held that there was no conclusive proof to substantiate petitioner’s claim that the victim had suffered a heart attack when he fell down on the pavement.
In his Memorandum, 12 petitioner presents the following issues for the consideration of the Court:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"i) Whether the court a quo erred in not resolving the doubt in favor of the accused; and
"ii) Whether the court a quo erred in giving full weight to the prosecution witnesses’ testimon[ies]"
In the main, petitioner challenges the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence.
The Court’s Ruling
The Petition is devoid of merit.
Main Issue:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library
Sufficiency of Prosecution Evidence
Petitioner claims that the prosecution was not able to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He relies on two principal arguments. First, the cause of death was heart attack, for which he could not be held responsible; and second, the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses were not enough to sustain his conviction.
At the outset, we must emphasize that petitioner merely raises questions of facts which, as a rule, have no place in a Petition for Review under Rule 45. 13 After all, the factual findings of the appellate court affirming those of the trial court are generally binding on this Court. In challenging the sufficiency of the prosecution evidence, petitioner is effectively claiming an exception to this rule on the ground that the CA Decision was based on a misapprehension of facts. 14 We do not agree.
Cause of Death
Petitioner implores the Court to consider the possibility that Napoleon Nazareth Sr. died, not because he had been pistol-whipped, but because he had suffered a heart attack. The deceased allegedly had a history of heart disease, which could have been aggravated by the altercation. Petitioner insists that this claim is not inconsistent with the Autopsy Report showing the cause of death as traumatic head injury. Considering that there is doubt as to the cause of death, petitioner resolutely argues for his acquittal.
We are not persuaded. Both the trial and the appellate courts have determined that Napoleon Sr. died of traumatic head injuries This factual finding is amply supported by the evidence on record Indeed, the Autopsy Report, 15 which we quote below, declares in no unmistakable terms that the cause of death was traumatic head injury:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
Cyanosis, lips and nailbeds.
Hematoma, scalp, temporo-parieto-occipital region, right side, 12.0 x 10.0 cm.
Fractures: linear, temporal bone, right side; complete, 6th rib, left, along midclavicular line.
Hemorrhages, subdural and subarachnoidal, right cerebral hemisphere.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Heart, moderately enlarged; chambers filled with dark blood fluid.
Other visceral organs, congested.
Stomach, filled with partially digested rice and other food materials.
CAUSE OF DEATH: Traumatic head injuries." (Emphasis supplied
Petitioner has not shown any convincing reason to disregard the categorical finding in the Autopsy Report. He merely argues that the deceased had a history of heart disease, and that the latter’s heart was enlarged at the time of the autopsy. He has not proven, however, that the heart condition was the direct and proximate cause of death. Indeed, the mere possibility that a person might have died because of a heart ailment is not a proof that that ailment was the cause of death. Thus, we agree with the CA’s disquisition, which we quote:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"There is evidence to the effect that the deceased died because of traumatic head injuries. As a matter of fact, this was mentioned in the Autopsy Report, Exhibit D. Also apparent were the following injuries: hematoma on the temporo parieto occipital region, right side; fracture of the temporal bone, right side; and hemorrhage, right cerebral hemisphere. The Report of the Medico-Legal Expert, NBI, was even ratified by the Chief, Technical Services. Because he went through an autopsy examination, supposedly exhaustive, signs of heart failure should have been apparent if the pretension by the defense is accepted that he died because of heart failure after which his head hit the pavement. That he suffered a heart attack does not appear supported by factual evidence; the fact that the postmortem findings mentioned a moderate enlargement of the heart is not a proof conclusive in character, that before he fell, he had a heart attack." 16
Credibility of Witnesses
Petitioner also assails the testimonies of Prosecution Eyewitnesses Reynaldo Santos and Allan Transmonte He argues that these witnesses were lying and bewails the contradictions supposedly evident in their testimonies. Transmonte allegedly told the trial court that the deceased had been hit on the left portion of the head, but the Autopsy Report stated that the latter’s injury was on the right side. Petitioner likewise asserts that the witnesses’ actions were not in accord with human experience.
Countless times have we ruled that the findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies are entitled to the highest respect. Such findings will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of any clear showing that it overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some facts or circumstances of weight and substance that would otherwise affect the result of the case. 17 This is especially true when, as in this case, such findings are affirmed by the CA. In the present proceedings, the Court finds no reason to disturb the two lower courts’ factual findings and conclusion.
Disregarding Transmonte’s testimony because of alleged inconsistencies would not negate Santos’ straightforward and guileless recollection as to the crux of the November 24, 1992 incident — that petitioner pistol-whipped the deceased, as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
A I said that their jeeps are being pulled, then suddenly, the old Nazareth came out, sir.
Q Came out from where?
A From their house, sir.
Q Where is the house of this Nazareth, the old Nazareth located?
A At the corner of Taal and Aquino and Vito Cruz, sir.
Q How far is the house from the jeepneys of the Nazareth[s]?
A Around two arms length away, sir.
Q Do we understand from you that the jeepneys were stationed just [in front] of the house of Nazareth?
A Yes, sir.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Q After the old Nazareth came out of his residence, what happened?
A The old Nazareth immediately went inside the house.
Q And after the old Nazareth went inside the house, what happened?
A Suddenly he again came out and brought documents.
Q Were you able to know what documents were brought out by the old Nazareth?
A Yes, sir.
Q What were those documents?
A Midnight parking tickets, sir.
Q And after he came out of the house, what did he do, if any?
A He gave the documents to Mr. Lorenzana, sir.
Q And did Mr. Lorenzana [accept] the documents?
A No, sir.
Q What did he do?
A He shoved away the documents, sir.
Q When Lorenzana drove or shoved the said documents, what happened next?
A The documents were scattered [o]n the pavement, sir.
Q What did the old Nazareth do upon seeing the documents being scattered? What happened?
A . . . Mr. Nazareth uttered something that Mr. Lorenzana disliked.
[O]bjection. We move to strike out the testimony of the witness for being speculative, Your Honor.
Make it clear.
Q What did Mr. Nazareth tell Mr. Lorenzana?
A ‘Hindi mo ba ako nakikilala? Nakikilala mo ba kung sino ang kaharap mo?’.
Q And what was the reaction of Mr. Lorenzana after Mr. Nazareth [said] those words to him?
A Mr. Lorenzana looked as if he got mad. That was why he shoved away the receipts.
Q You said that the documents shown by Mr. Lorenzana were scattered. What did Mr. Nazareth do upon seeing the documents being scattered?
A He was about to pick them up.
Q Was he able to pick them up?
A No, sir.
A Mr. Lorenzana suddenly pulled a gun and hit the head of Mr. Nazareth, the old man, with the butt of the gun.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Q And what was the position of the old Nazareth in conjunction with Mr. Lorenzana when Mr. Lorenzana hit the head of Mr. Nazareth?
Witness Your Honor, is demonstrating by turning his body. He was in a stooping position.
Q And in relation to the position of Mr. Nazareth who was in a stooping position, where was Mr. Lorenzana when he hit the head of Mr. Nazareth?
A Just at the back sir.
Q And were you able to see [which] hand of Mr. Lorenzana was used in hitting Mr. Nazareth?
A Right hand, sir.
Q When you said old Nazareth, how old [was] Mr. Nazareth?
A Around 62, Your Honor.
Q And will you please tell the Honorable Court . . . what part of the head of Mr. Nazareth was . . . Nazareth hit?
A Right side portion at the back of the right ear.
Q And what happened to the old Nazareth when he was hit by Lorenzana with a gun?
A Because he was hurt, he faced Mr. Lorenzana and embraced him.
Q And while the old Nazareth was embracing Mr. Lorenzana, what happened?
A He pushed him.
Q Who pushed whom?
A Mr. Lorenzana pushed the old Nazareth, sir.
Q And what happened to the old Nazareth when he was pushed by Mr. Lorenzana?
A He fell and was trembling, sir.
x x x
Q After the old Nazareth fell down, what did Mr. Lorenzana do?
A They rode the wrecker.
Q What wrecker was that?
A Wrecker, the one used in towing vehicle[s].
Q What time of the day did this incident happen?
A 12:30 in the morning, midnight of November 24, sir." 18
The Court notes that during the cross-examination, Santos remained steadfast in his testimony in regard to the pistol-whipping incident.
For lack of basis, we reject petitioner’s protestations that Santos was a "planted" witness. In the absence of proof that he had bias or ill motive, his testimony must be given credence. 19 More important his detailed testimony acquires greater weight and credibility, as it is consistent with the Autopsy Report. 20
In all, petitioner has not presented sufficient reason to overturn the factual findings of the trial and the appellate courts.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is hereby DENIED and the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary
Melo, Vitug, Gonzaga-Reyes and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ.
* Sometimes referred to as "Sabilo" in the RTC Records.
1. Rollo, pp. 56-79.
2. Twelfth Division composed of Justices Bernardo LL. Salas (ponente); and Consuelo Ynares-Santiago (Division chairman) and Demetrio G. Demetria, both of whom concurred.
3. December 11, 1995 Decision penned by Judge Demetrio M. Batario Jr.; rollo, pp. 38-54.
4. RTC Records, p. 1.
5. Signed by Asst. City Prosecutor Marciano S. Bascos.
6. Records, p. 73.
7. Through Atty. Dominador L. Maglalang Sr., he filed his Notice of Appeal on January 96, 1996.
8. Rollo, p. 81.
9. The case was deemed submitted for resolution on July 14, 2000, when the Court received the People’s Memorandum signed by Solicitor General Ricardo P. Galvez, Assistant Solicitor General Carlos N. Ortega and Solicitor Maria Belen P. Montes. Petitioner’s Memorandum, signed by Atty. Melvyn S. Florencio of Gutierrez, Sundiam & Villanueva Law Offices, was received by the Court on May 5, 2000.
10. RTC Decision, p. 15; rollo, p. 59.
11. Petitioner’s Memorandum, pp. 5-8; rollo, pp. 143-146.
12. Rollo p. 147. Upper case used in the original.
13. Section 1 of Rule 45 reads: "SECTION 1. Filing of petition with Supreme Court. — A party desiring to appeal by certiorari from a judgment or final order or resolution of the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, the Regional Trial Court or other courts whenever authorized by law, may file with the Supreme Court a verified petition for review on certiorari. The petition shall raise only questions of law which must be distinctly set forth." See also Salcedo v. People, GR No. 137143 December 8, 2000.
14. See Fuentes v. Court of Appeals, 268 SCRA 703, February 26, 1997; Castillo v. Court of Appeals, 260 SCRA 374, August 7, 1996.
15. Records, p. 55.
16. CA Decision, pp. 20-21; rollo, pp. 75-76.
17. People, Maldo, 307 SCRA 424, May 19, 1999; People v. Tabones, 304 SCRA 781, March 17, 1999; People v. Batidor, 303 SCRA 335, February 18, 1999; People v. Salazar, 277 SCRA 67, August 11, 1997.
18. TSN, August 3, 1993, pp. 98-105.
19. People v. Carungal, GR No. 123299, September 29, 2000; People v. Aloro, GR No. 129208, September 14, 2000; People v. Geral, GR No. 122283, June 15, 2000.
20. See People v. Costelo, 316 SCRA 895, October 13, 1999.