G.R. No. 122767 - January 20, 2004 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. JOSEPH CAJURAO, Appellant.
[G.R. No. 122767 : January
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. JOSEPH CAJURAO, Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
Before us on appeal is the Decision1 of the Regional Trial Court of South Cotabato, Branch 26, convicting the
appellant Joseph Cajurao of murder; sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and ordering him to
pay the heirs of the victim Santiago Betita
P50,000 as civil indemnity
P20,000 as actual damages.
On December 22, 1993, an Information was filed charging the
appellant of murder, the accusatory portion of which reads:
That on or about the 29th day of November, 1993 at
Poblacion, Municipality of Surallah, Province of South Cotabato, Philippines,
and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused
with intent to kill and with treachery did then and there willfully, unlawfully
and feloniously attack, assault and stab SANTIAGO BETITA with a sharp
pointed-bladed instrument hitting and wounding him on the breast which caused
his death thereafter.
CONTRARY TO LAW.2
On January 21, 1994, the appellant was arraigned with the
assistance of his counsel and pleaded not guilty to the crime charged.3 Trial thereafter ensued.
The Case for the Prosecution4
On November 29, 1993, the residents of Poblacion, Surallah, South
Cotabato were in a festive mood.
was carnival in the municipal plaza.
The Sangguniang Kabataan had
also sponsored a disco that evening to be held in the Poblacions Civic
Cultural Center gymnasium.
Pordios put up a stall in front of the gym for the sale of candies, soft drinks
and other assorted items.
She filled a
flat bottle of Tanduay with kerosene and placed a wick thereon.
She used the makeshift lamp to light up her
The appellant Joseph Cajurao and his friend Allan Daosos went to
the dance hall.
Felix Teruel and Nena
Carmelo were then manning the gate and the ticket booth.
Since Cajurao and Daosos had no tickets,
they were not allowed to enter.
appellant and Daosos tarried within the vicinity and repeatedly tried to enter
the hall without tickets, to no avail.6
At about 10:30 p.m., Pordios was surprised when Santiago Betita
suddenly arrived at her stall.
took the lamp that illuminated her wares, she got angry and confronted
Pordios asked him why he took the
lamp, but Betita ignored her and held on to the lamp in a defensive
Betita appeared perturbed.
Shortly thereafter, someone threw a stone,
prompting people to scamper away.
holding on to the lamp, Betita moved over to the stall beside Pordios.
Suddenly, the appellant sped towards Betita
and stabbed him on the right nipple.
Betita fell to the ground.
appellant then threw his knife away and fled.7
Domingo Tecson, a civilian volunteer assigned to take charge of
the peace and order situation in the area, was then on patrol.
He saw the appellant pass by, running.
He looked towards the direction where the appellant
had come from and saw Betita slumped on the ground, mortally wounded.
Tecson rushed to where Betita was and
shouted for help.
He instructed his
fellow volunteers to run after the appellant and collar him.
After a brief chase, the appellant was caught
by a volunteer in the carnival ground and was thereafter turned over to the
Tecson went back to the crime scene to look for the weapon the
appellant used to kill Betita.
aid of the light from a nearby fire truck, he found the knife and its scabbard.
Tecson turned the weapon over to the police.9 Pordios and Tecson gave their respective
statements to PO3 Lino D. Antonino.10
Dr. Rolando P. Arrojo, the Municipal Health Officer, signed the
Certification of Death showing that Betita died due to:
hemorrhage resulting to shock then cardiac arrest.
-Stab wound, right
Valentina Betita, the victims mother, spent
the wake and burial of her son.
The Case for the Appellant
The appellant admitted stabbing and killing Betita but claimed
that he did so to defend himself.
that at 9:00 a.m. on November 29, 1993, he and his friend Allan Daosos went to
the dance at the Civic Cultural Center gymnasium.The appellant saw Betita enter the gymnasium.
He was nonplussed when Betita shouted at
him, Putang ina ka, ari pa na, nakit-an
na ta! Betita also accused him of being a braggart and a liar.
The appellant asked Betita what his gripe
was against him.
At about 10:00 p.m., the appellant went out of the gym and seated
himself on a concrete bench nearby, beside the trunk of a mango tree.
Betita followed and shouted at him saying,
When you are in a group you are a braggart.
Now, we are here outside.
appellant remonstrated, saying, Boy, what is this? Betita retorted, You came
here just to look for trouble! The appellant stood up and was about to leave,
but Betita slapped him on the face.
Betita then fled to the stall of Pordios and took hold of the makeshift
As he was about to throw the
lighted lamp at the appellant who was about four meters away, the latter walked
slowly to Betita and asked, Why did you slap me, Boy?
The appellant pushed Betitas hand aside,
the hand that held the lamp, and pulled out a knife from his waist.
The appellant then stabbed Betita on his
He threw his knife in a
grassy area and fled from the scene.
Nanette Evangelista testified that on that fateful evening, she
and Pacita Pordios put up their stalls within the periphery of the gymnasium
where the dance was being held.
wares included assorted items like candies, biscuits, soft drinks and
Her stall was about four
meters away from that of Pordios.
Before 10:00 p.m., Nanette, Melinda Rojas and their friends, decided to
join the disco in the gymnasium.
Nanette asked someone to man the stall in the meantime.
She then saw Santiago Boy Betita, the
appellant and Allan Daosos dancing inside the gymnasium.
The two had an argument.
By about 10:30 p.m., Nanette left the
gymnasium, went outside and proceeded to the mango tree, about seven meters
away from the gymnasium.
talked to a friend, Arlene Mendoza.
After about half an hour, the appellant and Allan Daosos
from the gymnasium and went to
the concrete bench near the trunk of the mango tree, about two meters from
where Nanette and Arlene Mendoza had seated themselves.
Betita arrived and approached the appellant,
pointing at the latter.
Betita then slapped the
appellant on the face.
was about to retaliate but Betita fled towards the stall of Pordios, about
three meters away from the concrete bench.
He took hold of the Tanduay lamp and was about to throw it at the
appellant but the latter, armed with a knife, ran towards Betita and stabbed
him on the chest.
After trial, the court a
quo rendered judgment on January 19, 1994, the dispositive portion of which
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the court finds the accused Joseph
Cajurao guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder and hereby sentences him to
the penalty of reclusion perpetua and
to indemnify the heirs of the victim Santiago Betita the sum of P50,000.00 for
the victims death and P20,000.00 actual expenses in relation to said death of
The trial court rejected the appellants defense and concluded
that he failed to present clear and convincing evidence to prove that he killed
Betita in self-defense.
credence and full probative weight to the testimony of the witnesses for the
prosecution, that the appellant stabbed the defenseless victim.
It also appreciated the presence of
treachery, qualifying the crime to murder.
The appellant appealed the decision with the lone assignment of
error, to wit:
The Honorable Court a quo gravely committed error in finding
the accused guilty of the crime of
The appellant contends that the trial court erred in giving
credence and full probative weight to the testimony of the prosecution
witnesses, more particularly to those of Tecson and Pordios, and in ignoring
his testimony and that of Evangelista.
The appellant contends that he stabbed Betita because the latter took
hold of the Tanduay lamp on the stall of Pordios and was about to throw it at
This impelled the appellant to
rush to where Betita was.
lamp could be thrown at him, he stabbed Betita.According to the appellant, the victims act of slapping him and
attempting to throw the lighted lamp at him constituted unlawful aggression on
the part of the latter.
Thus, there was
no provocation on his part; the means he used to repel the unlawful aggression
of Betita was reasonable.
We do not agree with the contention of the appellant.
Like alibi, self-defense is a weak
defense because it is easy to fabricate.14 When the accused interposes self-defense, he thereby admits having killed the
The burden of proof is shifted
on him to prove with clear and convincing evidence the confluence of the
essential requisites of a complete self-defense, namely:
(a) unlawful aggression on the part of the
victim; (b) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it;
and (c) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending
himself.15 The accused must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the
weakness of the evidence of the prosecution; because even if the prosecutions
evidence is weak, the same can no longer be disbelieved.16 The appellant failed to discharge his burden.
The trial court found the collective
testimonies of the witnesses for the prosecution to be credible, while those of
the appellant and Evangelista, incredible and barren of probative weight.
The legal aphorism is that the factual
findings of the trial court, its calibration of the testimonies of the
witnesses and its assessment of their probative weight is given high respect if
not conclusive effect, unless the trial court ignored, misconstrued,
misunderstood or misinterpreted cogent facts and circumstances of substance,
which if considered will alter the outcome of the case.
We have meticulously reviewed the records
and found no reason to deviate from the factual findings of the trial court.
The natural reaction of one who
witnesses the commission of a crime is to report the same immediately to the
police authorities so that the culprit could be arrested and forthwith prosecuted;
and if convicted, to be meted the appropriate penalty therefor.
In this case, Pordios and Tecson gave their
respective statements to the public investigator on November 30, 1993, barely a
day after the stabbing.
the appellant and Evangelista did not report the stabbing to the police
authorities and even failed to give any statement thereon.
The flight of the appellant, his
throwing away the knife used to stab the victim, his failure to report the
stabbing and to surrender himself to the police authorities and to thereafter
claim that he killed Betita in self-defense, all these belie his claim that he
killed the victim in self-defense.17
Evangelista put up her stall in the
periphery of the gym to sell biscuits, cigarettes and soft drinks and other
It is incredible that
she would leave her stall and join the dance and after an hour or so, proceed
to the nearby mango tree and converse with a friend.
There can be no self-defense, complete or
incomplete, unless there is clear and convincing proof of unlawful aggression
on the part of the victim.
aggression, a constitutive element of self-defense, must be real or at least
imminent and not merely imaginary.
belief that a person is about to be attacked is not sufficient.
Even an intimidating or threatening attitude
is by no means enough.
aggression presupposes an actual or imminent danger on the life or limb of a
Mere shouting, an intimidating
or threatening attitude of the victim does not constitute unlawful aggression.18 Unlawful aggression refers to an attack that has actually broken out or
materialized or at the very least is clearly imminent; it cannot consist in
oral threats or merely a threatening stance or posture.19 The settled rule in jurisprudence is that when unlawful aggression ceases, the
defender no longer has the right to kill or even wound the former
Retaliation is not a
justifying circumstance.20 Upon the cessation of the unlawful aggression and the danger or risk to life
and limb, the necessity for the person invoking self-defense to attack his
If he persists in
attacking his adversary, he can no longer invoke the justifying circumstance of
self-defense.21 Self-defense does not justify the unnecessary killing of an aggressor who is
retreating from the fray.22
In this case, Pordios testified that the appellant stabbed Betita
even as the latter moved over to the next stall, still holding the lamp with
the lighted wick which he took from her stall to defend himself from the
Betita had anticipated that
the appellant would assault him.
Betitas fears proved to be well-founded, as the appellant rushed to
where he was and stabbed him on the right nipple.Pordios did not testify that before the stabbing, Betita was
about to throw the bottle at the appellant.
She testified as follows:
QAt about 10:30 oclock in
the evening of November 29, 1993, could you recall of any unusual incident that
QWhat was that unusual
incident all about?
AAt about 10:30 Santiago
approached my table and took my torch.
Then a stone was thrown. I do not know who threw the stone.
So this Santiago Betita transferred to
another table where he brought my torch with him, and he was followed by a man
QWere you able to identify
that man who followed him?
referring to Santiago Betita.
QWho is that person?
QAre you referring to the
accused in this case?
QWhat did this Joseph do
when he followed Santiago Betita?
AHe went near the table
and [in] a short while later I saw Santiago was already stabbed.
QWho stabbed Santiago
QAbout how many meters
were you from the place where Santiago Betita was stabbed by Joseph Cajurao?
AAbout four (4) meters.
QCould you tell this
Honorable Court whether this Santiago Betita was hit when he was stabbed?
QCould you tell in (sic)
what portion of his body was hit by the accused?
AOn the right nipple.
QHow many times was the
victim Santiago Betita stabbed by the accused?
QAfter he stabbed Santiago
what happened next?
QHow about Santiago Betita
what happened to him if you know?
AHe fell on the ground.23
On cross-examination by defense counsel, Pordios testified that
before the appellant stabbed Betita, the latter was merely holding the bottle
in his right hand, on the level of the right shoulder, with his elbow by the
side of the body.
QBetita was standing when
Cajurao was stabbing, is that right?
AYes, he was standing and
he was holding the torch.
QHe was holding the
Will you please demonstrate how
was he holding the torch at the time when he was stabbed by Cajurao?
AThis was the position of
(Witness held the gavel with
right hand, with clenched fist on the level of the right shoulder, and her
elbow by the side of her body. Witness is standing erect.)24
In fine, Betita was in a defensive position when he was
If, as claimed by the
appellant, Betita was about to throw the bottle at him, surely Betitas right
hand would have been raised above his head, his body and right hand arched
backward, ready to throw the bottle at the appellant.This was not the case.
Assuming that Betita did slap the appellant on the face, the
appellants evidence shows, however, that Betita anticipated that the appellant
would retaliate and forthwith ran away to the stall of Pacita and took hold of
From that moment, the
inceptive unlawful aggression on the part of Betita had ceased to exist; there
was no longer a need for the appellant to still pursue the victim and kill
In fine, when the appellant
stabbed the victim, he did so to retaliate.
We agree with the contention of the appellant that there was no
factual basis for the ruling of the trial court that he killed Betita with
Article 14, paragraph 16 of
the Revised Penal Code, reads:
There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes
against the person, employing means, methods or forms in the execution thereof
which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to
himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make.
Treachery requires the concurrence of the following
(1) the employment of means,
methods or manner of execution that would insure the offenders safety from any
retaliatory act on the part of the offended party, who has, thus, no
opportunity for self-defense or retaliation; and (2) deliberate or conscious
choice of such means, methods or manner of execution.25
In this case, there is no evidence that the appellant
deliberately and consciously adopted a method of attack that insured the death
of the victim.
For one thing, Pordios
did not see how the incident between the appellant and Betita commenced and
developed before the latter suddenly appeared from the direction of the plaza,
and took hold of the lamp from her stall.
For treachery to be appreciated, it must be present at the inception of
the attack.26 Where no particulars are known as to how the killing began, its perpetration
with treachery cannot be merely supposed.27 Moreover, it could not be said that the attack was without risk to the
appellant, because Betita was holding a lighted wick lamp which he could have
used as a weapon to fend off the appellants assault.To be considered treacherous, a sudden attack by the assailant,
whether frontally or from behind, must be proven to have been a mode of attack
deliberately adopted by him with the purpose of depriving the victim of a
chance to either fight or retreat.28 In People v. Domingo Albao 29 we held, thus:
The qualifying circumstance of treachery can not logically be
appreciated because the accused did not make any preparation to kill the
deceased in such a manner as to insure the commission of the crime or to make
it impossible or hard for the person attacked to defend himself or
This circumstance can only
be applied, according to the tenor of Article 13, subsection 16 of the Revised
Penal Code, when the culprit employs means, methods or forms of execution which
tend directly and specially to insure the commission of the crime and at the
same time to eliminate or diminish the risk to his own person from a defense
which the other party might offer.
In United States vs. Namit, 38 Phil. 926,
it was held that the circumstance that an attack was sudden and unexpected to
the person assaulted did not constitute the element of alevosia necessary to raise a homicide to murder, where it did not
appear that the aggressor had consciously adopted a mode of attack intended to
facilitate the perpetration of the homicide without risk to himself.
The penalty for homicide under Article 249 of the Revised Penal
Code, is reclusion temporal in its
The maximum of the
indeterminate penalty should be taken from the medium period of reclusion temporal, there being no
modifying circumstances attendant to the crime.The minimum period of the indeterminate penalty should be taken
from the full range of prision mayor
which is from six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years.
We affirm the award of
P50,000 as civil indemnity ex delicto, which is granted without
need of proof other than the commission of a crime.30 Likewise, the trial court correctly awarded the sum of P20,000 as actual
damages, which was admitted by the appellant.31 We cannot award moral damages in the absence of proof of mental or physical
suffering on the part of the heirs of the victim.32
appealed Decision is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the appellant Joseph
Cajurao is convicted of HOMICIDE under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code
and is sentenced to an indeterminate penalty from eight (8) years and one (1)
day of prision mayor in its medium
period as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal in its medium period,
Puno, (Chairman), Quisumbing, Austria-Martinez and Tinga, JJ., concur.
1 Penned by Judge Cristeto D. Dinopol.
4 The prosecution presented as its witnesses Pacita Pordios, Domingo Tecson,
Valentina Betita, Felix Teruel, and Nena Carmelo.
5 TSN, 11 March 1994, pp. 3-6
6 TSN, 10 November 1994, pp. 3-4 (Felix Teruel); TSN, 10 November 1994, pp. 8-9
7 TSN, 11 March 1994, pp. 4-5.
15 Article II, paragraph 1, Revised Penal Code.
17 People v. Alfaro, 119 SCRA 204
(1982); People vs. Camacho, supra.
18 People v. Galit, 230 SCRA 486 (1994).
19 People v. Lachica, 132 SCRA 230
20 People vs. Agapinay, 186 SCRA 812
22 People v. Agapinay, supra.
23 TSN, 11 March 1994, pp. 4-5.
30 People v. Bautista, 331 SCRA 130
31 TSN, 18 March 1994, p. 7.
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