People v. Castillo : 118912 : May 28, 2004 : J. Azcuna : First Division
[G.R. NO. 118912 : May 28, 2004]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. QUINTIN CASTILLO y MASANGKAY and RICARDO CASTILLO y ARCE, Appellants,
D E C I S I O N
Quintin Castillo y Masangkay (Quintin) and Ricardo Castillo y Arce
(appellant) were charged with murder for the death of Manolito Hernandez in an
information which states, as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
That on or about the 8th day of April, 1982, at about
10:45 oclock in the evening, in Barangay Malakim Pook, Municipality of San
Pascual, Province of Batangas, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this
Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a knife and a big stone,
with intent to kill, conspiring and confederating together, acting in common
accord, with treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there,
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, stab and hit with said
deadly weapons, suddenly and without warning, one Manolito Hernandez, thereby
inflicting upon the latter sixteen (16) different wounds on different parts of
his body, which directly caused his death.1 cralawred
On December 9, 1982, Quintin and appellant, with the assistance
of counsel, pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder.2 Trial on the merits thereafter ensued.
The records show that Dr. Johnny Ilustre,3 Francisco Castor,4 Francisco Bonado,5 Buenaventura Hernandez,6 Cosme Hernandez,7 Romeo Hernandez,8 and Donata Hernandez9 testified for the prosecution.Their
testimonies established that on April 8, 1982, at around 10:00 p.m., the
seventeen-year-old victim was having a drinking spree inside his fathers
passenger jeepney parked in front of his house with Quintin, appellant, and
Cosme Hernandez. Buenaventura Hernandez, the victims father, approached his
son, asking him why he was drinking.The
victim replied that he was only socializing, and assured Buenaventura that
Quintin and appellant were his friends.He later asked permission to spend the night at his uncles house.His father refused, and this apparently
annoyed the victim.Deciding to go to
his uncles house against his fathers will, he bade goodbye to his companions
and ran towards the north.Seeing this,
Buenaventura drove his jeepney to follow the victim. Aboard the jeepney were
his son Dante Hernandez, his nephew Cosme Hernandez, Quintin, and appellant.
Buenaventura eventually caught up with the victim walking
northwards along the road in Barangay Malaking Pook.Coming from the opposite direction were
Juanito Cusi and his nephew Manuel Cusi. An altercation ensued between Juanito
and the victim, which resulted into a fight.Buenaventura and his passengers alighted and tried to pacify Juanito and
the victim, but before the two could be separated, the victim managed to strike
Juanito at the head with a stone.Buenaventura then offered to bring Juanito to the hospital.On the way to the hospital, Buenaventura saw
Quintin and appellant taking the victim home with the latters waist being held
by appellant and right arm being clutched by Quintin.Fearing for his sons safety following the
incident with Juanito, while passing by his residence, he called out to his
other son Romeo Hernandez to fetch the victim and instructed Cosme Hernandez to
alight from the jeepney and accompany the victim.
Romeo Hernandez, who was then 13 years old, did as he was
told.He took a flashlight and walked
towards the north to look for the victim.At around 10:45 p.m., from a distance of six meters and with the aid of
his flashlight, he saw the victim lying prostrate, being ganged up by Quintin
and appellant.He witnessed Quintin
stabbing the body of the motionless victim with a shiny object while appellant
was astride the victim, beating the latters head with a stone.Fearfully, he shouted Tama na iyan, maawa
kayo sa kapatid ko, prompting the two assailants to turn to him. He thus
ran back home.On the way he met his
cousin Cosme, who, upon being told of the incident, rushed to the crime scene.
When Cosme arrived at the spot where the victim was attacked, he
saw the victim all bloodied and lying on the ground.Quintin and appellant were nowhere to be
found. Police Officer Francisco Castor of the Integrated National Police (INP)
later arrived, followed by members of the victims family, Dr. Johnny Ilustre
of the INP, police officer Francisco Bonado and other policemen.They recovered a stone10 near the victim, which eyewitness Romeo identified during the trial as the same
stone used by appellant in attacking the victim.
Dr. Johnny Ilustre, Municipal Health Officer of San Pascual,
Batangas, conducted the post-mortem examination on the body of the victim. He
prepared the Post-Mortem Examination Report11 and the victims Death Certificate,12 which the prosecution submitted as evidence.He testified that the victim died of severe cerebral hemorrhage due to
fractures on the skull and mandible, and other injuries which appeared to have
been caused by a sharp-pointed instrument and a hard and blunt object.The victim sustained fourteen injuries in
all, four of which Dr. Ilustre declared to be fatal.
The victims mother, Donata Hernandez, also testified on the
expenses she incurred due to the death of his son, totaling to
P29,353.Not all of these, however, were substantiated
by official receipts.
Testifying for the defense, on the other hand, were Pastor de
Castro,13 Romulo Cusi,14 Quintin,15 and appellant.16 cralawred
Quintin and appellant, who happen to be first cousins, were one
in denying the prosecutions narration of the events that transpired after
Buenaventura left for the hospital.They
thus presented their own version of the incident.
Quintin and appellant testified that before the victims father
left for the hospital, the latter requested them to take the victim home.The victim, however, later insisted that they
not accompany him, as he might be scolded by his mother.Quintin and appellant therefore left the
victim and walked home towards the opposite direction.While walking home, they heard the victim
shout, Labas dito ang barako! Ignoring this, they kept walking and on
the way met three men, who appeared to be drunk.The men then asked, Kayo baga ang
nagpapalabas ng barako diyan? Quintin and appellant answered in the
negative and pointed southwards, to the direction of the victim.They then headed home and went to sleep.
Romulo Cusi, nephew of Juanito and second cousin of the accused,
testified that contrary to the prosecutions claim, it was he, and not Manuel
Cusi, who was walking with Juanito that evening.He substantially corroborated Buenaventuras
narration of the stoning of Juanito.He,
however, asserted that Romeo could not have witnessed the alleged killing of
the victim as Romeo rode with them, along with Cosme, in Buenaventuras jeepney
all the way to the hospital.
Finding the evidence for the prosecution clear, convincing, and
sufficient and that of the defense merely fabricated, the Regional Trial Court
of Batangas City, Branch 3, convicted Quintin and appellant of murder,
qualified by treachery and aggravated by abuse of superior strength.It thus sentenced the accused, as follows:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law,
accused QUINTIN CASTILLO AND RICARDO CASTILLO are hereby sentenced to suffer
the penalty of FOURTEEN (14) YEARS and EIGHT (8) MONTHS, as minimum, to
SEVENTEEN (17) YEARS and FOUR (4) MONTHS, as maximum, both of RECLUSION
TEMPORAL, to jointly indemnify the heirs of Manolito Hernandez in the sum of
P30,000, to pay jointly the sum of P50,000 for actual, moral and exemplary
damages and to pay the costs.17 cralawred
It likewise ordered the cancellation of
the bail bonds posted by the accused for their provisional liberty.
Both the accused, who were then committed to the Batangas
Provincial Jail, appealed their conviction before the Court of Appeals.18 They thereafter filed a petition for bail pending appeal grounded on health
reasons,19 which the appellate court granted on February 6, 1992.20 On February 17, 1992, they were accordingly released from confinement upon
filing of bail bonds in the amount of P30,000 each.21 cralawred
On November 19, 1993, the Court of Appeals rendered its decision
affirming the findings of the trial court, with modifications.22 It ruled that the trial court erred in considering abuse of superior strength
as an aggravating circumstance as this is already absorbed by treachery.It, moreover, considered the mitigating circumstance
of Quintins voluntary surrender and sentenced the latter to an indeterminate
prison term the minimum of which is within the range of prision mayor maximum, and the maximum of which is within reclusion temporalmaximum.On the other hand, it said that appellants
penalty should be reclusion perpetua.23 Consequently, the appellate court certified the case to this Court for the
purpose of reviewing appellants criminal liability, in accordance with Rule
124, Section 13 of the Revised Rules of Court.A partial entry of judgment in the meantime was entered with respect to
Quintin, who did not file an appeal.24 cralawred
On March 15, 1995, this Court ordered the bondsmen to surrender
appellant within 10 days from notice and the trial court judge to order the
commitment of appellant to the Bureau of Corrections within 5 days from the
latters surrender.25 Upon receiving report that the bonding company had transferred to an unknown
address, this Court, on June 17, 1998, directed the trial court judge to
forfeit the bond and to issue a warrant of arrest.26 Despite this, appellant remained at large. Although alias warrants of arrest
were issued by this Court on February 24, 1999 and June 21, 1999, appellant has
not been apprehended to date.27 cralawred
It appearing that appellant has jumped bail, this Court shall
first determine whether to entertain the present appeal.Pursuant to Rule 125, Section 1, in relation
to Rule 124, Section 8 of the Revised Rules of Court, in the event that the
appellant escapes from custody or jumps bail, the Court has the discretion to
dismiss the appeal. Section 8 of Rule 124 provides:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
Sec. 8. -- Dismissal of appeal for abandonment or failure to
x x x
The court may also, upon motion of the appellee or on its own motion,
dismiss the appeal if the appellant escapes from prison or confinement or flees
to a foreign country during the pendency of the appeal.
In People v. Araneta,
28 where the appellant therein likewise jumped bail after the case was
certified to the Court for review, the Court ruled that it is unwise to dismiss
the appeal if such will result to an injustice.In said case, dismissal of the appeal would have rendered the trial
court judgment sentencing appellant to a lower penalty final, notwithstanding
the appellate courts finding that a heavier penalty should be imposed.Thus, to avoid a mockery of justice, whereby
an appellant would benefit from his act of jumping bail, the Court therein
resolved to continue exercising jurisdiction over the case.
In the present case, were this Court to dismiss the appeal at
this stage, the decision of the trial court sentencing appellant to a prison
term within the range of reclusion temporal would become final, despite
the finding of the Court of Appeals that appellant should instead be meted the
penalty of reclusion perpetua.To
avoid the absurdity of rewarding appellant for his act of jumping bail, this
Court deems it proper to proceed exercising jurisdiction and consider the
Appellant did not file a brief before this Court.Nevertheless, this Court has reviewed the
records of the case, including the assignment of errors raised before the Court
of Appeals, namely:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
ASSIGNMENT OF ERRORS
THAT THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN
GIVING UNDUE CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONY OF THE SUPPOSED LONE EYEWITNESS TO THE
THAT THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN CONVICTING
THE ACCUSED-APPELLANTS DESPITE THE RULE THAT CONVICTION MUST REST ON THE
STRENGTH OF THE PROSECUTION AND NOT ON THE WEAKNESS OF THE DEFENSE.
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING DUE
CREDENCE TO THE PROSECUTIONS EVIDENCE AND IN COMPLETELY REJECTING THE THEORY
OF THE DEFENSE.29 cralawred
Appellant questioned the sufficiency of the uncorroborated
testimony of the supposed sole eyewitness as evidence to sustain his conviction
and reject his defense of denial.
Appellants conviction depends on the credibility of the lone
eyewitness, Romeo Hernandez, whose testimony, appellant maintained, is
unnatural and improbable.He regarded
Romeos failure to aid the victim while being attacked and to report the crime
immediately as suspicious and contrary to human experience, considering that
they were brothers.
Romeo cannot be faulted for not helping his brother even as the
latter was being stabbed and struck to death.No standard form of behavioral response can be expected from anyone when
confronted with a startling or frightful occurrence.30 Moreover, this Court does not find anything unnatural in Romeos failure to
help his brother as he was only thirteen years old when the crime
happened.Furthermore, as also observed
by the Court of Appeals, Romeo did plead with appellants to stop beating his
brother.He simply had to flee when
appellants turned to him.
Neither can appellant cast suspicion on Romeos failure to report
immediately the crime and the identities of his brothers assailants.As correctly pointed out by the Court of
Appeals, Romeo in his testimony attributed his silence to his confusion upon
seeing his mother cry hysterically and afterwards faint.He also feared that if he disclosed the
identities of the assailants right away, his father might look for them and
figure into more trouble.It was for
these reasons that he waited until after the interment of the victim before
issuing a statement to the authorities.Delay in revealing the identity of the perpetrator of a crime, when
sufficiently explained, does not impair the credibility of a witness.31 Furthermore, in this case, the eyewitness reported the matter to the
authorities three days after the crime.
It is settled that when a conviction hinges on the credibility of
witnesses, the assessment of the trial court is accorded the highest degree of
respect.32 In the present case, the trial court observed that:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
.. [P]rosecution witness Romeo Hernandez is a credible young man
and his statement stated in court is likewise credible and worthy of belief.
Said witness is, from the observation of the court, a refined person and the
same testified in [a] clear and straightforward manner.33 cralawred
Time and again, this Court has held that
the testimony of a sole eyewitness, which is clear, straightforward and worthy
of credence by the trial court, is sufficient to support a conviction.34 cralawred
This Court also notes that there is no showing that Romeo
harbored any ill-motive falsely to impute upon Quintin and appellant the
killing of his brother, especially considering that the accused are his
mothers cousins, and are, therefore, his uncles.Moreover, Romeos declarations as to the
manner by which the victim was attacked were supported by the physical
evidence, thereby bolstering the veracity of his testimony.
Appellants defense of denial pales when viewed against the
strong testimonial evidence of the prosecution.As concurred by the Court of Appeals, the trial court considered the
testimonial evidence of the defense to be fabricated and without sufficient
weight and credence.35 Aside from the testimony of Romulo, which the lower court evaluated to be replete
with inconsistencies, appellants version was unsubstantiated by any
independent evidence.36 To merit credibility, denial must be buttressed by strong evidence of
non-culpability. If unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, it is
negative and self-serving, deserving no greater value than the testimony of
credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters.37 cralawred
This Court thus finds no cogent reason to depart from the
findings of the lower court, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals.When the trial courts factual findings have
been affirmed by the appellate court, said findings are generally conclusive
and binding upon the Court.38 cralawred
Furthermore, there is the well-entrenched doctrine that
unexplained flight is a clear and positive evidence of guilt.39 cralawred
The Court of Appeals and the trial court were correct in
convicting Quintin and appellant of murder.Treachery was clearly demonstrated by the manner by which appellant,
while astride the victim, struck the latters head with a piece of stone.The victim, who was proven to be then lying
on his belly with his face down on the ground, was rendered defenseless, as the
other assailant stabbed him. It was, therefore, clear that Quintin and
appellant employed means to insure the commission of the crime without risk to
themselves.The appellate court,
however, correctly disregarded abuse of superior strength as this circumstance
is already absorbed by treachery.
At the time the crime was committed, the appropriate penalty for
murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code prior to its amendment was reclusion temporalin its maximum period to death.40 Considering that there is neither aggravating nor mitigating circumstance in
this case, the penalty should be reclusion perpetua.41 The penalty of reclusion perpetuais indivisible.42 Thus, the Indeterminate Sentence Law does not apply.
Finally, on appellants civil liability, this Court finds it
appropriate to impose additional damages in line with prevailing doctrine:exemplary damages in the amount of
P25,000,43 moral damages in the amount of P50,000,44 and temperate damages in the amount of P25,000 for funeral expenses.45 The P50,000 indemnity fixed by the Court of Appeals should be sustained.
WHEREFORE, this Court finds appellant Ricardo Castillo y
Arce guilty of murder in Criminal Case No. CCC-VIII-1073 (82) of the Regional
Trial Court of Batangas City, Branch 3, and sentences him to reclusion perpetuaand orders him to pay the heirs of the victim the sum of
as indemnity, P25,000 as exemplary damages, P50,000 as moral
damages, and P25,000 as temperate damages.Costs de oficio.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished to the Secretary of
Interior and Local Government and the Secretary of Justice so that appellant
may be brought to justice.
Carpio, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman),
on official leave.
2 Certificate of Arraignment, CA Rollo,
3 TSN, February 22, 1983, pp.
2-26; TSN, June 21, 1984,
4 TSN, July 1, 1983, pp. 4-14; TSN, July 27, 1983, pp. 3-22.
5 TSN, September 8, 1983, pp. 4-18; TSN, October 19, 1983, pp. 3-42.
6 TSN, December 14, 1983, pp. 5-22; TSN, January 13, 1984, pp. 4-54; TSN, July
30, 1987, pp. 21-29.
7 TSN, February 8, 1984, pp. 2-33; TSN, March 22, 1984, pp. 3-26; TSN, August 15,
1984, pp. 4-26.
8 TSN, August 15, 1984, pp. 27-43; TSN, September 14, 1984, pp. 6-49.
9 TSN, December 14, 1984, pp. 2-13.
11 Records, pp. 7-8, Exhibit A.
13 TSN, July 30, 1985, pp. 4-28.
14 TSN, September 19, 1985, pp. 3-49; TSN, November 14, 1985, pp. 2-28.
15 TSN, January 27, 1987, pp. 2-23; TSN, June 4, 1987, pp. 2-36;TSN, July 30,
1987, pp. 3-20.
16 TSN, May 20, 1986, pp. 2-32;TSN, July 7, 1986, 3-29; TSN, July 16, 1986, pp.
22 Id., at 253 274; Penned by Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice
Vicente V. Mendoza.
23 CA Decision, p. 21, CA Rollo, p. 279 et
27 Id., at 74-77, & 84-86.
31 People v. Espina, 261 SCRA 701 (2001).
41 People v. Muoz,170
SCRA 107 (1989).
45 People v. Latasa, G.R. No.144331, May 9, 2003.
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