People v. Cajucom : 155023 : May 28, 2004 : J. Ynares-Santiago : First
Division : Decision
[G.R. NO. 155023. May
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. CORNELIO
D E C I S I O N
On appeal is a Decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Morong, Rizal, Branch 79 in Criminal Case No. 99-3576-M1 finding appellant Cornelio Cajumocan y Birdin guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
Murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, sentencing him to suffer
the penalty of reclusin perpetua, and ordering him to pay the heirs of the victim, Apolinario Mirabueno y Morao,
the amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as actual damages, and
costs of the suit.
At 11:30 p.m. of September 30, 1999, while the
deceased, Apolinario Mirabueno, was asleep beside his fourteen year old brother
Leo inside their house in Sitio Waray, Barangay Plaza Aldea, Tanay, Rizal, the
latter was roused from his slumber by the rustling of dried leaves outside the
house.He saw a solitary figure walk toward their house, paused outside their room, and removed
the fish net covering the window and looked inside the house.From the light of the fluorescent lamp inside
the house, Leo recognized the man as appellant Cornelio Cajumocan, who drew a
gun and shot Apolinario in the head, and thereafter ran away. Leo cried out to
his older sister, Margarita and they brought Apolinario to a hospital in
Morong, but he was declared dead on arrival.2 cralawred
Appellant was charged with Murder before the RTC of Morong,
Rizal, Branch 79, in the following Information dated October 4, 1999 which reads:3 cralawred
That on or about 30th day of September 1999, in the
Municipality of Tanay, Province of Rizal, Philippines, and within the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a
gun, with intent to kill, treachery and evident premeditation, and taking
advantage of nighttime did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously shot (sic) with said gun, one Apolinario Mirabueno y Morao hitting
him on his head, thereby inflicting upon the latter intracranial hemorrhage,
which directly caused his immediate death.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
During the arraignment, appellant, assisted by counsel de parte pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Dr. Emmanuel Reyes, Medico-Legal of the PNPC Crime Laboratory in Camp
City, conducted the physical examination of the
victims cadaver.He found an open
gunshot wound, located at the front part of the head, measuring 2.5 c.m., 3.5
c.m. left of the anterior midline with an abraded collar measuring 0.1 c.m.,
158 c.m., from the heel, making a point of exit at the right parietal region,
measuring 2.5 x 3 c.m., 6 c.m. from the midsagital line.4 The point of entry of the bullet was 3 to 4
c.m. above the left eyebrow, and the point of exit was at the back of the
head.The gunshot wound was fatal,
damaging both cerebral hemispheres of the brain.5 According to his report, the victims death resulted instantaneously.6 The cause of death was intracranial hemorrhage secondary to gunshot wound of
the head.7 cralawred
Virginia Mirabueno, the victims mother, testified that she
incurred the following expenses due to the death of her son: funeral service,
P15,000.00; expenses for the wake, P5,000.00; and
burial lot, P2,500.00. She further testified that she mortgaged her house and
lot in order to pay for the funeral expenses.However, she could not present receipts since some of the expenses for
the wake came from the neighbors and relatives in the form of abuloy. She also alleged that her son
was engaged in the business of buying and selling goods, earning P150.00 per
Ernesto Carpo, an inspector/investigator of AFSLAI Security
Service where appellant was employed as a security guard was presented by the
defense as its first witness.Carpo
testified that as inspector, he was assigned the task of overseeing security
detachments. As investigator, his responsibility was to check unusual incidents
and report them directly to the AFSLAI President. He further testified that
appellant was one of the agencys security guards.According to Carpo, appellant was assigned at
the Monterey Farm in 1999, then he transferred to
Tanay, Rizal to the property of Gen. Rene Cruz, and was assigned a long
firearm, specifically a 12-gauge shotgun.In the evening of September 30,
1999, he made a roving inspection of the detachment in Sitio
Bathala, Barangay Plaza Aldea, Tanay, Rizal, located
inside the compound of Gen. Rene Cruz where appellant was one of the security
guards detailed. The head of the security guards stationed in the Cruz property
informed Carpo that appellant was picked up by Tanay police authorities because
he was a suspect in a killing incident. Carpo made inquiries and found out that
appellants tour of duty was from 7 p.m.
to 7 a.m., and concluded that he never
left the place as shown by a photocopy of the Detail Order signed by the head
of the security guards stationed in the Cruz property. They told him that the
place where the shooting incident took place was about one kilometer.Carpo inspected the logbook and saw the
signature of the appellant.9 cralawred
For his part, appellant testified that prior to 7 p.m. on September 30, 1999, he arrived at his assignment in the
Cruz property, located in Sitio Bathala, Plaza Aldea, Tanay, Rizal. He went to
their outpost, signed the logbook and stayed up to 8:30 p.m.He then
went to the bodega where construction
equipment and materials were kept and, upon seeing that they were secure, he
returned to the outpost and watched television. He asked permission from the
head of the security guards to sleep. At 7 a.m.,
he signed the logbook to end his tour of duty.10 While still at the compound, police officers from Tanay, Rizal came and invited
him to the police station. During the investigation, he denied any
participation in the killing of Apolinario.The following day, on October
1, 1999, he was brought to Camp
Crame to undergo paraffin testing.11 The paraffin test showed him negative for powder burns.12 cralawred
On January 7, 2002,
the trial court rendered a decision finding appellant guilty of Murder, the
dispositive portion of which reads:13 cralawred
WHEREFORE, finding the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
the crime of MURDER, as defined and penalized by the Revised Penal Code, he is
hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty prescribed by Art. 248, in its medium
period, that is RECLUSION PERPETUA. Accused is hereby ordered to pay the heirs
of the victim in the amount of P50,000.00 in
accordance with recent jurisprudence, and the further amount of P50,000.00 as
actual damages. With costs.
Hence, this appeal, based on the
following assignment of errors:
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN EXTENDING FULL
RELIANCE AND CREDENCE TO THE PROSECUTIONS PURPORTED EYEWITNESS LEO MIRABUENO,
OBVIOUSLY A BIASED AND PREDISPOSED WITNESS BY REASON OF RELATIONSHIP, BEING A
BROTHER OF THE DECEASED VICTIM.
THE COURT A QUO LIKEWISE ERRED IN DISBELIEVING AND EXTENDING SCANT
CONSIDERATION TO THE OFFICIAL NEGATIVE FINDINGS ON THE PARAFFIN GUNPOWDER
EXAMINATION ON THE PERSON OF THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT.
THE LOWER COURT
COMMITTED A GRIEVOUS ERROR IN APPRECIATING THE CIRCUMSTANCE OF TREACHERY AND
CONSIDERING THE SAME AS A QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCE.
THE HONORABLE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN
REFUSING TO EXTEND CREDENCE TO APPELLANTS CLAIM OF DENIAL AND ALIBI.
THE COURT A QUO AGAIN ERRED GRIEVOUSLY IN FINDING THE APPELLANT GUILTY FOR
MURDER AND IN IMPOSING THE PENALTY OF RECLUSIN
PERPETUA AND AWARDING THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF P100,000.00 AS AND BY WAY OF
ACTUAL DAMAGES.14 cralawred
The foregoing issues need to be resolved: (1) Whether the negative
findings of the paraffin test conducted on the appellant is conclusive proof of
his innocence; (2) Whether treachery can be appreciated in the instant case to
qualify the crime to Murder; and (3) Whether the appellant is guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of Murder under Art. 248 of the Revised
As to the first issue, appellant alleges that the trial court
failed to give consideration to the results of the chemical test indicating
that appellant was negative of gunpowder nitrates consequent to the paraffin
Paraffin tests, in general, have been rendered inconclusive by
this Court. Scientific experts concur in the view that the paraffin test has
proved extremely unreliable in use. It can only establish the presence or
absence of nitrates or nitrites on the hand; still, the test alone cannot
determine whether the source of the nitrates or nitrites was the discharge of a
firearm. The presence of nitrates should be taken only as an indication of a
possibility or even of a probability but not of infallibility that a person has
fired a gun, since nitrates are also admittedly found in substances other than
Appellants argument that the negative result of gunpowder
nitrates from the paraffin test conducted on him the day after the crime was
committed, thereby showing an absence of physical evidence that he fired a gun,
is untenable.In the case of People v. Manalo,16 we stressed:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
x x x even if he were subjected to a paraffin test and the same
yields a negative finding, it cannot be definitely concluded that he had not
fired a gun as it is possible for one to fire a gun and yet be negative for the
presence of nitrates as when the hands are washed before the test. The Court
has even recognized the great possibility that there will be no paraffin traces
on the hand if, as in the instant case, the bullet was fired from a .45 Caliber
In People v. Abriol, et al., 17 we reiterated the rule on the admissibility of this kind of evidence:chanroblesvirtua1awlibrary
A paraffin test could establish the presence or absence of nitrates
on the hand. However, it cannot establish that the source of the nitrate was
the discharge of firearms. Nitrates are also found in substances other than
gunpowder. A person who tests positive may have handled one or more substances
with the same positive reaction for nitrates such as explosives, fireworks,
fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, and leguminous plants. Hence, the
presence of nitrates should only be taken as an indication of a possibility
that a person has fired a gun. However, it must be borne in mind that
appellants were not convicted on the sole basis of the paraffin test.
Paraffin tests, it must be emphasized, merely corroborate direct
evidence that may be presented by the prosecution.
In the case at bar, the positive, clear and categorical testimony
of the lone eyewitness to the crime deserves full merit in both probative
weight and credibility over the negative results of the paraffin test conducted
on the appellant. Verily, establishing the identity of the malefactor through
the testimony of the witness is the heart and cause of the prosecution.18 All other matters, such as the paraffin test, are of lesser consequence where
there is positive identification by the lone eyewitness, Leo Mirabueno, of
appellant as the perpetrator of the crime. Hence, a paraffin test cannot be
considered as conclusive proof of appellants innocence.
As to the second issue, appellant avers that there is no
treachery in the case at bar since there is no direct and positive evidence to
prove the same.
We do not agree.
The court a quo
correctly found the presence of the qualifying circumstance of treachery in the
instant case. Treachery is present when the offender commits any of the crimes
against persons, 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.19 The essence of treachery is the swift and unexpected attack on the unarmed
victim without the slightest provocation on his part.20 cralawred
Two conditions must concur for treachery to be present: (1) the
employment of means of execution that gives the person attacked no opportunity
to defend himself or retaliate, and; (2) the
deliberate or conscious adoption of the means of execution.21 cralawred
In the case at bar, appellant took advantage that Apolinario
Mirabueno was asleep when he shot the unsuspecting victim. The unexpected
attack on the victim rendered him unable and unprepared to defend himself by reason of the suddenness and severity of the
attack. The nature of the wounds and the testimony of the eyewitness
sufficiently established that, first,
at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself,
as he was asleep; and second,
appellant consciously adopted the particular means, method or form of attack,
armed and stealthily performed the criminal act at an unexpected time while the
victim was asleep in his dwelling.
As to the third issue, appellant contends that the court a quo gravely erred in giving probative
weight and credibility to the lone eyewitness, Leo Mirabueno, whom he claims to
be a biased and predisposed witness by reason of relationship, being the brother
of the deceased victim.He likewise
argues that the trial court erred in refusing to lend credence to appellants
claim of denial and alibi and finding him guilty of Murder, imposing the
penalty of reclusin perpetua and
awarding actual damages in the amount of P100,000.00.
We find no reversible error in the case at bar.
The positive identification of the appellant at the scene of the
crime by Leo Mirabueno should be given due weight and credence. Relationship by
consanguinity between the witness and the victim does not per se impair the credibility of the former. In certain cases
relationship may even strengthen credibility for it is unnatural for an
aggrieved relative to falsely accuse someone other than the actual perpetrator.
We held in People v. Realin 22 that the earnest desire to seek justice for a dead kin is not served should the
witness abandon his conscience and prudence and blame one who is innocent of
the crime. As further elaborated in People v. Javier ,23 there is absolutely nothing in this jurisdiction which disqualifies a person
from testifying in a criminal case in which a relative is involved, if the
former was really at the scene of the crime and witnessed the execution of the
Appellants bare denial and alibi cannot prevail over the
positive and categorical testimony of Leo Mirabueno concerning appellants
identification and presence at the crime scene. Well-settled is the rule that
for alibi to prosper, appellant must prove that he was somewhere else when the
crime was committed and that it was physically impossible for him to have been
at the scene of the crime.24 Physical impossibility refers to the distance between the place where the
appellant was when the crime transpired and the place where it was committed,
as well as the facility of access between the two places.25 cralawred
Appellant failed to show that it was physically impossible for
him to be at the locus criminis.Sitio Bathala, the place where appellant was
on duty at the time of the commission of the crime, and Sitio Waray, the place
where the crime was actually committed, were within walking distance. Since
Sitio Bathala was approximately one kilometer from Sitio Waray, appellant could
have easily accessed the scene of the crime in a matter of minutes, leading to
the conclusion that it was not physically impossible for appellant to be in the
house of Apolinario Mirabueno in Sitio Waray. Clearly, appellant had access to
the locus criminis from his place of
This Court has consistently ruled that findings of fact and
assessment of credibility of witnesses are matters best left to the trial court
because of its unique position of having observed that elusive and
incommunicable evidence of the witnesses behavior on the stand while
testifying, which opportunity is denied to the appellate courts. The trial
courts findings are accorded finality, unless there appears in the record some
fact or circumstance of weight which the lower court may have overlooked,
misunderstood or misappreciated and which, if properly considered, would alter
the results of the case.26 We find none of the circumstances that give rise to the exceptions in the case
The court a quo gave
credence and full probative value to the testimony of Leo Mirabueno, the
victims brother.Having observed at
close range the deportment, conduct and demeanor of the sole eyewitness and the
appellant when they testified, the findings of the trial court, its calibration
of the testimonial evidence of the parties and its assessment and probative
weight of the said evidence were all accorded by the appellate court high
respect, if not conclusive effect.27 cralawred
Thus, there is moral certainty that appellant is guilty beyond
reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder. As defined under Art. 248 of the
Revised Penal Code, Murder is the unlawful killing of any person which is not
parricide or infanticide, and committed with any of the qualifying
circumstances under the same article.28 cralawred
Murder was evidently perpetrated when the appellant killed the
victim, Apolinario Mirabueno, which was attended by the qualifying circumstance
of treachery. The elements of Murder have been proven in this case, viz.: (1) A person is killed; (2) The
appellant killed him; (3) The killing was attended by treachery; and (4) The
killing is not parricide or infanticide. The killing was qualified to Murder by
alevosia since the treacherous means
employed to kill the victim was duly proven.
The penalty for Murder is reclusion perpetua to death.There being no
mitigating or aggravating circumstance, the lesser of the two indivisible
penalties shall be imposed.29 Hence, the trial court correctly sentenced
appellant to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
Civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00
given by the court a quo to the heirs
of the victim should be upheld as being consistent with current jurisprudence.30 Civil indemnity is automatically imposed upon the accused without need of proof
other than the fact of the commission of murder or homicide.31 However, the P50,000.00 awarded as actual damages for
the hospitalization, medical and funeral expenses incurred by the family of the
victim cannot be sustained for being unsubstantiated by receipts.
WHEREFORE, in view of
the foregoing, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Morong, Rizal,
Branch 79 in Criminal Case No. 99-3576-M finding appellant Cornelio Cajumocan y
Birdin guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Murder under Art. 248 of the Revised
Penal Code, sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusin perpetua, and ordering him to pay the heirs of the victim
Apolinario Mirabuena civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00, is AFFIRMED
with the MODIFICATION that the award of actual damages is DELETED for lack of
Costs de oficio.
Panganiban, Carpio, and
Azcuna, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman),
on official leave.
1 Decision penned by Judge Candido O. delos Santos.See Rollo, p. 18.
2 TSN, 14 December 1999, pp.
Records, p. 1; Rollo, p. 8.
4 TSN, 31 May 2000, p. 5.
7 Id. at 6. See Exhibit
8 TSN, 3 May 2000, pp. 2-5.
9 TSN, 10 October 2000, pp.
10 TSN, 7 March 2001, pp. 3-9.
12 Physical Science Report No. C-89-99E.See
15 People v. de Guzman, G.R.
No. 116730, 16
November 1995, 250 SCRA 118, 128.
16 G.R. NOS. 96123-24, 8 March 1993,
219 SCRA 656, 663.
17 G.R. No. 123137, 17 October 2001,
367 SCRA 327, 342.
18 People v. Manalo, supra note 15 at 662-663.
19 Art. 14, par. 16, Revised Penal Code.
22 G.R. No. 126051, 21 January 1999,
301 SCRA 495, 510.
23 G.R. No. 130489, 19 February 2002,
377 SCRA 300, 307-308.
28 L.B. Reyes, The Revised Penal Code, Book Two (15th
29 Revised Penal Code, Art. 63(2).
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