This is an appeal assailing the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 05823 dated 27 February 2014 which dismissed the appeal of appellant Elson Santuille and affirmed with modification the Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of the City of Manila, Branch 42, in Criminal Case No. 10-274400, which found appellant Elson Santuille @ "Bordado" @ Elton Santuille @ Bordado guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder.
Appellant was charged before the RTC of the City of Manila, Branch 42, with murder as follows:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
CRIMINAL CASE No. 10-274400
That on or about June 4, 2009, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, with intent to kill and with treachery, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, and use personal violence upon the person of one ROGELIO MACO Y ARNESTO, by then and there shooting him on the head with an unknown caliber firearm, thereby inflicting upon him gunshot wound which was the direct and immediate cause of his death thereafter.3
During arraignment, appellant pleaded not guilty to the crime charged. At the preliminary and pre-trial conference, the prosecution and the defense stipulated on the identity of appellant and the jurisdiction of the trial court.4
Trial on the merits thereafter ensued.
The prosecution presented as witnesses Elvira T. Maco (Elvira), the wife of the victim, Myrna Q. Maco (Myra), sister-in-law of the victim, Benny A. Maco (Benny), brother of the victim, Dr. Alvin A. David (Dr. David), the medico-legal officer, and SPO4 Virgilio Martinez, the investigating police officer. The defense presented appellant himself, the Bureau of Corrections administrative officer Jose Ma. D. Dela Paz, barangay tanod
Christopher D. De Jesus, and barangay
chairman Saturnino L. Grutas (Grutas).
The prosecution established that on 4 June 2009, the victim, his wife Elvira, his sister-in law Myrna and brother Benny were all together in a condominium unit in Tondo, Manila, at work on a project. Grutas arrived thereat with three (3) tanods
, among whom is appellant, and two (2) soldiers. The victim went outside the unit despite the party's opposition and fears of the worst, owing to the former and Grutas's strained relations. Elvira followed. Elvira and the victim's two (2) other family members, from the open door, witnessed Grutas hand appellant a gun which the latter pointed to the victim who tried to run away. Appellant then shot the victim at the back of the head and fled from the scene. Grutas mercilessly spat on the victim's slumped body.5
Dr. David, the medico-legal officer, confirmed that the victim died from the lone gunshot wound at the back of the head.6
His findings were embodied in the Certificate of Post-Mortem Examination,7
Official Autopsy Report,8
and Anatomical Diagram.9
Appellant maintained that he is Lando Santuille and that it was not he but his older brother, Elson, who killed the victim. He asserted that he had been away in Navotas at the time of the incident. He also stated that he had been imprisoned for murder in 2001 and was released on 15 March 2008; thus he could not have secured any National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clearance10
of Elson Santuille on 1 August 2007.11
He presented a Certificate of Discharge from Prison12
dated 15 March 2008 of one Lando Santuille bearing the mark "RELIEVED" as proof.
Jose Ma. Del Callar testified that appellant had been discharged from prison on 06 January 2007; proof of which is a Certificate of Discharge from Prison13
of one Lando Santuille recorded in their office dated 6 January 2007 bearing the mark "RELEASED." The purported certificate of discharge dated 15 March 2008 presented by appellant does not appear in their office records.14
Christopher de Jesus (De Jesus), a barangay tanod
like appellant, and also appointed by Grutas, testified to support appellant's assertion that the latter is Lando and not Elson Santuille. Witness De Jesus, at the time of his testimony, was a prison inmate in the same jail as appellant.15
Grutas, the barangay
chairman, who had appointed both De Jesus and appellant as tanods
, also testified in the same wise. Grutas had been initially implicated as principal by inducement of the instant murder case. The case against him in the prosecutor's office was however dismissed.16
After trial, the RTC on 25 October 2012 rendered the assailed decision disposing as follows:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, accused Elson Saldana Santuille is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder. He is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. He is likewise ordered to pay the heirs of the victim PhP 53,030.00 as civil indemnity, PhP 50,000.00 as moral damages, and PhP 30,000.00 as exemplary damages.17
The RTC gave credence to the eyewitness accounts of Elvira, Myrna and Benny, all surnamed Maco, of appellant's liability in the killing of the victim. The RTC discovered the lies perpetuated by appellant to escape punishment. The RTC likewise found de Jesus and Grutas as biased witnesses. Significantly, the RTC judge conducted a visual comparison of the NBI clearance photo of one Elson Santuille with the facial features of appellant who claimed he is Lando Santuille; and definitively ruled that. Lando and Elson Santuille are one and the same person.
The Court of Appeals found no reason to disturb the findings of the RTC and upheld its ruling but with modification on the amount of damages awarded. The appellate court also found the eyewitness accounts credible, straightforward and reliable and upheld their positive identification of appellant as the perpetrator. The Court of Appeals thus disposed:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DENIED and the Decision dated October 25, 2012 of the RTC, Branch 42, Manila in Criminal Case No. 10-274400 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION only insofar as the amount to be paid by accused-appellant Santuille to pay the heirs of Rogelio Maco is concerned, which are as follows: P53,030.00 as actual damages, P75,000 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages. All monetary awards for damages shall earn interest at the legal rate of 6% per annum from the date of finality of this Decision until fully paid.18
Now before the Court for final review, we affirm appellant's conviction.
Well-settled in our jurisprudence is the rule that findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses deserve.great weight, as the trial judge is in the best position to assess the credibility of the witnesses, and has the unique opportunity to observe the witness first hand and note his demeanor, conduct and attitude under gruelling examination.19
Absent any showing that the trial court's findings of facts were tainted with arbitrariness or that it overlooked or misapplied some facts or circumstances of significance and value, or its calibration of credibility was flawed, the appellate court is bound by its assessment.
In the prosecution of the crime of murder as defined in Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), the following elements must be established: (1) that a person was killed; (2) that the accused killed that person; (3) that the killing was attended by treachery; and (4) that the killing is not infanticide or parricide.20
Our review of the records convinces us that these elements were clearly met. We uphold appellant's conviction in Criminal Case No. 10-274400 for Murder. The prosecution eyewitnesses positively identified appellant as the person responsible for killing the victim Rogelio Maco. The Court finds no reason to disbelieve the credible and straightforward testimonies. We are not persuaded by the appellant's defenses of denial and alibi as these cannot prevail over the eyewitnesses' positive identification of him as the perpetrator of the crime. Denial, like alibi, if not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence is negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law.21
The prosecution ably established the presence of the element of treachery as a qualifying circumstance. The shooting of the unsuspecting victim was sudden and unexpected which effectively deprived him of the chance to defend himself or to repel the aggression, insuring the commission of the crime without risk to the aggressor and without any provocation on the part of the victim.
In fine, the Court finds no error in the conviction of the appellant.
The Court affirms the penalty of reclusion perpetua
imposed upon appellant. Under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, the crime of murder qualified by treachery is penalized with reclusion perpetua
to death. The lower courts were correct in imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua
in the absence of any aggravating and mitigating circumstances that attended the commission of the crime. The Court likewise affirms the award of actual damages and civil indemnity but the award of the other damages should be modified, in accordance with prevailing jurisprudence, as follows: P75,000.00 as moral damages, and P75,000.00 as exemplary damages.22
Further, all the amount of damages awarded should earn interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum
from the finality of this judgment until said amounts are fully paid.23WHEREFORE,
premises considered, the Decision dated 27 February 2014 of the Court of Appeals, Special Second Division, in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 05823, finding Elson Santuille @ "Bordado" @ Elton Santuille @ "Bordado" guilty of murder in Criminal Case No. 10-274400 is AFFIRMED
. Appellant is not eligible for parole, and in addition to the actual damages of P53,030.00, appellant is ORDERED
to pay the heirs of Rogelio Maco as follows: P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral damages, and P75,000.00 as exemplary damages.
He is FURTHER
ordered to pay interest on all damages awarded at the legal rate of six percent (6%) per annum
from the date of finality of this judgment until fully paid.
No pronouncement as to costs.SO ORDERED.ChanRoblesVirtualawlibraryVelasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Leonardo-De Castro,*
and Reyes, JJ.
, concur.Peralta, J.
, on wellness leave.
* Additional Member per Raffle dated 13 June 2016.
1Rollo, pp. 2- 13; Penned by Associate Justice Remedios A. Salazar-Fernando with Associate Justices Samuel H. Gaerlan and Pedro B. Corales concurring.
2 Records, pp. 320-329; Presided by Presiding Judge Dinnah C. Aguila-Topacio.
3 Id. at 1.
4 Id. at 74-75.
5 TSN, 18 January 2011, pp. 6-9; TSN, 17 February 2011, pp. 3-9; TSN, 31 May 2011, pp. 3-7.
6 TSN, 18 August 2011, pp. 4-7.
7 Records, p.19.
8 Id. at 126.
9 Id. at 125.
10 Id. at 188.
11 TSN, 8 December 2011, pp. 3-6; TSN, 10 April 2012, pp. 3-7.
12 Records, p. 172.
13 Id. at 223.
14 TSN, 21 June 2012, pp. 4-12.
15 TSN, 2 August 2012.
16 TSN, 4 September 2012.
17 Records, p. 329.
18Rollo, p. 12.
19People v. Rivera, 458 Phil. 856, 873 (2003) cited in People v. Sevillano, G.R. 200800, 9 February 2015, 750 SCRA 221, 227.
20People v. Sevillano, G.R. 200800, 9 February 2015, 750 SCRA 221, 227 citing People v. Sameniano, 596 Phil. 916, 928 (2009).
21Malana, et al. v. People, 573 Phil. 39, 53 (2008).
22People v. Jugueta, G.R. No. 202124, 5 April 2016.
23People v. Vitero, 708 Phil. 49, 65 (2013).