[G.R. NO. 171087 : July 12, 2006]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Appellee, v. FABIAN SADES y RODEL, Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
On December 26, 2000, Bienvenido Fallarna Roga was shot at the doorway of his house. He instantly died of a mortal gunshot wound on the left side of his abdomen.
On January 26, 2001, Provincial Prosecutor Cesar A. Enriquez filed an Information1 charging appellant Fabian Sades, the brother-in-law of the deceased, with the crime of Murder committed as follows:
Upon arraignment on March 16, 2001, appellant pleaded not guilty.2
During trial, Marilyn Roga (Marilyn), the wife of the deceased and the sister of appellant, testified in court, to wit:
On the other hand, appellant interposed the defense of alibi and testified thus:
The trial court rendered judgment5 finding appellant guilty of Murder, as follows:
Appellant assailed the decision of the trial court on the ground that the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. He claimed that Marilyn's testimony casts serious doubts as to her credibility specially her positive identification of him as the assailant. He also averred that her testimony was filled with inconsistencies.
In its Decision7 dated October 27, 2005, the Court of Appeals found no compelling reason to depart from the trial court's observation that Marilyn was clear and categorical in identifying appellant as the assailant and that her testimony is sufficient to support a conviction. Likewise, it awarded moral damages to the private complainant in the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00).
The sole issue to be resolved in the instant appeal is whether the guilt of the appellant was proven beyond reasonable doubt.
We find no reason to depart from the findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals. Findings of facts and assessment of credibility of witnesses is a matter best left to the trial court because of its unique position of having observed that elusive and incommunicable evidence of the witnesses' deportment on the stand while testifying, which opportunity is denied to the appellate courts.8 Unless it is shown that the trial court has overlooked, misunderstood or misappreciated certain facts and circumstances which if considered would have altered the outcome of the case, appellate courts are bound by the findings of facts of the trial court.9
We find no merit in the argument of appellant that the light coming from the "moron" was insufficient to illuminate the face of the assailant. It is settled that when conditions of visibility are favorable, and the witnesses do not appear to be biased, their assertion as to the identity of the malefactor should normally be accepted. Illumination produced by kerosene lamp or a flashlight is sufficient to allow identification of persons. Wicklamps, flashlights, even moonlight or starlight may, in proper situations be considered sufficient illumination, making the attack on the credibility of witnesses solely on that ground unmeritorious.10
Moreover, several circumstances show that Marilyn could not have missed identifying appellant as the assailant. Dra. Editha D. Hernandez established the proximity of the assailant when she stated that, when gunpowder is found around the wound, the firearm would have to be one meter away.11 In addition, Marilyn testified that she was side by side with the victim when he was shot by appellant. Also, considering that appellant is her brother, it is not amiss, to state that he is no stranger to Marilyn. Thus, even if the "moron" lamp was about one meter away from the door, this circumstance combined with the proximity of the appellant and Marilyn's familiarity with him, would enable her to easily recognize him as the assailant. Consequently, we find no merit in the argument that it was highly doubtful that Marilyn saw the person who shot her husband.
Anent the alleged inconsistencies in Marilyn's testimonies, i.e., when she pointed to the right side instead of the left side of her waist to indicate the gunshot wound of her husband, we find the same minor and inconsequential. It did not in any way lessen her credibility. Time and again we have held that minor variances in the details of a witness's account, more frequently than not, are badges of truth rather than indicia of falsehood and they often bolster the probative value of the testimony. Indeed, even the most candid witnesses oftentimes make mistakes and would fall into confused statements, and at times, far from eroding the effectiveness of the evidence, such lapses could instead constitute signs of veracity.12 If it appears that the same witness has not willfully perverted the truth, as may be gleaned from the tenor of his testimony and the conclusion of the trial judge regarding his demeanor and behavior on the witness stand, his testimony on material points may be accepted.13 Marilyn's mistake in pointing to the right side showed her candidness and the fact that she did not rehearse her answers for the trial.
Likewise, we do not agree with appellant that it was improbable for Marilyn and the deceased to stand side by side with a door two feet wide. Marilyn explained in her cross-examination that:
Marilyn's testimony showed that she and her husband were inside the house when the latter was shot. She did not claim that she and the deceased were at the doorway that was two feet wide.
Furthermore, no ill-motive was imputed to Marilyn to fabricate the serious charges against appellant who is her brother. If appellant did not shoot the deceased, it is against human nature and the presumption of good faith that Marilyn would falsely testify against him.15
The defense of denial and alibi must fail in light of the clear and positive identification of appellant as the assailant of the deceased. The positive identification of the assailant, when categorical and consistent without any ill motive on the part of the prosecution witnesses, prevails over alibi and denial which are negative, self-serving and undeserving of weight in law.16 The defense of denial, like alibi, is considered with suspicion and is always received with caution, not only because it is inherently weak and unreliable, but also because it can be fabricated easily.17
The killing was attended with treachery. There is treachery when the means, methods, and forms of execution employed gave the person attacked no opportunity to defend himself or to retaliate; and such means, methods, and forms of execution were deliberately and consciously adopted by the accused without danger to his person.18 What is decisive in an appreciation of treachery is that the execution of the attack made it impossible for the victim to defend himself.19
In the case at bar, appellant surreptitiously entered the house of the deceased at 1:00 o'clock in the morning. Awakened by the barking of the dog, the deceased and his wife went out of their bedroom to investigate. It was then, while the deceased was unarmed and standing side by side with his wife at the door facing the kitchen, that appellant shot him. The settled rule is that treachery can exist even if the attack is frontal if it is sudden and unexpected, giving the victim no opportunity to repel it or defend himself against such attack. What is decisive is that the execution of the attack, without the slightest provocation from the victim who is unarmed, made it impossible for the victim to defend himself or to retaliate.20 Appellant shot the deceased while the latter was defenseless and totally unaware of the impending attack to his person. Thus, under paragraph 1 of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, the crime committed is murder.
The trial court correctly awarded the heirs of the victim, the sum of P50,000.00 by way of civil indemnity. This award is mandatory and is granted to the heirs of the victim without need of proof other than the commission of the crime.21 Likewise, the award of P10,000.00 by way of actual damages is proper to cover the funeral expenses which was substantiated with receipts.
The Court of Appeals correctly awarded moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00,22 in view of the finding that Marilyn suffered mental anguish and fear because of the incident.23 In People v. Galvez,24 this Court stressed that the purpose of the award of moral damages is not to enrich the heirs of the victim but to compensate them for the injuries to their feelings.
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated October 27, 2005 in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00225, modifying the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro, Branch 41 in Criminal Case No. P-6275, finding appellant Fabian Sades y Rodel GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder, sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and ordering him to pay the heirs of Bienvenido Fallarna Roga the amounts of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P10,000.00 as actual damages, and P50,000.00 as moral damages, is AFFIRMED.
Panganiban, C.J., Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., Chico-Nazario, JJ., concur.
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