Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1966 > January 1966 Decisions > G.R. No. L-21417 January 31, 1966 PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. NICOLAS QUINTAB:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. L-21417. January 31, 1966.]

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. NICOLAS QUINTAB, Defendant-Appellant.

I. L. Padilla for the defendant and Appellant.

Solicitor General for the plaintiff and appellee.


SYLLABUS


1. EVIDENCE; ADMISSION OF KILLING BY ACCUSED; BURDEN OF PROOF THAT SLAYING WAS JUSTIFIED. — The killing of the deceased by the accused being admitted by the latter, the burden of proving that the slaying was legally justifiable lay upon the appellant. The evidence discloses that this burden was not adequately met. Between the testimony of the prosecution witnesses and that of accused-appellant, the declarations of the former were properly given greater weight by the trial court, since witness was not only neutral and disinterested but his version was more consistent with the probabilities of the case.

2. ID.; CREDIBILITY OF WITNESSES; OPINION OF TRIAL COURT ENTITLED TO GREAT WEIGHT. — It is a firmly established rule in this jurisdiction that the opinion of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses is entitled to great weight in the absence of plain error (People v. Cabrera, 43 Phil. 64; U.S. v. Melad, 27 Phil. 488; People v. Reyes, 47 Phil. 635).


D E C I S I O N


REYES, J. B. L., J.:


This is an appeal by the accused Nicolas Quintab from a conviction for murder, with the penalty of life imprisonment, rendered after a separate trial from his co-accused in Criminal Case No. 7984 of the Court of First Instance of Negros Occidental.

There are two (2) different accounts of the circumstances surrounding the stabbing of the victim, Jesus Navarra, admittedly by the accused-appellant in the provincial jail at Bacolod City on the morning of 5 July 1962, resulting in his death. The autopsy findings showed:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"(1) Wound, stabbed, 1 inch long, 2-3/4 inches deep, nape of neck, 3 inches from the union along the mid-spinal line, directed postero-anteriorly and slightly to the left.

(2) Wound, stabbed, 1-1/2 inches long, level of 2nd inter-space along the left parasternal cutting the lower half of second costal cartilage, directed antero-posteriorly, penetrating thoracic cavity, penetrating pericardium, penetrating right auricle, penetrating thru and thru base of ascending aorta, penetrating left auricle at 1 point.

(3) Hemopericardium, Moderate, sec.

(4) Hemothorax, left, severe, sec."cralaw virtua1aw library

The second-mentioned wound was the fatal one.

The version of the prosecution, based on the testimony of two (2) eyewitnesses, Wilfredo Berja and Jimmy Debouzet, is as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

At about nine o’clock in the morning of 5 July 1962, Wilfredo Berja and Jesus Navarra went to the said provincial jail to visit detained prisoners Jimmy Debouzet and Nelson Viñas regarding the bail bonds of the said detainees. They were permitted by the prison guard to enter. While the quartet were conversing at Gate 2, another prisoner, Romeo Prado, entered and greeted the visitors, putting an arm on the shoulder and feeling the waist of Berja. Then Prado left. Navarra kept conversing with Debouzet and Viñas, while Berja listened with folded arms. The visitors were about to leave but Debouzet asked Navarra to talk for a short while further. So, the conversation continued. All of a sudden, the accused Nicolas Quintab stabbed Jesus Navarra from behind, with a flamenco (a knife) at the nape. Navarra turned towards his attacker. Quintab turned Navarra around and held the left side of Navarra’s jacket, then stabbed him a second time, at the breast. The victim was able to parry a third stab. Berja tried to help Navarra but Quintab ran away, passing through Gate 2. Berja wanted to overtake Quintab but, at the gate, Romeo Prado and Romeo Diapante, who were armed with knives, stood guard. Berja picked up a chair to defend himself. Meanwhile, Navarra fell to the floor. The two Romeos ran towards the backyard; Quintab did likewise. Berja picked up the fallen Navarra, dragged him to a car parked outside the jail, then took him to the provincial hospital, where Navarra expired later. During the conversations preceding the attack, there was a guard posted at Gate No. 1 and another at the office of the jail. They were four (4) and five (5) meters away, respectively, from where the four were conversing, but when the narrated incident occurred and Berja shouted for help no guard responded.

The version of the defendant, based mainly on his testimony and Venancio Nombre, is, on the other hand, as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

The accused-appellant, Nicolas Quintab, was a prisoner in the jail and assigned as a trusty. On the day of the incident, he was assigned to clean the yard of the jail instead of his regular assignment of cleaning in the provincial capitol. After working for about an hour at the backyard, he went to the house of Ernesto Prado, a provincial guard, located inside the backyard, to inquire about a flat-iron. From there he went to the desk sergeant and asked permission to get inside the cell. He was directed to another guard. The guard was not around so he returned to the desk sergeant but was unable to pass through the door because he met Jesus Navarra. When Quintab moved to either left or right to give way for Navarra, Navarra did the same simultaneously. Thereupon, Navarra pushed Quintab aside and slapped him, saying, "Maybe you do not know me." Navarra then boxed Quintab but the latter parried the blow. They exchanged fist blows. Something fell to the concrete floor; Navarra stooped to pick it up; but Quintab, noticing that it was a knife, blocked Navarra and beat him to it and stabbed Navarra on the breast. Navarra sagged; Quintab stabbed him again, on the neck. Navarra reeled backward and fell and Quintab was brought along on the fall with Quintab atop. The knife struck on Navarra’s neck; Quintab released it. But when Quintab noticed Berja approaching to hit him with a chair, the former retrieved the weapon and ran for about ten (10) meters where he met Captain Melecio Borromeo, then acting as the provincial warden, and Prado. Quintab surrendered the flamenco to Borromeo and told him: "Sir, I have stabbed somebody." The accused was later on investigated by one Captain Alayon but he refused to sign the question and answer affidavit, Exhibit "D", in view of certain inaccuracies or discrepancies.

In view of the foregoing conflicting accounts, the issue that confronts us involves credibility.

The killing of the deceased by the accused being admitted by the latter, the burden of proving that the slaying was legally justifiable lay upon the appellant. Our review of the evidence discloses that this burden was not adequately met. In the first place, between the testimony of the prosecution witness, Wilfredo Berja, and that of accused-appellant, Nicolas Quintab, the declarations of Berja were properly given greater weight by the trial court, since Berja was not only a neutral and disinterested witness but his version, previously digested herein, was more consistent with the probabilities of the case.

Secondly, it is well to note that appellant Quintab’s assertion that the "flamenco" knife (used by him in slaying Navarra) either fell from the pocket of the slain man or was thrown by Berja in order to help Navarra (for Quintab gave both contradictory versions), ran directly contrary to the established prison regulations that visitors were not allowed to bring weapons inside the prison compound but must deposit them with the guards; and no reason is shown why Navarra or Berja should be exempted.

In the third place, between the written transcript of Quintab’s version of the incident, given shortly afterwards to Captain Alayon, and his testimony in court at the trial, the court noted certain discrepancies that, in its opinion, affected appellant’s credibility (Decision, pp. 5-6); and it is a firmly established rule in this jurisdiction that the opinion of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses is entitled to great weight in the absence of plain error (People v. Cabrera, 43 Phil. 64; U. S. v. Melad, 27 Phil. 488; People v. Reyes, 47 Phil. 635).

While there is no strict necessity of proving motive for the killing, the same being admitted, the record strongly hints that the accused was dissatisfied with Navarra’s lack of interest in furnishing bail for himself and his friends while attending to that of other prisoners; so much so that he had advised one of his fellow detainees (Romeo Debeses) to denounce Navarra as one of his accomplices in the homicide for which Debeses was detained (t.s.n., Torres, Oct. 12, 1962, p. 15).

That the killing of Navarra was planned by Quintab and his co- accused Romeo Prado and Romeo Diapante is shown by the manner in which the latter two, armed with knives, blocked all pursuit of Quintab by Wilfredo Berja. Prado escaped arrest, however, and Diapante was separately tried.

The crime was, therefore, murder qualified by evident premeditation, and aggravated by treachery, since the attack was sudden; but the latter is offset by the voluntary surrender of accused Quintab. Hence, the penalty of life imprisonment was correctly imposed by the court below.

The judgment appealed from is affirmed. No costs in view of the pauper’s appeal.

Bengzon, C.J., Bautista Angelo, Concepcion, Barrera, Dizon, Regala, Bengzon, J.P. and Zaldivar, JJ., concur.

Makalintal, J., did not take part.




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