Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1982 > May 1982 Decisions > G.R. No. L-55831 May 31, 1982 - PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v. GILBERT MEDRANO, ET AL.

199 Phil. 520:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. L-55831. May 31, 1982.]

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. GILBERT MEDRANO, ANTONIO POBLETE, MARCELO ARZADON and EDILBERTO ARZADON, Defendants-Appellants.

Solicitor General Estelito P. Mendoza, Assistant Solicitor General Roberto E. Soberano and Solicitor Roberto A. Abad for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Chief Citizen Attorney Reynaldo S. Fajardo, Acting Deputy Chief Citizen Attorney Marcial P. Lagunzad, Jr., Senior Citizen Attorney Jose V. Juan and Citizen Attorney Renato B. Pagapong, for Defendants-Appellants.

SYNOPSIS


Medrano stabbed Berbano in the nape almost decapitating him and ultimately causing his death. Charged with murder together with five others, Medrano admitted the infliction of the fatal wound but interposed self defense. The prosecution presented the sole eyewitness to the killing who testified that Marcelo was dragging Berbano inside the yard of one Purita when Medrano suddenly materialized in the yard accompanied by the other accused; that without any warning and with Marcelo still holding the victim’s hand, Medrano stabbed Berbano in the nape with a bolo; that, thereafter, Accused Edilberto hacked the victim with a pick-mattock and Antonio stabbed the victim’s back and ears with a bolo; and, that after those assaults, Edwin and Arcaina held Berbano’s arms to find out if he was already dead. Motive for the killing was also shown. The trial court gave credence to the prosecution evidence. It acquitted Edwin and Arcaina and convicted the others of murder, sentencing them to reclusion perpetua with the exception of Medrano who was sentenced to an indeterminate penalty after the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender was appreciated in his favor. On appeal, the accused assailed the credibility of the sole eyewitness and the finding that Poblete and the Azardon brothers conspired with Medrano.

The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s finding of guilt of the appellants but not as co-conspirators. It held that although conspiracy, if any, may be inferred from the close relationship among the four accused and their concerted effort to liquidate Berbano, only Marcelo and Medrano should be held liable as co-principals since it is highly probable that the wounds inflicted by Antonio and Edilberto after Medrano had inflicted the fatal wound were not indispensable and merely hastened the victim’s death.

Antonio and Edilberto were held liable as accomplices. Medrano’s penalty was increased considering that he was the most guilty among the accused.


SYLLABUS


1. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; CREDIBILITY OF WITNESS; DELAY IN PRESENTING HERSELF BEFORE AUTHORITIES. SAND MINOR DISCREPANCIES IN TESTIMONY IN CASE AT BAR NOT SUFFICIENT TO IMPAIR CREDIBILITY. — With respect to the credibility of the sole prosecution eyewitness Lolita Palos who executed a statement and testified at the preliminary investigation, it is true that she did not immediately present herself to the authorities as an eyewitness but that delay is sufficiently explained by her fear of getting involved in the case and of provoking reprisals from the accused. She was acquainted with all of them and with the victim, Berbano. Her Barrio, Nanuccauan, adjoined Barrio Bayabat where the accused resided and where the killing was perpetrated. The trial court regarded her testimony, with its minor discrepancies, as trustworthy and convincing. The defense has not shown any improper motive that would impel her to falsely implicate the accused in the killing of Berbano.

2. CRIMINAL LAW; MURDER; QUALIFIED BY TREACHERY. — The crime committed is murder qualified by treachery because Medrano without any risk to himself, struck the victim on the nape with such force that the victim was almost beheaded.

3. ID.; ID.; EVIDENT PREMEDITATION NOT PRESENT IN CASE AT BAR. — The trial court correctly found that evident premeditation was not proven. The prosecution did not prove that there was a prior agreement among the accused to kill Berbano.

4. ID.; CONSPIRACY; MAY BE INFERRED IN CASE AT BAR BUT DOUBT RESOLVED IN FAVOR OF ACCUSED. — The conspiracy, if any, may be inferred from the close relationship among the four accused and their concerted effort to liquidate Berbano, an indication of community of design. Nevertheless, since Poblete and Edilberto Azrdon wounded the victim after Medrano had inflicted the mortal wound upon him and it is highly probable that their acts were not indispensable and merely hastened the victim’s death, the two should be regarded as accomplices, following the well-known rule that in case of doubt the courts naturally lean to the milder form of responsibility (People v. Tamayo, 44 Phil. 38; People v. San Miguel, L-30722, etc., July 31, 1981, 106 SCRA 290; People v. Nierra, L-32624, February 12, 1980, 96 SCRA 1).

5. ID.; MURDER; PENALTY IMPOSED ON PRINCIPALS IN CASE AT BAR. — The trial court properly imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua on Marcelo Azardon as co-principal of Medrano in the crime of murder, there being no attenuating circumstance that can be appreciated in his favor. The indeterminate penalty of eight years and one day of prision mayor as minimum to seventeen years and four months of reclusion temporal as maximum meted out by the trial court to Medrano after appreciating in his favor the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender should, however, be increased to seventeen years of reclusion temporal medium as minimum to twenty years of reclusion temporal maximum as maximum, considering that he was the most guilty among the four accused.


D E C I S I O N


AQUINO, J.:


This is a murder case where the killer, Gilbert Medrano, wanted to plead guilty to homicide but because of the fiscal’s objection the trial court did not countenance that plea bargaining (2-4 tsn June 8, 1978).

There is no question that at about five o’clock in the afternoon of August 20, 1977, Rogelio Berbano, 32, was stabbed in the nape by Medrano, 25, in front of the house of Purita Poblete located at Barrio Bayabat, Amulung, Cagayan. The stab wound almost decapitated Berbano. He died due to massive hemorrhage (Exh. C and D). Medrano admitted the infliction of the fatal wound. At the trial, he interposed self-defense.chanrobles.com : virtual law library

His version was that when he met Berbano on that afternoon, the latter drew his bolo and assaulted him. Medrano stepped backward and was not hit. Berbano tried to hit him again. Medrano parried the blow with his pick-mattock (Exh. A or 1). Their weapons fell on the ground. Medrano picked up Berbano’s bolo. Berbano tried to wrest it away from Medrano. They grappled for its possession. In the course of the struggle, Medrano inflicted the mortal wound.

Medrano’s version was corroborated by his brother-in-law, Marcelo Arzadon, and by his cousins, Antonio Poblete and Edwin Poblete, who allegedly witnessed the fight between Berbano and Medrano. Edilberto Arzadon testified that he was not at the scene of the fight. He was at home chopping wood.

On the other hand, the version of the prosecution, as testified to by Lolita Palos, an alleged eyewitness, was that on that afternoon, Berbano and Marcelo Arzadon, who were riding on a carabao, stopped in front of the house of Purita Poblete. Marcelo, after alighting from the carabao, pulled down Rogelio, who resisted, and dragged him inside the yard of Purita’s house (See sketch, Exh. F) at the same time asking some persons to come because Berbano was already in the yard ("Umaycayon, adda ditoyen").

Marcelo picked up a piece of wood and tried to hit Berbano on the head. Berbano, who was unarmed, parried the blow. Then, as if by pre arrangement, Medrano, Edilberto Arzadon, Antonio Poblete, Edwin Poblete and Marcial Arcaina suddenly materialized in the yard.

While Marcelo was still holding Berbano’s right hand, Medrano, without any warning, stabbed Berbano on the nape with a bolo. Then, Edilberto hacked Berbano with a pick-mattock (Exh. A). Antonio, using a bolo, stabbed Berbano’s back and ears. After those assaults, Edwin and Arcaina held Berbano’s arms to find out if he was already dead.

The postmortem examination conducted by the municipal health officer revealed that the victim had a mortal wound at the base of his neck, the entire bone extending to the throat having been cut (See photos, Exh. I to 1-5). He had also wounds in the occipital region, on the left shoulder, in the right ear, a small wound below the left ear, bruises on the left forearm and abrasions in the scapular region (Exh. C and C-1). Death was caused by the fatal wound in the neck (Exh D).

Medrano, when investigated by the station commander in the early morning of August 21, 1977, or less than twelve hours after the killing, confessed that he inflicted the fatal wound but he refused to write down his confession. The station commander took down Medrano’s confession in the presence of the barangay captain and a barrio councilman (Exh. 2) but Medrano refused to sign it. The victim’s body was found in the canal near the road in front of Purita Poblete’s house but there was a pool of blood inside the yard (Exh. F-3).chanrobles lawlibrary : rednad

Daniel Soriano testified that Berbano was an agent selling irrigation pumps. Berbano sold a water pump to his father and was entitled to a commission of P676.22. Marcelo Arzadon wanted to buy a water pump. Berbano acted as his guarantor and agreed to advance to Marcelo P350 to defray the expenses of preparing the papers required for Marcelo’s purchase of the pump. The amount was taken from Berbano’s commission (Exh. K). However, that purchase was aborted.

Elisa Berbano testified that the deduction of the sum of P350 from Berbano’s commission caused a misunderstanding between Marcelo and her brother, Rogelio, because Rogelio wanted to collect that amount from Marcelo but he refused to pay it. Marcelo threatened to kill Rogelio (Exh. L; 11 tsn Nov. 7, 1978).

Not only that. After Berbano’s father Victorino had purchased the pump, Victorino ejected Medrano and Edwin Poblete as tenants from his farm (Exh. N).

The fiscal filed an information in the Circuit Criminal Court at Tuguegarao, Cagayan, charging with murder the Arzadon brothers, Medrano, Antonio Poblete, Edwin Poblete and Arcaina.

The trial court rejected Medrano’s plea of self-defense and Edilberto Arzadon’s alibi. It convicted the Arzadon brothers, Poblete and Medrano of murder, sentenced Poblete and the two brothers to reclusion perpetua and Medrano to an indeterminate penalty of eight years and one day of prision mayor as minimum to seventeen years and four months of reclusion temporal as maximum and ordered the four accused to pay solidarily to the heirs of Berbano an indemnity of twelve thousand pesos. Voluntary surrender to the authorities was appreciated as a mitigating circumstance in favor of Medrano. Arcaina and Edwin Poblete were acquitted for insufficiency of evidence (Criminal Case No. 481).

The four accused appealed. They contend that the trial court erred in giving credence to the testimony of the prosecution’s sole eyewitness, Lolita Palos, and in finding that Poblete and the Arzadon brothers conspired with Medrano.

The trial court made a very painstaking appraisal of Medrano’s version of self-defense. It found his testimony and that of his co-accused to be riddled with improbabilities. The alleged self-defense appears to be fabricated. It exhibits the familiar features of concocted claims of self-defense found in several decided cases.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

There is no reason for reversing the trial court’s findings on this matter, particularly its conclusion that the victim’s body was removed from the yard, then brought to the roadside and dumped in the canal and that the pick-mattock and its scabbard (Exh. F-14) were placed near the body to make it appear that Berbano was armed and had committed an unlawful aggression.

With respect to the credibility of Lolita Palos who executed a statement and testified at the preliminary investigation (Exh. 1 and 1-B), it is true that she did not immediately present herself to the authorities as an eyewitness but that delay is sufficiently explained by her fear of getting involved in the case and of provoking reprisals from the accused (6-7 tsn July 26, 1978). She was acquainted with all of them and with the victim, Berbano. Her barrio, Nanuccauan, adjoined Barrio Bayabat where the accused resided and where the killing was perpetrated.

The trial court regarded her testimony, with its minor discrepancies, as trustworthy and convincing. The defense has not shown any improper motive that would impel her to falsely implicate the accused in the killing of Berbano.

The crime committed is murder qualified by treachery. Medrano, without any risk to himself, struck the victim on the nape with such force that the victim was almost beheaded. The trial court correctly found that evidence premeditation was not proven.

The prosecution did not prove that there was a prior agreement among the accused to kill Berbano. The conspiracy, if any, may be inferred from the close relationship among the four accused and their concerted effort to liquidate Berbano, an indication of community of design.

Nevertheless, since Poblete and Edilberto Arzadon wounded the victim after Medrano had inflicted the mortal wound upon him and it is highly probable that their acts were not indispensable and merely hastened the victim’s death, the two should be regarded as accomplices, following the well-known rule that in case of doubt the courts naturally lean to the milder form of responsibility (People v. Tamayo, 44 Phil. 38; People v. San Miguel, L-30722, etc., July 31, 1981, 106 SCRA 290; People v. Nierra, L-32624, February 12, 1980, 96 SCRA 1).

The case of Marcelo Arzadon has a different factual complexion. He lured Berbano to the place where he was liquidated. He perpetrated initial overt acts which led to Berbano’s assassination. He was holding Berbano’s hand when Medrano inflicted the fatal wound. His participation was clearly that of a co-principal. Hence, the penalty of reclusion perpetua was properly imposed on him. No attenuating circumstance can be appreciated in his favor.

The penalty meted out by the trial court to Medrano should be increased, considering that he was the most guilty among the four accused.

WHEREFORE, the penalty imposed on Marcelo Arzadon is affirmed. Gilbert Medrano is sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of seventeen years of reclusion temporal medium as minimum to twenty years of reclusion temporal maximum as maximum. The civil liability imposed by the trial court on Medrano and Marcelo Arzadon is affirmed.chanrobles law library

As accomplices, Edilberto Arzadon and Antonio Poblete are sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of ten years of prision mayor medium as minimum to fourteen years of reclusion temporal minimum as maximum and, as their quota, they are ordered to pay solidarily to the heirs of the victim an indemnity of six thousand pesos. Costs de oficio.

SO ORDERED.

Barredo (Chairman), Guerrero, Abad Santos, De Castro and Escolin, JJ., concur.

Concepcion Jr., J., is on leave.




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