THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CEFERINO GUILLERMO, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
This is an appeal from a decision1 of the Regional Trial Court of Alfonso Lista, Ifugao finding accused-appellant Ceferino Guillermo guilty of murder complexed with frustrated murder and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify Michael de la Cruz and the heirs of Ronnie de la Cruz, and to pay the damages.
The information against accused-appellant alleged
That on or about 8 oclock in the evening of December 15, 1991, at Barangay Uban, Aguinaldo, Ifugao Province, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused with intent to kill and with the use of treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously shot Ronnie de la Cruz which caused the instant death of the latter which bullet perforated the body of said victim and hit Michael de la Cruz which would have caused his death were it not for the timely medical treatment rendered to him.
In its decision, the trial court found the following facts:
Accused-appellant Ceferino Guillermo is a second-degree cousin of the deceased Ronnie de la Cruz.2 Before her marriage to accused-appellant, Carmen Guillermo and deceased Ronnie de la Cruz were friends. After the marriage, accused-appellant suspected Carmen to be carrying on an illicit relationship with Ronnie de la Cruz.3 For this reason, accused-appellant harbored a grudge against Ronnie. Ronnies father, Eusebio de la Cruz, Sr., tried to reconcile the cousins and sought the help of Barangay Chairman Carlos Dinamman, but their efforts were unsuccessful.4 In fact, accused-appellant and deceased had an altercation because of some utterances made by the latter.5
To prevent a similar incident, Eusebio de la Cruz, Sr. sent his son Ronnie to live with the latters aunt in Tubtubob, Alfonso Lista, Ifugao.6 The elder de la Cruz feared for the life of his son. After a year, however, Ronnie returned home to help his father tend their farm.7
On the evening of December 15, 1991, at around 8 oclock, a fellowship was held in the premises of the Pentecostal Church of Ubao, Aguinaldo, Ifugao.8 Among those present were Ronnie de la Cruz, Eusebio de la Cruz, Jr., Michael de la Cruz, and Jeny Bumagat.
Ronnie and Michael de la Cruz went out of the church to relieve themselves.9 But after doing so, they did not go back and just remained outside. Suddenly, accused-appellant appeared and shot Ronnie point blank with a Garand rifle.10 Ronnie was hit on the right breast and the upper part of his thigh.11 The two bullets which hit Ronnie also hit Michael, who was two meters behind him. Michael was hit on the back and the left leg.12
In convicting accused-appellant, the trial court relied on the testimonies of witnesses who pointed at accused-appellant as the person who shot and killed Ronnie. The first witness, Michael de la Cruz, testified that Ceferino Guillermo shot Ronnie de la Cruz.13 Another witness, Eusebio de la Cruz, Jr., also pointed out accused-appellant as the one who shot and killed Ronnie and wounded Michael.14
The court also considered the testimony of Darlina Guillermo who testified that when she heard the gunshots she ran towards the church to find out the cause of such gunshots. On the way, she met accused-appellant running from the church towards his house. He had a long gun and was followed by his white dog. Darlina said that upon reaching the church, she found Ronnie dead on the ground.15
On the other hand, SPO3 Delfin Bullan testified that accused-appellant surrendered the Garand rifle used by him in shooting Ronnie and Michael de la Cruz and that the rifle had been issued to accused-appellant as member of the Citizen Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).16
The trial court dismissed allegations that the witnesses, Darlina Guillermo, Michael de la Cruz, and Eusebio de la Cruz, Jr., were biased because of their relationship to the deceased, pointing out that accused-appellant is likewise related to these witnesses. The lower court said it could not find any reason why the witnesses would falsely testify against accused-appellant.
The trial court likewise rejected accused-appellants claim that at the time of the commission of the crime he had to be brought home by Vicente Bilagot because he was drunk. Noting that alibi could easily be fabricated, the trial court stated that it does not suffice for accused-appellant merely to prove that he was at some other place at the time of the killing but likewise that the place where he was allegedly was so far as to preclude the possibility that he could be at the scene of the crime at the time of the killing. Accused-appellant failed to show this, according to the trial court, since the place where he allegedly was at the time of the commission of the crime was only a stones throw away from the church where the killing took place. Hence, it was not impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime. Moreover, it was held that alibi could not prevail over the positive identification of accused-appellant by the prosecution witnesses.
Accordingly, the trial court found accused-appellant guilty of murder complexed with frustrated murder and sentenced him as follows:
AS A CONSEQUENCE OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the Court finds the accused
guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder complexed with Frustrated
Murder provided for and penalized by Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code in
relation to Article 6 and 48 of the same Code, and hereby sentences him to
reclusion perpetua, together with all the accessory penalties provided for by
law, to pay the heirs of Ronnie dela Cruz the sum of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (
and EIGHTEEN THOUSAND PESOS ( P18,000.00) as actual expenses for the wake
and burial of the victim, to pay Michael dela Cruz ONE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED
PESOS ( P1,500.00) as medical expenses, incurred for his medical
treatment, without however, subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and
to pay the costs.
Hence, this appeal.
First. Accused-appellant questions the credibility of the prosecution witnesses. He points out that Michael de la Cruz did not immediately give a statement to the authorities regarding the incident and testified only after one (1) year and three (3) months had elapsed from the time of the incident. Accused-appellant cites cases17 to the effect that the delay in reporting a crime to the authorities, not caused by threat, intimidation, or coercion, renders the testimony of the person doubtful, and should not be given weight.
Accused-appellant further contends that the testimony of Michael is inconsistent in material points as shown by the fact that during his direct examination, Michael said he and Ronnie de la Cruz were outside the church when Ceferino Guillermo shot them, but on cross-examination, he claimed they were inside the church when this happened.
With respect to the testimony of Darlina Guillermo, accused-appellant points out that this witness claimed she saw a person fleeing from the scene of the crime and she was certain it was accused-appellant because of the dog accompanying him. Accused-appellant says the assailant may be identified by his face, his physical features, or his voice, but not by the dog he keeps in his company.18 The testimony in question reads: 19
Q: You said you recognize him because of his dog, what about his face, did you not see his face?
A: I know that he was the one because whenever he moves, his dog follows him.
Q: My question is, were you able to recognize his face when you met him?
A: I did not recognize his face but I only know him because of his dog.
Q: And on December 15, 1991, what is the condition of the night, was it dark or bright?
A: Bright, sir.
Q: And when you met somebody you did not recognize the face of the person you met, is that correct?
A: Even if I did not recognize, I recognized his dog.
Anent the testimony of Eusebio de la Cruz, Jr., accused-appellant contends that it should not be given credence because according to this witness his brothers assailant was wearing a bonnet which covered his entire face, and therefore the witness could not have recognized the culprit.
Accused-appellant claims that both Darlina and Eusebio Jr. are biased witnesses because they are related to both Ronnie and Michael de la Cruz. Eusebio Jr. was the brother of the deceased, while Darlina was his aunt, being the sister of his father.
to the fact that a prosecution witness, Rogelio Guillermo, retracted his sworn
statement after alleging that he had been induced to testify for the
prosecution after being promised
P5,000.00 by Eusebio Sr.
These contentions are without merit.
1. Accused-appellant says Michael de la Cruz kept quiet about what he allegedly knew for more than a year before he finally testified in court and gave no statement to the police immediately after the incident. We have several times before held that the failure of witnesses to volunteer information to law enforcement officers does not necessarily impair a witness credibility.20 Part of the reason for this is the reticence and fear of some people of getting involved in a criminal case.
Moreover, during the trial of the case, the defense did not raise this question. If the defense thought this matter important, it should have raised it during the trial, particularly during the cross-examination of Michael de la Cruz. This is important because there could be an explanation for Michael de la Cruz silence for over a year before finally testifying. It could be that Michael was just a minor, nine years of age at the time of the incident and was prevented from saying anything in public by his parents.
Anent the claim that Michael gave inconsistent testimony, we hold that such is not the case. As already stated, Michael was a young boy. At the time of the incident he was only eight (8) old. When he testified in court, he was just ten (10). Michael had not gone beyond Grade III. Given these facts, it is not unlikely that he committed the inconsistencies concerning the exact place where he and Ronnie de la Cruz were when they were allegedly fired upon by accused-appellant, i.e., whether they were inside or outside the church. What is important is that Michael was himself wounded when Ronnie de la Cruz was shot. Michael saw the person who shot them and he pointed to accused-appellant as the assailant. It is noteworthy that although he said during the cross-examination that he was inside the church when the accused-appellant fired at them, thus contradicting his earlier statement during the direct examination that they were then outside the church, Michael corrected himself and said that he and Ronnie de la Cruz were actually shot outside the church. This is what Michael said:21
Q What about you, what were you doing there near Ronnie dela Cruz at the time of shooting incident?
A I was sitting down, sir.
Q Sitting down on a chair or wood?
A I was sitted (sic) on a chair, sir.
Q You said that you were outside of the church, were there chairs outside of the church at night?
A I was sitting inside the church, sir.
Q You were inside the Pentecostal church at the time of the shooting incident?
A Yes, sir.
Q Who was near you inside the church when there was shooting incident?
A Its manong Ronnie, sir.
Q And Ronnie was also sitting in the church at the time of the shooting incident, is that correct?
A No, sir.
Q Which is then correct, Ronnie was sitting besides (sic) you at the time of the shooting incident or Ronnie was outside of the church?
A He was outside of the church during the shooting incident, sir.
Q And you were also inside of the church at the time of the shooting?
A No, sir.
Q Where were you then, when you were shot?
A I was outside the church, sir.
This inconsistency on a minor point aside, Michael was steadfast in his assertion that it was accused-appellant who shot Ronnie de la Cruz. He testified:22
Q But to my previous question witness, you said that you felt pain in your left thigh and that Ronnie dela Cruz was already dead, did I get you right?
A Yes, sir.
Q And you were 2 meters away from him?
A Yes, sir.
Q With the distance of two meters away from Ronnie dela Cruz, will you tell the Court why Ronnie dela Cruz died?
A Yes, sir.
A Ceferino Guillermo shot him, sir.
In several cases,23 this Court has held that the testimonies of children of sound mind are likely to be more correct and truthful than those of older persons. As already noted, the alleged contradictions being raised by the defense can be considered minor inconsistencies which do not affect Michaels credibility. On the contrary, they may even tend to strengthen it.24 Such inconsistencies could reasonably be attributed to his tender age and the fact that he is a bit mentally slow. For that matter, when asked where Ronnie de la Cruz was, he said Ronnie was at home in Ubao when the fact was that the latter was already dead by then. Witness the following portion of his testimony:25
Q Did you not say awhile ago that he [Ronnie de la Cruz] is in Ubao, Aguinaldo, Ifugao?
A Yes, sir.
Q Where at Ubao?
(Witness did not answer.)
At this juncture your Honor, we pray that the witness is a minor and we can find that his mentality is very low.
Q You said that Ronnie dela Cruz is now in Ubao. In Ubao, is he staying in a house where somewhere else?
A He is at a house, sir.
Q Did you not say awhile ago that Ronnie is now dead?
A He is dead but they buried him, sir.
Q You want to tell the Court that Ronnie dela Cruz is buried and on top of his grave is a roofing?
A There is a roofing, sir.
Otherwise, the testimony of Michael is reliable.
2. As for the claim of accused-appellant that the testimony of Darlina Guillermo is unreliable because it is based on mere conjecture, drawn from the fact that the person she saw fleeing was followed by accused-appellants dog, the said testimony can be considered corroborative of the testimonies of the other witnesses who positively identified accused-appellant. These were Eusebio de la Cruz, Jr. and Michael de la Cruz. It is not unlikely that Darlina recognized the man through the dog which was following him, because unless it is chasing the man, a dog usually follows his master.
3. Accused-appellant contends that Eusebio de la Cruz, Jr.s testimony should not be given weight. Accused-appellant wonders how Eusebio Jr. could have recognized the assailant if his face was covered by a bonnet. As Eusebio Jr. said, however, he was able to identify accused-appellant because he and accused-appellant had been childhood friends and neighbors. Thus he testified:26
Q: So with the bonnet, you did not recognize the person of the accused that night?
Eusebio dela Cruz, Jr.:
A: I can, sir we have been childmate and neighbor (sic).
Q: Do you think your strength of seeing will not make a mistake in identifying a person under that circumstances being night time and he is even wearing a bonnet?
A: Yes, sir, I can still recognize him.
On re-direct, it was established that he and accused-appellant are even second-degree cousins. Clearly, Eusebio, Jr. was quite familiar with accused-appellant.27
makes much of the fact that one of the witnesses of the prosecution, Rogelio
Guillermo, retracted his sworn statement when called to the witness stand.
Guillermo testified that he was promised
in exchange for his sworn statement pointing to accused-appellant as the author
of the crime. However, according to Guillermo, he repudiated his statement
because Eusebio de la Cruz, Sr., the father of the deceased, requested him to
testify in addition to making the sworn statement. Be that as it may, even discounting the testimony of this
witness, there were other witnesses who
as the person
who had shot Ronnie de la Cruz.
positive identification of the accused-appellant was sufficient to convict the
We also note that although the crime happened during the night, it was established that the place where the shooting took place was well-illuminated. The moon was shining and there were two petromax lamps in the church.28 There is thus no question that the prosecution witnesses could easily have seen the incident and identified the assailant.
Second. Accused-appellant questions the qualification of some of the prosecution witnesses. He points out that Darlina and Eusebio Jr. are related to the deceased. This fact does not, however, necessarily make them biased witnesses. As the trial court noted, for that matter accused-appellant is likewise related to these witnesses. Be that as it may, it is settled that in the absence of a showing of improper motive on the part of witnesses, their testimonies are not affected by their relationship to the victim.29
Third. Accused-appellant finds fault in the prosecutions attempt to establish jealousy on the part of accused-appellant as possible motive for him to commit the crime, considering the prosecutions claim that accused-appellant was positively identified as the assailant. This contention is without merit. Although proof of motive is unnecessary where there is a positive identification of the accused,30 the establishment of motive even though there has already been positive identification does not put in doubt such positive identification. In this case, proof of motive in fact strengthens the case against accused-appellant by reinforcing the prosecution witnesses positive identification. It was pointed out by the prosecution that accused-appellant was extremely jealous of Ronnie de la Cruz since he believed that the latter and his wife Carmen, who had been friends even prior to accused-appellants marriage to his wife, were having an affair. Moreover, accused-appellant and Ronnie had a history of altercations, culminating even in a confrontation before the Barangay Captain. Clearly, there was bad blood between them and there was no other person with so clear a motive as accused-appellant.
The accused-appellant contends that the trial court erred in convicting him of murder complexed with frustrated murder when the crime should have been homicide complexed with frustrated homicide.
Accused-appellant contends that there is no treachery in this case because the attack was frontal. He cites31 cases to the effect that there is treachery if the attack is from behind.
The fact that treachery may be shown if the victim is attacked from behind does not mean it cannot also be appreciated if the attack is frontally launched. The requisites for treachery are (1) that, at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself, and (2) that the offender consciously adopted the means, method, or form of attack employed by him.32
The first requisite is present in this case because the facts show that the deceased was shot while he was attending a church fellowship, totally unaware that harm was impending when accused-appellant appeared from nowhere and then fired at him at close range. The victim was completely taken by surprise. Though made face to face, the attack was sudden and was made in a most unlikely place, thus practically leaving the victim at the mercy of the assailant.
The second requisite is also present. There is no question that accused-appellant consciously adopted the particular means, method, or form of attack employed by him. The fact that he was wearing a bonnet which effectively covered his face when he attacked the deceased showed preparation to ensure the accomplishment of the crime.
Accused-appellant also contends that there is no evident premeditation in this case because there was no evidence presented to prove that the accused-appellant coldly and calculatingly planned to kill the deceased. The fact that the accused-appellant may have been driven by jealousy is not enough to prove evident premeditation.
We agree with the accused-appellant. The trial court did not explain why the qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation was appreciated. To appreciate this circumstance, the following requisites must be shown: (1) the time when the offender determined to commit the crime; (2) an act manifestly indicating that the culprit has clung to his determination; (3) a sufficient lapse of time between the determination and execution to allow him to reflect upon the consequences of his act. None of these was shown.
There was no evidence presented showing the time when the accused-appellant decided to commit the crime. The date and, if possible, the time, when the offender determined to commit the crime are essential. In this case the prosecution evidence mainly dealt with the actual shooting without showing the events prior to the incident, which could show whether accused-appellant had determined and planned to commit the crime. The only evidence the prosecution presented was the alleged altercation between accused-appellant and the deceased before the barangay chairman. That took place, however, about four (4) years prior to the incident in question. Hence, it cannot be considered essential to the establishment of evident premeditation.
Anent the second requisite, the prosecution also failed to prove acts indicating that accused-appellant had clung to his original determination. The fact that he was carrying a gun prior to and during the incident cannot be considered the act contemplated by law. He was a member of the CAFGU and that was the reason he was carrying a gun. In fact, according to prosecution witness Darlina Guillermo, accused-appellant was always carrying a gun.33 The carrying of arms, if customary, does not indicate the existence of the second requisite.34
Since the first requisite, i.e., time when the offender determined to commit the crime, has not been shown, the third requisite, i.e., that there be a sufficient lapse of time between the determination and execution to allow him to reflect upon the consequences of his act, cannot be determined.
On the basis of the foregoing, we hold that evident premeditation had not been established in this case. Nevertheless, since the qualifying circumstance of treachery is present in this case, the crime remains to be murder complexed with another offense. The evidence shows that Michael de la Cruz was only eight at the time of the incident and suffered from two gunshot wounds. There is no denying that the wounds would have resulted in the death of the victim had it not been for the proper medical attention given to him. It cannot be said of the crime committed against him, however, that it was qualified by treachery since he was hurt solely because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Thus, in killing and injuring two people, accused-appellant committed two grave felonies. Since they were the result of one single act, a complex crime was committed that of murder with frustrated homicide.35 Art. 48 of the Revised Penal Code provides:
Art. 48. Penalty for complex crimes. When a single act constitutes two or more grave or less grave felonies, or when an offense is a necessary means for committing the other, the penalty for the most serious crime shall be imposed, the same to be allied in its maximum period. (As amended by Act No. 4000.)
The penalty for the complex crime of murder with frustrated homicide, in accordance with this provision, is death. However, in 1991, when the crime was committed, the imposition by the courts of the death penalty was prohibited in view of Art. III, 19(1) of the Constitution. It was only on December 31, 1993 when, by virtue of R.A. No. 7659, the penalty of death was imposed for heinous offenses. Accordingly, the penalty next lower to death, i.e., reclusion perpetua, should be imposed.
To justify an award of
actual damages, there must be competent proof of the actual amount of loss.
Credence can be given only to claims which are duly supported by receipts.36 In this case, both the
being claimed by the family of the deceased Ronnie de la Cruz as death expenses
(actual damages) and the P1,500.00 being claimed by the injured Michael
de la Cruz as hospital expenses (actual damages) were not supported by proper
Hence, these items
should not be allowed.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the trial court is AFFIRMED
with the modification that the accused-appellant is found guilty of the complex
crime of murder with frustrated homicide and the award
for actual damages in the amount of
in favor of the heirs of the deceased and P1,500.00 in favor of Michael
de la Cruz is deleted.
Bellosillo (Chairman), Puno, Quisumbing, and Buena, JJ., concur.
1 Per Judge Wilfredo Tumaliuan.
2 RTC Decision, pp. 8, 14.
3 TSN, pp. 11-14, March 11, 1993.
4 TSN, pp. 4-5, 9-10, March 25, 1993.
6 Id., p. 6.
8 TSN, pp. 3-4, March 16, 1993; TSN, p. 3, March 18, 1993.
9 TSN, pp. 11, 20, March 16, 1993.
10 Id., pp. 7-8
11 TSN, p. 4, March 18, 1993
12 Id., pp. 5-6; TSN, p. 9, March 16, 1993.
13 RTC Decision, pp. 9-10.
14 Id., pp. 10-12.
15 RTC Decision, p. 13.
17 People v. Besa, 183 SCRA 533 (1990); People v. Gonzales, 183 SCRA 309 (1990); People v. de la Cruz, 200 SCRA 379, 390-391; People v. Fontabilla, 199 SCRA 897 (1991).
18 Rollo, p. 90.
19 TSN, pp. 6, 10, March 11, 1993.
20 People v. Alberca, 257 SCRA 613 (1996).
21 TSN, pp. 12-13, March 16, 1993.
22 Id., p. 7.
23 People v. Carullo, G.R. No. 82351, April 24, 1998; Collado v. IAC, 206 SCRA 206 (1992).
24 People v. Lorenzo, 240 SCRA 624 (1995).
25 TSN, pp. 6-7, March 16, 1993.
26 TSN, p. 23, March 18, 1993.
27 TSN, p. 24, March 18, 1993.
28 RTC Decision, p. 34.
29 People v. Carpio, 282 SCRA 23 (1997).
30 People v. Madali, 188 SCRA 69 (1990).
31 People v. Andasa, 206 SCRA 636 (1992); People v. Pajares, 210 SCRA 237 (1992); People v. Villalobos, 209 SCRA 304 (1992); People v. Juanga, 189 SCRA 226 (1990); People v. Marmita, Jr. 180 SCRA 723 (1989).
32 REYES, THE REVISED PENAL CODE, Vol. 1, 12th ed., p. 411.
33 TSN, p. 5, March 11, 1993.
34 People v. Diokno, 63 Phil. 601 (1936).
35 See People v. Buyco, 80 Phil. 58, 67-69 (1948).
36 Sanitary Steam Laundry, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, December 10, 1998, G.R. No. 119092.