Republic of the Philippines


G.R. No. L-15776             March 29, 1961

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
ADOLFO SAEZ, defendant-appellant.

Office of the Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.
Pelaez and Jalandoni for defendant-appellant.


Adolfo Saez, Juanita Purol, Roman Catian, Prudencio Esmalia, and Entrino Alejandrino were charged with murder in Criminal Case No. 3266, and with attempt murder in criminal case 3267 of the Court of First Instance of Davao. Upon arraignment, all of them pleaded not guilty to both offenses, but Juanito Purol was discharged from the information to used as state witness.

After a joint trial, the lower court rendered judgment as follows:

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, this Court orders for the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 3267 for attempted murder against the accused Entrino Alejandro, Prudencio Esmalia and Roman Catian and the acquittal of Adolfo Zaez in this case of attempted murder based on reasonable doubt, with costs de officio.

But in Criminal Case No. 3266 for consummated murder, this Court finds the accused Adolfo Saez guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, as principal of consummated murder and sentences in to suffer an indeterminate penalty of from FOURTEEN (14) YEARS, EIGHT (8) MONTH and ONE (1) DAY to SEVENTEEN (17) YEARS, FOUR (4) MONTHS and ONE (1) DAY of reclusion temporal, with the accessory penalty provided for by law, to indemnify the heirs of the decease Agripino Patrimonio in the sum of SIX THOUSAND PESOS (P6,000.00) without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to pay the proportionate cost of the proceeding; the accused Prudencio Esmalia and Roman Catian guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, as accessories after the fact in the consummated crime of murder and sentences each of them to suffer an indeterminate penalty of (1) DAY of prision correccional to EIGHT (8) YEARS of prision mayor with accessory penalties provided for by law, to indemnify the heirs of the deceased Agripino Patrimonio in the sum of ONE THOUSAND PESOS (P1,000.00)without subsidiary imprisonment in case of in solvency and to pay the proportional costs of the proceeding.

"For lack of evidence, the case against the accused Entrino Alejandro for consummated murder is hereby dismissed with proportionate costs de oficio, and this Court orders for his immediate release from custody."

From the above judgment, insofar as it convicted him of murder in Criminal Case No. 3266, Adolfo Saez appealed to the Court of Appeals. After reviewing the evidence said court came to the conclusion that the appealed decision would be affirmed but, finding that the penalty should have been imposed in its medium period, that is, reclusion perpetua, it certified the case to Us.

The evidence for the prosecution shows: that at about 8:00 p.m. on March 9, 1955, appellant, armed with a rifle, was out patrolling their coconut plantation at Darung, Sta. Gruz, province of Davao, with Prudencio Esmalia, Entrino Alejandro and Juanito Purol; that when they saw two men inside the plantation, appellant asked them who they were, and upon receiving no answer, he fired several shots at them one of them was killed, while the other was able to escape unharmed; that before midnight of the same day, Prudencio Esmalia and Roman Catian, following the instruction of appellant to dispose of the dead body, placed the same in the rear compartment of appellant's family car and drove to sitio Hagonoy where they dumped the corpse in a dry well inside the Christiansen plantation; that while returning to Darung at about 6:00 o'clock the following morning, the car ran out of gas and Catian bought some gasoline at the station of Francisco Tan in Sta. Cruz with the money given by appellant's brother, Maximo Saez; that upon their arrival at Darung at about 7:00 o'clock the same morning, they deposited the car in the garage of Saez residence; that a few days after the incident, Catian and Esmalia were investigated by the Philippine Constabulary and revealed where they revealed where they concealed the body, which turned out to be that of Agripino Patrimonio.

A post-mortem examination performed by Dr. Federico Lacsamana disclosed that Patrimonio's death was due to external and internal hemorrhage caused by several gunshot wounds in his body (Exh. D).

Appellant's main contentions are (a) that the prosecution evidence is insufficient to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and (b) that the trial court erred in not sustaining his defense of alibi.

To substantiate his first contention, appellant points out certain inconsistencies between the testimonies of prosecution witnesses Juanito Purol and Benito Guisansana. Purol, one of appellant's companions when the crime was committed and Guisansana, the companion of the deceased Agripino Patrimonio during the incident, testified that they saw appellant fire at and kill the deceased. Appellant, however, assails the testimony of the above-named witnesses claiming that there are material and important inconsistencies existing between them. While it is true that some of the inconsistencies relied upon by appellant exist, they are not of a substantial nature and do not justify disregarding the testimony of said witnesses. As a matter of fact, it is not unnatural or unusual to find similar inconsistencies in the testimony of witnesses of the type of Purol and Guisansana who do not appear to be well acquainted with court proceedings and legal techniques. Far from destroying or weakening their credibility, said inconsistencies lead one to believe that Purol and Guisansana testified to the truth and that they were not coached or rehearsed before they took the witness stand. While as already stated the inconsistencies pointed out by appellant refer to details, the testimonies of both witnesses coincide with respect to the important fact that they saw appellant fire the shots that killed Agripino Patrimonio. The fact that according to Purol, when appellant asked the intruders whom he found within the family plantation who they were, nobody answered him, but Guisansana testified that he answered the query by giving his name and that of his companion, does not necessarily mean that both or either one lied, for it might be true that Guisansana, an answered appellant's query, although, for one reason or another Purol did not hear him at all.

Appellant also assails the appealed decision insofar as it took into account the extrajudicial confessions made by defendants Catian, Alejandro and Esmalia corroborating the testimony of Purol and Guisansana. The record discloses the testimony that when said defendants made their respective confessions they were separated from one another and could not have entered into any collusion with respect to their respective confessions. Their confessions appear to be almost identical in all material respects and may rightfully be considered as confirmatory of the testimony of the prosecution witnesses mentioned heretofore. But even if such extrajudicial confessions were to be disregarded entirely, we believe that the remaining prosecution evidence is sufficiently strong to prove appellant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

To bolster up his defense appellant makes an effort to show that it was Roman Catian who killed the deceased Patrimonio. All that we need to do in this connection is to reproduce herein what the lower court said regarding this attempt to shift the whole blame on Catian:

It should be borne in mind here that the Saez family is very influential in the locality where the crime was committed and their influence is mostly felt among their laborers or tenants who testified in this case. It should not be amiss to recall here that Roman Catian in his affidavit declared that he was instructed by the accused Adolfo Saez to assume the responsibility that he was the one who killed Patrimonio and that he (Adolfo Saez) would take care of everything. In line with this device of the accused Adolfo Saez, the witness Prudencio Esmalia, notwithstanding the fact that he had already prepared a written declaration in his own handwriting pointing definitely to the accused Adolfo Saez as the one responsible for the killing, on the witness stand, related a story which is entirely different from his written statement that it was Roman Catian who invited him around the plantation and killed the deceased Patrimonio. But this Court has noted that the testimony of Esmalia on the witness stand seems to be unnatural and unreasonable. He declared that Roman Catian borrowed the gun from him in order to look for coconut thieves. This court could not believe that Esmalia could allow Roman Catian to borrow the gun owned by the Saez because it is contrary to the provisions of law. Again, Esmalia stated that Roman Catian invited him to go around the coconut plantation. For what purpose? Roman Catian was simply a laborer working for the Saez family. And why should he take the initiative of rounding upon thieves when that is outside his employment?

Why should he risk his life in protecting of the Saez family inasmuch as he is not paid for that? Again, in his testimony Esmalia declared that he was forced to accompany Roman Catian at the point of the gun but the said witness himself admitted that while Catian was chasing the deceased Esmalia was trailing behind. If really he was unwilling to accompany Roman Catian and that he was compelled to accompany him by means of threat and intimidation, yet there were occasions by which he could have from the presence of Roman Catian not only while they were yet in the plantation but while they were already going to the house of Adolfo Saez to borrow the key of the car and then proceeded to Hagonoy where the body of Patrimonio was buried. Again, this witness testified that upon their arrival in the house of the supposed parents of Roman Catian in Hagonoy, when the alleged father was informed by Catian that he had an accident and that he killed somebody, the father immediately responded in this way: "Alright, you better bury him in a secluded place," and that while the alleged mother learned the unhappy news from Roman Catian, she just entered the room and did not come out any more. From the aforementioned testimonies of Esmalia, this Court is of the opinion that his testimony is so unnatural and unreasonable that it does not inspire any confidence from this Court.

On the other hand, in the written statement of Esmalia, which was prepared by him in his own handwriting, he pointed positively to Adolfo Saez as the one who killed Patrimonio. His written statement is corroborated by the testimonies, of the witnesses for the prosecution. Hence, on the face of his written statement, this Court is more than justified in not giving credence to the testimony of Esmalia on the witness stand where he imputed upon Roman Catian as the author of the crime.

Again, the accused Adolfo Saez, thru his attorney, has secured an alleged affidavit of Roman Catian who closely related by affinity to the accused Saez subscribed and sworn to before Deputy Clerk of Court Crispiniano Siega. This affidavit was merely marked as Exhibit 5-Saez. The Court rejected the admission of the contents of the affidavit, although it was admitted only to prove that it was an affidavit subscribed by Catian before Siega. If the purpose of presenting this affidavit was to impeach the testimony of Roman Catian wherein he categorically stated that it was Adolfo Saez who killed Patrimonio, Roman Catian should have been given an opportunity to testify about the preparation and the signing of said affidavit. It is an elementary rule of evidence that case of this kind, the affidavit should first be shown to the witness by laying the necessary predicate and let him explain why he signed the affidavit contrary to his previous testimony. The contents of the affidavit are very serious because in the same Roman Catian has allegedly admitted as the one who killed the deceased Patrimonio. So serious is this admission of Roman Catian that he should be given a chance to say something about his affidavit, but the defense his failed to present Catian as a witness to save Adolfo from criminal responsibility. The failure of the defense to place Roman Catian on the witness stand would impliedly mean that if Catian were presented, on the witness stand he would retract all what he had stated in his affidavit admitting the killing of Patrimonio.

This Court after weighing all the evidence presented by the defense is of the opinion that the imputation upon Roman Catian as the author of the killing of Agripino Patrimonio is a device framed by the defense in order to save Adolfo Saez from criminal responsibility, but the evidence presented to support this device is unbelievable.

Appellant's alibi can not be sustained because, as the lower court held, the testimony of appellant's witnesses in support of this defense is unworthy of credit. Said witnesses were Gloria Saez, appellant's own wife, Cresencia Quijano, appellant's housemaid, Florencio Migallon and Pedro Asilum who were not only appellant's neighbors but were, according to the trial court, "depending upon the Saez family for their livelihood". Well-known is the rule that the defense of alibi must be established by strong, positive and unbiased testimony, the same being easily fabricated. The evidence under consideration is not of this nature and cannot overcome the positive testimony identifying appellant as the party who fired at and killed the deceased Patrimonio, especially because such positive testimony of identification is amply corroborated by circumstancial evidence. Thus, the evidence shows that the rifle used in the commission of the crime belongs to appellant; the place where Patrimonio was killed was around the premises of the Saez plantation; said plantation had been, prior to this incident, the victim of theft of coconuts, for which reason appellant and his companions were patrolling the area; the car used to transport the said body of Patrimonio was the Saez family car the hind compartment of which human bloodstains were found. There can, therefore, be no doubt as to appellant's guilt.

As to whether the crime committed by appellant is murder or simple homicide, we are of the opinion that it was only the latter. The fact that he asked the ceased Patrimonio and Guisansana to identify themselves before firing at them shows that there was no treachery in the commission of the offense. In People vs. Tumab, G.R. No. L-2300, May 27, 1949, it was held that the qualifying circumstance of treachery cannot logically be appreciated against the accused because the latter did not make any preparation to kill the deceased so as to insure the commission of the crime making it at the same time impossible or hard for the person attacked to defend himself or retaliate. Moreover, that, as in this case, the attack was sudden did not constitute alevosia because of lack of evidence showing that the aggressor consciously adopted a mode of attack intended to facilitate the commission of the crime without risk unto himself. To the contrary, that he gave Patrimonio and Guisansana the opportunity to identify themselves before firing the fatal shots not only negatives this requirement but also shows that he gave the man opportunity to defend themselves or to return any attack coming from him.

The crime, however, was committed with the aggravating circumstance of nighttime, which is sufficiently compensated by the mitigating circumstance of obfuscation, which the lower court considered in favor of appellant. As a result, the penalty of reclusion temporal provided for in Art. 429 of the Revised Penal Code must be imposed in its medium degree. Applying the provisions of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, appellant Saez should have been, as he is hereby, sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of from six (6) years and one (1) day of reclusion correccional to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal.

Modified, as above indicated, the appealed decision is affirmed in other respects.

Bengzon, C.J., Padilla, Bautista Angelo, Labrador, Conception, Reyes, J.B.L., Barrera and Paredes JJ., concur.

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