G.R. Nos. 154348-50             June 8, 2004
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee,
PABLO DELA CRUZ, appellant.
D E C I S I O N
This is an appeal from the decision1 of the Regional Trial Court of Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Branch 34 in Criminal Case Nos. 12445, 12446 and 12452 which found appellant Pablo dela Cruz alias "Pablito dela Cruz" guilty of the crimes of murder and two counts of frustrated murder, respectively.
The Information2 in Criminal Case No. 12445 charged appellant with the crime of murder committed as follows:
That on or about 11:00 o’clock in the morning of December 15, 1995, at the public market of Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with intent to kill, with treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously ATTACK, ASSAULT and STAB one Victoriano Francisco, a sickly old man aging 81 years, with the use of a hunting knife with which said accused provided himself at that time, thereby causing a fatal injury on the body of said Victoriano Francisco, who died instantaneously as a result thereof, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the same victim.
An Act defined and penalized by Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code.
In Criminal Case No. 12446, appellant is charged with the crime of frustrated murder, in an Information3 which reads:
That on or about 11:00 o’clock in the morning of December 15, 1995, at the public market of Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with intent to kill, with treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously ATTACK, ASSAULT and STAB one Felipe Pajunar with the use of a hunting knife with which said accused provided himself at that time, thereby causing a fatal injury on the body of said Felipe Pajunar, thus performing all the acts of execution which would produce the crime of Murder as a consequence but which, nevertheless, did not produce it by reason of causes independent of the will of the perpetrator, that is, by the timely medical attendance, to the damage and prejudice of the same offended party.
An Act defined and penalized by Article 248, in relation to Article 6 and Article 50, of the Revised Penal Code.
The third Information,4 charging appellant with the crime of frustrated murder in Criminal Case No. 12452, reads:
That on December 15, 1995, at about 11:00 o’clock in the morning at Santa Catalina, Negros Oriental, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with treachery and intent to kill, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab one WILLIAM TACALDO, with the use of a deadly weapon with which said accused was then armed and provided, thereby inflicting upon the latter--
1. Stab wound, left subcostal area, penetrating thoraco abdominal cavity with injury to kidney left, jejunum #1;
2. hacking wound, anterior middle third forearm 4 cm sutured—
thus performing all the acts of execution which would produce the crime of Murder as a consequence but which, nevertheless, did not produce it by reason of the timely medical treatment of said victim, to his damage and prejudice.
That the crime was attended by the aggravating circumstance of disregard of the respect due the offended party on account of his age who, at the time of the incident, was already an old man 68 years old.
CONTRARY TO ARTICLE 248, IN RELATION TO ARTICLE 6, SECOND PARAGRAPH OF THE REVISED PENAL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES, AS AMENDED.
The three cases were consolidated and tried jointly upon agreement of the parties.
Felipe Pajunar, the victim in Criminal Case No. 12446, testified that on December 15, 1995, at past 11:00 o’clock in the morning, he was at the public market of Sta. Catalina to buy biscuits and candies for his child’s exchange gift. When he was about to leave the market, he was summoned by his cousin, Paulino Tabuay, to join his group for a round of local wine ("tuba"), to which Felipe acceded. The other men in the group were Victoriano Francisco, the victim in Criminal Case No. 12445, and Agaton Rubia. All three of them were seated outside the store of a certain Julie Calidquid.5
While the group was conversing, two unidentified men approached their table. One of the men, whom Felipe later identified as appellant Pablo dela Cruz, asked for a glass of "tuba" from Paulino. Paulino willingly obliged but appellant refused to accept the glass offered to him, saying it might contain poison. To show appellant that it did not, Paulino drank the glass of "tuba" he was offering and refilled it for appellant, who then drank without hesitation. Appellant joined the group and sat with Felipe on his right and Victoriano on his left. Suddenly, appellant placed his right arm around Felipe and, with his left hand, stabbed him, whispering, "Pinaskuhan nako nimo Brod." (This is my Christmas gift to you, Brod.) Felipe was wounded on his left chest and fell down. Immediately thereafter, appellant turned to Victoriano and stabbed him. Victoriano was rushed to the Bayawan District Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival. Felipe recalled that appellant used a hunting knife, more or less six inches long.6 He also recalled having seen victim William Tacaldo with Juan Florencio inside the public market stall typing some documents.7
For his injuries, Felipe was brought to the Bayawan District Hospital where he was treated by Dr. Lydia Villaflores. He was later transferred to the Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital where he was confined for four days. Felipe learned that the name of his and Victoriano’s attacker was Pablo dela Cruz. Later, he identified appellant in open court. Felipe testified that due to the incident he was unable to work for almost a year and thus lost his P200.00 per week income for plowing services. He also presented receipts of his expenses for medicines totaling P1,600.00 and claimed that he spent P10,000.00 for hospitalization and traveling expenses to and from the hospital.8
William Tacaldo, the victim in Criminal Case No. 12452, testified that he made a living from his typing services in one of the stalls of the Sta. Catalina public market. On the day of the incident, he was typing a church program for Juan Florencio when a commotion broke out about two meters away. He continued with his typing until he was suddenly stabbed right below his heart. He stood up, pressed his wound to control the bleeding and cried for help. He was brought to the Bayawan District Hospital and was later transferred to the Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital where he was operated on.9
Tacaldo testified that he failed to recognize the person who stabbed him since he was concentrated on his typing when the incident happened. During the police investigation, he learned the name of his assailant. Tacaldo alleged that as a result of his injury, he lost his eyesight and could no longer type, resulting in the loss of his income of around P200.00 to P250.00 a day.10
Juan Florencio was also stabbed but did not file a complaint against appellant. He corroborated the testimonies of Felipe and Tacaldo. He narrated that in the morning of December 15, 1995, he was in one of the stalls of the public market dictating a document to Tacaldo. He noticed Felipe, Victoriano and two other persons drinking at a store about two meters away. Shortly after, there was a commotion in front of the store. He saw Felipe being stabbed by a person whom he later learned was appellant Pablo dela Cruz. Appellant also stabbed Victoriano, who became unconscious and fell down. Thereafter, appellant stabbed Tacaldo while he was seated in front of his typewriter.11
After stabbing Tacaldo, appellant turned his attention to Florencio, who then ran away. Appellant was able to catch up with Florencio and stabbed him on the back. Appellant stumbled and fell to the ground, and Florencio was able to escape from further harm. He was treated at the Bayawan District Hospital by Dr. Lydia Villaflores.12
PO3 Rolando Gomez, who was in the vicinity of the market place, heard people shouting and saw some persons scampering away. Several by-standers told him that there was a stabbing incident and that the assailant ran away. At that instant, he saw appellant Pablo dela Cruz running away brandishing a hunting knife. He chased appellant and fired a warning shot. Instead of yielding, appellant turned around and started to attack PO3 Gomez, who shot appellant on the left thigh. PO3 Gomez confiscated the hunting knife and brought appellant to the Sta. Catalina Police Station where PO3 Louie Bantuto conducted an investigation. Subsequently, he brought appellant to Bayawan District Hospital for medical treatment.13
PO3 Bantuto corroborated the testimony of PO3 Gomez that an investigation was conducted when the appellant was brought to the police station. PO3 Bantuto reflected the stabbing incident in the police blotter,14 a copy of which was presented as evidence in court.15
Dr. Lydia Villaflores was presented to testify on the death of Victoriano Francisco as well as the injuries suffered by Felipe Pajunar, William Tocaldo and Juan Florencio. Victoriano suffered a two-inch long incised wound at the anterior chest and a similar wound at the arm. The wound on Victoriano’s chest was fatal as it damaged blood vessels in the abdomen causing a massive loss of blood. Victoriano was pronounced dead on arrival.16
Dr. Villaflores further testified that Felipe Pajunar suffered an incised wound on the left side of the lumbar area, which was fatal since it was located at the anterior chest. On the other hand, William Tacaldo suffered an incised wound on the anterior chest and another on the arm. The wound on the anterior chest was dangerous and could have caused instantaneous death if left untreated. Juan Florencio sustained an incised wound on the left lumbar area.17
Another medical expert, Dr. Henrissa M. Calumpang, testified that she examined Felipe, and found that the latter’s wound was already sutured. She opined that the wound was not fatal and could not cause instantaneous death as it was only superficial.18 Tacaldo, on the other hand, was confined in the hospital for a longer period of time due to the stab wound he sustained at the back that also injured his left kidney. Dr. Calumpang stated that this wound was fatal since Tacaldo’s abdominal and thoracic cavities were penetrated. Likewise, as a result of the accumulation of blood in his abdominal cavity, Tacaldo experienced shock due to the loss of blood.19
Evangeline Mira testified that she is the daughter of the deceased Victoriano Francisco who was 81 years old when he died. Their family spent P30,000.00 for her father’s coffin and embalment, P1,000.00 per day of the wake which lasted for nine days, P6,000.00 for the burial expenses and P10,000.00 for the tombstone. She likewise claimed that they spent P6,000.00 during the last prayer for her father and P400.00 for the funeral mass.20
Appellant Pablo dela Cruz testified and admitted that he inflicted wounds on Tacaldo and another person who boxed him outside the public market of Sta. Catalina on December 15, 1995. He denied any involvement in the death of Victoriano and in the wounding of Felipe on the date of the incident, saying he did not even know them. Appellant testified that on the day of the incident, he went to the public market to buy fish. While he was there, he was boxed by a drunken person whom he could only recognize by face. This person was in the same line of work as he was and they had a previous altercation. Appellant testified further that upon being boxed by said person, he immediately ducked under a table and when he came out at the other side, he saw a butcher’s knife and picked it up. He used this to ward off his attackers.21
Dr. Angel V. Somera, a witness for the defense testified that based on his examination, appellant is essentially normal considering that no gross pathological or abnormal thought processes like delusions, hallucinations and illusions were revealed. Appellant was coherent in answering the questions Dr. Somera asked during the examination and his memory of the past as well as recent events were well within normal bounds. However, according to Dr. Somera, appellant has a certain degree of paranoia which may be attributed to his level of education. This paranoia, however, is still normal for a person who is uneducated and has been living in the mountains. Thus, appellant is non-psychotic, meaning he is not insane.22
The defense also recalled to the witness stand PO3 Louie Bantuto to testify on the mental condition of appellant at the time he was investigated by the police. PO3 Bantuto admitted that he indicated in the police blotter his observation that appellant was mentally ill because of appellant’s appearance. He noticed that when appellant was brought to the police station, he had bottles containing oil around his waist.23
A decision was rendered by the trial court finding appellant guilty of the crime of Murder in Criminal Case No. 12445 and sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua; guilty of the crime of Frustrated Murder in Criminal Case No. 12446 and sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of Eight (8) Years and One (1) Day of Prision Mayor, as minimum, to Fourteen (14) Years, Eight (8) Months and One (1) Day of Reclusion Temporal, as maximum; and guilty of the crime of Frustrated Murder in Criminal Case No. 12452 and sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of Eight (8) years and One (1) Day of Prision Mayor, as minimum, to Fourteen (14) Years, Eight (8) Months and One (1) Day of Reclusion Temporal, as maximum. He is further ordered to pay the heirs of Victoriano Francisco the sum of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, and to pay Felipe Pajunar the sum of P1,495.60 as actual damages.
Hence, this appeal, on a lone assignment of error, to wit:
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT DESPITE FAILURE OF THE PROSECUTION TO PROVE HIS GUILT BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.
We agree with the Solicitor General’s observation that while appellant assails the decision of the trial court, the discussion in the Appellant’s Brief was limited to the trial court’s findings that treachery attended the crimes. The defense argues that treachery was not present since the victims Victoriano and Felipe ought to have been put on guard by the appearance and actuations of appellant when the latter approached them. Tacaldo was already aware of the commotion moments before he was stabbed, giving him sufficient time to prepare and defend himself. Thus, the defense prays that appellant be found guilty of the lesser offenses of homicide, frustrated homicide and attempted homicide in the respective cases.
There is sufficient evidence on record showing that appellant Pablo dela Cruz is responsible for the death of Victoriano Francisco and the wounding of Felipe Pajunar and William Tacaldo. Felipe’s recollection of the events in the morning of December 15, 1995 was direct, spontaneous and consistent. His positive identification of appellant in open court as the person who stabbed him and then later Victoriano was likewise unerring. More importantly, Felipe’s testimony was corroborated in all its material points by the testimony of Juan Florencio who testified that he saw appellant stab Felipe and then Victoriano before stabbing Tacaldo and himself.
Furthermore, it has not been shown that either Felipe or Juan Florencio was motivated by any ill will to testify falsely against appellant. Felipe admitted that he did not know appellant personally and only learned his name during the investigation. Juan Florencio, a church pastor, is not even a complainant, although he himself was injured in the incident. Nonetheless, he testified and recounted what he saw.
It appears that the only issue to be resolved is appellant’s degree of culpability. The defense disputes the trial court’s findings that treachery attended the stabbings or that appellant consciously adopted such mode of attack to perpetrate the crimes.24 The prosecution, on the other hand, argues that the totality of the circumstances lead to the inevitable conclusion that all the victims were caught unaware and unable to defend themselves because appellant deliberately chose a manner of attack which insured the attainment of his violent intentions with minimum risk to him.25
We have consistently ruled that there is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specially to insure its execution without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make.26 Two conditions must concur for treachery to exist, namely: (a) the employment of means of execution that gave the person attacked no opportunity to defend himself or to retaliate; and (b) the means or method of execution was deliberately and consciously adopted.27
In the case at bar, the trial court correctly appreciated the element of treachery that attended the stabbing incident. Indeed, the essence of treachery is the swift and unexpected attack on an unarmed victim without the slightest provocation on the part of the victim.28 As recounted by the witnesses, victims Victoriano and Felipe were drinking with two other persons when appellant approached them asking for a glass of "tuba". The group graciously accommodated appellant and gave him a drink. There is nothing in the records to conclusively show that the stabbing was preceded by an altercation or that any of the victims gave the slightest provocation. Although Felipe was seated among his friends at the time he was stabbed, this did not afford him any protection since his companions were likewise caught off-guard by the suddenness of the unprovoked attack. Moreover, appellant’s act of putting his right arm around Felipe’s shoulder right before stabbing Felipe ensured that his victim would not be able to dodge his attack. By whispering "Pinaskuhan nako nimo ni, Brod." (This is my Christmas gift to you, Brod.), appellant displayed a consciousness of action uncharacteristic of one who is mentally ill as the defense would like to portray him.
The attack on Victoriano is likewise unexpected since he was still reeling from the shock at having witnessed the stabbing of Felipe. It must also be noted that Victoriano was 81 years old at the time of the stabbing and his reflexes were worn down by age and by the alcohol he had consumed. Hence, he was not in a position to ward off the attack. The same may be said of the attacks on William Tacaldo and Juan Florencio. While it is true that Tacaldo and Florencio noticed the commotion moments before they were attacked, this fact alone does not rule out the presence of treachery. We have held that while a victim may have been warned of possible danger to his person, in treachery, what is decisive is that the attack was executed in such a manner as to make it impossible for the victim to retaliate.29 The case at bar typifies this doctrine for Tacaldo and Florencio had no opportunity to defend themselves precisely because they did not expect to be the subject of any further attack by appellant. Thus, from the evidence adduced, the stabbing, although frontal, was so unexpected and sudden that it left the victims, all unarmed, with no opportunity to put up a defense.30
We agree, however, with the argument of the Solicitor General that for the injuries he inflicted on Felipe Pajunar, appellant should be charged only of Attempted Murder instead of Frustrated Murder. To be liable for the frustrated stage of a felony, the offender must perform all the acts of execution which would produce the felony as a consequence but which, nevertheless, do not produce it by reason of causes independent of the will of the perpetrator.31 The testimonies of the medical experts show that the wound inflicted was not of the kind which could have caused instantaneous death. According to the testimony of Dr. Calumpang, the only way by which Felipe’s life would have been endangered was if the wound developed a major infection.32 In fact, Felipe was only confined at the NOPH for a few days after which he was allowed to go home and recuperate.
Therefore, the crime committed by appellant in Criminal Case No. 12445 involving Victoriano Francisco is Murder which is penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code with reclusion perpetua to death. Considering that there was no mitigating or aggravating circumstance, the imposition of the lesser penalty of the two indivisible penalties, reclusion perpetua, is proper.
In Criminal Case No. 12452 involving William Tacaldo, appellant was correctly found to have committed the crime of Frustrated Murder which, under Article 250 of the Revised Penal Code, is punishable by the penalty one degree lower than that which should be imposed for consummated murder; thus, reclusion temporal pursuant to Article 61(2) of the Revised Penal Code. The alleged aggravating circumstance in this case, that is, disregard of respect due the offended party on account of age, cannot be appreciated since it was not shown that appellant deliberately intended to offend or insult the age of the offended party.33 Hence, the penalty must be applied in its medium period. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum term for the indeterminate sentence shall be within the range of prision mayor while the maximum term of the sentence shall be within the range of reclusion temporal medium. Thus, we find the penalty imposed by the trial court in this case to be in order.
In Criminal Case No. 12446 involving Felipe Pajunar, appellant should be convicted of the crime of Attempted Murder which, under Article 51 of the Revised Penal Code, is punishable with the penalty two degrees lower than that prescribed for the consummated felony. Accordingly, the imposable penalty is prision mayor. Absent any mitigating or aggravating circumstance, the penalty should be applied in its medium period. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum of the penalty to be imposed should be within the range of prision correccional, and the maximum of the penalty to be imposed should be within the range of prision mayor in its medium period. Hence, for the crime of Attempted Murder, appellant should be sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment from Two (2) years, Four (4) months and One (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to Eight (8) years and One (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum.
We now turn to the issue of damages. In the case involving Victoriano Francisco, we affirm the trial court’s award of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity ex delicto in favor of Victoriano’s heirs, which award is mandatory and requires no proof other than the victim’s death.34 While no actual damages may be awarded because no competent evidence in the form of receipts was presented, temperate damages may be recovered under Article 2224 of the Civil Code as the Court finds that some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot be proved with certainty. Consistent with current jurisprudence, the amount of P25,000.00 is also awarded to Victoriano’s heirs considering that it is not disputed that the family incurred expenses for the wake and burial of the victim.35
The award by the trial court of actual damages in the amount of P1,495.60 to Felipe Pajunar is supported by the evidence and must be affirmed.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the appealed decision of the Regional Trial Court of Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Branch 34 in Criminal Case Nos. 12445, 12446 and 12452, is MODIFIED.
As modified, appellant Pablo "Pablito" dela Cruz is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder in Criminal Case No. 12445, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. He is likewise adjudged to indemnify the heirs of the deceased, Victoriano Francisco, the sum of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as civil indemnity ex delicto and Twenty Five Thousand Pesos (P25,000.00) as temperate damages.
In Criminal Case No. 12446, appellant Pablo dela Cruz is likewise found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime Attempted Murder for which he is sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment ranging from Two (2) years, Four (4) months and One (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to Eight (8) years and One (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum. He is likewise ordered to indemnify victim Felipe Pajunar the sum of One Thousand Four Hundred Ninety Five Pesos and Sixty Centavos (P1,495.60) as actual damages.
In Criminal Case No. 12452, appellant Pablo dela Cruz is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Frustrated Murder, and sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment ranging from Eight (8) years and One (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to Fourteen (14) years, Eight (8) months and One (1) day of reclusion temporal, as maximum.
Costs de oficio.
Davide, Jr., Panganiban, Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
1 Penned by Judge Rosendo B. Bandal, Jr.
2 Rollo, p. 10.
3 Id., p. 12.
4 Id., p. 13.
5 TSN, 15 January 1998, pp. 3-5.
6 Id., pp. 6-14.
7 TSN, 7 July 1998, p. 11.
8 TSN, 9 July 1998, pp. 12-15.
9 TSN, 10 July 1998, pp. 3-10.
10 Id., pp. 11-12.
11 TSN, 18 September 1998, pp. 7-12.
12 Id., pp. 13-19.
13 TSN, 6 October 1998, pp. 19-28.
14 Exhibit K, Records, p. 208.
15 TSN, 6 October 1998, pp. 37-40; 4 November 1998, pp. 2-5.
16 TSN, 13 January 1998, pp. 5-10.
17 TSN, 25 September 1998, pp. 4-15.
18 TSN, 6 October 1998, pp. 4-8.
19 Id., pp. 8-12.
2 TSN, 27 May 1999, pp. 6-8.
21 TSN, 29 October 1999, pp. 3-4; 10 November 1999, pp. 2-10.
22 TSN, 15 November 2000, pp. 3-9.
23 TSN, 7 March 2001, pp. 2-5.
24 Appellant’s Brief, Rollo, pp. 71-76.
25 Appellee’s Brief, Rollo, pp. 116-120.
26 People v. Factao, G.R. No. 125966, 13 January 2004; see also People v. Mabubay, G.R. No. 87018, 24 May 1990, 185 SCRA 675; People v. Unarce, G.R. No. 120549, 4 April 1997, 270 SCRA 756.
27 People v. Flores, G.R. No. 137497, 5 February 2004; see also People v. Gabitin, et al., G.R. No. 84730, 28 October 1991, 203 SCRA 225.
28 People v. Jacolo, G.R. No. 94470, 16 December 1992, 216 SCRA 631; see also People v. Ponayo, G.R. No. 111523, 10 August 1994, 235 SCRA 226; People v. Lascota, G.R. No. 113257, 17 July 1997, 217 SCRA 591; People v. Lagarteja, G.R. No. 127095, 22 June 1998, 291 SCRA 142; People v. Galano, et al., G.R. No. 111806, 9 March 2000, 327 SCRA 462.
29 People v. Ronato, G.R. No. 124298, 11 October 1999, 316 SCRA 433, citing People v. Javier, G.R. No. 84449, 4 March 1999, 269 SCRA 181.
30 People v. Javar, G.R. No. 82769, 6 September 1993, 226 SCRA 103; see also People v. Ronquillo, G.R. No. 96125, 31 August 1995, 247 SCRA 793; People v. Chavez, 343 Phil. 758 (1997).
31 Article 6 of the Revised Penal Code.
32 TSN, 6 October 1998, p. 7.
33 People v. Taboga, G.R. Nos. 144086-87, 6 February 2002, 376 SCRA 500.
34 People v. Caboquin, G. R. No. 137613, 14 November 2001, 368 SCRA 654.
35 People v. Tagano, G.R. No. 133027, 4 March 2004; People v. Lachica, G.R. No. 131915, 3 September 2003.
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