Hence, this appeal.
WHETHER THE TRIAL AND APPELLATE COURTS ERRED IN CONVICTING ACCUSED-APPELLANT CHRISTOPHER BADILLOS FOR THE CRIME CHARGED WHEN HIS GUILT WAS NOT PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.
THE COURT'S RULING
The appeal lacks merit.
Alex's declaration cannot be
Before proceeding to the main issue of this case, the Court notes that the trial and appellate courts erred when they considered Alex's utterances to Jonathan identifying Christopher as the perpetrator of the crime as a dying declaration.
A dying declaration is admissible in evidence if the following circumstances are present: (1) it concerns the cause and the surrounding circumstances of the declarant's death; (2) it is made when death appears to be imminent and the declarant is under a consciousness of impending death; (3) the declarant would have been competent to testify had he or she survived; and (4) the dying declaration is offered in a case in which the subject of the inquiry involves the declarant's death.36 In order to make a dying declaration admissible, a fixed belief in inevitable and imminent death must be entered into by the declarant. It is the declarant's belief of his impending death and not the rapid succession of his death in point of fact that renders his declaration admissible as a dying declaration. The test is whether the declarant has abandoned all hopes of survival and looks on death as certainly impending.37
In his testimony, Jonathan narrated Alex's condition when he uttered the name of the person who stabbed him, to wit:
While Jonathan was under the impression that his brother was in the throes of death, it does not appear that the declarant himself was conscious of his impending death. The fact that Alex was ripping his shirt while he uttered the name of his assailant is not sufficient to qualify such as a dying declaration.
Nevertheless, while Alex's statement does not qualify as a dying declaration, the same may still be admitted as an exception to the hearsay rule for being part of res gestae.
For a statement to be considered part of res gestae, the following elements must concur: (a) the principal act, the res gestae, is a startling occurrence; (b) the statement was made before the declarant had time to contrive or devise; and (c) the statement concerns the occurrence in question and its immediate attending circumstances.40 All the foregoing elements are present in this case.
First, the stabbing incident constituted the startling occurrence. Second, there was no sufficient time for Alex to contrive or devise a falsehood when he uttered the name of his assailant to Jonathan. Between the infliction of the mortal wound upon Alex and his statement surrounding this incident, at most two hours had elapsed. This interval of time is hardly sufficient to conjure up a story or concoct and contrive a falsehood given that even an interval of four hours is still considered as nearly contemporaneous to the startling occurrence. 41 Lastly, the statement concerned the circumstances surrounding the stabbing of Alex.
No reason to disturb factual
In criminal cases, the established rule is that factual findings of the trial court are generally accorded great weight and respect on appeal, especially when such findings are supported by substantial evidence on record. It is only in exceptional circumstances, such as when the trial court overlooked material and relevant matters, that this Court will re-calibrate and evaluate the factual findings of the court below.42
The Court finds no reason to depart from this rule especially considering that the factual findings reached by the trial court were affirmed by the appellate court.
Christopher insists that the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt because it was established that he was in another place when Alex was killed.
This argument fails to impress.
Alibi is an inherently weak defense because it is easy to fabricate and highly unreliable. To merit approbation, the appellant must adduce clear and convincing evidence that he was in a place other than the situs criminis at the time when the crime was committed, such that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime when it was committed.43
In this case, to prove Christopher's alibi, the defense presented Rapsing, who testified that Christopher was in his house at Barangay Sta. Clara on 11 August 2007, and left at around 5:00 P.M. on the same day; and Myrna, who testified that Christopher arrived at her house at Barangay Canumay, Valenzuela City, at around 7:30 P.M. These testimonies, however, fail to show that it would be physically impossible for Christopher to be present at the crime scene when the crime was committed.
As aptly observed by the appellate court, Rapsing's account covers only the events which transpired before the crime was committed. Moreover, his narration of the events was inconsistent with Christopher's version. First, Rapsing's statement that Christopher arrived at his house at around 4:00 P.M. is inconsistent with Christopher's testimony that he arrived at Rapsing's house at around 5:00 P.M. and left at around 6:00 P.M. Second, Rapsing's account that Christopher was his only guest at that time contradicts the latter's testimony that he was joined by Domingo, Alex, and other guests at Rapsing' s house for a drinking session. On the other hand, Myrna's testimony only concerns matters which supposedly happened after the crime had been committed.
In fine, the testimonies of the defense witnesses did not, in any way, demonstrate the required physical impossibility on the part of Christopher to be present at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission.
Furthermore, alibi cannot prevail over the positive and credible testimony of the prosecution witness that accused-appellant committed the crime. Indeed, a categorical and consistent positive identification, absent any showing of ill motive on the part of the eyewitness testifying thereon, prevails over the defenses of denial and alibi which, if not substantiated by clear and convincing proof, constitute self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in 1aw. 44
Domingo positively identified Christopher as one of the assailants of Alex. He also categorically stated that Christopher was the one who stabbed Alex. In addition, the victim himself told Jonathan that it was Christopher who stabbed him. The Court sees no reason to doubt Alex's positive testimony considering that the prosecution was able to establish that the eyewitness is familiar with both the victim and the accused; that the scene of the crime afforded good visibility; and that no improper motive can be attributed to the witness testifying against the accused.45 The Court also has no reason not to give credence to Alex's statement as it has already been established that the same is part of res gestae.
From the foregoing, it is clear that the trial and appellate courts did not err in finding Christopher guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the killing of Alex.
The crime committed is Homicide;
In convicting Christopher of murder, the trial and appellate courts appreciated the aggravating circumstance of treachery, finding the attack on Alex sudden and unexpected. Specifically, the trial court observed that Christopher and his companion deliberately waited for the victim in the alley, armed themselves with weapons, and attacked the unsuspecting victim in a swift and abrupt manner giving him no opportunity to repel the aggression.
However, contrary to the pronouncements of the trial and appellate courts, the presence of treachery was not established.1âwphi1
Treachery is present when the offender commits any of the crimes against the person, 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.46
A finding of the existence of treachery should be based on clear and convincing evidence. Such evidence must be as conclusive as the fact of killing itself and its existence cannot be presumed. In the absence of proof beyond reasonable doubt that treachery attended the killing of the victim, the crime is homicide, not murder.47
Thus, for treachery to be appreciated, two elements must concur: first, the malefactor employed such means, method or manner of execution as to ensure his or her safety from the defensive or retaliatory acts of the victim; and second, the said means, method, and manner of execution were deliberately adopted. 48 It has been consistently held, however, that mere suddenness of an attack is not sufficient to constitute treachery where it does not appear that the aggressor adopted such mode of attack to facilitate the perpetration of the killing without risk to himself.49
In this case, there was no showing that the mode of attack on Alex was consciously adopted without risk to the assailants. In the first place, the trial court's observation that Christopher and his companion deliberately waited for Alex in the alley would require the former to have a prior knowledge of the latter's plan to -pass through the said alley at Barangay Batia. Based on Domingo's narration of events, however, there was no opportunity for Christopher to learn of such resolution. In his testimony,
Domingo narrated the events prior to the attack, as follows:
Clear from Domingo's narration is the fact that he and Alex decided to walk home along Barangay Batia only after they failed to find a ride home. And at the time they arrived at that decision, Christopher was no longer around to learn of such. Given these circumstances, it is highly doubtful 'that Christopher could have anticipated Alex along the alley or "tawid-bukid' at Barangay Batia. Consequently, treachery cannot be appreciated to qualify the crime to murder as the mode of attack could not have been consciously or deliberately adopted. Without treachery, Christopher can only be convicted of homicide.
Penalty and Monetary Awards
Under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty for homicide is reclusion temporal. Considering that there is neither aggravating nor mitigating circumstance, the penalty should be imposed in its medium period pursuant to Article 64(1) of the RPC. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, Christopher should be sentenced to an indeterminate penalty the minimum of which should be within the range of the penalty next lower in degree than that prescribed by law for the offense, that is, prision mayor (6 years and I day to 12 years) and the maximum of which should be within the range of reclusion temporal in its medium period (14 years 8 months and I day to 17 year and 4 months). Accordingly, the Court imposes upon Christopher the indeterminate penalty ranging from twelve ( 12) years of prision mayor, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four ( 4) months of reclusion temporal, as maximum.
Further, following People v. Jugueta, 51 Christopher is ordered to pay (1) ₱50,000.00 as civil indemnity; and (2) ₱50,000.00, as moral damages. In addition, he is also ordered to pay ₱50, 265.90 for the funeral and burial expenses incurred by Alex's family.1âwphi1
WHEREFORE, accused-appellant Christopher Badillos is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Homicide, defined and penalized under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code. He is sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of twelve (12) years of prision mayor, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months of reclusion temporal, as maximum. He is further ordered to pay the heirs of the deceased Alex H. Gregory the following: ₱50,000.00 as civil indemnity; P50,000.00 as moral damages; and ₱50,265.90 representing the funeral and burial expenses. All monetary awards shall earn interest at the rate of six percent (6o/o) per annum reckoned from the finality of this decision until their full payment. 52
SAMUEL R. MARTIRES
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
ALEXANDER G. GESMUNDO
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decisionhad been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to the Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson’s Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
1 Rollo, pp. 2-18; penned by Associate Justice Magdangal M. De Leon, and concurred in by Associate Justice Stephen C. Cruz and Associate Justice Eduardo B. Peralta, Jr.
2 Records, pp. 430-439; penned by Judge Gregorio S. Sampaga.
3 Records, p. 2.
4 Id. at 28.
5 TSN, dated I August 2008, pp. 3-4.
7 Id. at 8-9.
8 Id. at 9.
9 Id. at 19.
10 Id. at 10.
11 Id. at 10-11.
12 Id. at 12.
14 Id. at l3.
15 TSN, dated 7 August 2009, pp. 6-7.
16 TSN, dated 11 September 2009, p. 24.
17 TSN, dated 7 August 2009, pp. 8-9.
18 TSN, dated 11 September 2009, p. 11; Records, p. 12; Exhibit "C."
19 TSN, dated 7 August 2009, p. 9.
20 TSN, dated 4 July 2008, pp. 5-6.
21 Records, pp. 260-265; Exhibits "E" to "E-4."
22 Id at 13 · Exhibit "D "
23 TSN, dated 31 March 2011, p. 2.
24 Id. at 3-4.
25 Id. at 5.
26 ld. at 6-7.
27 Id. at 7-8.
28 Id. at 3.
29 Id. at 8.
30 TSN, dated 13 February 2012, pp. 3-4.
31 TSN, dated 23 April 2012, pp. 5-6.
32 Id. at 8-9.
33 Records, p. 439.
34 Id. at 441.
35 Rollo, pp. 17-18.
36 People v. Rarugal, 70 I Phil. 592, 601-602 (2013).
37 People v. Quisayas, 731 Phil. 577, 595 (2014).
38 TSN, dated 7 August 2009, pp. 8-9.
39 TSN, dated 11 September 2009, p. 29.
40 People v. Calinawan, G.R. No. 226145, 13 February 2017.
41 People v. Codilla, 291-A Phil. 538, 552 ( 1993).
42 People v. Esteban, 735 Phil. 663, 670-671 (2014).
43 People v. Gani. 710 Phil. 466, 473 (2013).
44 People v. Villamar, 780 Phil. 817, 825 (2016).
45 People v. Jalbonian, 713 Phil. 93, 104 (2013).
46 People v. De Leon, 428 Phil. 556, 581 (2002).
47 People v. Bugarin, G.R. No. 224900, 15 March 2017.
48 People v. Camat, 692 Phil. 55, 85(2012).
49 People v. Camilet, 226 Phil. 316, 324 (1986).
50 TSN, dated 1 August 2008, p. 12.
51 783 Phil. 806 (2016).
52 People v. Combate, 653 Phil. 487, 806 (2010).
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