[ G.R. No. 235787, June 08, 2020 ]
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. FLORENDA MANZANILLA Y DE ASIS, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.
Before us is an appeal pursuant to Section 13(c), Rule 124 of the Rules of Court as amended, assailing the Decision1 dated August 17, 2017, of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 08336.
Florenda Manzanilla y De Asis (accused-appellant) and one Roberto Gacuma y Cabreana (Roberto) were charged with the crime of Parricide by virtue of an Information, the accusatory portion of which reads:
That on or about the 15th day of April 2007, in the City of Antipolo, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring and confederating with an unidentified male person whose true name, identity and present whereabouts [are] still unknown and all of them mutually helping and aiding with one another, with the intent to kill, with the inducement of Florenda Manzanilla y De Asis and with the direct participation of Robert O. Gacuma, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously shot Angel Manzanilla y Saporma, husband of the former, hitting on the head, thereby inflicting upon the latter gunshot wound which directly caused his death.
Contrary to law.2
Accused-appellant and co-accused Roberto were arraigned on May 12, 2012, and both entered a plea of not guilty. After pre-trial, trial on the merits ensued.3
During the scheduled hearing on April 10, 2012, the RTC was informed that Roberto died on November 18, 2010.4
Version of the Prosecution
The prosecution presented as witnesses: Hermie Manzanilla (Hermie), brother of the victim; eyewitnesses to the crime — Mark Lawrence Sarmenta (Mac-Mac) and Ajie Bryle Balandres (Ajie); and Dr. Jose Arnel Marquez (Dr. Marquez), medico-legal officer of the Rizal Provincial Crime Laboratory.5
Their testimonies tend to establish that at around 9:30 in the evening of April 15, 2007, Mac-Mac, Ajie, and one Eugene were at Aqualand Sitio San Luis, Puting Bato, Antipolo City. The three earned a living by scooping out small amounts of cement (magbuburiki).6 While on a well-lighted, grassy area waiting for the trucks to arrive, they saw from about 4 to 7 meters away two men and one woman who seemed to be waiting for someone. In the course of the group's conversation, Mac-Mac allegedly heard accused-appellant tell Roberto that her husband's name is Angel, and utter the words: "pagbabalakan patayin" and "bilis-bilisan baka may makakita"7 Ajie, for his part, testified he heard the accused-appellant say: "yariin na,"8 in Ajie's words: "tirahin na daw po baka kasi may makakita pa."9
After thirty (30) minutes had passed, the victim Angel Manzanilla arrived and alighted from a passenger jeepney plying the Marikina-Paenan route. Roberto approached the victim, held him by his shoulders, introduced himself and uttered: "kilala mo ba ako? Ako iyong kabit ng asawa mo."10 Accused-appellant was with their unidentified male companion 5 to 6 meters away.11
Roberto, who was carrying a gun, then walked together with the victim towards a dark area at the upper portion of the road leading towards Solid Cement. A few moments later, Mac-Mac, Ajie, and Eugene heard a gunshot from the same direction, causing them to panic and hide under the grassy area. Roberto then came running down the hill towards accused-appellant. The two then boarded a motorcycle and proceeded towards the direction of Puting Bato while their unidentified male companion walked towards the opposite direction going to Cogeo. As the police arrived shortly thereafter, the three eyewitnesses ran out of fear that they would be involved in the crime. They then passed by the victim sprawled on the ground with his head tilted to the right.12
Mac-Mac and Ajie identified accused Roberto and the accused-appellant as the persons they last saw with the victim. Mac-Mac claimed that accused-appellant pleaded him not to implicate her.13
Hermie was in Marinduque when he received a telephone call from accused-appellant informing him that his brother Roberto, the victim, was found dead. Three days thereafter, he went to Cogeo to see his brother. Hermie then went to the police station where he was informed that there were witnesses to the shooting of his brother.14 Sometime in May, he searched for these witnesses, who happened to be Mac-Mac and Ajie, and pleaded with them to testify.15
Dr. Marquez conducted an autopsy on the body of the victim. He testified that the victim sustained a fatal gunshot wound which entered the right mandibular region and exited the left lateral neck region. This injury resulted in the victim's instantaneous death.16
Further, Dr. Marquez explained that based on the injury sustained by the victim, the assailant was more likely at the front right side of the victim, while the muzzle of the gun must be 6 to 12 inches from the victim's right jaw.17
Version of the Defense
The accused-appellant testified in her defense. She stated that she and the victim have been married for 22 years with two children — Jinky and Angelo, aged 28 and 24, respectively.18
Accused-appellant claimed that on the night of the incident, she was in their house at Sto. Nino, Sta. Cruz, Antipolo, attending to her store with her son, Angelo and to some children who were playing video games.19
Accused-appellant narrated that the victim came home at around 9:00 p.m. after selling mangoes. The victim, nonetheless, left shortly thereafter to remit the sales to a certain Coco, who lives nearby. Accused-appellant closed the store around at 11:00 p.m. but the victim had not yet returned. Since it was a Sunday, accused-appellant just assumed that the victim went to have a drink with his friends.20 The next day, after noticing that the victim still had not returned, she began asking around for his whereabouts. That afternoon, after receiving information that someone had been killed, accused-appellant proceeded to the police station at Cogeo Gate II.21 There, she was referred to the Tandog Funeraria where she identified the cadaver as that of her husband and proceeded to inform the latter's relatives.22
Accused-appellant denied having any participation in her husband's death. Likewise, she claimed that she does not know Roberto.23
The Trial Court's Ruling
On November 10, 2015, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Antipolo City, Branch 72 rendered its Decision24 finding accused-appellant guilty of Parricide, viz.:
WHEREFORE, finding the accused FLORENDA MANZANILLA Y DE ASIS GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Parricide as a Principal by inducement, she is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua.
Accused is hereby ordered to pay the amount of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity and the amount of P25,000.00 as exemplary damages.
Preliminarily, the RTC dismissed the case against Roberto in view of his death during the pendency of the trial; then it proceeded to determine the guilt of the accused-appellant.26 The RTC was convinced, on the basis of the evidence presented by the prosecution, that it was Roberto who shot the victim. It, however, adjudged that accused-appellant was liable as a principal by inducement, as she was the one who ordered Roberto to finish off her husband. Ultimately, the RTC held that the positive identification of the accused-appellant prevails over her bare denial.27
The CA's Decision
On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC in its Decision28 of August 17, 2017, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal is DENIED. The Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo City, Branch 72, dated November 10, 2015, is hereby AFFIRMED with the following MODIFICATIONS:
Defendant-appellant is ORDERED to PAY P100,000.00 instead of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity; P100,000.00 as moral damages; and P100,000.00 instead of P25,000 as exemplary damages.
The CA found the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses to be credible and sufficient to prove the guilt of the accused-appellant as a principal by inducement in the crime of parricide. Similarly, the CA brushed aside the apparent inconsistencies and minor issues relating to the witnesses' testimonies. The CA held that these issues are expected considering that the witnesses are testifying about a nerve-wracking event; therefore, total recall or perfect symmetry is not required as long as witnesses concur on material points.30
Thus, this appeal, whereby the Court must resolve whether or not the accused-appellant is guilty of parricide.
The Court's Ruling
The appeal is unmeritorious.
Parricide is defined under Article 246 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) as:
Article 246. Parricide. - Any person who shall kill his father, mother, or child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, or any of his ascendants, or descendants, or his spouse, shall be guilty of parricide and shall be punished by the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death.
The spousal relationship between the accused-appellant and the victim is undisputed. Similarly, the accused-appellant's participation in the victim's death has been clearly established by the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses.
The records are bereft of any allegation, much more proof, that Mac-Mac and Ajie harbored any ill motive to implicate the accused-appellant in the crime. They, for one, were not familiar with any of the accused even prior to the crime. Thus, the Court sees no reason not to accord the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses the same faith and credit which the RTC and the CA have given them. Deference to the trial court is inevitable when the circumstances present no cogent reason to disturb its evaluation, as it has the unique opportunity to see the witnesses on the stand and determine, on the basis of their demeanor, the truthfulness of their testimony.31
The accused-appellant has been convicted by both the RTC and the CA as a principal by inducement. The Court agrees; nonetheless, the nature of the accused-appellant's participation is irrelevant in view of the existence of conspiracy.
In order for a person to be convicted as a principal by inducement, "the inducement [must] be made with the intention of procuring the commission of the crime," and "such inducement [must] be the determining cause"32 by the one executing the same. The prosecution must show that the inducer has "the most positive resolution and most persistent effort to secure the commission of the crime" which when related upon the person induced constituted a very strong kind of temptation to commit the crime.33
Under Article 17 of the RPC, a principal by inducement either: a) directly forces, or b) directly induces another to commit the crime.1a⍵⍴h!1 There are equally two ways of committing each mode. Directly forcing another to commit a crime may be accomplished by: (i) using irresistible force, or (ii) causing uncontrollable fear; whereas, directly inducing the commission of a crime may be: (i) by giving a price, reward, or promise, or (ii) by using words of command.34
The Court adopts with approval the CA's determination that the attendant facts and circumstances established that the accused-appellant exerted great dominance and influence over Roberto, such that her words constituted an efficacious and powerful coercion for the latter to commit the crime:
Although the words "bilis-bilisan baka may makakita" cannot be considered inciting on their own because they merely instruct [Gacuma] to hurry without reference to any other act, the utterance of the words "yariin na" taken together with the former statement and the fact that it was followed by [Gacuma] shooting Angel are enough to consider such statements as inciting words which in this instant case were direct and efficacious, or powerful as the physical or moral coercion or the violence itself.35
The words "yariin na" is unequivocal. Literally translated in English, it means to "finish off"; in tagalog slang, it means "to kill." The words are neither thoughtless nor spontaneous as they were uttered in a situation specifically sought for the purpose of killing the victim. Further, the accused-appellant's dominance over Roberto is evident from the fact that immediately after the words of command were uttered, Roberto was moved into action by approaching the victim and then bringing him to a dark place and there, shooting him.36
At any rate, the relative participation of the accused-appellant is immaterial in this case as the Court finds that she, together with Roberto, and one unidentified male, acted in conspiracy to kill the victim. The records establish that the three waited for the victim to arrive. After the accused-appellant identified the victim, Roberto approached him, brought him to a dark place and fired a shot in his head, all of which happened while the accused-appellant and their unidentified male companion were in their places acting as lookouts. Afterwards, Roberto escaped with the accused-appellant.
These overt acts prove that accused-appellant and her companions acted in an implied conspiracy to kill the victim:
An implied conspiracy exists when two or more persons are shown to have aimed by their acts towards the accomplishment of the same unlawful object, each doing a part so that their combined acts, though apparently independent, were in fact connected and cooperative, indicating closeness of personal association and a concurrence of sentiment. Implied conspiracy is proved through the mode and manner of the commission of the offense, or from the acts of the accused before, during and after the commission of the crime indubitably pointing to a joint purpose, a concert of action and a community of interest.37
In a conspiracy, a person is guilty as co-principal when he or she performs an overt act, that is, either "by actively participating in the actual commission of the crime, by lending moral assistance to his co-conspirators by being present at the scene of the crime, or by exerting moral ascendancy over the rest of the conspirators as to move them to executing the conspiracy."38 In this case, the intent and character of the participation of each accused are irrelevant. It need not be identified who inflicted the fatal blow; all the conspirators are equally liable as the act of one is the act of all.39
In this case, the collective testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, corroborated by the autopsy report which details the injuries sustained by the victim, prevail over the accused-appellant's denial. The accused-appellant's defense of alibi does not stand as she failed to prove that she was in a place other than the situs criminis such that it was physically impossible for her to be at the scene of the crime when it was committed. Here, the accused-appellant failed to present evidence to support her claim that she was in the store at the time the crime was being committed. Noting that she was supposedly in there with her son, Angelo, it is interesting that she did not present him to affirm such fact. Instead, she merely relied on her bare testimony, which is easy enough to fabricate. In contrast, the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses are simple, straightforward, and riddled with details of the incident which could not have been merely fabricated. The testimonies of Mac-Mac and Ajie were consistent on pertinent points and the identity of the persons involved therein. Without a doubt, the prosecution's evidence should prevail over the accused-appellant's denial.
On the issue of penalty, Article 246 of the RPC provides that the crime of parricide shall be punished by the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death. Pursuant to Article 63(2) when the law prescribed a penalty composed of two indivisible penalties and there are neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances, as in the case at bar, the lesser penalty shall be applied. Consequently, the penalty of reclusion perpetua was properly imposed.
In line with People v. Jugueta,40 the amount of civil indemnity, moral damages, and exemplary damages shall be at P75,000.00 each. In addition, there being no documentary evidence of burial or funeral expenses presented in court, the award of P50,000.00 as temperate damages is in order in view of the victim's death.
WHEREFORE, the appeal interposed by accused-appellant Florenda Manzanilla y De Asis is DISMISSED for lack of merit. Consequently, the Decision dated August 17, 2017 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-HC No. 08336, convicting the accused-appellant of Parricide, as defined and penalized under Article 246 of the Revised Penal Code, and imposing upon her the penalty of reclusion perpetua, is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that in accordance with recent jurisprudence,41 accused-appellant is hereby ORDERED to PAY the heirs of Angel Manzanilla y Saporma, the amounts of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral damages, P75,000.00 as exemplary damages, and P50,000.00 as temperate damages.
All monetary awards shall earn interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the finality of this Decision until fully paid.42
Leonen, (Chairperson), Gesmundo, Carandang, and Zalameda, JJ., concur.
October 21, 2020
NOTICE OF JUDGMENT
Sirs / Mesdames:
Please take notice that on June 8, 2020 a Decision, copy attached hereto, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled case, the original of which was received by this Office on October 21, 2020 at 1:50 p.m.
Very truly yours,
(SGD) MISAEL DOMINGO C. BATTUNG III
Division Clerk of Court
1 Penned by Associate Justice Leoncia Real-Dimagiba, with Associate Justices Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr. and Henri Jean Paul B. Inting (now a Member of this Court), concurring, rollo pp. 2-19.
2 Id. at 2-3.
3 CA rollo, p. 55.
4 Rollo, p. 8, CA rollo, p. 60.
5 CA rollo, pp. 56-63. Sarmenta is "Sarmienta" in other parts of the rollo.
6 Id. at 61.
7 Rollo, p. 5, CA rollo, pp. 58-59.
8 CA rollo, p. 59.
9 Id. at 62.
10 Rollo, pp. 4-5, CA rollo, p. 58.
11 CA rollo, id.
12 Rollo p. 5, CA rollo pp. 58-59, 61-62.
13 CA rollo pp. 58-59.
14 Id. at 56.
15 Id. at 56, 60, 62.
16 Id. at 63.
18 Rollo p. 7.
20 Id. at 7-8.
21 Id. at 8.
22 Id.; CA rollo, pp. 63-64.
23 Rollo, p. 7.
24 Rendered by Judge Ruth D. Cruz-Santos, CA rollo, pp. 55-68.
25 Id. at 68.
26 Id. at 65.
27 Id. at 68.
28 Rollo, p. 2-19.
29 Id. at 19.
30 Id. at 13-14, 16-17.
31 People v. Supremo, 314 Phil. 489, 492 (1995).
32 People v. Yanson-Dumancas, 378 Phil. 341, 359-360 (1999), citing US v. Indanan, 24 Phil. 203 (1913).
34 People v. Yanson-Dumancas, supra, note 32 at 358-359.
35 Rollo, p. 13.
36 See People v. Yanson-Dumancas, supra, note 32 at 360, where the Court, citing the case of People v. Castillo, et al., 124 Phil. 69 (1966), held that: the act of inducement should precede the commission of the crime itself.
37 Macapagal-Arroyo v. People, et al., 790 Phil. 367, 419-420 (2016).
38 People v. Vasquez, 474 Phil. 59, 85 (2004).
39 Id. at 86.
40 783 Phil. 806 (2016).
42 Nacar v. Gallery Frames, 716 Phil. 267 (2013).
The Lawphil Project - Arellano Law Foundation