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337 Phil. 173

FIRST DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 107801, March 26, 1997 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, VS. ROSARIA V. IGNACIO, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N

VITUG, J.:

Rosaria V. Ignacio was accused of parricide before the Regional Trial Court of Rizal, Branch 76 (Criminal Case No. 1700),[1] for fatally hitting her husband, Juan Ignacio, with a wooden club (palo-palo). The deceased was Rosaria's fourth husband. Juan died after having lived with Rosaria for two (2) years and seven (7) months.

On 19 February 1992, the following information was filed against accused Rosaria Ignacio:

"That on or about the 10th day of February 1992 in the Municipality of Rodriguez, Province of Rizal, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused with intent to kill and while armed with the wooden club (palo-palo) did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and hit her lawfully wedded husband Juan Ignacio, whereby inflicting upon the latter serious injuries which directly caused his death.

"Contrary to law."[2]
Rosaria pleaded not guilty to the charge.[3]

The prosecution gave the following narration of its version of the incident.

Rosaria Ignacio, then 44 years of age, lived with her husband, Juan Ignacio, 67 years old, in a small two-storey house of sawali and cogon grass in Sampaguita Street, San Jose, Montalban (Rodriguez), Rizal. Residing with them was Rosaria's daughter, Milagros V. Cabanilla, by a previous marriage.

On the night of 09 February 1992, Rosaria and Juan had a heated argument. Milagros, entreated them to stop but the couple were in no mood to heed her. The following night (10 February 1992), at dinner, Juan and Rosaria had another quarrel. Milagros grudgingly went upstairs and tried instead to put her child to sleep. She could hear, after a brief moment, that the fight had become somewhat violent (nagrarambulan). Milagros peeped. She saw by the gas lamp (batutoy), that both were pulling a piece of lawanit and each tried to take possession of it. Juan ultimately released the lawanit and turned to go for his bolo when Rosaria picked up a palo-palo and hit Juan on the nape.[4]

Rosaria left the straggling (kikisay-kisay) Juan and surrendered to the police at the municipal building. Rolando Ignacio, Juan's son by his former wife, was fishing in the San Jose river when he learned of the unfortunate incident. At the municipal hall in Montalban, Rizal, Rosaria voluntarily disclosed before Rolando and Pat. San Diego that she hit Juan with a wooden club.[5] She repeated this statement at the Office of the Prosecutor in Marikina in the presence of Rolando.

Juan died the following day.[6]His body underwent postmortem examination at the Francisco Memorial Homes in Montalban, Rizal, by Dr. Emmanuel Aranas of the PNP Crime Laboratory Service.[7] Dr. Aranas found a contusion on the left occipital region, a lacerated wound on the right occipital area and an abrasion on the right elbow. The cause of death, per the autopsy report, was attributed to hemorrhage resulting from the traumatic injuries on the head.[8] Dr. Aranas opined that the contusion and laceration on Juan's head, which fractured the bones of the skull,[9] had badly affected the cranial cavity of the brain.

Testifying in her defense, Rosaria did not deny having inflicted the fatal wounds on her husband. According to her, between seven and eight o'clock in the evening of 10 February 1992, while she was resting on the wooden bed near the kitchen, after having returned home from her laundry work, her husband arrived. He was drunk. Armed with a bolo, he went around the wooden bed and then faced her. Exasperated, she finally stood up, pulled his hair, got hold of a palo-palo and hit him once on the head. The assault sent Juan hovering down the floor seriously wounded. Rosaria went to the municipal hall and surrendered to police officer San Diego.

No other witness was presented by the defense.

On 08 September 1992, the trial court rendered judgment convicting the accused and concluded:
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding herein accused Rosaria V. Ignacio guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Parricide as defined and penalized under Art. 246 of the Revised Penal Code, and sentencing her to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, and to indemnify the heirs of Juan Ignacio in the amount of P30,000.00."[10]
Rosaria has interposed this appeal praying that she be acquitted on the basis of self-defense or, in the alternative, that she be held guilty only of homicide rather than of parricide.

An accused who interposes self-defense admits the commission of the act complained of. The burden of proving self-defense would now be on the accused who must show by strong, clear and convincing evidence that the killing is justified and that, therefore, no criminal liability has attached.[11]The first paragraph of Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code requires, in a plea of self-defense, (1) an unlawful aggression on the part of the victim, (2) a reasonable necessity of the means employed by the accused to prevent or repel it, and (3) the lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.[12]

Unlawful aggression is a condition sine qua non for the justifying circumstance of self-defense. Without it, there can be no self-defense, whether complete or incomplete, that can validly be invoked.[13] The importance of this requisite must remain underscored. In De Luna vs. Court of Appeals,[14] the Court has explained:
"x x x. We did repeatedly say before that, whether complete or incomplete, self-defense, by its very nature and essence, always would require the attendance of unlawful aggression initiated by the victim which must clearly be shown. When unlawful aggression on the victim's part is alone established, incomplete self-defense is so appreciated merely as an ordinary mitigating circumstance under Article 13, paragraph 1, of the Code. When such unlawful aggression is coupled with still another element of self-defense, incomplete self-defense becomes a privileged mitigating circumstance, referred to in Article 69 of the Revised Penal Code, that entitles the accused to a reduction of the penalty imposed by law for the felony by one or two degrees depending on the conditions and circumstances therein obtaining."[15]
The presence of the requisite of unlawful aggression is pivotal. In the case at bench, appellant has sought to prove unlawful aggression by her testimony; thus -
Q.  Please tell the court what was that unusual incident?
"A.   That night, as I was taking a rest, my husband arrived and he was drunk. When I was on top of our wooden bed, I saw him armed with a bolo going around me, I lost my patience (nagdilim ang aking paningin), I got hold of a palo-palo and hit him on his head, sir.

"Q.  And what was your relative position as compared to the position of the victim when you hit him with a palo-palo?
"A.   He was facing me and I was on top of the wooden bed and as I was on top of it, I hit him, sir.

"x x x                          x x x                            x x x.

"Q.  You also testified that prior to that incident, before you hit your husband with a palo-palo, he was armed with a bolo, is that correct?
"A.   Yes, sir.

"Q.  Where did he get that bolo, if you know?
"A.   At the post, near the wooden bed, sir.

"Q.  Are you aware as to the whereabouts of that bolo now?
"A.   I do not know, sir."[16]
In People vs. Pletado[17] the Court, quoting from People vs. Bausing,[18] has reiterated the acceptable test in determining the presence of unlawful aggression; viz:
"x x x. (F)or unlawful aggression to be appreciated, there must be an actual, sudden, unexpected attack or imminent danger thereof, and not merely a threatening or intimidating attitude (People vs. Pasco, Jr., supra; People vs. Rey, 172 SCRA 149 [1989]) and the accused must present proof of positively strong act of real aggression (Pacificar vs. Court of Appeals, 125 SCRA 716 [1983]; People vs. Aquiatan, 123 SCRA 501 [1983]; People vs. Aquino, 124 SCRA 835 [1983]). Unlawful aggression must be such as to put in real peril the life or personal safety of the person defending himself or of a relative sought to be defended and not an imagined threat."[19]
By her own admission, appellant only thought that her husband would strike her. Answering questions from the trial court, she testified:
COURT:

"Q.  Was he really about to strike you?
"A.   Yes, sir.

"Q.  What made you say that?
"A.   Because even before, he was doing that to me, sir.

"Q.  But at that very precise moment, were you really certain that he was going to hit you?
"A.   I am sure that he will hit me, sir.

"Q.  Was it necessary to hit him with this palo-palo?
"A.   I hit him because I defended myself, sir." (Italics supplied.)[20]

In fact, appellant's claim of self-defense was belied by her own daughter, Milagros, who declared that even before the victim could get his bolo, appellant already picked up her palo-palo and hit him.

"Q.  You also made mention in your statement, particularly in question No. 6 to which you answered `nakarinig po ako ng kalabugan' what is that noise all about?
"A.   Both of them were pulling the lawanit and as they were pulling the lawanit, Juan Ignacio then freed the lawanit and was about to get his bolo but my mother was able to get at once the palo-palo and hit Juan Ignacio, sir.

"x x x                          x x x                            x x x.

"Q.  Mrs. Witness, you said during the cross-examination that the deceased tried to get a bolo, is that correct?
"A.   Yes, sir.

"Q.  And do you know where the deceased was keeping his bolo?
"A.   Just opposite the place where they were sleeping, sir.

"Q.  What was the position of Juan Ignacio when you saw him, as you said, he was getting a bolo?
"A.   He stood up to get his bolo but he felt so weak because he was drunk, sir." (Italics supplied.)[21]
Self-defense, being essentially a factual matter furthermore, is best addressed by the trial court.[22] Here, the trial court has also observed:
"Accused's claim of self-defense cannot be sustained. The bolo which was allegedly in victim's possession and with which the victim allegedly attempted to hit the accused, was never found, as in fact, admittedly, its whereabouts [was] unknown to the accused (TSN, p. 4, July 29, 1992 hearing) who naturally would have preserved the same and utilized it in evidence to corroborate her claim. Under the circumstances, the existence of the bolo particularly on the occasion alleged, is even doubtful."[23]
Appellant contends that, if at all, she should be convicted only of homicide, not parricide, because "there was no clear evidence of marriage" between her and the victim.[24] Article 246 of the Revised Penal Code defining and penalizing the crime of parricide provides:
"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."
Indeed, the phrase "whether legitimate or illegitimate" characterizes the relationship between the accused and his victim who might be his father, mother, or child, but not the "spouse" who obviously refers to either the legitimate husband or the lawful wife.[25]

Here, appellant not only declared in court that the victim was her fourth husband[26] but she also swore that they were married before a judge in Montalban, Rizal.[27] The victim's son testified that his father and appellant were husband and wife,[28] in much the same way that appellant's daughter, Milagros, held the victim to be her mother's husband.[29] Appellant's own admission that she was married to the victim was a confirmation of the semper praesumitur matrimonio and the presumption that a man and a woman so deporting themselves as husband and wife had verily entered into a lawful contract of marriage.[30]

In People vs. Borromeo,[31] the Court has said:
"Persons living together in apparent matrimony are presumed, in the absence of any counter presumption or evidence special to the case, to be in fact married. The reason is that such is the common order of society, and if the parties were not what they thus hold themselves out as being, they would be living in constant violation of decency and law (Son Cui vs. Guepangco, 22 Phil. 216). The presumption in favor of matrimony is one of the strongest known in law. The law presumes morality, and not immorality; marriage, and not concubinage; legitimacy, and not bastardy. There is the presumption that persons living together as husband and wife are married to each other."[32]
In view of the presence of the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender, the trial court correctly imposed upon appellant the penalty of reclusion perpetua.[33]

WHEREFORE, the decision of the trial court finding appellant Rosaria V. Ignacio guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of parricide and imposing upon her the penalty of reclusion perpetua is AFFIRMED subject to the modification that the indemnity awarded to the heirs of the victim, Juan Ignacio, is increased to Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00). Costs against accused-appellant.
SO ORDERED.

Padilla, (Chairman), Bellosillo, Kapunan, and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.


[1] In San Mateo, presided over by Judge Jose C. Reyes, Jr.

[2] Rollo, p. 4.

[3] Record, p. 15.

[4] TSN, June 24, 1992, p. 9.

[5] TSN, April 2, 1992, p. 4.

[6] Ibid., p. 3.

[7] TSN, June 4, 1992, p. 4.

[8] Exh. D, Record, p. 72.

[9] TSN, June 4, 1992, pp. 5-6.

[10] Rollo, p. 14.

[11] People vs. Gundran, 228 SCRA 583.

[12] People vs. Bernal, 254 SCRA 659.

[13] See People vs. Jotoy, 222 SCRA 801; People vs. Sazon, 189 SCRA 700.

[14] 244 SCRA 758.

[15] At p. 763.

[16] TSN, 29 July 1992, pp. 3-4.

[17] 210 SCRA 634.

[18] 199 SCRA 355.

[19] At p. 640.

[20] TSN, July 29, 1992, p. 9.

[21] TSN, June 24, 1992, pp. 9-11.

[22] People vs. Maceda, 197 SCRA 499.

[23] RTC Decision, p. 4, Rollo, p. 12.

[24] Appellant's Brief, p. 5.

[25] See People vs. Tambaroso, 56 Phil. 676.

[26] TSN, July 29, 1992, p. 5.

[27] Ibid., p. 8.

[28] TSN, April 2, 1992, p. 4.

[29] Exh. F, Record, p. 74.

[30] People vs. Aling y Majuri, 96 SCRA 472; see Rule 131, Sec. 3(aa), Revised Rules on Evidence.

[31] 218 Phil. 122.

[32] At p. 126.

[33] Arts. 246 and 63(3), Revised Penal Code.

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