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370 Phil. 546


[ G.R. No. 129051, July 28, 1999 ]




The present case is one for murder brought before us on automatic review, the capital punishment of death having been imposed by the trial court. Accused-appellant, Romeo Molina, was indicted for the crime of murder allegedly committed as follows:
"That on or about the 14th day of July, 1995 at barangay D' Alarcio, municipality of Laoac, province of Pangasinan and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, with intent to kill and with treachery, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, hit and stab DOMINGO FLORES with the use of a stone and knife, inflicting to said victim the following injuries:


- Contusion + lacerated wound 0.5 cm. over the left eyebrow
- Contusion + lacerated wound V-shape over the right parieto temporal area
- Contusion + lacerated wound over the occipital area
- Deep lacerated wound 2 cm. over the ant. neck area
- (+) Subcuteous emphysema base cervinal area

- Depressed Fracture over the occipital bone with minimal bleeding
- Linear fracture over the right parieto tempral bone

which injuries being mortal caused the death of said Domingo Flores to the damage and prejudice of his heirs.

CONTRARY to Article 248, Revised Penal Code."[1]
On arraignment, accused-appellant with the assistance of counsel entered a plea of not guilty and after trial, Judge Joven F. Costales of Branch 45 Regional Trial Court of Urdaneta, Pangasinan rendered the decision[2] now under review, the decretal portion of which reads:
"WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, this Court finds the accused ROMEO MOLINA y Flores GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of MURDER defined and penalized under Republic Act No. 7659 otherwise known as the Heinous Crime Law, the offense having been committed with the attendant aggravating circumstance of dwelling and hereby sentences him with the ultimum supplicium of DEATH to be executed pursuant to Repbulic Act No. 8177 known as the Lethal Injection Law and to pay the heirs of the victim DOMINGO FLORES in the amount of P50,000.00 as indemnity; P40,000.00 as actual damages; P200,000.00 as moral damages; and to pay the costs.

Finally, it is said:

"Dura lex, sed lex," translated as "The law is harsh, but that is the law!"

The facts, as culled from the evidence of the prosecution are as follows:

On July 14, 1995, at around 10:00 o'clock in the evening, Domingo Flores was asleep in his house in D'Alarcio, Laoac, Pangasinan. His daughter, Melanie, who was then listening to the radio, was the only one in the household still awake at that time. Hearing a sound, she saw accused-appellant, her father's cousin, barging in through the kitchen door and going straight to her father's room. She peeped through a curtain and saw accused-appellant hitting her sleeping father on the head with a stone the size of a fist and afterwards stabbing him in the neck and eyebrow with a knife. She was able to recognize her uncle as her father's assailant because there was a lamp near her father's head at the time of the attack. Afraid that she too would be harmed, Melanie did not immediately come to her father's aid and instead watched as accused-appellant made good his escape. It was only after Molina had left that she hastened to call her grandfather, Eufrosinio Flores, who lived nearby.[4] Responding to Melanie's cries, Eufrosinio found his son on the bed soaked in his own blood. As Eufrosinio lifted his son onto his lap, Domingo, fatally wounded and bleeding, told his father that it was his "insan" Romy who stabbed him. Hours later, Domingo died from his injuries while being transferred to another hospital.[5] Post-mortem findings revealed that the cause of his death was severe intracranial bleeding secondary to skull fracture and blood loss due to a stab wound on the neck.[6]

On his part, Molina interposed the defense of alibi to exculpate himself from liability. According to him, on July 14, 1995, he left his house in Cabilaoan, Laoac, Pangasinan at around three o'clock in the afternoon to borrow the plow of his uncle, Martin Molina, who lived in Manaoag, Pangasinan. When he was returning home after getting the plow, he met the victim Domingo Flores and Orlando Fernandez. Suddenly and without any provocation, the two who appeared drunk at the time, took turns mauling him. Thereafter, he hailed a tricycle and told the driver to take him to the Don Amadeo Perez, Sr. Memorial Hospital in Urdaneta, Pangasinan where his injuries were cleaned and treated. The attending physician, Dr. Noel Obedoza, recommended that Molina be confined but the latter refused, saying he had no money.

According to the accused-appellant, he stayed in the hospital waiting area up to eleven o'clock in the evening of July 14, 1995 until a nursing attendant in the said hospital, Alejandro Duyag, took pity on him and brought him to the latter's house where he spent the night. Molina claimed that he has since stayed with Duyag for about a month as he did not want to go home for fear that his attackers would harm him again. During his stay with Duyag, he worked for the latter as farm helper. Accused-appellant further denied having had anything to do with the death of Domingo Flores, claiming that he only learned of the killing more than a month later. He likewise said that prior to July 14, 1995, there was no bad blood between him and the victim. In fact, he said, Domingo was like a father to him and he saw no reason why the victim's family would make any false accusations against him.[7]

To corroborate the foregoing testimony of the accused-appellant, the defense presented Dr. Noel Obedoza[8] and Alejandro Duyag, Sr.[9] Moreover, the policeman who prepared the investigation report based on the police blotter entry regarding the killing of Domingo Flores and the investigating officer assigned to the case were likewise called as witnesses to establish certain inconsistencies in the initial statements of Melanie and Eufresinio.[10]

Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by Republic Act No. 7659 states that:
"Art. 248. Murder. - Any person who, not falling within the provisions of Article 246 shall kill another, shall be guilty of murder and shall be punished by reclusion perpetua to death if committed with any of the following attendant circumstances:
  1. With treachery, taking advantage of superior strength, with the aid of armed men, or employing means to weaken the defense or of means or persons to insure or afford impunity.
In the case at bar, the identity of Domingo Flores' killer is not unknown. The records show that accused-appellant was positively identified as the assailant, not only by Domingo's daughter Melanie, who witnesses the stabbling, but also by the victim himself while the latter was in the throes of death.

The requisites for the admissibility of dying declaration have already been established in a long line of cases. Thus, in the case at bar, the victim's ante-mortem statement is entitled to much probative weight since it has been proven that: (1) at the time the declaration was made, death was imminent and the declarant was conscious of that fact; (2) the declaration refers to the cause and surrounding circumstances of such death; (3) the declaration relates to facts which the victim was competent to testify to; (4) the declarant thereafter died; and (5) the declaration is offered in a criminal case wherein the declarant's death is the subject of the inquiry.

Indeed, a dying declaration is entitled to the highest credence because no person who knows of his impending death would make a careless and false accusation. Thus, it has been held that when a person is at the point of death, every motive of falsehood is silenced and the mind is induced by the most powerful consideration to speak the truth.[11]

Accused-appellant attempted to exculpate himself from liability by pointing out certain inconsistencies between the sworn statements and the testimonies of Melanie and Eufrosinio. In Melanie's sworn statement, she said that she saw accused-appellant stab her father that fateful night of July 14, 1995. However, she testified in court that she saw Molina hit her father twice in the head with a stone before stabbing him on the left eyebrow and neck. Eufresinio, on the other hand, averred in his sworn statement that Domingo, making his dying declaration, pointed to Molina as his assailant, in the jeepney while the victim was being brought to the hospital; in his testimony, however, Eufresinio clarified that the dying declaration was made while they were still in Domingo's house right after the latter was stabbed.

To our mind, these inconsistencies do not affect the credibility of the said witnesses. For one, accused-appellant himself admitted in open court that prior to July 14, 1995, there was never any bad blood between him and Domingo and that he saw no reason why the latter's family would make false accusations against him. Moreover, the alleged discrepancies may well be due to the fact that at the time the sworn statements of the witnesses were taken, they were still in a state of grief and shock, which explains why they were not able to relate accurately the events that transpired on the night of the killing. Likewise, it should be noted that the sworn statements of the said witnesses were prepared by police investigators and misapprehension by the latter of the facts related by the witnesses cannot be discounted. In any case, the records bear out the fact that during the trial, both Melanie and Eufresinio were able to clarify their averments in their respective sworn statements and despite the gruelling cross-examination, they managed to consistently and credibly maintain their version of what actually happened.

It should be reiterated that discrepancies between the affidavit of a witness and his testimony in court do not necessarily discredit him because it is a matter of judicial experience that affidavits, being taken ex-parte, are almost always incomplete and often inaccurate.[12] Besides, as the lower court cited, the testimonial discrepancies could have been caused by the natural fickleness of memory which tends to strengthen, rather than weaken credibility as they erase any suspicion of rehearse testimony.[13] Furthermore, as this Court has time and again observed, it is when the testimony appears totally flawless that a court may entertain misgivings on its veracity. In fact, certain minor variances in the details of a witness' account, more frequently than not, can be badges of truth rather than indicia of falsehood, and they often bolster the probative value of the testimony.[14]

Moreover, well entrenched is the rule that inconsistencies and discrepancies in the testimony of witnesses, when referring only to minor details and collateral matters, do not affect either the substance of their declaration, their veracity, or the weight of their testimony. Although there may be inconsistencies on minor details, the same do not impair the credibility of the witness where there is consistency in relating the principal occurrence and positive identification of the assailant, as in the case at bar.[15]

With respect to the accused-appellant's defense of alibi, suffice it to say that denials and alibis, unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence, are negative and self-serving and deserve no probative weight especially in light of the testimonies of credible witnesses who have positively identified the accused as the assailant. In addition, it has been held that for an alibi to prevail, the defense must establish by positive, clear and satisfactory proof that it was physically impossible for the accused to have been at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission, and not merely that the accused was somewhere else,[16] as Molina claimed in this case. Accused-appellant himself admitted on the witness stand that from the hospital where he was treated for his injuries, he could have easily taken a tricycle ride to get to the victim's house.[17]

This Court has had occasion to rule that alibi is one of the weakest defenses an accused can invoke, and the courts have always received it with caution, if not suspicion, not only because it is inherently unreliable but likewise because it is rather easy to fabricate.[18]

As to the manner in which Molina killed the victim, the same was undoubtedly attended by treachery since the accused attacked Domingo while the latter was asleep and unable to defend himself. There is alevosia where the attack was sudden and unexpected, rendering the victim defenseless and ensuring the accomplishment of the assailant's evil purpose without risk to himself.[19]

Likewise, the generic aggravating circumstance of dwelling was properly appreciated by the trial court, considering that Molina purposely entered the victim's abode with the intention to kill him. Article 14 (5) of the Revised Penal Code provides that where the crime was committed in the dwelling of the offended party and the latter has not given any provocation, the same is considered an aggravating circumstance. As Viada puts it, "The home is a sort of sacred place for its owner. He who goes to another's house to slander him, hurt him or do him wrong, is more guilty than he who offends him elsewhere."[20]

It should be emphasized that for dwelling to be appreciated as an aggravating circumstance, there must have been no provocation on the part of the victim. The provocation contemplated here is one that is sufficient and immediate to the commission of the crime. In other words, the invasion of the privacy of the offended party's house must have been the direct and immediate consequence of the provocation given by the latter as where, for example, the accused and the victim quarelled in front of the latter's house and the accused, in a fit of rage entered the victim's house and proceeded to stab him.[21] Such is not the situation in the case at bar because the killing in the victim's house occurred at least six hours after the accused's mauling.

There is, however, the mitigating circumstance of vindication of a grave offense to offset the generic aggravating circumstance of dwelling. As the records show, accused-appellant was treated for injuries he sustained when he was mauled in the afternoon of July 14, 1995 and the prosecution did not offer anny rebuttal evidence to deny the allegation that Domingo was one of the men who beat up Molina. Indeed, that accused-appellant was mauled for no apparent reason by someone who looked up to as a father understandably engendered a strong feeling of vengeance on his part. Sadly, however, he chose to take the law into his own hands to sate his thirst for revenge.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the judgment of the trial court convicting the accused for murder is hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the penalty is reduced from death to reclusion perpetua, the generic aggravating circumstance of dwelling having been offset by the mitigating circumstance of vindication of a grave offense.

No costs.


Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., on leave.

[1] Records, p.27.

[2]2 Rollo, pp. 16-57.

[3] Ibid., pp. 56-57.

[4] tsn, January 22, 1997, pp. 3-7.

[5] tsn, January 29, 1997, pp. 4-8.

[6] tsn, February 5, 1997, pp. 11-12.

[7] tsn, February 13, 1997, pp. 22-39.

[8] tsn, February 6, 1997, pp. 3-12.

[9] tsn, February 13, 1997, pp. 4-19.

[10] tsn, February 12, 1997, pp. 4-19.

[11] People vs. Santos, 270 SCRA 650 (1997).

[12] People vs. Calegan, 233 SCRA 537 (1994).

[13] People vs. Francisco, 258 SCRA 558 (1996).

[14] People vs. Talledo, 262 SCRA 544 (1996).

[15] Sumalpong vs. Court of Appeals, 268 SCRA 764 (1997).

[16] People vs. Dinglasan, 267 SCRA 26 (1997) citing People vs. Magana 259 SCRA 380 (1996).

[17] tsn, February 13, 1997, p. 26.

[18] People vs. Azugue, 268 SCRA 711 (1997).

[19] People vs. Uycoque, 246 SCRA 769 (1995).

[20] 5th ed., Vol. II, pp. 323-324.

[21] US vs. Licarte, 23 Phil. 10 (1912).

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