679 Phil. 279
The sufficiency of the allegations of the facts and circumstances constituting the elements of the crime charged is crucial in every criminal prosecution because of the ever-present obligation of the State to duly inform the accused of the nature and cause of the accusation.
The accused were tried for and convicted of three counts of murder on January 20, 2005 by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 86, in Quezon City. They were penalized with reclusion perpetua
for each count, and ordered to pay to the heirs of each victim P93,000.00 as actual damages, P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, and P50,000.00 as moral damages.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the RTC on July 18, 2006, subject to the modification that each accused pay to the heirs of each victim P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, P25,000.00 as temperate damages, and P25,000.00 as exemplary damages, plus costs of suit.
The accused came to the Court to seek acquittal. On May 9, 2007, however, accused Edwin Valdez filed a motion to withdraw appeal
, which the Court granted on October 10, 2007, thereby deeming Edwin’s appeal closed and terminated.
Hence, the Court hereby resolves only the appeal of PO2 Eduardo Valdez.Antecedents
The Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City charged the two accused in the RTC with three counts of murder for the killing of Ferdinand Sayson, Moises Sayson, Jr., and Joselito Sayson, alleging:
Criminal Case No. 00-90718
That on or about the 1st day of March, 2000, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping each other, with intent to kill, qualified with treachery, evident premeditation and abuse of superior strength did, then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, assault, attack and employ personal violence upon the person of one FERDINAND SAYSON Y DABOCOL by then and there shooting him with a gun, hitting him on his head, thereby inflicting upon him serious and mortal wound which was the direct and immediate cause of his death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the said FERDINAND SAYSON Y DABOCOL.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Criminal Case No. 00-90719
That on or about the 1st day of March, 2000, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping each other, with intent to kill, qualified with treachery, evident premeditation and abuse of superior strength did, then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, assault, attack and employ personal violence upon the person of one MOISES SAYSON, JR. Y DABOCOL by then and there shooting him several times with a gun, hitting him on his face and chest, thereby inflicting upon him serious and mortal wound which was the direct and immediate cause of his death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the said MOISES SAYSON, JR. Y DABOCOL.Criminal Case No. 00-90720
CONTRARY TO LAW.
That on or about the 1st day of March, 2000, in Quezon City, Philippines, the above-named accused conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping each other, with intent to kill, qualified with treachery, evident premeditation and abuse of superior strength did, then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, assault, attack and employ personal violence upon the person of one JOSELITO SAYSON Y DABOCOL by then and there shooting him with a gun, hitting him on his back, thereby inflicting upon him serious and mortal wound which was the direct and immediate cause of his death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the said JOSELITO SAYSON Y DABOCOL.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) summarized the State’s evidence of guilt as follows:
On March 1, 2000, at around 8:00 o’clock in the evening, Estrella Sayson, (Estrella) was at the canteen (which also includes a jai alai betting station) located at 77 Corregidor Street, Bago Bantay, Quezon City. Estrella was preparing for the celebration of the birthday of her second husband, Wilfredo Lladones, which was held later in the evening. Estrella’s son, the deceased Moises Sayson, a former policeman, and his wife, Susan Sayson (Susan) owned the said canteen and managed the betting station. At about 9:00 o’clock in the evening, Estrella’s other sons Joselito Sayson (Joselito) and Ferdinand Sayson (Ferdinand) arrived at the canteen to greet their stepfather. Estrella’s family and other visitors ate and enjoyed themselves at the party (pp. 3-5, TSN, November 29, 2000; pp. 3-6, TSN, February 6, 2001; pp. 3-4, TSN, July 31, 2001).
At about 10:00 o’clock in the evening, the celebration was interrupted with the arrival of Eduardo and Edwin, who alighted from a motorcycle in front of the jai alai fronton. Eduardo and Edwin asked the jai alai teller, Jonathan Rubio (Jonathan), to come out. Jonathan was then attending to customers who were buying jai alai tickets. Moises approached Eduardo and Edwin and tried to reason with them. Estrella saw Eduardo and Edwin armed with guns. She tried to prevent Moises from going near Edwin and Eduardo. Moises did not heed his mother’s warning. He went out and advised Eduardo and Edwin not to force Jonathan to go out of the fronton. Estrella then heard one of the accused-appellants threaten Moises with the words “Gusto mo unahin na kita?” Moises replied “huwag.” Successive shots were thereafter heard. Moises fell and was continuously fired upon even after he was sprawled on the ground. Ferdinand immediately approached the scene to help his brother Moises. Ferdinand, however was shot on the left temporal portion of his head and fell. Somebody told Joselito to run away, but he was hit at the back while running. Joselito fell on a burger machine (pp. 7-11, TSN, November 29, 2000; pp. 6-10, TSN, February 6, 2001; pp. 5-10, TSN, July 31, 2001; pp. 2-6, September 5, 2001).
After shooting the Sayson brothers, Eduardo and Edwin escaped from the scene of the crime (p. 10, TSN, February 6, 2001).
In turn, the appellant’s brief
filed by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) rendered the version of the accused, to wit:
xxx [A]t about 10:00 o’clock in the evening, Heidi dela Cruz (a barbecue vendor) and Noel Valad-on (a tricycle driver) saw accused Edwin Valdez alight from a bus. The latter bought P100.00 worth of barbecue from Heidi then proceeded towards home. He was walking along Corregidor Street when Heidi saw Jun Sayson (Moises), then holding a gun, block his (Edwin’s) way. Jun Sayson poked a gun at accused Edwin, shouting, ‘Putang-ina mo, papatayin kita’. The latter raised both his hands and said ‘Wag kuya Jun, maawa ka.’
Accused Eduardo Valdez (a policeman), then carrying his 6-year old child, was walking when his way was likewise blocked but this time, by the siblings Joselito and Ferdinand as well as their stepfather. Joselito twisted one of his (Eduardo’s) hands at his back while his (Joseltio’s) stepfather held the other. Ferdinand fired a gun but accused Eduardo was able to evade. Joselito, who was positioned behind Eduardo, was hit. He slumped and bled. He asked Heidi to inform his family that he was hit. Heidi ran away. She saw Jun (Moises) and accused Edwin grappling. Thereafter, she heard gunshots.
Accused Eduardo ducked during the firing. He pretended to be dead. Ferdinand stopped firing. Accused Eduardo’s son approached him crying. Accused thereafter, brought his son home, took his service firearm and on his way back to the scene of the incident when he met General Jesus Almadin, his commanding officer (CO). He reported the incident and sought for advice. He was told to take a rest and go back on (sic) the following day. He accompanied his CO to Camp Crame. He surrendered his firearm to Sr./Insp. Rodolfo Araza of the CIU. Accused Edwin Valdez likewise surrendered (TSN dated 05 February 2003; pp. 3-9; 12 March 2003, pp. 2-16; 11 August 2003, pp. 2-18, 1 September 2003, pp. 3-10; 15 October 2003, pp. 2-8; 03 December 2003, pp. 2-4; 18 February 2004, pp. 2-9; 24 March 2004, pp. 3-9; 10 April 2004, pp. 2-7; 07 June 2004, pp. 2-25).
The RTC convicted the two accused of three counts of murder and sentenced them to suffer reclusion perpetua
for each count of murder.
On appeal, the CA affirmed the convictions.Issues
In this appeal, PO2 Valdez assails the credibility of the State’s witnesses by pointing to inconsistencies and weaknesses in their testimonies; challenges the finding of conspiracy between the accused; and contends that the State did not establish the qualifying circumstance of treachery.Ruling
The Court affirms the convictions, but holds PO2 Valdez guilty only of three counts of homicide due to the failure of the informations to allege the facts and circumstances constituting treachery.
First of all, PO2 Valdez insists that the State’s witnesses (Susan Sayson, Marites Sayson and Estrella Sayson) did not really see the events as they transpired; and that they wrongly identified the two accused as the persons who had shot and killed the victims; and that the victims were themselves the aggressors.
The CA rejected PO2 Valdez’s insistence, holding thus:
In their Brief, the accused-appellants desperately attempted to discredit the testimonies of witnesses Susan, Marites and Estrella. They claimed that a perusal of Estrella’s testimony would cast doubt on her statement that she actually witnessed the shooting incident. The accused-appellants claimed that Estrella Sayson did not actually see who allegedly threatened her son Moises with the words “Gusto mo unahin na kita?” The accused-appellants also claimed that Estrella also failed to see who shot Moises. They likewise assailed the testimonies of Susan and Marites as being incredible. They said that Susan testified that she was in a state of shock after the incident and that she could not speak; yet she was still able to give her statement on the same day the incident allegedly happened. The accused-appellants also said that Marites testified that she was only about five (5) meters away from them (accused-appellants) when they alighted from their motorcycle; but that, “interestingly,” she only learned from her husband Joselito that the accused-appellants were looking for a certain Jonathan.
We are not persuaded. In her testimony, Estrella satisfactorily explained her purported failure to see who between the accused-appellants threatened Moises with the words “Gusto mo unahin kita?” and who shot her son Moises, by pointing out that she was then facing Moises because she was preventing him from approaching the accused-appellants, who were armed with short firearms. Estrella categorically stated that she saw the accused-appellants alight from their motorcycle on March 1, 2000. She could not have been mistaken about the identity of the accused-appellants for the simple reason that they are her neighbors and that their (the accused-appellants’) father is her “cumpadre.” When the incident happened, the accused-appellants were about eight (8) to ten (10) meters away from where she and her son Moises were standing. She also saw with her own eyes how her son Moises fell after she heard successive bursts of gunshots (approximately  shots) coming from where the accused-appellants were standing.
Considering that the CA thereby affirmed the trial court’s findings of fact, its calibration of the testimonies of witnesses and its assessment of their probative weight, as well as its conclusions, the Court accords high respect, if not conclusive effect, to the CA’s findings.
The justification for this is that trial court was in the best position to assess the credibility of witnesses by virtue of its firsthand observation of the demeanor, conduct and attitude of the witnesses under grilling examination. The only time when a reviewing court was not bound by the trial court’s assessment of credibility arises upon a showing of a fact or circumstance of weight and influence that was overlooked and, if considered, could affect the outcome of the case.
No such fact or circumstance has been brought to the Court’s attention.
It is not trite to remind that a truth-telling witness is not always expected to give an error-free testimony because of the lapse of time and the treachery of human memory; and that inaccuracies noted in testimony may even suggest that the witness is telling the truth and has not been rehearsed.
To properly appreciate the worth of testimony, therefore, the courts do not resort to the individual words or phrases alone but seek out the whole impression or effect of what has been said and done.
Secondly, PO2 Valdez argues that the three victims were themselves the aggressors who had attacked to kill him and his brother. He narrated during the trial that he dodged the bullet fired from the gun of Ferdinand (one of the victims), causing the bullet to fatally hit Joselito (another victim); that he played dead to avoid being shot at again, and walked away with his terrified son only after the way was clear for them to leave; and that he heard gunshots while Edwin and Jun (the third victim) grappled for control of a gun, and assumed that the gunshots had hit and killed Jun and Ferdinand.
The argument of PO2 Valdez is bereft of factual merit.
It is fundamental that the question as to who between the accused and the victim was the unlawful aggressor is a question of fact addressed to the trial court for determination based on the evidence on record.
The records show that the version of PO2 Valdez was contrary to the established facts and circumstances showing that he and Edwin, then armed with short firearms, had gone to the jai alai
betting station of Moises to confront Jonathan Rubio, the teller of the betting booth then busily attending to bettors inside the booth; that because the accused were calling to Rubio to come out of the booth, Moises approached to pacify them, but one of them threatened Moises: Gusto mo unahin na kita
?; that immediately after Moises replied: Huwag!
, PO2 Valdez fired several shots at Moises, causing him to fall to the ground; that PO2 Valdez continued firing at the fallen Moises; that Ferdinand (another victim) rushed to aid Moises, his brother, but Edwin shot Ferdinand in the head, spilling his brains; that somebody shouted to Joselito (the third victim) to run; that Edwin also shot Joselito twice in the back; and that Joselito fell on a burger machine. The shots fired at the three victims were apparently fired from short distances.
The testimonial accounts of the State’s witnesses entirely jibed with the physical evidence. Specifically, the medico-legal evidence showed that Ferdinand had a gunshot wound in the head;
that two gunshot wounds entered Joselito’s back and the right side of his neck;
and that Moises suffered a gunshot wound in the head and four gunshot wounds in the chest.
Also, Dr. Wilfredo Tierra of the NBI Medico-Legal Office opined that the presence of marginal abrasions at the points of entry indicated that the gunshot wounds were inflicted at close range.
Given that physical evidence was of the highest order and spoke the truth more eloquently than all witnesses put together,
the congruence between the testimonial recollections and the physical evidence rendered the findings adverse to PO2 Valdez and Edwin conclusive.
Thirdly, conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit the felony.
Proof of the actual agreement to commit the crime need not be direct because conspiracy may be implied or inferred from their acts.
Herein, both lower courts deduced the conspiracy between the accused from the mode and manner in which they perpetrated the killings. We are satisfied that their deduction was warranted.
Based on the foregoing, PO2 Valdez cannot now avoid criminal responsibility for the fatal shooting by Edwin of Ferdinand and Joselito. Both accused were convincingly shown to have acted in concert to achieve a common purpose of assaulting their unarmed victims with their guns. Their acting in concert was manifest not only from their going together to the betting station on board a single motorcycle, but also from their joint attack that PO2 Valdez commenced by firing successive shots at Moises and immediately followed by Edwin’s shooting of Ferdinand and Joselito one after the other. It was also significant that they fled together on board the same motorcycle as soon as they had achieved their common purpose.
To be a conspirator, one did not have to participate in every detail of the execution; neither did he have to know the exact part performed by his co-conspirator in the execution of the criminal acts.
Accordingly, the existence of the conspiracy between PO2 Valdez and Edwin was properly inferred and proved through their acts that were indicative of their common purpose and community of interest.
And, fourthly, it is unavoidable for the Court to pronounce PO2 Valdez guilty of three homicides, instead of three murders, on account of the informations not sufficiently alleging the attendance of treachery.
Treachery is the employment of means, methods, or forms in the execution of any of the crimes against persons which tend to directly and specially insure its execution, without risk to the offending party arising from the defense which the offended party might make.
It encompasses a wide variety of actions and attendant circumstances, the appreciation of which is particular to a crime committed. Corollarily, the defense against the appreciation of a circumstance as aggravating or qualifying is also varied and dependent on each particular instance. Such variety generates the actual need for the State to specifically aver the factual circumstances or particular acts that constitute the criminal conduct or that qualify or aggravate the liability for the crime in the interest of affording the accused sufficient notice to defend himself.
It cannot be otherwise, for, indeed, the real nature of the criminal charge is determined not from the caption or preamble of the information, or from the specification of the provision of law alleged to have been violated, which are mere conclusions of law, but by the actual recital of the facts in the complaint or information.
In People v. Dimaano
the Court elaborated:
For complaint or information to be sufficient, it must state the name of the accused; the designation of the offense given by the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense; the name of the offended party; the approximate time of the commission of the offense, and the place wherein the offense was committed. What is controlling is not the title of the complaint, nor the designation of the offense charged or the particular law or part thereof allegedly violated, these being mere conclusions of law made by the prosecutor, but the description of the crime charged and the particular facts therein recited. The acts or omissions complained of must be alleged in such form as is sufficient to enable a person of common understanding to know what offense is intended to be charged, and enable the court to pronounce proper judgment. No information for a crime will be sufficient if it does not accurately and clearly allege the elements of the crime charged. Every element of the offense must be stated in the information. What facts and circumstances are necessary to be included therein must be determined by reference to the definitions and essentials of the specified crimes. The requirement of alleging the elements of a crime in the information is to inform the accused of the nature of the accusation against him so as to enable him to suitably prepare his defense. The presumption is that the accused has no independent knowledge of the facts that constitute the offense. [emphasis supplied]
The averments of the informations to the effect that the two accused “with intent to kill, qualified with treachery, evident premeditation and abuse of superior strength did xxx assault, attack and employ personal violence upon” the victims “by then and there shooting [them] with a gun, hitting [them]” on various parts of their bodies “which [were] the direct and immediate cause of [their] death[s]” did not sufficiently set forth the facts and circumstances describing how treachery attended each of the killings. It should not be difficult to see that merely averring the killing of a person by shooting him with a gun, without more, did not show how the execution of the crime was directly and specially ensured without risk to the accused from the defense that the victim might make. Indeed, the use of the gun as an instrument to kill was not per se
treachery, for there are other instruments that could serve the same lethal purpose. Nor did the use of the term treachery
constitute a sufficient averment, for that term, standing alone, was nothing but a conclusion of law, not an averment of a fact. In short, the particular acts and circumstances constituting treachery as an attendant circumstance in murder were missing from the informations.
To discharge its burden of informing him of the charge, the State must specify in the information the details of the crime and any circumstance that aggravates his liability for the crime. The requirement of sufficient factual averments is meant to inform the accused of the nature and cause of the charge against him in order to enable him to prepare his defense. It emanates from the presumption of innocence in his favor, pursuant to which he is always presumed to have no independent knowledge of the details of the crime he is being charged with. To have the facts stated in the body of the information determine the crime of which he stands charged and for which he must be tried thoroughly accords with common sense and with the requirements of plain justice, for, as the Court fittingly said in United States v. Lim San
From a legal point of view, and in a very real sense, it is of no concern to the accused what is the technical name of the crime of which he stands charged. It in no way aids him in a defense on the merits. xxx. That to which his attention should be directed, and in which he, above all things else, should be most interested, are the facts alleged. The real question is not did he commit a crime given in the law some technical and specific name, but did he perform the acts alleged in the body of the information in the manner therein set forth. If he did, it is of no consequence to him, either as a matter of procedure or of substantive right, how the law denominates the crime which those acts constitute. The designation of the crime by name in the caption of the information from the facts alleged in the body of that pleading is a conclusion of law made by the fiscal. In the designation of the crime the accused never has a real interest until the trial has ended. For his full and complete defense he need not know the name of the crime at all. It is of no consequence whatever for the protection of his substantial rights. The real and important question to him is, “Did you perform the acts alleged in the manner alleged?” not “Did you commit a crime named murder.” If he performed the acts alleged, in the manner stated, the law determines what the name of the crime is and fixes the penalty therefor. It is the province of the court alone to say what the crime is or what it is named. xxx. (emphasis supplied)
A practical consequence of the non-allegation of a detail that aggravates his liability is to prohibit the introduction or consideration against the accused of evidence that tends to establish that detail. The allegations in the information are controlling in the ultimate analysis. Thus, when there is a variance between the offense charged in the information and that proved, and the offense as charged is included in or necessarily includes the offense proved, the accused shall be convicted of the offense proved included in the offense charged, or of the offense charged included in the offense proved.
In that regard, an offense charged necessarily includes the offense proved when some of the essential elements or ingredients of the former, as alleged in the information, constitute the latter; an offense charged is necessarily included in the offense proved when the essential ingredients of the former constitute or form part of those constituting the latter.
We now fix the penalty for each count of homicide.
Pursuant to Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code,
the penalty for homicide is reclusion temporal.
There being no circumstances modifying criminal liability, the penalty is applied in its medium period (i.e
., 14 years, 8 months and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months). Under the Indeterminate Sentence Law
, the minimum of the indeterminate sentence is taken from prision mayor
, and the maximum from the medium period of reclusion temporal
. Hence, the Court imposes the indeterminate sentence of 10 years of prision mayor
as minimum to 17 years of reclusion temporal
as maximum for each count of homicide.WHEREFORE
, the decision of the Court of Appeals promulgated on July 18, 2006 is MODIFIED
by finding PO2 Eduardo Valdez guilty beyond reasonable doubt of three counts of HOMICIDE
, and sentencing him to suffer for each count the indeterminate sentence of 10 years of prision mayor
as minimum to 17 years of reclusion temporal
as maximum; and to pay to the respective heirs of the late Ferdinand Sayson, Moises Sayson, Jr., and Joselito Sayson the amounts of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, and P25,000.00 as temperate damages.
The accused shall pay the costs of suit.SO ORDERED.Corona, C.J., (Chairperson), Leonardo-De Castro, Del Castillo,
and Villarama, Jr., JJ.
, pp. 2-18; penned by Associate Justice Renato C. Dacudao (retired), with Associate Justice Rosmari D. Carandang and Associate Justice Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa (retired) concurring. Id.,
p. 57. Id
., p. 3. Id.
, p. 3. Id.[6 ]Id
., p. 5. Id
., pp. 6-7. Id
., pp. 7-8. Id
., p. 17.[10 ]Id.
, p. 11. Rollo,
pp. 13-14 (bold emphases are in the original text). People v. Darilay
, G.R. Nos. 139751-752, January 26, 2004, 421 SCRA 45, 54. People v. Santiago
, G.R. Nos. 137542-43, January 20, 2004, 420 SCRA 248, 256; People v. Abolidor
, G.R. No. 147231, February 18, 2004, 423 SCRA 260; People v. Pacheco
, G.R. No. 142887, March 2, 2004, 424 SCRA 164, 174; People v. Genita, Jr
., G.R. No. 126171, March 11, 2004, 425 SCRA 343, 349; People v. Tonog, Jr
., G.R. No. 144497, June 29, 2004, 433 SCRA 139, 153-154; Perez v. People
, G.R. No. 150433, January 20, 2006, 479 SCRA 209, 219-220; Bricenio v. People
, G.R. No. 154804, June 20, 2006, 491 SCRA 489, 495; People v. Taan
, G.R. No. 169432, October 30, 2006, 506 SCRA 219, 230; People v. Cabugatan
, G.R. No. 172019, February 12, 2007, 515 SCRA 537, 547; People v. De Guzman
, G.R. No. 177569, November 28, 2007, 539 SCRA 306. People v. Ebrada
, G.R. No. 122774, September 26, 1998, 296 SCRA 353, 365. People v. Gailo
, G.R. No. 116233, October. 13, 1999, 316 SCRA 733, 748. Rollo
, pp. 6-7. Garcia v. People
, G.R. No. 144699, March 10, 2004, 425 SCRA 221, 228.
Exhibits K and L.
Exhibits Q and R.
TSN, May 23, 2000, pp. 3-13; September 12, 2000, pp. 2-7. People v. Bardaje,
No. L-29271, August 29, 1980, 99 SCRA 388, 399; People v. Nepomuceno, Jr.,
G.R. No. 127818, November 11, 1998, 298 SCRA 450, 463.
Art. 8, 2nd Par., Revised Penal Code
; Aradillos v. Court of Appeals
, G.R. No. 135619, January 15, 2004, 419 SCRA 514, 527; People v. Ogapay
, No. L-28566, August 21, 1975, 66 SCRA 209, 214. People v. Cabrera,
G.R. No. 105992, February 1, 1995, 241 SCRA 28, 34. People v. De Jesus
, G.R. No. 134815, May 27, 2004, 429 SCRA 384, 404; People v. Masagnay
, G.R. No. 137364, June 10, 2004, 431 SCRA 572, 580. People v. Natipravat
, No. L-69876, November 13, 1986, 145 SCRA 483, 492; People v. Bausing
, G.R. No. 64965, July 18, 1991, 199 SCRA 355, 364; People v. Merabueno,
G.R. No. 87179, December 14, 1994, 239 SCRA 197,
Article 14 (16), Revised Penal Code
. Lacson v. Executive Secretary
, G.R. No. 128096, January 20, 1999, 301 SCRA 298, 327.
G.R. No. 168168, September 14, 2005, 469 SCRA 647, 666-667. United States v. Lim San,
17 Phil. 273 (1910).
Section 4, Rule 120, Rules of Court
Section 4, Rule 120, Rules of Court
Article 249. Homicide
. — Any person who, not falling within the provisions of Article 246, shall kill another without the attendance of any of the circumstances enumerated in the next preceding article, shall be deemed guilty of homicide and be punished by reclusion temporal