395 Phil. 227
This is an appeal from the decision
of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 38, Iloilo City, finding accused-appellant Artemio Berzuela guilty of murder and sentencing him to reclusion perpetua
and to pay the heirs of Rogelio Daras the sum of P9,300.00 as actual damages and P50,000.00 as indemnity.
The Information against accused-appellant alleged:
That on or about the 15th day of December, 1993, in the Municipality of Dumangas, Province of Iloilo, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused with treachery did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously and with deliberate intent to kill, shot ROGELIO DARAS Y AGUIRRE with a shotgun he was then provided at that time as a result of which the said Rogelio Daras y Aguirre suffered multiple pellet wounds on his body which caused his death thereafter.
Upon arraignment, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty to the crime charged and trial of the case followed.
The prosecution presented evidence showing the following:
Rogelio Daras, a farmer from Agusan del Sur, went to Pulao, Dumangas, Iloilo in November 1993 to visit his sister Lina Guelos. He stayed with his sister’s family until the second week of December 1993 when he decided to go back to Agusan del Sur on the 16th of that month. At around 6 o’clock in the afternoon of December 15, 1993, Rogelio, together with his nephew Robert Guelos, 17, and Freddie Daras, went to the house of Efren Guelos, Robert’s uncle, also in Barangay Pulao, for a going-away party in his honor. Fred de Asis, another acquaintance, later joined the party. At 8:30 that evening, while the group was having drinks, Rogelio, who was dancing with his back toward the window, was shot from behind. He was killed instantly. His nephew Robert said he noticed accused-appellant fire the shot from outside through the kitchen window of the house. Shortly before the shooting, Robert noticed that the window was opened by someone outside, who turned out to be accused-appellant. Robert saw accused-appellant place his firearm on the window sill, but, before he could warn Rogelio, a shot rang out and Rogelio was hit at the back. Robert was shocked and frightened. The others scampered for safety. And in the confusion, accused-appellant slipped away.
The following day, December 16, at about 7 o’clock in the morning, Robert went to Tigbauan where his mother had earlier gone to inform her of Rogelio’s death. On the way, he chanced upon accused-appellant in Patlao sari-sari
store. Robert noticed that accused-appellant, who had changed clothes, could not look him in the eye. In the afternoon of that day, after he and his mother had returned to Pulao, Robert executed an affidavit before Judge Evelio Ilanga of the Municipal Trial Court of Dumangas in which he identified accused-appellant as the person who had shot Rogelio.
During the trial of the case, Robert again pointed to accused-appellant as his uncle’s assailant. He stated that he knew accused-appellant because the latter frequently visited relatives in Pulao, Dumangas. He recognized accused-appellant as the assailant because of the light from the kerosene lamp near the window which illuminated accused-appellant from the waist up. When asked whether the fact that the victim was dancing in front of him obstructed his view of the window, Robert replied that it did not.
On cross-examination, Robert admitted that he knew of no previous quarrel between his uncle and accused-appellant but that his impression was based only on the few times he had been with his uncle.
On December 20, 1993, upon the request of the chief of police of Dumangas, Dr. Ricardo H. Jaboneta, NBI medico-legal officer, Region VI, conducted an autopsy on the body of the deceased and afterward issued the following report:
Pallor, integuments and nailbeds.
Wound, shotgun, ENTRANCE, multiple, nine (9) in number, sizes varies from .6 x 0.6 to 0.5 x 0.5 cm., back, . . . both sides, over an area of 8.0 x 15.0 cms., center of which is 131.0 cms. from right heel, all were directed forward to different parts of the chest causing punch-in fracture, 3rd rib, right side along paravertebral line, 5th rib, left side along paravertebral line, body of 5th thorasic vertebra, right side, one (1) pellet lodged and recovered in the body of 4th thorasic vertebra, posterior portion, into thorasic cavity, both sides, perforating thru and thru, one at left lung, appex and pellet lodged and recovered intramuscularly at left chest, level of 2nd intercostal space, along parasternal line, four (4) perforation on left lung, upper lobe, two (2) at left lung, lower lobe, where one (1) pellet lodged and recovered, perforating esophagus and vena cava at the level of 5th thorasic cavity, two (2) pellets lodged and recovered intramuscularly at left side of the chest along anterior and midaxillary line, the three (3) other pellets tract were lost at the thorasic cavity.
Hemothorax, clotted blood, 1,100 cc., left side, 500 cc., right side.
Heart, covered with moderate amount of fatty tissues. Ventricular chambers, empty.
Lungs, collapsed, both sides.
Other visceral organs, pale.
Stomach, contain[ed] about 1/3 of pinkish semi-solid and other food.
Cause of Death: Hemorrhage, profuse secondary to shotgun wounds.
Dr. Jaboneta testified that the nine entry wounds at the back of the deceased were caused by pellets from a single shot of a .12 gauge type shotgun, fired at a distance of three to five meters from behind the victim. He stated that the injuries sustained by the victim, involving the vena cava, left lung, and esophagus, were of such serious nature that he could not have survived even with prompt medical attention. On cross-examination, he stated that, since the pellets showed an upward trajectory, the nozzle of the shotgun was aimed slightly lower than the points of entry of the gunshot wounds.
The prosecution also presented Lina Guelos who testified that her family spent around P15,000.00 for the wake and burial of the deceased. However, she was able to present only a receipt issued by the Pinuela Funeral Home (Exh. C) evidencing the payment for the coffin worth P7,500.00 and another receipt issued by the Parish of St. Augustine, Dumangas (Exh. C-1) for P1,800.00 for funeral services and the rental of the niche.
Accused-appellant’s defense was that, at the time of the incident, he was in the house of his uncle, Jesus Berzuela, in Pulao, Dumangas and that he was then asleep. He explained that although he was from the neighboring Barangay of Patlad, he had been staying with his uncle in Pulao since April 1993 to help in the harvesting of palay
and the cutting of bamboo. He stated that he did not know the victim, although he had heard of him. He, however, admitted knowing Robert whom he had met thrice after the incident of December 15, 1993.
On cross-examination, accused-appellant stated that Jesus Berzuela’s house is about a kilometer from that of Efren Guelos and that the distance could be covered in 15 minutes by foot.
The defense also presented Jesus Berzuela to corroborate accused-appellant’s alibi. He testified that in the evening of December 15, 1993, accused-appellant was in his house in Pulao, Dumangas and that he (accused-appellant) did not leave the house that night.
On cross-examination, Berzuela stated that his house is about a kilometer away from that of Efren Guelos and that the distance could be covered in a few minutes by walking. When asked whether he knew the victim, he said that he had heard of the latter but had not met him.
The prosecution then recalled Robert Guelos to the witness stand to rebut accused-appellant’s testimony that they had met thrice after the killing of his uncle. Robert said that, except when he chanced upon accused-appellant in the sari-sari
store in Pulao in the early morning of December 16, 1993, he did not meet nor talk to accused-appellant after December 15, 1993.
On March 26, 1997, the trial court rendered judgment as follows:
WHEREFORE, the court finds the accused, Artemio Berzuela Y Paez, guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of Murder penalized under No. 1, Section 6 of Republic Act No. 7659 amending Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code and hereby sentences said accused to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua, to pay the heirs of Rogelio Daras Y Aguirre the sum of P9,300.00 as actual damages and P50,000.00 as civil indemnity by reason of such death in accordance with current jurisprudence.
Hence this appeal. Accused-appellant alleges that —
- THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONY OF THE PROSECUTION’S STAR WITNESS.
- THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED GUILTY BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT OF THE CRIME OF MURDER.
Accused-appellant contends that the prosecution failed to establish motive on his part. It is incredible, according to him, that he would kill somebody who never offended him.
The contention is without merit. Motive is not an element of a crime and need not be proved to produce a conviction.
Such becomes relevant only when the identity of the person who committed the crime is in dispute. But when there is positive identification of the accused, proof of motive can be dispensed with.
In this case, Robert Guelos positively identified accused-appellant as his uncle’s assailant, first in the affidavit he executed a day after the killing, and later during his testimony in court on March 21, 1996. He pointed to accused-appellant as the person who shot the victim after opening the window in the kitchen of Efren Guelos’ house. Robert knew accused-appellant because the latter, although a resident of Barangay Patlad, had relatives in Barangay Pulao whom he often visited. The place where the victim was shot was sufficiently lighted by Petromax and kerosene lamps. Robert said that the light from the kerosene lamp, which was placed on the table near the window, enabled him to recognize accused-appellant as it illuminated him from the waist up, especially his face. Robert was just four meters from the window where accused-appellant was when the latter fired the fatal shot. He said his view of the window was not obstructed by the fact that the victim was in front of him. As the deceased was about a meter from him, Robert could see the other parts of the house, including the window in the kitchen.
Accused-appellant cites the case of People v. Vasquez.
The facts of that case, however, are different. In that case, the Court acquitted the two accused of murder because not only did the autopsy findings fail to corroborate the testimonies of the supposed eyewitnesses to the killing but the latter’s testimonies contained inconsistencies and improbabilities which undermined their credibility. In addition, the defense was able to show that the witnesses had reason to falsely implicate the accused in the killing. In view of these circumstances, the Court held that proof of motive was indispensable.
On the other hand, in the case at bar, the testimony of the prosecution’s principal witness was fully corroborated by the autopsy findings of the examining physician. Dr. Jaboneta stated that the victim was shot once from behind at a distance of about three to five meters. Robert is a highly credible witness as his recollection of the incident is bereft of any inconsistencies and contradictions. Admittedly, Robert was related to the victim, but, by itself, this is not sufficient to undermine his credibility. As the trial court observed:
It is true that Robert Guelos is the nephew of the victim. Nevertheless, such relationship does not render his clear and positive testimony less worthy of full faith and credit. On the contrary, his natural interest in securing the conviction of the guilty would deter him from implicating persons other than the culprit, otherwise, the latter would thereby gain immunity.
Furthermore, there was no evidence to show that Robert Guelos was actuated by improper motives to testify falsely against the accused. The mere fact that he is a relative is not a valid or sufficient ground to disregard his testimony nor does it render the same less worthy of credit.
Robert’s positive identification of accused-appellant also prevails over the latter’s alibi, which, weak as it is, was further rendered unreliable by the testimonies of accused-appellant and his uncle, Jesus Berzuela, that Efren Guelos’ house, where the killing took place, was only about a kilometer away from the former’s house where accused-appellant allegedly slept. The place of the killing can be reached within a few minutes by walking. It is settled that for alibi to prosper, the defense must show not only that accused-appellant was somewhere else when the crime was committed but also that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime at the time it was committed.Second.
Accused-appellant argues that, at any rate, he should only be held liable for homicide and not for murder because the prosecution failed to establish the qualifying circumstance of treachery.
The contention is without merit. There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against the person employing means, methods or forms in its execution which tend directly and specially to insure its execution without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make.
The essence of treachery is the swift and unexpected attack on the unarmed victim.
In this case, the victim was dancing in a friend’s house when he was shot from behind. He was completely unaware of what was to befall him and was totally unprepared to put up any form of defense against the attack. Accused-appellant shot the victim from outside the house, thus ensuring that the crime would be committed with impunity and without risk to himself. Clearly there was treachery in the killing of Rogelio Daras. This case is similar to People v. Acaya
wherein we found treachery to be present in the stabbing of the victim while he was dancing.Third.
Accused-appellant finally contends that the trial court should have imposed on him an indeterminate sentence of prision mayor
in its maximum period, as minimum, to reclusion temporal
, in its maximum period, as maximum, instead of reclusion perpetua
since the killing was committed before the Death Penalty Law (R.A. No. 7659) took effect on December 31, 1993.
It was error for the trial court to apply R.A. No. 7659 because such cannot be given retroactive application.
Prior to the effectivity of the law, murder under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, was punishable by reclusion temporal
maximum to death. Applying, by analogy, Art. 61(3), which provides that “When the penalty prescribed for the crime is composed of one or two indivisible penalties and the maximum period of another divisible penalty, the penalty next lower in degree shall be composed of the medium and minimum periods of the proper divisible penalty and the maximum period of that immediately following in said respective graduated scale,” this means that the three periods of the penalty are reclusion temporal
maximum, as minimum, reclusion perpetua
as medium, and death as maximum. In the absence of any mitigating or aggravating circumstance, the penalty will be imposed in its medium period, i.e., reclusion perpetua.
In this case, other than the qualifying circumstance of treachery, no mitigating or aggravating circumstance has been proved by the prosecution, so that the proper penalty to be imposed is still reclusion perpetua.Fourth.
With regard to the damages to be awarded to the heirs of the victim, the trial court correctly limited the award for actual damages to P9,300.00 as this was the amount indicated in the two receipts presented by the prosecution. A party is entitled to actual damages only for such pecuniary loss suffered by him as he has duly proved.
However, in addition to the amount of P50,000.00 awarded by the trial court to the heirs of the deceased as indemnity, moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00 should also be awarded to them.
WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 38, Iloilo City, is AFFIRMED with the modification that accused-appellant is ordered to pay the heirs of the victim the additional amount of P50,000.00 as moral damages.
SO ORDERED.Bellosillo, (Chairman), Quisumbing, Buena,
and De Leon, Jr., JJ.
Per Judge David A. Alfeche, Jr.
TSN (Robert Guelos), pp. 4-5, March 21, 1996; TSN, p. 5, March 12, 1997.
TSN (Robert Guelos), pp. 2-3, 24, March 21, 1996. Id.
, pp. 17 & 25.
Records, p. 6.
TSN, pp. 3,7,10-12, Dec. 8, 1995.
TSN, pp. 3-5, 7-8, 10-12, 19, Sept. 12, 1996. Id.
, pp. 7-8, 11.
TSN, pp. 3-5, Feb. 20, 1997. Id.
, pp. 5-7.
TSN, pp. 4-5, 8, March 12, 1997.
RTC Decision, pp. 7-8; Records, pp. 22-23.
Appellants’ Brief, p. 8; Rollo, p. 70. Id.
, pp. 8-10; id.
, pp. 70-72.
People v. Aposaga, 108 SCRA 574 (1981).
See People v. Lopez, 312 SCRA 684 (1999); People v. Bahenting, 303 SCRA 558 (1999); People v. Padlan, 290 SCRA 388 (1998).
280 SCRA 160 (1997).
People v. Vasquez, supra
RTC Decision, p. 6; Rollo, p. 21.
People v. Payot, 308 SCRA 43 (1999); People v. Tabarangao, 303 SCRA 623 (1999); People v. Verde, 302 SCRA 690 (1999).
Appellant’s Brief, p. 10; Rollo, p. 72.
REVISED PENAL CODE, Art. 14 (16).
People v. Francisco, G.R. No. 121682, April 12, 2000.
163 SCRA 768 (1988).
People v. Magbanua, G.R. No. 128888, Dec. 3, 1999.
Revised Penal Code, Art. 64(1). See
also People v. Undong, 66 SCRA 386 (1975).
Civil Code, Art. 2199.
People v. Lopez, supra
; People v. Atrejenio, 310 SCRA 229 (1999).