402 Phil. 330
"That on or about the 13th day of December, 1997, in the Municipality of Lambunao, Province of Iloilo, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with an unlicensed firearm, with deliberate intent and decided purpose to kill and by means of treachery, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously shoot Nerio Casaquite with the firearm which the accused was then provided, hitting the victim on the back portion of his body which caused his death."Upon his arraignment on February 27, 1998, appellant, assisted by Atty. Manuel Casumpang, pleaded not guilty. After trial in due course, the court a quo rendered its Decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:
"WHEREFORE, premises considered, there being sufficient and satisfactory proof shown to establish the guilt of the accused, Wilbert Cabareño alias "Bebot", beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder with which he stands charged, he is therefore hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua with such accessory penalties as provided in Article 41 of the Revised Penal Code and, moreover, to indemnify the family of the victim [in] the amount of P50,000.00 as well as reimburse the family [in] the amount of P89,000.00 for the expenses [for] the wake and burial of the victim, and [to] pay the cost."
"December 13, 1997, [was] the barangay fiesta of Jayobo, Lambunao, Iloilo (TSN, April 24, 1998, p. 4). At around 9:00 [o]n the evening of the same day of festivities, a disco was going on near the house of Barangay Chairman Aurelio Catedrilla (Ibid., pp. 5-6). Suddenly, there was a commotion near the store that was located a few arm's length away from the venue of the disco (Ibid., p. 7). It involved a certain Pestilo and the younger brother of a certain Manolo (Ibid., pp. 8-9). The younger brother of Manolo splashed beer on Pestilo (Ibid., p. 9). Then, Aurelio Catedrilla went to the place where the trouble was to pacify them (Ibid., pp. 9-10). He was followed by Nerio Casaquite (Ibid.). When Aurelio Catedrilla reached the place, Wilbert Cabareño, alias Bebot, shot him at the back with a 10 inch long firearm (Ibid., pp. 10 and 12). However, instead of the bullet hitting Aurelio Catedrilla, it hit the back of Nerio Casaquite (Ibid., p. 12). Wilbert Cabareño was about two arm's length away from them when he pulled the trigger (Ibid., p. 11).
"Nerio Casaquite fell to the ground, while Wilbert Cabareño fled from the scene (Ibid., p. 13). The barangay tanod came to Nerio Casaquite's aid and brought him to the hospital (Ibid.).
"However, Nerio Casaquite later succumbed to the gunshot wound he sustained (Ibid., pp. 23-25)."
"On December 12 and 13, 1997, Barangay Jayobo, Lambunao, Iloilo, was celebrating its Barangay Fiesta. As additional come ons to liven the celebration, a disco dance was held every night from December 12 to 13, 1997 near the house of the incumbent [b]arangay [c]aptain, Aurelio Catedrilla.
On December 13, 1997 at about 9:00 o'clock in the evening, while the disco dance was in progress, a certain Tayok Estiba and Pablo Sanchez were having a drinking spree at the nearby store about two (2) armslength [sic] from the "discohan", probably as a sign of having reconciled after their quarrel the night before December 12, 1997, which was successfully pacified by Nerio Casaquite and Barangay Captain Aurelio Catedrilla. At that particular time, accused-appellant while passing by the store towards the "discohan" was invited by Pablo Sanchez and Tayok Estiva and [he] obliged himself to join in their drinking spree. Thereafter, Pablo Sanchez and Tayok Estiva being drunk again quarreled with each other. As before, Nerio Casaquite came to pacify them[;] however, this time, the protagonists would not listen to him. Consequently, he requested the [b]arangay [t]anod present to fetch the [b]arangay [c]aptain, Aurelio Catedrilla to help him in pacifying the quarelling Pablo Sanchez and Tayok Estiva. A few minutes later, Barangay Captain Aurelio Catedrilla arrived with his tanods and a military man. Immediately, the said military man hit Tayok Estiva with the butt of his armalite rifle, forcing Barangay Captain Aurelio Catedrilla to admonish him not to hurt Tayok Estiva being his grand nephew. In obedience, the said military man now turned his ire against Pablo Sanchez. To prevent the latter from being further hurt by the military man, Nerio Casaquite now ushered Pablo Sanchez out of the store and persuaded him to go home.
Meanwhile, Tayok Estiva, not yet fully assua[ged] of his anger against Pablo Sanchez, was seen grappling with his uncle, Barangay Captain Aurelio Catedrilla, for possession and control of a 12 gauge shot gun inside the store and in the presence of accused-appellant. While thus in that situation, the gun accidentally fired[,] hitting Nerio Casaquite at his back causing his death. Afterwards Barangay Captain Aurelio Catedrilla told his grand nephew, Tayok Estiva, to leave the place. When he finally left the scene of the accident, accused-appellant followed and also went home.
The next morning, Barangay Captain Aurelio Catedrilla was arrested at his house as the primary suspect in the shooting and killing of Nerio Casaquite on the night of December 13, 1997. Despite the said arrest of Barangay Captain Aurelio Catedrilla being duly witnessed by his cousin, guest Absalon Lego, however, the latter never told the arresting police authorities that it was accused-appellant who actually shot Nerio Casaquite. It was only 3 days later, and while Barangay Captain Aurelio was already jailed, when Absalon Lego, who was fetched from his house by the younger brother of the Barangay Captain, conveniently executed a sworn statement inculpating accused-appellant as the one who really shot Nerio Casaquite on the night of December 13, 1997. As a result, accused-appellant, Wilbert Cabareño was arrested on December 19, 1997. Despite his protestation, however, the arresting police dismissed his claim of innocence, without even giving him the benefit of the doubt, in fairness and in the interest of law and justice [which] the police were sworn to uphold and protect."
The lower court erred in finding the defense of accused-appellant that it was Tayok Estiva who fired the gun that hit Nerio Casaquite, highly improbable.In the main, appellant questions the credibility of the prosecution eyewitness. The Court, in addition, will also determine the character of the crime and the presence of treachery as a qualifying circumstance.
The lower court likewise erred in finding the uncorroborated testimony of prosecution witness, Absalon Lego, sufficient to prove the guilt of the accused-appellant beyond reasonable doubt."
Moreover, Lego had a clear view of the incident, which happened in a sufficiently illuminated area.
"Q Where [was] this Aurelio going followed by Nerio Casaquite? A He was intending to pacify the trouble. Q Was he able to go where the trouble was? A Yes, sir. Q And when he reached the place what did Aurelio Catedrilla do? A He was shot by Bebot. Q When you said Bebot are you referring to the accused in this case Wilbert Cabareño? A Yes, sir. x x x x x x x x x Q When Bebot shot Aurelio who was hit? A Nong Nerio Casaquite was hit. Q And what was Nerio Casaquite doing when he was hit? A He had his back towards the accused also. COURT: Q How many times did the accused shoot Aurelio? A One time. Q What kind of weapon did he use? A A 12 gauge gun. Q How long [was] that gun which he used in shooting Nerio? A Like this. x x x x x x x x x COURT: Q So, there was no exchange of words between Nerio and the accused when the gun was fired? A No, there was none. Q And what happened to Nerio when you said he was shot? A He fell to the ground. Q Right there at the place where he was shot? A He was about to walk back first before he fell to the ground. Q How far [was] that place where he fell [from] the place where he was shot? A About one (1) arm's length." x x x x x x x x x PROS. GEDUSPAN: Q How about Wilbert Cabareño alias Bebot, what did he do after he shot Aurelio? A He fled. Q And what happened to Nerio Casaquite after he fell down? A The Barangay Tanods came to Nerio's aid. Q Where did they bring Nerio Casaquite? A To the hospital. Q How about you, what did you do? A I also fled."
Indeed, appellant has given us no sufficient reason to overturn the factual findings of the trial court. Futile is his claim that Lego, whose attention ought to have been focused on the disco instead, could not have witnessed the shooting incident. First, Lego had a clear view of the store because it was only a few meters away and was open on three sides, having only one wall at the back. Second, it was natural for him to look in that direction, because of the commotion that had occurred prior to the actual shooting and the arrival of Catedrilla with three companions, one of whom had a long firearm. In fact, Lego's attention would have been focused on the store, because Catedrilla even hit one Pablo Sanchez with the butt of a firearm.
"Q So, the place where the trouble ensued was two (2) armslength [sic] away from you? A Yes, sir. Q Was that place near the store or near the dance hall? A It was near the store and near the disco place. Q What about the place where the commotion took place, was that lighted? A Lighted. Q What kind of light? A It was lighted by an electric bulb. Q Where was that bulb placed in relation to the store? A It was inside the store."
"Art. 4. Criminal Liability. --- Criminal liability shall be incurred:In the present case, appellant is responsible for the death of Nerio Casaquite, even if the former's intended target when he fired the gun was supposedly Catedrillo. Criminal liability is incurred by any person committing a felony, although the actual victim be different from the one intended. As held in US v. Diana decided by the Court as early as 1915, "[t]he same crime would have been committed if the injured man and the deceased had been Dionisio Legara, instead of the defendant's nephew, x x x; the crime of homicide would have been committed just the same and one man would have been deprived of his life by the criminal act of another."
- By any person committing a felony although the wrongful act done be different from that which he intended."
"x x x. The qualifying circumstance of treachery can not logically be appreciated because the accused did not make any preparation to kill the deceased in such a manner as to insure the commission of the crime or to make it impossible or hard for the person attacked to defend himself or retaliate. This circumstance can only be applied, according to the tenor of Article 13, Sub-section 16 of the Revised Penal Code, when the culprit employs means, methods or forms of execution which tend directly and specially to insure the commission of the crime and at the same time to eliminate or diminish the risk to his own person from a defense which the other party might offer. In United States vs. Namit, 38 Phil. 926, it was held that the circumstance that an attack was sudden and unexpected to the person assaulted did not constitute the element of alevosia necessary to raise a homicide to murder, where it did not appear that the aggressor had consciously adopted a mode of attack intended to facilitate the perpetration of the homicide without risk to himself."Well-settled is the rule that a qualifying circumstance must be established as clearly as the elements of a crime. In this case, treachery was not proven beyond reasonable doubt. Absent any other qualifying circumstance, appellant should therefore be convicted only of homicide, not murder.