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354 Phil. 667


[ G.R. No. 125518, July 20, 1998 ]




Accused-appellant Benjamin Reyes  was charged with the crime of parricide before the Regional Trial Court of Batangas,[1] for stabbing to death his 13-year old daughter, Cherry Reyes. The Information[2] against him reads:
"That on or about the 10th day of March, 1994, at about 7:00 o'clock in the evening, at Sitio Lumbangan, Ilaya, Barangay Poctol, Municipality of San Juan, Province of Batangas, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a fan knife (balisong), with intent to kill and without any justifiable cause, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab several times with the said fan knife, his daughter Cherry Reyes y Colegio, thereby inflicting upon the latter stab wounds on the different parts of her body which directly caused her death.

"Contrary to law."
When arraigned, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty.[3]

The records reveal that Benjamin Reyes and Julieta Colegio lived together as husband and wife in barangay Poctol, San Juan, Batangas. They had four (4) children, viz: Aguinaldo (deceased), Billy, Cherry (the victim) and Donnie (the eyewitness).

Cherry was a typical teenager who loved watching television shows. Every night, she would go to the house of Patricia Salud located several meters away from their house and the duo would proceed to the house of a neighbor, Angelina Bustamante, to watch T.V. After watching T.V., Cherry and Patricia would pass the night in the house of Patricia's father. Cherry would return to her house the next day, at 7:00 a.m.[4]

On March 10, 1994, shortly after dinner, Cherry told her mother, Julieta, that she would go to Patricia's house. Cherry did not ask permission from her father because she was afraid of him. After receiving her mother's blessing, Cherry left. When Benjamin learned from Julieta that Cherry left, he got furious. He got out of the house, taking with him their nine-year old son, Donnie. Julieta felt strange ("kinutuban") after Benjamin left.[5]

That evening, Patricia was in her house having dinner with her family. She heard a young girl scream ("irit") three (3) times. Patricia did not check what it was all about as she was attending to the needs of her eleven (11) children. After dinner, Patricia waited for Cherry to come. Cherry did not pass by her house. Nonetheless, Patricia went to Angelina's house and watched T.V. She found Cherry's elder brother, Billy, at Angelina's house. When she asked Billy where his sister was, he did not reply.[6]

The following day, at about 7:30 a.m., Cherry's lifeless body was found lying prostrate on the ground a few meters away from Patricia's house. The victim's body bore eleven (11) stab wounds and ten (10) incised wounds. The postmortem examination of Dr. Emelita Abacan, Rural Health Physician of Poctol, revealed that the victim died due to "hemorrhage, secondary to multiple stabbed wounds."[7]

When the Philippine National Police of San Juan, Batangas, received a report that a young girl was found dead in barangay Poctol, SPO1 Wilfredo De Castro and PO3 Arnulfo Amakin repaired to the crime scene. The crowd at the scene told them that the victim had been taken by her parents to their house. SPO1 De Castro then proceeded to the house of the victim. Benjamin was not home so SPO1 De Castro interviewed Julieta. She seemed afraid and had no suspects. SPO1 De Castro also tried to talk to Donnie, but the boy was crying and was afraid to talk to him.[8]

On March 16, 1994, the barangay chairman of Poctol brought Benjamin to the police station and requested the police to let Benjamin stay there for his safety as his brothers in-law were furious at him. Julieta and Donnie also went to the police station.[9] Julieta gave her sworn statement,[10] claiming that she and her nine-year old son, Donnie, saw Benjamin stab the victim to death.

SPO1 De Castro tried to get Donnie's statement but Donnie refused to talk because his father was at the police station. Consequently, on March 18, 1994, SPO1 De Castro conducted the investigation in the house of Marino Colegio, Julieta's brother, where Donnie was temporarily sheltered.[11] SPO1 De Castro brought with him an office typewriter. He took Donnie's sworn statement[12] in the presence of Barangay Chairman Banaag, PO3 Amakin, Florenda Colegio and others. Donnie's account of the gruesome killing of his sister is as follows:
Nasaan na ang iyong Ate Nene (Cherry)?
Patay na po ang Ate Nene (Cherry).
Ano ang ikinamatay ni Nene (Cherry)?
Sinaksak po.
Sino ang sumaksak kay Nene (Cherry)?
Ang aking pong Ama.
Anong patalim ang isinaksak ng iyong Ama kay Nene (Cherry)?
Lanseta po.
Kailan sinaksak ng iyong Ama si Nene (Cherry)?
Nuon pong ika-10 ng Marso 1994.
Anong oras sinaksak ng iyong Ama si Nene (Cherry)?
Gabi po, mga 6:30 po ng gabi.
Saan lugar sinaksak ng iyong Ama si Nene (Cherry)?
Malapit po sa bahay ng Ate Patring Salud.
Ilang beses sinaksak ng iyong Ama si Nene (Cherry)?
Madaming beses po.

x x x                                  x x x                            x x x


Bago sinaksak ng iyong Ama si Nene (Cherry), ano muna ang ginawa ng iyong Ama dito kay Nene?

Ginature (sic) po muna ng aking Ama.
Anong bagay ang iginature (sic) ng iyong Ama kay Nene (Cherry)?
Uyo po ng niyog.

x x x                                  x x x                            x x x

Ilang beses ginature (sic) ng iyong Ama si Nene (Cherry)?
Dalawang beses po.
Saan ginature (sic) ng iyong Ama si Nene (Cherry)?
Sa puwit po.
Matapos magature (sic) ng iyong Ama si Nene, ano pa ang ginawa ng iyong Ama kay Nene (Cherry)?
Ako po ay pinatago na ng aking Ama sa puno ng niyog at sinaksak na po ng aking Ama si Nene (Cherry).
Saan ba kayo galing ng iyong Ama?
Amin pong sinundan ng Ama si Nene.
Bakit ninyo sinundan ng iyong Ama si Nene (Cherry)?"
Galit po ang aking Ama.

x x x                                  x x x                            x x x

  Pasaan naman si Nene (Cherry) ng ito ay sundan ninyong mag-Ama?
Papunta po sa bahay ng Ate (P)atring.
Matapos na masaksak ng iyong Ama si Nene (Cherry), ano pa ang ginawa ng iyong Ama?
Ako po ay isinamang paalis ng aking Ama.
Saan kayo nagpunta ng iyong Ama?
Kami pong mag-ama ay nagpunta sa ilog.
Ano ang ginawa ng iyong Ama sa ilog?
Naghinaw po ng kamay.
  Pagkatapos ng makapaghinaw ng iyong ama ng kamay, saan pa kayo nagpunta?
Kami pong mag-ama ay umuwi na sa aming bahay at tumulog na.
"40.T:- Nang kayo ay pauwi na sa inyo buhat sa ilog, ano naman ang sabi sa iyo ng iyong ama?
 S:-Sinabi po sa akin ng aking ama na huwag sasabihin ang nangyari kay Nene (Cherry)."

On the basis of the evidence gathered, the police filed the corresponding criminal charge against Benjamin. One (1) year after the incident, the case was finally tried. At the trial, the prosecution called Julieta and Donnie, among others, to the witness stand.[13]

Julieta initially testified that she felt that something bad would happen to her daughter the moment her husband stepped out of their house so she followed him. Julieta caught up with Benjamin and Donnie near the house of Patricia. She was, however, too late for Benjamin was already stabbing Cherry. Julieta begged him to stop but he warned her not to interfere or else he would also kill their other child. Engulfed with fear, she headed back home and brushed her teeth. Moments later, Benjamin and Donnie arrived. They slept afterwards.[14]

For reasons only known to her, Julieta retracted her testimony that Benjamin was the culprit. In the latter part of her direct examination and during the cross-examination, she claimed that she did not report the stabbing incident to the barangay chairman because the first time she learned that her daughter had died was in the morning of March 11, 1994. She did not know then who killed her daughter.[15]

Julieta further admitted that it was her son, Donnie, who actually witnessed the stabbing incident. She said that she learned that her husband was involved in the killing because Donnie had confided to her niece, Florenda Colegio, that he saw his father repeatedly stab Cherry.[16]

For his part, Donnie maintained that Benjamin killed Cherry. Donnie testified that Cherry is now in heaven because his father killed her on March 10, 1994, at about 7:00 p.m., near the house of his "Ate Patring" (Patricia Salud). His father stabbed to death his "Ate Nene" (Cherry), using a fan knife ("balisong"). He saw everything because he was about an arm's length from where his father was. He just kept quiet and did nothing because he was afraid. His father also threatened to kill him so he did not report the incident to anyone, not even to his mother. Donnie revealed to his "Ate Ening" (Florenda Colegio) that his father killed Cherry due to the latter's constant threats on him.[17]

Donnie affirmed that the police authorities went to the house of Florenda Colegio in connection with the case. At that time, his mother was not around. Florenda convinced him to sign a sworn statement. He acknowledged his signature at the bottom of the sworn statement prepared by the police, although he claimed that no one explained it to him.[18]

Benjamin denied the charge and claimed that he never left his house during the commission of the crime. He maintained that nothing unusual occurred that tragic evening. After having dinner with his family, he allegedly went to bed while Julieta washed the dishes.[19]

The following morning, he woke up early and watered the plants. He returned to the house, drank coffee, took a tool for picking coconuts ("kalawit") and, thereafter, headed to the coconut plantation. He was trekking the road near the house of Patricia when he saw his daughter lying on the ground in a pool of blood. He shouted for help as he carried Cherry. Soon after, Patricia arrived. When he asked Patricia what happened to his daughter, she did not answer.[20]

Accused claimed he had a harmonious relationship with his family, particularly his wife. He surmised that his wife and son testified against him because he did not weep when Cherry died.[21]

Patricia corroborated Benjamin's testimony. She testified that in the early morning of March 11, 1994, she heard a man shouting: "NAKU, ANAK KO ITO, ITO AY GINAHASA, ITO AY INIWAAAN (sic), TULUNGAN NINYO AKO." She went to the place where the voice came from. There, she saw Benjamin holding the bloodied and lifeless body of Cherry. Cherry's face was dirty and she had several stab wounds on the different parts of her body.[22]

After trial, the court a quo rendered judgment,[23] holding Benjamin guilty of parricide. Thus, the court a quo sentenced him as follows:
"1.     To suffer the penalty of death;

"2.     To pay the heirs of Cherry Reyes civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00;

"3.     To pay the heirs of Cherry Reyes moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00; and

"4.     To pay the costs of (the) suit."

"Pursuant to Republic Act 7659, the death sentence shall be executed with preference to any other offense and shall consist in putting the person under sentence to death by electrocution.

"The death sentence shall be carried out not later than one (1) year after the judgment has become final.

Hence, the present appeal.

The sole issue is whether the guilt of the accused-appellant has been established beyond reasonable doubt.

The defense contends that the prosecution witnesses' testimonies are incredible and run counter with the common experience and observation of mankind. For instance, Julieta testified that she saw accused-appellant stab her daughter but, instead of helping her daughter, she went home. The defense points out that it is unnatural for any mother under the said circumstance not to lift a finger in order to save the life of her child. Her natural reaction should have been to shield her child from harm or ask help from the nearest neighbor to stop the assault on her child.

The defense also tries to debunk Donnie's testimony that accused-appellant stabbed the victim. Allegedly, Donnie was not a credible witness because he hesitated to talk against accused-appellant and that Donnie was only pressured by Florenda Colegio, a relative of Julieta, to sign the sworn statement, even if Donnie could not understand or read the statement he signed.

The defense further asserts that the family of Julieta conspired to put the blame on accused-appellant as they could not identify the true killer and, furthermore, Julieta's family wanted to get even with accused-appellant because he and his wife were always quarreling.

We sustain the conviction of accused-appellant.

At the outset, we agree with the defense that Julieta's testimony as regards the stabbing incident is suspect. She categorically stated that she did not witness the killing.[24] Moreover, Julieta's conduct during and immediately after the incident was not in accord with common experience. During the stabbing incident, she did not shout for help despite the fact that they were only about five or six meters away from the house of Patricia Salud. Instead of running towards Patricia's house, Julieta chose the longer path of going back to her house situated some twenty-five meters away from crime scene. On her way home, she did not ask for assistance from her neighbors to stop her husband from harming her daughter. Worse, when she arrived home, she casually brushed her teeth and even slept in their house with accused-appellant, with nary a word against him as to what had just happened. The next day, instead of immediately going to the place where she left her daughter, it was accused-appellant who woke up early and proceeded to the crime scene. She just waited in her house as if nothing terrible had happened the night before.

Her silence about the incident when the police came to their house also dented her credibility. Although accused-appellant was not home at that time, she did not tell the police that accused-appellant was involved in the killing. She could have easily told them who the culprit was because she was no longer under threat at that time.

Be that as it may, accused-appellant cannot be acquitted in view of his positive identification as the assailant by a more credible witness, Donnie. This eyewitness testified as follows:[25]
(Public Prosecutor)
Do you remember what happen(ed) on March 10, 1994, at barangay Puktol at around 7:00 o'clock in the evening?
Yes sir, my father stabbed several times Cherry Reyes.
How is she related to you?
Cherry Reyes is my sister, sir.
Did you see when your father was stabbing your sister Cherry?
Yes, sir.
Where did your father stab Cherry?
Malapit sa bahay ni Ate Patring.
Is this the same (as) your Ate Patricia Salud?
Yes, sir.
How far were you from your father when you see your father stab your sister?
One arm length, sir.
When you said one arm length, is it an arm of an adult or of a youth?
One arm length of adult person (sic).
You said you saw your father stab your sister Cherry, what did you do?
None sir, I just (kept) quiet.
Did you not report the stabbing incident to your mother after you reach your house?
No, sir.
But did you tell to anybody the stabbing incident that you witnessed?
Yes, sir.
Can you inform the Honorable Court to whom you confided the incident that you witnessed?
To my Ate Ening.
Do you know the first name of your Ate Ening?
Yes, sir, Florenda Colegio

Do you affirm that you saw your father stab your sister?
Yes, sir.
Where is your sister now?
She was at (sic) heaven, Sir.
She was killed by my father."
(emphasis ours)

Unlike his mother, Donnie never wavered in his stance that his father stabbed the victim to death. His mother's retraction did not diminish his desire to speak the truth. Even the defense counsel could not shake Donnie during the cross-examination. Donnie further testified:[26]

"Q: Mr. witness, will you admit to me that on March 10, 1994, at about 7:00 o'clock in the evening in your house you were with your father and your mother?

x x x                                  x x x                            x x x

"A: I left the house together with my father.

x x x                                  x x x                            x x x

"Q:  ... is your father and mother always quarrelling?

x x x                                  x x x                            x x x

"A:   They were quarreling.

"Q:  How about your Ate Ening, did she have a quarrel with your father?

"A:   No quarrel between the accused and Florenda Colegio.

"Q:  Why did you not tell your father (sic) the incident?

"A: I was threatened by my father "Pag ako'y nagsabi ng totoo ay papatayin ako".

"Q:  If you were threatened by your father, why did you tell (the incident) to your Ate Ening?

"A:   Because my father threatened me (so) I told Ate Ening.

"Q: Was this statement given by you now... only told to you by Ate Ening?

"A: In truth I saw it, talaga pong nakita ko."

(emphasis ours)
We note that Donnie was only nine years old and in Grade II when he witnessed the incident. When he testified in court, he was already eleven years old and in Grade IV. The incident must have created an impact on his young mind for despite the lapse of almost two (2) years, he stood firm and resolute that, from an arm's length, he saw the tragic death of his "Ate Nene" in the hands of his father.

We will not dignify accused-appellant's allegation that the relatives of Julieta Reyes wanted to get even with him because he did not weep when Cherry died. We agree with the trial court that a son would not testify against his own father and accuse him with a grievous offense for such a shallow reason.

Donnie's initial refusal to speak in the presence of his father is understandable considering that the latter has moral ascendancy over him. His behavior was not unnatural. The fact that Donnie was convinced by Florenda Colegio to sign his sworn statement will not suffice to destroy Donnie's credibility as a witness. At any rate, the records are bereft of any evidence that Donnie has an improper motive to falsely accuse his father of killing Cherry. Thus, we adhere to the established rule that in the absence of any evidence to show that the witness was actuated by any improper motive, his identification of the accused as the assailant should be given full faith and credit.[27] Florenda Colegio herself has no axe to grind against the accused-appellant and there is no clear showing that she coerced, pressured or coached Donnie to falsely testify against the accused-appellant. In sum, we are morally convinced that Donnie's eyeball account of the incident is sufficient to hold the accused-appellant guilty as charged.

We now come to the penalty. The crime of parricide is not a capital crime per se as it is not punishable by mandatory death penalty but by the flexible penalty of reclusion perpetua to death.[28] Since parricide is punishable by two indivisible penalties, the application of the lesser or the greater penalty depends on the presence of mitigating and aggravating circumstances.[29]

In the case at bar, the trial court meted out the death penalty by electrocution to accused-appellant.[30] The decision, however, did not discuss the legal basis for imposing the death penalty. Significantly, the information against accused-appellant did not allege any aggravating circumstance and the evidence does not show that the prosecution was able to prove any aggravating circumstance. We also carefully examined the records for any mitigating circumstance but did not find any.[31] Thus, in the absence of any aggravating or mitigating circumstance accused-appellant should have been sentenced to the lesser penalty of reclusion perpetua.[32]

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the assailed decision of the Regional Trial Court of Rosario, Batangas, in Criminal Case No. 639-94, finding accused-appellant BENJAMIN REYES y GUTIERREZ guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of parricide, is AFFIRMED with modification that he should suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. No costs.

Narvasa, C.J., Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Martinez, Quisumbing, and Purisima, JJ., concur.

[1] Docketed as Criminal Case No. 639-94.

[2] Rollo, p. 14.

[3] Original Records, p. 37.

[4] TSN, January 31, 1995, pp. 7-8.

[5] TSN, April 5, 1995, p. 4. Exhibit "A", Original Records, pp. 4-6.

[6] Exhibit "1", Original Records, p. 9.

[7] Exhibits "D" and "F", Original Records, pp. 11-13.

[8] TSN, June 6, 1995, pp. 3-9.

[9] Ibid., p. 10.

[10] Exhibit "A", supra.

[11] TSN, July 4, 1995, p. 5.

[12] Exhibit "B, Original Records, pp. 7-8.

[13] SPO1 De Castro also testified for the prosecution.

[14] TSN, April 5, 1995, pp. 3-5, 7-8.

[15] Ibid., p. 9.

[16] Ibid., pp. 9, 15.

[17] TSN, April 5, 1995, pp. 18-21.

[18] Ibid.

[19] TSN, January 31, 1996, p. 3.

[20] Ibid., p. 4.

[21] Ibid., pp. 5, 10.

[22] TSN, March 21, 1996, p. 4.

[23] Penned by Presiding Judge Angelito Teh on May 16, 1996; Rollo, pp. 40-64.

[24] TSN, April 5, 1995, p. 9.

[25] TSN, April 5, 1995, pp. 18-20.

[26] TSN, April 5, 1995, pp. 21-22.

[27] People vs. Bolado, G.R. No. 105375, September 28, 1993, 226 SCRA 800.

[28] People vs. Echegaray, G.R. No. 117472, February 7, 1997, 267 SCRA 682, 717; Article 246 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act 7659.

[29] See Article 63 of the Revised Penal Code.

[30] Cf. Republic Act No. 8177, approved on March 20, 1996, amended Article 81 of the Revised Penal Code, thus,

"Art. 81. When and how the death penalty is to be executed.- The death sentence shall be executed with preference to any other penalty and shall consist in putting the person under the sentence to death by lethal injection. x x x"

[31] See People vs. Camahalan, G.R. No. 114032, February 22, 1995, 241 SCRA 558.

[32] Article 63 (2) of the Revised Penal Code. 

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