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357 Phil. 295


[ G.R. No. 122102, September 25, 1998 ]




Paterno Patajo and his wife Bebina Patajo[1] were sleeping in their house located at Barangay Balugo, Dumaguete City on May 24, 1992 when they were awakened by the sound of stones vitually raining on their house at around nine o’clock in the evening. Also sleeping inside the house were the couple’s son, Pedrito Patajo,[2] and the latter’s wife, Annabelle Patajo.[3] One of the stones also hit the house of Regino Patajo,[4] another son of Paterno and Bebina, which was about three meters away.

After falling of the stones stopped, somebody outside the house shouted "yawa" (devil) and called upon Paterno to open the door of his house. Anabelle recognized the voice as that of accused-appellant Loreto Noay who had been their neighbor for ten years and is a cousin of her husband. Paterno and Bebina got up and turned on the interior and exterior lights of the house. Together with Annabelle, they went to the doorway of the house to meet the person outside.

As Paterno opened the door, appellant suddenly directed the beam of his flashlight toward the face of Paterno and immediately stabbed the latter on the left breast with a long machete, locally known as "pinuti." Paterno fell to the ground as a consequence of the stabbing. With this horrifying sight before her, Bebina desperately cried for help.

When Regino heard the screams of his mother, he ran down from his house and proceeded to his parents’ house. As Regino passed through the kitchen, he was met by appellant with hacking blows on the face and arms. As a result, Regino sustained incised wounds on his left hand, left wrist, right shoulder and left side of his face transversing towards his nose.[5] He then fell to the ground and saw his father bleeding and lying on a bench. Moments later, Regino lost consciousness and found himself already in the hospital when he recovered.

Pedrito, who stood up only after hearing his mother’s cry, also tried to help his father; but, as Pedrito approached his fallen father, appellant suddenly hacked Pedrito on the left shoulder with the "pinuti" causing an incised wound.[6] Fortunately, appellant stumbled to the ground after hitting a caldron lying near the house. This gave Pedrito the chance to run to the house of their neighbor before appellant could strike him again. Several plicemen later came to neighbor’s house and brought Pedrito to the hospital. Meanwhile, appellant had already left the scene after Bebina begged him to leave her house.

Postmortem examination conducted by Dr. Susano Larena, Jr.[7] on the corpse of Paterno revealed that the latter’s stab wound on his left chest had penetrated into and perforated the pulmonary artery of his heart causing internal hemorrhage. This injury ultimately led to the untimely death of Paterno.[8] For this burial, the family of Paterno contracted various funeral services and expenses amounting to P4,900.00.[9]

Regino and Pedrito were brought to the Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital where they were treated by Dr. Clemente S. Hipe IV.[10] This physician testified in court that had Regino not been given timely medical treatment, his four wounds, especially the one on the face, would have caused severe bleeding that could lead to hypovolemic shock and, subsequently, to death. Dr. Hipe described the incised wound suffered by Pedrito on the left shoulder as not so severe or serious as to cause death. From the expert opinion of the doctor, the injuries of Regino and Pedrito were caused by a sharp bladed instrument.

Because of this incident, three criminal informations were separately filed against appellant in three different branches of the Regional Trial Court of Dumaguete City as follows:

In Branch 34 of the said trial court, appellant was indicted for murder for the killing of Paterno in Criminal Case No. 10223.[11]

In Criminal Case No. 10358 filed with Branch 31 of the same trial court, appellant was accused of frustrated murder for the hacking of Regino which could have resulted in the death of the latter if not for the proper medical attention given him.[12]

For the wounding of Pedrito which did not result in his death by reason of some cause or accident other than appellant’s spontaneous desistance. i.e., by the timely escape of Pedrito, appellant was charged with attempted murder in Criminal Case No. 10357 docketed in Branch 36.[13]

All of the three crimes were alleged to have been committed with qualifying circumstance of alevosia.

On proper motions by the prosecution, the respective presiding judges of Branch 31 and Branch 36 of the Regional Trial Court of Dumaguete City ordered the transfer and consolidation of Criminal Case no. 10358[14] and Criminal Case No. 10357[15] with Criminal Case No. 10223 pending before Branch 34, it having the criminal case with the lowest docket number.

Appellant pleaded not guilty during his arraignment on July 8, 1992 for the accusation of murder.[16] To the charges of frustrated murder[17] and attempted murder[18] read to him when arraigned on November 10, 1992, appellant also entered a plea of not guilty.

In a bid for exculpation, appellant interposed self-defense before the lower court and presented a different story of what allegedly happened on the night of May 24, 1992.

According to appellant,[19] he was at the house of his cousin, Crisanto Albina, at around 7:30 P.M. when he heard Paterno Patajo calling his name outside the house. In the company of Paterno at that time were his sons Regino, Pedrito, Dionisio and Eudes.

When appellant confronted the group, Paterno berated appellant for throwing stones at their house. Appellant denied to the group that he hurled the stones. Not satisfied with his disclaimer, Regino boxed him on the chest causing him to fall on the ground. Regino then picked appellant up by his right foot and spun him around. Thereafter, Pedrito and Dionisio, and later Paterno, joined in the mauling of appellant by kicking and hitting him on face and on different parts of his body. All this time, appellant was begging the Patajos to stop beating him. As appellant stood up to extricate himself from the group, Regino hit him on the back with a rock. Eudes tried to pacify his brothers and father while appellant was being attacked.

After a desperate struggle, appellate was able was able to break away from the hold of his assailants. He then ran towards his house, followed by his attackers. Feeling pain oh his right foot, appellant massaged it in front of his house. Paterno, Pedrito, Regino and Dionisio laughed upon seeing appellant massaging his own foot. This prompted appellant to shout "letse mo" at his attackers. His cursing apparently irked Regino who approached and kicked him. Appellant fled from but was chased by Regino. Running around his house, appellant got hold of a machete inserted between the slats of the fence. He and Regino fell to the ground when they tripped upon a coconut trunk lying on the ground.

As he rose, he hacked Regino. Then, while he was pointing the "pinuti" towards the direction of Paterno, the latter ran towards him and unintentionally impaled himself on the machete. In the meantime, Pedrito was throwing stones at appellant’s house and at him. Hiding behind a coconut tree, appellant approached Pedrito and struck him on the left shoulder.

After the incident, appellant, with the bolo in his hand, went to the house of Barangay Captain Carolina Umbac of Balugo and placed himself at her disposal. Later on, two policemen arrived at the house of the capitana and brought appellant to the police station of Basay, Negros Oriental.[20]

Dr. Larena[21] examined appellant on May 25, 1992. According to this witness, appellant came to him with abrasions on his left forehead, left face, left arm, left scapular area, and on the medial aspect of appellant’s right knee. These bruises, the doctor explained in court, could only have been caused by the rubbing of the specified body areas against a hard object. Dr. Larena added that falling hard on the ground can cause the abrasions suffered by appellant.

To corroborate his version of self-defense, appellant presented Isabel Bantigue[22] in court. This witness is a neighbor and cousin-in-law of appellant. However, she gave a different version of how appellant defended himself against the aggression of the Patajos.

Isabel testified that she was approached by appellant’s wife on the night of May 24, 1992 to accompany the latter to Crisanta Albina’s house. Crisanta is the wife of Crisanto Albina, appellant’s cousin. Before they could reach the house, Isabel saw Paterno hugging appellant and pulling his legs. At the same time, Pedrito struck appellant with a stone and boxed him. Regino and Dionisio also hit appellant with their fists.

Appellant ran to his house after he was able to escape from his attackers. At his point, Isabel also went to her house which was around ten meters away from appellant’s house. Inside the house, Isabel heard someone outside shout "letse mo." Then she heard stones falling on he ground. When she went out to check what was happening, she saw the ground around the house of appellant littered with stones.

She thereafter saw appellant holding out the "pinuti" when Paterno ran towards appellant. As a consequence thereof, Paterno was pierced by the bolo. In a sweeping statement, Isabel said that appellant was only defending himself when he wounded Pedrito and Regino.

After said joint trial, Branch 34[23] found appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of all the charges filed against him.[24] However, the lower court appreciated in favor of appellant the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender in all the criminal cases.

Hence, for the crime of murder in Criminal Case No. 10223, appellant was sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion pertpetua and to indemnify the heirs of Paterno in the amount of P50,000.00. Appellant was also ordered to pay the burial expenses incurred by the family of the victim in the total sum of P4,900.00.

In Criminal Case No. 10358, wherein appellant was found liable for the crime of frustrated murder, the lower court sentenced appellant to imprisonment of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months of reclusion temporal, as maximum. Appellant was ordered by the trial court to pay Regino P20,000.00 as moral damages.

For the crime of attempted murder established in Criminal Case No. 10357, appellant was condemned to be imprisoned from six (6) months and one (1) of prision correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years of prision mayor, as maximum. The court a quo likewise ordered appellant to pay Pedrito moral damages in the sum of P10,000.00.

In the present appeal, appellant maintains that the trial court erred in not appreciating self-defense in his favor and in concluding that treachery attended the killing of the victim Paterno despite the absence of proof thereof.[25] Both contentions of appellant must fail.

It is basic in criminal law that where the accused admits committing the crime but invokes self-defense to escape criminal liability, the general rule than the burden of proving the guilt of the accused lies on the prosecution is reversed and the burden of proof is shifted to the accused to prove the elements of his defense.[26] To be entitled to this justifying circumstance, the accused must prove by clear and convincing evidence that he acted in defense of himself.[27]

The evidence presented by appellant before the trial court can hardly be said to be clear and convincing as his testimony and that of his witness are replete with contradictions within themselves and with each other. Like the trial court, we notice a number of statements given by appellant[28] during the hearing on his petition for bail which are inconsistent with his testimony in support of his defense.

During the hearing, appellant denied killing Paterno[29] and added during his cross-examination that he was detained only for the wounding of Paterno’s two sons.[30] He also said that Paterno was with Pedrito, Regino and Dionisio when they went to Crisanto’s house.[31] No mention was made as to the presence of Eudes. Also, there was appellant’s narration that it was Pedrito who boxed him after he answered Paterno’s query,[32] and not Regino as he stated at the trial. We also note that appellant declared during the bail hearing that he shouted "yawa"[33] to his attackers while he massaged his foot and not "letse mo." Lastly, there is the answer of appellant that Paterno and Dionisio did not follow him to his house[34] after he was able to escape from the group.

If accused stabbed Regino merely to defend himself, it becomes polemical why he had to inflict four wounds on Regino. The presence of the large number of wounds sustained by Regino negates appellant’s theory of self-defense and, instead, indicates a determined effort on the part of appellant to kill the victim.[35]

Then there is the testimony of Isabel. Instead of strengthening appellant’s story, the testimony of this witness added doubt to the veracity of appellant’s claim. There are extreme discrepancies between the narration of appellant and Isabel with regard to the circumstances surrounding the alleged self-defense. Short of changing appellant’s account, Isabel gave, if not added to, different roles of the Patajos’ on how they supposedly ganged up on appellant.

It should be noted that appellant did not state during his testimony that Paterno hugged him and pulled his leg in their fight as Isabel declared. According to Isabel, it was Pedrito who hit appellant with a rock while the mauling happened in front of Crisanto’s house, contrary to appellant’s declaration that it was Regino. And, unlike appellant, Isabel did not place Eudes in the vicinity of Crisanto’s house during the mauling.

Considering the inconsistencies in the testimonies of appellant and his witness, the trial court was right in concluding that their testimonies do not deserve belief. With the distinct contradictions of appellant and Isabel in their testimonies, no credence ca be accorded to the pretension of self-defense claimed by appellant during the trial.

An obvious contradiction in the stories given by a defense witness and the accused casts doubt on the latter’s credibility.[36] Moreover, we have held that where the testimonies of two key witnesses cannot stand together, the inevitable conclusion is that one or both must be telling a lie, and their story a mere concoction.[37]

Isabel cannot even give a detailed account of how appellant wounded Regino and Pedrito.[38] And, while claiming that it was Paterno, Regino, Pedrito and Dionisio who hurled stones at appellant,[39] Isabel admitted in court that she did not see the atual throwing of stones at appellant.[40]

The bruises on appellant’s body can be explained by his tripping and rolling on the ground as testified to by Bebina,[41] and not as a result of the beating he got from the Patajos. This conclusion is clearly supported by Dr. Larena’s expert opinion.

From the foregoing observations, we hold that the version of self-defense put up by appellant is not worthy of belief. His claim of self- defense is a mere fabrication to save himself from his own criminal acts. Like alibi, self-defense is inherently a weak defense which, as experience has demonstrated, can easily be concocted.[42]

More importantly, appellant’s theory of self-defense crumbles in the face of the testimony of the prosecution witnesses who actually saw the stabbing and who fell victims to his murderous acts. Bebina gave a detailed account of her traumatic experience in witnessing the killing of her husband and the stabbing of her two sons. Annabelle vividly saw the killing of Paterno and the wounding of Regino. During the trial, the victims themselves, Regino and Pedrito, were likewise able to positively identify appellant as their assailant.

On their own, the separate testimonies of these four witnesses were given in a categorical, consistent and direct manner. A witness who testifies in a categorical, straightforward, spontaneous and frank manner and remains consistent is a credible witness.[43] Taken together, the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses are not only consistent in all material respects but also abound with uniform details on the perpetration of appellant’s criminal acts. This harmony in the testimonies of the four eyewitnesses of the prosecution leads to the conclusion that they are the ones telling the truth.

Aside from positively identifying appellant, the prosecution witnesses in Criminal Case No. 10223 established treachery as clearly as the killing of Paterno. The trial court thus correctly appreciated the qualifying circumstance of treachery in the commission of the crime against Paterno.

Bebina and Annabelle, eyewitnesses for the prosecution in the killing of Paterno, positively testified on how the attack on Paterno began and how it was carried out by appellant. Their testimonies are laden with particulars as to the unanticipated manner in which the aggression of appellant commenced and how such act led to the death of Paterno.

Treachery may be considered as a qualifying circumstance when the following two conditions are present: (a) the employment of means, methods or manner of execution to ensure the safety of the malefactor from defensive or retaliatory acts on the part of the victim; and (b) the deliberate adoption by the offender of such means, methods or manner of execution.[44] The essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack without the slightest provocation on the part of the person attacked.[45]

Clearly, from the narration of these two witnesses, Paterno was not given any chance by appellant to defend himself upon opening the door. Through appellant’s own design, Paterno was rendered temporarily sightless immediately before he was stabbed by appellant. He did not even have the opportunity to have a good look at his attacker or at his assailant’s weapon.

The deliberate flashing of light on the face of Paterno by appellant and his immediate successive stabbing of Paterno show a conscious adoption by appellant of a mode in executing the killing free from any possible defense that his victim may raise. The fact that Paterno was stabbed on the chest does not militate against the lower court'’s finding of treachery. Even if the attack is frontal, there is treachery if it was so sudden and unexpected that the deceased had no time to prepare for his defense.[46]

Because it appears to be on all fours, we note herein with approval the legal conclusion of the Court of Appeals with regard to a similar disposition there in People vs. Pongol[47] holding that where immediately prior to the stabbing, the accused flashed the beam of his flashlight on the face of his victim, momentarily blinding the latter, the attack though frontal, was sudden and perpetrated in a manner tending directly to insure its execution, free from any danger that the victim might defend himself.

Though not raised by appellant, we find it necessary to correct the imposition of penalties by the lower court in these three consolidated cases. While the court a quo correctly considered the surrender of appellant as a mitigating circumstance, it failed to apply such circumstance in fixing the penalties to be imposed upon appellant in accordance with the provisions of the Revised Penal Code.

Prior to the amendment of said Code by Republic Act No. 7659 on December 31, 1993, the consummated crime of murder was punished with reclusion temporal in its maximum period to death.[48] Following the rules of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty for frustrated murder was prision mayor in its maximum period to reclusion temporal in its medium period.[49] For attempted murder, the penalty to be imposed upon the offender was prision correccional maximum to prision mayor medium.[50]

For the purpose of the indeterminate Sentence Law, these penalties shall be reference points in determining the penalties next lower in degree for murder, frustrated murder and attempted murder.[51]

Since the penalty[52] for murder and the penalties[53] for frustrated murder and attempted murder consist of and were divisible into three periods, even if one of the periods was an indivisible penalty, the lower court should have applied the rules in Article 64 of the Code in fixing the proper period of the penalty to be imposed upon appellant. Under paragraph 2 of said article, when a mitigating circumstance is present in the commission of the act, the courts shall impose the penalty in its minimum period.

Employing the extenuating effect of voluntary surrender to the criminal liability of appellant for murder, one will get the minimum of the old penalty for murder as reclusion temporal in its maximum period. This is equivalent to seventeen (17) years, four (4) months and one (1) day to twenty (20) years of imprisonment. For frustrated murder, the minimum of the penalty given above is prision mayor maximum, that is ten (10) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years of imprisonment. In case of attempted murder, the minimum will be prision correccional in its maximum period, or four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day to six (6) years of imprisonment. These penalties shall be the bases for the setting of the maximum terms of the indeterminate sentences to be imposed upon appellant.[54]

Counting one degree lower from the penalties prescribed by the Revised Penal Code for the felonies of murder, frustrated murder and attempted murder, we arrive at the minimum term of the indeterminate sentence for murder as prision mayor in its maximum period to reclusion temporal in its medium period; for frustrated murder, the minimum term of the indeterminate sentence shall be within the range of prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its medium period; and for attempted murder, the minimum term under the Indeterminate Sentence Law is arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its medium period.

Hence, for failing to take into account voluntary surrender, the court a quo failed to punish appellant with the correct indeterminate sentence in Criminal Case No. 10223. Likewise, it incorrectly fixed the maximum terms of the indeterminate sentences imposed upon appellant in Criminal Case No. 10358 at fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months of reclusion temporal and in Criminal Case No. 10357 at eight (8) years of prision mayor. Such computation can only be justified if there are no aggravating or mitigating circumstances attending the commission of the frustrated murder and attempted murder.[55]

We see no need to amend the minimum terms set by the trial court in Criminal Cases Nos. 10358 and 10357 as such minimum terms are within the range of the penalty next lower in degree to that prescribed by the Revised Penal Code. For that purpose, courts are granted a wide discretion in the fixing of the minimum term of the indeterminate sentence and, in the absence of abuse, the discretion of the courts to fix the minimum term of the indeterminate sentence anywhere within the range provided by law, will not be interfered with by this Tribunal.[56]

One last point.

We have scoured the records of the consolidated cases and failed to find any justification for the lower court’s award of moral damages in favor of Pedrito. It is elemental that for moral damages to be properly adjudicated in criminal offenses resulting in physical injuries, there must be a factual basis for the award of moral damages.[57] The grant of moral damages in favor of Pedrito should therefore be deleted. However, we maintain the award of moral damages to Regino because he categorically stated on the witness stand that he suffered extreme physical pain as a consequence of the stabbing.[58]

WHEREFORE, the judgment of the court a quo finding accused-appellant Loreto Noay guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of murder in Criminal Case No. 10223, frustrated murder in Criminal Case No. 10358, and attempted murder in Criminal Case No. 10357 is hereby AFFIRMED, subject to the following MODIFICATIONS:

1.  In Criminal Case No. 10223, appellant shall serve an indeterminate sentence of twelve (12) years and one (1) day of reclusion temporal, as minimum, to twenty (20) years of reclusion temporal, as maximum.

2.  In Criminal Case No. 10358, appellant shall serve an indeterminate sentence of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to twelve (12) years of prision mayor, as maximum.

3.  In Criminal Case No. 10357, appellant shall serve an indeterminate sentence of six (6) months and one (1) day of prision correccional, as minimum, to six (6) years of prision correccional, as maximum. The award of moral damages in favor of Pedrito Patajo is hereby deleted.

In the service of the aforementioned sentences, the provisions of Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code shall be observed.


Melo, Puno, and Martinez, JJ., concur.
Mendoza, J., on leave.

[1] TSN, February 11, 1993, 2-21.

[2] Ibid., June 7, 1993, 31-37.

[3] Ibid., May 21, 1993, 3-25.

[4] Ibid., June 7, 1993, 3-30.

[5] Exhibit D, Folder of Exhibits.

[6] Exhibit E, ibid.

[7] TSN, February 11, 1993, 4-13.

[8] Exhibit C, Folder of Exhibits.

[9] Exhibit A, ibid.

[10] TSN, May 21, 1993, 28-42.

[11] Original Record, Criminal Case No. 10223, 3.

[12] Ibid., Criminal Case No. 10358, 2.

[13] Ibid., Criminal Case No. 10357, 2.

[14] Ibid., Criminal Case No. 10358, 19.

[15] Ibid., Criminal Case No. 10357, 17.

[16] Ibid., Criminal Case No. 10223, 21.

[17] Ibid., Criminal Case No. 10358, 27.

[18] Ibid., Criminal Case No. 10357, 20.

[19] TSN, July 13, 1993, 4-27.

[20] Ibid., October 20, 1993, 9-10.

[21] Ibid., August 7, 1992, 2-9.

[22] Ibid., December 14, 1993, 3-29.

[23] Presided over by Judge Rosendo B. Bandal, Jr.

[24] Judgment, 1-11; Rollo, 43-53.

[25] Appellant’s Brief, 1-6; Rollo, 80-85.

[26] People vs. Vallador, G.R. No. 116071, June 20, 1996, 257 SCRA 515.

[27] People vs. Isleta, G.R. No. 114971, November 19, 1996, 264 SCRA 374.

[28] TSN, July 15, 1992, 3-18.

[29] Ibid., id., 5.

[30] Ibid., id., 13.

[31] Ibid., id., 6.

[32] Ibid., id., 7.

[33] Ibid., id., 8.

[34] Ibid., id., 9.

[35] See People vs. Deopante, G.R. No. 102772, October 30, 1996, 263 SCRA 691.

[36] People vs. Gondora, G.R. No. 118770, December 6, 1996, 265 SCRA 408.

[37] People vs. Jubilag, G.R. No. 112148, October 28, 1996, 263 SCRA 604.

[38] TSN, December 14, 1993, 16, 26.

[39] Ibid., id., 13.

[40] Ibid., id., 15.

[41] Ibid., February 11, 1993, 7.

[42] People vs. Ocsimar, G.R. No. 104630, February 20, 1996, 253 SCRA 689.

[43] People vs. Rosare, G.R. No. 118823, November 19, 1996, 264 SCRA 398.

[44] People vs. Castillo, G.R. No. 116122, September 6, 1996, 261 SCRA 493.

[45] People vs. Cogonon, G.R. No. 94548, October 4, 1996, 262 SCRA 693.

[46] People vs. De Manuel, G.R. No. 117950, October 9, 1996, 263 SCRA 49.

[47] 66 O.G. 5617 (1970).

[48] Article 248, Revised Penal Code.

[49] Articles 50 and 61 (3), id.

[50] Article 51 and Article 61 (3) and (4), id.

[51] Section 1, Indeterminate Sentence Law.

[52] Article 77, Revised Penal Code.

[53] Article 76, id.

[54] Section 1, Indeterminate Sentence Law.

[55] Article 64 (1), Revised Penal Code.

[56] People vs. Ignacio, G.R. No. L-21735, January 13, 1965, 13 SCRA 153.

[57] People vs. Alas, et al., G.R. Nos. 118335-36, June 19, 1997, 274 SCRA 310.

[58] TSN, June 7, 1993, 14.

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