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666 Phil. 673


[ G.R. No. 192465, June 08, 2011 ]




The Case

Before the Court is an appeal assailing the Decision[1] dated 15 December 2009 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03287. The CA affirmed with modification the Decision[2] dated 24 October 2007 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 47 in Criminal Case No. 03-215890, convicting appellant Angelito Esquibel y Jesus (Esquibel) of the crime of murder and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

The Facts

An information[3] for murder, defined and penalized under Article 248[4] of the Revised Penal Code, was filed with the RTC of Manila, Branch 53 and then re-raffled to Branch 47. The information states:

That on or about February 7, 2003, in the City of Manila, Philippines, the said accused, armed with a bladed weapon, with intent to kill, with treachery, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and use personal violence upon one CLARK BALOLOY y TACSAGON, by stabbing and hitting him on the stomach, thereby inflicting upon the latter a stab wound on the abdomen which was the direct and immediate cause of his death thereafter.

Contrary to law.

Upon arraignment, appellant Esquibel pleaded not guilty and asserted self-defense.

The prosecution presented the following witnesses: Maricel Gaboy (Gaboy), the eyewitness to the crime and Baloloy's cousin and house helper; Felimon and Evelyn Baloloy, parents of Clark Baloloy y Tacsagon (Baloloy); Dr. Elizardo Daileg (Dr. Daileg), the Medico-Legal Officer who conducted the post-mortem examination on the cadaver; and SPO2 Danilo Vidal who conducted the investigation against Esquibel.

The prosecution summed up its version of the facts: On 7 February 2003 at around 9 o'clock in the evening, Baloloy and his parents were at home watching television. After eating dinner, Baloloy went outside the house to wash his hands. Gaboy was also outside the house waiting for a friend. Esquibel then appeared and sat beside Gaboy. Esquibel was a neighbor and Gaboy had known him since she was a little girl.

When Esquibel saw Baloloy washing his hands and standing on a bent position with Baloloy's back against him, Esquibel suddenly stood up and approached Baloloy. Esquibel then stabbed Baloloy on the right side of the stomach with a knife. Afterwards, Esquibel ran away.

Baloloy managed to go back inside the house with Gaboy following behind him. Before collapsing, Baloloy uttered "Tatay, may tama ako. Si Butchoy sinaksak ako." Baloloy's parents rushed him to the Ospital ng Maynila where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Medico-Legal Officer Dr. Daileg conducted the autopsy. In his Medico-Legal Report No. M-401-03 dated 20 February 2003, Dr. Daileg found the cause of death as hemorrhagic shock secondary to a stab wound caused by a sharp-edged instrument on the right side of the abdomen.

During the trial, Baloloy's parents personally identified Esquibel as the one whom their son referred to as "Butchoy." Baloloy's parents also incurred the amount of P20,000 representing the cost of the casket.

The defense, on the other hand, presented Esquibel as the lone witness and invoked self-defense. Esquibel testified that on the night of 7 February 2003, from 6:00 to 8:30 in the evening, he was on a drinking spree with friends, including Baloloy. They were celebrating the birthday of Esquibel's childhood friend, Philip Patino, at the latter's house. During the party, Baloloy suddenly told Esquibel in an angry tone, "Butchoy Negro titirahin kita." Esquibel retorted "Pati ba naman ako titirahin mo," referring to a previous incident where Baloloy allegedly stabbed Esquibel's brother. Shortly after the exchange, Baloloy went home.

At around 9 o'clock in the evening, Esquibel left the party. He passed by in front of Baloloy's house and heard Gaboy say "Kuya, nandiyan na." Then Baloloy suddenly appeared carrying a knife and lunged at Esquibel. Esquibel eluded Baloloy's attack and grabbed the knife. Esquibel then used the knife to stab Baloloy and immediately fled from the scene.

In its Decision dated 24 October 2007, the RTC found Esquibel guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder qualified by treachery. The RTC accorded full faith and credence to the testimony of Gaboy and disregarded Esquibel's claim of self-defense. The RTC stated that the qualifying circumstance of treachery was duly established by direct and positive evidence. Gaboy, the eyewitness, convincingly narrated the details and circumstances of how Baloloy was killed, showing that Esquibel knowingly chose the mode of attack to insure the accomplishment of the crime without risk to himself. The RTC further stated that Esquibel's version of self-defense was self-serving and cannot be given credence over the positive and credible testimony of Gaboy. The dispositive portion of the decision states:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Court finds the accused Angelito Esquibel y Jesus guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended and there being no mitigating or aggravating circumstance present, imposes upon him the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA with all the accessory penalties provided by law; to indemnify the heirs of the victim the sum of P50,000.00; to pay the heirs of the victim the amount of P20,000.00 as actual damages; and to pay the costs.


Esquibel filed an appeal with the CA. Esquibel imputed the following errors on the RTC:




The Ruling of the Court of Appeals

In a Decision dated 15 December 2009, the CA affirmed with modification the decision of the RTC. The CA found no cogent reason to depart from the rule that matters concerning the credibility of the witnesses in criminal cases are left to the sound discretion of the trial court. Since the trial court is in the best position to assess and observe the witness' demeanor, conduct and attitude under a grueling examination, the trial court's assessment of the credibility of a witness is entitled to great weight. The CA stated that Gaboy's testimony was consistent, unwavering and straightforward. Esquibel's defense that there were alleged inconsistencies in Gaboy's testimony are trivial and insignificant and do not contravene Gaboy's testimony that she directly witnessed Esquibel stabbing Baloloy.

The CA deleted the award of actual damages of P20,000 since no receipt was presented to support the claim. Nevertheless, the CA granted the amount of P20,000 as temperate damages, given in homicide or murder cases when no evidence of burial or funeral expenses is presented in court, since it cannot be denied that the heirs suffered pecuniary loss although the exact amount was not proved. The dispositive portion of the decision states:

WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the RTC finding the Accused-Appellant Angelito Esquibel y Jesus guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Murder, sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua with all the accessory penalties provided by law, and ordering him to pay the heirs of Clark Baloloy the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (Php50,000.00) as civil indemnity, is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION that the said Accused-Appellant is further ORDERED to pay the said heirs the amounts of Fifty Thousand Pesos (Php50,000.00) as moral damages, Twenty Thousand Pesos (Php20,000.00) as temperate damages, and Twenty Five Thousand Pesos (Php25,000.00) as exemplary damages. The award of actual damages in the amount of Twenty Thousand Pesos (Php20,000.00) is DELETED for lack of factual basis. Costs against Accused-Appellant.


Appellant Esquibel now comes before the Court, submitting for resolution the same issues argued before the CA. In a Manifestation[8] dated 6 September 2010, Esquibel stated that in lieu of supplemental brief, he is adopting the Appellant's Brief[9] submitted before the CA. Likewise, the Office of the Solicitor General manifested that it no longer desires to file a supplemental brief and instead adopts the Appellee's Brief[10] dated 24 March 2009 which it filed before the CA.[11]

Appellant assails the decisions of the RTC and CA for giving credence to the prosecution's evidence. The issue boils down to the credibility of Gaboy, the lone eyewitness to the crime.

The Ruling of the Court

The appeal lacks merit.

We agree with the RTC and the CA in ruling that the prosecution fully established appellant's guilt for the crime of murder beyond reasonable doubt. Gaboy positively identified Esquibel as the person who stabbed Baloloy. Despite the exhausting examination by the defense, Gaboy was candid, straightforward, firm and unwavering in her narration of the events.

Also, the defense did not even raise any ill-motive on Gaboy's part to testify falsely against Esquibel. In his Appellant's Brief, Esquibel admitted that he stabbed Baloloy although in self-defense. By invoking self-defense, the burden of evidence shifts to appellant to show that the killing was justified and that he incurred no criminal liability.[12] However, Esquibel merely pointed to alleged inconsistencies in Gaboy's testimony and to the alleged failure of Gaboy to positively identify him since there was no light in front of the victim's house where she was sitting. These allegations by Esquibel were not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence. Both the RTC and CA found that Esquibel's testimony is self-serving and deserves no weight in law over the positive and credible testimonies of the prosecution's witnesses, particularly Gaboy's.

In People v. Nicholas,[13] we held that self-defense, to be successfully invoked, must be established with certainty and proved with sufficient satisfactory and convincing evidence that excludes any vestige of criminal aggression on the part of the person invoking it. Esquibel's testimony was not only uncorroborated but also extremely doubtful.

Further, we agree with the lower courts in appreciating treachery as a qualifying circumstance. The essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack on an unsuspecting victim by the perpetrator of the crime, depriving the victim of any chance to defend himself or repel the aggression, thus, insuring its commission without risk to the aggressor and without any provocation on the part of the victim.[14] The sudden attack by Esquibel with a bladed weapon, with Baloloy's back against him, was undoubtedly treacherous. Baloloy was washing his hands outside his house when Esquibel appeared out of nowhere and stabbed him. Baloloy was unprepared and had no means to put up a defense. Such aggression insured the commission of the crime without risk on Esquibel.

In sum, we find no cogent reason to depart from the decision of the CA. Esquibel is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua with all the accessory penalties provided by law. As for damages, the CA awarded these amounts: (1) P50,000 as civil indemnity; (2) P50,000 as moral damages; (3) P20,000 as temperate damages; and (4) P25,000 as exemplary damages. To conform with recent jurisprudence,[15] the amounts awarded by the CA are hereby increased to: (1) P75,000 as civil indemnity;[16] (2) P25,000 as temperate damages; and (3) P30,000 as exemplary damages.[17]

WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the appeal. We AFFIRM the Decision dated 15 December 2009 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 03287 WITH THE MODIFICATION that the amounts of civil indemnity, temperate damages, and exemplary damages are increased to P75,000, P25,000, and P30,000, respectively.


Nachura, Peralta, Abad, and Mendoza, JJ., concur.

[1] Rollo, pp. 2-15. Penned by Justice Normandie B. Pizarro with Justices Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente and Antonio L. Villamor, concurring.

[2] CA rollo, pp. 16-20. Penned by Presiding Judge Augusto T. Gutierrez.

[3] Id. at 9-10.

[4] Article 248. Murder. - Any person who, not falling within the provision of Article 246, shall kill another, shall be guilty of murder and shall be punished by reclusion perpetua, to death if committed with any of the following attendant circumstances:

1. With treachery, taking advantage of superior strength, with the aid of armed men, or employing means to weaken the defense, or of means or persons to insure or afford impunity; x x x (Emphasis supplied)

[5] CA rollo, p. 20.

[6] CA rollo, p. 37.

[7] Rollo, pp. 14-15.

[8] Id. at 24-25.

[9] CA rollo, pp. 35-46.

[10] Id. at 68-81.

[11] Rollo, pp. 31-32.

[12] Beninsig v. People, G.R. No. 167683, 8 June 2007, 524 SCRA 320, citing Catalina Security Agency v. Gonzalez- Decano, 473 Phil. 690 (2004).

[13] 422 Phil. 53 (2001).

[14] People v. Molina, G.R. No. 184173, 13 March 2009, 581 SCRA 519.

[15] People v. Nazareno, G.R. No. 180915, 9 August 2010, 627 SCRA 383.

[16] See also People v. Obligado, G.R. No. 171735, 16 April 2009, 585 SCRA 380.

[17] See also People v. Ortiz, Jr., G.R. No. 188704, 7 July 2010, 624 SCRA 533.

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