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452 Phil. 678


[ G.R. No. 140872, June 23, 2003 ]




For automatic review is the decision[1] of the Regional Trial Court of Dipolog City, Branch 8, dated October 6, 1999, in Criminal Case No. 7593, convicting appellant Pablito T. Inggo of murder, sentencing him to suffer
the penalty of death, and ordering him to pay the heirs of the victim the sum of P500,000 by way of consequential damages, P100,000 as moral damages, and to pay the costs.

His conviction stemmed from the Information which accused him of murder, allegedly committed as follows:

That, in the afternoon, on or about the 15th day of August, 1996, in the municipality of Katipunan, Zamboanga del Norte, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused armed with hunting knife and with intent to kill by means of treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab one ROSEMARIE CONDE REINANTE, thereby inflicting upon her several wounds on the vital parts of her body which caused her death shortly thereafter; that as a result of the commission of the said crime the heirs of the herein victim suffered the following damages, viz:
a) Indemnity for victim's death ............. P 50,000.00
b) Loss of earning capacity .............    50,000.00
CONTRARY TO LAW (Viol. of Art. 248, Revised Penal Code), with the qualifying circumstances of treachery and evident premeditation.[2]
Appellant pleaded not guilty when arraigned on January 17, 1997.  Trial on the merits ensued thereafter.

The version of the prosecution, as summed up from the records by the Office of the Solicitor General, is as follows:
On August 15, 1996, about 8:00 o'clock in the morning, Rosemarie Reinante[3] requested her parents-in-law's house helper, Leonisa Insic,[4] to go to her house in Poblacion Katipunan, Zamboanga del Norte, to do some household chores (p. 3, TSN, July 15, 1997).  Leonisa Insic went to Rosemarie Reinante's house as bidden (p. 8, TSN, July 8, 1997).

About 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon of that day, Leonisa Insic returned to the house of Rolando Reinante, Sr. where she was living.  She proceeded to the kitchen to take her lunch (p. 10, TSN, July 15, 1997). While she was eating, Leonisa Insic noticed somebody buy a bottle of beer from Rolando Reinante, Sr.'s store which was then being tended by Lando Tangga, another housekeeper of Rolando Reinante, Sr. The store was attached to the house of Rolando Reinante, Sr.  Later, Leonisa Insic identified that somebody as the appellant (pp. 8-10, TSN, July 8, 1997; p. 15, TSN, July 15, 1997).

Appellant gave the amount of P50.00 as his payment for the beer.  Since there was not enough cash to change the fifty-peso bill, Lando Tangga asked Leonisa Insic to have the fifty-peso bill changed to smaller denominations.  Leonisa Insic consequently went to another store to have the bill changed to smaller denominations (ibid.).

Leonisa Insic returned to the store moments later after having the fifty-peso bill changed to smaller denominations.  She gave the money to Lando Tangga but the latter refused to accept it.  Instead, he told Leonisa Insic to give the change to appellant. Leonisa Insic obliged.  Leonisa Insic then approached appellant and tried to give him his change.  Appellant, however, refused to accept his change and insisted that he should get back the full amount he gave.  Exchange of words, thereafter, ensued between Leonisa Insic and appellant (pp. 11-13, TSN, July 8, 1997).

While appellant and Leonisa Insic were having an exchange of words, Rosemarie Reinante arrived. Consequently, Rosemarie Reinante asked for the money and volunteered to give it to appellant.  Appellant still refused to accept his change from Rosemarie Reinante which led to an argument (pp. 13-15, ibid.).

While appellant and Rosemarie Reinante were thus arguing, appellant suddenly rushed to Rosemarie Reinante. When he was already near her, he loosened his belt and removed it from his waist.  Rosemarie Reinante consequently ran.  Appellant chased her and when he caught up with her, appellant stabbed her.  Immediately, Leonisa Insic came to Rosemarie Reinante's rescue.  She tried to separate Rosemarie Reinante and appellant by holding the latter's hands.  Leonisa Insic was able to stop appellant which gave Rosemarie Reinante an opportunity to run towards the road.  However, appellant was able to get away from Leonisa Insic and chased Rosemarie Reinante again.  When appellant failed to catch up with Rosemarie Reinante, he ran towards the direction going to the cemetery of Katipunan (pp. 15-16, ibid.).

Leonisa Insic saw Rosemarie Reinante fall down when she reached the road.  She then ran towards Rosemarie Reinante's house to report the matter to Rolando Reinante, Jr.  She did not find Rolando Reinante, Jr. in their house.  Instead, she found some of the house helpers (names not on record) of Rosemarie Reinante.  When they asked her what happened, she said that Rosemarie Reinante was stabbed. Leonisa Insic did not anymore return to the place where Rosemarie Reinante fell down because she was afraid (pp. 16-18, ibid.).

Later, policemen arrived. Together with Leonisa Insic, they brought Rosemarie Reinante to the Dipolog City hospital.  When they reached the hospital, Rosemarie Reinante was pronounced dead on arrival (pp. 18-19, ibid.).[5]
The defense's version based on the lone testimony of the accused is, as summarized by the trial court, as follows:
That he was an ice cream vendor before he was arrested and detained in jail on August 15, 1996.  xxx That in the morning of August 15, 1996, from Katipunan, Z.N., where he resides, he went to Roxas, an adjoining town of Katipunan to sell ice cream.  He was just walking while pushing his ice cream box along the way as he passed and sold ice cream to children and students in schools at Brgy. Tambo, Piao, and Nabilid, before reaching the poblacion of Roxas... about 12:00 o'clock noon. He took his lunch [in] the public market of Roxas, after which he drunk tuba and started back on his way to Katipunan at about 1:00 o'clock as he continued selling his wares on the same route he took in going to Roxas.  It was already about 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon when he arrived [in] Katipunan.  However, he was not able to reach his house because when he was at the crossing nearby the cemetery of Katipunan, he was waylaid by three armed men whose names were unknown to him except that he could only recognize their faces, and apprehended him.  So he asked the persons who apprehended him what was his fault, but was told in reply "just [come] with us".  Without showing any resistance, he was brought to the police station of Katipunan. Then at the police station, the three persons who waylaid him took off his T-shirt, pants, and shoes. They also took off his brief[s].  Thereafter, he was detained in jail.  While in detention, he was not informed of his right to counsel and neither was he accorded the assistance of a lawyer.  He was not also informed of his right to remain silent and that anything he would say or any statement he made may be used against him.

That by about 6:00 o'clock [of] that afternoon, he was brought by the policemen to the provincial hospital in Dipolog City.  The purpose of bringing him to the hospital was just to examine his breathing, but the doctor who examined him observed that he was under the influence of liquor or ha[d] taken intoxicating drinks... he was brought back to the detention cell of Katipunan Police Station.  He had already put on or put back his [clothes], which were returned to him by the policemen.  That while in the detention cell, he was boxed and mauled by two police officers one of whom he recognized as a certain Rodel Castillon while he did not know the name of the other.  The mauling xxx made him unconscious as he suffered injuries on the different parts of his body.  That upon regaining consciousness, he noticed that he already sustained a [stab] wound on his stomach above his navel.  He could not remember nor identify the person who stabbed him.

In the morning of August 16, 1996, he was again brought to the same hospital xxx for [the] treatment of his [stab] wound.  He was admitted [to] the hospital from August 16, 1996 to August 22, 1996... the accused denied the ownership of the following exhibits for the prosecution, to wit:
Exh. "A" — a dirty white T-shirt with green combination allegedly wor[n] by the accused at the time of the incident;

Exh. "B"  — a leather belt with a secret pocket that serves as a scabbard sewn in the inside face of the belt and the stainless knife that fits into the secret pocket, allegedly own[ed] by the accused and allegedly used by him in stabbing the victim Rosemarie Conde Reinante and in stabbing himself in an attempt to commit suicide;

Exh. "C" — a yellow towel with blood stain allegedly carried by the accused at the time of the incident;

Exh. "D" — a stainless hunting knife, measuring 4 1/2 inches by its blade, and 2 1/2 inches by its handle, mentioned in Exh. "B".
The accused likewise denied knowing the victim Rosemarie Conde Reinante as well as her husband Rolando Reinante, Jr.  He further denied knowing the two witnesses for the prosecution Leonisa Insic and Lando Tangga.  That he did not see all the above-named persons on August 15, 1996, because on that day, he was at the nearby town of Roxas selling ice cream.[6]
The trial court found the evidence for the prosecution credible and sufficient to convict appellant of murder beyond reasonable doubt.  The decretal portion of its decision reads:
WHEREFORE, and for all of the foregoing observations, and finding the guilt of the accused established by proof beyond reasonable doubt, herein accused Pablito Inggo y Tambula, is hereby convicted of the crime of Murder charged against him as principal by direct participation, and in the light of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Rep. Act 7659, sentence[d] to suffer the supreme penalty of DEATH, to indemnify the heirs of the victim Rosemarie Conde Reinante, the sum of P500,000.00 by way of consequential damages, P100,000.00 as moral damages, and to pay the costs.

Hence, this automatic review, with appellant assigning the following errors:





Principally, the issues for our resolution are (a) whether appellant's guilt was proved beyond reasonable doubt, and (b) whether the penalty of death was properly imposed on him. To resolve these issues, we must also inquire into credibility of the witnesses and their testimonies.

Appellant insists that he was merely "framed-up" by the police who could not find the real perpetrator. He points to the stab wound he sustained while in detention as proof of the devious and diabolical machinations by the police officers to implicate him in the said crime.[9]  He contends that, granting without admitting that he was the assailant, there could be no treachery since the victim provoked appellant by arguing with him when she tried to force him to receive the P40.00 change.  Appellant adds that since the assault was frontal, it could not be said to have been sudden and unexpected.[10]

The appellee, as represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), counters that appellant's claim that he was merely framed up should be rejected as it is uncorroborated and unsubstantiated by any evidence other than his self-serving claim. Contrary to appellant's claim, two eyewitnesses positively identified appellant as the perpetrator of the crime.[11]  The OSG asserts that treachery attended the commission of the crime as the attack was so sudden and so unexpected since the victim did not know that appellant had a knife with him, securely sewn and hidden inside his belt.  Even if there was a prior argument between appellant and Rosemarie, she could not have anticipated that he would stab her.[12]

Well-established is the principle that the findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies are accorded great weight and respect, even finality, on appeal unless the trial court has failed to appreciate certain facts and circumstances which, if taken into account, would materially affect the result of the case.[13]  We have thoroughly reviewed the records of this case and we see no compelling reason to depart from this well-settled rule.

The positive identification of appellant by the two eyewitnesses, Leonisa Insic and Lando Tangga, cannot be overcome by denial and allegation of a "frame-up".  Like alibi, which by its nature is inherently weak, the allegation of frame-up is easy to concoct, hence it has been viewed by this Court with disfavor.[14]  Leonisa Insic categorically pointed to appellant in open court as the same man who after drinking a bottle of beer bought from her master's store, refused to receive his change and instead insisted on getting back his P50 bill. She also positively identified appellant as the same man who stabbed her Manang Rosemarie Reinante to death.[15] Although a mere house helper[16] who had studied up to Grade 2 only, and had stayed in the mountains until she was 18 years old, she testified in a candid and straightforward manner worthy of belief.  The affidavit she executed was fully explained to her in the vernacular and she affirmed that she signed it because she understood it and knew it to be the truth.[17]  

Witness Lando Tangga corroborated Leonisa's testimony.  According to Tangga, he explained to appellant that the bottle of beer was worth P10.00, so that his change was P40.00 but appellant refused the change, claiming that it was insufficient.  So Tangga then asked Leonisa Insic to be the one to explain to appellant and return his change, but to no avail.  After sometime, Tangga saw his Manang Rosemarie arrive.  Rosemarie got the money from Leonisa and tried to give it to appellant.  But appellant then rushed towards Rosemarie to stab her.  Tangga testified that appellant delivered the fatal blow on her stomach.[18]

No ill motive was imputed or shown against these two witnesses as to why they would falsely testify against appellant.  The mere fact that Rolando Reinante, Jr., Rosemarie's husband, was with them when they gave their statements at the police station did not taint their credibility.  For the husband of the deceased victim surely wanted to see that the real perpetrator be punished for her death.  Contrary to appellant's contention, no grieving husband would coach his household helpers to impute a crime on someone whom they knew to be innocent.  That would be contrary to human nature and experience.  Absent any evidence showing a reason or motive for prosecution witnesses to perjure their testimonies, the logical conclusion is that no improper motive exists, and that their testimonies are worthy of full faith and credit.[19]

Appellant claims to be merely passing through the area when the police apprehended him.  However, he could not present any witness who can support his allegation.  To the contrary, a witness for the prosecution, Edmundo Ballares,[20] testified that while he was in the cemetery, he saw police officer Edgar Calisas pursuing a man from the highway running towards the cemetery.[21] When the police caught up with the man, Ballares offered his assistance by holding the hands of the man, and thereafter bringing him towards the road.[22] The candid and straightforward testimony of Ballares stems from a forthright narration of what he actually witnessed. The grueling cross-examination by the defense counsel could not shake the foundation of his account.  Witness Ballares positively pointed to appellant as the man chased by the police and subsequently caught in the premises of the cemetery.

Appellant denies the charge against him, but his denial and his claim of "frame-up" are unsubstantiated by clear and convincing evidence.  His denial is a negative and self-serving testimony which deserves no weight in law. It should not be given greater evidentiary value than the testimony of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters.[23]

Appellant claims maltreatment committed on him by the Katipunan police.  These claims are, however, also uncorroborated and unsubstantiated.  He was unable to present any medical certificate concerning any injury he might have sustained on account of mauling or maltreatment.  He did not file any criminal or administrative charge against the police officers to whom he attributed the maltreatment.  Noteworthy, the prosecution presented a medical certificate as evidence that the stab wound of appellant was self-inflicted.[24]  In the absence of any clear and convincing proof, to the contrary, the presumption stands that there was regularity in the performance of official duties[25] by the Katipunan police.  Otherwise, it would become facile and convenient for any accused to shout maltreatment and render inutile any arrest lawfully made, to the detriment of peace and order in the community.

While we find that sufficient evidence was presented to sustain the conviction of the appellant for stabbing to death Rosemarie Reinante, we are unable to agree that treachery was proved by the prosecution.  The qualifying circumstance of treachery cannot be presumed and must be proved as sufficiently as the crime itself.  Treachery or alevosia exists when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons employing means, methods, or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make.[26] To prove treachery, the prosecution must show (a) that at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself and (b) that the accused consciously adopted the particular means, method, or form of attack employed by him.[27] Here, the prosecution failed to show adequately these requisite elements.

As testified to by the eyewitness, Leonisa Insic, appellant first chased Rosemarie before he was able to inflict the fatal stab against her.  A portion of her testimony runs as follows:
Q: Now, you said that the man rushed on your Manang Rosemarie, were they able to get near each other?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: And what did you notice when they were already near to each other?
A: Then, I noticed that the man loosen his belt and he took off that belt from his waist.
Q: After that man loosen his belt, took off from his waist, what did that man do?
A: Then, that man chased Manang Rosemarie at a swing and then later on stabbed Manang Rosemarie.[28]
It is apparent that Rosemarie tried to run away but appellant caught up with her.  Based on eyewitness testimony, we are not convinced that treachery attended the commission of the crime.  The stabbing was not instantaneous.  It was preceded by heated arguments.  The victim must have been forewarned that appellant might try to harm her.  Where an argument or a quarrel preceded a killing, treachery is non-existent since the victim could be said to have been forewarned and could anticipate aggression from assailant.[29]  

For treachery to be considered, not only must the victim be without means of defending herself, but also the means, method, or form employed by the assailant must have been consciously adopted.  The interval of time between the act of loosening his belt, getting the knife, chasing the victim and eventually stabbing her sufficiently shows that the use of the knife was not consciously thought of, but rather it came together with appellant's outburst, arising from the heated arguments he had with Leonisa and then the victim.  Thus, we cannot sustain the view that treachery attended the commission of the crime to qualify it as murder.  We hold that appellant is liable only for homicide.

Moreover, here the generic aggravating circumstance of disregard of sex could not be considered in the perpetuation of the offense.  Disregard of sex which, for obvious reasons refers to the female gender, requires that the accused must have deliberately intended to insult or to show manifest disrespect for the sex of the offended party.[30] Here, we find no showing that the attack showed a manifest disrespect for the gender of the victim.  Apparently, the victim arrived unexpectedly and took the cudgels for Leonisa, re-directing appellant's ire toward the victim herself.

Further, we find the alternative circumstance of intoxication inexistent.  Intoxication to be aggravating must have been the source of bravado that propelled the accused to commit the crime.  As we have previously held:
Our penal laws do not look kindly on habitual drunkards, or if the accused already resolved to commit the crime, then got intoxicated so as to fortify that resolve with false courage dictated by liquor, his liability should be aggravated.  Although there is no hard and fast rule on the amount of liquor that the accused imbibed on that occasion, but the test is that it must have sufficed to affect his mental faculties, to the extent of blurring his reason and depriving him of self-control.[31]
Here, appellant's degree of intoxication was not proved with certainty.  He had allegedly been drinking tuba earlier that day, and he did buy a bottle of beer at the store of the victim's in-laws.  But these facts are not sufficient to establish that indeed appellant was intoxicated at the time he committed the crime, much less that he sought intoxication to fortify his resolve in committing it.  Absent clear and convincing proof as to appellant's state of intoxication, we are unable to agree that the alternative circumstance of intoxication was present to aggravate the offense.

In any event, intoxication as well as disregard of sex were not alleged in the information, hence, these may not be considered to aggravate the crime for the imposition of a higher penalty, whether by degrees or periods.  This is pursuant to the amendments made to the Revised Rules of Court, particularly to Sec. 8 of Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure[32] (which took effect on December 1, 2000). This section now mandates that the complaint or information should state not only the qualifying but also the aggravating circumstances in order that they may be appreciated.  Since this procedural rule is favorable to the accused, it is proper to give it retroactive effect in this case.

The award of damages also needs modification.  The award of consequential damages in the amount of P500,000 is deleted for lack of factual basis. Instead, we award in favor of the victim's heirs the amount of P50,000 as indemnity ex delicto.[33]  The award of moral damages is also reduced from P100,000 to P50,000, consistent with our recent case law.[34]  In addition, we award another P25,000 as temperate damages[35] considering that it has been shown that the victim's family suffered some pecuniary loss but the amount thereof was not sufficiently established.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Dipolog City, Branch 8, convicting appellant Pablito T. Inggo, of murder and sentencing him to death in Criminal Case No. 7593 is hereby MODIFIED.  Appellant is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of HOMICIDE as defined by Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code.  For that offense, the penalty set therefor is reclusion temporal in its medium period,[36] there being no aggravating or mitigating circumstance, in accordance with Article 64 (1) of the Code.  Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, appellant is hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment for an indeterminate period ranging from six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor in its minimum period as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal in its medium period as maximum. Appellant is also ORDERED to pay the heirs of the victim P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, and P25,000.00 as temperate damages.  Costs de oficio.


Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., and Azcuna, JJ., concur.

Austria-Martinez, J., on official leave.

[1] Rollo, pp. 16-36.

[2] Records, p. 1.

[3] Rosemarie Reinante is the wife of Rolando Reinante, Jr. See TSN, 8 July 1997, p. 2.

[4] Leoni[s]a Insic is the house helper of Rolando Reinante, Sr., father of Rolando Reinante, Jr. She lives in Rolando Reinante, Sr.'s house in Katipunan, Zamboanga del Norte (ibid).  See also Rollo, p. 121.

[5] Rollo, pp. 121-124.

[6] Id. at 26-28.

[7] Id. at 35-36.

[8] Id. at 53-54.

[9] Id. at 66.

[10] Id. at 64-65.

[11] Id. at 130-131.

[12] Id. at 139.

[13] People v. Galam, G.R. No. 114740, 15 February 2000, 325 SCRA 489, 496-497.

[14] People v. Alegro, G.R. No. 112797, 8 July 1997, 275 SCRA 216, 220.

[15] TSN, 8 July 1997, p. 20.

[16] TSN, 15 July 1997, pp. 21-23.

[17] Id. at 24-25.

[18] TSN, 23 July 1997, pp. 16-19.

[19] People v. Tortosa, G.R. No. 116739, 31 July 2000, 336 SCRA 604, 610.

[20] Also spelled as "Balladares" in some part of the records; TSN, 29 July 1997, p. 2.

[21] TSN, 29 July 1997, p. 27.

[22] Id. at 30-31.

[23] See People v. De la Rosa, Jr., G.R. No. 133443, 29 September 2000, 341 SCRA 425, 438.

[24] Records, p. 96.

[25] Rules of Court , Rule 131, Sec. 3(m).

[26] Revised Penal Code, Article 14 (16).

[27] People v. Caber, Sr., G.R. No. 129252, 28 November 2000, 346 SCRA 166, 174 citing People v. Gutierrez, Jr., G.R. No. 116281, 8 February 1999, 302 SCRA 643, 665.

[28] TSN, 8 July 1997, p. 15.

[29] People v. Buluran, G.R. No. 113940, 15 February 2000, 325 SCRA 476, 487.

[30] F.D. Regalado. CRIMINAL LAW CONSPECTUS 77 (1st ed. 2000) citing People v. Puno, G.R. No. L-33211, 29 June 1981, 105 SCRA 151, 160.

[31] Regalado, op. cit. 105 citing People v. Noble, 77 Phil. 93, 101-102 (1946); People v. Boduso, G.R. Nos. L-30450-51, 30 September 1974, 60 SCRA 60, 70-71.

[32] SEC. 8. Designation of the offense. — The complaint or information shall state the designation of the offense given by the statute, aver the acts or omissions constituting the offense, and specify its qualifying and aggravating circumstances.  If there is no designation of the offense, reference shall be made to the section or subsection of the statute punishing it.

[33] People v. Verde, G.R. No. 119077, 10 February 1999, 302 SCRA 690, 706.

[34] People v. Rabanal, G.R. No. 146687, 22 August 2002, p. 12.

[35] ART. 2224.  Temperate or moderate damages, which are more than nominal but less than compensatory damages, may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot, from the nature of the case, be proved with certainty.

[36] 14 years, 8 months, 1 day to 17 years and 4 months.

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