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613 Phil. 565

SECOND DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 186420, August 25, 2009 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, APPELLEE, VS. SAMUEL ANOD, APPELLANT.

R E S O L U T I O N

NACHURA, J.:

Before this Court is an Appeal,[1] assailing the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision[2] dated August 27, 2008 which affirmed with modification the Decision[3] dated July 3, 2001 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bislig, Surigao del Sur, Branch 29, finding appellant Samuel Anod (appellant) and his co-accused Lionel Lumbayan (Lumbayan) guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder committed against Erlando Costan (Costan).

The Facts

Appellant and Lumbayan were charged with the crime of Murder in an Information dated June 23, 1997 which reads:

That on or about 10:30 o'clock (sic) in the evening, more or less, of May 16, 1997, at Purok 1, [B]arangay Borbonan, [M]unicipality of Bislig, [P]rovince of Surigao del Sur, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named [appellant] conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another for a common purpose, with intent to kill, treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault[,] stab and hack one Erlando Costan with the use of a pointed bolo, thereby inflicting upon the latter multiple stab and hack wounds which cause[d] his instantaneous death, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the said Costan.

CONTRARY TO LAW: In violation of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code.[4]

During the arraignment on November 12, 1997, appellant and Lumbayan entered pleas of "not guilty" to the crime charged. Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued. In the course of the trial, two varying versions arose.

Version of the Prosecution


Before midnight of May 16, 1997, the victim, Costan, was stabbed and hacked to death in his house situated in Barangay Borbonan,[5] Bislig, Surigao del Sur (Borbonan). His body was found by Miguel Platil. The following day, May 17, 1997, appellant and Lumbayan surrendered to Andromeda Perater, Barangay Chairperson of Borbonan (Barangay Chairperson), before whom they admitted the killing of Costan. On May 18, 1997, appellant and Lumbayan were brought to the police station. The Barangay Chairperson testified before the RTC that appellant narrated and admitted to her that he and Lumbayan killed Costan. This narration of facts

was entered in the Barangay Logbook, duly signed by appellant and Lumbayan, and authenticated by two (2) other witnesses.

Version of the Defense


Appellant averred that at around 7 p.m. of May 16, 1997, he and Lumbayan were having a drinking spree in the store of one Dodoy Advincula in Borbonan where they were joined by a certain Angges. An hour later, appellant asked his companions to go home. On their way home and upon reaching a dark place, Lumbayan suddenly stabbed Angges. He then invited appellant to sleep at the house of Lumbayan's aunt. Subsequently, however, Lumbayan told appellant that they would spend the night at Costan's house.

Upon reaching Costan's house, Lumbayan called for the victim. Costan opened the door for them and immediately thereafter, Lumbayan poked a knife at Costan and ordered appellant to tie the victim while the latter was lying down. He then ordered appellant to stab Costan. Out of fear of being stabbed by Lumbayan who, at the time, was poking a knife at appellant's breast, appellant stabbed Costan once at the back. Thereafter, appellant and Lumbayan went to the house of Lumbayan's aunt. They surrendered to the Barangay Chairperson allegedly upon the prodding of appellant. On the other hand, Lumbayan denied all the charges, claiming that he and appellant slept early on the night of the incident at his aunt's house. The following day, they were fetched and brought to the house of the Barangay Chairperson.

The RTC's Ruling


On July 3, 2001, the RTC found appellant and Lumbayan guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder and sentenced them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the widow of Costan in the amount of P50,000.00 as damages.

Only appellant interposed an appeal[6] assailing the RTC Decision. Accordingly, the case was elevated to this Court on automatic review. However, in our Resolution[7] dated September 6, 2004, and pursuant to our ruling in People v. Mateo, the case was transferred to the CA.

The CA's Ruling


In its Decision dated August 27, 2008, the CA affirmed the factual findings of the RTC with modification, imposing upon appellant the penalty of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole and ordering him to pay the heirs of Costan the amount of P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, P25,000.00 as exemplary damages, and P25,000.00 as actual damages.

Aggrieved, appellant appealed. In their respective Manifestations filed before this Court, appellant, as represented by the Public Attorney's Office, and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) opted to adopt their respective Briefs filed before the CA as their Supplemental Briefs.

Hence, this Appeal with the following assignment of errors:

I.

ASSUMING WITHOUT ADMITTING THAT APPELLANT'S CULPABILITY WAS PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT, THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT CONSIDERING THE EXEMPTING CIRCUMSTANCES OF IRRESISTIBLE FORCE AND UNCONTROLLABLE FEAR.

II.

THE COURT A QUO GRAVELY ERRED IN APPRECIATING TREACHERY AND EVIDENT PREMEDITATION AS QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCES.[8]

Appellant argues that he blindly obeyed Lumbayan and stabbed Costan, an act that was against his will and done under the compulsion of an irresistible force and uncontrollable fear for his life. Moreover, appellant contends that the qualifying circumstances of evident premeditation and treachery were not proven beyond reasonable doubt. Except for the testimony of the Barangay Chairperson which did not prove these qualifying circumstances, no other witness was presented to corroborate the same.[9]

On the other hand, the OSG opines that the force supposedly exerted upon appellant was not sufficient to exempt him from criminal liability. Apart from initially refusing Lumbayan's order, as appellant alleged, he did not offer any protest or objection to the said order. Appellant could have easily evaded Lumbayan, or he could have defended himself in equal combat as he himself was armed with a knife. The OSG claims that, while it may be conceded that evident premeditation was not adequately proven, treachery was, however, duly established. Thus, the crime committed was murder.[10]

Our Ruling

We dismiss the appeal.

Appellant failed to sufficiently show that the CA committed any reversible error in its assailed Decision. Under Article 12 of the Revised Penal Code, a person is exempt from criminal liability if he acts under the compulsion of an irresistible force, or under the impulse of an uncontrollable fear of equal or greater injury, because such person does not act with freedom. However, we held that for such a defense to prosper, the duress, force, fear, or intimidation must be present, imminent and impending, and of such nature as to induce a well-grounded apprehension of death or serious bodily harm if the act be done. A threat of future injury is not enough. In this case, as correctly held by the CA, based on the evidence on record, appellant had the chance to escape Lumbayan's threat or engage Lumbayan in combat, as appellant was also holding a knife at the time. Thus, appellant's allegation of fear or duress is untenable. We have held that in order for the circumstance of uncontrollable fear may apply, it is necessary that the compulsion be of such a character as to leave no opportunity for escape or self-defense in equal combat.[11] Therefore, under the circumstances, appellant's alleged fear, arising from the threat of Lumbayan, would not suffice to exempt him from incurring criminal liability.

Indubitably, the killing of the victim was attended by treachery. Treachery exists when the offender commits a crime against persons, employing means, methods or forms in the execution thereof which tend, directly and specifically, to ensure its execution, without risk to himself arising from any defense or retaliatory act which the victim might make. Here, appellant tied Costan while the latter was lying down before he and Lumbayan stabbed the latter to death; thus, ensuring the execution of the crime without risk to themselves. Obviously, Costan could not flee for his life or retaliate. This aggravating circumstance qualifies the crime to murder.[12]

We apply the cardinal rule that factual findings of the trial court, its calibration of the testimonies of the witnesses, and its conclusions anchored on its findings are accorded with great respect, if not conclusive effect, more so when affirmed by the CA. The exception is when it is established that the trial court ignored, overlooked, misconstrued, or misinterpreted cogent facts and circumstances that, if considered, would change the outcome of the case. We have reviewed the records of the RTC and the CA and we find no reason to deviate from the lower courts' findings and their uniform conclusion that appellant is indeed guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder.[13]

As to damages, we held in People of the Philippines v. Judito Molina and John Doe, and Joselito Tagudar,[14] that when death occurs due to a crime, the following damages may be awarded: (1) civil indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim; (2) actual or compensatory damages; (3) moral damages; (4) exemplary damages; and (5) temperate damages.

Civil indemnity is mandatory and granted to the heirs of the victim without need of proof other than the commission of the crime. In this regard, however, we reduce the award made by the CA, from P75,000.00 to P50,000.00.

It is worth stressing that, at the outset, the appellant, together with Lumbayan, was sentenced by the RTC to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. Thus, the CA's reliance on our ruling in People v. dela Cruz[15] was misplaced. In dela Cruz, this Court cited our ruling in People v. Tubongbanua,[16] wherein we held that the civil indemnity imposed should be P75,000.00. However, the instant case does not share the same factual milieu as dela Cruz and Tubongbanua. In the said cases, at the outset, the accused were sentenced to suffer the penalty of death. However, in view of the enactment of Republic Act No. 9346 or the Act Prohibiting the Imposition of the Death Penalty on June 24, 2006, the penalty meted to the accused was reduced to reclusion perpetua. This jurisprudential trend was followed in the recent case of People of the Philippines v. Generoso Rolida y Moreno, etc.,[17] where this Court also increased the civil indemnity from P50,000.00 to P75,000.00. Based on the foregoing disquisitions and the current applicable jurisprudence, we hereby reduce the civil indemnity awarded herein to P50,000.00.[18] We affirm all the other awards made by the CA.

WHEREFORE, the appealed Decision dated August 27, 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00195, finding appellant Samuel Anod guilty of the crime of murder and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that the award of civil indemnity of P75,000.00 is reduced to P50,000.00. In all other respects, the assailed Decision is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio Morales,* Chico-Nazario,** (Acting Chairperson), Velasco, Jr., and Peralta, JJ., concur.



* Additional member in lieu of Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago per Special Order No. 679 dated August 3, 2009.

** In lieu of Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago per Special Order No. 678 dated August 3, 2009.

[1] Rollo, pp. 16-17.

[2] Particularly docketed as CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 00195, penned by Associate Justice Jane Aurora C. Lantion, with Associate Justices Edgardo A. Camello and Edgardo T. Lloren, concurring; id. at 4-15.

[3] CA rollo, pp. 14-16.

[4] Id. at 7.

[5] Also referred to as barangay Borboanan in other documents.

[6] Id. at 17.

[7] Id. at 87.

[8] Rollo, p. 8.

[9] CA rollo, pp. 25-35.

[10] Id. at 55-76.

[11] People v. Morales, G.R. No. 148518, April 15, 2004, 427 SCRA 765, 782-783.

[12] People v. Ramos, G.R. No. 135204, April 14, 2004, 427 SCRA 299, 309.

[13] Casitas v. People, G.R. No. 152358, February 5, 2004, 422 SCRA 242, 248.

[14] G.R. No. 184173, March 13, 2009.

[15] G.R. No. 171272, June 7, 2007, 523 SCRA 433, 452.

[16] G.R. No. 171271, August 31, 2006, 500 SCRA 727, 742.

[17] G.R. No. 178322, March 4, 2009.

[18] People v. Manuel Delpino, G.R. No. 171453, June 18, 2009; People v. Bienvenido Mara y BolaqueƱa alias "Loloy", G.R. No. 184050, May 8, 2009.

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