367 Phil. 90
That on or about 8:00 o'clock [sic] in the evening of November 2, 1989 at Barangay Sibobo, Municipality of Calabanga, Province of Camarines Sur, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused with evident premeditation and treachery and while armed with M-16, armalite rifle did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously shoot with said firearms one Salvador Pastor y Salientes hitting the different parts of his body thereby causing his instantaneous death;Upon arraignment, appellant pleaded not guilty to the above charge. Trial ensued thereafter.
That the commission of this crime was attended with the aggravating circumstance of nighttime to better accomplish the commission of the offense.
ACTS CONTRARY TO LAW.
The only eyewitness for the offense charged, Myrna Azur Pastor [`Myrna'], widow of the deceased Salvador S. Pastor, testified that on 2 November 1989, at approximately 8:10 o'clock [sic] in the evening, she was inside her residence at Sibobo, Calabanga, Camarines Sur, when someone from outside called "Ma" and "Pa", summoning her attention.The accused's defense consisted of alibi and denial. Appellant, a member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) since June 7, 1989, claimed that he was asleep at the CAFGU detachment center at the time of the incident in question. Following is his account of the events on that fateful day:
Since her husband was already reclined on the bed momentarily savoring a local drama aired on the radio, Myrna raced down the stairs to answer the call.
When Myrna opened the front door, she was surprised to see the caller as their long-time family acquaintance, appellant Romeo Belaro, posing outside the door and armed with the armalite that he usually carries. Appellant appeared to be drunk. Since the armalite's nozzle was ominously pointed at the door, Myrna felt an onrush of fear and instinctively shut the door. Thereafter, she raced towards their bedroom and told her husband about appellant.
This time, the deceased descended to see appellant while he toted his youngest child.
However, the moment the front door was opened, Myrna was simply surprised when her deceased husband tossed to her the child and shoved her aside.
Thereafter, a volley of shots from an M-16 rifle rang through the air. The deceased was directly hit as he toppled on the floor. Then again, another series of gunfire emitted.
This time, appellant scampered away. Five (5) other unidentified men appeared to have ran away with him. Meanwhile, all that Myrna could do was cry and shout for help.
As Myrna went out of the house to register her shout for help x x x her father, Benedicto Azur, who lived within the vicinity, answered her distress call.
Upon reaching her daughter's house, Benedicto Azur saw deceased bathed in his own blood. Upon inquiry, Myrna could only utter that it was appellant who was responsible for her husband's death. Agitated, Myrna and her four (4) children were transferred to Benedicto Azur's house for solace.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered declaring that accused ROMEO BELARO is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder as defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code without any aggravating or mitigating circumstance and, he is hereby sentenced to reclusion perpetua, to indemnify the heirs of Salvador Pastor y Salientes represented by Myrna Azur-Pastor, the sum of P50,000.00 as damages as well as to reimburse Benedicto Azur for the funeral expenses incurred in the burial of the deceased in the sum of P8,421.00 without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency; and, to pay the costs of this suit.Appellant now questions his conviction, contending that:
Accused is entitled to full credit for the entire period of his detention from February 5, 1990.
Appellant submits that the trial court had prejudged his witnesses' credibility even before the trial started. This prejudgment supposedly manifested itself in the following portion of the court's decision:
- The accused was denied the right to trial by an impartial and neutral judge;
- The trial court erred when it did not give credence to the testimonies of the witnesses for the accused;
- The trial court erred when it convicted, rather than, acquitted the accused.
- Assuming the accused is guilty, the trial court erred when it concluded that the crime committed was murder qualified with treachery, and not plain and simple homicide.
- Assuming further that the accused is guilty of homicide or murder, the trial court erred in not considering in his favor the mitigating circumstances of drunkenness and illiteracy; and
- Assuming the accused is guilty, the trial court erred in imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
Neither can the Court give credence to the claim of the accused that at the time the victim was shot he was sleeping in their detachment barracks after having drank gin upon the alleged invitation of the Assistant Detachment Commander, Sgt. Esmeraldo Ravara (TSN August 29, 1990, pp. 24-26) notwithstanding the corroborative testimonies of CAFGU member Rogelio Salientes (TSN August 17, 1990, pp. 24-29); Barangay Captain Aproniano Mallo of Cabanbanan, Calabanga, Camarines Sur (TSN Augu 17, 1990, pp. 6-9); CAFGU Eustaquio Aquino (August 17, 1990, pp. 36-41) and Sergeant Esmeraldo Ravara, (TSN, August 16, 1990, pp. 36-41) as said witnesses, except Barangay Captain Aproniano Mallo, are either members of the military, or at least affiliated with it as CAFGU members, who cannot be free of bias influenced as they are by the spirit of comradeship existing among them. The bias of said defense witnesses was apparent to the Court when almost all of them were present during the trial of this case even at the time when the prosecution was still presenting evidence and there was no need for them to be in court. Even the 7th CAA Co'y Commander, a 2nd Lt. Arnel B. Escobal made representations with the Court praying for the transfer of the accused from the custody of the Provincial Warden at Tinangis Penal Farm, Tinangis, Pili, Camarines Sur to the detention cell at the 7th CAA Camarines Sur Constabulary/Integrated National Police Command at Concepcion Grande, Naga City (Ex Parte Motion to Transfer Custody of the Detention Prisoner dated March 8, 1990, page 24, record) which however was denied by the Court in view of the escape of a CAFGU member who also sought and was granted transfer of detention from Tinangis Penal Farm to the PC Headquarters, Concepcion Grande, Naga City and the Provincial Command has not accounted for his whereabouts even up to now (Order of the Court dated March 13, 1990, page 25, record).Appellant argues that the trial judge's prejudice calls for a remand to the trial court for re-trial.
(1) Myrna Pastor was not impelled by any improper motive.(3) She was well acquainted with the accused and therefore could not have been mistaken as to his identity.
While it may be true that the wife of the victim is the sole eyewitness to the commission of the offense, her relationship to the victim does not, by itself, impair her credibility (People vs. Paras, G.R. No. 61773, January 31, 1987, 147 SCRA 594; People vs. Bautista, G.R. No. 69123, January 30, 1987, 147 SCRA 500; and People vs. Seguerra, G.R. No. 58574, October 12, 1987, 154 SCRA 656), especially because there is no showing of improper motive on the part of said witness for testifying against the accused. Her relationship to the victim does not render her clear, direct and positive testimony less worthy of full faith and credit. On the contrary, her natural interest in securing the conviction of the guilty party would deter her from implicating persons other than the culprit, for otherwise, the latter would thereby gain immunity (People vs. Radomes, 141 SCRA 548; People vs. Gavino Aguinaldo, G.R. No. 75816, September 26, 1988, Paras, J.).
(2) The scene of the crime enjoyed sufficient lighting for her to identify the accused.
The denials of the accused that he did not shoot and kill the victim cannot prevail over the clear, direct and positive identification by the sole eyewitness, Myrna Azur-Pastor, that it was the accused whom she saw that fatal night with an armalite rifle aimed, fired and shot to death her husband as she was near him when he shot her husband and even smelled the liquor coming from the body of the accused (TSN, July 19, 1990, pp. 50-51) and that she was able to identify the accused as she held a lighted lamp when she opened the door; besides, there was also light coming from the house of her uncle which was just a few meters from their house (TSN July 20, 1990, page 9; People vs. Datuya, 154 SCRA 410; People vs. Dava, 149 SCRA 582; People vs. Melgar, G.R. No. 75268, January 29, 1988).
Furthermore, there is no possibility that she could have been mistaken in the identity of the accused for, apart from being at the scene of the crime, she also knew the accused very well as in the past the latter would go to the house of the former to ask for fish. In fact, the accused also admitted having known the victim and his wife since childhood (TSN, August 29, 1990, page 11).(5) Her statements right after the occurrence of the crime constituted part of the res gestae.
(4) She was able to see and identify appellant's weapon.
The armalite rifle itself which was identified by Myrna Azur-Pastor to have been used in shooting to death her husband was brought to court and the description of said rifle by her tallied with the rifle itself as it had a crack and the hole on it was filled up with an epoxy resin (Exhibits `E' and `E-1' or Exhibits `2' and `2-A'; TSN July 20, 1990, pp. 2 to 4).
Even the evidence for the accused show that the subject armalite rifle was the same rifle issued to accused by C2C Danilo Orquita, the CO Supply Sergeant, under a Memorandum Receipt dated June 5, 1989 (Exhibit `A' or Exhibit `1') which was taken by T/Sgt. Ernesto Austero, the Detachment Commander of the accused at Cabanbanan, Calabanga, Camarines Sur, from the accused himself on July 8, 1990 (Exhibit `3') and turned over to T/Sgt. Jose Sanchez and later back to C2C Danilo Orquita who finally delivered said weapon to the court to be utilized as evidence (TSN August 9, 1990, pages 8 to 11; Exhibit `E' or Exhibit `2').
Undoubtedly, the statement of Myrna Azur-Pastor that it was Romeo Belaro who shot and killed her husband when asked by her father as to who killed her husband upon arriving at her house seeing her crying and trembling just immediately after the shooting may be considered as part of the res gestae and the testimonies of Myrna Azur-Pastor and her father Benedicto Azur on said fact are admissible in evidence. This is so because `all that is required for the admissibility of a given statement as part of the res gestae is that it is made under the influence of a startling event witnessed by the person who made the declaration before she had time to think and make-up a story, or to concoct or contrive a falsehood, or to fabricate an account, and without any undue influence in obtaining it, aside from referring to the event in question or its immediate attending circumstances' (Section 36, Rule 130, Revised Rules of Court; People vs. Ner, G.R. No. L-25504, July 31, 1969, 28 SCRA 1151, 1161-1162; People vs. Abboc, G.R. No. L-28327, September 14, 1973, 53 SCRA 54, 61; People vs. Berame, G.R. No. L-27606, July 30, 1976, 72 SCRA 184, 190; and Gaspar Medios vs. C.A. and the People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 79570, January 31, 1989, Cortes, J.).(6) Her testimony was corroborated by other evidence, namely, (a) the necropsy report, (b) the shells and bullet found at the scene of the crime, and (c) the paraffin tests conducted on appellant.
Aside from the testimony of the victim's wife that her husband was shot with an armalite rifle, the Necropsy Report (Exhibit `B') indicates that Salvador Salientes Pastor died of gunshot wounds at Sibobo, Calabanga, Camarines Sur on November 2, 1989 at about 8:10 o'clock in the evening. There were seven gunshot wounds found in various parts of his body and, specifically, the cause of death was severe hemorrhage, internal and external, secondary to gunshot wounds multiple, necks, chin and chest (Exhibits `C' to `C-2'). This substantiates the testimony of the widow of the victim as to the cause of death of her husband.(7) Myrna Pastor's demeanor while on the witness stand is consistent with her testimony.
In his testimony, Medico-Legal Officer, Dr. Belindo Tordilla declared that an M-16 armalite rifle could have caused all the gunshot wounds in the body of the victim as the bullets did not enter the body at right angle and the exit wounds were bigger; that one gun could have caused said wounds; and, that the assailant could have shot the victim at a distance of about five meters only (TSN July 18, 1990, p. 59) which testimony jibes with that of the sole eyewitness that the accused shot her husband with an armalite rifle from only a short distance (TSN July 19, 1990, pp. 27 to 31).
That an armalite rifle was in fact used in shooting the victim is further shown by the 26 empty shells and 1 live bullet (Exhibits `G' to `G-27') which were recovered a day after the incident, by Benedicto Azur, father of the wife of the victim, just at the front door of the house where the shooting took place which shells and bullet he turned over to Pat. Leopoldo Bico of the Police Department of Calabanga, Camarines Sur (TSN July 20, 1990, pp. 59 to 63).
x x x
The paraffin test conducted by NBI Forensic Chemist Julieta Coranes-Flores on the left and right hands of the accused shows that his right hand was found positive with specks located as follows:
Which findings also establish the fact that the accused at the time of the taking of the test on November 3, 1989, had recently fired a gun with his right hand (TSN August 3, 1990, pp. 23 to 29).
- One (1) speck, distal third, second metacarpal,
- One (1) speck, proximal third, middle phalange, index finger,
- One (1) speck, proximal third, proximal phalange, ring finger (Chemistry Report No. C-89-1428, Exhibits `H' to `H-7'),
Although the shells of the bullets that felled the victim (Exhibits `G' to `G-27') and the armalite rifle were brought to the NBI Office at Naga City, no ballistic examination was undertaken as the local NBI Office has no facilities for it which fact this Court takes judicial notice of. Nevertheless, a ballistic examination is not indispensable in this case and even if another weapon was in fact actually used in killing the victim, still the accused cannot escape criminal liability therefor as he was positively identified by the prosecutor eyewitness, Myrna Azur-Pastor, as the one who shot to death her husband.
The Court noted during the trial that while the witnesses for the prosecution, particularly the sole eyewitness and her father who gave her assistance immediately after the victim was shot, testified in a very natural and normal way expressing their shock fright, anguish, anger and indignation as they related what they actually saw and heard in a straightforward manner xxx.In contrast, the trial court observed that the defense witnesses were:
xxx fidgety, evasive and could not even look directly at the cross-examiner especially when testifying on the defense of alibi which the accused put up.The trial court's appraisal of the credibility of witnesses deserves utmost respect since said court had the opportunity to observe their demeanor during the trial.
Here, the requisites of time and place were not strictly met as the evidence of the accused itself show that Barangay Sibobo, Calabanga, Camarines Sur, where the crime was supposedly committed is only about 5 kilometers from the detachment barracks at Cabanbanan, Calabanga, Camarines Sur, where the accused was supposedly staying and a concrete road connects both barangays so that one can easily take a jeep and reach the place in about 15 minutes or hike for an hour (TSN August 29, 1990, pp. 58 to 59). Hence, the accused was not able to show that he was at some other place for such period of time as to preclude or render impossible his presence at the place where the crime was committed at the time of its commission (People vs. Rizal Idnay, G.R. No. L-48269, August 15, 1988, Melencio-Herrera J.). Moreover, alibi as a defense is inherently weak for it is easy to fabricate (Edwin Reano, et al., vs. C.A. and People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 60992, September 21, 1988, Cortes J.).Considering the foregoing circumstances, we rule that the trial court did not err in convicting appellant. Proof of his guilt was established beyond reasonable doubt.
Thus, Myrna could not have known that appellant was about to kill her husband. She did not have a clue as to appellant's murderous intentions. Appellant did not utter a word that would have put her on alert. Though appellant was pointing his rifle at the door and his breath reeked of alcohol, these circumstances did not necessarily mean that he was going to kill Salvador Pastor. Accordingly, Myrna could not have warned her husband of appellant's impending attack. Her testimony shows that she did not, in fact convey any warning to her husband, telling him only that "Romeo Belaro was there."
Q What did the one calling say? A Ma and Pa. Q When you heard that voice from the outside calling Ma and Pa, what did your husband do? A My husband told me to go down the stairs and open the door. Q Do you know why your husband ordered you to open the door, do you know who was outside? xxx A I do not know him, sir. ATTY. GENERAL Q When you open the door what did you see? A I saw Romeo Belaro.
Q What was Romeo Belaro doing? A He was standing near the door with an armalite. Q How was he carrying the armalite? INTERPRETER Witness demonstrated before the court the position of Romeo Belaro while he was carrying the firearm with her two hands holding the rifle. ATTY. GENERAL Where was the nozzle of the armalite carried by Belaro pointed when you saw him? xxx A Towards the door. ATTY. GENERAL Q What did you do when you saw Belaro standing near you pointing his rifle towards the door?
That the victim was unaware of appellant's intentions was evident from the fact that, as the Office of the Solicitor General astutely observes, he even carried their youngest child with him when he opened the door for appellant. Thereafter, Salvador tossed the child to his wife and pushed her aside. Only seconds lapsed until Salvador Pastor was killed, felled by bullets from appellant's rifle. No doubt, the killing was treacherous, the offense-murder.
ATTY. GENERAL Q What did you do when you saw Belaro standing near you pointing his rifle towards the door? A I closed the door because I was afraid and went up the house to my husband and told him that Romeo Belaro was there. xxx Q What did your husband do? A He stood up and go down the house. Q What about you, what did you also do? A I was just following, sir. Q
What did your husband do next as he came down from your bedroom?
A When he went down from the bedroom he opened the door and when he saw Romeo Belaro he gave me the child and pushed me aside. Q What happened after that? A He was shot.
The ordinary rule is that intoxication may be considered either as aggravating or as mitigating, depending upon the circumstances attending the commission of the crime. Intoxication has the effect of decreasing the penalty, if the intoxication is not habitual or subsequent to the plan to commit the contemplated crime; upon the other hand, when intoxication is habitual or intentional, it is considered as an aggravating circumstance. The person pleading intoxication must present proof that he had taken a quantity of alcoholic beverage, prior to the commission of the crime, sufficient to produce the effect of blurring his reason; and at the same time, he must prove that not only was intoxication not habitual but also that his imbibing the alcoholic drink was not intended to fortify his resolve to commit the crime.Appellant failed to introduce evidence to support the presence of this mitigating circumstance. He cannot be entitled to this mitigating circumstance merely on the declaration of the prosecution witness that appellant was drunk. Even if we consider Myrna Pastor's testimony that appellant reeked of alcohol, this does not warrant a conclusion that the degree of intoxication affected his mental faculties. Appellant also did not prove that such intoxication was not habitual or intentional. This he failed to do, for the reason that appellant's defense was that of alibi.