478 Phil. 446
That on or about the 6th day of June, 1997, in the Municipality of Parañaque, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with intent to kill and with treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab one Paz Abiera with a bladed weapon on her chest, thereby inflicting upon her serious and mortal wounds which directly caused her death.Upon arraignment, appellant, with the assistance of Atty. Dante O. Garin of the Public Attorney’s Office, pleaded guilty to the charge. Trial then ensued.
With the aggravating circumstances of cruelty and abuse of superior strength.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Assessing the evidence on record, particularly considering the admission made in open Court by the herein accused despite having been duly informed by his counsel of the consequences of his testimony, this Court finds without an iota of doubt that he alone committed the abominable act of killing his aunt and later on hideously dismembering her body in his attempt to hide the corpus of his crime. Truly unspeakable is the manner by which accused Murillo disposed of the body of the victim first by cutting her body parts and hiding them in a septic tank and then throwing away the victim’s head in a canal or drainage along the service road near the South Superhighway.The dispositive portion of the decision reads:
. . .
The information charges the herein accused for committing the crime of Murder with the qualifying circumstances of treachery (alevosia) and evident premeditation and with cruelty and abuse of superior strength as aggravating circumstances.
On the aggravating circumstances of abuse of superior strength, the mere fact that the assailant is a male person whereas the victim is a woman does not ipso fact mean that such circumstance can be appreciated by the Court unless perhaps if it was shown that the attacker was a Hulk Hogan and the victim is a frail reed thin woman. Cruelty likewise cannot be inferred in the case at bar from the fact that the body of the deceased was dismembered in the absence of proof that this was done while the victim was still alive. The object sought to be attained by Murillo in this case may well have been to make the recovery of the body of the victim absolutely impossible.
In regard to the qualifying circumstances of treachery or alevosia and evident premeditation, the fact that no commotion, no unusual sounds or noises were even heard or noticed in the vicinity at the time of the stabbing of the victim would indicate that the accused planned the killing and made sure that in its execution, there would be no risk to himself arising from any defense which said victim might make. Considering the rule however, that, if two or more possible qualifying circumstances were alleged and proven or in the case obtaining at the bar, only one would qualify the offense to Murder and the other would be generic.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, finding accused FREDDIE MURILLO, GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder as defined and penalized under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code with the qualifying and/or generic aggravating circumstances of treachery or alevosia and or evident premeditation, this Court hereby sentences him to the penalty of DEATH and to suffer the accessory penalties provided by law specifically Art. 40 of the Revised Penal Code. For the civil liabilities, he is further condemned to indemnify the heirs of the herein victim Paz Abiera the amount ofHence this automatic review pursuant to Article 47 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.
P50,000.00 in line with existing jurisprudence; P27,000.00 for funeral expenses; P50,000.00 for moral damages and P50,000.00 for exemplary damages.
The Clerk of Court is also directed to prepare the Mittimus for the immediate transfer of accused Freddie Murillo from the Parañaque City Jail to the Bureau of Correction in Muntinlupa City and finally to forward all the records of this case to the Supreme Court for automatic review in accordance with Sec. 9, Rule 122 of the Rules of Court and Art. 47 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R.A. 7659.
Appellant argues: His plea of guilt was improvident since there was no indication that he fully understood that the qualifying circumstances charged in the information would result to the penalty of death. He only admitted the killing but not the circumstances of treachery and evident premeditation. There could be no evident premeditation since he stabbed Paz only after losing his senses. There could also be no treachery since it cannot be determined with certainty whether or not the wounds inflicted on the victim were made before or after her death. The aggravating circumstance of “outraging or scoffing at his person or corpse” cannot be appreciated in this case since it was not alleged in the Information.I
…IN CONVICTING (HIM) OF THE CRIME OF MURDER AND SENTENCING HIM TO DEATH ON THE BASIS OF HIS IMPROVIDENT PLEA OF GUITY; andII
…IN CONSIDERING THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF TREACHERY AND EVIDENT PREMEDITATION IN QUALIFYING THE KILLING TO MURDER NOTWITHSTANDING THAT THE PROSECUTION FAILED TO ESTABLISH THE SAME.
SEC. 3. Plea of guilty to capital offense; reception of evidence.--- When the accused pleads guilty to a capital offense, the court shall conduct a searching inquiry into the voluntariness and full comprehension of the consequences of his plea and shall require the prosecution to prove his guilt and the precise degree of culpability. The accused may also present evidence in his behalf.The reason for this rule is that courts must necessarily proceed with more care where the possible punishment is in its severest form – death – for the reason that the execution of such sentence is irrevocable. Experience has shown that innocent persons have at times pleaded guilty in the hope of a lenient treatment, or upon bad advice or because of promises of the authorities or parties of a lighter penalty should he admit guilt or express remorse. An accused might be admitting his guilt before the court and thus forfeit his life and liberty without having fully understood the meaning, significance and consequences of his plea. The judge therefore has the duty to ensure that the accused does not suffer by reason of mistaken impressions. Requiring the trial court to take further evidence would also aid this Court on appellate review in evaluating the propriety or impropriety of the plea.
In the case at bar, records do not show that a searching inquiry was ever conducted by the judge when appellant entered his plea of guilty. The Order dated July 14, 1997 simply reads as follows:
- Ascertain from the accused himself (a) how he was brought into the custody of the law; (b) whether he had the assistance of a competent counsel during the custodial and preliminary investigations; and (c) under what conditions he was detained and interrogated during the investigations. This is intended to rule out the possibility that the accused has been coerced or placed under a state of duress either by actual threats of physical harm coming from malevolent quarters or simply because of the judge’s intimidating robes.
- Ask the defense counsel a series of questions as to whether he had conferred with, and completely explained to, the accused the meaning and consequences of a plea of guilty.
- Elicit information about the personality profile of the accused, such as his age, socio-economic status, and educational background, which may serve as a trustworthy index of his capacity to give a free and informed plea of guilty.
- Inform the accused the exact length of imprisonment or nature of the penalty under the law and the certainty that he will serve such sentence. For not infrequently, an accused pleads guilty in the hope of a lenient treatment or upon bad advice or because of promises of the authorities or parties of a lighter penalty should he admit guilt or express remorse. It is the duty of the judge to ensure that the accused does not labor under these mistaken impressions because a plea of guilty carries with it not only the admission of authorship of the crime proper but also of the aggravating circumstances attending it, that increase punishment.
- Inquire if the accused knows the crime with which he is charged and fully explain to him the elements of the crime which is the basis of his indictment. Failure of the court to do so would constitute a violation of his fundamental right to be informed of the precise nature of the accusation against him and a denial of his right to due process.
- All questions posed to the accused should be in a language known and understood by the latter.
- The trial judge must satisfy himself that the accused in pleading guilty, is truly guilty. The accused must be required to narrate the tragedy or reenact the crime or furnish its missing details.
Accused, when arraigned, with the assistance of Atty. Dante O Garin of the Public Attorney’s Office, pleaded GUILTY to the crime charged in the information.While we have held that the absence of the transcript of stenographic notes of the proceedings during the arraignment does not make the procedure flawed, the minutes of the proceedings, however, must indubitably show that the judge has substantially complied with the requirements of Rule 116, Sec. 3. No less than a man’s life is at stake in this case. Whatever appellant might have said to show that he was waiving his defense voluntarily and with full knowledge of the consequences of his plea should have been made of record. Here, there is no proof at all that the judge ever conducted any searching inquiry.
Let this case be set for hearing on July 28, 1997 at 8:30 o’clock in the morning.
Let subpoena be issued to all prosecution witnesses for the next scheduled hearing.
Under Sec. 3, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court, when the accused pleads guilty to a capital offense, the court shall conduct a searching inquiry into the voluntariness and full comprehension of the consequences of his plea and require the prosecution to prove his guilt and the precise degree of culpability. The accused may also present evidence in his behalf.The transcript of how the defense counsel, Atty. Dante O. Garin of the Public Attorney’s Office, supposedly informed the accused of his rights also merely read as follows:
In People vs. Salvador, 224 SCRA 819, to be liable for murder, an accused must be proven to have committed the killing of another person under the attendant circumstances specified in Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code.
In People vs. Jocson, 163 SCRA 525, Accused’s plea of guilty which was freely and voluntarily made added to the evidence adduced by the prosecution sufficiently established his culpability.
With the plea of guilty, appellant had admitted the commission of the unlawful act. Hence, the presumption is that the act was done with an unlawful intent unless accused rebuts this presumption. People vs. Verona, 163 SCRA 614.
Assessing the evidence on record, particularly considering the admission made in open Court by the herein accused despite having been duly informed by his counsel of the consequences of his testimony, this Court finds without an iota of doubt that he alone committed the abominable act of killing his aunt and later on hideously dismembering her body in his attempt to hide the corpus of his crime. Truly unspeakable is the manner by which accused Murillo disposed of the body of the victim first by cutting her body parts and hiding them in a septic tank and then throwing away the victim’s head in a canal or drainage along the service road near the South Superhighway.
ATTY. GARIN:Clearly, the proceedings taken by the trial court was short of being satisfactory. Appellant was never asked about the circumstances of his arrest and detention, not even when SPO2 Nieves himself in his testimony mentioned that he ordered that the two brothers be brought to “Block 6” for questioning without the presence of counsel. Where or what kind of place “Block 6” is, was not even explained by the witness neither did the court nor the defense counsel ask the witness to clarify said point. The Court also did not ask appellant about the circumstances of his arraignment as well as his age and educational attainment. He was also neither apprised of the consequences of his plea nor was it explained to him that the penalty imposable for the crime attended by its qualifying circumstances as alleged in the Information is death regardless of the presence of mitigating circumstances.
Your Honor please the accused already pleaded guilty to the offense charged and the only reason we have to the motion of presenting evidence is that the guilt of the accused must be proven by the prosecution notwithstanding the plea of guilty entered into during his arraignment. This representation your Honor finds it necessary to inform the accused of his constitutional rights. And with the Court’s permission, before he will testify as hostile witness, I would like to inform the accused for the record.
Q. Mr. Freddie Murillo, ikaw ang akusado dito sa kasong ito. Ang proseso natin aykung sino man ang nagbibintang ay siyang dapat magpatunay ng kasalanang ibinibintang. Sa sitwasyong ito, ikaw ay pinagbibintangan ng kasong murder. At ang ebidensiyang gagamitin ay dapat manggagaling sa kung sino man ang nagbibintang sa iyo na ikaw ay nakapatay ng tao. Ngayon ikaw ay uupo ngayon sa silyang iyan para magsalita tungkol doon sa pangyayari. Meron kang karapatan na hindi pumayag na magsalita ng ano’ng bagay na maaaring ikapahamak mo. Maaari mong hindi sagutin iyong tanong, maaring hindi ka umupo riyan, nasa sa iyo ang desisyon. Naiintindihan mo ba?
Q. Ngayong naipaliwanag ko na sa iyo ikaw ba ay handang magsalita tungkol sakasong ito?
That’s all for the witness, your Honor.