626 Phil. 280

THIRD DIVISION

[ G.R. No. 187683, February 11, 2010 ]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, APPELLEE, VS. VICTORIANO DELA CRUZ Y LORENZO, APPELLANT.

D E C I S I O N

NACHURA, J.:

Before this Court is an Appeal,[1] seeking the reversal of the Court of Appeals (CA) Decision[2] dated October 31, 2008, which affirmed with modification the Decision[3] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Malolos,

Bulacan, Branch 11, dated August 15, 2005, convicting appellant Victoriano dela Cruz y Lorenzo[4] (Victoriano) of the crime of Parricide.

The Facts

Victoriano was charged with the crime of Parricide in an Information[5] dated January 2, 2003, which reads:

That on or about the 18th day of August, 2002, in the municipality of Malolos, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with intent to kill his wife Anna Liza Caparas-dela Cruz, with whom he was united in lawful wedlock, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, use personal violence and stab the said Anna Liza Caparas-dela Cruz, hitting the latter on her trunk and on the different parts of her body, thereby inflicting upon her serious physical injuries which directly caused her death.

Contrary to law.

Upon arraignment, Victoriano, with the assistance of counsel, pleaded not guilty to the offense charged.[6] Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued. In the course of the trial, two varying versions arose.

Version of the Prosecution

Joel Song (Joel) testified that between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. on August 18, 2002, he and two others, including the aunt of Victoriano, were playing a card game known as tong-its just three to four arms length away from the latter's house.

While playing, Joel saw Victoriano punching and kicking his wife, herein victim Anna Liza Caparas-dela Cruz[7] (Anna), in front of their house. Joel knew the wife's name as "Joan." Victoriano then dragged Anna inside the house by pulling the latter's hair, then slammed the door. Joel overheard the couple shouting while they were already inside the house.[8]

Suddenly, Victoriano and Anna came out of the house, together with their young daughter. Victoriano was behind Anna, with his arms wrapped around her. He asked for Joel's help. Joel noticed blood spurting out of Anna's mouth. He took the couple's daughter and gave her to Victoriano's aunt. He then went with them to the Bulacan Provincial Hospital (hospital) on board a tricycle. However, Anna died.[9]

On the same day, at about 6:30 p.m., Senior Police Officers 1 Condrado Umali and Eligio Jose, responding to the call of duty, went to the hospital for investigation. There, Victoriano was turned over to the police officers by the hospital's security guard on duty.[10]

The Certificate of Death,[11] prepared by Police Senior Inspector and Medico-Legal Officer, Dr. Ivan Richard Viray (Dr. Viray), showed that Victoriano's wife died of "hemorrhagic shock as a result of a stab wound, trunk." Moreover, in his Medico-Legal Report[12] dated August 21, 2002, Dr. Viray had the following findings:

HEAD and NECK:

1) Hematoma, frontal region, measuring 3 x 3 cm, 3 cm right of the anterior midline.
2) Hematoma, left orbital region, measuring 2 x 2 cm, 3 cm from the anterior midline.

CHEST and ABDOMEN:

1) Stab wound, penetrating, right shoulder region, measuring 2 x .5 cm, 2 cm right of the posterior midline, about 12 cm deep, directed lateralwards and slightly downwards, piercing the underlying tissues and muscle, lacerating the upper lobe of the right lungs.

x x x x

There are about 2000 cc of blood and blood clots at the thoracic cavity.

UPPER and LOWER EXTREMITIES:

1) Hematoma, distal 3rd of the left forearm, measuring 7 x 4 cm, bisected by its posterior midline, with superimposed abrasion, measuring 1.5 x 7 cm, along its anterior midline.

Version of the Defense


Victoriano testified that, at around 6:30 p.m. on August 18, 2002, he came home very drunk from a friend's house. Before he could enter their house, his wife, Anna, started nagging him saying, "Hindi ka naman pala namamasada, nakipag-inuman ka pa." He asked her to go inside their house but she refused. Thus, Victoriano slapped Anna and dragged her inside their house.

Due to the continuous nagging of Anna, Victoriano pushed her aside so he could go out of the house. However, she fell on a jalousie window, breaking it in the process. When he helped her stand up, Victoriano noticed that her back was punctured by a piece of shattered glass of the jalousie. He brought her outside immediately and asked the help of his neighbors who were playing tong-its nearby. Victoriano admitted that Joel accompanied him and his wife to the hospital.

At the hospital, Victoriano was taken into custody by policemen for questioning. It was only in the following morning that Victoriano learned of his wife's passing.

Victoriano also testified that he does not usually drink; that he consumed hard liquor at the time of the incident; that Anna was not immediately treated in the hospital; that he loved his wife; and that he did not intentionally hurt her.[13]

The Lower Courts' Ruling

On August 15, 2005, the RTC rendered a Decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, this Court finds the accused Victoriano L. dela Cruz Guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Parricide under Art. 246 of the Revised Penal Code and hereby sentences him to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua and to pay the heirs of the late Anna Liza Caparas-dela Cruz the following sums of money, to wit:
  1. P60,000.00 as civil liability
  2. P50,000.00 as moral damages, and
  3. P30,000.00 as exemplary damages.
SO ORDERED.[14]
Aggrieved, Victoriano appealed to the CA.[15]

On October 31, 2008, the CA affirmed with modification the findings of the RTC, thus:

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated 15 August 2005 of the Regional Trial Court, Third Judicial Region, Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 11, is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS. The award of civil indemnity is reduced to P50,000.00 and the award of exemplary damages is deleted.

SO ORDERED.[16]

Hence, this appeal.

In its Manifestation[17] filed before this Court, appellee, People of the Philippines, as represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, intimated that it was no longer filing any Supplemental Brief in support of its position.

Meanwhile, in his Supplemental Brief,[18] Victoriano, as represented by the Public Attorney's Office, claimed that the CA erred in appreciating Joel's testimony, since the latter merely testified on the non-mortal wounds that Anna suffered when the couple were outside the house. Insofar as the actual killing was concerned, Joel's testimony was merely circumstantial. Moreover, Victoriano averred that he did not intend to commit so grave a wrong against his wife, evident from the facts that he carried the injured body of his wife; that he sought for help after the accident; and that he brought her to the hospital for medical treatment. Furthermore, Victoriano asseverated that he was very drunk at the time. Thus, he prayed that these mitigating circumstances be appreciated in his favor.

Our Ruling

The instant appeal is bereft of merit.

The crime of Parricide is defined and punished under Article 246 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), to wit:

Art. 246. Parricide. -- Any person who shall kill his father, mother, or child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, or any of his ascendants, or descendants, or his spouse, shall be guilty of parricide and shall be punished by the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death.

It is committed when: (1) a person is killed; (2) the deceased is killed by the accused; and (3) the deceased is the father, mother, or child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, or a legitimate other ascendant or other descendant, or the legitimate spouse of the accused. The key element in Parricide ― other than the fact of killing ― is the relationship of the offender to the victim. In the case of Parricide of a spouse, the best proof of the relationship between the accused and the deceased would be the marriage certificate. In this case, the testimony of the accused that he was married to the victim, in itself, is ample proof of such relationship as the testimony can be taken as an admission against penal interest.[19] Clearly, then, it was established that Victoriano and Anna were husband and wife.

Victoriano claims that Joel's testimony coincides with his own, which refers to the slapping incident that occurred outside their house. It does not at all point to him as the actual perpetrator of the crime. Thus, Victoriano submits that Joel's testimony is merely circumstantial.

But circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction, as we ruled in People v. Castillo:[20]

Direct evidence of the commission of the offense is not the only matrix wherefrom a trial court may draw its conclusions and finding of guilt. Conviction can be had on the basis of circumstantial evidence provided that: (1) there is more than one circumstance; (2) the facts from which the inferences are derived are proven; and (3) the combination of all the circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. While no general rule can be laid down as to the quantity of circumstantial evidence which will suffice in a given case, all the circumstances proved must be consistent with each other, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty, and at the same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent, and with every other rational hypothesis except that of guilt. The circumstances proved should constitute an unbroken chain which leads to only one fair and reasonable conclusion that the accused, to the exclusion of all others, is the guilty person. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean the degree of proof excluding the possibility of error and producing absolute certainty. Only moral certainty or "that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind" is required.[21]

In this case, we note the presence of the requisites for circumstantial evidence to sustain a conviction. First, immediately preceding the killing, Victoriano physically maltreated his wife, not merely by slapping her as he claimed, but by repeatedly punching and kicking her. Second, it was Victoriano who violently dragged the victim inside their house, by pulling her hair. Third, in Dr. Viray's Report, Anna sustained injuries in different parts of her body due to Victoriano's acts of physical abuse. Fourth, the location and extent of the wound indicated Victoriano's intent to kill the victim. The Report revealed that the victim sustained a fatal stab wound, lacerating the upper lobe of her right lung, a vital organ. The extent of the physical injury inflicted on the deceased manifests Victoriano's intention to extinguish life. Fifth, as found by both the RTC and the CA, only Victoriano and Anna were inside the house, other than their young daughter. Thus, it can be said with certitude that Victoriano was the lone assailant. Sixth, we have held that the act of carrying the body of a wounded victim and bringing her to the hospital ― as Victoriano did ― does not

manifest innocence. It could merely be an indication of repentance or contrition on his part.[22]

The foregoing circumstances are proven facts, and the Court finds no reason to discredit Joel's testimony and Dr. Viray's Report. Besides, well-entrenched is the rule that the trial court's assessment of the credibility of witnesses is accorded great respect and will not be disturbed on appeal, inasmuch as the court below was in a position to observe the demeanor of the witnesses while testifying. The Court does not find any arbitrariness or

error on the part of the RTC as would warrant a deviation from this well-entrenched rule.[23]

Even if, for the sake of argument, we consider Victoriano's claim that the injury sustained by his wife was caused by an accident, without fault or intention of causing it, it is clear that Victoriano was not performing a lawful act at the time of the incident. Before an accused may be exempted from criminal liability by the invocation of Article 12 (paragraph 4) of the RPC, the following elements must concur: (1) a person is performing a lawful act (2) with due care, and (3) he causes an injury to another by mere accident and (4) without any fault or intention of causing it. For an accident to become an exempting circumstance, the act that causes the injury has to be lawful.[24] Victoriano's act of physically maltreating his spouse is definitely not a lawful act. To say otherwise would be a travesty -- a gross affront to our existing laws on violence against women. Thus, we fully agree with the apt findings of the CA, to wit:

With the foregoing avowal, We find that the death of appellant's wife was not caused by mere accident. An accident is an occurrence that "happens outside the sway of our will, and although it comes about through some act of our will, lies beyond the bounds of humanly foreseeable consequences." It connotes the absence of criminal intent. Intent is a mental state, the existence of which is shown by a person's overt acts.

In the case at bench, evidence disclosed that appellant started beating his wife outside their house and was even the one who dragged her inside. This, to Our mind, contradicts his theory that he only pushed her so as to go out of the house to avoid any further quarrel. Such incongruity whittles down appellant's defense that he did not deliberately kill his wife.[25]

Finally, a person pleading intoxication to mitigate penalty must present proof of having taken a quantity of alcoholic beverage prior to the commission of the crime, sufficient to produce the effect of obfuscating reason.[26] In short, the defense must show that the intoxication is not habitual, and not subsequent to a plan to commit a felony, and that the accused's drunkenness affected his mental faculties. In this case, the absence of any independent proof that his alcohol intake affected his mental faculties militate against Victoriano's claim that he was so intoxicated at the time he committed the crime to mitigate his liability.[27]

In sum, Victoriano failed to sufficiently show that the CA committed any reversible error in its assailed Decision. His guilt was sufficiently established by circumstantial evidence.

The penalty of reclusion perpetua was correctly imposed, considering that there was neither any mitigating nor aggravating circumstance. The heirs of the victim are entitled to a civil indemnity ex delicto of P50,000.00, which is mandatory upon proof of the fact of death of the victim and the culpability of the accused for such death. Likewise, moral damages, in the amount of P50,000.00, should be awarded even in the absence of allegation and proof of the emotional suffering of the victim's heirs, because certainly the family suffered emotional pain brought about by Anna's death.

However, the CA erred when it deleted the award of exemplary damages. In line with current jurisprudence, it is but fitting that exemplary damages, in the sum of P30,000.00, be awarded, considering that the qualifying circumstance of relationship is present, this being a case of Parricide.[28]

WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR HC No. 01575, finding appellant, Victoriano dela Cruz y Lorenzo, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Parricide, is hereby AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION. Appellant is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the heirs of the victim, Anna Liza Caparas-dela Cruz, the amounts of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Corona, (Chairperson), Velasco, Jr., Peralta, and Mendoza, JJ., concur.



[1] CA rollo, pp. 118-119.

[2] Particularly docketed as CA-G.R. CR HC No. 01575, penned by Associate Justice Japar B. Dimaampao, with Associate Justices Amelita G. Tolentino and Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr., concurring; rollo, pp. 2-11.

[3] Records, pp. 114-116.

[4] Also referred to as Victorino, Jon-Jon and John-John in other documents and pleadings.

[5] Records, p. 1.

[6] Id. at 9.

[7] Also referred to as Joan and Me Ann in other documents and pleadings.

[8] TSN, August 6, 2003, pp. 2-3.

[9] Id. at 4.

[10] TSN, March 5, 2003, pp. 2-3.

[11] Records, p. 68.

[12] Id. at 69.

[13] TSN, June 16, 2004, pp. 2-7.

[14] Supra note 3, at 16.

[15] Records, p. 120.

[16] Supra note 2, at 10.

[17] Rollo, pp. 25-26.

[18] Id. at 28-32.

[19]People v. Velasco, 404 Phil. 369, 379 (2001).

[20] G.R. No. 172695, June 29, 2007, 526 SCRA 215.

[21] Id. at 221-222. (Citations omitted.)

[22] BId. at 225, citing People v. Nepomuceno, Jr., 298 SCRA 450, 462 (1998).

[23] People v. Mactal, 449 Phil. 653, 661 (2003).

[24] People v. Agliday, 419 Phil. 555, 564 (2001).

[25] Supra note 2, at 9.

[26] People v. Cortes, 413 Phil. 386, 393 (2001).

[27] People v. Mondigo, G.R. No. 167954, January 31, 2008, 543 SCRA 384, 392.

[28] People v. Español, G.R. No. 175603, February 13, 2009, 579 SCRA 326, 340; People v. Paycana, Jr., G.R. No. 179035, April 16, 2008, 551 SCRA 657, 668; People v. Ayuman, G.R. No. 133436, April 14, 2004, 427 SCRA 248, 260; and People v. Arnante, G.R. No. 148724, October 15, 2002, 391 SCRA 155, 161.



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