G.R. No. 122248 February 11, 1999
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
ROGER DORADO, accused-appellant.
DAVIDE, JR., C. J.:
Accused-appellant Roger Dorado (hereafter ROGER) appeals from the decision1 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 18, Roxas City, in Criminal case No. C-4588, which convicted him of murder and accordingly sentenced him to serve the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the heirs of the victim, Isidro Buñi, P50,085,50 as actual damages and P50,000,00 as civil indemnity.
The criminal complaint accusing ROGER of murder was based on the sworn statements of the victim's widow, Nelly Buñi, and three eyewitnesses, Danilo Tapayan, Adorico Sarcino, and Gigger Besana. 2 ROGER, who was on bail, waived presentation of evidence in the preliminary investigation.
On 30 June 1994, an information 3
was filed with the RTC of Roxas City charging ROGER with the crime of murder; thus:
That on or about 2:00 o'clock in the morning of January 23, 1994, at Sitio Tico, Brgy. Tabuc, Pontevedra, Capiz, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, the said accused did then and there, and with deliberate intent to take the life of ISIDRO BUÑI, wilfully, feloniously and treacherously stab the latter [ ] inflicting upon him a mortal wound on the stomach thereby causing the untimely death of said victim.
CONTRARY TO LAW and with the qualifying circumstance of treachery.
The prosecution presented the following witnesses: Gigger Besana, Dr. Gervacio Diaz, and Nelly Buñi.
Besana knew ROGER, whose wife was his (Besana's) cousin. He testified that in the early morning of 23 January 1994 he was in a benefit dance. His companions included Danilo Tapayan and the victim, Isidro Buñi. At that time, ROGER was some three meters away from Isidro, who was conversing with Danilo and facing the dance hall. He saw ROGER approach Isidro from behind, place his hand on Isidro's shoulder, and stab him in his stomach. Besana was just one-and-a-half meters away. He was certain of what he saw because the place was well lit. He described the weapon as "a small long knife" and twice demonstrated how ROGER stabbed Isidro. He also claimed that Isidro had no opportunity to defend himself. He knew no reason for the attack, since no altercation between the two took place. After the incident, ROGER fled the scene. Besana then approached Isidro, who was slumped on the ground. Seeing the gravity of Isidro's injury, he and several men brought Isidro to the hospital. Isidro eventually died. 4
Dr. Gervacio Diaz was the doctor who examined Isidro in the hospital. He immediately operated on him, but Isidro expired some hours later due to profuse bleeding. He then issued a medical certificate, 5 which described the single stab wound inflicted on Isidro. He opined that the wound was caused by a long, sharp bladed instrument. He also issued a death certificate, 6 which indicated that the proximate cause of death was hemorrhage due to a stab wound. 7
Nelly Buñi, the widow of Isidro, testified that in the dawn of 23 January 1994 she was fetched from her boarding house and brought to the hospital where her husband was. While in the surgical ward, her husband; managed to converse with her. When asked who could have stabbed him, her husband replied that he failed to see the assailant because the latter came from behind. Her husband died that afternoon. She incurred expenses for the hospitalization and funeral services in the amounts of P11,085.50 and P15,000.00, respectively. Both were covered by official receipts. 8 She separately paid Dr. Diaz P9,000.00 as professional fee; however, no receipt was issued. She estimated that funeral expenses amounted to P30,000.00, since her husband lay in state for one month. The interment was delayed because the family awaited the arrival of her brother, who was a seaman. 9
As might be expected, the defense had a different version.
Carlos Borbon testified that in the evening of 22 January 1994 he could not sleep at home because of the blaring music coming from the benefit dance. He left home to watch the affair from outside the dance hall. 10 He claimed that an altercation between ROGER and the victim, Isidro Buñi, occurred that evening. It involved the bidding of a basket of goods held in the benefit dance. The emcee of the benefit dance declared that Isidro was buying the basket at P200. Part of the prize was the honor to dance with the lady who held the basket. Isidro got to dance with the lady. Thereafter, the emcee again inquired who would like to dance next with the lady. ROGER volunteered and declared that, he also wanted to buy the basket at P250. The emcee thus took the basket from Isidro and handed it to ROGER, who also danced with the lady. After the dance, ROGER returned to his seat. Isidro accosted him, thrusted his fingers on ROGER's face, and demanded why ROGER bought the basket which was already his. Isidro then kicked ROGER's foot. ROGER stood up, and Isidro immediately brandished a knife from his waist. Before Isidro could harm ROGER, the latter was able to get the knife from the former by twisting Isidro's hand. Isidro tried to grapple the knife. In the process, ROGER stabbed Isidro once. Thereafter, ROGER ran out of the dance hall. 11
Borbon also claimed that he was testifying on his own volition because the killing of Isidro was indeed done by ROGER in self-defense. He did not immediately report the matter to the police because no one bothered to ask him. He also knew that after the incident the police was searching for ROGER, who was hiding in the place of his in-laws. He agreed to testify upon the request of ROGER's wife. 12
ROGER invoked self-defense in his testimony. He declared that he arrived at the benefit dance at around 11:00 p.m. of 22 January 1994. The dance continued until the following morning. During the affair, a bidding of a basket of goods took place. A certain Isidro Buñi gave a bid of P200, and he was able to dance with the lady who held the basket of goods. Thereafter, ROGER decided to also bid for the basket at P250. The emcee led the lady to him, and he likewise danced with her. While they were dancing another person gave a higher bid of P300. The lady was taken from him and offered to the next bidder. He thus returned to his seat. Isidro followed him to his seat and thrusted his fingers towards him. Isidro claimed that the basket was already his and demanded why he, ROGER, had to dance with the lady. Isidro appeared drunk and angry. When ROGER stood up, Isidro kicked him and pulled a knife from his waist. Roger managed to grab the knife from Isidro, but the latter tried to wrest it from the former. Instead, he lunged the knife once into Isidro's waist. He was afraid that should Isidro take possession of the knife the latter would stab him. 13
ROGER fled the scene because Isidro had several companions. He proceeded to the house of his in-laws and stayed there for three days. He did not surrender since no complaint was filed against him. He remained in hiding because he was afraid of Isidro's family, which was powerful. He also admitted that he only surfaced when his bail bond was ready, which was almost four months after the incident. 14
The prosecution presented rebuttal evidence through the testimonies of Amable Bertuso and Jose Belvis.
Bertuso was the master of ceremonies of the benefit dance. He arrived at about 10:00 p.m. of 22 January 1994. There were five basket of goods for bidding. He testified that ROGER neither danced nor bidded for a basket. The last basket to be sold was initially bidded by Gigger Besana at P250. The bid was upped by Isidro at P300. The basket was eventually awarded to Isidro. At the time the stabbing incident happened, he was nowhere in the dance hall; he had gone home. His testimony was obtained through the invitation of ROGER's brother-in-law. 15
Jose Belvis testified that he knew Carlos Borbon, who married his (Jose's) cousin. He claimed that ROGER and Carlos were related by affinity; ROGER married the niece of Carlos' wife. 16
In its decision of 21 July 1995, the trial court convicted ROGER. It rejected the theory of self-defense and, instead, gave credence to the version of the witnesses for the prosecution. It cited inconsistencies in the testimony of ROGER's witness, Carlos Borbon. It also declared that ROGER's flight from the scene of the crime was indicative of his guilt. It appreciated treachery because the accused, without any provocation, suddenly attacked the victim from behind without giving the latter an opportunity to defend himself.
ROGER appealed the decision, contending that the trial court erred in (1) declaring that treachery attended the killing of Isidro Buñi; (2) convicting him of the crime of murder; and (3) rejecting his plea of self-defense.
According to ROGER, it does not necessarily follow that treachery exists when the attack was sudden and unexpected. For treachery to be considered as a qualifying circumstance, it should be shown that the, offender consciously and deliberately adopted particular means to ensure the execution of the crime without risk to himself. The testimony of Gigger Besana that ROGER came from behind the victim and stabbed the latter with one hand while the other hand was placed on the victim's shoulder does not establish treachery.
ROGER further maintains that the killing of Isidro Buñi was an act of self-defense. The testimony of his witness, Carlos Borbon, was truthful and credible. The inconsistencies pointed out by the trial court did not pertain to the act of killing, but rather to minor matters such as his relationship by affinity with ROGER.
Finally, ROGER asserts that his flight should not be taken against him. The reason he immediately fled the scene after the incident was that he was taken by fear — the family of the deceased was powerful and that night the deceased had several companions. He emphasizes that he immediately surrendered upon securing his bail bond.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) refutes the errors raised in this appeal. It contends that treachery was evident because there was no prior altercation that might have put the victim on guard. The attack was swift and sudden, coming from the victim's back, therefore, unabling the victim to defend himself.
The OSG further argues that the theory of self-defense is weak. The testimony of the defense witness, Carlos Borbon, was rehearsed and incredible. His belated disclosure of what he allegedly witnessed casts doubt on his credibility and his presence in the scene of the crime. It can only be concluded that Borbon was a biased witness, and the prosecution dutifully exposed his relationship by affinity with the accused.
Finally, the OSG notes that ROGER's behavior after the incident runs contrary to his proclaimed innocence. His flight and failure to immediately report the matter to the police negate self-defense. Also, the fact that he waived his right to present evidence in the preliminary investigation strongly suggest that he did not act in self-defense.
We sustain ROGER's conviction.
The first issue to settle is whether the killing of Isidro Buñi was an act of self-defense. Self-defense as a justifying circumstance must satisfy the following requirements: (1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to repel the aggression; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the accused. 17 The burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the killing was justified is on the accused. In doing so, he must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of that of the prosecution. 18
ROGER insists that he acted in self-defense. He asserts that there was a prior altercation between him and the deceased. The latter assaulted him and then brought out a knife. He feared for his life and tried to wrest the knife away. In taking possession thereof he stabbed the victim.
We are not persuaded. Immediately after the stabbing, ROGER fled. He also admitted that he was in hiding. He remained in hiding until his bail bond was ready four months after the incident. His explanation for not surrendering earlier was that the victim's family was powerful and on that fateful night, the victim had several companions. Yet on cross-examination, he admitted that he did because at that time he had no bail bond. 19
These admissions that he fled, hid for four months, and surfaced only when his bail was ready — taken with his failure to invoke self-defense at the outset and his waiver of his right to present evidence in the preliminary investigation — strongly contradict the actions of an innocent man. These acts can only be attributed to a guilty conscience, for an innocent man will readily surrender and clear his name. ROGER's flight evidences guilt. 20 His alleged fear of the deceased's companions and powerful family deserves scant consideration. We can only conclude that the defense's version was contrived to exculpate ROGER of his crime.
We, therefore, uphold the version of the prosecution. The testimonies of the witnesses are in accord with the sworn statements executed by the eyewitnesses immediately after the stabbing incident. Well-settled is the rule that where the credibility of witnesses is in issue, the appellate courts will generally not disturb the findings of the trial court, which is an a better position to determine the issue, having the advantage of hearing and witnessing the deportment of the witnesses during trial. While this rule admits of exceptions, this Court sees no reason to apply any to the instant appeal. 21
The next issue to settle is whether the crime is homicide or murder. The prosecution clearly established that the killing was attended with treachery. This is culled from the testimonies of eyewitness Gigger Besana and the victim's widow, Nelly Buñi. Besana declared that the attack was sudden, swift, and without any provocation, thus leaving the victim totally defenseless. 22 Nelly Buñi testified that when she inquired from her husband who could have attacked him, his reply was that he was unable to see his assailant because the latter came from behind. 23
For treachery to be considered a qualifying circumstance, two elements must concur: (1) the employment of means of execution which gives the person attacked no opportunity to defend himself or retaliate; and (2) the means of execution is deliberately or consciously adopted. 24
Jurisprudence has consistently held that an unprovoked, sudden, and unexpected attack by the accused towards the back of an unarmed victim, unabling the victim to defend himself, is an attack done in a manner which directly and specifically insures the execution thereof without any risk to the accused which may arise from the defense the victim may make. 25 In such instances, the qualifying circumstance of treachery, as properly alleged in the information and proved in court, is present.
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 18, Roxas City, in Criminal Case No. C-4588 findings accused-appellant Roger Dorado guilty beyond reasonable doubt; as principal, of murder and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the heirs of the victim P50,085.50 as actual damages and P50,000.00 as civil indemnity is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
Costs against the accused-appellant.
Melo, Kapunan and Pardo, JJ., concur.
1 Original Record (OR), 297-304; Rollo, 17-21. Per Judge Roger B. Patricio.
2 In the pleadings, transcript of stenographic notes and the Decision, the witness was referred to as Jigger Besana. However, in his sworn statement, which he signed, he identified himself as Gigger Besana.
3 OR, 53; Rollo, 6.
4 TSN, 8 August 1994, 3-11, 15-16.
5 Exhibit "A," OR, 9.
6 Exhibit "B," OR, 8.
7 TSN, 20 September 1994, 3-7.
8 Exhibits "C," "D," and "E".
9 TSN, 3 October 1994, 3-8.
10 TSN, 2 May 1995, 2-3.
11 TSN, 2 May 1995, 4-8, 12.
12 Id., 16-17, 21.
13 TSN, 16 May 1995, 3-7.
14 TSN, 16 May 1995, 7-8, 16.
15 TSN, 13 June 1995, 3-6, 9-10.
16 Id., 11-12.
17 People v. Hubilla, Jr., 252 SCRA 471, 479 ; People v. Balamban, 264 SCRA 619, 630; People v. Tobias, 267 SCRA 229, 255 .
18 People v. Albarico, 238 SCRA 203, 211 ; People v. Hubilia, Jr., supra note 17 at 479; People v. Gutual, 254 SCRA 37, 45-46 .
19 TSN, 16 May 1995, 17.
20 People v. Bantisil, 249 SCRA 367, 378 ; People v. Landicho, 258 SCRA 1, 39; People v. Villegas, 262 SCRA 314, 323 .
21 People v. Quijada, 259 SCRA 191, 212-213 ; People v. Villegas, supra note 20, at 322; People v. Balamban, Supra note 17, at 629 .
22 TSN, 8 August 1994, 6, 7.
23 TSN, 3 October 1994, 5.
24 People v. Estrellanes, Jr., 239 SCRA 235, 249 ; People v. Hubilia, Jr., supra note 17, at 481; People v. Landicho, supra note 20, at 27.
25 People v. Albaricoi, supra note 18, at 214; People v. Rivero, 242 SCRA, 354, 360 ; People v.Villegas, supra note 20, at 323.
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