G.R. No. 134572            April 18, 2002

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
DIONISIO UMAYAM y CASTRO, accused-appellant.


This is an appeal from the decision1 dated February 3, 1998 of the Regional Trial Court of Las Piñas City, Branch 255, in Criminal Case No. 92-1638, finding accused-appellant Dionisio Umayam y Castro, alias "Jawo", guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

On March 10, 1992, accused-appellant was charged with the crime of Murder in an Information which alleged:

That on or about the 7th day of February, 1992, in the Municipality of Las Piñas, Metro Manila, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused, with intent to kill, with evident premeditation, and by means of treachery, did, then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, and stab with a bladed weapon one Emma Mendoza, thereby inflicting upon the latter serious and mortal stab wounds which directly caused her death.


At his arraignment on October 28, 1992, accused-appellant pleaded not guilty3 to the charge; whereupon, trial ensued.

The evidence, as culled from the testimony of prosecution witness Rodolfo Velasquez, is as follows:

Dionisio Umayam (accused-appellant) and Emma Mendoza (victim), were living as husband and wife in a shanty they erected inside the compound owned by Rodolfo Velasquez located at San Jose St., Ilaya, Las Piñas City (p. 9, tsn, Feb. 10, 1993). This shanty is about ten (10) meters away from Velasquez’s house located also within the compound (p. 4, tsn, supra) and where Velasquez maintains a poultry which he tends to everyday. Oftentimes, Velasquez entertains his friends/visitors within the compound and if too drunk, passes the night at his house therein (p. 11, supra). Velasquez’s family residence however, is about a kilometer and a half away.

During Umayam and Mendoza’s stay in the compound, Velasquez would notice them frequently quarreling (pp. 5 & 8, supra). On occasions, Mendoza would run to Velasquez for help for the beatings inflicted on her by Umayam (p. 6, supra). Velasquez would advise Mendoza to refer the matter to the barangay (p. 13, supra). Velasquez described Umayam and Mendoza’s relationship as "magulo." (p. 5, supra).

At about 7:00 p.m. of February 7, 1992, while Velasquez was inside the compound entertaining some friends, Umayam, Mendoza and a certain Zenaida Anzo arrived amid went inside the shanty (p. 4, supra). Once inside, the radio was switched on a very loud volume which lasted until about 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., when Velasquez left the compound (pp. 10-11, supra). About noon of the following day, Velasquez went to his poultry to feed his chicken. Thereat, Velasquez noticed nobody at the shanty of the couple and its door was padlocked. Returning thereto on Sunday, Velasquez noticed a foul odor emanating from the couple’s shanty which he thought to be that of "kaning baboy." (p. 13, supra). On Monday, Velasquez noticed that the foul odor from the couple’s shanty became intolerable forcing him to report the incident to the barangay captain who immediately requested for police assistance (p. 7, supra). The responding policemen decided to break the walls of the shanty and once inside, saw the decomposing body of Emma Mendoza.4

Dr. Valentin Bernales, a medico-legal officer of the National Bureau of Investigation, conducted a postmortem examination on the decomposing cadaver of the victim on February 10, 1992. His Autopsy Report yielded the following findings, to wit:

Body, in far advanced state of decomposition; with line maggots.

Contusion, reddish; arm, left, lower third, antero-lateral aspect, 3.0 x 2.0 cm. and antero medial aspect, 6.0 x 3.0 cm. knee, left, 4.0 x 3.5 cm.

Stab wounds, ovaloid in shape, modified by process of decomposition:

1) 1.0 cm., neck, left, antero-lateral aspect, 10.0 cm. From the anterior median line directed medially, upward and slightly anteriorly; involving among others the common carotid artery and jugular vein, with an approximate depth of 6.0 cm.

2) 1.0 cm., chest right, upper-outer quadrant, 17.0 cm. from the anterior median line, directed backward, downward and medially involving among others the lung, right, upper lobe, with approximate depth of 9.0 cm.

Hemothorax, right, 1000 c.c.

Visceral organs, in far advanced state of autolysis.

Stomach, empty.5

Dr. Bernales concluded that the victim’s stab wounds on her neck and chest were fatal and caused by a sharp pointed bladed weapon, and that the death occurred within seventy-two (72) hours prior to the autopsy. Furthermore, he opined that a hard object, such as fist, may have caused the contusions on the arms, thigh and knee of the deceased.6

Accused-appellant, on the other hand, testified that from February 4 to 11, 1992, he was at the house of his sister, Nida Vargas, in Sto. Niño, Ilaya, Parañaque. On February 4, 1992, his wife Emma Mendoza left their rented house at Balete, Las Piñas to visit her children at La Loma, and told him to wait for her to return and fetch him. Accused-appellant thus waited for Emma at his sister’s house, but she never arrived. On February 11, 1992, two policemen came and informed accused-appellant that his wife had been killed. The policemen then brought him to the municipal jail of Las Piñas.7

Nida Vargas corroborated accused-appellant’s testimony. She stated that accused-appellant stayed at her residence from February 4, 1992 until he was arrested on February 11, 1992. She testified that her brother never left her house during his stay there because he was too busy doing carpentry work at her residence. Neither did accused-appellant go to his rented house at Balete, Las Piñas because according to him, Emma Mendoza would fetch him as soon as she arrived from Isabela.8

Lastly, Beatriz Estupia, a neighbor of Nida Vargas, also testified that sometime in the month of February 1992, she noticed the presence of accused-appellant doing carpentry works in the house of his sister. She recalled that accused-appellant was arrested sometime on February 11, 1992. She cannot recall any instance when accused-appellant left the house of Nida Vargas.9 However, her testimony on cross-examination shows inconsistencies which led the trial court to conclude that she was lying, to wit:

Q:         And you came to know that this accused Dionisio Umayam was charged before this court for murder in February 1992 yet, is it not?

A:         Yes, Your Honor. That was the news.

Q:         How come that it is only now, 1996, already June 1996 that you appeared before this court and volunteered to testify?


This is the first time that we are presenting our evidence.

COURT Let the witness answer.

A:         I did this because after so many years that he was incarcerated and I know he was not guilty so I appear (sic).

xxx           xxx           xxx

Q:         You also stated earlier that you went to Bicol, when did you go to Bicol?

A:         May 5, 1994.

Q:         When did you go back to Parañaque?

A:         At the end of 1994.

Q:         Did you not state earlier that the reason why you did not come to know, why the accused Dionisio Umayam was arrested (sic) because according to you immediately you went to Bicol in February 1992?

A:         What I stated earlier was that I do not know the reason why he was arrested so I was surprised when he was arrested.

Q:         You were asked whether later on you came to know the reason and according to you, you did not know because you went to Bicol, did you state that?

A:         Yes, Your Honor.

Q:         So that it was not in 1994 that you went to Bicol but in 1992, is it not?

A:         May 1994, Your Honor.

Q:         So that when you stated earlier that the reason why you did not come to know why Dionisio Umayam was arrested because you went to Bicol is not true?


Misleading. That is not the reason why.

COURT I know this witness is telling a lie.10

The testimony of Estupia was rejected by the trial court because while she claims to be the neighbor of accused-appellant’s sister and to have allegedly witnessed accused-appellant’s apprehension by the police in his sister’s house in 1992, she only came to know the reason for accused-appellant’s arrest in 1995.11

After trial, the court a quo rendered the assailed decision, the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, and in the light of the foregoing, the Court finds the accused Dionisio Umayam y Castro GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of Murder as charged in the information after applying the provisions of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua; to suffer the accessory penalties provided for by law; to indemnify the heirs of the deceased Emma Mendoza the sum of P50,000.00; and to pay the costs.


Hence, this appeal anchored on the following assignment of errors:





In the first assigned error, accused-appellant argues that his guilt has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt because there was no direct evidence linking him to the commission of the crime; rather, his conviction was based merely on the testimony of the prosecution’s lone witness who did not actually see the killing.

Accused-appellant’s argument deserves no merit.

Well-settled is the rule that direct evidence of the commission of the crime is not the only matrix wherefrom a trial court may draw its conclusion and findings of guilt. Direct evidence of the actual killing is not indispensable for convicting an accused when circumstantial evidence can sufficiently establish his guilt.14 If actual eyewitnesses are the only ones allowed to possibly identify a suspect or accused to the exclusion of others, then nobody can ever be convicted unless there is an eyewitness because of the rule that there can be no conviction until and unless an accused is positively identified. Such a proposition is absolutely absurd, because it is settled that direct evidence of the commission of the crime is not the only matrix. Indeed, conviction can be had on the basis of circumstantial evidence if the established circumstances constitute an unbroken chain leading to one fair and reasonable conclusion proving that the accused is the author of the crime to the exclusion of all others.15

However, to support a conviction based on circumstantial evidence, the following must be present: a) there is more than one circumstance; b) the facts from where the inferences are derived are proven; c) the combination of all circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.16 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 any other hypothesis except that of guilt.17

In the case at bar, the trial court considered the following circumstances in arriving at its conclusion that accused-appellant was the one who killed the victim to the exclusion of all others:

1. The tumultuous or stormy relationship between the accused-appellant and his deceased live-in partner when the latter was still alive.18

2. The presence of just the two of them, accused- appellant and his wife, in their house on that fateful evening of February 7, 1992 after their visitor Aida left the rented house of the live-in partners.19 Accused-appellant was the last known companion of the deceased before her death.

3. The presence of the accused-appellant in the evening of February 7, 1992 in their house which was established by the testimony of Rodolfo Velasquez and his sudden disappearance from the same place the next day.

4. In addition, accused-appellant’s admission that he owns a cassette radio would logically lead to the conclusion that he played the radio very loud to stifle or deafen any sound coming from inside the shanty.

While, admittedly, there is no direct evidence that accused-appellant killed Emma Mendoza, the circumstances above-stated constitute an unbroken chain which are consistent with each other and with the hypothesis that accused-appellant is guilty, to the exclusion of other hypotheses that he is not. As we have ruled, when circumstantial evidence constitutes an unbroken chain of natural and rational circumstances corroborating each other, it cannot be overcome by inconcrete and doubtful evidence submitted by the opposing party.20

Notably, although nobody may have seen accused-appellant in the act of inflicting the mortal stab wounds on the victim, the unrebutted testimony of the witness for the prosecution points to no other culprit but accused-appellant. Also, while the testimony of the witness does not provide direct evidence that accused-appellant stabbed the victim, it nevertheless supplies proof of overwhelming circumstantial evidence pointing to the guilt of the accused-appellant. This was even bolstered by the fact that immediately after that fateful night when the victim was killed, accused-appellant immediately left their shanty and did not return until he was arrested in the house of his sister. Moreover, their shanty was locked in order to hide the body of the victim which was only discovered three days later in a decomposing state. Indeed, the flight of an accused from the scene of the crime removes any remaining shred of doubt on his guilt,21 especially since his explanations on why he was not in their shanty after the crime was committed has been rejected by the trial court for being mere concoctions and fabrications.

Moreover, no ill motive can be attributed to the witness that will cast doubt on his testimony. The witness has known the live-in partners for quite sometime since they have stayed in his compound where they built their shanty. The rule is that, where there is no evidence to indicate that the prosecution witness was actuated by improper motive, the presumption is that he was not so actuated and that he would not prevaricate and cause damnation to one who brought him no harm or injury.22

We find merit in the second assigned error. The qualifying circumstances of treachery and evident premeditation were not established with concrete evidence.

First, the circumstantial evidence on record does not clearly show that there was any conscious and deliberate effort on the part of the accused to adopt any particular means, method or form of attack to ensure the commission of the crime without affording the victim any means to defend herself. The conclusion that there was treachery can hardly be gleaned because the victim and the accused-appellant were inside their shanty and no one witnessed how the killing took place. Notably, the medical findings of the victim’s cadaver show contusions on her arms and legs, indicating that there may have been a quarrel prior to the stabbing. This reasonably negates treachery.

Indeed, absent any particular as to the manner in which the aggression commenced or how the act which resulted in the death of the victim unfolded, treachery cannot be appreciated.23 It has been held that the qualifying circumstance of treachery must be based on some positive conclusive proof and not only upon hypothetical facts or on mere supposition or presumptions.24 Where no particulars are known regarding the manner in which the aggression was made or how the act which resulted in the death of the victim began and developed, it cannot be established from mere supposition that an accused perpetrated the killing with treachery.25 Treachery cannot be appreciated where the lone eyewitness to the killing was not able to see how the assault started.26 It can never be presumed, it must be satisfactorily proved beyond reasonable doubt.27 Where there is no eyewitness to the killing or evidence on the manner of its execution, like in the case at bar, treachery cannot be considered an aggravating circumstance.28

Likewise, the circumstance of evident premeditation cannot be appreciated. In the absence of clear and positive evidence proving the aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation, mere presumptions and inferences thereon, no matter how logical and probable, would not be enough.29 In the case at bar, the records do not show that, indeed, accused-appellant planned the killing of the victim. Well-settled is the rule that evident premeditation, like other circumstances that qualify the killing to murder, must be established by clear and positive evidence30 as conclusively and indubitably as the killing itself.31

It is not enough that evident premeditation is suspected or surmised. Criminal intent must be evidenced by notorious outward acts evidencing a determination to commit the crime. In order to be considered an aggravation of the offense, the circumstance must not merely be "premeditation" but must be "evident premeditation."32 To consider the qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation, it is necessary that the following requisites be present: (a) the time when the accused determined to commit the crime, (b) an act manifestly indicating that the accused has clung to his determination, and (c) a lapse of time, between the determination to commit the crime and the execution thereof, sufficient to allow him to reflect upon the consequences of his act.33

It should be remembered that aggravating circumstances must be established with the same quantum of proof as fully as the crime itself and any doubt as to their existence must be resolved in favor of the accused.34 Hence, for failure of the prosecution to prove the attendance of the qualifying circumstances of treachery and evident premeditation, accused-appellant can only be guilty of homicide.

The penalty for homicide under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code in reclusion temporal. The same shall be imposed in its medium period, there being no mitigating or aggravating circumstance. Accused-appellant is thus entitled to the benefits of the indeterminate Sentence Law, and is therefore sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal, as maximum.

The award of civil damages by the trial court needs modification. Accused-appellant must pay the heirs of the deceased, Emma Mendoza, moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00, in addition to the civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00 awarded by the trial court in line with the policy of the Court to award moral damages in case of violent death without need of proof.35

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Las Piñas City, Branch 255, in Criminal Case No. 92-1638, finding accused-appellant Dionisio Umayam y Castro, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATIONS. As modified, accused-appellant Dionisio Umayam y Castro is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Homicide and sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal, as maximum. Further, he is ordered to pay the heirs of the deceased, Emma Mendoza, civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00 and moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00.


Puno, and Sandoval-Gutierrez, (Special Member), JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Kapunan, and Austria-Martinez, JJ., on official leave.


1 Penned by Judge Florentino M. Alumbres.

2 Rollo, p. 12.

3 Records, p. 77.

4 Appellee's Brief, pp. 2-4; Rollo, pp. 89-91.

5 RTC Decision, pp. 2-3.

6 TSN, September 20, 1993, pp. 17-18.

7 TSN, December 4, 1995, pp. 2-5.

8 TSN, March 13, 1996, pp. 2-7.

9 TSN, June 5, 1996, p. 5.

10 Ibid., pp. 9-11.

11 Ibid., p. 11.

12 Rollo, p. 28.

13 Accused-appellant's Brief; Rollo, p. 55.

14 People v. Sañez. 320 SCRA 805, 815 (1999).

15 People v. Bantilan, 314 SCRA 381, 395 (1999), citing People v. Parel, 261 SCRA 720 (1996); People v. Tabag, 268 SCRA 115 (1997); People v. Salvame, 270 SCRA 766 (1997).

16 Rules of court, rule , 133, Sec. 4.

17 People v. Batona, 304 SCRA 712, 729, citations omitted.

18 Rollo, p. 24.

19 Ibid., p. 25.

20 People v. Verano, 264 SCRA 546, 554 (1996), citation omitted.

21 People v. Cahindo, 266, SCRA 554, 559 (1997), citing People v. Deunida, 231, SCRA 520 (1994).

22 People v. Raganas, 316 SCRA 457, 467 (1999); People v. Piandiong, 268 SCRA 555 (1997); People v. Tabaco, 270 SCRA 32 (1997).

23 People v. Raquiño, 315 SCRA 670, 683 (1999), citing People v. Patamama, 250 SCRA 603 (1995).

24 People v. Morin, 241, SCRA 709, 717 (1995).

25 People v. Borreros, 306 SCRA 680, 693 (1999).

26 People v. Bautista, 312 SCRA 214, 235 (1999).

27 People v. Domingo, 312 SCRA 487, 501 (1999).

28 People v. Sañez, supra note 14.

29 People v. Mahinay, 304 SCRA 767, 779 (1999).

30 People v. Manes, 303 SCRA 231, 241 (1999).

31 People v. Tabones, 304 SCRA 781, 793 (1999).

32 People v. Valdez, 304 SCRA 611, 626 (1999).

33 People v. Platilla, 304 SCRA 339, 354 (1999).

34 People v. Cayago, 312 SCRA 623, 637-638 (1999).

35 People v. Caboquin, G.R. No. 137613, November 14, 2001.

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