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G.R. No. 154301 - CARLOS MANANGAN v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

G.R. No. 154301 - CARLOS MANANGAN v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. NO. 154301 : October 17, 2008]

CARLOS MANANGAN, Petitioners, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.

D E C I S I O N

CARPIO MORALES, J.:

Carlos Manangan (petitioner) was, by Information filed on April 29, 1998 before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Agoo, La Union, charged with homicide, allegedly committed as follows:

That on or about the 26th day of October, 1997, in the Municipality of Agoo, Province of La Union, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with intent to kill and being then armed with a knife, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, attack, assault, and stab one JESUS LOPEZ Y VILLANUEVA, thereby inflicting upon him injuries which directly caused his death thereafter, to the damage and prejudice of the heirs of the said Jesus Lopez y Villanueva.1

From the testimonies of its witnesses, the prosecution established the following version:2

At around 12:30 noontime of October 26, 1997, petitioner, who was apparently drunk because his feet were criss-crossing ("agsal-salapid"),3 passed by Jesus Lopez (the victim), his brothers-in-law Joseph Cargo (Cargo) and Robert Refuerzo (Refuerzo), Robert Parado (Parado), and Ruben Jacla (Jacla) who were playing pool under a mango tree beside Cargo's house. He shouted at the group "Okeninayo nga agpopol!" ("The vulva of your mother, all of you playing pool!") and "All of you Lopezes are very boastful!"

The victim chided petitioner for what he uttered, but petitioner suddenly engaged the victim in a fistfight. Cargo, Parado, and Jacla pacified the two, however.

Petitioner at once left for home, around 10 to 12 meters away, while the victim headed towards the nearby house of his father.

Petitioner, with a knife on hand, re-surfaced, however, and ran towards the victim who was standing under a santol tree beside his father's house. With an upward thrust from below, petitioner stabbed him on the right side of the breast, causing him to fall, albeit he (the victim) managed to crawl towards the mango tree under which he was earlier playing pool.

Petitioner at once "went on top" of the victim and was about to stab him again, but Cargo restrained petitioner's left hand which was holding the knife. Petitioner thereafter fled as Cargo and Parado brought the victim to a hospital where he expired.

Dr. Samuel Milan (Dr. Milan) who autopsied the victim noted the following:

Findings: 4 cm. diagonal wound, deep, located at (R) anterior chest wall trajecting medially and superiorly transecting partially the (R) carotid artery and penetrating the (R) side of trachea. No direct communication to the thoracic cavity.

x x x x4

Upon the other hand, the defense gave the following version:5

At 8:00 in the morning of October 26, 1997, petitioner repaired to the house of Engineer Ed Balderas (Balderas), for whom he works as a carpenter, to draw his salary. At Balderas' house, petitioner and some friends took some drinks until 11:00 in the morning.

Before going home, petitioner purchased some goods for his store. As he approached his house, he saw his children playing by a mango tree. His mother at once drew near him and helped him carry his purchases. After entering his house, he called for his children and scolded them, saying, "Vulva of your mother, you children, you did not even bother to help me!" The victim, who was nearby, apparently thinking that petitioner's remarks were directed at him, shouted "Vulva of your mother you!"

Petitioner thus stepped out of his house and explained to the victim that his remarks were not addressed to him. The victim repeated his invective, however, and hit petitioner at his back and at the back of his head with a pool stick, causing petitioner to fall.

The victim attempted to hit petitioner again, this time with a steel pipe, but petitioner evaded the blow. As the victim and petitioner grappled for the possession of the stick, Refuerzo, who held a "samurai," Parado who held a piece of wood, and Cargo who held a knife, joined in the fray and helped maul petitioner. Amid the fray, Cargo attempted to stab petitioner with a downward motion, but the latter shifted his position, causing Cargo to instead stab the victim.

After trial, Branch 31 of the RTC of Agoo found petitioner guilty of Homicide, disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, this Court finds accused CARLOS MANANGAN guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of HOMICIDE as principal. No mitigating or aggravating circumstance having been appreciated, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, this Court sentences Carlos Manangan to suffer imprisonment ranging from TWELVE (12) YEARS OF PRISION MAYOR MAXIMUM as minimum to SEVENTEEN (17) YEARS and FOUR (4) MONTHS of RECLUSION TEMPORAL MEDIUM as maximum. He is further ordered to pay the heirs of Jesus Lopez indemnity in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P50,000.00).6

In convicting petitioner, the trial court, noting the location and extent of the wounds reflected in Dr. Milan's autopsy report, credited the following arguments of the prosecution:

[T]he testimony of the prosecution witnesses that the assailant and the victim were fronting each other and the former stabbed the latter with his left hand with a knife coming from below upward, perfectly jibes and conforms with the location of the initially inflicted wound on the body of the victim, which is on the anterior chest, finding the direction of the weapon used towards the upper part of the body, which is the neck, and thus injuring the carotid artery and the right portion of the trachea, which are in the neck. When two protagonists are in this actual relative position[s], and one of them who is x x x left handed x x x stab[s] the person fronting him, the logical upper portion of the victim's body that would be hit by the knife is the right upper chest, because such is the nearest upper part of his body to the knife held by the left hand of the other, as in the case at bar. Indubi[t]ably, the deceased was stabbed on the upper portion of his chest, and the knife going upward, reaching the area of the neck, transecting partially the right carotid artery and the right side of the trachea. This is so because the direction of a stab or thrust executed from below would be upward, thus explains why the carotid artery and the right part of the trachea were reached by the knife. x x x A knife thrust against a person from below, in any stretch of the imagination, cannot go down and affect the lower portion of the body but its tendency is to go up and affect the upper portion of the body if their relative position is that they are facing each other. x x x7 (Emphasis, italics and underscoring in the original)

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision.8 Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration9 having been denied,10 he filed the present Petition for Review on Certiorari,11 faulting the appellate court in:

I.

. . . FAIL[ING] TO STATE THE LEGAL AND FACTUAL BASES FOR ITS CONCLUSION THAT THE PETITIONER'S GUILT WAS PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.

II.

. . . CONVICTING THE PETITIONER DESPITE MEDICAL EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY.

III.

. . . CONVICTING THE PETITIONER OF THE CRIME OF HOMICIDE WHEN HIS GUILT WAS NOT PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.12 (Underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary

The petition is bereft of merit.

Contrary to petitioner's contention, the appellate court's 14-page decision reflects the legal and factual bases of its conclusion that petitioner's guilt was proven beyond reasonable doubt. Thus, it credited, as it quoted, the arguments of the prosecution in its memorandum, it being logical and plausible vis - à-vis the testimony of prosecution witnesses and the medical findings.

Petitioner harps, however, on the testimony of his daughter Genalyn Manangan (Genalyn) that Cargo attempted to stab him with a downward thrust of the knife13 and claims that the autopsy report supports his version of the events rather than that of the prosecution. Thus he argues:

It is indubitable that the conviction of the accused-appellant was based on the version of the prosecution that the former stabbed the deceased with a knife thrusting from below going upwards. The prosecution argued that the testimony of Dr. Samuel L. Milan, who conducted the autopsy on the cadaver of the victim, supports their version. However, this is misleading since no anatomical sketch showing the point of entry of the wound and tracing the trajectory of the weapon used was ever presented or introduced as evidence during the trial of the instant case. In fact, the testimony of Dr. Milan will show that if we follow the version of the prosecution that the accused-appellant was standing up and the victim was also standing up at the time of the stabbing incident, the possibility of the trajectory of the swing is a straight thrust. x x x

x x x

Furthermore, the fact that the entry wound is "diagonal" tends to corroborate the version of the defense. If the accused-appellant really stabbed the deceased with both assailant and the deceased in a standing position and both presumably of the same height according to the prosecution's version, in a straight thrust or an upward stabbing motion, the entry wound would be vertical and not diagonal. The diagonal or oblique entry wound is more consistent with a stabbing motion delivered from an oblique angle, like a thrust from Joseph Cargo, whose target (Carlos Manangan) moved and which, instinctively, made the assailant (Joseph Cargo) moved [sic] accordingly x x x.14 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary

To recall, the autopsy report showed that the victim suffered a

"4 cm. diagonal wound, deep, located at (R) anterior chest wall trajecting medially and superiorly transecting partially the (R) carotid artery and penetrating the (R) side of trachea. . . "15 (Underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary

Such findings were explained by Dr. Milan at the witness stand, viz:

[Atty. Yaranon]

Q: Now, you also mentioned about a carotid artery, is it not that the carotid artery is found on the neck?cralawred

[Dr. Milan]

A: Yes, sir.

Q: So why then do you still state about the carotid artery when the wound is on the chest?

A: Yes, sir, because the wound is right just below the clavicular area and it was going up along the path and it is about more or less 6 inches in length. The carotid artery was along the way so it is partially transected.

Q: Now, did you observe any blood on the abdominal cavity on the victim?cralawred

A: I think there was no blood on the abdominal cavity because there was negative findings on that area, sir.16 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)cralawlibrary

Given the documentary and testimonial evidence elicited from the doctor, the victim could not have been wounded at the right anterior chest by a stab aimed by Cargo at petitioner who was allegedly lying on the ground under the victim. And a downward stab at the victim's right chest could not have logically hit his trachea and carotid artery, which are at the upper portion of the body - at the neck. As the prosecution noted in its Memorandum with which the trial court concurred:

In [defense witness Genalyn's] testimony, her father was under Jesus Lopez, who was riding on him and still hitting him. Aside from the improbability that her father the accused could move away, to explain the possibility that it was Jesus Lopez who was hit on the upper portion of his right chest is highly improbable, considering the statement of the said witness that Joseph Cargo stabbed [her] father, with a thrust or stab coming from above downward. If it were true, after the infliction of the wound on the right chest of the victim, taking into account that Joseph Cargo was at the right side of her father at the time, the direction of the knife would have been straight toward his back, if Jesus Lopez was lying flat on his back after the accused had moved away as testified to, or downward in his body if he was on his toes, but never that the direction of the knife can go upward. x x x 17 (Emphasis in the original.)

x x x

x x x [H]owever and whatever move or change of position that Carlos Manangan could have done, Jesus Lopez could not be stabbed on the right chest in any stretch of imagination, considering that Carlos Manangan was under Jesus Lopez and the knife was aimed at Carlos Manangan. x x x Moreover, assuming it to be so, without however admitting the same as a fact, the wound sustained could not have been inflicted on the right chest of the victim, considering that that he was over or above Carlos Manangan, riding on him, and whatever kind of fall that he fell on the ground due to the change [of] position or move made by the latter, Lopez cannot be hit on his right chest.18

It bears noting that the trial court credited the respective accounts of the incident by eyewitnesses Refuerzo, Cargo and Parado, who, by the way, also mauled petitioner by his claim, albeit there is no allegation of any resulting injury to petitioner had been made; and that some witnesses who, by the way, positively identified petitioner as the perpetrator. The assessment of the credibility of a witness being a function that is best discharged by the trial judge, his conclusion thereon is accorded much weight and respect, and unless a material or substantial fact has been overlooked or misappreciated which if properly taken into account could alter the outcome of the case,19 it is not disturbed on appeal, as it was not by the appellate court in the present case.

That all the prosecution witnesses, except Dr. Milan and SPO3 Romeo P. Mabanta, are the victim's relatives does not detract from their credibility. In fact, relationship may even strengthen credibility, for it is unnatural for an aggrieved relative to falsely accuse someone other than the actual perpetrator.20

Upon the other hand, the evidence for the defense leaves much to be desired. Thus, petitioner's mother at first testified that the victim was on top of petitioner.21 She later testified that it was petitioner who was on top of the victim, and that he moved the victim upward at the moment of the stabbing.22 Petitioner's mother admitted, however, that at the time of the commission of the offense, she was living with her daughter in San Nicholas Sur. She could not, therefore, have helped petitioner bring in his groceries to his house at San Jose Norte as she had earlier testified,23 absent a claim that she and her son-herein petitioner's house are very near the Sur and the Norte classification notwithstanding. She of course admitted that she is old and suffers lapses of memory.24

While petitioner's daughter Genalyn testified to having witnessed the stabbing which took place outside their house, she later testified that before the incident took place, her mother had called her to go inside the house to which she obliged.25

Oddly enough, petitioner testified that Genalyn told him that it was Cargo who stabbed the victim.26 If Genalyn was inside the house, how could she have witnessed the incident? And, if by petitioner's claim, he, who was lying down under the victim face up, was the original target of the stabbing, he could not have missed seeing that Cargo, in trying to stab him, hit the victim instead.

In fine, the conviction of petitioner must be upheld.

Respecting the civil aspect of the case, the Court affirms the award of P50,000 civil indemnity, which is fixed by jurisprudence in cases of homicide, and which is automatically awarded without need of further proof other than the fact of death and the responsibility of the accused therefor.27 It does affirm too the award of P29,470 actual damages, it having been substantiated.28

The prevailing jurisprudence in cases of murder and homicide being that moral damages are awarded without need of allegation and proof other than the death of the victim, the Court additionally awards P50,000 moral damages.29

WHEREFORE, the Court of Appeals decision is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION.

Petitioner, Carlos Manangan, is further ordered to pay the heirs of the victim P50,000 moral damages. The challenged decision is, in all other respects, AFFIRMED.

Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Endnotes:


1 Records, p. 57.

2 TSN, October 30, 1998, pp. 2-6; TSN, November 13, 1998, pp. 2-11; TSN, November 18, 1998, pp. 2-15; TSN, January 4, 1999, pp. 2-8; TSN, January 18, 1999, pp. 2-12; TSN, February 15, 1999, pp. 2-19; TSN, March 24, 1999, pp. 2-19; TSN, October 11, 1999, pp. 2-10; TSN, October 20, 1999, pp. 2-9.

3 TSN, November 13, 1998, p. 3.

4 Exhibit "D," records, pp. 171-172.

5 TSN, April 16, 1999, pp. 2-11; TSN, April 26, 1999, pp. 2-12; TSN, May 12, 1999, pp. 2-21; TSN, May 14, 1999, pp. 2-14; TSN, May 19, 1999, pp. 2-24; TSN, June 7, 1999, pp. 2-4; TSN, June 16, 1999, pp. 2-14; TSN, August 9, 1999, pp. 2-19; TSN, September 8, 1999, pp. 2-7; TSN, September 13, 1999, pp. 2-11.

6 Records, pp. 377-378.

7 Id. at 304-305, 364-365.

8 Decision of January 11, 2002, penned by then Court of Appeals, now Supreme Court Associate Justice Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Hilarion L. Aquino and Edgardo P. Cruz. CA rollo, pp. 149-162.

9 Id. at 163-167.

10 Id. at 177.

11 Rollo, pp. 12-28.

12 Id. at 16.

13 TSN, May 19, 1999, p. 15; CA rollo, p. 72; records, pp. 325-326.

14 Rollo, pp. 21-22.

15 Exhibit "D," records, pp. 171-172.

16 TSN, March 24, 1999, p. 16.

17 Records, pp. 302-303, 363.

18 Id. at 314, 371-372.

19 People v. Quimzon, G.R. No. 133541, April 14, 2004, 427 SCRA 261, 271-272.

20 Vide People v. Cajumocan, G.R. No. 155023, May 28, 2004, 430 SCRA 311, 320 (citations omitted).

21 TSN, April 26, 1999, p. 10.

22 TSN, May 12, 1999, p. 18.

23 Id. at 3-5.

24 Id. at 4.

25 TSN, May 19, 1999, p. 18.

26 TSN, June 16, 1999, p. 10.

27 Vide People v. Manalo, G.R. No. 173054, December 6, 2006, 510 SCRA 664, 677; People v. Catbagan, 467 Phil. 1044, 1086 (2004).

28 Exhibit "C-1," records, p. 164; Exhibit "C-3," records, p. 167; Exhibits "C-5-A" and "C-5," records, pp. 169-170; TSN, January 18, 1999, pp. 7-12; TSN, February 15, 1999, pp. 2-9.

29 Vide People v. Bajar, 460 Phil. 683, 700 (2003).

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