Home of ChanRobles Virtual Law Library

 

Home of Chan Robles Virtual Law Library

www.chanrobles.com

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 116122. September 6, 1996.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ARNOLD CASTILLO Y MANGUIAT, Accused-Appellant.


SYLLABUS


1. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; CREDIBILITY; NOT ADVERSELY AFFECTED BY DISCREPANCIES BETWEEN STATEMENTS OF THE AFFIANT IN HIS AFFIDAVIT AND THOSE ON THE WITNESS STAND; EXCEPTIONS. — The general rule has always been that discrepancies between the statements of the affiant in his affidavit and those he makes on the witness stand do not necessarily discredit him because it is a matter of judicial experience that an affidavit being taken ex-parte is almost always incomplete and often inaccurate. The exceptions thereto which impair the credibility of witnesses, are when the narration in the sworn statement substantially contradicts the testimony in court, or when the omission in the affidavit refers to very important detail of the incident that one relating the incident as an eyewitness could not be expected to fail to mention.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; NOT NECESSARILY IMPAIRED BY DELAY OR VACILLATION IN MAKING CRIMINAL ACCUSATION. — The initial silence of Juan Bongga should not be taken against him. The delay or vacillation in making a criminal accusation does not necessarily impair the credibility of witnesses if such delay is satisfactorily explained, as in this case. When Juan was asked during the cross-examination why he did not report the incident at once to the police authorities he answered that he was then taken aback. Moreover, it is not uncommon for a witness to a crime to show some reluctance about getting involved in a criminal case, as in fact the natural tendency of most people not to get involved is of judicial notice.

3. ID.; ID.; ID.; IDENTIFICATION OF ACCUSED IN BROAD DAYLIGHT AT A DISTANCE OF FORTY TO FORTY-FIVE METERS BY TOWNMATE, CREDIBLE. — As regards the credibility of Maria Cristina, appellant argues that her story that she saw him pointing a gun at the body of Mayor Delmo is hard to believe considering her testimony that she was forty to forty-five meters away when the shots were fired. Moreover, according to him it is highly incredible for her to remain silent and not to disclose to her husband the details of the laying of her father-in-law. The distance of forty to forty-five meters away from the scene of the crime, taken by itself, may lead the Court to entertain doubt on the accuracy of what a witness has observed. In the present case however, Maria Cristina could not have been mistaken in the identification of the accused considering that it was broad daylight; there were no other persons on the road; it does not appear that her view was obstructed; and most importantly, the accused were her townmates. Once a person has gained familiarity with another identification becomes quite an easy task even from a considerable distance.

4. ID.; ID.; ID.; FACTUAL FINDINGS OF THE TRIAL COURT, GENERALLY UPHELD ON APPEAL. — The Court thus affirms the factual findings of the trial court on the credibility of the prosecution witnesses not only because it had the advantage of observing first-hand the deportment- of said witnesses and therefore was in a better position to form an accurate impression and conclusion, but also because a review of the records reveals that their testimonies were categorical, straightforward and remained constant even under pressure of cross-examination. Also, they had no axe to grind against the accused. In the final analysis, the relationship of Maria Cristina and Juan to the victim although by mere affinity and employment, respectively, render their testimonies more worthy of belief as it would be unnatural for them who are interested in vindicating the crime to implicate persons other than the real culprits.

5. CRIMINAL LAW; QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCE; TREACHERY; REQUISITES. — For treachery to be considered as a qualifying circumstance, two conditions must be satisfied: (a) the employment of means, method or manner of execution to ensure the safety of the malefactor from defensive or retaliatory acts on the part of the victim; and (b) the means, method or manner of execution was deliberately adopted by the offender.

6. ID.; MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCE; VOLUNTARY SURRENDER; ELEMENTS. — Voluntary surrender may be appreciated as a mitigating circumstance when the following elements concur: (a) The offender has not been actually arrested; (b) The offender surrenders himself to a person in authority; and (c) The surrender is voluntary.

7. ID.; ID.; ID.; NOT APPRECIATED WHERE SURRENDER WAS NOT SPONTANEOUS BUT BECAUSE APPELLANT FEARED FOR HIS LIFE. — The third element is lacking in the instant case because appellant’s surrender was merely forced by circumstances, as explained by the trial court — . . . It must be noted that Arnold Castillo and his father sought Col. Barairo because they feared for their safety after they allegedly learned that unidentified men were looking for them. Consequently, even assuming that Arnold Castillo surrendered to Col. Barairo such surrender was not spontaneous and cannot be considered as a mitigating circumstance.

8. CIVIL LAW; DAMAGES; INDEMNITY FOR DEATH; SHOULD BE SPECIFIED AND BE AT LEAST P50,000.00. — A word on the lump sum of P500,000.00 as indemnity for death and for moral damages. The trial court should have specified how much of the award referred to the death indemnity and how much for moral damages. However, under the circumstances, it is safe to say that at least P50,000.00 of the amount granted should be for death indemnity, conformably with prevailing jurisprudence and the balance of P450,000.00 for moral damages.


D E C I S I O N


BELLOSILLO, J.:


Salvador Delmo, a former mayor of Calamba, Laguna, was found dead with three gunshot wounds in the morning of 20 May 1990 on a dusty road in Barangay Bañadero. For his death ARNOLD CASTILLO Y MANGUIAT, AURELIO CASTILLO and BENITO VIÑAS were charged with murder attended with treachery, evident premeditation and abuse of superior strength before the Regional Trial Court of Calamba.

On 30 June 1994 Arnold Castillo y Manguiat was declared by the trial court guilty as charged, sentenced to reclusion perpetua, and ordered "to indemnify the heirs of Salvador Delmo the amount of P200,175.00 as actual damages, P500,000.00 for the death of Salvador Delmo and moral damages, and to pay the costs."cralaw virtua1aw library

Aurelio Castillo and Benito Viñas were acquitted. 1

The evidence shows that Aurelio Castillo had a house and lot situated in Bañadero, Calamba, Laguna, which he mortgaged with the Rural Bank of Calamba. After he became delinquent in the payment of his loan the bank foreclosed the mortgage and subsequently sold the property to Mayor Salvador Delmo.

On 3 May 1993 the sheriff, the bank lawyer and bank officials, and the security guards hired by Mayor Delmo proceeded to Bañadero to implement the writ of possession issued by the trial court. Aurelio pleaded with the bank lawyer not to implement the writ yet because he would elevate the case to the Court of Appeals. The bank lawyer however replied that he could not do anything anymore because the court order was already final and executory. Aurelio retorted, Magkakamatayan tayo dito; ang hirap ninyong pakiusapan. Thereafter, he entered his house. A few seconds later, the bank lawyer heard a resounding blow against the wall of the house, followed by a loud outcry from Aurelio.

After a while, a nephew of Aurelio came out. He informed the bank lawyer that they could proceed with the removal of the personal properties inside the house. The sheriff and his men then did as they were told. There was no resistance from anybody. After the sheriff turned over the possession of the property to the bank lawyer the latter delivered it to Mayor Delmo.

On 20 May 1993, at around six o’clock in the morning, Juan Bongga, a helper of Mayor Delmo, went to the kalamansi-an of his father-in-law in Bañadero to gather kalamansi. A few minutes later Maria Cristina Delmo, wife of Salvador Delmo Jr. and daughter-in-law of Mayor Delmo, arrived and sought permission also to gather kalamansi. It was at about seven o’clock that same morning when Juan Bongga saw Mayor Delmo and Aurelio Castillo arguing in the middle of the road. Juan was about twenty meters away. With Aurelio were his son Arnold and brother-in-law Benito Viñas.

While Mayor Delmo and Aurelio were arguing, Arnold went suddenly behind the mayor and fired a shot at the back of his head causing him to fall to the ground with face downward. Arnold fired a second shot at the back of Delmo’s body, and a third shot at the lower portion of his buttocks, Juan then ran towards the house of Salvador Delmo Jr. and informed him of the incident. He did not however name the perpetrator/s of the crime.

After hearing the shots, Maria Cristina headed towards the direction where the shots came from. She was astounded when she saw her father-in-law lying on the road some forty to forty-five meters away. She readily recognized him. He was wearing a white T-shirt and a pair of checkered shorts, the same attire he was wearing when she talked to him before proceeding to the kalamansi-an. She also saw Arnold pointing a short firearm at her father-in-law with Aurelio and Benito standing nearby. Upon seeing the victim she ran towards home. Her husband was in the kitchen when she arrived but was not able to say anything to him immediately because he was in a state of shock. She just went straight to their bedroom. After some two to five minutes Primo, a houseboy of Mayor Delmo, also arrived with another helper and informed Salvador Jr. of the shooting of his father.

Maria Cristina rushed back to the crime scene, this time together with her husband Salvador Jr. After a few minutes policemen arrived and conducted an investigation. But Maria Cristina had yet to regain her physical and mental equipoise.

The medico-legal report showed that Mayor Delmo suffered three gunshot wounds: at the back of his head, at the middle of his back, and at the back of his left thigh, and that he died of hemorrhage as a result of gunshot wounds.

That same morning Arnold and Benito were invited by the investigators to the police station but were released after interrogation. Aurelio also gave his statement to the police that afternoon.

On 23 May 1993 Aurelio and Arnold went to Balele, Tanauan, Batangas. They stayed in the house of a sister of Aurelio and then in the house of a brother until June or July 1993. They returned to Calamba, Laguna, and stayed in a house in Bucal under the custody of Col. Cesario Barairo. They were later turned over to the Jail Warden.

According to Dr. Marcelina Delmo, widow of Mayor Delmo, she was shocked upon seeing the lifeless body of her husband and could neither eat nor sleep. She said she was also forced to close her medical clinic and to stop her practice of medicine, and that she spent P180,000.00 for funeral services, P1,635.000 for masses, P3,540.00 for mortuary services, P5,000.00 for pictures, and P15,000.00 for obituary in The Daily Bulletin. She presented documentary evidence to support her assertions. She claimed she even had other expenses in connection with the wake for her husband but could no longer produce the corresponding receipts. She also testified that Mayor Delmo was sixty-five years old at the time of his death, in good health, and engaged in the real estate business, owning and administering several apartments and a grocery store.

Arnold Castillo alleges in his appeal that the trial court erred (a) when it lent credence to the testimonies of Juan Bongga and Maria Cristina notwithstanding signs of fabrication and defiance of human nature; (b) when it did not appreciate the documentary evidence for the defense, i.e., the Initial Report dated 20 May 1993 and the Joint Affidavit of Arrest dated 8 June 1993; and, (c) when it ruled that the killing was attended with treachery while discarding his claim of voluntary surrender.

Appellant assails Juan Bongga’s Salaysay and his testimony in court: First, Juan’s statement in his Salaysay that Mayor Delmo was shot by appellant three times at the back of his head runs counter to his testimony in court that the Mayor was shot at the back of his head, at the back of his body, and at the lower portion of his buttocks; Second, Juan admitted in his Salaysay that he did not know what the accused and Mayor Delmo were arguing about but later contradicted himself by testifying that they were arguing about the house and lot; and, Third, Juan made it appear in his Salaysay that he went to the palikong daan to ascertain what the accused and the mayor were quarreling about, and yet, failed to mention this fact at the witness stand.

Appellant further disputes the credibility of Juan by calling attention to the fact that the latter did not immediately report to the police authorities or to the widow of Mayor Delmo what he had witnessed that morning of 20 May 1993 and that he executed a statement on the incident only on 8 June 1993.

The general rule has always been that discrepancies between the statements of the affiant in his affidavit and those he makes on the witness stand do not necessarily discredit him because it is a matter of judicial experience that an affidavit being taken ex-parte is almost always incomplete and often inaccurate. The exceptions thereto, which impair the credibility of witnesses, are when the narration in the sworn statement substantially contradicts the testimony in court, or when the omission in the affidavit refers to a very important detail of the incident that one relating the incident as an eyewitness could not be expected to fail to mention. 2 The point of inquiry therefore is whether the contradictions and omissions are important and substantial, and we find that they refer to trivial matters. What is significant though, as properly observed by the Office of the Solicitor General, is the circumstance common to both the sworn statement and the testimony in court that Juan witnessed the shooting of the victim by Appellant.

The initial silence of Juan Bongga should not be taken against him. The delay or vacillation in making a criminal accusation does not necessarily impair the credibility of witnesses if such delay is satisfactorily explained, 3 as in this case. When Juan was asked during the cross-examination why he did not report the incident at once to the police authorities he answered that he was then taken aback. 4 Moreover, it is not uncommon for a witness to a crime to show some reluctance about getting involved in a criminal case, as in fact the natural tendency of most people not to get involved is of judicial notice. 5

As regards the credibility of Maria Cristina, appellant argues that her story that she saw him pointing a gun at the body of Mayor Delmo is hard to believe considering her testimony that she was forty to forty-five meters away when the shots were fired. Moreover, according to him, it is highly incredible for her to remain silent and not to disclose to her husband the details of the slaying of her father-in-law.

The distance of forty to forty-five meters away from the scene of the crime, taken by itself, may lead the Court to entertain doubt on the accuracy of what a witness has observed. In the present case, however, Maria Cristina could not have been mistaken in the identification of the accused considering that it was broad daylight; 6 there were no other persons on the road; 7 it does not appear that her view was obstructed; 8 and, most importantly, the accused were her townmates. 9 Once a person has gained familiarity with another, identification becomes quite an easy task even from a considerable distance.

The initial silence of Maria Cristina was likewise sufficiently explained. According to her, she was shocked and scared. 10 It is understandable when a witness does not immediately report the identity of the offender after a startling occurrence, more so when he is related to the victim as this makes it all the more traumatic. 11 It is equally understandable for a witness to fear for his safety especially when townmates are involved in the commission of a crime. An inculpatory statement can easily provoke retaliation. 12

The Court thus affirms the factual findings of the trial court on the credibility of the prosecution witnesses not only because it had the advantage of observing first-hand the deportment of said witnesses and therefore was in a better position to form an accurate impression and conclusion, 13 but also because a review of the records reveals that their testimonies were categorical, straightforward and remained constant even under pressure of cross-examination. Also, they had no axe to grind against the accused. In the final analysis, the relationship of Maria Cristina and Juan to the victim although by mere affinity and employment, respectively, render their testimonies more worthy of belief as it would be unnatural for them who are interested in vindicating the crime to implicate persons other than the real culprits. 14

Accused-appellant faults the trial court for not appreciating his documentary evidence, i.e., the Initial Report 15 dated 20 May 1993, and the Joint Affidavit of Arrest 16 dated 8 June 1993. He claims that the Initial Report of the policemen clearly states that Mayor Delmo was killed in a manner different from the versions of Juan and Maria Cristina, while the Joint Affidavit of Arrest distinctly shows that as of 8 June 1993 the suspects were still unidentified, which directly contradicted the Salaysay dated 28 May 1993 of Maria Cristina identifying the accused as the assailants of Mayor Delmo.

The reliance on the Initial Report is preposterous because the report was merely based on theories and preliminary investigations conducted by the policemen. On the other hand the Joint Affidavit of Arrest states that the arrest of Juan Bongga was pursuant to the complaint of Dr. Marcelina Delmo against unidentified suspects in connection with the shooting of her husband. This affidavit, insofar as it refers to her complaint against unidentified suspects, is baseless. It is explicit in the Salaysay of Dr. Delmo dated 26 May 1993 that she suspected Aurelio Castillo, his children and relatives as the perpetrators of the murder of her husband. 17

Lastly, appellant argues that assuming that his guilt has been established beyond reasonable doubt, the prosecution failed to prove treachery. Aside from the statement of Juan that he saw appellant go behind Mayor Delmo and shoot him at the back of his head, there is no other evidence to establish treachery. As regards voluntary surrender, his surrender to Col. Barairo should mitigate his liability.

We do not agree. for treachery to be considered as a qualifying circumstance, two conditions must be satisfied: (a) the employment of means, method or manner of execution to ensure the safety of the malefactor from defensive or retaliatory acts on the part of the victim; and, (b) the means, method or manner of execution was deliberately adopted by the offender.18 The trial court in this case correctly appreciated treachery when it found that —

. . . Arnold Castillo without any warning suddenly went at the back of (behind) Salvador Delmo while the latter was facing Aurelio Castillo, then fired a shot at the back of the head of Salvador Delmo. Arnold Castillo employed a means in the execution of the felony that directly and specially insured its execution. Undoubtedly, there was no risk to Arnold Castillo from the defense that Salvador Delmo might make because the latter was then apparently unaware of what Arnold Castillo will (sic) do.19

Voluntary surrender may be appreciated as a mitigating circumstance when the following elements concur: (a) The offender has not been actually arrested; (b) The offender surrenders himself to a person in authority; and, (c) The surrender is voluntary. 20 The third element is lacking in the instant case because appellant’s surrender was merely forced by circumstances, as explained by the trial court —

. . . It must be noted that Arnold Castillo and his father sought Col. Barairo because they feared for their safety after they allegedly learned that unidentified men were looking for them. Consequently, even assuming that Arnold Castillo surrendered to Col. Barairo, such surrender was not spontaneous and cannot be considered as a mitigating circumstance. 21

We conclude that the trial court did not err in finding accused-appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the murder of Mayor Salvador Delmo.

A word on the lump sum of P500,000.00 as indemnity for death and for moral damages. The trial court should have specified how much of the award referred to the death indemnity and how much for moral damages. However, under the circumstances, it is safe to say that at least P50,000.00 of the amount granted should be for death indemnity, conformably with prevailing jurisprudence, and the balance of P450,000.00 for moral damages.

WHEREFORE, the judgment appealed from finding accused-appellant ARNOLD CASTILLO Y MANGUIAT guilty of murder and imposing upon him the penalty of reclusion perpetua, as well as ordering him to pay the heirs of Salvador Delmo P200,175.00 for actual damages and P500,000.00 as indemnity for death and for moral damages, and to pay the costs is AFFIRMED, except that of the P500,000.00, P50,000.00 shall be for death indemnity and P450,000.00 for moral damages.

SO ORDERED.

Padilla, Vitug, Kapunan and Hermosisima, Jr., JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Decision penned by Judge Odilon I. Bautista, RTC-Br. 37, Calamba, Laguna.

2. People v. Calegan, G.R. No. 93846, 30 June 1994, 233 SCRA 537.

3. People v. Gornes, G.R. No. 104869, 23 February 1994, 230 SCRA 270.

4. TSN, 11 January 1994, p. 14 a.

5. People v. Fuertes, G.R. No. 104067, 17 January 1994, 229 SCRA 289.

6. TSN, 18 January 1994, p. 5.

7. Id., p. 7.

8. People v. Bongadillo, G.R. No. 96687, 20 July 1994, 234 SCRA 233.

9. TSN, 18 January 1994, pp. 12-14.

10. Id., pp. 12, 14, 15, 17, 37, 38.

11. People v. Gamboa, G.R. No. 91374, 25 February 1991, 194 SCRA 372.

12. People v. Villaruel, G.R. Nos. 110803-04, 25 November 1994, 238 SCRA 408.

13. People v. Gabriel, G.R. No. 110036, 7 October 1994, 237 SCRA 493.

14. People v. Vicente, G.R. No. 103299, 17 August 1993, 225 SCRA 361.

15. Records, p. 147.

16. Id., p. 156.

17. Id., p. 4.

18. People v. Mendoza, G.R. No. 109783, 22 September 1994, 236 SCRA 666.

19. Rollo, p. 34.

20. People v. Amaguin, G.R. Nos. 54344-45, 10 January 1994, 229 SCRA 166.

21. See Note 19.

HomeJurisprudenceSupreme Court Decisions1996 : Philippine Supreme Court DecisionsSeptember 1996 : Philippine Supreme Court DecisionsTop of Page