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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. Nos. 106345-46. September 16, 1996.]

THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ROMEO TUSON y JABIDO, Accused-Appellant.


SYLLABUS


1. REMEDIAL LAW; EVIDENCE; CREDIBILITY OF WITNESSES; FACTUAL FINDINGS OF THE TRIAL COURT RESPECTED ON APPEAL. — In the instant appeal, Tuson argues that the trial court erred in not appreciating in his favor the justifying circumstance of self-defense, a time-worn excuse resorted to by assailants in appealed criminal cases. Time and again, however, this Court has adhered to the policy of deference to the factual findings of the trial judge owing to his having personally examined the evidence presented and observed the witnesses testifying on the stand. Unless his conclusions are glaringly erroneous and unduly prejudicial to the accused, the same must be respected on appeal.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; STRENGTHENED BY THE CONGRUENCE BETWEEN THE TESTIMONIAL AND PHYSICAL EVIDENCES OFFERED IN THE CASE. — Hernani Villeta, Evelyn Villarin, and Rosalinda Villarin, heard this first shot. Hernani and Evelyn immediately rushed out to investigate the matter just in time to see Tuson shooting Ceferino as Loreto lay sprawled on the ground. The bullets which were fired at Loreto and Ceferino had downward trajectories which conformed with the relative positions of the assailant and his targets at the time of shooting. The congruence between the testimonial and the physical evidence leads to the inevitable conclusion that the witnesses for the prosecution were the ones telling the truth.

3. ID.; ID.; FLIGHT OF THE ACCUSED; AN INDICATION OF GUILT. — With the finding of absence of unlawful aggression, the crimes charged can never be justified, for there is nothing to prevent or repel even if there is lack of sufficient provocation on the part of Tuson. To make matters worse, he fled immediately after the incident and went into hiding for more than a week. These could not possibly be the actuations of a man claiming to be innocent of any wrongdoing. To do so under the pretext of fear of retribution from other members of the victims’ family would not only be craven but also irrational, considering that his wife and two children were left behind.

4. CRIMINAL LAW; JUSTIFYING CIRCUMSTANCES; SELF-DEFENSE; REQUISITES. — Tuson admitted having shot the brothers Villarin, albeit in self-defense. For such a defense to be appreciated in favor of the accused, the trial court must be satisfied that the three elements necessary to justify the acts complained of attended their commission. First, there must be unlawful aggression on the part of the victim. Second, the means employed to prevent or repel such aggression must be reasonably necessary. Finally, the person defending himself must not have provoked the victim into committing the act of aggression. As correctly found by the trial court, there was no unlawful aggression in this case. The victims allegedly shouted threats and banged on the door of Tuson, but these acts hardly constitute unlawful aggression considering that the latter was within the security of his home, which was surrounded by neighbors who also happened to be close relatives. By Tuson’s own account, Loreto barged into their house and commanded him to stand up, which is far from threatening. The peril feared could have emanated only from the firearm which Loreto allegedly carried at the time, and yet, this too was vague, even on the basis of Tuson’s testimony. He said that when he approached Loreto, Ceferino who was outside shouted "he has a gun." It does not make sense for Ceferino to announce to their intended victim that they had a gun. It would seem more plausible that Ceferino uttered the statement as a warning to his brother.

5. ID.; QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCES; TREACHERY; REQUISITES THEREOF. — For treachery to be considered against the accused, two conditions must concur, namely, that the means, methods, and forms of execution employed gave the person attacked no opportunity to defend himself or to retaliate, and that such means, methods, and forms of execution were deliberately and consciously adopted by the accused without danger to his person. These two requisites were evidently present in the instant case. The suddenness of the attack against the unarmed victims clearly indicate treachery.


D E C I S I O N


ROMERO, J.:


Murder is one of the instances when man descends to a level lower than that of the beast, for it is non-instinctive killing, a deliberate destruction of a member of the same species for reasons other than survival. Its senselessness is heightened when, reminiscent of Cain and Abel, it is committed between kindred.

The Tusons and the Villarins are more than mere neighbors in the semi-permanent structures they call home in Project 6, Quezon City; they are also cousins. This dual relationship should have fostered harmonious co-existence among them, but such was not the case. Sometime in October 1990, Accused-appellant Romeo Tuson and his first cousin, Loreto Villarin, were engaged in a fight over gambling matters. Bolo marks on the door of Tuson’s shanty attest to the violence that attended their quarrel. Three days later, on October 11, their differences were finally settled.

The brothers Loreto and Ceferino Villarin were drunk and tipsy that night after celebrating another brother’s birthday at Forest Hills. At around 10:45 p.m., Ceferino, who was seated beside the wooden window of their single-storey house, saw Loreto who was clad only in his underwear make his way to the common lavatory. Loreto never reached his destination, for he was suddenly shot in the neck by Tuson who was standing by the door of his own slightly-elevated shack which was adjacent to the toilet. Ceferino rushed to rescue his brother but was likewise shot by Tuson in the face. 1

Three other prosecution witnesses heard the twin shots; two of them actually saw the shooting of Ceferino by Tuson. Ceferino’s wife Evelyn and nephew, Hernani Villeta who was living with them, immediately rushed to the door of their house after hearing the gunshot and saw Tuson shoot Ceferino in the face as the latter tried to help his brother. 2 Loreto’s wife Rosalinda heard everything but did not have the heart to look out. All three testified that Tuson shouted, "Ikaw pa!" prior to the second shot. When Ceferino was already down, he was threatened by Tuson not to rise lest he be shot a second time. Hernani shouted and succeeded in pleading with his Uncle Romeo to stop. Forthwith, Tuson fled.

With timely medical attention by Dr. Marida Arend Arugay of the East Avenue Medical Center, Ceferino’s life was saved. The downward trajectory of the bullet extracted from his neck indicated that the assailant fired the gun from a higher elevation. The same was true with the bullet that killed Loreto as it entered the right side of the neck and exited between the two shoulder blades. 3

Tuson claims he shot the brothers in self-defense. His story was that he was sleeping with his wife Teresita and their two children on that fateful night when Loreto barged into their one-room house shouting, "Tayo! Putang-ina mo!" Although it is not clear if it was Loreto who was armed — Tuson himself testified that he heard Ceferino from outside the door shouting that "he has a gun" — Tuson asserted that he tried to wrest a gun away from Loreto. While grappling for possession of the gun, they both fell near the three-step stairway and, with Loreto on top of him, the gun went off. Somehow, the blast sent Loreto flipping over the two-foot rail guard barring the door, down the three steps, finally resting on the ground outside. 4 Seeing that Ceferino who was allegedly armed with a bladed weapon was rising, he also shot him. He immediately fled, threw away the gun, and went into hiding for nine days before surrendering to the police on October 20, 1990. 5 His story was corroborated by his wife and older sister, Nieves Sotto. No bladed weapon was recovered from the crime scene.

Sotto testified that prior to the shooting, the brothers Villarin were challenging her youngest brother, Romeo. Loreto was on the stairs of Romeo’s house telling the latter to go out because his coffin was ready, all the while banging the door. Yet, on cross-examination, she admitted that she did not notice who opened the door of Romeo’s house because she was then embracing her husband who was sleeping on the floor of their own house. 6

For the death of Loreto Villarin and the shooting of Ceferino Villarin, Romeo Tuson was charged with murder and frustrated murder before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 88. On June 2, 1992, Judge Tirso D’C. Velasco rendered judgment, the dispositive portion of which reads as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"WHEREFORE premises considered, this court finds accused ROMEO TUSON y JABIDO GUILTY of the crime charged in the two (2) informations, and hereby sentences him to suffer a penalty of reclusion perpetua for the murder of Loreto Villarin in Criminal Case No. Q-90-15933, the death penalty having been abolished, and imprisonment of ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum to seventeen (17) years, four (4) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal as maximum for the frustrated murder of Ceferino Villarin in Criminal Case No. Q-90-15934; to pay the heirs of deceased LORETO VILLARIN in the amount of P8,900.00 for burial expense, P30,000.00 for actual and moral damages and P50,000.00 as indemnity for the death; and to Ceferino Villarin the amount of P15,000.00 for moral damages, and to pay the cost.

SO ORDERED."cralaw virtua1aw library

In the instant appeal, Tuson argues that the trial court erred in not appreciating in his favor the justifying circumstance of self-defense, a time-worn excuse resorted to by assailants in appealed criminal cases. Time and again, however, this court had adhered to the policy of deference to the factual findings of the trial judge owing to his having personally examined the evidence presented and observed the witnesses testify on the stand. Unless his conclusions are glaringly erroneous and unduly prejudicial to the accused, the same must be respected on appeal.

In the course of the trial, the court below found out that, not only was the evidence of the defense weak, but that the prosecution’s was sufficient to support the charges against the accused.

Tuson admitted having shot the brothers Villarin, albeit in self-defense. For such a defense to be appreciated in favor of the accused, the trial court must be satisfied that the three elements necessary to justify the acts complained of attended their commission. First, there must be unlawful aggression on the part of the victim. Second, the means employed to prevent or repel such aggression must be reasonably necessary. Finally, the person defending himself must not have provoked the victim into committing the act of aggression. 7

As correctly found by the trial court, there was no unlawful aggression in this case. The victims allegedly shouted threats and banged on the door of Tuson, but these acts hardly constitute unlawful aggression considering that the latter was within the security of his home, which was surrounded by neighbors who also happened to be close relatives. By Tuson’s own account, Loreto barged into their house and commanded him to stand up, which is far from threatening. The peril feared could have emanated only from the firearm which Loreto allegedly carried at the time, and yet, this too was vague, even on the basis of Tuson’s testimony. He said that when he approached Loreto, Ceferino who was outside shouted "he has a gun." 8 It does not make sense for Ceferino to announce to their intended victim that they had a gun. It would seem more plausible that Ceferino uttered the statement as a warning to his brother.

With the finding of absence of unlawful aggression, the crimes charged can never be justified, for there is nothing to prevent or repel even if there is lack of sufficient provocation on the part of Tuson. To make matters worse, he fled immediately after the incident and went into hiding for more than a week. These could not possibly be the actuations of a man claiming to be innocent of any wrongdoing. To do so under the pretext of fear of retribution from other members of the victims’ family 9 would not only be craven but also irrational, considering that his wife and two children were left behind.

The evidence for the prosecution, on the other hand, is solid and convincing. Ceferino was not only an eyewitness to the slaying of his brother Loreto but was himself a victim. His narration of the circumstances surrounding the shooting is supported by the separate testimonies of their wives and nephew. While it is true that they were tipsy on the night in question, he denied that they went to Tuson’s house and shouted there. In fact, Loreto was simply in his underwear, 10 ready to sleep, when nature called. The U-shaped construction of their so-called "compound," with the common toilet adjacent to Romeo’s house directly opposite Loreto’s, required anyone waiting to use the lavatory to pass Tuson’s house. 11 When Loreto thus passed his cousin’s shanty which was elevated like the rest, Tuson, who was standing by the door, suddenly and without provocation shot him at near-point-blank range.

Hernani Villeta, Evelyn Villarin, and Rosalinda Villarin, heard this first shot. Hernani and Evelyn immediately rushed out to investigate the matter just in time to see Tuson shooting Ceferino as Loreto lay sprawled on the ground. The bullets which were fired at Loreto and Ceferino had downward trajectories which conformed with the relative positions of the assailant and his targets at the time of shooting. The congruence between the testimonial and the physical evidence leads to the inevitable conclusion that the witnesses for the prosecution were the ones telling the truth.

Finally, it must be determined if the crimes committed were indeed murder and frustrated murder. The trial court considered treachery as the sole qualifying circumstance, contrary to accused-appellant’s claim that the court also included nocturnity. From the prosecution’s evidence, it appears that Loreto was totally unarmed and half-dressed when unexpectedly shot by Tuson from the door of his elevated house. A little while later, the latter shouted "Ikaw pa!" then shot Ceferino who was likewise unarmed. Proof of intent to kill is evident in the way Loreto was shot in the neck and Ceferino in the face. Only timely medical attention spared Ceferino’s Life.

For treachery to be considered against the accused, two conditions must concur, namely, that the means, methods, and forms of execution employed gave the person attacked no opportunity to defend himself or to retaliate, and that such means, methods, and forms of execution were deliberately and consciously adopted by the accused 12 without danger to his person. These two requisites were evidently present in the instant case. The suddenness of the attack against the unarmed victims clearly indicate treachery. 13

The Court notes, however that the court a quo imposed an erroneous indeterminate sentence with regard to Criminal Case No. Q-90-15934. Accordingly, the judgment of conviction appealed from is hereby modified as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

WHEREFORE premises considered, this Court finds accused ROMEO TUSON Y JABIDO GUILTY of the crime charged in the two (2) informations, and hereby sentences him to suffer a penalty of reclusion perpetua for the murder of Loreto Villarin in Criminal Case No. Q-90-15933, the death penalty having been abolished, and imprisonment of ten (10) years of prision mayor as minimum to seventeen (17) years and four months of reclusion temporal as maximum for the frustrated murder of Ceferino Villarin in Criminal Case No. Q-90-15934; to pay the heirs of deceased LORETO VILLARIN, in the amount of P8,900.00 for burial expense, P30,000.00 for actual and moral damages and P50,000.00 as indemnity for the death; and to Ceferino Villarin the amount of P15,000.00 for moral damages, and to pay the cost.

SO ORDERED.

WHEREFORE, except for the modification above as to the penalty imposed, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Regalado, Puno and Torres, Jr., JJ., concur.

Mendoza, J., is on leave.

Endnotes:



1. TSN, March 13, 1991, pp. 4-12.

2. Ibid., pp. 14-22, September 18, 1991, pp. 4-6.

3. TSN, April 16, 1991, p. 6; Exhs. "A-1" and "F."cralaw virtua1aw library

4. Exhs. "J" to "J-4."cralaw virtua1aw library

5. TSN, July 23, 1991, pp. 4-6.

6. TSN, July 5, 1991, pp. 3-8.

7. Article 11(1), Revised Penal Code.

8. TSN, July 23, 1991, p. 4.

9. Ibid., pp. 5-6.

10. TSN, March 13, 1991, p. 10.

11. Exhs. "J" to "J-4."cralaw virtua1aw library

12. People v. Landicho, G.R. No. 116600, July 3, 1996, citing People v. Kempis, 221 SCRA 628 (1993).

13. Ibid., citing People v. Hubilla, G.R. No. 114904, January 29, 1996.

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