G.R. No. 184601 : November 12, 2012
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. MARCIAL MALICDEM y MOLINA, Accused-Appellant.
D E C I S I O N
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
Before this Court is the appeal of the April 21, 200R Decision1Ï‚rÎ½ll of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 02522,2Ï‚rÎ½ll which affirmed with modification the July 31, 2006 Decision3Ï‚rÎ½ll of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 42, Dagupan City in Crim. Case No. 2002-0561-D, entitled People of the Philippines v. Marcial Malicdem y Molina, that found appellant Marcial Malicdem guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of murder.
On September 12, 2002, the following information for the crime of murder was filed against appellant:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
That on or about August 11, 2002 in the evening at Brgy. Anolid, Mangaldan, Pangasinan, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a bladed weapon, with intent to kill and with treachery, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, stab and hit WILSON S. MOLINA, inflicting upon him a fatal stab wound on the vital part of the body, causing his untimely death to the damage and prejudice of his heirs.
CONTRARY to Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by RA 7659.4Ï‚rÎ½ll
Appellant was arraigned on October 17, 2002 where he pleaded not guilty.5Ï‚rÎ½ll Trial on the merits ensued thereafter.
The prosecution presented the following as its witnesses: Dr. Ophelia T. Rivera (Dr. Rivera), Bernardo Casullar (Bernardo), Joel Concepcion (Joel), Felipe Molina (Felipe), and Maricon Nicolas (Maricon).
The defense presented as witnesses appellant and his wife, Anabel Malicdem (Anabel). Essentially, the appellant invoked self-defense to justify his participation in the cause of death of Wilson S. Molina (Wilson).
After both parties presented their respective evidence, the RTC rendered its Decision on July 31, 2006 convicting the accused of the crime charged.
The RTC summarized the testimonies of Bernardo and Joel in open court as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On the night of August 11, 2002, as it was their practice after dinner, they met with Wilson near the artesian well. At around 9:00 p.m., while they were seated on the septic tank, appellant arrived asking if they knew the whereabouts of his godson, Rogelio6Ï‚rÎ½ll Molina (Rogelio). They answered in the negative. They noticed that appellant was reeking of alcohol and was drunk. Appellant asked again for the whereabouts of Rogelio. As they stood to leave, appellant suddenly embraced Wilson and lunged a six-inch knife to the left part of his chest. When appellant moved to strike again, Wilson was able to deflect this blow which resulted to a cut on his right arm. Intending to help his friend, Bernardo was hit by the knife in his stomach. In the course of aiding Wilson, Joel boxed the appellant. During the brawl, Francisco Molina, Rogelios father, arrived at the scene, but was stabbed in the stomach by appellant. Appellant then ran away. Afterwards, Joel brought Wilson aboard a police patrol car to the Region I Medical Center in Dagupan City where Wilson was declared dead on arrival.7Ï‚rÎ½ll
In her post-mortem report, Dr. Rivera, Municipal Health Officer of Mangaldan, Pangasinan, stated:
Abrasion, 1.2 x 0.5 cm, just above the eyebrow, lateral aspect, left.
Stabbed (sic) wound, 3 cm, wound directed laterally and downward, parasternal line, infraclavicular area, left.
Abrasion (Teeth impression mark), middle third, anterior aspect, upper arm, left.
Stabbed (sic) wound, 3.5 cm, wound directed upward and posteriorly, middle third, medioposterior aspect, forearm, right.
Abrasion, 0.5 x 0.8 cm, lateral aspect, knee, left.
Abrasion, 2 x 1 cm, knee, right.
CAUSE OF DEATH:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
CARDIORESPIRATORY ARREST SECONDARY TO HYPOVOLEMIC SHOCK DUE TO STAB WOUND.8Ï‚rÎ½ll
The RTC gave a gist of the testimonies of appellant and Anabel as follows: Appellant and Anabel were in their house on the night of the incident. Appellant was looking after their children, aged four and seven, while Anabel was cooking dinner. When Anabel informed appellant that dinner was ready, he and Anabel went out to look for his godson, Rogelio. They went to the house of Rogelios parents to look for the latter. They were informed, however, that Rogelio was not there. Rogelios mother advised them to look outside.9Ï‚rÎ½ll
On their way home, the couple passed by the artesian well where Bernardo, Joel and Wilson were loitering. Appellant inquired from the three if they had seen Rogelio. Bernardo, allegedly, sarcastically replied "No, we have not seen him. Why do you look for him here, you have your eyes, you have your feet."10Ï‚rÎ½ll When appellant voiced out his observation that the three were drunk, he allegedly was struck by a bottle by Bernardo. Appellant tried to block the blow but the bottle still hit his right eyelid. A fistfight erupted between Bernardo and appellant, causing the bottle that Bernardo was holding to fall. Meanwhile, Joel and Wilson stationed themselves on different sides of the appellant. It was here that Anabel allegedly saw Wilson drawing a knife. She shouted a warning to her husband. Having issued her warning, Wilson boxed Anabel in the mouth and approached appellant. Appellant quickly grabbed a piece of bamboo and waited for Wilson to approach him. When Wilson was near enough, appellant grabbed hold of Wilsons arm and grappled with him for possession of the knife. While this was going on, Bernardo joined the melee and proceeded to repeatedly punch appellant. Appellant made a side-move causing Bernardo to be hit by the knife held by Wilson in the stomach. Still grappling for possession of the knife with Wilson, Francisco Molina, Rogelios father, arrived and tried to pacify the combatants. Appellant hit Francisco on the cheek. Weak from the blows he had received, appellant fell to the ground. Anabel had to help him up so that they could go home. Bernardo followed and shouted: "I will kill you, I will make sure that I will have my revenge."11Ï‚rÎ½ll
On cross examination, appellant stated that after Bernardo was hit with the knife, there was a continued grappling for the knife. Finally, appellant was able to throw Wilson to the ground. He said that the knife did not fall to the ground but was held by Wilson. Unfortunately, when Wilson was thrown to the ground he fell on the knife he was still holding.12Ï‚rÎ½ll
The RTC, after observing inconsistencies in the testimonies of the appellant and his wife, found appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and declared:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Undoubtedly, the prosecution was able to prove clearly and convincingly that appellant killed Wilson not in self defense. The sudden attack on Wilson by appellant without the former having an inkling of the evil act of appellant and opportunity to defend himself constitute the qualifying aggravating circumstance of treachery.
x x x
WHEREFORE, premises considered, [appellant] MARCIAL MALICDEM his guilt having been proved beyond reasonable doubt of the felony of MURDER, is hereby convicted of the said felony and, there being no other aggravating nor mitigating circumstances, is sentenced to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA. In addition, he is ordered to pay P38,800 for actual damages, P50,000 for the death of Wilson Molina and another P50,000 as moral damages to the heirs of the victim.13Ï‚rÎ½ll
Appellant filed his notice of appeal on September 15, 2006. The same was given due course.
The Court of Appeals affirmed with modification the July 31, 2006 decision of the RTC and disposed of the appeal in the following manner:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Dagupan City, Branch 42, promulgated on August 31, 2006, in Criminal Case No. 2002-0561-D finding appellant guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder, and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that aside from the damages awarded by the trial court, appellant is also directed to pay exemplary damages in the amount of P25,000.14Ï‚rÎ½ll
Petitioners confinement was confirmed by the Bureau of Corrections on December 15, 2008.15Ï‚rÎ½ll
Appellant made the following assignment of errors in his appeal:
ASSIGNMENT OF ERRORS
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN ITS INTERPRETATION OF FACTS.
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GIVING CREDENCE TO THE APPARENT INCREDIBLE TESTIMONIES OF THE PROSECUTION WITNESSES.
THE TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED IN FINDING THAT THE GUILT OF THE APPELLANT FOR THE CRIME CHARGED HAS BEEN PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.19Ï‚rÎ½ll
Appellant posits that the Court of Appeals misinterpreted the facts and circumstances of the case. He argues that minor inconsistencies and contradictions particularly in his and Anabels testimonies did not affect their credibility as witnesses. He avers that the prosecutions version of the events was highly incredible since it was testified to that there was no grudge between the appellant and victim prior to the incident.
We affirm the April 21, 2008 Decision of the Court of Appeals with modification respecting the award of damages.
Time and again, this Court has stated that, in the absence of any clear showing that the trial court overlooked or misconstrued cogent facts and circumstances which would alter a conviction, it generally defers to the trial courts evaluation of the credibility of witnesses especially if such findings are affirmed by the Court of Appeals.20Ï‚rÎ½ll This must be so since the trial courts are in a better position to decide the question of credibility, having heard the witnesses themselves and having observed firsthand their deportment and manner of testifying under grueling examination.21Ï‚rÎ½ll
In People v. Clores,22Ï‚rÎ½ll this Court had occasion to state that:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
When it comes to the matter of credibility of a witness, settled are the guiding rules, some of which are that (1) the appellate court will not disturb the factual findings of the lower court, unless there is a showing that it had overlooked, misunderstood or misapplied some fact or circumstance of weight and substance that would have affected the result of the case, which showing is absent herein; (2) the findings of the trial court pertaining to the credibility of a witness is entitled to great respect since it had the opportunity to examine his demeanor as he testified on the witness stand, and, therefore, can discern if such witness is telling the truth or not; and (3) a witness who testifies in a categorical, straightforward, spontaneous and frank manner and remains consistent on cross-examination is a credible witness. (Citations omitted.)
Given the factual circumstances of the present case, we see no need to depart from the foregoing rules. Appellant failed to present proof of any showing that the trial court overlooked, misconstrued or misapplied some fact or circumstance of weight and substance that would have affected the result of the case. Prosecution witnesses positively identified appellant to have stabbed the victim.
We agree that the death of Wilson at the hands of appellant was not occasioned by self-defense. For this Court to consider self-defense as a justifying circumstance, appellant has to prove the following essential elements: (1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel such aggression; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person resorting to self-defense.23Ï‚rÎ½ll The Court has repeatedly stated that a person who invokes self-defense has the burden to prove all the aforesaid elements. The Court also considers unlawful aggression on the part of the victim as the most important of these elements. Thus, unlawful aggression must be proved first in order for self-defense to be successfully pleaded, whether complete or incomplete.24Ï‚rÎ½ll
As stated in People v. Fontanilla25Ï‚rÎ½ll :
Unlawful aggression is of two kinds: (a) actual or material unlawful aggression; and (b) imminent unlawful aggression. Actual or material unlawful aggression means an attack with physical force or with a weapon, an offensive act that positively determines the intent of the aggressor to cause the injury. Imminent unlawful aggression means an attack that is impending or at the point of happening; it must not consist in a mere threatening attitude, nor must it be merely imaginary, but must be offensive and positively strong (like aiming a revolver at another with intent to shoot or opening a knife and making a motion as if to attack). Imminent unlawful aggression must not be a mere threatening attitude of the victim, such as pressing his right hand to his hip where a revolver was holstered, accompanied by an angry countenance, or like aiming to throw a pot.
x x x It is basic that once an accused in a prosecution for murder or homicide admitted his infliction of the fatal injuries on the deceased, he assumed the burden to prove by clear, satisfactory and convincing evidence the justifying circumstance that would avoid his criminal liability x x x.
Based on the summary of facts by the RTC as affirmed by the Court of Appeals, the defense failed to discharge its burden to prove unlawful aggression on the part of Wilson by sufficient and satisfactory proof. The records were bereft of any indication that the attack by Wilson was not a mere threat or just imaginary. Bernardo, Joel and Wilson were just in the act of leaving when appellant suddenly plunged a knife to Wilsons chest.
Anent the finding of treachery by the RTC, we agree that appellants act of suddenly stabbing Wilson as he was about to leave constituted the qualifying circumstance of treachery. As we previously ruled, treachery is present when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution, which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to the offender arising from the defense which the offended party might make.26Ï‚rÎ½ll Here, appellant caught Wilson by surprise when he suddenly embraced him and proceeded immediately to plunge a knife to his chest. The swift turn of events did not allow Wilson to defend himself, in effect, assuring appellant that he complete the crime without risk to his own person.
Moreover, we agree with the Court of Appeals that the claim of appellant that accident was the cause of the death of the victim, cannot be taken into consideration in lieu of self-defense. As we stated in Toledo v. People27Ï‚rÎ½ll :
The petitioner is proscribed from changing in this Court, his theory of defense which he adopted in the trial court and foisted in the CA by claiming that he stabbed and killed the victim in complete self-defense. The petitioner relied on Article 12, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code in the trial and appellate courts, but adopted in this Court two divergent theories (1) that he killed the victim to defend himself against his unlawful aggression; hence, is justified under Article 11, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code; (2) that his bolo accidentally hit the victim and is, thus, exempt from criminal liability under Article 12, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code.
It is an aberration for the petitioner to invoke the two defenses at the same time because the said defenses are intrinsically antithetical. There is no such defense as accidental self-defense in the realm of criminal law.
Self-defense under Article 11, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code necessarily implies a deliberate and positive overt act of the accused to prevent or repel an unlawful aggression of another with the use of reasonable means. The accused has freedom of action. He is aware of the consequences of his deliberate acts. The defense is based on necessity which is the supreme and irresistible master of men of all human affairs, and of the law. From necessity, and limited by it, proceeds the right of self-defense. The right begins when necessity does, and ends where it ends. Although the accused, in fact, injures or kills the victim, however, his act is in accordance with law so much so that the accused is deemed not to have transgressed the law and is free from both criminal and civil liabilities. On the other hand, the basis of exempting circumstances under Article 12 of the Revised Penal Code is the complete absence of intelligence, freedom of action, or intent, or the absence of negligence on the part of the accused. The basis of the exemption in Article 12, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code is lack of negligence and intent. The accused does not commit either an intentional or culpable felony. The accused commits a crime but there is no criminal liability because of the complete absence of any of the conditions which constitute free will or voluntariness of the act. An accident is a fortuitous circumstance, event or happening; an event happening wholly or partly through human agency, an event which under the circumstances is unusual or unexpected by the person to whom it happens.
Self-defense, under Article 11, paragraph 1, and accident, under Article 12, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code, are affirmative defenses which the accused is burdened to prove, with clear and convincing evidence. Such affirmative defenses involve questions of facts adduced to the trial and appellate courts for resolution. By admitting killing the victim in self-defense or by accident without fault or without intention of causing it, the burden is shifted to the accused to prove such affirmative defenses. He should rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of that of the prosecution. If the accused fails to prove his affirmative defense, he can no longer be acquitted.
x x x
x x x With the failure of the petitioner to prove self-defense, the inescapable conclusion is that he is guilty of homicide as found by the trial court and the CA. He cannot even invoke Article 12, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code. (Citations omitted and emphases supplied.)
Hence, we sustain the findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals of the qualifying circumstance of treachery attended the commission of the crime.
Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659, provides for the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death for the crime of murder. There being no aggravating or mitigating circumstance, the RTC, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals, properly imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua, pursuant to Article 63, paragraph 2, of the Revised Penal Code.28Ï‚rÎ½ll
However, to conform to existing jurisprudence the Court must modify the amount of indemnity for death and exemplary damages awarded by the courts a quo.
Anent the award of damages, when death occurs due to a crime, the following may be recovered: (1) civil indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim; (2) actual or compensatory damages; (3) moral damages; (4) exemplary damages; (5) attorneys fees and expenses of litigation; and (6) interest, in proper cases.29Ï‚rÎ½ll
The heirs of the victim was able to prove before the trial court, actual damages in the amount of P38,300.00. Civil indemnity in the amount of P75,000.00 is mandatory and is granted without need of evidence other than the commission of the crime.30Ï‚rÎ½ll Moral damages in the sum of P50,000.00 should be awarded despite the absence of proof of mental and emotional suffering of the victims heirs.31Ï‚rÎ½ll As borne out by human nature and experience, a violent death invariably and necessarily brings about emotional pain and anguish on the part of the victims family.32Ï‚rÎ½ll
With respect to the award of exemplary damages, we agree with the Court of Appeals that the victims heirs are entitled to it. We have previously stated:
Unlike the criminal liability which is basically a State concern, the award of damages, however, is likewise, if not primarily, intended for the offended party who suffers thereby. It would make little sense for an award of exemplary damages to be due the private offended party when the aggravating circumstance is ordinary but to be withheld when it is qualifying. Withal, the ordinary or qualifying nature of an aggravating circumstance is a distinction that should only be of consequence to the criminal, rather than to the civil, liability of the offender. In fine, relative to the civil aspect of the case, an aggravating circumstance, whether ordinary or qualifying, should entitle the offended party to an award of exemplary damages within the unbridled meaning of Article 2230 of the Civil Code.33Ï‚rÎ½ll
However, recent jurisprudence pegs the award of exemplary damages at P30,000.00.34Ï‚rÎ½ll
In addition, and in conformity with current policy, we also impose on all the monetary awards for damages interest at the legal rate of 6% per annum from date of finality of this Decision until fully paid.35Ï‚rÎ½ll
WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The April 21, 2008 Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 02522 is AFFIRMED. Appellant MARCIAL MALICDEM Y MOLINA is found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of MURDER, and is sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. Appellant is further ordered to pay the heirs of Wilson S. Molina the amounts of P38,300.00 as actual damages, P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P50,000.00 as moral damages, and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages. All monetary awards for damages shall earn interest at the legal rate of 6% per annum from date of finality of this Decision until fully paid.
No pronouncement as to costs.Ï‚rÎ±lÎ±Ï‰lÎ¹brÎ±r
* Per Raffle dated October 17, 2012.
1Ï‚rÎ½ll Rollo, pp 2-24; penned by Associate Justice Martin S. Villararna, .Jr. (now a member of this Court) with Associate Justices Noel G. Tijam and Myrna Dimaranan Vidal, concurring.
2Ï‚rÎ½ll Entitled People of the Philippines v Marcial Malicdem y Molina.
3Ï‚rÎ½ll CA rollo, pp. 51-66; penned by Judge Rolando G. Mislang.
4Ï‚rÎ½ll Records, p. 3; signed by Teofilo A. Chiong, Jr., 2nd Assistant Provincial Prosecutor.
5Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 25.
6Ï‚rÎ½ll ROGEL in some parts of the Rollo.
7Ï‚rÎ½ll CA rollo, pp. 60-61.
8Ï‚rÎ½ll Records, p. 83.
9Ï‚rÎ½ll CA rollo, pp. 55-57.
10Ï‚rÎ½ll TSN, October 28, 2004, p. 7.
11Ï‚rÎ½ll TSN, May 27, 2004, pp. 6-11.
12Ï‚rÎ½ll TSNs, October 28, 2004, pp. 16-17 and November 23, 2004, pp. 4-5.
13Ï‚rÎ½ll CA rollo, p. 66.
14Ï‚rÎ½ll Rollo, p. 24.
15Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 31.
16Ï‚rÎ½ll CA rollo, pp. 191-193.
17Ï‚rÎ½ll Rollo, pp. 42-44.
18Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 33-36.
19Ï‚rÎ½ll CA rollo, p. 89.
20Ï‚rÎ½ll Ilisan v. People, G.R. No. 179487, November 15, 2010, 634 SCRA 658, 663.
21Ï‚rÎ½ll People v. Escleto, G.R. No. 183706, April 25, 2012.
22Ï‚rÎ½ll 263 Phil. 585, 591 (1990).
23Ï‚rÎ½ll People v. Dolorido, G.R. No. 191721, January 12, 2011, 639 SCRA 496, 502-503.
24Ï‚rÎ½ll Id. at 503.
25Ï‚rÎ½ll G.R. No. 177743, January 25, 2012, 664 SCRA 150, 158, citing People v. Nugas, G.R. No. 172606, November 23, 2011, 661 SCRA 159, 168.
26Ï‚rÎ½ll People v. Laurio, G.R. No. 182523, September 13, 2012.
27Ï‚rÎ½ll 482 Phil. 292, 301-309 (2004).
28Ï‚rÎ½ll People v. Escleto, G.R. No. 183706, April 25, 2012.
29Ï‚rÎ½ll People v. Rebucan, G.R. No. 182551, July 27, 2011, 654 SCRA 726, 758.
30Ï‚rÎ½ll People v. Anticamara, G.R. No. 178771, June 8, 2011, 651 SCRA 489, 520-521.
31Ï‚rÎ½ll People v. Concillado, G.R. No. 181204, November 28, 2011, 661 SCRA 363, 384; People v. Fontanilla, supra note 25 at 162.
32Ï‚rÎ½ll People v. Escleto, supra note 28.
33Ï‚rÎ½ll People v. Salafranca, G.R. No. 173476, February 22, 2012, 666 SCRA 501, 517, citing People v. Catubig, 416 Phil. 102, 119-120 (2001).
34Ï‚rÎ½ll People v. Escleto, supra note 28.