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G.R. No. 197813, September 25, 2013 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. EDWIN IBAÑEZ Y ALBANTE AND ALFREDO (FREDDIE) NULLA Y IBAÑEZ, Accused-Appellants.

G.R. No. 197813, September 25, 2013 - PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. EDWIN IBAÑEZ Y ALBANTE AND ALFREDO (FREDDIE) NULLA Y IBAÑEZ, Accused-Appellants.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 197813, September 25, 2013

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. EDWIN IBAÑEZ Y ALBANTE AND ALFREDO (FREDDIE) NULLA Y IBAÑEZ, Accused-Appellants.

D E C I S I O N

PEREZ, J.:

Before us is an appeal via a Notice of Appeal from the Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No. 04051.1 The appellate court aftirmed in toto the Decision2 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 18, Malolos, Bulacan which convicted accused-appellants Edwin Ibanez y Albante (Edwin) and Alfredo Nulla y Ibañez (Alfredo) of Murder in Criminal Case No. 3517-M-2004.

Appellants Edwin and Alfredo, with Jesus Monsillo3 y Taniares (Jesus), were all charged in an Information for Murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, which reads:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
The undersigned Asst. Provincial Prosecutor accuses Jesus Montisillo y Taniares @ Dodong, Edwin Ibañez y Albante and Alfredo (Freddie) Nulla y Ibañez of the crime of murder, penalized under the provisions of Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, committed as follows:

That on or about the 29th day of August, 2004, in the municipality of Bocaue, province of Bulacan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a soil digger (bareta) and with intent to kill one Wilfredo Atendido y Dohenog, conspiring, confederating and helping one another did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously, with evident premeditation, abuse of superior strength and treachery, attack, assault and hit with the said soil digger (bareta) the said Wilfredo Atendido y Dohenog, hitting the latter on his head, thereby inflicting upon him serious physical injuries which directly caused his death.4
During arraignment, Edwin and Alfredo pleaded not guilty. Jesus, on the other hand, remained at large; the case against him was archived. Thereafter, trial ensued.

The prosecution’s version was testified to by the victim’s wife and daughter, in succession.

On that fateful day, Wilfredo Atendido y Dohenog (Wilfredo) was invited by Alfredo to a drinking session with Jesus and Edwin making them a party of four. Rachel, Wilfredo’s daughter, an adolescent at the time, was underneath the house (silong in the vernacular) of a neighbor, three (3) meters away from the place where Wilfredo and his companions were ostensibly in merrymaking.

Rachel saw her father step away from the group to urinate. While Wilfredo relieved himself, Edwin snatched a t-shirt from a nearby clothesline, and hooded the t-shirt over the head and face of Wilfredo. Robbed of vision as his head was fully covered, Wilfredo was wrestled and pinned down by Edwin, while Alfredo boxed the left side of Wilfredo’s chest. Jesus, armed with a long iron bar, swung at and hit Wilfredo in the head. Terrified, Rachel stood immobilized as she watched the attack on her father. Thereafter, she saw her mother running out of their house and crying for help.

On that same auspicious date, 29 August 2004, Rowena, Wilfredo’s wife and Rachel’s mother, was inside their house taking care of their youngest daughter. She heard a commotion coming from the neighboring house, about eight (8) steps away, so she rushed in that direction. Once outside their house, she saw Wilfredo prostrate on the ground covered with blood on his face and forehead. Upon reaching Wilfredo, Rowena saw accused Jesus, standing one meter away from Wilfredo, holding an iron bar. Edwin and Alfredo stood beside Jesus; Edwin held a white shirt. Forthwith, Jesus and Alfredo ran away while Edwin went home. Rowena asked for help to bring Wilfredo to the hospital. However, Wilfredo did not reach the hospital alive and was pronounced dead on arrival.

Expectedly, the defense mainly of Edwin and Alfredo, proffered an altogether different version of the events.

The two accused-appellants pointed to Jesus as the sole culprit, proclaimed their innocence and professed to being at the scene of the crime only because of their curiosity for what had occurred.

Allegedly, on that day, the two buddies were having their regular drinking session at Edwin’s house when they heard a commotion outside. Curious about the ruckus, they approached and saw Wilfredo prostrate on the ground; Jesus, held an iron bar and was being held back by his sister who was shouting, “Tama na[!] Tama na[!].” Edwin then called for a tricycle so Wilfredo could be brought to a hospital and given medical attention. Alfredo stood by and merely watched as events transpired.

To corroborate their claim of innocence, the defense called Aniceta Dosil (Aniceta) to the witness stand who testified as follows:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
(1)
She sold doormats for a living which she peddled on the road;
(2)
On 29 August 2004, Rachel helped her in selling the doormats;
(3)
On that day, they finished at around 6:00 p.m. and headed to their respective residences along the railroad track;
(4)
Upon arriving at their vicinity, Aniceta witnessed the immediate aftermath of the purported fight between Jesus and Wilfredo;
(5)
At that juncture, Jesus was being embraced by his sister, Marilou, and the two were two meters away from the body of Wilfredo;
(6)
Marilou recounted to Aniceta that Jesus had hit Wilfredo with an iron bar, a preemptive move because Wilfredo was about to stab Jesus;
(7)
While Aniceta and Marilou discussed the incident, Rachel stood and listened to them;
(8)
At that time, only the four of them, Jesus, Marilou, Aniceta and Rachel, were at the place of the incident;
(9)
After learning the entirety of what had transpired, Aniceta, who was afraid to get involved, and Rachel, ran to their respective houses;
(10)
For the duration of the day, Aniceta did not step out of her house, neither did she volunteer information to the police when the case was investigated in the following days; and
(11)
Aniceta only came forward to testify at the request of Adela Ibañez, wife of Edwin.
As previously adverted to, the trial court convicted Edwin and Alfredo of Murder. It disposed of the case, to wit:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
WHEREFORE, accused Edwin Ibañez y Albante and Alfredo (Freddie) Nulla y Ibañez are hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and are hereby sentenced to suffer imprisonment of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the heirs of Wilfredo D. Atendido in the amount of:

a)
Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as civil indemnity;
b)
Twenty-Five Thousand Pesos (P25,000.00) as temperate damages;
c)
Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as moral damages;
d)
Twenty-Five Thousand Pesos (P25,000.00) as exemplary damages; and
e)
One Million Nine Hundred Forty-Six Thousand and One Hundred Eighty Pesos (P1,946,180.00) for the unearned income of Wilfredo Atendido.4
On appeal, Edwin and Alfredo found no reprieve. The Court of Appeals did not deviate from the RTC’s ruling and affirmed in toto its finding of guilt.

In this appeal, Edwin and Alfredo assign the following as errors:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
I

THE [LOWER COURTS] GRAVELY ERRED IN GIVING FULL WEIGHT AND CREDENCE TO THE TESTIMONY OF THE ALLEGED PROSECUTION EYEWITNESS.

II

THE [LOWER COURTS] GRAVELY ERRED IN NOT GIVING WEIGHT AND CREDENCE TO THE DEFENSE[‘S] EVIDENCE.

III

THE [LOWER COURTS] GRAVELY ERRED IN CONVICTING THE ACCUSED-APPELLANTS WHEN THEIR GUILT WAS NOT PROVEN BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.5
In sum, the issue is whether the accused are guilty of murder.

Edwin and Alfredo maintain their innocence and point to Jesus as the sole perpetrator of the crime. They insist that they were at the scene of the crime only because they wanted to know what the commotion was all about. They claim that, in fact, Edwin called for a tricycle so Wilfredo could be brought to a hospital. To discredit the eyewitness testimony of Rachel, they presented Aniceta who testified that she and Rachel were out on that day selling doormats and only returned at 6:00 p.m. Thus, Rachel could not have witnessed the murder of Wilfredo.

Both lower courts, however, found the testimony of Rachel credible:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
This Court finds the testimony of Rachel clear and convincing. The testimony flows from a person who was present in the place where the killing occurred. They are replete with details sufficient to shift the burden of evidence to appellants. We have no reason to doubt Rachel’s credibility. Her candid account of the incident, standing alone, clearly established the components of the crime of murder. Appellants’ defense of denial, not sufficiently proven, cannot overcome the conclusions drawn from said evidence. We find no cogent reason to deviate from the findings and conclusions of the trial court. Rachel’s testimony was delivered in a firm, candid, and straightforward manner. There is no showing that Rachel wavered from the basic facts of her testimony, even when she was subjected to a rigorous examination.

Rachel was only ten (10) years old when she witnessed the murder of the victim. She testified in open court two (2) years later. Thus, she cannot be expected to give an error-free narration of the events that happened two years earlier. The alleged inconsistencies between her sworn statement and testimony referred to by appellants do not affect her credibility. What is important is that in all her narrations she consistently and clearly identified appellants as the perpetrators of the crime. Inconsistencies between the sworn statement and the testimony in court do not militate against witness’ credibility since sworn statements are generally considered inferior to the testimony in open court.6
We find no error in the lower courts’ disposal of the issue.

Well-entrenched in jurisprudence is that the trial court's evaluation of the testimony of a witness is accorded the highest respect because of its direct opportunity to observe the witnesses on the stand and to determine if they are telling the truth or not.7 This opportunity enables the trial judge to detect better that thin line between fact and prevarication that will determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. That line may not be discernible from a mere reading of the impersonal record by the reviewing court. Thus, the trial judge's evaluation of the competence and credibility of a witness will not be disturbed on review, unless it is clear from the records that his judgment is erroneous.8cralaw virtualaw library

We have scrutinized the testimony of lone eyewitness, Rachel. Throughout her testimony, in her direct, cross and re-direct and re-cross examinations, she candidly recounted the events surrounding the killing of her father as follows:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
PROS. LAGROSA:
Your Honor please, may we invoke the right of the child the provisions (sic) under the child witness wherein we can ask leading questions and in Tagalog.
COURT:
Anyway, the questions can be interpreted.
PROS. LAGROSA:
Only the leading questions, your Honor.
Q:
You said that your father came from sleeping in your house, did you know what time of the day your father [went] to sleep?
A:
I do not know because I do not know how to read time.
x x x x
Q:
But do you know whether or when your father went to sleep[?] It was morning, noon or afternoon or nighttime or daytime?
A:
Hapon po.” (In the afternoon.)
Q:
Early afternoon, late afternoon or mid-afternoon?
A:
Late in the afternoon, Your Honor. (“bandang hapon-hapon po.”)
Q:
Was it already dark?
A:
Not yet, your Honor.
PROS. LAGROSA:
Q:
According to you[,] your father went to sleep, where were you when your father went to sleep?
A:
I was in the house, ma’am. x x x x
Q:
And when your father woke up, were you still in the house?
A:
Yes, ma’am.
Q:
Also inside the house?
A:
Yes, ma’am.
Q:
When your father woke up, what did he do?
A:
All of us ate rice, ma’am. (“Kumain po kaming lahat ng kanin.”)
Q:
Can you tell us if that is already dark or still daytime?
A:
It was still daytime, ma’am.
x x x x
Q:
After eating rice, will you tell us what happened, if you still remember?
A:
My father was called by his compadre, ma’am.
Q:
And who was that compadre who called your father?
A:
Freddie, ma’am.
Q:
Do you know the full name of this Freddie?
A:
Freddie Nulla, ma’am.
Q:
Why do you know Freddie Nulla?
A:
He is a compadre of my father, ma’am.
Q:
Did you often see him in your place?
A:
Yes, ma’am.
Q:
Is Freddie Nulla now here in court?
A:
Yes, ma’am.
Q:
Will you look around and point to him?
INTERPRETER:
Witness pointed to a detention prisoner (sic) when asked to identify himself answered FREDDIE NULLA.
Q:
Now, you said that Freddie Nulla, the compadre, called your father, do you still remember how he was called?
A:
Yes, ma’am.
Q:
How?
A:
Pare. Pare.”
Q:
And when your father was called, what did your father do?
A:
My father followed Freddie at the back of the house of Kuya Edwin.
Q:
At the time your father followed Freddie at the back of the house of your Kuya Edwin, where were you?
A:
I was under the house of Kuya Unyo, ma’am.
Q:
Now, you mentioned that your father followed Freddie at the back of the house of Kuya Edwin, who is this Kuya Edwin?
INTERPRETER:
Witness pointing to a detention prisoner who identified himself as EDWIN IBAÑEZ.
PROS. LAGROSA:
Q:
You said that at that time you were under the house of Kuya Unyo, what is the full name of this Kuya Unyo, if you know?
A:
I do not know, ma’am.
Q:
What were you doing under the house of Kuya Unyo?
A:
I was throwing stones, ma’am.
Q:
And this house of Kuya Unyo, is that near or far from your house?
A:
Just near our house, ma’am.
Q:
Can you point a place here where you are now sitted (sic) up to this courtroom to show the distance between your house and the house of Kuya Unyo?
PROS. LAGROSA
The witness pointed up to the wall.
ATTY. MALLILLIN[:]
Can we estimate, your Honor.
A:
Just near, ma’am, 3 to 4 meters.9
x x x x
Q:
Rachel, last time you testified that your father followed Freddie Nulla at the back of the house of Kuya Unyo and at that time you were under the house of Kuya Unyo, do you remember having stated that last time?
A:
Yes, ma’am.
Q:
While you were at the house of Kuya Unyo, do you remember anything unusual that happened at that time?
A:
When my father was being killed, ma’am.
Q:
You said that your father was being killed or “pinapatay na po si papa ko[,]” who killed your father?
A:
Kuya Edwin, Kuya Freddie and Kuya Dodong, ma’am.
Q:
You said that Kuya Freddie, Kuya Edwin and Kuya Dodong were killing your father, how did Kuya Edwin[,] how was he killing your father as you said?
A:
Pinuluputan po sa mukha ng damit ni Kuya Edwin.” (Kuya Edwin put around a piece of cloth)[.]
Q:
You said that Kuya Edwin put around a piece of cloth on your papa, in what part of your father’s body (sic) that cloth being put around by Kuya Edwin?
A:
He put it around all over the face and the head, ma’am.
PROS. LAGROSA:
The witness was demonstrating by making a circling movement or motion of her hand all over the head and the face.
Q:
And then what happened when Kuya Edwin put around that piece of cloth all over the head and face of your papa?
A:
Itinumba po siya.”
Q:
You said “itinumba po siya[,]” who caused your father to tumble down?
A:
After Kuya Edwin had put around the piece of cloth on my father[,] he tumbled him down.
Q:
And when your father tumbled down, what else happened?
A:
Kuya Freddie boxed him, ma’am.
Q:
Did you see in what part of your father’s body was he boxed by Kuya Freddie?
A:
Yes, ma’am.
Q:
What part of his body was boxed?
A:
On the left portion of the shoulder blade, ma’am.
Q:
And how about Kuya Dodong when Kuya Edwin put around a piece of cloth and when Kuya Freddie boxed your father, where was Kuya Dodong at that time?
A:
He was also there, ma’am.
Q:
And what was he doing[,] if he was doing anything at that time?
A:
“Binareta na po ‘yong papa ko sa ulo.”
COURT:
Q:
What did he use noongbinareta”?
A:
It is a long iron bar used in digging soil?
PROS. LAGROSA:
Q:
Now, what happened after Kuya Dodong “binareta” (sic) your father on the head?
A:
Nandoon pa po ako sa silong nila Kuya Unyo nakita ko nalang po nandoon na po ang nanay ko pati po mga kapatid ko tsaka na po ako lumabas.”10
As the lower courts have done, we accord full faith and credence to Rachel’s testimony. She was young and unschooled, but her narration of the incident was categorical, without wavering. It has no markings of a concocted story, impressed upon her by other people.

The defense, accused-appellants herein, tried to further discredit Rachel’s testimony by arguing that Rachel was a mere child who had studied only until the first grade of elementary school and could barely read, and did not know how to tell time.

We cannot take Rachel’s testimony lightly simply because she was a mere child when she witnessed the incident and when she gave her testimony in court. There is no showing that her mental maturity rendered her incapable of testifying and of relating the incident truthfully.

With exceptions provided in the Rules of Court,11 all persons who can perceive, and perceiving, can make known their perception to others, may be witnesses. That is even buttressed by the Rule on Examination of a Child Witness which specifies that every child is presumed qualified to be a witness. To rebut this presumption, the burden of proof lies on the party challenging the child's competence. Only when substantial doubt exists regarding the ability of the child to perceive, remember, communicate, distinguish truth from falsehood, or appreciate the duty to tell the truth in court will the court, motu proprio or on motion of a party, conduct a competency examination of a child.12 Thus, petitioners’ flimsy objections on Rachel’s lack of education and inability to read and tell time carry no weight and cannot overcome the clear and convincing testimony of Rachel as to who killed her father.

We likewise note that the line of questioning of the defense during cross-examination on the competency of Rachel to read and tell time did not distract her in recollecting how her father was attacked by accused-appellants. From her position underneath the house of her “Kuya Unyo,” she saw her father, Wilfredo, attacked by accused-appellants. Although she was astonished as the happening unfolded, her ability to perceive, remember, and make known her perception was not diminished.

As regards Aniceta’s version of the events that Jesus was the sole perpetrator of the crime who attacked Wilfredo only in self-defense, we easily see the fatal flaw: Aniceta arrived after the supposed fight between Wilfredo and Jesus, and what transpired was merely relayed to her by Jesus’ sister, Marilou.

Quite apparent from Aniceta’s narration of events is that she has no personal knowledge of Wilfredo’s killing. Aniceta’s testimony is mainly hearsay, specially on the purported fight between Wilfredo and Jesus that ended in Wilfredo’s death. Aniceta’s testimony as such carries no probative weight. At best, Aniceta’s testimony is an independent relevant statement: offered only as to the fact of its declaration and the substance of what had been relayed to Aniceta by Marilou, not as to the truth thereof.13cralaw virtualaw library

Section 36 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court explicitly provides:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
SEC. 36. Testimony generally confined to personal knowledge; hearsay excluded. – A witness can testify only to those facts which he knows of his personal knowledge; that is, which are derived from his own perception, except as otherwise provided in these rules.
We detect a clever, albeit transparent ploy, to pin Jesus who had already fled and is temporarily out of reach of the law. Thus, with Jesus temporarily shielded from punishment, accused-appellants freely accuse and point to him as the sole perpetrator of the crime. This cannot trump the solid testimony of Rachel on accused-appellants’ direct participation in killing Wilfredo.

We likewise affirm the lower courts’ appreciation of the aggravating circumstance of treachery:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
[T]he essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack by an aggressor without the slightest provocation on the part of the victim, depriving the latter of any real chance to defend himself, thereby ensuring its commission without risk to the aggressor. Treachery attended the killing of the victim because he was unarmed and the attack on him was swift and sudden. He had not means and there was no time for him to defend himself. Indeed, nothing can be more sudden and unexpected than when [petitioners] Edwin and Alfredo attacked the victim. The latter did not have the slightest idea that he was going to be attacked because he was urinating and his back was turned from his assailants. The prosecution was able to establish that [petitioners’] attack on the victim was without any slightest provocation on the latter’s part and that it was sudden and unexpected. This is a clear case of treachery.14
Finally, we affirm the lower court’s award of damages consistent with jurisprudence:15 (1) P50,000.00 as civil indemnity; (2) P25,000.00 as temperate damages; and (3) P50,000.00 as moral damages. Consistent with current jurisprudence, we increase the award of exemplary damages from P25,000.00 to P30,000.00.16 However, we delete the award of P1,946,180.00 representing the unearned income of Wilfredo.

To obviate confusion on the award of loss of earning capacity, we reiterate herein that compensation for lost income is in the nature of damages and as such requires due proof of the damages suffered; there must be unbiased proof of the deceased’s average income.17 In this case, we only had the testimony of Wilfredo’s spouse, Rowena, who claimed that Wilfredo earned P400.00 to P500.00 daily as a doormat vendor.

On more than one occasion, we have held that the bare testimony of a deceased’s mother or spouse as to the income or earning capacity of the deceased must be supported by competent evidence like income tax returns or receipts.18cralaw virtualaw library

In People v. Caraig,19 we have drawn two exceptions to the rule that “documentary evidence should be presented to substantiate the claim for damages for loss of earning capacity,” and have thus awarded damages where there is testimony that the victim was either (1) self-employed earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws, and judicial notice may be taken of the fact that in the victim's line of work no documentary evidence is available; or (2) employed as a daily-wage worker earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws.”

Although Wilfredo’s occupation as a doormat vendor may fall under the first exception, the minimum wage for Region III, which includes the province of Bulacan, is below P400.00 as per the National Wages and Productivity Commission Regional Daily Minimum Wage Rates as of August 2013.20 Regrettably, except for the bare assertion of Rowena, Wilfreda's spouse, we have nothing to anchor the award for loss of earning capacity. Thus, we delete the award for loss of earning capacity in the amount of Pl,946,180.00.

WHEREFORE, the appeal is DISMISSED. The Decisions of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. H.C. No. 04051 and the Regional Trial Court, Branch 18, Malolos, Bulacan in Criminal Case No. 3517-M-2004 arc AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. The award of exemplary damages is increased from P25,000.00 to P30,000.00 and we delete the award for loss of earning capacity in the amount of P 1,946,180.00.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, (Chairperson), Del Castillo, and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., concur.
Leonen,*J., see separate concurring and dissenting opinion.

Endnotes:


* Per Special Order No. 1560 dated 24 September 2013.cralawnad

1 Penned by Associate Justice Magdangal M. De Leon with Associate Justices Mario V. Lopez and Rodil V. Zalameda, concurring. Rollo. pp. 2-16

2 Presided by Presiding Judge Victoria C. Fernandez-Bernardo. Records, pp. 271-290.cralawnad

3 Used interchangeably with Montisillo as per CA Rollo and RTC records.cralawnad

4 Id. at 2.cralawnad

5 CA Rollo, p. 42.cralawnad

6Rollo, p. 12.cralawnad

7People v. Cawaling, G.R. No. 157147, 17 April 2009, 586 SCRA 1, 23-24.cralawnad

8 Id.cralawnad

9 TSN, 26 April 2006, pp. 4-9.cralawnad

10 TSN, 10 May 2006, pp. 2-4.cralawnad

11 Rules of Court, Rule 130, Secs. 20 and 21.cralawnad

12People v. Hermosa, 417 Phil. 132, 144-145 (2001).cralawnad

13 See People v. Silvano, 431 Phil. 351, 363 (2002).cralawnad

14Rollo, p. 14.cralawnad

15People v. Molina, G.R. No. 184173, 13 March 2009, 581 SCRA 519, 542-543.cralawnad

16People v. Barde G.R. No. 183094, 22 September 2010, 631 SCRA 187, 220.cralawnad

17People v. Ereño, 383 Phil. 30, 46 (2000).cralawnad

18 Id.cralawnad

19 448 Phil. 78, 97 (2003).cralawnad

20 See Wage Order No. 17, effective on 11 October 2012:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
SUMMARY OF CURRENT REGIONAL DAILY MINIMUM WAGE RATES
Non-Agriculture, Agriculture
As of August 2013
(In pesos)

NON- AGRICULTURE
AGRICULTURE
Plantation
Non-Plantation
285.00 - 336.00
270.00 - 306.00
258.00 - 290.00
http://www.nwpc.dole.gov.ph/pages/statistics/stat_current_regional.html; last visited 9 September 2013.




CONCURRING and DISSENTING OPINION

LEONEN, J.:



I concur with the ponencia in its discussion affirming the lower courts in finding accused-appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of murder, sentencing them to suffer imprisonment of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the heirs of Wilfredo D. Atendido.

I express my dissent, however, in so far as the deletion of the award for loss of earning capacity in the amount of P1,946,180.00. This award was taken back for having no anchor but the bare assertions of Wilfreda's wife that her husband earned P400.00 to P500.00 daily as a doormat vendor.

Section 2206 of the Civil Code provides the basis of damages for loss of earning capacity as follows:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
Article 2206. The amount of damages for death caused by a crime or quasi-delict shall be at least three thousand pesos, even though there may have been mitigating circumstances. In addition:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
(1) The defendant shall be liable for the loss of the earning capacity of the deceased, and the indemnity shall be paid to the heirs of the latter; such indemnity shall in every case be assessed and awarded by the court, unless the deceased on account of permanent physical disability not caused by the defendant, had no earning capacity at the time of his death[.]
As a general rule, this Court holds that "documentary evidence should be presented to substantiate a claim for loss of earning capacity [but] by way of exception, [this] may be awarded despite the absence of documentary evidence when (1) the deceased is self-employed and earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws, in which case, judicial notice may be taken of the fact that in the deceased’s line of work, no documentary evidence is available; or (2) the deceased is employed as a daily wage worker earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws.”1cralaw virtualaw library

There have been occasions when We denied an award for unearned income unsupported by evidence except for the sole testimony by the spouse of the deceased. The recent ones include Victory Liner v. Gammad.2 In this case, no other evidence was presented except respondent’s testimony that the deceased was Section Chief of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in Tuguegarao with an annual salary of P83,088.00.3 In People v. Oco,4 the wife’s bare testimony that the deceased earned P8,000.00 monthly as a legal researcher of a private corporation was considered insufficient to justify the award.5 Similarly, We denied the award in People v. Caraig6 finding that Agustin received P5,000.00 monthly as a Social System employee, Raagas was compensated P30,000.00 monthly as president of a family-owned corporation, while Castro earned P7,500.00 monthly as a taxi driver.7cralaw virtualaw library

In all these cases, this Court found that none of the exceptions were present. The deceased were neither self-employed earning less than the minimum wage nor employed as daily wage workers earning less than the minimum wage. They were, in fact, capable of producing competent evidence such as income tax returns or receipts but failed to do so.

Wilfredo was a doormat vendor. His source of income was irregular and largely dependent on how many doormats he could sell in a day, if any. These doormats were peddled. They were not highly priced. It is most likely that Wilfredo did not file income tax returns nor issue official receipts. In any case, minimum wage earners are exempt from the payment of income tax.8 Thus, they do not need to file an income tax return.

The ponencia recognized that Wilfredo’s occupation may fall under the first exception; that is, the deceased is self-employed and earning less than the minimum wage, and judicial notice may be taken of the fact that in his line of work, no documentary evidence is available. However, according to the ponencia, Rowena’s claim of P400.00 to P500.00 daily income is above the minimum wage for Region III whose minimum wage is below P400.00.9cralaw virtualaw library

In the 2000 case of People v. Ereño,10 the victim was a self-employed fish vendor who died in 1995. This Court denied the claim for unearned income based solely on his mother’s handwritten estimate that the deceased earned P600.00 daily during the last eight years prior to his death.11 Even compared with today’s minimum wage, this claim still exceeds the rate by a relevant margin. In the 2011 case of Tan v. OMC Carriers,12 the deceased was a self-employed tailor who also died in 1995. This Court found that the claim of P13,000.00 as monthly income greatly exceeded the prevailing minimum wage in 1995 of P145.00 per day or P3,770.00 a month.13cralaw virtualaw library

The amount claimed by Wilfredo’s wife does not vary too far from the minimum wage in Bulacan, Region III. In fact, it would pass for minimum wage in the National Capital Region.14 I am of the view that evidence presented, if seen as credible by the trial court judge, should stand in the absence of clear basis to refute it.15 The accused should have presented evidence to refute the evidence in chief presented.

In any event, this Court has, in the past, awarded temperate damages in lieu of an award for unearned income “where earning capacity is plainly established but no evidence was presented to support the allegation of the injured party’s actual income.16 P200,000.00 was awarded in the 2001 case of People v. Singh,17 P500,000.00 in the 2004 case of Victory Liner v. Gammad,18 and P300,000.00 in the 2011 case of Tan v. OMC Carriers.19cralaw virtualaw library

The income-earning capacity of Wilfredo was never disputed. It would seem that P25,000.00 as temperate damages is too meager an amount for the loss suffered by Wilfredo’s heirs as a result of his untimely death in 2004.

Thus, I concur in affirming the lower courts in finding accused­ appellants guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of murder, but I dissent in so far as the deletion of the award for loss of earning capacity in favor of the heirs ofWilfredo D. Atendido.

Endnotes:


1See Tan v. OMC Carriers Inc., G.R. No. 190521, January 12, 2011, 639 SCRA 471, 483 citing Philippine Hawk Corporation v. Lee, G.R. No. 166869, February 16, 2010, 612 SCRA 576 and Licyayo v. People, G.R. No. 169425, March 4, 2008, 547 SCRA 598. See also Victory Liner Inc. v. Gammad, 486 Phil. 574, 590 (2004) citing People v. Oco, G.R. Nos. 137370-71, September 29, 2003, 412 SCRA 190, 222.cralawnad

2Victory Liner Inc. v. Gammad, 486 Phil. 574 (2004).cralawnad

3 Id. at 591.cralawnad

4People v. Oco, 458 Phil. 815 (2003).cralawnad

5 Id. at 855.cralawnad

6People v. Caraig, 448 Phil. 78 (2003).cralawnad

7 Id. at 98.cralawnad

8See Republic Act No. 8424, as amended, Sec. 24 (A)(2).cralawnad

9See Wage Order No. 17. This Order was effective October 11, 2012. Available at:

10 383 Phil. 30 (2000).cralawnad

11People v. Ereño, 383 Phil. 30, 45-46 (2000).cralawnad

12Tan v. OMC Carriers, Inc., supra note 1.cralawnad

13 Id. at 483-484.cralawnad

14See Wage Order No. NCR-18. This Order was effective October 4, 2013. Available at: .cralawnad

15See Jara v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 172896, April 19, 2010, 618 SCRA 406, 408.

“x x x factual findings of the trial court are generally accorded great weight and respect on appeal, especially when such findings are supported by substantial evidence on record.”

16Tan v. OMC Carriers, Inc., supra note 1, at 484.cralawnad

17 412 Phil. 842, 859 (2001).cralawnad

18Victory Liner Inc. v. Gammad, 486 Phil. 574, 591 (2004).cralawnad

19Tan v. OMC Carriers, Inc., supra note 1, at 484-485.
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