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[G.R. No. 135026. February 15, 2002.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. NILO HERMO, Accused-Appellant.



Nilo Hermo, Ariel Quinawayan and Nestor Golong were charged with the crime of Murder for the death of Tito Hermosura in an accusatory Information that read:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"That on or about the 9th day of June 1996, at nighttime which was purposely sought, at Barangay Soledad, Municipality of Villareal, Province of Samar, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, conspiring, confederating together and mutually helping and aiding one another, with deliberate intent to kill, with treachery and evident premeditation, and with abuse of superior strength, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault, and stab several times one Tito Hermosura with sharp bolos with which the said accused had conveniently provided themselves for the purpose, thereby inflicting upon said Tito Hermosura, ‘Multiple contusion forehead; L-shaped incised wound, 1 ½ inches, forehead, L; and multiple stab wounds in the different parts of his body,’ which wounds directly caused his instantaneous death." 1

Nilo Hermo, herein accused-appellant, was arrested but the two other accused remained at large. Upon being arraigned, Nilo pled not guilty, and trial ensued.

The prosecution presented four witnesses, namely, lone eyewitness Jaime Hermosura, arresting officer SPO4 Pablo Teves, Manuel Galvez, and Froilan Ragay, the last two having testified to have seen appellant in the vicinity of the crime at or about the time of its commission.

Jaime Hermosura, the victim’s brother, testified that on 09 June 1996, around eleven o’clock in the evening, he was at home in Barangay Soledad, Municipality of Villareal, Samar, drinking with his siblings and other guests on the occasion of the third death anniversary of his father. Jaime requested his younger brother, Tito Hermosura, to buy cigarettes for him at a nearby store. When Tito had failed to return after sometime, Jaime got worried and went out to look for him. While walking along the road, Jaime saw somebody being chased by two men. The man stumbled upon a pile of gravel and fell to the ground. By the fluorescent light of a lamp post, just fifteen meters away from the scene, Jaime soon recognized that the fallen person was his brother, Tito Hermosura, and that one of the persons chasing his brother was Nilo Hermo. Jaime recounted that just as Tito had stumbled, he was stabbed at the back by Nilo with a six-inch long knife locally known as "kutsilyo" and, forthwith, Nilo’s companions took turns in likewise hitting Tito. Jaime could not believe his eyes that anyone would do such a thing to his brother who was clubfooted and short-fingered. The fatal knife was finally embedded into the victim’s back by his assailants. Jaime rushed to the house of Acting Chief of Police SPO4 Pablo Teves to ask for help.

SPO4 Pablo Teves declared that after being informed by Jaime Hermosura of the killing of Tito Hermosura, he formed a team of policemen which brought the victim’s body back to the Hermosura residence. On the basis of the information furnished by Jaime Hermosura on the identity of the assailants, the team proceeded to go after the culprits and, for two days, police officers scoured the areas around barangays Salcedo, Pampang, Canmucat, Tomabe, Connant and Nagkaduha, all in the municipality of Villareal. In Barangay Nagkaduha, at least eight kilometers away from the crime scene, at around eleven o’clock on the evening of 11 June 1996, the police found and apprehended Nilo who was hiding behind the door of the house of Felimon Romano in the company of Nilo’s father.

Defense witnesses Terencio Quinawayan and Emeterio Reposo, as well as accused Nilo Hermo himself, next took the witness stand. Terencio stated that on the date of the commission of the crime on 09 June 1996, he had sought the help of Nilo to bring Natividad Esponga’s sick daughter, Rosalie, to the hospital. At that time, Nilo was drinking tuba in the house of Fernando Espadero. Nilo readily acceded and went with him to the house of Natividad Esponga in Barangay Canmucat. Emeterio Reposo corroborated the testimony of Terencio to the effect that Nilo was indeed in the house of Natividad Esponga watching over the ailing daughter of Natividad. In his own version, Nilo claimed that, on 09 June 1996, he was in the house of Natividad Esponga from seven o’clock in the evening until five o’clock in the morning of 10 June 1996. He said that Natividad’s daughter, Rosalie, was very ill, and he, together with other neighbors, had stayed in Natividad’s house playing cards while awaiting for transportation to bring Rosalie to the hospital.

The court a quo was not impressed by the asseverations of the defense witnesses. Giving weight to the testimony of the prosecution witnesses, the trial court convicted accused Nilo Hermo of the crime of murder and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to indemnify the heirs of Tito Hermosura in the amount of P50,000.00. The court adjudged:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Wherefore, finding the accused Nilo Hermo having been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder, for the killing of said Tito Hermosura, but there being no other circumstance to consider except the provisions of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua; to indemnify the heirs of the deceased in the amount of P50,000.00 but without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency; and to pay the costs of this case, if any." 2

Nilo Hermo interposed the present appeal, contending that the trial court had gravely erred in finding that the prosecution was able to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Appellant branded as being incredible the lone eyewitness account of Jaime Hermosura who, instead of immediately coming to the succor of his younger brother, tarried and, rather than seek the help of his other brothers, sought the assistance of the Chief of Police some distance away.

The case still boils down to a question of credibility. Not infrequently, this Court has said that this question is a matter that peculiarly falls within the province of the trial court which has the opportunity to watch and observe the demeanor and behavior of witnesses at the time their testimony is being given. 3 On this matter, great deference to the findings made by the trial court is inevitable unless there appears strong and cogent reasons to ignore its assessment." 4

Jaime Hermosura might have acted less than prudently in reacting to the incident that has befallen his brother. But, indeed, different people, as the Court has so often observed, behave divergently to given types of situation, and there is no known standard form of human behavioral response when one is confronted with a strange, startling, or frightful experience. Neither does the Court find it strange that Jaime Hermosura would run to the house of the Chief of Police located some thirty meters away from the scene of the incident instead of asking help from his own brothers then engaged in a drinking spree. After all, the Chief of Police is the logical person in authority one would instinctively seek assistance when a crime takes place. It would not also be unnatural for the witness to avoid putting his other siblings to a risk similar to what he has just witnessed.

The trial court appreciated the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength to qualify the killing to murder; discarding, however, the qualifying circumstances of treachery and of evident premeditation alleged in the accusatory information for lack of satisfactory proof on the existence of these last two circumstances. Verily, no adequate evidence was adduced to establish either treachery or evident premeditation. In appreciating abuse of superior strength, the trial court took into account the autopsy report showing the participation of not less than two assailants and the fact that the victim was clubfooted and short-fingered. It ruled correctly that the assailants had abused their combined superior strength and taken advantage of the physical weakness of their handicapped victim. Evidently, there was inequality of forces between the unarmed and defenseless victim and his armed aggressors.

Abuse of superior strength is present not only when the offenders enjoy numerical superiority, or there is a notorious inequality of forces between the victim and the aggressor, but also when the offender uses a weapon which is out of proportion to the defense available to the offended party. 5

The trial court, while correctly imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua, has erroneously referred, however, to the Indeterminate Sentence Law as being the basis for the imposition of the lesser penalty. Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Section 6 of Republic Act 7659, otherwise known as the Death Penalty Law, punishes murder with the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death. The prescribed penalty, being both indivisible, and there being no mitigating or aggravating circumstances in the commission of the deed, the lesser penalty must perforce be applied pursuant to paragraph (2), Article 63, of the Revised Penal Code.

The trial court has awarded the sum of P50,000.00 to the heirs of the deceased without explaining any reason for the award. In conformity with prevailing jurisprudence, an award of P50,000.00 by way of civil indemnity, ex delicto, is due for the death of Tito Hermosura in keeping with Article 2206 of the Civil Code. In addition, the heirs of the victim are entitled to the sum of P30,000.00 in moral damages in accordance with paragraph (3) of Article 2206, in relation to Article 2217 and paragraph (1). of Article 2219, of the Civil Code, plus exemplary damages of P20,000.00, consonantly with Article 2230 of the Civil Code, in view of the attendance of the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength. No proof having been adduced with respect to actual damages, no such damages can be recovered.

WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the trial court is AFFIRMED with modification in that appellant Nilo Hermo is ordered to pay the amount of P50,000.00 civil indemnity ex delicto, as well as the further sums of P30,000.00 moral damages and P20,000.00 exemplary damages, for the death of Tito Hermosura, all these amounts being payable to the heirs of the deceased. Costs against Appellant.


Melo, Panganiban, Sandoval-Gutierrez and Carpio, JJ., concur.


1. Rollo, p. 5.

2. Rollo, p. 34.

3 People v. Morin, 241 SCRA 709.

4. People v. Rivera, 242 SCRA 26; People v. Goce, 247 SCRA 780.

5. People v. Padilla, 233 SCRA 46; People v. Bongadillo, 234 SCRA 233.

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