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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 136363. September 17, 2002.]

JOSE C. VALLEJO, Petitioner, v. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N


QUISUMBING, J.:


This petition for review on certiorari assails the decision 1 dated October 27, 1998 of the Court of Appeals, in CA-G.R. G.R. No. 13736, which affirmed with modification the decision 2 dated January 14, 1992 of the Regional Trial Court of Pangasinan, Branch 50.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

The trial court had found petitioner guilty beyond reasonable doubt of homicide and sentenced him to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of four (4) years and two (2) months as minimum to ten (10) years as maximum and to pay the heirs of the victim the sum of P50,000 as civil indemnity and P4,375.35 as actual damages. 3 On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed that decision but modified the penalty imposed to eight (8) years of prision mayor as minimum to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months, and one (1) day of reclusion temporal as maximum.

The conviction stemmed from the Information 4 filed against petitioner, as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

That on or about the 8th day of August 1981, in the afternoon, at Brgy. San Vicente Central, Municipality of Urdaneta, Province of Pangasinan, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, [Jose Vallejo and Arturo Vallejo] conspiring, confederating and mutually helping one another, with intent to kill, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully, criminally and feloniously assault and attack CONNER MANGUIGUIL y DOMINGUEZ, inflicting upon the latter the following wounds:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

x       x       x


External Findings:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. Wounds stab, 1 ½ inches in length, mid-sternal region, anterior, chest and gaining entrance into the thoracic cavity; and

2. Wound, incised, superficial, 1 inch in length, palmar region at base of middle finger, left.

Internal Findings:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. Upon opening the thoracic cavity, approximately two (2) liters of fresh, mixed with blood clots was extracted

2. Sternum, incised, mid portion;

3. Heart incised, thru and thru at region of the right ventricle.

x       x       x


which wounds directly caused the death of said Conner Manguiguil y Dominguez.

CONTRARY to Art. 249 of the Revised Penal Code.

On arraignment both accused, who are brothers, pleaded not guilty. Trial on the merits ensued thereafter.

The prosecution presented as its first witness SABINO MAMUYAC, 5 aged 23, and a student at the Manantan Technical School in Urdaneta, Pangasinan. He resided in the boarding house where the stabbing incident occurred. He testified that he had been staying in that boarding house since June 1981 and had known the victim Conner Manguiguil and the accused Vallejo brothers for sometime. On August 8, 1981, at about 9:30 A.M., he said he was resting in his room in the company of Mario Agustin. Jose and Arturo Vallejo, Alex Alvarado, and Conner Manguiguil were drinking alcohol inside the Vallejo brothers’ room. According to Mamuyac, his room and the brothers’ room were adjacent, divided only by a lawanit. Thus, he overheard Manguiguil accuse the brothers of losing his tools. Arturo Vallejo replied that it was the former’s fault for habitually leaving his tools with them. He knew that it was Arturo who answered back, said the witness, as he could see through the holes of the lawanit. Manguiguil paid no attention to Arturo’s response.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

At around 11:00 A.M., according to Mamuyac, the Vallejo brothers invited him and his roommate, Mario Agustin, to join the party. It was only between 12:00 and 1:00 P.M. when they ended their drinking session. The merrymakers, including witness Mamuyac, then went back to their respective rooms, except for Alvarado who returned to his boarding house. However, the Vallejo brothers followed Manguiguil to his room. This was also adjacent to Mamuyac’s room with only a ceramic divider between them. Thus, the witness managed to see the people inside Manguiguil’s room. According to Mamuyac, Manguiguil muttered, "I’m already in my camp and you still followed me." Manguiguil then left his room and went to the room of the witness. Once inside, Manguiguil said, "I think those two (2) have a grudge against me. Why is it that I’m already in my camp, they still followed me?" Thereafter, Arturo, followed by Jose, entered the room of Mamuyac. Jose closed the door behind him.

Mamuyac testified that upon seeing the Vallejo brothers, Manguiguil confronted them saying, "I’m already in my camp and you still followed me. If you feel bad against me you just slap my face to satisfy your ill-feelings." Jose then climbed onto the wooden bed and told Arturo, "Ikkamon utol." ("You give him now brother.") Thus, Arturo and Manguiguil started to fight. At this point, Jose thrust a knife at Manguiguil, who parried the knife with a kick. Jose nonetheless maintained his hold on the knife and even managed to straighten the knife bent by Manguiguil’s kick. At this juncture, witness Mamuyac asked Agustin, his roommate, to accompany him to summon their landlord, so they left the room.

On cross-examination, witness Mamuyac was shown the sworn statement he executed at the police station immediately after the stabbing incident. In that statement, he said that he failed to notice who among the brothers had the knife when both entered his room. He explained that he was still in shock at the time he was questioned by the police. He maintained, however, that upon recollection, it was petitioner Jose Vallejo who held the knife. 6

PAT. REYNALDO JAVONILLO testified that as a member of the then Integrated National Police, Urdaneta, Pangasinan, he was assigned as field investigator on the day that the stabbing incident took place. According to him, on August 8, 1981, at about 2:45 P.M., his desk officer sent him and PFC. Orlino Lozano to respond to a report concerning trouble at Brgy. San Vicente. Upon reaching the place in front of the residence of one Mr. Felizardo Servito, they noticed a man lying prostrate along the shoulder of the road, with bloodstains on his body. Closer inspection of the lifeless body revealed a wallet with identification card belonging to the victim, Conner Manguiguil. When they entered the ground floor of the house, PFC. Lozano recovered a bent but bloodied kitchen knife outside one of the rooms. They then interviewed the boarders, namely Alex Alvarado, Mario Agustin, and Sabino Mamuyac. They found out that their group had a drinking spree with the victim, Conner Manguiguil, and the brothers Jose and Arturo Vallejo. In the course of the drinking session, Jose decided that he had enough so he refused the shot of liquor offered by Manguiguil. Manguiguil and Jose then had an argument. At this juncture, Arturo told his brother, "Ikkamon utol." A fight ensued and Manguiguil was stabbed. After investigation, the police officers brought the cadaver of Manguiguil to the Urdaneta police station and requested the rural health physician to conduct an autopsy.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

On cross-examination, Pat. Javonillo said that when he questioned Sabino Mamuyac, the latter could not say who was holding the knife at the time when the two brothers allegedly entered the room. Nor did Mamuyac mention anything about the tools owned by the victim and allegedly stolen by the Vallejos. 7

PFC. ORLINO LOZANO, a police investigator at the INP-Urdaneta, Pangasinan, corroborated the testimony of Pat. Javonillo, including the fact that he executed a joint affidavit concerning their investigation. He further clarified that the persons interviewed at the crime scene were the same ones who gave their statements at the police station. 8

MARIO AGUSTIN, a student, testified that he was a resident of the boarding house where the stabbing took place. He corroborated Sabino Mamuyac’s testimony on the incidents leading to the stabbing of Manguiguil. He added that after he and Mamuyac reported the fight to their landlord, the latter went to the scene of the commotion but ordered them to stay where they were. When the landlord returned to see them, he said that Manguiguil was already dead. 9 Meanwhile, Agustin saw petitioner with his face, shirt, and pants stained with blood, as petitioner passed by to wash at the nearby faucet. Petitioner allegedly said, "Bahala na kayo kay utol." (You take care of my brother.) As petitioner was about to flee, a number of barangay tanod apprehended him. Mamuyac and Agustin were brought by responding policemen to the Urdaneta Police Headquarters where both executed their respective sworn statements. But according to Agustin, petitioner and his brother refused to give a statement on the stabbing incident. 10

Asked regarding the inconsistency between his sworn statement given at the police station and his testimony during the direct examination, Agustin clarified the conflict. In his sworn statement he said that it was Jose Vallejo who was holding the knife. But on direct, he said it was Arturo holding the knife. However, in his cross-examination, he affirmed that it was Jose Vallejo who actually held the knife. He attributed his inconsistency to his fear and shock. 11

DR. EDWIN T. MURILLO, the rural health physician of Urdaneta, Pangasinan, testified that he worked closely with the late Dr. Mauro Mondala in conducting the autopsy on the victim’s cadaver. He interpreted the autopsy report signed by Dr. Mondala and identified the signature of the late doctor. On the witness stand, Dr. Murillo explained that the first stab wound was located in the middle of the chest, caused by a pointed, bladed instrument. The second wound was located at the palm base of the middle finger, likewise caused by a sharp-edged instrument. He further explained that the first stab wound resulted in an injury to the heart, described in the autopsy as "heart incised, thru and thru, at the region of the right ventricle," which could have caused the death of the victim in this case. 12

Finally, the prosecution presented REYNALDO MANGUIGUIL, the 61-year-old father of the victim, to prove expenses incurred by the family for the death of Conner Manguiguil. He testified that he paid the following: P1,000 to hire a truck to transport the cadaver to their hometown; P719.65 for the gasoline; P5,000 for funeral expenses; P1,000 to hire a jeepney that they used in going to court to file the case; P356.20 for the crude oil used on the jeepney; and P5,000 for attorney’s fees. He likewise testified on the sleepless nights he suffered, on which he based his claim for moral damages. 13

The accused brothers testified in their own defense. Accused ARTURO VALLEJO testified that he and Jose were boarders in the house of Mr. Servito. On August 8, 1981, at around 9:00 A.M., Mamuyac, Agustin, Alvarado, Manguiguil, Jose and he had a drinking spree inside their room. He stayed until 11:00 A.M. Then, he felt tipsy and decided to leave the group so he could sleep.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

He woke up at around 1:00 P.M. and heard Manguiguil shouting. Apparently the drinking session had ended. The others were no longer in the room. According to Arturo, Manguiguil shouted, "Vulva of your mother, you join us drinking but you do not stay long." He rushed to the room where Manguiguil was shouting at his brother Jose, in the presence of Mamuyac and Agustin who were both seated on the bamboo bed ("papag").

According to Arturo, he approached Manguiguil and said to him, "Stop that now because we are boardmates, we are schoolmates, so you better stop that." Manguiguil did not stop his tirade, so Arturo just told his brother to leave the room and prepare their meal.

When he was also about to leave the room, said Arturo, Manguiguil punched him, which caused him to fall on the floor. Mamuyac and Agustin asked Manguiguil to stop. When the two could not pacify Manguiguil, they decided to step out of the room. As soon as the two left, Manguiguil rode on Arturo’s abdomen and continued to box him. He then cried for help and his brother, Jose, rushed to the room.

Upon seeing Arturo’s predicament, Jose held Manguiguil by the shoulder and attempted to lift him up. After Manguiguil stood up, he turned to Jose and muttered, in the dialect, "You are one also," and then Manguiguil boxed him. Jose fell on the bamboo bed while Manguiguil continued to kick and box him on the face. According to Arturo, he tried to help Jose, but he also felt weak. He then noticed that Jose chanced on a knife on the bamboo bed. When Manguiguil was about to once again box Jose, the latter grabbed the knife and thrust it into Manguiguil’s upper abdomen. Jose then ran out of the room while Manguiguil tried to run after him. Meanwhile, the knife fell on the floor outside the room. 14

Arturo also testified on the medical certificate issued to him by Dr. Germolino Ballesteros, stating the injuries he sustained in Manguiguil’s hand. 15

Petitioner JOSE VALLEJO corroborated his brother’s story. On the witness stand, he said that as he tried to parry the blows of Manguiguil, his head bumped against a knife stuck between the bamboo slats of the "papag." He took the knife to defend himself from the blows of Maguiguil. When his assailant was about to throw another punch at him, he met him with the kitchen knife. According to petitioner, Manguiguil was hit on the upper portion of the abdomen by the knife thrust, but he then moved backwards, which allowed petitioner to stand up and run away. Manguiguil tried to give chase but collapsed by the side of the road, 16 said petitioner.

On January 14, 1992, the trial court rendered judgment finding petitioner guilty of homicide, though appreciating in his favor the privileged mitigating circumstance of incomplete self-defense. His brother Arturo was acquitted for lack of evidence sufficient to convict him. The prosecution failed to prove conspiracy between the Vallejo brothers. The dispositive portion of said judgment reads:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

WHEREFORE, this court finds the accused Jose Vallejo guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of homicide and hereby sentences him to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of four (4) years and two (2) months as minimum and ten (10) years as maximum and to pay the heirs of the victim the sum of FIFTY THOUSAND (P50,000.00) PESOS as indemnity for his death and to Reynaldo Manguiguil the sum of P4,375.35 as actual damages.

For lack of evidence accused Arturo Vallejo is acquitted.

Costs against accused-convict Jose Vallejo.

SO ORDERED. 17

Petitioner seasonably filed his appeal. He assailed the decision of the trial court which found that there was no reasonable necessity to use the knife in defense of his person and that there was sufficient provocation on his part immediately prior to the stabbing incident. The Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction but modified the trial court’s decision and disregarded the finding of incomplete self-defense and increased his penalty. The dispositive portion of the CA decision states:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

WHEREFORE, save for the modification as regards the penalty to be imposed on appellant which should be from Eight (8) years of prision mayor as minimum to Fourteen (14) years, Eight (8) months and One (1) day of reclusion temporal as maximum, the appealed decision is hereby AFFIRMED in all other respect, with costs.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

SO ORDERED. 18

Aggrieved, petitioner now comes to this Court seeking a reversal of his conviction and assigning the lone error that:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

THE APPELLATE COURT ERRED IN FINDING THE ACCUSED JOSE C. VALLEJO GUILTY OF HOMICIDE DESPITE THE EXISTENCE OF ALL THE ELEMENTS OF SELF-DEFENSE.

The main issue before us concerns the sufficiency of petitioner’s evidence to establish self-defense. Also involved is the credibility of the witnesses.

Petitioner contends that there is an apparent contradiction between the findings of fact made by the trial court vis-a-vis those of the appellate court. While the trial court found that there was unlawful aggression on the part of the victim, the appellate court found that no such unlawful aggression existed. Petitioner avers that the inconsistency as to the findings of fact by the courts a quo is a proper subject for review. According to him, findings of fact of the Court of Appeals may be set aside if they are contrary to those of the trial court. 19

The determination of the sufficiency of evidence as well as the trial court’s determination on the credibility of witnesses is a question of fact that is not, as a general rule, subject to this Court’s review. However, where there are facts or circumstances of weight and influence which have been overlooked or the significance of which have been misconstrued as to impeach the findings of the trial court, 20 or where the findings of fact by the trial court clash with those of the appellate court, this Court reserves the authority to review the evidence adduced in the case to better serve the ends of justice.

Where an accused invokes self-defense to prove that he killed the victim to save his life, the burden of proof is shifted to him. Having admitted the killing, it becomes his inescapable burden to prove clearly and convincingly the elements of (1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim, (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel the aggression, and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. 21 Of these three requisites, unlawful aggression is the most essential for, in its absence, self-defense cannot exist. 22

In rejecting the claim of self-defense, whether complete or incomplete, the appellate court noted that the witnesses for the prosecution testified that petitioner and his brother provoked the victim; that they followed the victim twice, after the latter went to his own room and, later, to the room of witness Mamuyac and Agustin; that the victim had stated to his board mates that the Vallejo brothers kept following him despite his patent efforts to evade them; and that they actually ganged up on the victim who was heard saying, "I am already in my camp and you still followed me. If you feel bad against me you just slap my face to satisfy your ill feelings." 23

From these details of the incident, in our view, it could not be said that there was no provocation nor unlawful aggression on the part of the petitioner, despite his assertion to the contrary. We see no reason why the other boarders who witnessed the incident should lie in their testimony. They would gain nothing from it. The imputation that these two witnesses may have been prompted by ill-motive, because petitioner did not lend them a book they wanted to borrow, 24 is flimsy and is not borne out by any evidence other than the self-serving claim of petitioner’s brother, Arturo.

Further, the trial court’s conclusion, that there was unlawful aggression on the victim’s part simply because the stab wound was dealt frontally, does not appear to us supported by the evidence or by logic. The protagonists were facing each other, since the brothers barged into the room where the victim was. The victim had already retreated to his own room and later witness Mamuyac’s room. He had to face the Vallejo brothers. That is why the stab wound was frontal, because the victim was facing his attacker.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

The trial court noted that Arturo suffered physical injuries and was examined at the Don Amadeo J. Perez, Sr. Memorial Hospital at Urdaneta, Pangasinan. However, petitioner did not have any injury. The court then observed that such absence of physical injury on petitioner does not mean he was not attacked by the victim. On this premise, coupled with the fact that the stab wound was dealt frontally, the trial court concluded that there was aggression by the victim immediately prior to the stabbing. However, contrary to this conclusion, we note the basic rule that unlawful aggression must not be an imagined threat and must be such as to put in real peril the life or personal safety of the person defending himself or of a relative sought to be defended. 25 Unlawful aggression must be actual and imminent, not merely imaginary. 26 Without doubt, the protagonists in this case were engaged in a fight. Petitioner had a knife while the victim, Manguiguil, was unarmed. Although petitioner points out that the victim was bigger and stronger than he is, this fact alone does not justify use of a bladed weapon, particularly considering that there were two of them against the lone victim. Whatever advantage the victim might have had against petitioner was obliterated by the fact that two male adults ganged up against him. 27

In the absence of any evidence showing that the victim was solely the aggressor, the law will consider the aggression as reciprocal between the two combatants. 28 Self-defense will not lie where the aggression is reciprocal.

Petitioner also assails the credibility of the prosecution witnesses. He cites in particular the allegedly inconsistent testimony of Mamuyac and Agustin as to who was holding the knife at the time the two brothers entered the room. Mamuyac maintained that it was petitioner who was holding the kitchen knife immediately prior to the stabbing. But according to petitioner at one point of Agustin’s testimony he had said that it was petitioner’s brother, Arturo, who had the knife. Petitioner added that Agustin also stated that Arturo had told his brother, Jose: "Ikkamon, utol." 29 However, this seeming contradiction becomes inconsequential given petitioner’s own admission that as he allegedly parried fist blows of the victim he chanced upon the knife he used to stab the victim. The fact is, and as borne out by the testimony of Dr. Edwin T. Murillo, the death of the victim was caused by stab wounds, 30 admittedly inflicted with a knife used by petitioner. What is important is that the testimonies agree on the essential facts and that the respective versions corroborate and substantially coincide with each other to make a consistent and coherent whole. 31

It is but natural for a blood relative, specially a sibling, to come forward and declare what could extricate his kin from trouble. Petitioner’s brother claimed that the knife was already inside the room, on the bed, and was only discovered by petitioner there. Such assertion of serendipity, however, appears too contrived to inspire belief. Moreover, whether petitioner purposely lied or just accidentally found the fatal weapon does not strengthen his theory of self-defense considered, in the totality of circumstance surrounding the victim’s death.

In fine, we hold that petitioner failed to sufficiently establish that he acted in complete self-defense when he stabbed Conner Manguiguil. Further, we are in agreement with the Court of Appeals that there was no incomplete self-defense to mitigate petitioner’s responsibility. Hence, we also agree that the penalty prescribed is that for homicide, which is reclusion temporal. There being no mitigating nor aggravating circumstance, it shall be imposed in the medium period. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the maximum of the penalty, that should be imposed on petitioner is in the range of 14 years, 8 months and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months of reclusion temporal, while the minimum should be in the range of 6 years and 1 day to 12 years of prision mayor.

With respect to damages, the award of P50,000 as civil indemnity is in order. 32 The award of another P50,000 as moral damages is supported by the evidence and in accordance with prevailing jurisprudence. 33 The award of actual damages in the amount of P4,375.35 is also supported by the evidence on record and must be sustained.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The decision dated October 27, 1998 of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Petitioner JOSE C. VALLEJO is declared guilty beyond reasonable doubt of homicide and hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of eight (8) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum to fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal as maximum. Further, petitioner should pay the heirs of the victim, Conner Manguiguil, the amount of P4,375.35 as actual damages, P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, and P50,000.00 as moral damages. Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, Mendoza, Austria-Martinez and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.

Endnotes:



1. Rollo, p. 34.

2. CA Rollo, pp. 21-44.

3. Id. at 43-44.

4. Id. at 5-6.

5. Spelled as "Mamoyac" in the TSN, February 13, 1984, p. 3.

6. Id. at 3-13, 31.

7. TSN, September 19, 1984, pp. 3-8, 18.

8. Id. at 20-26.

9. TSN, February 5, 1985, pp. 3-14.

10. Rollo, p. 37.

11. Supra, note 9 at 17.

12. TSN, March 20, 1985, pp. 2, 6-9.

13. TSN, June 19, 1985, pp. 3-8.

14. TSN, October 8, 1985, pp. 2-12.

15. TSN, November 20, 1985, pp. 2-3.

16. TSN, November 18, 1986, pp. 2-12.

17. Id. at 43-44.

18. Rollo, p. 61.

19. Id. at 20.

20. People v. Willy Figuracion, et. al., G.R. No. 129162, August 10, 2001, p. 8, citing People v. Quisay, 320 SCRA 450,469 (1999).

21. See Del Rosario v. People, 356 SCRA 627, 632 (2001), citing People v. Magallano, 266 SCRA 305, 315 (1997).

22. People v. Silvestre, 244 SCRA 479, 491 (1995).

23. TSN, February 12, 1984, p. 11; Exh. "A", Folder of Exhibits, p. 2.

24. TSN, January 14, 1986, p. 12.

25. People v. Daquipil, 240 SCRA 314, 330 (1995), citing People v. Bausing, 199 SCRA 355, 362 (1991).

26. Florenz D. Regalado, Criminal Law Conspectus, 1st Ed., p. 45, citing People v. Alconga and Bracamonte, 78 Phil. 366 (1947).

27. Rollo, p. 40.

28. See Bitalac v. Court of Appeals, 241 SCRA 351, 355 (1995), citing People v. Bauden, 77 Phil. 105 (1946) and People v. Marasigan, 51 Phil. 701 (1928).

29. CA Rollo, pp. 35-36.

30. Id. at 27.

31. People v. Madriaga, 211 SCRA 698, 712-713 (1992).

32. People v. Verde, 302 SCRA 690, 706 (1999)

33. People v. Manegdeg, 316 SCRA 689, 709 (1999).

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