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[G.R. No. 144308. September 24, 2002.]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ANTONIO BARCELON, JR. Y RENDURA @ "JUN," Accused-Appellant.



On automatic review is the decision 1 dated August 8, 2000, of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City, Branch 127, in Criminal Case No. C-58255 (99), finding appellant Antonio Barcelon, Jr., guilty of murder and imposing on him the penalty of death.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Appellant was charged with the crime of murder in an amended information which reads as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

That on or about the 24th day of November, 1999, in Caloocan City, Metro Manila, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court, the above-named accused, without any justifiable cause, with deliberate intent to kill, did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab with a bladed weapon on the vital parts of the body of one Ni Amador y Arago, thereby inflicting upon the latter serious injuries, which injuries caused the victim’s death.

That in the commission of the crime, the qualifying aggravating circumstances of treachery and abuse of superior strength were present.

Contrary to Law. 2

Upon arraignment, appellant pleaded not guilty. Trial thereafter commenced.

From the testimonies of its witnesses, the trial court summed up the prosecution’s version of the incident:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Around 9:30 in the morning of November 24, 1999, appellant Antonio Barcelon was seen sitting on the concrete bench fronting the residence of Dr. Ni Amador in Barangay Binhagan, Caloocan City. Appellant was restless and "palinga-linga." Later, appellant went inside the Amador’s house (pp. 4-5, TSN, May 10, 2000).

Inside Amador’s house, Isabel Medino was cooking in the kitchen. Medino heard Dr. Amador shouting "Ay! Ay! Ay!" Medino ran to the sala and saw appellant strangling and stabbing Dr. Amador (pp. 7-8, TSN, May 30, 2000). At that point, Medino and appellant stared at each other (Nagkatinginan po kami) (p. 9, TSN, May 30, 2000).

Dr. Amador shouted "SAKLOLO!" Appellant left the house holding a knife. When appellant was asked by Virgilio Roque why the doctor was shouting, appellant casually remarked "MAY NASAKSAK" (pp. 4-5, TSN, May 9, 2000). Dr. Amador then came out holding her bleeding left arm. She asked for help (p. 9 TSN, May 30, 2000). Her breast was also bleeding. (p. 10, TSN, May 30, 2000). She was brought by her neighbors to the Chinese General Hospital (p. 37 TSN, May 10, 1999) , where she was attended to by Dr. Laren Sagurus for stab wounds at her right neck and infraclavicular area. Dr. Amador started to have a coughing episode, became pale and gasped for breath. Her blood pressure went down. At 3:05 in the afternoon, she was pronounced dead (p: 11, TSN, June 19, 2000).

Meanwhile, concerned neighbors pursued appellant. The police authorities, together with Salvador Dera and Rommel Adams, caught up with appellant in Kanlaon St, Quezon City (pp. 11-16, TSN, May 10, 2000; p. 16, TSN, May 16, 2000). At the time of the incident, appellant was wearing a dirty white sleeveless shirt (sando) (p. 12, TSN, May 16, 2000). The sando (Exhibit P with submarkings; Exhibit BB) was referred to the PNP Crime Laboratory for examination. The serology report (Exhibit AA) indicated "presence of human blood" (Exhibit AA-2 and AA-3). 3

Appellant appeared as the sole witness for his defense, and his testimony has been summarized by the trial court as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

ANTONIO BARCELON, JR., testified that on November 24, 1999 at around 9:00 a.m. he went to Cash Motor of Abad Santos to apply for a job but was informed by the security guard that there was no vacancy. So he decided to go home. While walking along Bonifacio Avenue and when he was about to cross Mayon Street to get a ride, he saw a group of persons chasing another person towards his direction. He thought that there was a riot so he immediately crossed the Mayon Street. Then suddenly, he heard someone pointing at him, so he ran. After crossing the said street, he walked casually. After walking about three blocks heading Banawe St., a policeman and an Indian National on board a motorcycle appeared and blocked his way. The policeman pointed a gun at him. He asked him why, but the policeman ordered him to lie down instead and told him that he was one of those being chased by a group of persons. He again asked them the reason for his arrest but the policeman said that he can explain in the police station later.

He was then turned over to the Caloocan Police Station. He was ordered to change his white T-shirt with a green one. He was brought to the place of incident where he was nabbed and mauled by the persons present in that place. Then he was detained at the Caloocan City police precinct. (TSN, July 11, 2000, pp. 2-12.) 4

In convicting appellant, the court a quo gave credence to the testimony of the lone eyewitness for the prosecution, Isabel Medino. The court found her testimony to be positive, sincere and delivered with candor. Having had the untrammeled opportunity to directly observe her deportment and conduct while testifying, the court further noted that "definitely she did not give the impression that she is distorting facts to wrongly implicate an innocent man in a crime so serious as Murder." 5 There was likewise no ill-motive found on the part of Isabel, for her to testify falsely. 6

According to the trial court, Isabel’s positive identification of the appellant was also bolstered by the testimony of other witnesses who saw appellant acting strangely outside the victim’s house before he entered it. Shortly after the crime was committed, two witnesses also saw appellant hurriedly coming out of the house with a concealed knife in his possession.

Weighed against the inherently weak defense of denial and alibi proffered by the appellant, the trial court sustained the version of the prosecution. It gave no credence to the contention of appellant that the witnesses as well as the police had mistaken him for the actual culprit. The trial court also noted flight of the appellant as an index of his guilt.

The trial court found that the killing was attended by treachery, which qualified the killing to murder. It also found that the attendant circumstances of dwelling and abuse of superior strength aggravated the offense. Hence, the sentence imposed on appellant by the trial court which reads as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

WHEREFORE foregoing premises considered and the prosecution having established beyond an iota of doubt the guilt of Accused ANTONIO BARCELON, Jr. y RENDURA of the crime of Murder as defined and penalized under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R.A. 7659 and considering the presence of the aggravating circumstance of dwelling without any mitigating circumstance to off-set it, this Court consistent with the provision of Art. 63 of the Revised Penal Code, hereby imposes upon the said Accused the maximum penalty of DEATH; to indemnify the legal heirs of the deceased the civil indemnity of P50,000.00; to pay the Private Complainant the actual damages in the total amount of P306,939.02 including moral damages of P200,000.00 and exemplary damages of P150,000.00, plus costs.

x       x       x


Now before us on automatic review, appellant assigns the following errors allegedly committed by the trial court:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library







Three issues need to be resolved: (1) whether the prosecution witnesses are credible; (2) whether treachery, abuse of superior strength, and dwelling attended the commission of the crime; and (3) whether the death penalty has been properly imposed.

On the issue of credibility, appellant alleges that the testimonies of prosecution witnesses were tainted with suspicion and bias. In particular, the testimonies of witnesses Virgilio Roque, Salvador Dera and Isabel Medino, according to appellant, lack credibility.

Appellant attacks the credibility of Isabel Medino, the lone eyewitness to the stabbing, by pointing out that it took her two weeks after the incident to give her statement to the police, unlike other witnesses who gave their statements on the day the crime was committed. Moreover, Medino was inconsistent on her account of where she was during those two weeks after the killing. Initially, she had said she was with the Amadors, but on cross-examination, she stated that she went to the province. Appellant also avers that Medino’s testimony may also be tainted with bias as she works for the Amadors. According to appellant, her motive is to help her employer in prosecuting the Appellant.

For the appellee, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) contends that eyewitness Isabel Medino positively identified appellant as the person who stabbed the victim. 8 The OSG cites Isabel’s testimony 9 where she stated that she was about four steps away when she saw the appellant strangling and stabbing the victim. She even testified that she was able to identify the appellant as, in the course of the stabbing and just before appellant ran out, they stared at each other. According to the OSG, her testimony alone is sufficient to warrant appellant’s conviction, as the testimony of a single witness, if positive and credible, is sufficient to sustain a judgment of conviction, even in a charge of murder. 10

With regard to the testimonies of Roque and Dera, appellant contends that they did not witness the actual stabbing of the victim but only saw appellant within the premises of the Amadors’ house. According to appellant, this does not conclusively establish that he is the killer. It is even surprising, according to appellant, for Roque and Dera to say that he was the one who told them that somebody was killed inside the Amadors’ house. 11 The closeness of Roque to the victim, treating her as a second mother, and admitting that he was willing to help the family of the victim to obtain justice, 12 clearly tainted his testimony with bias, according to appellant. Appellant further stresses that since the victim’s husband is a lawyer by profession, he is quite capable of rehearsing the witnesses and supplying the details just to pin down any suspect. 13 Hence, appellant avers that the testimonies of Roque and Dera were unreliable.

The OSG argues, however, that, with regard to the testimonies of Roque and Dera, though they did not actually see the stabbing incident, they corroborated the testimony of Medino and placed the appellant at the scene of the crime. Roque also identified the knife held by the appellant as he emerged from the house as the same knife utilized as the murder weapon. The OSG avers that there is no sufficient showing that the prosecution witnesses were biased against appellant. The relationship of the witnesses to the victim, by itself, does not give rise to the presumption of bias or ulterior motive, nor does it ipso facto impair the credibility of the witnesses, nor tarnish the testimony of said witnesses. Moreover, the close relationship of a witness could enhance the trustworthiness of his testimony, as, he would naturally impute the crime only to the actual perpetrator since he would want to bring only the real culprits to justice, and not falsely accuse innocent persons. 14

The contentions of the OSG are well-taken.

The pertinent portions of the testimony of Isabel Medino appears as follows:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

Q: At around 10:00 o’clock in the morning of November 24, 1999 do you remember where you were?

A: I was cooking sir.

Q: Where?

A: In the kitchen sir.

Q: In what house?

A: Of Dra. Amador sir.

Q: And while cooking in the kitchen of the residence of Dra. Amador at that time and date did anything happened unusual?

A: There was sir.

Q: What was that?

A: On that fateful day and time while I was cooking I heard shout saying "ay, ay, ay" sir.

Q: Were you able to determine where that voice or shout is coming?

A: Inside their house particularly in the sala sir.

Q: Upon hearing those shouts or voices of [D]ra. [N]i [A]mador what did you do?

A: I ran toward the sala sir.

Q: Did . . . were you able to reach the sala?

A: Yes sir.

Q: And what happened when you reached the sala?

A: I saw a dark and slim body built man strangling with his right hand and at the same time stabbing Dra. Ni Amador with his left hand sir.

Q: When you saw that man strangling and stabbing [D]ra. [A]mador by that man, how far were you, I am referring to the victim and that person who according to you strangling and stabbing [D]ra. [N]i [A]mador?

A: Apat na hakbang po.

x       x       x

Q: At the time that according to you that man whom you saw strangling and stabbing [D]ra. [N]i [A]mador what is his position to Dra. Amador, the victim in this case?

A: The man was facing [D]ra. [A]mador sir.

x       x       x

Q: When you saw that person strangling and stabbing [D]ra. [N]i Amador what happened next?

A: I saw the man scampered away toward the door going to the garage sir.

Q: Will you able to recognize that person if you can see him again?

A: Yes sir.

Q: Why will you be able to identify that person?

A: Dahil nagkatinginan po kami sir. (we stare each other).

Q: And after you and that person stare each other what happened next?

A: He ran outside toward the garage sir.

Q: What did you do next?

A: Hindi ako nakatulong dahil sa takot at sa nerbiyos ko po.

x       x       x 15

A close scrutiny of the foregoing testimony, as well as the testimonies of other prosecution witnesses, convinces us that no reversible error was committed by the trial court in giving credence to the prosecution’s version of the incident.

Findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses deserve great weight, given the clear advantage of a trial judge in the appreciation of testimonial evidence. For indeed the trial court is in a better position to decide the question of credibility, having heard the witnesses and observed their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial. 16 Here, the trial court found the account of the incident proffered by the lone prosecution eyewitness Isabel Medino to be positive, sincere and candid. 17

Moreover, it is a settled doctrine that the positive identification of an eyewitness, who has been shown to have no ill motive to testify falsely against the appellant, prevails over the bare denials of the latter. 18

The trial court observed in this case:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

The verity that I. MEDINO is a housemaid in the house of the Private Complainant, will not by itself discredit her testimony considering that this Court has had the untrammeled opportunity to observe directly her deportment and conduct while testifying on the witness stand and definitely she did not give the impression that she is capable of distorting the facts to wrongly impute an innocent man in a crime so serious as murder.

Furthermore, there is nothing in the record to show that I. MEDINO was impelled by improper motive in testifying the way she did against the Accused. In fact the latter admitted having had no previous encounter with said witness prior to the incident. . . . 19

Let us now resolve the issue of whether treachery attended the commission of the crime, thereby qualifying the same to murder.

The eyewitness, Isabel Medino, did not actually see how the attack on the victim commenced. Where no particulars are known as to how the killing began, its perpetration with treachery cannot be merely supposed. 20

While the eyewitness positively identified the assailant, Isabel Medino was unable to depict exactly how the attack was launched against Dr. Amador. It was only after Medino heard the victim shout that she proceeded to the sala where the appellant and the victim were. At that time, Isabel saw appellant attacking the victim, but the attack by appellant was already in full progress. The attack was frontal, as testified to by Medino and evidenced by the medical findings. The victim suffered two stabs in her neck and infraclavicular area. But we cannot conclude from these facts alone, that the attack was attended by treachery. For treachery to be appreciated, it must be present and seen by the witness right at the inception of the attack. 21 Thus, we cannot accept as well-founded the conclusion of the trial court that the killing of Dr. Amador was murder because it was attended by treachery. That finding lacks evidentiary support.

Now, was the killing committed with abuse of superior strength?

To take advantage of superior strength means to use purposely excessive force, out of proportion to the means of defense available to the person attacked 22 The aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength depends on the age, size and strength of the parties. It is considered whenever there is a notorious inequality of forces between the victim and the aggressor, assessing a superiority of strength notoriously advantageous for the aggressor which is selected or taken advantage of by him in the commission of the crime. 23

In finding that abuse of superior strength attended the killing, the trial court observed that such abuse is obvious, considering the blatant inequality of strength and age between the victim and the appellant as well as the degree of force and weapon used by him. 24 The OSG points out that there was abuse because at the time the crime was committed, the victim was a 69-year-old woman and appellant was only 29 years old.

Appellant disputes the OSG’s contention. He avers that the mere fact that the victim was a woman does not by itself establish that there was abuse of superior strength. For appellant says he is a "short person" with a "small body," hence, it cannot be concluded that there was notorious disparity of strength between him and the victim.25cralaw:red

We find no merit in appellant’s argument. As held in People v. Ocumen, 26 an attack by a man with a deadly weapon upon an unarmed woman constitutes the circumstance of abuse of that superiority which his sex and the weapon used in the act afforded him, and from which the woman was unable to defend herself.

The disparity in age between the assailant and the victim, aged 29 and 69, respectively, indicates physical superiority on appellant’s part over the deceased. It did not matter that appellant was "dark" with a "slim body build" 27 or "medyo mataba." 28 What mattered was that the malefactor was male and armed with a lethal weapon that he used to slay the victim. Thus, abuse of superior strength was present in the commission of the crime. But should it be considered as qualifying or aggravating?

We note that the amended information states: "That in the commission of the crime, the qualifying aggravating circumstances of treachery and abuse of superior strength were present." In its decision, the trial court considered abuse of superior strength as a generic aggravating circumstance and deemed it absorbed in treachery.

We agree that here abuse of superior strength should be treated as merely aggravating. And we find it is present in this case, although there is no treachery.

Both the appellant and the OSG agree that the trial court manifestly erred in appreciating the aggravating circumstance of dwelling. For dwelling was not alleged in the information, hence, it could not be proved 29 nor appreciated against appellant. (See Rules of Court, Rule 110, Sec. 8 which now requires that the information must allege and specify aggravating and qualifying circumstances.)

Consequently, modifications are in order with regard to the crime committed, the penalty imposed, and the amount of civil indemnity and damages to be paid. There being no qualifying circumstance, appellant should be held liable for homicide, not murder. Under Art. 249 of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty for homicide is reclusion temporal in any of its periods, the range of which is twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years. There being one aggravating circumstance present, without any mitigating circumstance to offset it, the penalty to be imposed in its maximum period. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the maximum of the penalty that should be imposed on the appellant must be taken from the maximum period of reclusion temporal, while the minimum must be taken from the penalty next lower in degree, which is prision mayor, the range of which is six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years.

The award of actual damages in the amount of P306,939.02, is evidenced by receipts and should be maintained. However, the award of P200,000 as moral damages should be reduced to P50,000, in line with existing jurisprudence. 30 In view of the presence of an aggravating circumstance, the award of exemplary damages has sufficient basis 31 and must be granted pursuant to current case law but only for P25,000.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City, Br. 127, in Criminal Case No. C-58255(99) is hereby MODIFIED.

Accordingly, appellant ANTONIO BARCELON, JR., is found GUILTY of HOMICIDE and sentenced to an indeterminate prison term of ten (10) years and one (1) day of prision mayor as minimum to seventeen (17) years, four (4) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal as maximum. He is also ordered to pay the heirs of the victim, Dr. Ni Amador, moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00, and exemplary damages in the amount of P25,000.00, as well as actual damages in the amount of P306,939.02.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Costs de officio.


Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Panganiban, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.


1. Rollo, pp. 33-50.

2. Id. at 10.

3. Id. at 124-126.

4. Id. at 78-79.

5. Id. at 45.

6. Ibid.

7. Id. at 50.

8. Id. at 128.

9. Id. at 128-131; citing TSN, May 30, 2000, pp. 3-9.

10. Id. at 131, citing People v. Lotoc, 307 SCRA 471 (1999).

11. Id. at 81.

12. Id. at 82.

13. Ibid.

14. Id. at 136.

15. TSN. May 30, 2000, pp. 4-9.

16. People v. Tejero, G.R. No. 135050, April 19, 2002, p. 12.

17. Supra, note 1 at 44.

18. People v. Leal, G.R. No. 139313, June 19, 2001, p. 1.

19. Supra, note 1 at 45.

20. Supra, note 18 at 16.

21. Ibid.

22. People v. Moka, 196 SCRA 378, 387 (1991).

23. People v. Carpio, 191 SCRA 108, 119 (1990).

24. However, the trial court stated, per the decision subject of review, that this circumstance had been absorbed by treachery. See Rollo, p. 49.

25. Supra, note 1 at 86-87.

26. 319 SCRA 539, 565 (1999).

27. Supra, note 15 at 5.

28. TSN, May 9, 2000, p. 16.

29. See People v. Vicente, G.R. No. 142447, December 21, 2001, p. 12.

30. Angcaco v. People, G.R. No. 146664, February 28, 2002, p. 20.

31. Art. 2230 of the New Civil Code provides: "In criminal offenses, exemplary damages as a part of the civil liability may be imposed when the crime was committed with one or more aggravating circumstances. . . ." ; See People v. Patrolla, Jr., 254 SCRA 467, 477.

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