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People vs.

Dawaton
GR No. 1446247. September 17, 2002.

I. Facts:

BELLOSILLO, J.:

Esmeraldo Cortez was inviting over guests to his house on September 20, 1998. His brother-in-
law Edgar Dawaton and kumpadre Leonides Lavares arrived at 12:00 noon. Domingo Reyes arrived
shortly thereafter. The group, all of which are residents of Sitio Garden, Brgy. Paltic, Dingalan, Aurora,
started drinking. Came 3:00 pm, they decided to transfer to the house of Edgar Dawaton's uncle Amado
after the group has finished four bottles of gin.

Upon arriving at the elder Dawaton's house, they proceeded at the balcony and continued their
drinking spree there. The elder Dawaton was not home at the time of their session. Leonides, due to his
drunkenness, opted to sleep on the papag or wooden bench on the balcony area, as the three continued
drinking until they finished another bottle of gin.

At around 3:30 pm, Edgar stood up and left for his house. He went back with a stainless knife
ranging 2-3 inches in length, and used it to stab the sleeping Leonides near the base of his neck.
Awakened by the sudden attack, Leonides was distraught of his companion's deed against him. Edgar
gave him another stab on the upper part of his neck, spilling blood on the arm of Leonides.

Leonides tried to escape for his life, but the bigger Edgar grabbed him from the collar of his
shirt and stabbed him multiple times. Leonides still managed to move 20 meters away from the elder
Dawaton's house, but he dropped in front of the Cortez residence. From that point, Edgar continuously
stabbed him until Leonides expired. After the incident, he fled to the house of his uncle Carlito Baras,
where he was arrested by the authorities, who found him when people surrounding the body of
Leonides pointed them to Edgar's whereabouts.

Domingo and Esmeraldo was shocked by the incident. Both failed to convince Edgar to stop
stabbing Leonides, yet they were not able to help the poor victim.

II. Issues

1. Whether or not the sentence of the trial court charging Dawaton guilty of murder qualified by
treachery is valid.
2. Whether or not the account of Dawaton on his provocation by the victim, leading to the
commission of the murder, is valid.

III. Holding

1. Yes. The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the trial court, with a few modifications on the
penalty
2. No. There was no evidence to prove that account, as said by Domingo and Esmeraldo
themselves.
IV. Rationale

1. The Supreme Court (SC) has specified the errors of the trial court in the imposition of the death
penalty sentence, to wit:

a.) The presence of the mitigating circumstance of intoxication was not taken into account by the trial
court. The accused was drunk at the time of his commission of the crime, and there was no indication
of his frequency of alcohol intake.

b.) The presence of the said mitigating circumstance should entail the imposition of the lesser penalty,
the crime being punishable by two indivisible penalties, namely reclusion perpetua and death. Under
Article 63(3) of the Revised Penal Code, the lesser penalty must be the one imposed in the presence of
a mitigating circumstance. Hence the modification of the sentence of the trial court by the SC, from
death to reclusion perpetua.

2. Treachery is involved in the commission of the crime. There is no question to that, since it is
proven by the prosecution witnesses that at the time of the commission, the victim was drunk
and fast asleep, and that Edgar unexpectedly started to attack the victim in his sleep. Hence the
victim lacked the opportunity to defend himself from the attack.

a.) The guilty pleading of Edgar to the lesser offense is of no merit. Article 13 of the Revised
Penal Code does not present any attenuating circumstance referring to a scenario wherein the
accused pleads guilty to a lesser offense (in this case, homicide). Furthermore, the accused did
not secure the consent of the prosecution to allow him to plead guilty to a lesser offense (Sec. 2,
Rule 116, Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure). The prosecution has consistently maintained
its stand that murder, accompanied by the qualifying circumstance of treachery, must be
imposed against Edgar.

b.) The presence of a grenade being threatened to be used by the victim, as mentioned in
another version of the facts prepared by Edgar, is not merited. The prosecution witnesses belied
it and maintained that the victim was fast asleep and not in a belligerent manner against the
accused. In fact, they claim that the attack was so unexpected, the two having been in good
terms to each other prior to their drunkenness.