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Aytona vs Castillo Case Digest FACTS: On December 29, 1961, Carlos P.

Garcia, who was still President that time, made last minute appointments while the Commission on Appointments was not in session. Said last minute appointment included Dominador R. Aytona, who was appointed as ad interim Governor of Central Bank. The latter took oath on the same day.

At noon on December 30, 1961, President-elect Diosdado Macapagal assumed office. He issued Administrative Order No. 2 on December 31, 1961 recalling, withdrawing and canceling all ad interim appointments made by President Garcia after December 13, 1961, which was the date when Macapagal was proclaimed President by the Congress. He then appointed Andres V. Castillo as ad interim Governor of the Central Bank and the latter qualified immediately.

On January 2, 1962, both exercised the powers of their office. However, Aytona was prevented from holding office the following day and thus instituted a quo warranto proceeding, challenging Castillos right to exercise the powers of the Governor of the Central Bank. Aytona claims that he was validly appointed and had qualified for the post, therefore making Castillos appointment voi d. Castillo then contended that Aytonas appointment had already been revoked by Administrative Order No. 2 issued by President Macapagal. ISSUE: Whether President Diosdado Macapagal had power to issue the order of cancellation of the ad interim appointments made by President Carlos P. Garcia even after the appointees had already qualified. RULING: Upon the ground of separation of powers, the court resolved that it must decline and refuse jurisdiction in disregarding the Presidential Administrative Order No. 2, canceling such midnight or last-minute appointments. Case dismissed.

U.S. vs. Ah Chong (15 Phil. 488) 27JUL FACTS: The defendant, Ah Chong, was employed as a cook at Officers quarters. On the night, the defendant, who had received for the night, was suddenly awakened by some trying to force open the door of the room. He sat up in bed and called out twice, Who is there? He heard no answer and was convinced by

the noise at the door that it was being pushed open by someone bent upon forcing his way into the room. The defendant, fearing that the intruder was a robber or a thief, leaped to his feet and called out: If you enter the room, I will kill you. He was struck just above the knee by the edge of the chair and he thought that the blow had been inflicted by the person who had forced the door open, whom he supposed to be a burglar. Seizing a common kitchen knife which he kept under his pillow, the defendant struck out wildly at the intruder who, it afterwards turned out, was his roommate. The roommate eventually died. ISSUE: Whether or not Ah Chong is liable for the death of his roommate. HELD: NO. Ah Chong was acquitted. RATIO: The decision of the lower court was reversed. The case was a mistake of fact resulting to self -defense justified under Article 11(1) of the Revised Penal Code where there is (1) unlawful aggression, (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it, and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. Had the deceased be a robber as he thought, his actions would not be criminally liable. Some maxims cited: Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, the act itself does not make man guilty unless his intention were so; Actus me incito factus non est meus actus, an act done by me against my will is not my act;

SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. 172468 : October 15, 2008 PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JULIE VILLACORTA GIL (A. K. A. Julie Villasorca Gil), Accused-Appellant. DECISION LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:



On appeal is the Decision dated July 30, 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 02550, which affirmed the Decision dated September 22, 2006 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 170, of Malabon, in Criminal Case No. 27039-MN, finding accused-appellant Orlito Villacorta (Villacorta) guilty of murder, and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the heirs of Danilo Cruz (Cruz) the sum of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity, plus the costs of suit.


On June 21, 2002, an Information was filed against Villacorta charging him with the crime of murder, as follows:


That on or about 23rd day of January 2002, in Navotas, Metro Manila, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, armed with a sharpened bamboo stick, with intent to kill, treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab with the said weapon one DANILO

SALVADOR immediate death.

CRUZ, thereby inflicting upon the victim serious wounds which caused his

When arraigned on September 9, 2002, Villacorta pleaded not guilty. [4] During trial, the prosecution presented as witnesses Cristina Mendeja (Mendeja) and Dr. Domingo Belandres, Jr. (Dr. Belandres). Mendeja narrated that on January 23, 2002, she was tending her sari-sari store located at C-4 Road, Bagumbayan, Navotas. Both Cruz and Villacorta were regular customers at Mendejas store. At around two oclock in the morning, while Cruz was ordering bread at Mendejas store, Villacorta suddenly appeared and, without uttering a word, stabbed Cruz on the left side of Cruzs body using a sharpened bamboo stick. The bamboo stick broke and was left in Cruzs body. Immediately after the stabbing incident, Villacorta fled. Mendeja gave chase but failed to catch Villacorta. When Mendeja returned to her store, she saw her neighbor Aron removing the broken bamboo stick from Cruzs body.[5] Mendeja and Aron then brought Cruz to Tondo Medical Center. [6] Dr. Belandres was Head of the Tetanus Department at the San Lazaro Hospital. When Cruz sustained the stab wound on January 23, 2002, he was taken to the Tondo Medical Center, where he was treated as an outpatient. Cruz was only brought to the San Lazaro Hospital on February 14, 2002, where he died the following day, on February 15, 2002. While admitting that he did not personally treat Cruz, Dr. Belandres was able to determine, using Cruzs medical chart and diagnosis, that Cruz died of tetanus infection secondary to stab wound. [7] Dr. Belandres specifically described the cause of Cruzs death in the following manner: The wound was exposed x x spurs concerted, the patient developed difficulty of opening the mouth, spastivity of the body and abdominal pain and the cause of death is hypoxic encephalopathy neuro transmitted due to upper G.I. bleeding x x x. Diagnosed of Tetanus, Stage III.[8]

The prosecution also intended to present Dr. Deverni Matias (Dr. Matias), who attended to Cruz at the San Lazaro Hospital, but the prosecution and defense agreed to dispense with Dr. Matias testimony based on the stipulation that it would only corroborate Dr. Belandres testimony on Cruz dying of tetanus. For its part, the defense presented Villacorta himself, who denied stabbing Cruz. Villacorta recounted that he was on his way home from work at around two oclock in the morning of January 21, 2002. Upon arriving home, Villacorta drank coffee then went outside to buy cigarettes at a nearby store. When Villacorta was about to leave the store, Cruz put his arm around Villacortas shoulder. This prompted Villacorta to box Cruz, after which, Villacorta went home. Villacorta did not notice that Cruz got hurt. Villacorta only found out about Cruzs death upon his arrest on July 31, 2002.[9] On September 22, 2006, the RTC rendered a Decision finding Villacorta guilty of murder, qualified by treachery. The dispositive portion of said Decision reads: WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, the Court finds accused Orlito Villacorta guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the heirs of Danilo Cruz the sum of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity for the death of said victim plus the costs of suit.[10] Villacorta, through his counsel from the Public Attorneys Office (PAO), filed a notice of appeal to a ssail his conviction by the RTC.[11] The Court of Appeals directed the PAO to file Villacortas brief, within thirty days from receipt of notice. Villacorta filed his Appellants Brief[12] on May 30, 2007; while the People, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), filed its Appellee's Brief[13] on October 2, 2007.

On July 30, 2008, the Court of Appeals promulgated its Decision affirming in toto the RTC judgment of conviction against Villacorta. Hence, Villacorta comes before this Court via the instant appeal. Villacorta manifested that he would no longer file a supplemental brief, as he was adopting the Appellant's Brief he filed before the Court of Appeals.[14] The OSG, likewise, manifested that it was no longer filing a supplemental brief. [15] In his Appellants Brief, Villacorta raised the following assignment of errors:


Villacorta assails the credibility of Mendeja, an eyewitness to the stabbing incident. It was Mendeja who positively identified Villacorta as the one who stabbed Cruz in the early morning of January 23, 2002. Villacorta asserts that Mendejas account of the stabbing incident is replete with inconsistencies and incredulities, and is contrary to normal human experience, such as: (1) instead of shouting or calling for help when Villacorta allegedly stabbed Cruz, Mendeja attempted to run after and catch Villacorta; (2) while, by Mendejas own account, there were other people who witnessed the stabbing and could have chased after Villacorta, yet, oddly, only Mendeja did; (3) if Cruz was stabbed so swiftly and suddenly as Mendeja described, then it would have been physically improbable for Mendeja to have vividly recognized the perpetrator, who immediately ran away after the stabbing; (4) after the stabbing, both Villacorta and Cruz ran in opposite directions; and (5) Mendeja had said that the bamboo stick, the alleged murder weapon, was left at her store, although she had also stated that the said bamboo stick was left embedded in Cruzs body. Villacorta maintains that the aforementioned inconsistencies are neither trivial nor inconsequential, and should engender some doubt as to his guilt. We are not persuaded. To begin with, it is fundamental that the determination by the trial court of the credibility of witnesses, when affirmed by the appellate court, is accorded full weight and credit as well as great respect, if not conclusive effect. Such determination made by the trial court proceeds from its first-hand opportunity to observe the demeanor of the witnesses, their conduct and attitude under grilling examination, thereby placing the trial court in the unique position to assess the witnesses' credibility and to appreciate their truthfulness, honesty and candor. [17] In this case, both the RTC and the Court of Appeals gave full faith and credence to the testimony of prosecution witness Mendeja. The Court of Appeals rejected Villacortas attempts to impugn Mendejas testimony, thus:

Appellants reason for concluding that witness Mendejas testimony is incredible because she did not shout or call for help and instead run after the appellant, fails to impress the Court because persons who witness crimes react in different ways. x x x the makings of a human mind are unpredictable; people react differently and there is no standard form of behavior when one is confronted by a shocking incident. Equally lacking in merit is appellants second reason which is, other persons could have run after the appellant after the stabbing incident. As explained by witness Mendeja, the other person whom she identified as Aron was left to assist the appellant who was wounded. Further, the stabbing occurred at 2:00 oclock in the morning, a time when persons are expected to be asleep in their house, not roaming the streets. His [Villacortas] other argument that the swiftness of the stabb ing incident rendered impossible or incredible the identification of the assailant cannot likewise prosper in view of his admission that he was in the store of witness Mendeja on January 23, 2002 at 2:00 oclock in the morning and that he assaulted the victim by boxing him. Even if his admission is disregarded still the evidence of record cannot support appellants argument. Appellant and the victim were known to witness Mendeja, both being her friends and regular customers. There was light in front of the store. An opening in the store measuring 1 and meters enables the person inside to see persons outside, particularly those buying articles from the store. The victim was in front of the store buying bread when attacked. Further, immediately after the stabbing, witness Mendeja ran after the appellant giving her additional opportunity to identify the malefactor. Thus, authorship of the attack can be credibly ascertained.[18]

Moreover, Villacorta was unable to present any reason or motivation for Mendeja to fabricate such a lie and falsely accuse Villacorta of stabbing Cruz on January 23, 2002. We have ruled time and again that where the prosecution eyewitness was familiar with both the victim and accused, and where the locus criminis afforded good visibility, and where no improper motive can be attributed to the witness for testifying against the accused, then her version of the story deserves much weight.[19] The purported inconsistencies in Mendejas testimony pointed out by Villacorta are on matters that have no bearing on the fundamental fact which Mendeja testified on: that Villacorta stabbed Cruz in the early morning of January 23, 2002, right in front of Mendejas store. In the face of Mendejas positive identification of Villacorta as Cruzs stabber, Villacorta could only muster an uncorroborated denial. Denial, like alibi, as an exonerating justification, is inherently weak and if uncorroborated, regresses to blatant impotence. Like alibi, it also constitutes self-serving negative evidence which cannot be accorded greater evidentiary weight than the declaration of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters.[20] Hence, we do not deviate from the foregoing factual findings of the RTC, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Nevertheless, there is merit in the argument proffered by Villacorta that in the event he is found to have indeed stabbed Cruz, he should only be held liable for slight physical injuries for the stab wound he inflicted upon Cruz. The proximate cause of Cruzs death is the tetanus infection, and not the stab wound. Proximate cause has been defined as that cause, which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have occurred.[21]

In this case, immediately after he was stabbed by Villacorta in the early morning of January 23, 2002, Cruz was rushed to and treated as an out-patient at the Tondo Medical Center. On February 14, 2002, Cruz was admitted to the San Lazaro Hospital for symptoms of severe tetanus infection, where he died the following day, on February 15, 2002. The prosecution did not present evidence of the emergency medical treatment Cruz received at the Tondo Medical Center, subsequent visits by Cruz to Tondo Medical Center or any other hospital for follow-up medical treatment of his stab wound, or Cruzs activities between January 23 to February 14, 2002. In Urbano v. Intermediate Appellate Court,[22] the Court was confronted with a case of very similar factual background as the one at bar. During an altercation on October 23, 1980, Urbano hacked Javier with a bolo, inflicting an incised wound on Javiers hand. Javier was treated by Dr. Meneses. On November 14, 1980, Javier was rushed to the hospital with lockjaw and convulsions. Dr. Exconde, who attended to Javier, found that Javiers serious condition was caused by tetanus infection. The next day, on November 15, 1980, Javier died. An Information was filed against Urbano for homicide. Both the Circuit Criminal Court and the Intermediate Appellate Court found Urbano guilty of homicide, because Javier's death was the natural and logical consequence of Urbano's unlawful act. Urbano appealed before this Court, arguing that Javiers own negligence was the proximate cause of his death. Urbano alleged that when Dr. Meneses examined Javiers wound, he did not find any tetanus infection and that Javier could have acquired the tetanus germs when he returned to work on his farm only two (2) weeks after sustaining his injury. The Court granted Urbanos appeal.

We quote extensively from the ratiocination of the Court in Urbano: The issue, therefore, hinges on whether or not there was an efficient intervening cause from the time Javier was wounded until his death which would exculpate Urbano from any liability for Javier's death. We look into the nature of tetanusThe incubation period of tetanus, i.e., the time between injury and the appearance of unmistakable symptoms, ranges from 2 to 56 days. However, over 80 percent of patients become symptomatic within 14 days. A short incubation period indicates severe disease, and when symptoms occur within 2 or 3 days of injury the mortality rate approaches 100 percent. Non-specific premonitory symptoms such as restlessness, irritability, and headache are encountered occasionally, but the commonest presenting complaints are pain and stiffness in the jaw, abdomen, or back and difficulty swallowing. As the disease progresses, stiffness gives way to rigidity, and patients often complain of difficulty opening their mouths. In fact, trismus is the commonest manifestation of tetanus and is responsible for the familiar descriptive name of lockjaw. As more muscles are involved, rigidity becomes generalized, and sustained contractions called risus sardonicus. The intensity and sequence of muscle involvement is quite variable. In a small proportion of patients, only local signs and symptoms develop in the region of the injury. In the vast majority, however, most muscles are involved to some degree, and the

signs and symptoms encountered depend upon the major muscle groups affected. Reflex spasm usually occur within 24 to 72 hours of the first symptoms, an interval referred to as the onset time. As in the case of the incubation period, a short onset time is associated with a poor prognosis. Spasms are caused by sudden intensification of afferent stimuli arising in the periphery, which increases rigidity and causes simultaneous and excessive contraction of muscles and their antagonists. Spasms may be both painful and dangerous. As the disease progresses, minimal or inapparent stimuli produce more intense and longer lasting spasms with increasing frequency. Respiration may be impaired by laryngospasm or tonic contraction of respiratory muscles which prevent adequate ventilation. Hypoxia may then lead to irreversible central nervous system damage and death. Mild tetanus is characterized by an incubatio n period of at least 14 days and an onset time of more than 6 days. Trismus is usually present, but dysphagia is absent and generalized spasms are brief and mild. Moderately severe tetanus has a somewhat shorter incubation period and onset time; trismus is marked, dysphagia and generalized rigidity are present, but ventilation remains adequate even during spasms. The criteria for severe tetanus include a short incubation time, and an onset time of 72 hrs., or less, severe trismus, dysphagia and rigidity and frequent prolonged, generalized convulsive spasms. (Harrison's Principle of Internal Medicine, 1983 Edition, pp. 1004-1005; Emphasis supplied) Therefore, medically speaking, the reaction to tetanus found inside a man's body depends on the incubation period of the disease. In the case at bar, Javier suffered a 2-inch incised wound on his right palm when he parried the bolo which Urbano used in hacking him. This incident took place on October 23, 1980. After 22 days, or on November 14, 1980, he suffered the symptoms of tetanus, like lockjaw and muscle spasms. The following day, November 15, 1980, he died. If, therefore, the wound of Javier inflicted by the appellant was already infected by tetanus germs at the time, it is more medically probable that Javier should have been infected with only a mild case of tetanus because the symptoms of tetanus appeared on the 22nd day after the hacking incident or more than 14 days after the infliction of the wound. Therefore, the onset time should have been more than six days. Javier, however, died on the second day from the onset time. The more credible conclusion is that at the time Javier's wound was inflicted by the appellant, the severe form of tetanus that killed him was not yet present. Consequently, Javier's wound could have been infected with tetanus after the hacking incident. Considering the circumstance surrounding Javier's death, his wound could have been infected by tetanus 2 or 3 or a few but not 20 to 22 days before he died.[23]

The incubation period for tetanus infection and the length of time between the hacking incident and the manifestation of severe tetanus infection created doubts in the mind of the Court that Javier acquired the severe tetanus infection from the hacking incident. We explained in Urbano that: The rule is that the death of the victim must be the direct, natural, and logical consequence of the wounds inflicted upon him by the accused. (People v. Cardenas, supra) And since we are dealing with a criminal conviction, the proof that the accused caused the victim's death must convince a rational mind beyond reasonable doubt. The medical findings, however,

lead us to a distinct possibility that the infection of the wound by tetanus was an efficient intervening cause later or between the time Javier was wounded to the time of his death. The infection was, therefore, distinct and foreign to the crime. ( People v. Rellin, 77 Phil. 1038). Doubts are present. There is a likelihood that the wound was but the remote cause and its subsequent infection, for failure to take necessary precautions, with tetanus may have been the proximate cause of Javier's death with which the petitioner had nothing to do. As we ruled in Manila Electric Co. v. Remoquillo, et al. (99 Phil. 118). "A prior and remote cause cannot be made the basis of an action if such remote cause did nothing more than furnish the condition or give rise to the occasion by which the injury was made possible, if there intervened between such prior or remote cause and the injury a distinct, successive, unrelated, and efficient cause of the injury, even though such injury would not have happened but for such condition or occasion. If no danger existed in the condition except because of the independent cause, such condition was not the proximate cause. And if an independent negligent act or defective condition sets into operation the instances, which result in injury because of the prior defective condition, such subsequent act or condition is the proximate cause." (45 C.J. pp. 931-932). (at p. 125)[24]

We face the very same doubts in the instant case that compel us to set aside the conviction of Villacorta for murder. There had been an interval of 22 days between the date of the stabbing and the date when Cruz was rushed to San Lazaro Hospital, exhibiting symptoms of severe tetanus infection. If Cruz acquired severe tetanus infection from the stabbing, then the symptoms would have appeared a lot sooner than 22 days later. As the Court noted in Urbano, severe tetanus infection has a short incubation period, less than 14 days; and those that exhibit symptoms with two to three days from the injury, have one hundred percent (100%) mortality. Ultimately, we can only deduce that Cruzs stab wound was merely the remote cause, and its subsequent infection with tetanus might have been the proximate cause of Cruz's death. The infection of Cruzs stab wound by tetanus was an efficient intervening cause later or between the time Cruz was stabbed to the time of his death.

However, Villacorta is not totally without criminal liability. Villacorta is guilty of slight physical injuries under Article 266(1) of the Revised Penal Code for the stab wound he inflicted upon Cruz. Although the charge in the instant case is for murder, a finding of guilt for the lesser offense of slight physical injuries may be made considering that the latter offense is necessarily included in the former since the essential ingredients of slight physical injuries constitute and form part of those constituting the offense of murder. [25] We cannot hold Villacorta criminally liable for attempted or frustrated murder because the prosecution was not able to establish Villacortas intent to kill. In fact, the Court of Appeals expressly observed the lack of evidence to prove such an intent beyond reasonable doubt, to wit: Appellant stabbed the victim only once using a sharpened bamboo stick, hitting him on the left side of the body and then immediately fled. The instrument used is not as lethal as those made of metallic material. The part of the body hit is not delicate in the sense that instant death can ensue by reason of a single stab wound. The assault was done only once. Thus, there is doubt

as to whether appellant had an intent to kill the victim, which should be resolved in favor of the appellant. x x x.[26]

The intent must be proved in a clear and evident manner to exclude every possible doubt as to the homicidal (or murderous) intent of the aggressor. The onus probandi lies not on accused-appellant but on the prosecution. The inference that the intent to kill existed should not be drawn in the absence of circumstances sufficient to prove this fact beyond reasonable doubt. When such intent is lacking but wounds were inflicted, the crime is not frustrated murder but physical injuries only.[27] Evidence on record shows that Cruz was brought to Tondo Medical Center for medical treatment immediately after the stabbing incident. Right after receiving medical treatment, Cruz was then released by the Tondo Medical Center as an out-patient. There was no other evidence to establish that Cruz was incapacitated for labor and/or required medical attendance for more than nine days. Without such evidence, the offense is only slight physical injuries.[28]

We still appreciate treachery as an aggravating circumstance, it being sufficiently alleged in the Information and proved during trial.

The Information specified that accused, armed with a sharpened bamboo stick, with intent to kill, treachery and evident premeditation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and stab with the said weapon one DANILO SALVADOR CRUZ x x x. Treachery exists when an offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods or forms which tend directly or especially to ensure its execution, without risk to the offender, arising from the defense that the offended party might make. This definition sets out what must be shown by evidence to conclude that treachery existed, namely: (1) the employment of such means of execution as would give the person attacked no opportunity for self-defense or retaliation; and (2) the deliberate and conscious adoption of the means of execution. To reiterate, the essence of qualifying circumstance is the suddenness, surprise and the lack of expectation that the attack will take place, thus, depriving the victim of any real opportunity for self-defense while ensuring the commission of the crime without risk to the aggressor. [29] Likewise, even when the victim was forewarned of the danger to his person, treachery may still be appreciated since what is decisive is that the execution of the attack made it impossible for the victim to defend himself or to retaliate. [30]

Both the RTC and the Court of Appeals found that treachery was duly proven in this case, and we sustain such finding. Cruz, the victim, was attacked so suddenly, unexpectedly, and without provocation. It was two oclock in the morning of January 23, 2002, and Cruz, who was out buying bread at Mendejas store, was unarmed. Cruz had his guard down and was totally unprepared for an attack on his person. Villacorta suddenly appeared from nowhere, armed with a sharpened bamboo stick, and without uttering a word, stabbed Cruz at the left side of his body, then swiftly ran away. Villacortas treacherous mode of attack left Cruz with no opportunity at all to defend himself or retaliate.

Article 266(1) of the Revised Penal Code provides:

ART. 266. Slight physical injuries and maltreatment. The crime of slight physical injuries shall be punished: 1. By arresto menor when the offender has inflicted physical injuries which shall incapacitate the offended party from labor from one to nine days, or shall require medical attendance during the same period.

The penalty of arresto menor spans from one (1) day to thirty (30) days. [31] The Indeterminate Sentence Law does not apply since said law excludes from its coverage cases where the penalty imposed does not exceed one (1) year.[32] With the aggravating circumstance of treachery, we can sentence Villacorta with imprisonment anywhere within arresto menor in the maximum period, i.e., twenty-one (21) to thirty (30) days. Consequently, we impose upon Villacorta a straight sentence of thirty (30) days of arresto menor; but given that Villacorta has been in jail since July 31, 2002 until present time, already way beyond his imposed sentence, we order his immediate release.

Under paragraph (1), Article 2219 of the Civil Code, moral damages may be recovered in a criminal offense resulting in physical injuries. Moral damages compensate for the mental anguish, serious anxiety, and moral shock suffered by the victim and his family as being a proximate result of the wrongful act. An award requires no proof of pecuniary loss. Pursuant to previous jurisprudence, an award of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) moral damages is appropriate for less serious, as well as slight physical injuries. [33]

WHEREFORE, the Decision dated July 30, 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 02550, affirming the Decision dated September 22, 2006 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 170, of Malabon, in Criminal Case No. 27039-MN, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. A new judgment is entered finding Villacorta GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of slight physical injuries, as defined and punished by Article 266 of the Revised Penal Code, and sentenced to suffer the penalty of thirty (30) days arresto menor. Considering that Villacorta has been incarcerated well beyond the period of the penalty herein imposed, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons is ordered to cause Villacortas immediate release, unless Villacorta is being lawfully held for another cause, and to inform this Court, within five (5) days from receipt of this Decision, of the compliance with such order. Villacorta is ordered to pay the heirs of the late Danilo Cruz moral damages in the sum of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00).


Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Baguio City SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. 172896 April 19, 2010

ROO SEGURITAN y JARA, Petitioner, vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent. DECISION DEL CASTILLO, J.: In a criminal case, factual findings of the trial court are generally accorded great weight and respect on 1 appeal, especially when such findings are supported by substantial evidence on record. It is only in exceptional circumstances, such as when the trial court overlooked material and relevant matters, that this Court will re-calibrate and evaluate the factual findings of the court below. In this case, we hold that the trial court did not overlook such factual matters; consequently, we find no necessity to review, much less, overturn its factual findings. This petition for review on certiorari assails the Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) dated February 24, 3 2006 in CA-G.R. CR No. 25069 which affirmed with modification the Judgment of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Aparri, Cagayan, Branch 06 in Criminal Case No. VI-892 finding petitioner Roo Seguritan y Jara guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of homicide. Likewise impugned is the 4 5 Resolution dated May 23, 2006 which denied the Motion for Reconsideration. Factual Antecedents On October 1, 1996, petitioner was charged with Homicide in an Information, the accusatory portion of which reads as follows: That on or about November 25,1995, in the municipality of Gonzaga, province of Cagayan, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, ROO SEGURITAN y JARA alias Ranio, with intent to kill, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously assault, attack and box one Lucrecio Seguritan, inflicting upon the latter head injuries which caused his death. Contrary to law. During the arraignment, petitioner entered a plea of not guilty. Thereafter, trial ensued. The Version of the Prosecution In the afternoon of November 25, 1995, petitioner was having a drinking session with his uncles Lucrecio Seguritan (Lucrecio), Melchor Panis (Melchor) and Baltazar Panis (Baltazar), in the house of Manuel dela Cruz in Barangay Paradise, Gonzaga, Cagayan. Petitioner, who was seated beside Lucrecio, claimed
6 2

that Lucrecios carabao entered his farm and destroyed his crops. A heated discussion thereafter ensued, during which petitioner punched Lucrecio twice as the latter was about to stand up. Petitioners punches landed on Lucrecios right and left temple, causing him to fall face -up to the ground and hit a hollow block which was being used as an improvised stove. Lucrecio lost consciousness but was revived with the assistance of Baltazar. Thereafter, Lucrecio rode a tricycle and proceeded to his house in the neighboring barangay of Calayan, Cagayan. Upon his arrival, his wife noticed blood on his forehead. Lucrecio explained that he was stoned, then went directly to his room and slept. At around 9 oclock in the evening, Lucrecios wife and daughter noticed that his complexion has darkened and foamy substance was coming out of his mouth. Attempts were made to revive Lucrecio but to no avail. He died that same night. After the burial of Lucrecio on December 4, 1995, his wife learned of petitioners involvement in her husbands death. Thus, she sought the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). NBI Medico-Legal Officer Dr. Antonio Vertido (Dr. Vertido) exhumed Lucrecios body and performed the autopsy. Dr. Vertido found hematomas in the scalp located in the right parietal and left occipital areas, a linear fracture in the right middle fossa, and a subdural hemorrhage in the right and left cerebral 7 hemisphere. Dr. Vertido concluded that Lucrecios cause of death was traumatic head injury. On May 21, 1996, Melchor executed a sworn statement before the Gonzaga Police Station recounting the events on that fateful day, including the punching of Lucrecio by petitioner. At the time of Lucrecios death, he was 51 years old and earned an annual income of P14,000.00 as a farmer. The Version of the Defense Petitioner denied hitting Lucrecio and alleged that the latter died of cardiac arrest. Petitioner claimed that he suddenly stood up during their heated argument with the intent to punch Lucrecio. However, since the latter was seated at the opposite end of the bench, Lucrecio lost his balance and fell before he could be hit. Lucrecios head hit the improvised stove as a result of which he lost consciousness. Petitioner presented Joel Cabebe, the Assistant Registration Officer of Gonzaga, Cagayan, and Dr. Corazon Flor, the Municipal Health Officer of Sta. Teresita, Cagayan, to prove that Lucrecio died of a heart attack. These witnesses identified the Certificate of Death of Lucrecio and the entry therein which 8 reads: "Antecedent cause: T/C cardiovascular disease." Ruling of the Regional Trial Court On February 5, 2001, the trial court rendered a Decision convicting petitioner of homicide. The dispositive portion of the Decision reads: WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of homicide and sentences the accused to an indeterminate sentence of 6 years and 1 day of prision mayor as minimum to 17 years and 4 months of reclusion temporal as maximum. The accused is ordered to pay the heirs of the late Lucrecio Seguritan the amount of P30,000.00 as actual damages and the amount of P135,331.00 as loss of earning capacity and to pay the costs. SO ORDERED.

The Decision of the Court of Appeals

On appeal, the CA affirmed with modification the Judgment of the RTC. Thus: WHEREFORE, the judgment appealed from is partly AFFIRMED, WITH MODIFICATION, to read as follows: The Court finds the accused GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of homicide and sentences the accused to an indeterminate penalty of SIX (6) YEARS AND ONE (1) DAY of prision mayor, as minimum, to TWELVE (12) YEARS AND ONE (1) DAY of reclusion temporal, as maximum. The accused Roo Seguritan is ordered to pay the heirs of the late Lucrecio Seguritan the amount of P 30,000.00 as actual damages, the amount of P135,331.00 as loss of earning capacity, P 50,000.00 as moral damages and to pay the costs. SO ORDERED.

Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration but it was denied by the CA in its Resolution dated May 23, 2006. Issues Thus, this petition for review raising the following issues: I The Court of Appeals erred in affirming the trial courts judgment of conviction. II The Court of Appeals erred in convicting the accused of the crime of homicide. Our Ruling The petition is denied. Petitioner disputes the conclusion that the fracture on the right middle fossa of the skull, beneath the area where a hematoma developed was due to the blow he delivered because according to the testimony of Dr. Vertido, the fracture may also be caused by one falling from a height. Petitioner also maintains that the punches he threw at Lucrecio had nothing to do with the fatal head injuries the latter suffered. According to him, Lucrecio sustained the head injuries when he accidentally hit the hollow block that was used as an improvised stove, after falling from the opposite end of the bench. Petitioner insists that Lucrecio died due to a fatal heart attack. In fine, petitioner contends that the appellate court, in affirming the judgment of the trial court, overlooked material and relevant factual matters which, if considered, would change the outcome of the case. We are not persuaded. It is on record that Lucrecio suffered two external injuries and one internal injury in his head. The autopsy report showed that Lucrecio died of internal hemorrhage caused by injuries located at the upper right portion of the head, left side of the center of his head, and a "fracture, linear, right middle fossa, hemorrhage, subdural, right and left cerebral hemisphere."

We find no reason to doubt the findings of the trial court, as affirmed by the appellate court, that petitioner punched Lucrecio twice causing him to fall to the ground. Melchor categorically testified that petitioner punched Lucrecio twice and as a result, Lucrecio fell to the ground and lost consciousness. Melchor would not have testified falsely against petitioner, who was his nephew. He even hesitated to testify as shown by his execution of a sworn statement just after the autopsy of Lucrecio which revealed that the cause of death was traumatic head injury attributed to petitioner. Melchors eyewitness account of the fist blows delivered by petitioner to Lucrecio and the manner by which the latter fell from the bench and hit his head on the improvised stove is consistent with the autopsy findings prepared and testified to by Dr. Vertido. Thus: xxxx Court: Q: What is the right parietal area? A: This is the right parietal area, sir. (Witness pointing to the upper right portion of the head). : And then the left occipital area, this is left occipital area with a hematoma again measuring 5.0 x 4.0 centimeters, sir. (Witness pointing to the back left part, middle back portion) xxxx Fiscal Feril: Q: What about this which reads "Fracture, linear, right middle fossa", where is this injury located? xxxx Court: Q: Will you point that from your head? A: x x x [A]t the base of the brain of the skull, sir. If you look at the head at the cut portion, the fracture is located on the base of the brain, 13 particularly on the right mid-cranial fossa, sir. xxxx Fiscal Feril: Q: Could it be possible that the victim suffered the injuries specifically the fracture while he was falling to the ground, hitting solid objects in the process? A: Well, with regard to the hematomas there is a possibility [that it could be caused by] falling from a height x x x although it produces hematoma, sir.

Court: Q: Falling from a height? A: Yes, sir. Fiscal Feril: Q: If an external force is administered to such victim, such as x x x fist blow[s] would it accelerate this force and cause these injuries? A: Definitely it could accelerate, sir.

We find no merit in petitioners argument that he could not be held liable for the head fracture suffered by Lucrecio. The height from which he stood to deliver the fist blows to Lucrecios head is sufficient to cause the fracture. The testimony of Dr. Vertido also ruled out petitioners contention that Lucrecio died of a heart attack. The fact that Lucrecios cause of death is internal hemorrhage resulting from the head injuries suffered during his encounter with the petitioner and the certainty that he had no heart problem are evident in the following portion of Dr. Vertidos testimony: Atty. Antonio: Q: Did you notice anything unusual in the heart of Lucrecio Seguritan? A: Well, with regard to our examination of the heart Your Honor I limit only the examination on the atomic portion, gross findings, when we say gross findings that can be seen by the eyes and so if for example other that the findings on the brain, if I have not seen my injury from the brain then my next examination to contemplate would be to bring a portion of each particular organ to Manila and have it subjected to a hispathologic examination over the microscope. But then we found out that there is an injury to the brain so why should I now perform a hispathologic examination on the heart, when in fact there is already a gross finding on the brain, meaning that the cause of death now is of course, this traumatic injury, sir. Court: Q: Supposed the victim had a heart attack first and then fell down later, can you determine then x x x the cause of death? A: Well, your Honor as I said a while ago I opened up the heart, I examined the heart grossly and there was no findings that would find to a heart attach on its function, the heart was okay and 15 coronaries were not thickened so I said well grossly there was no heart attack. xxxx Court: Q: Since you were conducting just a cursory examination of the heart, my question again is that, could you have determined by further examination whether the victim suffered a heart attack before the injuries on the head were inflicted?

A: That is why sir, I said, I examined the heart and I found out that there was noting wrong with 16 the heart, and why should I insist on further examining the heart. The notation in the Certificate of Death of Lucrecio that he died of a heart attack has no weight in evidence. Dr. Corazon Flor, who signed said document testified that she did not examine the cadaver of Lucrecio. She stated that a circular governing her profession did not require her to conduct an examination of Lucrecios corpse, as long as the informant tells her that it is not a medico-legal case. Renato Sidantes (Renato), the brother-in-law of Lucrecio who applied for the latters death certificate, had no knowledge of the real cause of his death. Thus, Dr. Flor was mistakenly informed by Renato that the cause of Lucrecios death was heart attack. The petitioner belatedly contends that the delay in the autopsy of Lucrecios body and its embalming compromised the results thereof. To substantiate his claim, he quotes the book entitled Legal Medicine authored by Dr. Pedro Solis, viz: "a dead body must not be embalmed before the autopsy. The embalming fluid may render the tissue and blood unfit for toxilogical analyses. The embalming may alter the gross appearance of the tissues or may result to a wide variety of artifacts that tend to destroy or obscure evidence." "the body must be autopsied in the same condition when found at the crime scene. A delay in the 17 performance may fail or modify the possible findings thereby not serving the interest of justice." Petitioners reliance on this citation is misplaced. Petitioner failed to adduce evidence that the one month delay in the autopsy indeed modified the possible findings. He also failed to substantiate his claim that the embalming fluid rendered the tissue and blood of Lucrecio unfit for toxilogical analysis. Further, it is settled that courts will only consider as evidence that which has been formally offered. The allegation that the results of the autopsy are unworthy of credence was based on a book that was neither marked for identification nor formally offered in evidence during the hearing of the case. Thus, the trial court as well as the appellate court correctly disregarded them. The prosecution was not even given the 19 opportunity to object as the book or a portion thereof was never offered in evidence. A formal offer is necessary since judges are required to base their findings of fact and judgment only and strictly upon the evidence offered by the parties at the trial. To rule otherwise would deprive the opposing party of his chance to examine the document and object to its admissibility. The appellate court 20 will have difficulty reviewing documents not previously scrutinized by the court below. Any evidence which a party desires to submit to the courts must be offered formally because a judge must base his 21 findings strictly on the evidence offered by the parties at the trial. We are not impressed with petitioners argument that he should be held liable only for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide due to the absence of intent to kill Lucrecio. When death resulted, even if there was no intent to kill, the crime is homicide, not just physical injuries, since with respect to crimes of personal violence, the penal law looks particularly to the material results following the unlawful act and 22 holds the aggressor responsible for all the consequences thereof. Accordingly, Article 4 of the Revised Penal Code provides: Art. 4. Criminal liability Criminal liability shall be incurred: 1. By any person committing a felony ( delito) although the wrongful act done be different from that which he intended. xxxx

Petitioner committed an unlawful act by punching Lucrecio, his uncle who was much older than him, and even if he did not intend to cause the death of Lucrecio, he must be held guilty beyond reasonable doubt for killing him pursuant to the above-quoted provision. He who is the cause of the cause is the cause of 23 the evil caused. Considering the foregoing discussion, we find that both the trial court and the appellate court correctly appreciated the evidence presented before them. Both courts did not overlook facts and circumstances that would warrant a reevaluation of the evidence. Accordingly, there is no reason to digress from the settled legal principle that the appellate court will generally not disturb the assessment of the trial court on factual matters considering that the latter as a trier of facts, is in a better position to appreciate the same. Further, it is settled that findings of fact of the trial court are accorded greatest respect by the appellate 24 court absent any abuse of discretion. There being no abuse of discretion in this case, we affirm the factual findings of the trial court. Penalty and Damages The penalty for Homicide under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code is reclusion temporal the range of which is from 12 years and one day to 20 years. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the penalty next lower in degree is prision mayor the range of which is from six years and one day to 12 years. In this case, we find that the mitigating circumstance of no intention to commit so grave a wrong as that committed, attended the commission of the crime. Thus, the appellate court correctly imposed the indeterminate penalty of six years and one day ofprision mayor, as minimum, to 12 years and one day of reclusion temporal, as maximum. As regards the amount of damages, civil indemnity must also be awarded to the heirs of Lucrecio without need of proof other than the fact that a crime was committed resulting in the death of the victim and that 25 petitioner was responsible therefor. Accordingly, we award the sum of P50,000.00 in line with current 26 jurisprudence. The award of P135,331.00 for the loss of earning capacity was also in order. The prosecution satisfactorily proved that the victim was earning an annual income of P14,000.00 from the harvest of pineapples. Besides, the defense no longer impugned this award of the trial court. However, the other awards of damages must be modified. It is error for the trial court and the appellate court to award actual damages of P30,000.00 for the expenses incurred for the death of the victim. We perused the records and did not find evidence to support the plea for actual damages. The expenses incurred in connection with the death, wake and burial of Lucrecio cannot be sustained without any tangible document to support such claim. While expenses were incurred in connection with the death of 28 Lucrecio, actual damages cannot be awarded as they are not supported by receipts. 1avvphi1 In lieu of actual damages, the heirs of the victim can still be awarded temperate damages. When pecuniary loss has been suffered but the amount cannot, from the nature of the case, be proven with certainty, temperate damages may be recovered. Temperate damages may be allowed in cases where from the nature of the case, definite proof of pecuniary loss cannot be adduced, although the court is 29 convinced that the aggrieved party suffered some pecuniary loss. In this regard, the amount 30 of P25,000.00 is in accordance with recent jurisprudence. Moral damages was correctly awarded to the heirs of the victim without need of proof other than the fact that a crime was committed resulting in the death of the victim and that the accused was responsible 31 32 therefor. The award of P50,000.00 as moral damages conforms to existing jurisprudence. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 25069 finding petitioner Roo Seguritan y Jara guilty of homicide and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of six

years and one day of prision mayor as minimum, to 12 years and one day of reclusion temporal as maximum, and to pay the heirs of Lucrecio Seguritan the amounts of P50,000.00 as moral damages and P135,331.00 as loss of earning capacity is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION that petitioner is further ordered to pay P25,000.00 as temperate damages in lieu of actual damages, and P50,000.00 as civil indemnity. SO ORDERED. Case digest on PEOPLE V. MARCOS MUCAM G.R. NO. 137276 November 27, 2010

Accused was convicted of robbery with homicide. He questions sufficiency of evidence to warrant conviction. HELD: As a rule, the trial courts assessment of the credibility of witnesses and their testimonies is binding on appellate courts, absent any fact or circumstance of weight and substance that may have been overlooked, misapprehended or misapplied. In this case, the court a quo committed serious lapses which warrant the acquittal of the appellant. case digests, case digests of supreme court decisions, case digests Philippines, mobile phone deals, laptop computers, gadgets, free legal opinion, online jobs, best law firms in Mindanao Jacinto v People Petitioner had been convicted of qualified theft and is now seeking for a reversal of the decision. Facts: Jacinto along with Valencia and Capitle was charged with qualified theft for having stole and deposited acheck with an amount of 10,000 php. Such check was issued by Baby Aquino for payment of her purchasesfrom Mega Foam, but the check bounced.Dyhengco found out about the theft and filed a complaint with the NBI. An entrapment operation wasconducted, with the use of marked bills. The entrapment was a success and the petitioner along with her co-accused was arrested. Issue: Whether this can constitute as an impossible crime and not as qualified theft Held: This constitutes as an impossible crime.The requistites of an impossible crime are:1. that the act performed would be an offense against persons or property (all acts to consummate thecrime of qualified theft was consummated crime against property) 2. that the act was done with evil intent (mere act of unlawful taking showed intent to gain)

3. that its accomplishment was inherently impossible or the means employed was either inadequate or ineffectual or the extraneous circumstance that constituted it as a factual impossibility (the fact that thecheck bounced) Legal impossibility occurs where the intended acts, even if completed, would not amount to a crime.(Impossibility of killing a dead person) Factual impossibility when extraneous circumstances unknown to the actor or beyond his control prevent consummation of the intended crime. (Like the example in the case of Intod: a man puts his hand on the coat pocket of another with intent to steal but gets nothing since the pocket is empty) From the time the petitioner took possession of the check meant for Mega Foam, she had performed all the acts to consummate the crime of theft, had it not been impossible of accomplishment in this case.Replacement for the check was no longer necessary for the consummation of the crime since the crime of theft is not a continuing offense, petitioners act of receiving the cash replacement should not be considered as a continuation of the theft. The fact that the petitioner was caught receiving the marked money was merely corroborating evidence to strengthen proof of her intent to gain.