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[G.R.No.124392.

February7,2003]

PEOPLEOFTHEPHILIPPINES,plaintiffappellee,vs.FEDERICOABRAZALDO@
PEDING,accusedappellant.
DECISION
SANDOVALGUTIERREZ,J.:

For automatic review is the Decision[1] dated November 15, 1995 of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 44, Dagupan City in Criminal Case No. 9501052D, finding accusedappellant Federico
Abrazaldo guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and sentencing him to suffer the
supreme penalty of death and to indemnify the heirs of the deceased Delfin Guban the amount
ofP50,000.00asindemnityandP27,000.00asactualdamages,pluscosts.
IntheInformationdatedAugust3,1995filedwiththetrialcourt,accusedappellantwascharged
withthecrimeofmurdercommittedasfollows:
ThatonoraboutJuly15,1995intheeveningatbarangayPogo,MunicipalityofMangaldan,provinceof
Pangasinan,PhilippinesandwithinthejurisdictionofthisHonorableCourt,theabovenamedaccusedarmed
withabolo,withintenttokill,treacheryandevidentpremeditation,did,thenandtherewilfully,unlawfullyand
feloniouslystabbedDELFINGUBANYGUINTOinflictinguponhimastabwoundwhichcausedhisdeathto
thedamageandprejudiceofhisheirs.
CONTRARYtoArt.248,RevisedPenalCode,asamendedbyR.A.7659.[2]
Upon arraignment, accusedappellant entered a plea of not guilty.[3]Forthwith, trial on the merits
ensued.TheprosecutionpresentedasitswitnessesRosendoFajardo,SPO1RamiePetrache,SP02
Roberto Fernandez, Dr. Alberto Gonzales and Gregorio Guban. Accusedappellant and his sister,
MaritesAbrazaldo,tookthewitnessstandforthedefense.
Thefactsofthecaseaspresentedbytheprosecutionwitnessesareasfollows:
On July 15, 1995, at about 10:00 oclock in the evening, at Barangay Pogo, Mangaldan,
Pangasinan,accusedappellant,thenintoxicated,[4]attemptedtohackhisuncle,BernabeQuinto,but
instead, hit the post of the latters house.[5] The incident was reported to the barangay authorities,
promptingDelfinGuban,RosendoFajardo,Sr.,AlejandroLoceste(allaremembersofthebarangay
tanod), and Cesar Manaois to rush to the scene.Upon reaching the place, Fajardo heard accused
appellant shouting at his uncle, I will kill you! Thereafter, he saw accusedappellant coming out of
Quintos house with blood oozing from his forehead.[6] At that time, the place was well lighted by a
flourescentlamp. Guban tried to assist accusedappellant. However, for unknown reason, accused
apellantandGubanshoutedateachotherandgrappledfacetoface.Accusedappellantpulledouthis
knife, stabbed Guban at the abdomen[7]and ran away. When Fajardo got hold of Guban, the latter
said,IwasstabbedbyFedingAbrazaldo.[8]Fajardo,togetherwiththeotherbarangaytanod,rushed
GubantotheGov.TeofiloSisonMemorialHospitalwherehewasoperatedbyDr.AlbertoGonzales,a
MedicalOfficerIII.Butafterafewhours,Gubandied.Dr.GonzalesissuedaMedicoLegalCertificate
statingthatthecauseofdeathwasstabwound,epigastrium,massivehemothoraxright.[9]
GregorioGuban,thevictimsfather,testifiedthathewastheonewhospentforhissonsfuneral
expenses.Fortheburial,hespentP10,000.00[10]forthe10dayfuneralwake,P10,000.00[11]forthe

9thdaynovena,P3,000.00[12]andforthehospitalization,P4,000.00,[13]oratotalofP27,000.00.
On July 16, 1995, Fajardo learned that the knife used by accusedappellant in stabbing Guban
was in Salay, Pangasinan. Together with SPO2 Roberto Fernandez, Fajardo went to the house of
FranciscaVelasquez,accusedappellantsaunt,andrecoveredtheknife.[14]
Invokingselfdefense,accusedappellantpresentedadifferentversion.OnJuly15,1995atabout
10:00 in the evening, he was making fans inside his house at Barangay Pogo, Mangaldan,
Pangasinan.[15]HiswifeLydiaandchildrenMaryJane,MelvinandChristellewerewithhim.Suddenly,
DelfinGuban,whowasthendrunk,wenttohishouseandshoutedathim,saying,Get out Feding I
willkillyou![16]Whenaccusedappellantwentout,Gubanhithimwithanironpipe.Accusedappellant
rantowardshishouseandgothistwochildren.Guban,nowarmedwithaknife,followedhimandthey
grappledforitspossession.Inthecoursethereof,bothfelldown.[17]Itwasthenthattheknifeheldby
Guban accidentally hit him. Accusedappellant did not know which part of Gubans body was hit.
Thereafter,hegottheknifeinordertosurrenderittothepolice.[18]
Marites Abrazaldo testified that accusedappellant is his brother.[19]On July 15, 1992, at about
6:00 in the evening, accusedappellant, Guban and Juan Quinto were engaged in a drinking spree.
[20]
Atabout10:00oclockinthatevening,accusedappellantcausedtroubleatthehouseofhisuncle,
Bernabe Quinto.[21] He attempted to hack his uncle, but instead hit the post of the latters house.
[22]
Whilerunningawayfromhisunclesplace,hebumpedanartesianwell,causingawoundonhis
forehead.[23]Afterwards,accusedappellantkilledGuban.[24]
OnNovember15,1995,thetrialcourtrenderedaDecision,thedecretalportionofwhichreads:
WHEREFORE,premisesconsidered,theCourtfindsaccusedFedericoAbrazaldo@Pedingguiltybeyond
reasonabledoubtofthecrimeofMurderunderArticle248oftheRevisedPenalCode,asamendedbyRepublic
7659,andinviewofthepresenceoftheaggravatingcircumstancesthatthecrimewascommittedwhilethe
publicauthoritieswereengagedinthedischargeoftheirdutiesandthatthecrimewascommittedatnighttime,
whichaggravatingcircumstancesarenotoffsetbyanymitigatingcircumstance,accusedFedericoAbrazaldois
herebysentencedtosufferthepenaltyofDeath.
AccusedFedericoAbrazaldoisorderedtopayanindemnityofP50,000.00totheheirsofthedeceasedDelfin
Guban.AccusedisalsoorderedtopaytheheirsofthedeceasedDelfinGubanthetotalsumofP27,000.00as
actualexpenses,pluscosts.
SOORDERED.
Inappreciatingtreacheryandtheaggravatingcircumstancesunderparagraphs(5)and(6)ofArticle14,
[25]
RevisedPenalCode,thetrialcourtheld:
Wenowcometotheissueofwhetherornotevidentpremeditationwaspresent.Theprosecutionsevidenceis
wantingonthispoint.However,thereisnoquestionthattherewastreacheryastheaccusedembraced
DelfinGubanandsuddenlystabbedhimwithaknife.Thevictimwasnotinapositiontodefendhimself
atthetimeoftheattack.Thedeceasedwasstabbedwithoutanywarning.Hewasgivennochanceto
defendhimself.Treachery,therefore,qualifiesthekillingofthevictimandraisesittothecategoryof
murder.
TheprosecutionhasestablishedthruthetestimonyofGregorioGubanthatatthetimeoftheincidentonJuly15,
1995,themembersofthebarangaytanod,namely:RosendoFajardo,Sr.,DelfinGubanandAlfredoLaceste
wereperformingtheirdutiesasmembersofthebarangaytanod.(Seep.6tsnSeptember18,1995).Thisisan
aggravatingcircumstanceunderparagraph5,Article14oftheRevisedPenalCode.Themembersofthe
barangaytanodwhoarepublicauthoritieswereengagedinthedischargeoftheirdutiesatthetimeofthe
stabbingincident.Besides,theincidentwascommittedduringnighttime,thatwas10:00inthe

evening.Accusedtookadvantageofthedarknessofthenightforthesuccessfulconsummationofhisplantokill
DelfinGuban.
Accusedappellant,inhisAppellantsBrief,ascribestothetrialcourtthefollowingerrors:
I

THEHONORABLETRIALCOURTERREDINNOTAPPRECIATINGTHECLAIMOFSELFDEFENSE
BYTHEACCUSEDTAKINGINTOCONSIDERATIONTHECIRCUMSTANCEOFTHECASE.
II

THEHONORABLETRIALCOURTERREDINFINDINGTHATTHERECOVERYOFTHEALLEGED
WEAPONUSEDINSTABBINGVICTIMATTHEHOUSEOFTHEAUNTOFACCUSEDBOLSTERED
THECASEAGAINSTHIMDESPITELACKOFSUFFICIENTEVIDENCETOPROVEITSVERACITY.
III

THEHONORABLETRIALCOURTERREDINAPPRECIATINGTHETESTIMONYEXTRACTEDBY
THEPROSECUTIONFROMDEFENSEWITNESSMARITESSABRAZALDOWHICHHADNO
SUFFICIENTBASISATALL.
IV

THEHONORABLETRIALCOURTERREDINFINDINGTHATTREACHERYATTENDEDTHE
STABBINGOFTHEVICTIMWITHOUTSUFFICIENTBASISTOPROVETHESAME.
V

THEHONORABLETRIALCOURTERREDINASSUMINGTHATACCUSEDAPPELLANTTOOK
ADVANTAGEOFNIGHTTIMEINCONSUMINGTHEACT.
VI

THEHONORABLETRIALCOURTERREDINFINDINGTHATTHECHARGEAGAINSTACCUSED
APPELLANTISAGGRAVATEDBYTHEFACTTHATTHEVICTIMWASINTHEPERFORMANCEOF
HISDUTY.
The Solicitor General, in the Appellees Brief, asserts that in pleading selfdefense, accused
appellantadmittedhekilledthevictimand,therefore,hemustrelyonthestrengthofhisownevidence
and not on the weakness of that of the prosecution. Moreover, accusedappellants version of the
incidentiscompletelycontradictedbythetestimonyofhissister.Also,theaggravatingcircumstance,
underpar.(5)ofArticle14,RevisedPenalCode,wasclearlyestablishedbecauseduringtheincident,
Guban, as the Assistant Chief Tanod, was on duty and engaged in the maintenance of peace and
order.
The Solicitor General though agrees with accusedappellant that there was no
treachery. Evidence shows that he and Guban shouted at each other and struggled face to face
before the stabbing incident. Thus, the assault was not sudden. Likewise, the Solicitor General is
convincedthataccusedappellantdidnotpurposelyanddeliberatelyseeknighttimetoperpetratethe
commissionofthecrime.
Consistent is the jurisprudence that where selfdefense is invoked, it is incumbent upon the
accusedtoprovebyclearandconvincingevidencethat(1)heisnottheunlawfulaggressor(2)there
waslackofsufficientprovocationonhispartand(3)heemployedreasonablemeanstopreventand
repelanaggression.Onappeal,theburdenbecomesevenmoredifficultastheaccusedmustshow
thatthecourtbelowcommittedreversibleerrorinappreciatingtheevidence.[26]

Accusedappellantmiserablyfailedtodischargetheburden.Toshowthathewasnottheunlawful
aggressor, he testified that it was Guban who went to his house, threatened to kill him,[27] hit him
withanironpipe,[28]andattackedhimwithaknife.[29]Wequoteaccusedappellantstestimony,thus:
ATTY.CAMPOS:
xxxxxx
QYou said a while ago that on July 15, 1995 at about 10:00 in the evening you were in your house
engaginginfanmaking,doyouknowofanyunusualincidentthathappenedduringthattime?
ADelfinGubancametomyhouseandhewasundertheinfluenceofliquorandheshoutedat
me,sir.
QAndwhatdidDelfinGubanshoutatyou?
AHesaid,GetoutFedingIwillkillyou.
QAfterthisDelfinGubanshoutedatyou,whathappenednext?
AWhenIwentoutofthehouse,Iwasalreadythereinfrontofthehousethenhehitme,sir.
QYousaidDelfinGubanhityou,whatinstrumentdidheuseinhittingyou?
AHehitmewithapipe,sir.
xxxxxx
QAfterDelfinGubanhityouwiththatpipe,whathappenednext?
AIrantowardsmyhouseinside,thengotmytwochildrenwhileDelfinGubanfollowedmeinsidemy
house,sir.
QWhenDelfinGubanfollowedyouinsideyourhouse,whathappenedagain?
AHewasholdingaknifeandwegrappledandduringthattimebothofusfelldown,sir.
QWhenyougrappledwithDelfinGuban,whowasholdingaknife,whatagainhappened?
A We grappled for the possession of the knife then we fell down and the knife he was then
holdingpointedtowardshimandhithim.xxx.[30] (Emphasissupplied)

Theforegoingtestimonybearsnotonlytheviceoffalsitybutalsoisolation.It is uncorroborated
and even opposed by Marites, accusedappellants own sister and lone witness. Contrary to his
testimony that Guban hit him on his forehead with a pipe, Marites declared that accusedappellant
sustained the wound on his forehead when he accidentally bumped an artesian well. Instead of
fortifying her brothers defense, she virtually affirmed the prosecutions story by testifying that he
createdtroubleintheircompound,attemptedtokillhisuncleBernabeQuintoandkilledGuban.[31]
Ingrained in our jurisprudence is the doctrine that the plea of selfdefense cannot be justifiably
entertained where it is not only uncorroborated by any separate competent evidence but in itself is
extremely doubtful.[32] In the present case, accusedappellants tendency to invoke a melange of
defensesrendershistestimonydubious.While he admitted the commission of the crime in order to
preserve his own life, he maintained that Guban accidentally stabbed himself. This shows
ambivalence.Accidentpresupposeslackofintentiontostabthevictim,whileselfdefensepresumes
voluntariness, induced only by necessity.[33]Indeed, if there is truth to either of his claim, his natural
course of action was to assist the victim, or at the very least, report the incident to the authorities.
Certainly, the justifying circumstance of selfdefense[34] or the exempting circumstance of accident
cannot be appreciated considering accusedappellants flight from the crime scene and his failure to
informtheauthoritiesoftheincident.Furthermore,thathedidnotsurrendertheknifetotheauthorities
isinconsistentwithacleanconscienceand,instead,indicateshisculpabilityofthecrimecharged.[35]
Inalastditchefforttoexculpatehimself,accusedappellantassailsFajardostestimonyastainted
with inconsistencies and is contrary to the normal course. Accusedappellant cannot invoke these
alleged weaknesses in view of the principle that one who pleads selfdefense must rely on the

strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of that of the prosecution. Even if the
prosecutions evidence is weak, it is still credible considering accusedappellants admission that he
killedthevictim.ItbearsemphasisthatFajardostestimonyclearlypointstohimastheculprit.Notonly
did he pull out his knife, stabbed Guban[36] and ran away.[37] Fajardo also reiterated what Guban
utteredtohim,i.e.,IwasstabbedbyFedingAbrazaldo.[38]
As Guban had succumbed to death and his opportunity to divulge the truth on his demise had
been lost, we cannot but cast a quizzical glance on accusedappellants uncorroborated
testimony.Moreso,whensuchtestimonywascontradictedbyhisownwitnesswhohappenedtobe
his sister. Standing alone against the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, accusedappellants
own account of the killing must necessarily fail. We hold that his guilt has been established to a
degree of moral certainty. The trial court did not err in relying on the testimony of Fajardo, an
eyewitness.Timeandagain,wehavesaidthatwewillnotinterferewiththejudgmentofthetrialcourt
in determining the credibility of witnesses unless there appears on record some facts or
circumstancesofweightandinfluencewhichhavebeenoverlookedorthesignificanceofwhichhas
beenmisinterpreted.Thisissobecausethetrialcourthastheadvantageofobservingthewitnesses
throughthedifferentindicatorsoftruthfulnessorfalsehood.[39]
However,wefindthatthetrialcourterredinconcludingthattreacheryattendedthecommissionof
thecrime.Thereistreacherywhentheoffendercommitsanyofthecrimesagainstpersonsemploying
means, methods or forms in the execution thereof, which tend directly and specially to insure its
execution, without risk to himself arising from defense which the offended party might
make. Treachery cannot be presumed, it must be proved by clear and convincing evidence or as
conclusively as the killing itself. Fajardo testified that accusedappellant and Guban were grappling
with each other and that prior to the stabbing, they were shouting at each other.In this scenario, it
cannotbesaidthatGubanwasunpreparedtoputupadefense,suchashittingaccusedappellant,or
thatthelattersassaultwassudden.WequoteinverbatimthetestimonyofFajardo,thus:
ATTY.CAMPOS:
QTheywerenotthenfighting?
ATheyweregrapplingwitheachotherandthenhestabbedDelfinGuban.
xxxxxx
QInfact,theywereshoutingeachother?
AYes,sir.
QWhatweretheyshoutingagainstanother?
AIcouldnolongerunderstandbecauseitwasalreadynight.
QButtheywereshoutingloudly,amIcorrect?
AYesandthereweremanypeople.[40] (Emphasissupplied)

The trial court likewise erred in appreciating the aggravating circumstance of nocturnity or
nighttime.Fornocturnitytobeproperlyappreciated,itmustbeshownthatitfacilitatedthecommission
of the crime and that it was purposely sought for by the offender. By and itself, nighttime is not an
aggravating circumstance.[41] In the instant case, no sufficient evidence was offered to prove that
accusedappellantdeliberatelysoughtthecoverofdarknesstoaccomplishhiscriminaldesign.Infact,
Fajardotestifiedthattherewasafluorescentlampsufficientlyilluminatingthesceneofthecrime.[42]
Neithercanwesustainthetrialcourtsfindingthattheaggravatingcircumstanceunderparagraph
(5) of Article 14, Revised Penal Code, i.e., that the crime was committed in a place where public
authoritieswereengagedinthedischargeoftheirduties,ispresent.Itmustbepointedoutthatthis
aggravatingcircumstanceisbasedonthegreaterperversityoftheoffender,asshownbytheplaceof
the commission of the crime, which must be respected.[43]In this case, the crime was committed at
the compound of the accusedappellant where no public function was being held.The arrival of the

barangay authorities was precisely due to the trouble that had commenced prior to the stabbing
incident. Clearly, the said aggravating circumstance cannot be considered. Moreover, under the
present Rules,[44] aggravating circumstances must be alleged, otherwise, they cannot be
appreciated. Being favorable to the accused, this new procedure may be given retroactive effect.
[45]
Except treachery, the other aggravating circumstances mentioned have not been alleged in the
Information.
In the absence of any circumstance that would qualify the crime at bar to murder, accused
appellantcanonlybeheldliableforhomicidedefinedandpenalizedunderArticle249oftheRevised
Penal Code. The prescribed penalty is reclusion temporal. Considering that there was neither
mitigatingnoraggravatingcircumstancethatattendedthecommissionofthecrime,thepenaltyhasto
be imposed in its medium period, ranging from 14 years, 8 months and 1 day to 17 years and 4
months.Applying the provisions of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, he should be sentenced to an
indeterminatepenalty,theminimumofwhichiswithintherangeofprisionmayor,or6yearsand1day
to 12 years. The maximum thereof is within the range of reclusion temporal in its medium period,
whichis14years,8monthsand1dayto17yearsand4months.[46]
OnthetrialcourtsawardofactualdamagesintheamountofP27,000.00,wefindthesametobe
unsubstantiated.Tobeentitledtosuchdamages,itisnecessarytoprovetheactualamountofloss
with a reasonable degree of certainty, premised upon competent proof and on the best evidence
obtainabletotheinjuredparty.[47]Inthecaseatbar,theprosecutionfailedtopresentanyreceiptto
prove the claim for expenses incurred.[48]Gregorio Guban, the father of the victim, who shouldered
theexpensesforthewakeandburialfailedtosubmitreceiptstoshowtheamountofsuchexpenses.
[49]
However, as the heirs of Guban did actually incur funeral expenses, we are justified in
awardingP25,000.00,notforpurposesofindemnification,butbywayoftemperatedamages.[50]
Thus,wenowholdthatwheretheamountoftheactualdamagescannotbedeterminedbecause
of the absence of receipts to prove the same, but it is shown that the heirs are entitled thereto,
temperate damages may be awarded. Such temperate damages, taking into account the current
jurisprudencefixingtheindemnityfordeathatP50,000.00,shouldbeonehalfthereof,orP25,000.00.
This makes temperate damages equal to the award of exemplary damages, which is likewise fixed
atP25,000.00incaseswhereitsawardisjustified.
WHEREFORE, the assailed judgment in Criminal Case No. 9501052D is AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATION. Accusedappellant Federico Abrazaldo is declared guilty beyond reasonable doubt
ofhomicidedefinedandpenalizedunderArticle249oftheRevisedPenalCodeandissentencedto
sufferanindeterminatepenaltyofsix(6)yearsand1dayofprisionmayor,asminimum,tofourteen
(14) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of reclusion temporal in its medium period, as
maximum. He is ordered to pay the heirs of the late Delfin GubanP50,000.00 as indemnity
andP25,000.00astemperatedamages.
Costsdeoficio.
SOORDERED.