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Tan, Tim R.



G.R. # 72964, JANUARY 7, 1988


In the morning of October 23, 1980, Filomeno URBANO went to his ricefield at
Brgy. Anonang, San Fabian, Pangasinan. He found the place where he stored his
palay flooded with water coming from the irrigation canal, which had overflowed.
He then found Marcelo Javier and Emilio Erfe cutting grass. Urbano asked who was
responsible for opening the irrigation to which Marcelo Javier admitted to be the one.
Urbano got angry and demanded that Javier pay for his soaked palay. The petitioner,
in his anger, used his bolo to strike at Javier who attempted to parry the attack with
his right palm causing a two (2) inch incised wound and another strike using the back
end of the bolo to Javiers leg.
Urbano intended to cause further injury but was prevented by his daughter.
The Erfes together with Javier went to the police station of San Fabian in order to
report what happened. Corporal Torio, who was in the officer they found, suggested
going to a physician, who in turn, conducted a medico-legal examination.
After treatment, Urbano was asked to pay Php 700.00 for medical expenses to which
he obliged and the two made a formalized amicable statement.
On November 14, 1980 (22 days after the injury was inflicted), Javier was rushed to
the hospital suffering from lockjaw and convulsions and died the day after due to
tetanus from the wound on his palm.
The lower courts ruled that logically Javier had died from the wound caused by
Urbano. On April 10, 1981 Urbano was then found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
homicide. Urbano filed a motion for reconsideration based on the Barangay Captains
affidavit stating Javier returned to work despite his injuries by catching mud fish in
dirty irrigation canals. The motion was denied and thus the petition was made.

ISSUE: WON Javiers death was caused by the wound Urbano inflicted on his right palm.

RULING: No. Dr. Mario Meneses did not find tetanus in Javiers initial injury. The evidence
did not confirm that the injury had tetanus and merely that Javier died from the injury that
somehow was infected with tetanus. When the wound was infected was not clear. The
incident took place on October 23, 1980 and on November 14, 1980, twenty-two (22) days
later showed symptoms of tetanus with Javiers death the following day.

Thus, the issue 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.

Therefore, medically speaking, if the wound that was inflicted caused tetanus it is more
plausible for Javier to only have mild tetanus since the symptoms appeared twenty-two (22)
Tan, Tim R.

days after the incident. Therefore, the onset time should have been more than six (6) days.
Javier, however, died on the second day of the onset time. It is more credible to assume that
the severe tetanus that killed Javier was not present as an immediate result of the incident and
could have been infected after said incident. All this considered, the wound would have been
infected two (2) to three (3) days or a few and not twenty (20) to twenty-two (22) days before
he died.

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. Since this is a criminal
conviction, the accused causing the death of the victim is no longer beyond reasonable doubt.
The infection was caused later after the wound was inflicted. Therefore, the infection was
distinct and foreign to the crime.

The medical findings, however, lead to a distinct possibility that the infection 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. There is a likelihood
that the wound was but the remote cause and its subsequent infection with tetanus may have
been the proximate cause of Javier's death with which the petitioner had nothing to do.

At the very least, however, Urbano is guilty of inflicting slight physical injuries. But
his criminal liability was wiped out by the compromise agreement entered into with Javier.

On final note, the discussion on proximate cause and remote cause is limited to the
criminal aspects of this unusual case. It does not necessarily follow that Urbano is also free of
civil liability.