You are on page 1of 3

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Plaintiff-appellee,

vs.

DANILO FELICIANO, JR., JULIUS VICTOR MEDALLA, CHRISTOPHER SOLIVA,


WARREN L. ZINGAPAN, and ROBERT MICHAEL BELTRAN ALVIR, Accused-
appellants.

G.R. No. 196735 May 5, 2014

PONENTE: Leonen

TOPIC: right to be informed of their offenses, disguise, res gestae, treachery

FACTS:

On December 8, 1994, at around 12:30 to 1:00 in the afternoon, seven (7) members of the Sigma
Rho fraternity were eating lunch at the Beach House Canteen, near the Main Library of the
University of the Philippines, Diliman, when they were attacked by several masked men carrying
baseball bats and lead pipes. Some of them sustained injuries that required hospitalization. One
of them, Dennis Venturina, died from his injuries.

An information for murder was filed against several members of the Scintilla Juris fraternity and
separate informations were also filed against them for the attempted and frustrated murder of
Sigma Rho fraternity members.

RTC found Alvir, Feliciano Jr., Soliva, Medalla and Zingapan guilty beyond reasonable doubt of
murder and attempted murder. Others were acquitted. The case against Guerrero was ordered
archived by the court until his apprehension. CA affirmed RTC’s decision.

ISSUES:

1. Whether or not accused-appellants’ constitutional rights were violated when the


information against them contained the aggravating circumstance of the use of masks
despite the prosecution presenting witnesses to prove that the masks fell off
2. Whether or not the RTC and CA correctly ruled, on the basis of the evidence, that
accused-appellants were sufficiently identified.
HELD:

FIRST ISSUE: No.

The Court held that an information is sufficient when the accused is fully apprised of the charge
against him to enable him to prepare his defense. The argument of appellants that the information
filed against them violates their constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the
accusation against them holds no water. The Court found no merit on the appellants’ arguments
that the prosecution should not have included the phrase “wearing masks and/or other forms of
disguise” in the information since they were presenting testimonial evidence that not all the
accused were wearing masks or that their masks fell off.

It should be remembered that every aggravating circumstance being alleged must be stated in the
information. Failure to state an aggravating circumstance, even if duly proven at trial, will not be
appreciated as such

It was, therefore, incumbent on the prosecution to state the aggravating circumstance of “wearing
masks and/or other forms of disguise” in the information in order for all the evidence, introduced
to that effect, to be admissible by the trial court.

In criminal cases, disguise is an aggravating circumstance because, like nighttime, it allows the
accused to remain anonymous and unidentifiable as he carries out his crimes.

The introduction of the prosecution of testimonial evidence that tends to prove that the accused
were masked but the masks fell off does not prevent them from including disguise as an
aggravating circumstance.

What is important in alleging disguise as an aggravating circumstance is that there was a


concealment of identity by the accused. The inclusion of disguise in the information was,
therefore, enough to sufficiently apprise the accused that in the commission of the offense they
were being charged with, they tried to conceal their identity.

The introduction of evidence which shows that some of the accused were not wearing masks is
also not violative of their right to be informed of their offenses.

The information charges conspiracy among the accused. Conspiracy presupposes that “the act of
one is the act of all.” This would mean all the accused had been one in their plan to conceal their
identity even if there was evidence later on to prove that some of them might not have done so.

SECOND ISSUE: Yes.

The Court held that the accused were sufficiently identified by the witnesses for the prosecution.
It was held that the trial court, in weighing all the evidence on hand, found the testimonies of the
witnesses for the prosecution to be credible. Slight inconsistencies in their statements were
immaterial considering the swiftness of the incident.

Evidence as part of the res gestae may be admissible but have little persuasive value in this
case

According to the testimony of U.P. Police Officer Salvador, when he arrived at the scene, he
interviewed the bystanders who all told him that they could not recognize the attackers since they
were all masked. This, it is argued, could be evidence that could be given as part of the res
gestae.

There is no doubt that a sudden attack on a group peacefully eating lunch on a school campus is
a startling occurrence. Considering that the statements of the bystanders were made immediately
after the startling occurrence, they are, in fact, admissible as evidence given in res gestae.

The statements made by the bystanders, although admissible, have little persuasive value since
the bystanders could have seen the events transpiring at different vantage points and at different
points in time. Even Frisco Capilo, one of the bystanders at the time of the attack, testified that
the attackers had their masks on at first, but later on, some remained masked and some were
unmasked.

When the bystanders’ testimonies are weighed against those of the victims who witnessed
the entirety of the incident from beginning to end at close range, the former become merely
corroborative of the fact that an attack occurred. Their account of the incident, therefore,
must be given considerably less weight than that of the victims.

Accused-appellants were correctly charged with murder, and there was treachery in the
commission of the crime

The victims in this case were eating lunch on campus. They were not at a place where they
would be reasonably expected to be on guard for any sudden attack by rival fraternity men.

The victims, who were unarmed, were also attacked with lead pipes and baseball bats. The only
way they could parry the blows was with their arms. In a situation where they were unarmed and
outnumbered, it would be impossible for them to fight back against the attackers. The attack also
happened in less than a minute, which would preclude any possibility of the bystanders being
able to help them until after the incident.

The swiftness and the suddenness of the attack gave no opportunity for the victims to retaliate or
even to defend themselves. Treachery, therefore, was present in this case.