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PEOPLE v.

FRONDA
G.R. Nos. 102361-62 | May 14, 1993 | Third Division | Appeal
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee
RUDY FRONDA, defendant-appellant.
The Solicitor General for plaintiff-appellee.
Juan T. Antonio for accused-appellant.
Bidin, J.
Digest by Bryan John Maga

Short Version: Fronda presented the exempting circumstance of uncontrollable fear. He alleged that the
night before the killing of the Balaan brothers, he was taken by the NPA from his house. Later, he was
ordered to tie their hands and subsequently dig their graves. The Supreme Court held that f ear in order to
be valid should be based on a real, imminent or reasonable fear for one's life or limb. However, the
contemporaneous and subsequent acts of Fronda cannot be regarded as having been done under such
impulse. First, he was seen receiving from one of the armed men a hunting knife. Second, he had the
opportunity to escape when he was ordered by the NPA to go home but instead joined the armed men
when required to later bring a spade with which he was ordered to dig the grave. Last, Fronda was not
able to explain his failure to report the incident to the authorities for more than 3 years.

Facts:
- Brothers Eduardo and Esminio Balaan were taken by 7 armed men in fatigue uniform with long
firearms, suspected to be NPA members, accompanied by Rudy Fronda and Roderick Padua.
Fronda and Padua are residents of the same place. The armed men, with Fronda and Padua,
then proceeded towards the mountain in sitio Tulong, Cataratan, Allacapan, Cagayan passing
through the ricefields, taking along with them the Balaan brothers.
- About 3 years after, the bodies or remains of the Balaan brothers were found and examined by
the army. Subsequently, Fronda, together with one Reynaldo Agcaoili were charged with murder
before the RTC of Cagayan.
- Fronda testified that on the night before the incident, he was taken by the NPA from his house,
accompanied by Padua and Robert Peralta, alias Ka Jun to look for the Balaan brothers. After
finding them, they tied their hands and brought them to the mountain at Sitio Tulong. After that,
the NPA instructed them to go home, but in the afternoon of the same day, Ka Jun, sent Elmer
Martinez, Orlando Gonzales, George Peralta and Librado Duran to get him and ordered him to
get a spade and a crowbar. They were to dig a hole in the mountain, 1 kilometer away from his
house.
- Agcaoili was later acquitted but Fronda was found guilty as principal by indispensable
cooperation for two counts of the crime of murder and was sentenced to suffer in each case, the
penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA.

Issues: WON Fronda can claim the exempting circumstance of uncontrollable fear? No.
WON Fronda could be convicted as a principal by indispensable cooperation? No.

Dispositive:
Judgment appealed from modified. Fronda found guilty as an accomplice to the murder.

Reasoning:

On the inapplicability of “uncontrollable fear” as exempting circumstance:


- Fear in order to be valid should be based on a real, imminent or reasonable fear for one's life or
limb. Moreover, it is necessary that the compulsion be of such a character as to leave no
opportunity to escape or self-defense in equal combat. In the case at bar, however,
circumstances establish the fact that Fronda consciously concurred with the acts of the
assailants.
- First, records indicate that Fronda was seen being handed by and receiving from one of the
armed men a hunting knife.
- Second, Fronda had the opportunity to escape when he was ordered by the armed men to go
home after bringing the victims to the mountains. He did not. Instead he joined the armed men
when required to bring a spade with which he was ordered to dig the grave.
- Last, Fronda was not able to explain his failure to report the incident to the authorities for more
than 3 years. He chose to remain silent. Hence, the contemporaneous and subsequent acts of
Fronda cannot be regarded as having been done under the impulse of uncontrollable fear.
-
On Fronda’s conviction as a principal by indispensable cooperation through circumstantial evidence:
- The acts performed by Fronda (e.g. leading the NPA to the house, tying the hands of the brothers
and digging the grave) are not, by themselves, indispensable to the killing of the Balaan brothers.
To be considered as a principal by indispensable cooperation, there must be direct participation in
the criminal design by another act without which the crime could not have been committed.
- Prosecution failed to present any evidence tending to establish Fronda’s conspiracy with the evil
designs of the members of the NPA. Neither was it established that his acts were of such
importance that the crime would not have been committed without him or that he participated in
the actual killing.
- However, Fronda’s act of joining the armed men in going to the mountains, and his failure to
object to their unlawful orders, or show any reluctance in obeying the same, may be considered
as circumstances evincing his concurrence with the objectives of the malefactors and had
effectively supplied them with material and moral aid, thereby making him as an accomplice.
- Fronda cannot also claim that he was unaware of the evil intentions of the armed men which may
have been the case had he merely guided the group to locate the victims' abodes. On the
contrary, Fronda himself tied the victims' hands and even joined the armed men in taking the
victims to the hills. Fronda’s complicity is made more manifest by the fact that without any
justifiable reason he failed to report the incident to the authorities for a period of more than 3
years.
Feliciano, Davide, Jr., Romero and Melo, JJ., concur.