Cruelty = Delight in victim's suffering

The presence of alevosia in the attack cannot be disputed. The witness described the killing in clear terms. There is nary an iota of doubt that the attack, being carried out suddenly and unexpectedly, afforded the victim no occasion whatsoever to defend himself. Treachery qualifies the killing to murder.

However, the trial court went far astray in its reasoning when it ruled that the aggravating circumstances of evident premeditation, cruelty and ignominy were also attendant in the commission of the crime. To authorize the finding of evident premeditation, the prosecution must establish (a) the time when accused-appellants determined to commit the crime; (b) the act showing that they clung to their determination; and (c) a sufficient interval of time between the determination and the execution of the crime to allow them to reflect upon the consequences of their act.

Other than a chance encounter between the witness Jeofrey and the principal antagonists in this case, there is a dearth of information to show that accused-appellants had deliberately planned to commit the crime and had persistently and consciously followed it notwithstanding that they had ample and sufficient time to allow their conscience to overcome the determination of their will, if they had desired it, after meditation and reflection.

Neither does it appear that the murder of the victim was attended by cruelty and ignominy. Ignominy is a circumstance pertaining to the moral order, which adds disgrace and obloquy to the material injury caused by the crime. The mere fact that accused-appellants burned the body of the deceased is not sufficient to show that the means were employed which added ignominy to the natural effects of the act. Nor may we consider the circumstance of cruelty as found by the trial court because there is no showing that the victim was burned while he was still alive. For cruelty to exist, there must be proof showing that the accused delighted in making their victim suffer slowly and gradually, causing him unnecessary physical and moral pain in the consummation of the criminal act. No proof was presented that would show that accused-appellants deliberately and wantonly augmented the suffering of their victim.The trial court also found conspiracy "as can be shown by the unity of purpose displayed by the three (3) accused in ganging up their victim Willy Ondo." Conspiracy in the statutory language "exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it." Conspiracy need not be proved by direct evidence; it may be deduced from the mode and manner in which the offense was perpetrated. It is sufficient that the malefactors acted in concert to attain the same criminal objective. As a rule, the concurrence of wills, which is the essence of conspiracy, may be deduced from the evidence of facts and circumstances, which taken together, indicate that the parties cooperated and labored to the same end. It must be shown to exist as clearly and convincingly as the commission of the offense itself. (PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. Freddie Catian, Samuel Sumalpong and Rogelio Calunod, accused-appellants; G.R. No. 139693; January 24, 2002)