Threat, NOT sufficient aggression

When the accused invokes self-defense, it becomes incumbent upon him to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he indeed acted in defense of himself. Self-defense as a justifying circumstance is present when the following concur: (1) unlawful aggression; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to repel or prevent it; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.

Unlawful aggression is a condition sine qua non for the justifying circumstance of self-defense. It contemplates an actual, sudden and unexpected attack, or imminent danger thereof, and not merely a threatening or intimidating attitude. The person defending himself must have been attacked with actual physical force or with actual use of weapon. Of all the elements, unlawful aggression, i.e., the sudden unprovoked attack on the person defending himself, is indispensable. A threat, even if made with a weapon, or the belief that a person was about to be attacked, is not sufficient. It is necessary that the intent be ostensibly revealed by an act of aggression or by some external acts showing the commencement of actual and material aggression.

In the case of People vs. Pateo (G.R. No. 156786, 03 June 2004), the trial court found that Vicente came out of his hiding place and hacked the unsuspecting Antonio on the head. Antonio could not have been the aggressor.

Moreover, the nature, number and location of the wounds sustained by the victim belie the assertion of self-defense since the gravity of said wounds is indicative of a determined effort to kill and not just to defend. The number of wounds was established by the physical evidence, which is a mute manifestation of truth and ranks high in the hierarchy of trustworthy evidence. In this case, Antonio sustained fifteen hack and stab wounds. These wounds more than belie Vicentes assertion that he was defending himself.

Besides, the trial court also found that when Antonio was already down, Vicente asked, Are you still alive? After taunting him, Vicente delivered the coup de grace by thrusting his bolo into his sprawled body. A person making a defense has no more right to attack an aggressor when the unlawful aggression has ceased.

As to Susano's denial that he participated in the killing, the trial court observed that plainly, if Susano Pateo was not a participant, no witness would point to him. In fact, their other two drinking companions were not pointed to as perpetrators and impleaded as accused. Moreover, the trial court found that the fifteen wounds sustained by Antonio were apparently caused by two instruments: a sharp and a blunt instrument. The defense of denial, like alibi, is considered with suspicion and is always received with caution, not only because it is inherently weak and unreliable, but also because it can be fabricated easily. Furthermore, all three of the prosecution witnesses pointed to him as one of the perpetrators and in fact narrated in detail his participation in the killing of Antonio.The trial court correctly found that there was conspiracy. Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. In the absence of direct proof of conspiracy, it may be deduced from the mode, method and manner by which the offense was perpetrated, or inferred from the acts of the accused themselves when such acts point to a joint purpose and design, concerted action and community of interest. In this case, Vicente admitted the killing. Susanos participation in the killing was proven by his acts of handing the bolo to Vicente and beating Antonio up with a blunt instrument.

The trial court also correctly held that treachery attended the killing of Antonio. There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means and method or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and especially to ensure its execution, without risk to the offender, arising from the defense which the offended party might make. The essence of treachery is the sudden and unexpected attack without the slightest provocation on the part of the person attacked. As observed by the trial court, consciously, Vicente Batuto hid in the San Francisco plants and shrubs near the store to create an ambush on the presence of Antonio Silvano. The fact that he hid behind the plants showed his intention to surprise Antonio and ensure that he would be able to successfully deliver the first blow. We, therefore, affirm appellants conviction for the crime of murder.

Under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty for murder is reclusion perpetua to death. The two penalties being both indivisible, and there being no mitigating nor aggravating circumstance in this case, the lesser of the two penalties, which is reclusion perpetua, should be imposed pursuant to the second paragraph of Article 63 of the Revised Penal Code.

The trial court correctly awarded civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000.00 which is awarded without need of proof.

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Naval, Biliran, Branch 16, in Criminal Case No. N-2093, finding appellants, Susano Pateo y Garcia @ Sanok and Vicente Batuto y Japay, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder, sentencing them to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and ordering them, jointly and severally, to pay the heirs of the deceased Antonio Silvano, civil indemnity, in the amount of P50,000.00, is AFFIRMED in toto.

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