G.R. No. 213988. Apr. 10, 2019

FIRST DIVISION [ G.R. No. 213988, April 10, 2019 ] RENANTE S. SANJORJO, PETITIONER, V. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.

After a judicious review of the records herein, the Court resolves to DENY the appeal filed by the petitioner against the decision[1] dated January 14, 2014 and resolution[2] dated July 4, 2014 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CEB CR No. 01089 whereby the CA affirmed the pronouncement of guilt by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 56, Mandaue City, finding him guilty of Reckless Imprudence resulting to homicide.[3]

Herein petitioner insisted that the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt, particularly his alleged recklessness in causing the incident. He argued that the credibility of the witness consisted of material inconsistencies and that the proximate cause of the accident may be attributed to the deceased himself who stayed at the innermost lane when slow-moving vehicles including bicycles should occupy the opposite lane.

The petitioner is mistaken.

The trial courts' evaluation of the credibility of witnesses is entitled to the highest respect and will not be disturbed on appeal considering that the trial court is in a better position to decide such question, having heard the witnesses themselves and observed their deportment and manner of testifying during the trial. Its findings on the issue of credibility of witnesses and the consequent fmdings of fact must be given great weight and respect on appeal, unless certain facts of substance and value have been overlooked which, if considered, might affect the result of the case.[4] The petitioner did not provide us with a reasonable justification to deviate from this rule.

What the petitioner has perceived to be material inconsistencies in the testimony of the prosecution witness appeared to be trivial which did not detract from the trial courts' conclusion that the bus being driven by the petitioner hit the bicycle of the deceased. Discrepancies on minor matters do not impair the essential integrity of the evidence for the prosecution as a whole nor reflect on the honesty of the witness.[5] More so in this case wherein documentary evidence supports the testimony of the prosecution witness.

Furthermore, the prosecution has proven the following elements of the crime of reckless imprudence: (1) that the offender does or fails to do an act; (2) that the doing or the failure to do that act is voluntary; (3) that it be without malice; (4) that material damage results from the reckless imprudence; and (5) that there is inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the offender, taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical condition, and other circumstances regarding persons, time and place.[6] To constitute the offense of reckless driving, the act must be something more than a mere negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle, and a willful and wanton disregard of the consequences is required.[7]The findings of the courts a quo point to the fact that the deceased was driving his bicycle in front of the petitioner's bus and that the petitioner failed to employ measures when he decided to overtake the bicycle. The petitioner was in the best position to avoid the incident yet he failed to perform the basic precaution required under the circumstances. This is the kind of reckless disregard for the safety of others and imprudence that the law punishes. Ineluctably, the petitioner's recklessness was the proximate cause of the incident.

While the Court affirms the guilt of the petitioner, modification as to the award of damages are in order considering the Court's ruling in People v. Jugueta[8] On top of the award of damages already imposed, the Court awards P50,000.00 as moral damages and orders the petitioner to pay the interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum to be imposed on all amounts awarded from the time of finality of this resolution until fully paid.

WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petition for review for lack of merit; AFFIRMS WITH MODIFICATION the decision and resolution promulgated by the Court of Appeals on January 14, 2014 and July 4, 2014, respectively in CA-G.R. CEB CR No. 01089 in that the petitioner is hereby ordered to pay an additional P50,000.00 as moral damages and interest at a rate of six percent (6%) per annum to be imposed on all amounts awarded to the heirs of the deceased from the time of finality of this decision until fully paid; and ORDERS the petitioner to pay the cost of the suit.

SO ORDERED. Del Castillo, J., on official business. Jardeleza, J., on official leave.

[1] Rollo, pp. 30-40; penned by Associate Justice Marilyn B. Lagura-Yap and concurred by Associate Justice Gabriel T. Ingles and Associate Justice Ma. Luisa Quijano-Padilla.
[2] Id. at 41-43.
[3] Id. at 30.
[4] People v. Bensing, G.R. No. 138989, September 17, 2002, 389 SCRA 182, 190.
[5] People v. Villanueva, G.R. No. 114266, December 4, 1996, 265 SCRA 318, 323.
[6] Cruz v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 122445, November 18, 1997, 282 SCRA 188, 199-200.
[7] Dumayag v. People, G.R. No. 172778, November 26, 2012, 686 SCRA 347, 359.
[8] G.R. No. 202124, April 5, 2016, 788 SCRA 331, 386.

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