In May 10, 1988, accused Bernardo Peran, Junior Narido, and Felix Piquero killed certain Jose Namoc for whom Peran had an earlier altercation regarding the ownership of a puppy. As witnessed by a 16-year-old Roberto Cawasan, Peran and Narido allegedly held the arms of Jose and led him towards the creek, with Piquero following from behind.
After reaching the creek, Peran hit Jose on the forehead with an about two-feet wood. Jose instantly fell. Wherefore, co-accused Narido gave the second blow again hitting him in the forehead, with a stone. The third accused, Felix Piquero, gave the last blow with his fist, hitting the victim on his mouth while holding him on his head. After 47 days of searching, the cadaver was found in Calabasa Waterfalls.
The Trial Court convicted the three accused of murder qualified by conspiracy, treachery and superior strength.
- Whether or not the findings of facts of the trial court are reliable.
- Whether or not conspiracy as a qualifying circumstance is attendant to this case.
- Whether or not the killing is qualified by treachery.
- Whether or not the use of superior strength is present in this case as appreciated by the trial court.
Whether or not the findings of facts of the trial court are reliable.
Yes, the general rule is that findings of the judge who tried the case and heard the witnesses are not to be disturbed on appeal, unless there are substantial facts and circumstances which have been overlooked and which, if properly considered, might affect the result of the case. Such findings, except for good cause, are generally not disturbed on appeal.
Where the issue concerns the credibility of witnesses, the trial court’s findings gains greatest significance, because it had seen the witness face to face at the witness stand and observed their demeanor closely. The trial courts are found to be in better position than the appellate courts, who rely entirely on the inanimate transcript of stenograhic notes of the case. Thus, the findings will generally be upheld on appeal save for exceptional cases. We find no such exceptions in the case at bar, which may warrant the reversal of its verdict.
Whether or not conspiracy as a qualifying circumstance is attendant to this case.
No, the trial court erroneously appreciated conspiracy as a qualifying circumstance. Although there was conspiracy in the case at bar, as evident from concert of action and unity of purpose, it could not elevate the motive of the crime to a more serious offense.
Conspiracy is neither aggravating nor qualifying but rather a manner in incurring collective criminal liability among every co-conspirator in an equal degree, whereby the effect is that the act of one becomes the act of all. The presence of conspiracy cannot per se qualify a killing to murder.
Whether or not the killing is qualified by treachery.
No, trial court likewise erred in holding that the killing was qualified by treachery.
Treachery has neither been alleged nor has it been proved by the evidence. Treachery cannot be presumed, it must be proved by clear and convincing evidence or as conclusively as the killing itself.
Bernardo Peran and Junior Narido held the victim while Felix Piquero followed them on their way from Jose’s house in the direction of the creek. When they reached the place, Bernardo Peran hit the victim with a piece of wood while facing the victim. There was no other description offered by the witness on how the attack was carried out. We cannot presume the presence of treachery in the manner the criminal act was committed.
In order that alevosia may be considered as a qualifying circumstance to raise the classification of the crime, or as an aggravating circumstance to augment the penalty, it must be shown that the treacherous acts were present and preceded the commencement of the act which caused the injury complained of. After the commencement of such an attack, and before its termination, an accused person may have employed means or methods which were of a treacherous character, and yet such means or methods would not constitute the circumstance of alevosia.
One continuous attack cannot be broken up into two or more parts and made to constitute separate, distinct, and independent attacks so that treachery may be injected therein, and considered as qualifying or aggravating circumstance. The second blow delivered on the victim when he was in such a position where he could not have defended himself cannot constitute treachery. The established rule is that treachery must be present from the commencement of the attack.
Whether or not the use of superior strength is present in this case as appreciated by the trial court.
Yes, the trial court correctly appreciated the circumstance of abuse of superior strength. This was evident from the injury sustained by the victim. The accused-appellant could not have broken the victimÊs skull had it not exerted excessive force out of proportion to the means of the defense available to the person attacked. The force used on the victim in hitting his head again with a stone after he had already fallen to the ground after being hit on the forehead with a piece of wood was clearly excessive. There was abuse of superior strength but it could not qualify the killing to murder because it has not been sufficiently alleged in the information. It may only be considered as generic aggravating circumstance.