G.R. No. 121828 June 27, 2003
- February 5, 1988 11:30 pm: Elisa Rolan was inside their store waiting for her husband to arrive. Joselito Capa and Julian Azul, Jr. were drinking beer. Although already drunk, Edmar Aguilos and Odilon Lagliba joined them. Edmar had a heated argument with Julian. Elisa pacified Edmar and advised them to go home as she was already going to close up. Edmar and Odilon left then returned to block Joselito and Julian. Edmar took off his eyeglasses and punched Julian in the face. Elisa shouted: “Tama na. Tama na” but she was ignored as they continued until they reached the end of the street. Odilon positioned himself on top of a pile of hollow blocks and watched as Edmar and Julian swapped punches. As Joselito tried to stop the fight, Odilon pulled out his knife with his right hand and stepped down from his perch. He placed his left arm around Joselito’s neck, and stabbed him. Ronnie and Rene Gayot Pilola, who were across the street, saw their gangmate Odilon stabbing the victim and decided to join the fray. Ronnie took a knife from the kitchen of Teresita and rushed together with Pilola to the scene and stabbed Joselito. As Joeslito was stabbed 11 times (6 fatal stab wounds), he fell in the canal. Odilon and Pilola fled while Ronnie went after Julian who ran dear life. When Julian noticed that Ronnie was no longer running after him, he looked back and saw Ronnie pick up a piece of hollow block and bashed Joselito’s head. Then, Ronnie got a piece of broken bottle and struck Joselito once more before fleing from the scene. Joselito died on the spot. Elisa rushed to Joselito’s house and informed his wife and brother of the incident.
- Agripina Gloria, a female security guard, saw Ronnie repeatedly stabbed Joselito and fled towards the direction of the mental hospital. She did not see Odilon.
- Elisa cross-examination had an inconsistency, she stated that it was Edmar who struck the victim (before it was Ronnie)
- RTC: Pilola GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of Murder qualified by treachery and sentenced to reclusion perpetua
ISSUE: W/N Pilola is guilty of murder
HELD: YES. Rene Gayot Pilola GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder is AFFIRMED WITH MODIFICATION
- The identity of the person who hit the victim with a hollow block is of de minimis importance. Elisa’s testimony is corroborated by the autopsy report of Dr. Bienvenido Muñoz. No showing of any improper motive on the part of a witness to testify falsely against the accused or to falsely implicate the latter in the commission of the crime. The trial court gave credence and full probative weight to Elisa’s testimony.
- There is conspiracy when two or more persons agree to commit a felony and decide to commit it. Conspiracy as a mode of incurring criminal liability must be proved separately from and with the same quantum of proof as the crime itself. Conspiracy need not be proven by direct evidence. After all, secrecy and concealment are essential features of a successful conspiracy. It may be inferred from the conduct of the accused before, during and after the commission of the crime, showing that they had acted with a common purpose and design. Conspiracy may be implied if it is proved that two or more persons aimed by their acts towards the accomplishment of the same unlawful object, each doing a part so that their combined acts, though apparently independent of each other, were, in fact, connected and cooperative, indicating a closeness of personal association and a concurrence of sentiment. There may be conspiracy even if an offender does not know the identities of the other offenders, and even though he is not aware of all the details of the plan of operation or was not in on the scheme from the beginning. One need only to knowingly contribute his efforts in furtherance of it. One who joins a criminal conspiracy in effect adopts as his own the criminal designs of his co-conspirators. If conspiracy is established, all the conspirators are liable as co-principals regardless of the manner and extent of their participation since in contemplation of law, the act of one would be the act of all. Each of the conspirators is the agent of all the others.
- The mere presence of an accused at the situs of the crime will not suffice. There must be intentional participation in the transaction with a view to the furtherance of the common design and purpose.
- Even if two or more offenders do not conspire to commit homicide or murder, they may be held criminally liable as principals by direct participation if they perform overt acts which mediately or immediately cause or accelerate the death of the victim. Art. 4. Criminal liability. – Criminal liability shall be incurred:
o 1. By any person committing a felony (delito) although the wrongful act done be different from that which he intended.
- Art. 18. Accomplices. – Accomplices are the persons who, not being included in Article 17, cooperate in the execution of the offense by previous or simultaneous acts.
o To hold a person liable as an accomplice, two elements must concur:
1. the community of criminal design; that is, knowing the criminal design of the principal by direct participation, he concurs with the latter in his purpose;
2. the performance of previous or simultaneous acts that are not indispensable to the commission of the crime
- Accomplices come to know about the criminal resolution of the principal by direct participation after the principal has reached the decision to commit the felony and only then does the accomplice agree to cooperate in its execution. Accomplices do not decide whether the crime should be committed; they merely assent to the plan of the principal by direct participation and cooperate in its accomplishment
- However, where one cooperates in the commission of the crime by performing overt acts which by themselves are acts of execution, he is a principal by direct participation, and not merely an accomplice
- Odilon all by himself initially decided to stab the victim. However, while Odilon was stabbing the victim, the appellant and Ronnie agreed to join. All the overt acts of Odilon, Ronnie and the Pilola before, during, and after the stabbing incident indubitably show that they conspired to kill the victim. Since the victim is not yet dead, the crime is not yet consummated so Pilola is a principal by direct participation.
- Alibi is a weak, if not the weakest of defenses in a criminal prosecution, because it is easy to concoct but hard to disprove. To serve as basis for acquittal, it must be established by clear and convincing evidence. For it to prosper, the accused must prove not only that he was absent from the scene of the crime at the time of its commission, but also that it was physically impossible for him to have been present then.
- Pilola knew that he was charged for the stabbing but instead of surrendering to the police authorities, he evaded arrest and this flight is evidence of guilt
- There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make. The essence of treachery is the swift and unexpected attack on the unarmed victim without the slightest provocation on his part - attack on the unarmed victim was sudden. The aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength is absorbed by treachery