CASE BrieF NO. 2019-0038


“To appreciate self-defense, the accused must show that the aggression caused by the victim in fact put his life or personal safety in real and grave peril.


CASE:  Isidro Miranda vs. People of the Philippines [G.R. No. 234528, January 23, 2019]

PONENTE: Associate Justice Andres B. Reyes, Jr.

SUBJECT:

  1. CRIMINAL LAW:
    i.        Frustrated Murder – Elements
    ii. Justifying Circumstances – Self-Defense
    iii.      Mitigating Circumstances – Sufficient Provocation
    iv. Indeterminate Sentence Law

FACTS:        In the evening of August 14, 2011, victim Winardo Pilo (Pilo) after attending the party of his niece, he and his friend Danilo Damaso (Damaso) left. While on their way home, they passed by the house of Isidro Miranda and threw stones at the latter’s home. Miranda went outside and started hacking Pilo. He hit Pilo’s right forehead. Again, Miranda tried to hit Pilo, but the latter parried the attack with his left arm. In an attempt to stop Miranda, Damaso threw a stone at him. Thereafter, Damaso grabbed possession of the bolo.

In his defense, Miranda admitted that he hacked Pilo with the bolo twice, but claimed that his acts were done in self-defense. He narrated that he was at home with his wife and daughter when he heard a thud at their door, followed by several other thuds and stones hurled at their house. Miranda peeped through the window and saw Pilo, throwing stones. He claimed that he heard Pilo challenge him to come out so that they could kill each other. According to Miranda, Pilo approached him and hit his upper left cheek with a stone. When Pilo stretched his two arms downwards to pick up something from the ground, Miranda suddenly hacked Pilo’s arm with his bolo, in order to defend himself from Pilo’s oncoming attack. At this instance, Damaso, arrived and grappled with Miranda to get a hold of the latter’s bolo. Because of this, Damaso likewise sustained injuries.

The RTCrendered a decisionfinding Miranda guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of frustrated homicide.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, Miranda filed an appeal with the CA.

The CA affirmed the conviction of Miranda. The CA ratiocinated that Miranda’s claim of self-defense had no leg to stand on, considering that the act of Pilo of hurling stones at the house of Miranda cannot be regarded as an unlawful aggression that warranted the latter’s act of hacking Pilo with a bolo.

However, the CA nonetheless appreciated the mitigating circumstance of sufficient provocation. Pilo’s act of throwing stones at the house of Miranda is sufficient provocation to enrage him, or stir his anger and obfuscate his thinking, more so, when the lives of his wife and children were placed in danger.

ISSUES:
A.       Whether the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of Miranda.

          a.       What are the elements of the crime of frustrated homicide?

          b.       What are the factors that determine the presence of “intent to kill”?

B.       Whether Miranda acted in self-defense?

          a.       What must be proven by the accused when he invokes self-defense?

          b.       What is the most important element of self-defense?

          c.       What are the elements of unlawful aggression?

C.       Whether Miranda is entitled to the mitigating circumstance of sufficient provocation.

          a.       What is sufficient provocation?

D.      Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, what is the imposable penalty?

RULING:
A.       The prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that Miranda is guilty of frustrated homicide.

The following are the elements of the crime of frustrated homicide that must be proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution: “(i) the accused intended to kill his victim, as manifested by his use of a deadly weapon in his assault; (ii) the victim sustained a fatal or mortal wound but did not die because of timely medical assistance; and (iii) none of the qualifying circumstances for murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended, are present.” [De Guzman, Jr. v. People, 748 Phil. 452 (2014)].

It bears stressing that the main element in frustrated homicide is the accused’s intent to take his victim’s life. The prosecution has to prove this clearly and convincingly to exclude every possible doubt regarding homicidal intent. Intent to kill, being a state of mind, is discerned by the courts only through external manifestations, such as the acts and conduct of the accused at the time of the assault and immediately thereafter. Likewise, such homicidal intent may be inferred from, among other things, the means the offender used, and the nature, location, and number of wounds he inflicted on his victim [Abella v. People, 719 Phil. 53, (2013), citing Colinares v. People, 678 Phil. 482, 494 (2011)].

In fact, in De Guzman, Jr. v. People, 748 Phil. 452 (2014), the Court, quoting Rivera v. People, 511 Phil. 824 (2006), enumerated the factors that determine the presence of intent to kill, to wit:

(1) the means used by the malefactors; (2) the nature, location, and number of wounds sustained by the victim; (3) the conduct of the malefactors before, during, or immediately after the killing of the victim; and (4) the circumstances under which the crime was committed and the motives of the accused.

In the case at bar, Miranda’s intent to kill was clearly established by the nature and number of wounds sustained by Pilo. The records show that Miranda used a bolo measuring 1 ½ feet. The hacking wound was about five inches long, and 1 inch deep fracturing Pilo’s skull in the parietal area. Relentless in his attack, Miranda continuously made several thrusts against Pilo, while the latter was already sprawled on the ground. This caused Pilo to sustain two additional wounds. These deep gashes measured four inches long by one-inch deep, and 1.5 inch long by one-inch deep in Pilo’s forearm. In fact, these continuous attacks were stopped only when Damaso arrived and grappled with the weapon. Undoubtedly, the manner of attack and the injuries sustained show forth a clear resolve to end Pilo’s life. Indeed, these injuries cannot simply be brushed aside as grazing injuries, especially considering that one of which, was an injury to the head of Pilo, which may have caused the latter’s untimely demise, if not for the timely medical assistance.

B.       Self-defense cannot be appreciated.

When the accused invokes self-defense, in effect, he admits to the commission of the acts for which he was charged, albeit under circumstances that, if proven, would exculpate him. As such, the burden of proving that his act was justified, shifts upon him [Dela Cruz v. People, et al., 747 Phil. 376, 384-385 (2014)]. This means that the accused must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the attack was accompanied by the following circumstances: (i) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (ii) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel such aggression; and (iii) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person resorting to self-defense.

It, likewise, bears stressing that the most important element of self-defense is unlawful aggression. This is a condition sine qua non for upholding self-defense. Significantly, the accused must establish the concurrence of three elements of unlawful aggression, namely: (i) there must have been a physical or material attack or assault; (ii) the attack or assault must be actual, or, at least, imminent; and (iii) the attack or assault must be unlawful [People v. Dulin, 762 Phil. 24, 36 (2015)]. To be sure, the accused must show that the aggression caused by the victim in fact put his life or personal safety in real and grave peril. This danger must not be a mere imagined threat.

Equally important, imminent unlawful aggression means that the attack against the accused is impending or at the point of happening. This scenario must be distinguished from a mere threatening attitude, nor must it be merely imaginary, but must be offensive and positively strong.

Applying the foregoing doctrines to the case at bar, it becomes all too apparent that the evidence on record does not support Miranda’s contention that Pilo employed unlawful aggression against him. It must be remembered that Pilo was merely throwing stones at the house of Miranda. Miranda himself admitted during the trial that Pilo did not throw stones at him, much less, utter any invectives, or threatening words against him. In fact, the stones Pilo threw merely hit Miranda’s roof and door.

Equally telling is the fact that when Miranda asked Pilo why he was throwing stones, the latter did not respond but simply remained mum, and threw a stone at Miranda’s iron door. Miranda even further narrated that after throwing stones, Pilo even approached him, which made him believe that Pilo was trying to make peace with him. This certainly belies an impending threat to Miranda’s life.

It is all too apparent that Miranda’s life was not in grave peril. The stones were never directed against Miranda. More than this, Miranda even believed that Pilo was going to make peace with him. Obviously, Miranda was certainly not faced with any actual, sudden, unexpected or imminent danger for him to have the need to defend himself.

Moreover, the Court cannot lose sight of the fact that Miranda hacked Pilo four times, when the latter was completely defenseless. This continuous hacking by Miranda constitutes force beyond what is reasonably required to repel the private complainant’s attack—and is certainly unjustified. Notably, in Espinosa v. People 629 Phil. 432 (2010), which also involves the continuous hacking by the accused even after the aggressor had been neutralized, the Court stressed that “the act of the accused in repeatedly hacking the victim was in no way a reasonable and necessary means of repelling the aggression allegedly initiated by the latter.”

It, likewise, bears stressing that Miranda cannot seek exoneration on the simple pretext that the attack was initiated by Pilo. Suffice to say, in the case of People v. Dulin [762 Phil. 24 (2015)], the Court held that the fact that the victim was the initial aggressor does not ipso facto show that there was unlawful aggression. The Court elucidated that although the victim may have been the initial aggressor, he ceased to be the aggressor as soon as he was dispossessed of the weapon. Whatever the accused did thereafter is no longer self-defense, but retaliation, which is not the same as self-defense. In retaliation, the aggression that the victim started already ceased when the accused attacked him, but in self-defense, the aggression was still continuing when the accused injured the aggressor. In the instant case, Miranda continued to hack Pilo even after the latter stopped throwing stones. Plainly, Miranda’s act constituted a retaliation against Pilo. Certainly at this point, Miranda was no longer motivated by the lawful desire of defending himself, but of the evil intent of retaliating and harming Pilo.

Further, the means employed by Miranda was not reasonably commensurate to the nature and extent of the alleged attack, which he sought to avert. In Dela Cruz v. People, et al. [747 Phil. 376 (2014)], the Court emphasized that, “the means employed by the person invoking self-defense contemplates a rational equivalence between the means of attack and the defense. The means employed by a person resorting to self-defense must be rationally necessary to prevent or repel an unlawful aggression.”

Here, the victim Pilo was armed with a stone, in contrast to the 1 ½-inch bolo that Miranda was brandishing.

C.       Miranda is entitled to the mitigating circumstance of sufficient provocation.

Pilo’s act of hurling stones was vexatious, improper and enough to incite Miranda into anger. The fact that Miranda was stirred to rage was understandable considering that his wife and daughter were at his home, and were peacefully having supper when Pilo threw the stones.

While an act cannot be considered an unlawful aggression for the purpose of self-defense, the same act may be regarded as sufficient provocation for the purpose of mitigating the crime [Gotis v. People [559 Phil. 843 (2007)].  “As a mitigating circumstance, sufficient provocation is any unjust or improper conduct or act of the victim adequate enough to excite a person to commit a wrong, which is accordingly proportionate in gravity.”The victim must have committed a prior act that incited or irritated the accused. Likewise, in order to be mitigating, the provocation must be sufficient and should immediately precede the act.

Certainly, Pilo’s act of hurling stones while Miranda’s family was peacefully enjoying their supper falls within this range. Accordingly, the Court shall consider in favor of Miranda the mitigating circumstance of sufficient provocation.

D.      The penalty for homicide shall be reclusion temporal. Considering that the crime committed was frustrated homicide, then the penalty imposed shall be one degree lower than reclusion temporal, which is prision mayor in its minimum term, in view of the presence of the mitigating circumstance of sufficient provocation.

Furthermore, applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, an indeterminate sentence shall be imposed, consisting of a maximum term, which is the penalty under the RPC properly imposed after considering any attending circumstance; while the minimum term is within the range of the penalty next lower than that prescribed by the RPC for the offense committed. Accordingly, the penalty is four (4) years of prision correccional, as minimum, to seven (7) years of prision mayor, as maximum.

However, the Court shall modify the amount of damages awarded in order to conform with current jurisprudence. Guided by the Court’s ruling in People v. Jugueta [783 Phil. 806 (2016)], the amount of damages imposed against Miranda shall be as follows: (i) Php 50,000.00 as civil indemnity, (ii) Php 50,000.00 as moral damages, and (iii) Php 50,000.00 as exemplary damages. These amounts shall be subject to the legal rate of interest of six percent (6%) per annum from the finality of the Court’s ruling until full payment.

Related CASE BrieFs:

  1. De Guzman, Jr. v. People, 748 Phil. 452 (2014)
  2. Abella v. People, 719 Phil. 53 (2013)
  3. Colinares v. People, 678 Phil. 482, 494 (2011)
  4. De Guzman, Jr. v. People, 748 Phil. 452 (2014)
  5. Dela Cruz v. People, et al., 747 Phil. 376 (2014)
  6. People v. Dulin, 762 Phil. 24, 36 (2015)
  7. Espinosa v. People 629 Phil. 432 (2010)
  8. People v. Dulin, 762 Phil. 24 (2015)
  9. Gotis v. People [559 Phil. 843 (2007)

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THINGS DECIDED:

  1. The following are the elements of the crime of frustrated homicide that must be proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution: “(i) the accused intended to kill his victim, as manifested by his use of a deadly weapon in his assault; (ii) the victim sustained a fatal or mortal wound but did not die because of timely medical assistance; and (iii) none of the qualifying circumstances for murder under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended, are present.” [De Guzman, Jr. v. People, 748 Phil. 452 (2014)].
  2. Intent to kill, being a state of mind, is discerned by the courts only through external manifestations, such as the acts and conduct of the accused at the time of the assault and immediately thereafter.
  3. In fact, in De Guzman, Jr. v. People, 748 Phil. 452 (2014), the Court, quoting Rivera v. People, 511 Phil. 824 (2006), enumerated the factors that determine the presence of intent to kill, to wit: (1) the means used by the malefactors; (2) the nature, location, and number of wounds sustained by the victim; (3) the conduct of the malefactors before, during, or immediately after the killing of the victim; and (4) the circumstances under which the crime was committed and the motives of the accused.
  4. When the accused invokes self-defense, in effect, he admits to the commission of the acts for which he was charged, albeit under circumstances that, if proven, would exculpate him. As such, the burden of proving that his act was justified, shifts upon him [Dela Cruz v. People, et al., 747 Phil. 376, 384-385 (2014)].
  5. The accused must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the attack was accompanied by the following circumstances: (i) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (ii) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel such aggression; and (iii) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person resorting to self-defense.
  6. The most important element of self-defense is unlawful aggression. This is a condition sine qua non for upholding self-defense. Significantly, the accused must establish the concurrence of three elements of unlawful aggression, namely: (i) there must have been a physical or material attack or assault; (ii) the attack or assault must be actual, or, at least, imminent; and (iii) the attack or assault must be unlawful [People v. Dulin, 762 Phil. 24, 36 (2015)].
  7. The accused must show that the aggression caused by the victim in fact put his life or personal safety in real and grave peril. This danger must not be a mere imagined threat.
  8. The means employed by the person invoking self-defense contemplates a rational equivalence between the means of attack and the defense. The means employed by a person resorting to self-defense must be rationally necessary to prevent or repel an unlawful aggression.
  9. While an act cannot be considered an unlawful aggression for the purpose of self-defense, the same act may be regarded as sufficient provocation for the purpose of mitigating the crime [Gotis v. People [559 Phil. 843 (2007)]. 
  10. As a mitigating circumstance, sufficient provocation is any unjust or improper conduct or act of the victim adequate enough to excite a person to commit a wrong, which is accordingly proportionate in gravity.

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