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CASE DIGEST ON PEOPLE v. ESTEPANO [307 SCRA 707 (1999)]

November 10, 2010


Nature: Appeal from a decision of the RTC of Himamaylan, Negros Occidental w/c found the defendants guilty of the crime of MURDER

Facts: Enrique Balinas was stabbed & hacked to death for w/c Dominador, Rodrigo, Ruben, Rodney, Dante & Rene, all surnamed Estepano were charged w/ murder. Rodrigo died during the trial & before judgment could be rendered. Dante was never apprehended hence, as against him, the case was never archived. After trial, Dominador was acquitted on reasonable doubt. Only Ruben, Rodney & Rene were found guilty. Accordingly, the 3 were sentenced to reclusion perpetua & ordered to indemnify the heirs of Enrique Balinas in the amount of P100K for moral damages & P9.5K for actual damages w/o subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.

As to the crime: The case was woven mainly on the testimony of Florencio Tayco, that on April 16, 1991 at around 10 pm, he was on his way home in Barangay IV Himamaylan with Lopito Gaudia and Enrique Balinas. En route, they met Dominador at the BM Trucking compound. Lopito than talked to Dominador while he and Estepano stood nearby. Suddenly, Rodrigo appeared without any provocation stabbed Enrique in the stomach with a guinunting (fighting bolo). Ruben armed with a cane cutter and Rodney, Dante and Rene, each armed with a bolo followed suit in hacking Enrique. While this was happening, Dominador told his companions “You better kill him!” Lopito confirmed the testimony of Florencio.

Dominador’s version: That on April 16 1991 at 10pm, he was at home w/ his wife & son Roberto. They were about to eat supper when he heard Enrique Balinas call out for his son Rodrigo to come down. He peeped through the window & saw Rodrigo hacking Enrique. When Enrique fell to the ground, Rodrigo fled. Robert Hautea & Luz Cuepas, both residents of Barangay IV corroborated the testimony of Dominador.

Accused Ruben, Rene & Rodney invoked alibi. Ruben claimed that he was at the provincial hospital attending to his wife who earlier underwent a caesarian operation. Rene & Rodney, sons of Rodrigo, claimed that they were at home sleeping when the killing occurred. Rene, who was only 13 then, testified that he came to know about the incident that same night when his mother awakened him. Rodney on the other hand, was awakened by shouts that his father killed Enrique Balinas.

Issues

1.         WON the lower court erred in giving credence to the testimony of prosecution witness Florencio Tayco

Findings of the TC is binding & conclusive on the appellate court unless some facts or circumstances of weight & substance have been overlooked, misapprehended or misinterpreted, w/c isn’t true in the present case. Florencio’s testimony is clear & convincing, as he was only 2 arms length away from the victim as well as from the assailants. Alibi of appellants were not supported by any pieces of evidence & thus were not sufficient to outweigh their positive identification by 1 of the prosecution witnesses.

2.         WON conspiracy had taken place

Conspiracy may be deduced from the mode and manner in w/c the offense was committed and concerted acts of the accused to obtain a common criminal objective signifies conspiracy.

3.         WON the appellants are guilty of murder (particularly Rene, who was 13)

With respect to accused-appellant Rene Estepano, the records show that he was only 13 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense. Under A12. par. 3 of the RPC, a person over 9 years of age & under 15 is exempt from criminal liability unless it is shown that he acted with DISCERNMENT. Scrutiny of records show that prosecution failed to prove that Rene acted w/ discernment, what was only established was his presence & his supposed participation in the killing.

* Damages of P100K were also modified and reduced to P50,000, considering that the purpose of such award is not to enrich the heirs but to compensate them for the injuries to their feelings. Wherefore, the decision appealed from is modified and accused-appellants Ruben and Rodney are found guilty beyond reasonable doubt, Rene Estepano is ACQUITTED.

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