Criminal Law

NICOLAS VELASQUEZ and VICTOR VELASQUEZ v. PEOPLE, G.R. No. 195021, March 15, 2017  Justifying circumstances under Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code [J. LEONEN]

FACTS:

Petitioners Nicolas and Victor, along with four others – Felix, Jojo, Sonny, and Ampong – were charged with attempted murder under Article 248, in relation to Article 6, of the RPC for attacking, mauling, and hitting Jesus Del Mundo.

According to the prosecution, on May 24, 2003, at about 10:00 p.m., the spouses Jesus and Ana Del Mundo left their home to sleep in their nipa hut, located about 100 meters away. Arriving at the nipa hut, the Del Mundo Spouses saw Ampong and Nora in the midst of having sex. Aghast, Jesus shouted invectives at Ampong and Nora, who both scampered away. Jesus pursued Ampong and Nora, and went to the house of Ampong’s aunt, but they were not there. On his way back home, he was blocked by Ampong and his fellow accused.

Without provocation, accused mauled and hit Jesus with stones and wooden poles, then left him on the ground, bloodied. Jesus then staggered his way back to their house.

After undergoing an x-ray examination, Jesus was found to have sustained a crack in his skull, and was advised to undergo surgery. He was, however, unable to avail of the required medical procedure due to shortage of funds.

The defense offered a different version of events.

According to the accused, petitioner Nicolas was roused in his sleep by his wife, as the nearby house of petitioner Victor was being stoned.

Nicolas saw Jesus hacking Victor’s door. Several neighbors – the other accused – allegedly tried to pacify Jesus. Jesus, who was supposedly inebriated, vented his ire upon Nicolas and the other accused, as well as on Mercedes. The accused thus responded and countered Jesus’ attacks, leading to his injuries.

The RTC found petitioners and Felix Caballeda guilty beyond reasonable doubt of attempted murder, while Ampong remained at large. 

Petitioners and Felix Caballeda filed a motion for reconsideration, which the RTC denied.

Following the denial of their Motion for Reconsideration, petitioners filed the present Petition.

ISSUE:

Whether or not there was sufficient evidence: first, to prove that justifying circumstances existed, and second, to convict the petitioners.

RULING:

We find petitioners’ claims of self-defense and defense of their relative, Mercedes, to be sorely wanting.

An accused who pleads a justifying circumstance under Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code admits to the commission of acts, which would otherwise engender criminal liability. However, he asserts that he is justified in committing the acts. 

In the process of proving a justifying circumstance, the accused risks admitting the imputed acts, which may justify the existence of an offense were it not for the exculpating facts. Conviction follows if the evidence for the accused fails to prove the existence of justifying circumstances.

Petitioners invoke the first and second justifying circumstances under Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code:

ARTICLE 11. Justifying Circumstances. — The following do not incur any criminal liability:

  1. Anyone who acts in defense of his person or rights, provided that the following circumstances concur:

    First. Unlawful aggression;

    Second. Reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it;

    Third. Lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.

  2. Anyone who acts in defense of the person or rights of his spouse, ascendants, descendants, or legitimate, natural or adopted brothers or sisters, or of his relatives by affinity in the same degrees, and those by consanguinity within the fourth civil degree, provided that the first and second requisites prescribed in the next preceding circumstance are present, and the further requisite, in case the provocation was given by the person attacked, that the one making defense had no part therein.

A person invoking self-defense (or defense of a relative) admits to having inflicted harm upon another person – a potential criminal act under Title Eight (Crimes Against Persons) of the Revised Penal Code. 

However, he makes the additional, defensive contention that even as he may have inflicted harm, he nevertheless incurred no criminal liability as the looming danger upon his own person (or that of his or her relative) justified the infliction of protective harm to an erstwhile aggressor.

The accused’s admission enables the prosecution to dispense with discharging its burden of proving that the accused performed acts, which would otherwise be the basis of criminal liability. All that remains to be established is whether the accused were justified in acting as he or she did. To this end, the accused’s case must rise on its own merits:

  x x x x 
Self-defense cannot be justifiably appreciated when uncorroborated by independent and competent evidence or when it is extremely doubtful by itself. Indeed, in invoking self-defense, the burden of evidence is shifted and the accused claiming self-defense must rely on the strength of his own evidence and not on the weakness of the prosecution.

To successfully invoke self-defense, an accused must establish: “(1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel such aggression; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person resorting to self-defense.”

Defense of a relative under Article 11 (2) of the RPC requires the same first two (2) requisites as self-defense and, in lieu of the third “in case the provocation was given by the person attacked, that the one making the defense had no part therein.”

Petitioners’ entire defense rests on proof that it was Jesus who initiated an assault by barging into the premises of petitioners’ residences, hacking Victor’s door, and threatening physical harm upon petitioners and their companions. That is, that unlawful aggression originated from Jesus.

Contrary to what a successful averment of self-defense or defense of a relative requires, petitioners offered nothing more than a self-serving, uncorroborated claim that Jesus appeared out of nowhere to go berserk in the vicinity of their homes. They failed to present independent and credible proof to back up their assertions. The Regional Trial Court noted that it was highly dubious that Jesus would go all the way to petitioners’ residences to initiate an attack for no apparent reason.

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