Criminal Law

PEOPLE v. DECENA G.R. No. 107874 August 4, 1994 Self-defense v. Retaliation


On Christmas Day of 1990, at around 4:00 P.M., Luzviminda, the 14-year old daughter of the victim testified that she was playing with her siblings at home, when she was asked by her mother to fetch her father, Jaime Ballesteros, who was then watching a game in the basketball court. On her way, Luzviminda met her father walking home in an intoxicated state. 

Suddenly, she saw appellant rushing towards her father with a long bladed weapon, prompting Luzviminda to warn her father to run for safety. Instead, Jaime simply raised his hand, thus allowing appellant to stab him on the right chest. 

Jaime was rushed to the hospital where he was declared dead on arrival. 

A different account of the incident was presented by the defense. 

The defense claimed that at about 4:00 P.M., appellant was watching a basketball game. The victim, Jaime Ballesteros, went around the basketball court, walking in a wobbly manner due to drunkenness. Jaime stopped near the place where appellant was sitting and, for no apparent reason, held the latter by the neck with one arm and, at the same time, poking a fork against it with the other arm. Barangay Tanod Romeo Decena who was also watching the basketball game, intervened. He took the fork from Jaime and advised appellant to go home. The latter left and was followed later by Jaime.

Fernando Biala, an uncle of appellant, additionally testified that while he was walking on the barangay road, he chanced upon Jaime attacking appellant with a balisong. He claimed that during the struggle between appellant and Jaime, appellant overpowered Jaime, and succeeded in twisting the wrist of the victim and thrusting the knife into the latter’s body.


Whether or not appellant acted in complete self-defense in killing Jaime Ballesteros, as claimed, thus absolving him from criminal liability.


The basic requirement for self-defense, as a justifying circumstance, is that there was an unlawful aggression against the person defending himself. It must be positively shown that there was a previous unlawful and unprovoked attack that placed the life of the accused in danger and forced him to inflict more or less severe wounds upon his assailant, employing therefor reasonable means to resist said attack.  

Long has it been accepted that for the right of defense to exist, it is necessary that one be assaulted or that he be attacked, or at least that he be threatened with an attack in an immediate manner.

So indispensable is unlawful aggression in self-defense that, without it, there is no occasion to speak of the other two requisites for such a defense because both circumstances presuppose an unlawful aggression.

The theory of the defense is that the unlawful aggression started in the basketball court, when the victim tried to poke a fork on the neck of appellant, and continued thereafter. Even on the elementary rule that when the aggressor leaves, the unlawful aggression ceases, it follows that when appellant and Jaime heeded the advice of the barangay tanod for them to go home, the unlawful aggression had ended. 

Consequently, since unlawful aggression no longer existed, appellant had no right whatsoever to kill or even wound the former aggressor. The supposed continuation of the unlawful aggression which could have justified self-defense would have been the circumstance that Jaime persisted in his design to attack appellant while the latter was already in front of his house. This fact, however, the defense ruefully failed to establish.

The case at bar calls to mind the scenario and logical view that when a person had inflicted slight physical injuries on another, without any intention to inflict other injuries, and the latter attacked the former, the one making the attack was an unlawful aggressor. The attack made was evidently a retaliation. And, we find this an opportune occasion to emphasize that retaliation is different from an act of self-defense. In retaliation, the aggression that was begun by the injured party already ceased to exist when the accused attacked him. In self-defense, the aggression was still existing when the aggressor was injured or disabled by the person making a defense. 

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