Criminal Law

Rustia v. People G.R. No. 208351, October 05, 2016 Treachery, Murder

FACTS:

Ambrocio Cristin went to the Barangay Hall to meet accused-appellants in order to talk to them about the land that Cristin had bought from a certain Agcaoile. They were arguing when they left, and Accused-appellant Rustia, Jr. suddenly restrained the Cristin on his waist. Accused-appellants Rustia, Sr. and Faustino helped accused-appellant Rustia, Jr. restrain both hands of Cristin.

When the victim was lying on the ground, accused-appellant Rustia, Jr. took the victim’s gun, then cocked the gun and pointed it at the victim Cristin. The latter immediately raised his arms to surrender, saying, I will not fight. However, accused appellant Rustia, Jr. shot the victim Cristin.

Cristin died as a result of the gunshot wound on his neck.

Petitioners were charged with murder for the killing of the victim.

Rustia, Jr. invoked self-defense in killing the victim.

The RTC rendered judgment finding and pronouncing Rustia, Jr. guilty as principal in murder, and Rustia, Sr. and Faustino guilty as accomplices in murder.

The CA ruled that the defense was not established because no unlawful aggression could be attributable to the victim.

The RTC and the CA ruled that treachery was attendant based on the fact that the attack had been unexpected and sudden because it had been mounted at a time when Ambrocio was lying on the floor with his hands raised in surrender.

 

ISSUE:

Whether or not the crime was attended with Treachery.

 

RULING:

Treachery as an attendant circumstance must be alleged and established beyond reasonable doubt.

Treachery exists when the following elements are present:

(a) at the time of the attack, the victim was not in a position to defend himself; and

(b) the accused consciously and deliberately adopted the particular means, methods, or forms of attack employed by him.

Thus, it is not sufficient that the victim was unable to defend himself. The Prosecution must show that the accused consciously adopted such mode of attack to facilitate the perpetration of the killing without risk to himself.

The incident was precipitated by the heated argument between the petitioners and the victim. Tempers were already high when the four of them were leaving the barangay hall.

Taking into consideration everything leading up to that moment of Ambrocio being defenseless on the ground, we cannot justifiably state that Benjamin Rustia, Jr. had consciously and deliberately sought and brought about that situation to be advantageous to him. In our view, such situation was rather from pure happenstance, having resulted from their physical grappling.

Furthermore, all the circumstances in the record indicated that the killing of Ambrocio had been done in the heat of the moment. It is quite clear that Benjamin, Jr. had not set out to kill Ambrocio when they both agreed to meet in order to discuss their land dispute.

To establish the attendance of treachery in such an environment, the State’s evidence must competently and convincingly show that the accused made some preparation to kill the victim; hence, a killing done at the spur of the moment cannot be treacherous.

Even where the victim was shot from behind, if the shooting was done in the course of a heated argument between the victim and the assailant, treachery should not be appreciated, for in that situation, the assailant was filled with anger and rage and excitement, and had no time to reflect on his actions; in other words, he could not be shown to have consciously adopted the mode of attacking the victim from behind to facilitate the killing without risk to himself.

There being no treachery, the crime committed by Rustia, Jr. was only homicide.

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