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[ GR No. 5418, Feb 12, 1910 ]



15 Phil. 196

[ G. R. No. 5418, February 12, 1910 ]




The defendant in this case was accused of the crime of murder committed, as alleged in the information, as follows:
"That on or about the 26th day of January of this year, the said accused, with the intention  of  killing Feliciano Sanchez, invited him to hunt wild chickens, and, upon reaching the forest, with premeditation shot him in the breast with a shotgun which destroyed the heart and killed the said Sanchez,  and afterwards, in order to hide the crime, buried the body of the deceased in a well.  The motive is unknown.  The premeditation consists in that the accused had prepared  his plans to take the deceased to the forest, there to kill him, so that no one could  see it, and to bury him  afterwards secretly in  order that the crime should remain unpunished."
The defendant was found guilty of homicide by the Court of First Instance of the Province of Tarlac and sentenced to fourteen years eight months and one  day of reclusion temporal, accessories, indemnification and costs.  The defendant appealed.

There is very little dispute about the facts in this case, in fact no dispute  at all as  to the important facts.  The accused was a landowner.  On the morning of the 26th of January,  1909,  he, with Bernardino Tagampa, Casimiro Pascual, Valeriano Paulillo,  and Juan Arellano, went to work on a malecon or  dam  on his land.  The defendant took with him a shotgun and a few shells, with the intention to hunt wild chickens after he had set his laborers at work.  He remained with his laborers  an hour or so and then went a short distance away across a stream to see how the alteration  which he had made in  the  malecon affected the flow of water from the rice field on the other  side of the stream.  He carried his  shotgun with  him across  the stream.  On the other side of the stream  he  met the  deceased, who, with his mother and uncle, had been living in a small shack for a month or so during the rice-harvesting reason.   The accused asked the uncle of the deceased where htf could  find a good place in which to hunt wild chickens. The  uncle  was lying on the floor in the  interior of  the shack sick  of fever.  The deceased, a young man about 20 years of age, was working at something under a manga tree a short distance from the shack.  Although the accused directed  his question to the uncle inside of the shack,  the deceased answered the question and pointed out in a general way  a portion of the forest near the edge  of  which  stood the shack.   There is some contradiction between the testimony of the accused  and  the Government witnesses just at this point.  The uncle of the deceased testified that  the boy and  the accused invited  each  other  mutually to hunt wild chickens and that the accused accepted the invitation. The  accused, however, testified that he  did not invite  the deceased to go hunting with him, neither did the deceased go with  him, but that  he remained under the manga tree "tying something."   At any rate the accused went into  the forest with his gun.  What took place  there  is unknown to anybody except the accused.  Upon that subject he testified as follows:
"And after Feliciano Sanchez pointed out that place to me, that place where the wild chickens  were to be found, I proceeded to hunt, because, in the first place, if I  could kill some wild chickens  we would have  something to  eat on that day.  So when I  arrived at that  place I saw a wild chicken and I shot him.  And after I shot that  chicken I heard a  human  cry.  I  picked up the  chicken and  went near the place where I heard the noise, and  after I saw that I had wounded a man I went back toward the malecon, where  my  companions were  working, running back, and when I arrived there I left my shotgun behind  or by a tree not far from where my companions were working; and I called Bernardino Tagampa to tell him about the occurrence, and to him I told of that occurrence because he is my friend and besides that he was a relative of the deceased, and when Tagampa heard  of this he and myself went together to see the dead body."
Only one shot was  heard that  morning and  a chicken was killed by a gunshot wound.   Chicken  feathers were found in considerable quantities at the point where  the chicken  was shot and where the  accident occurred.  The defendant within a few minutes after the  accident went out of the woods to the malecon  where he had left  his laborers at work, carrying the dead chicken with him.  The accused  called Bernardino Tagampa, one of the laborers, to go with him and they disappeared for some time.   Tagampa says that they  went a little way toward  the woods and came back.  The  accused says that they went to  the place where the body  of the deceased lay and removed it to a place in the cogon grass where it would not be easily observed.  It is certain, however,  that the body was concealed in the cogon grass.  During the afternoon Tagampa left the malecon, where his fellow laborers were working, probably to hunt for a place in which to hide  the body. The rest of the laborers saw the witness Yumul take  the chicken which had been killed by the accused.  He delivered it to the  wife of the accused, who testified that she received the chicken from Yumul and that  it had been killed by a gunshot  wound.  That evening the accused  and Tagampa went  together to dispose  of the body finally.  They took it from the cogon grass where it lay concealed and carried it about  seventeen or  eighteen  hundred meters  from  the place  where it  had originally fallen,  and buried it in an old well, covering it with straw and earth  and burning straw on top bf the well for the purpose of concealing it. Tagampa said that he helped the  accused dispose  of  the body because he was afraid of him,  although he admits that the accused in no way  threatened or sought to compel him to do so.   The defendant prior to the trial denied all knowledge of the death of the deceased or the whereabouts of the body.   On the trial, however, he confessed his participation in the death of the deceased and told the story substantially as above.

So far as can  be ascertained from the evidence the prior relations between the accused and the deceased  had  been normal.  The deceased was a tenant on land belonging to a  relative  of  the accused.   There was no enmity and  no unpleasant relations between them. No attempt was made to show any.  There appears to have been no motive whatever for the commission of  the crime.  The  Government has not attempted to show any.   The only possible reason that the  accused could have for killing the deceased would be found in the fact of a sudden quarrel between them during the hunt.  That idea is wholly negatived by the fact that the  chicken and the man were shot at the same time, there having been only one shot fired.

Article 1 of the Penal Code says:
"Crimes or misdemeanors  are voluntary acts and omissions punished by law.

"Acts  and omissions  punished by law  are  always  presumed to be voluntary unless the contrary shall appear."
Article 8, subdivision 8, reads as follows:
"He who, while performing a legal act with due care, causes some injury by mere accident without  liability  or intention of causing it."
Section 57 of  the Code of Criminal Procedure is as follows :
"A defendant  in a criminal action shall be presumed  to be innocent until the contrary is proved, and in case  of a reasonable doubt that his guilt is satisfactorily shown  he shall be entitled to an acquittal."
The American doctrine is substantially  the same.  It  is uniformly held that if life is taken by misfortune or accident while in the performance of a lawful act executed with due c$re and without intention of  doing  harm, there is no criminal  liability.  (Tidwell vs.  State, 70 Ala., 33; State vs. Benham, 23  Ia., 154, 92 Am. Dec, 417; Bertrong vs. State, 2 Tex. Ap., 160; Williamson vs. State, 2 Ohio C. C, 292; U. S. vs. Heather, 37 Fed. Rep., 875; U. S. vs. Castro, Fed. Cas., 14752; State vs. Legg, 3 L. R. A., N. S., 1152.)

In this case there is absolutely no evidence of negligence upon the part of the accused.  Neither is there any question that he was engaged in the commission of a lawful act when the accident occurred.   Neither is there any evidence of the intention of the accused to cause the death of the deceased. The only thing in the case at all suspicious upon the part of the defendant are his concealment and denial.

In the  case of the State vs. Legg, above referred to, it is said (p. 1165):
"Where accidental killing is relied upon as a defense, the accused is not required to prove such a defense by a preponderance  of the evidence, because there is a denial of intentional killing, and the burden is upon  the State to show that it was intentional, and if, from a consideration of all the evidence, both that for the State and the prisoner, there is  a  reasonable doubt  as  to whether  or not  the killing was accidental or intentional, the jury should acquit. *'  *   *   But where accidental killing is  relied upon, the prisoner admits the killing but denies that it  was intentional.   Therefore, the State must show that  it was intentional, and it is clearly error to instruct the jury that the defendant must show  that it was an accident by a preponderance of the testimony, and instruction B in the  Cross case was properly held to be erroneous."
In 3 L. R. A., N. S., page 1163, it is said:
"Evidence of misadventure  gives  rise to an  important issue in a prosecution for homicide, which must be submitted to  the jury.  And since a plea of misadventure is a denial  of criminal intent (or its equivalent)  which constitutes  an   essential  element in  criminal homicide,  to warrant  a conviction it must be negatived by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt."
In support of such contention the author cites a number of cases.

We are of the opinion that the evidence is insufficient to support the judgment of conviction.

The judgment of conviction is, therefore, reversed, the defendant acquitted, and his discharge from  custody ordered, costs de oficio.  So ordered.

Arellano, C. J., Torres, Mapa, and Johnson, JJ., concur.



I concur.

I  am  in entire agreement with the conclusions of the majority in this case.

I think it proper to state, nevertheless, that the doctrine laid down in  the somewhat loosely worded West Virginia case of State vs. Legg, cited in  the majority opinion, and in the citation from 3 L.  R. A., N. S., can not be said to be in conformity with the general doctrine in this jurisdiction, as laid down in the decisions of  this court, without considerable modification and restriction limiting  its scope to cases wherein it is properly applicable.