[ G.R. No. 248130, December 02, 2020 ]
PRUDENCIO GANAL, JR. Y BADAJOS, PETITIONER, VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.
D E C I S I O N
This Petition for Review assails the following issuances of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR No. 41105 entitled "People of the Philippines v. Prudencio Ganal, Jr. y Badajos":
Decision dated March 27, 2019, affirming the trial court's conviction of petitioner for homicide but mitigated by passion and obfuscation and voluntary surrender; and
Resolution dated July 2, 2019, denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration.
By Information dated July 5, 2013, Prudencio Ganal, Jr. (petitioner) was charged with homicide for the death of Julwin Alvarez (Julwin), thus:
That on or about May 20, 2013 in the Municipality of Baggao, Province of Cagayan and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused PRUDENCIO GANAL y Badajos armed with a handgun, with intent to kill, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously attack, assault and shoot JULWIN ALVAREZ Y JAVIER thereby inflicting upon him gunshot wounds on the different parts of his body which caused his death.The case was raffled to the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 3, Tuguegarao City. On arraignment, petitioner pleaded "not guilty".
CONTRARY TO LAW.
Petitioner admitted the killing but invoked self-defense and defense of relative. Hence, the order of trial was reversed.
The testimonies of Barangay Captain Sherwin Mallo, Mario Ubina (Ubina), Florante Orden Castillo, Jr. (Castillo), Prudencio Ganal, Sr. (Ganal, Sr.), Erlinda Ganal, PO3 Erick Marcelino (PO3 Marcelino) and petitioner showed that about 7 o'clock in the evening of May 20, 2013, Castillo and Ubina were drinking Ginebra Kuatro Cantos in petitioner's house in Santor, Baggao, Cagayan. By 9:30 o'clock in the evening, petitioner's neighbor Angelo Follante (Angelo), arrived uninvited and insisted to join the drinking session. Petitioner refused because Angelo was already very drunk. Angelo then challenged petitioner to a fight but the latter advised him to just go home. Angelo got enraged and picked up stones to throw at petitioner but Ubina was quick to take the stones away. Petitioner eventually prevailed on Angelo and the latter left. Petitioner and his companions then resumed drinking.
Thirty (30) minutes later, stones were hurled at the roofs of the adjacent houses of petitioner and his father, Ganal, Sr. Ganal, Sr. went out to check and saw Angelo together with his uncle Julwin - the deceased. The two were in the middle of the road near the front gate. Ganal, Sr. approached and asked them to go home because his wife was suffering from hypertension and should not be disturbed. Julwin replied that he did not care if Ganal, Sr.'s wife died, he would kill all of them, including petitioner. Ganal, Sr. tried to pacify the two, assuring them that they would settle whatever problem they had the following day.
Julwin, then holding palm-sized stones in both hands, managed to push open the gate. As Ganal, Sr. tried to pull back the gate, Julwin hit him with a stone in the chest. Ganal, Sr. fell on the plant box made of hollow blocks and passed out.
Petitioner, from the main door of his house, saw what happened. Julwin, who had a knife tucked in his waistband and holding two (2) stones, advanced towards him. Petitioner thus rushed inside his house, got his gun, and fired a warning shot into the air. Ganal, Sr. this time had regained consciousness and hid near the gate. Angelo ran away but Julwin continued advancing towards him. When Julwin was about two (2) to three (3) meters away from him, petitioner thought that the victim was intent on killing him. Petitioner fired at Julwin, who in turn, pointed a finger at him, threatening to kill everyone inside the house. Afraid that Julwin would make good on his threat, petitioner fired all the rounds in his gun. Julwin fell within a meter from petitioner's door.
Petitioner borrowed the cellphone of his mother Erlinda Ganal and called the Baggao Police Station. He asked assistance from PO3 Marcelino and committed to surrender himself. When the police officers arrived, petitioner admitted he killed Julwin, turned over his gun, and voluntarily surrendered.
The Prosecution's Version
In the evening of May 20, 2013, feast day of the patron saint of Santor, Baggao, Cagayan, Angelo dropped by petitioner's house. On his way to petitioner's house, Angelo had in his pockets stones, around 2 inches in diameter, for driving away dogs along the way. When petitioner saw the stones, he ordered Angelo to surrender them and went to get his gun. Petitioner showed the gun to Angelo and told the latter to go home if he did not want any trouble.
Instead of going home, Angelo went to Julwin's house. He saw Julwin sitting on a rocking chair outside the house. After telling Julwin what happened, Angelo momentarily went inside the house but when he returned outside, Julwin was nowhere to be found. Angelo went out to look for Julwin and saw the latter walking toward petitioner's house and go through the slightly opened gate. Thereafter, petitioner and Julwin had a confrontation. Suddenly, petitioner shot Julwin in the chest. Angelo ran away in fear and heard three (3) more shots. Petitioner followed him so he ran to the house of one Gilbert Narag. Angelo later went back to Julwin's house when he heard that the latter's body was brought there by the police. The post mortem examination showed that Julwin died due to "severe hemorrhage secondary to multiple gunshot wounds and lacerations."
Amelia Alvarez, Julwin's wife, claimed that she incurred P114,000.00 for the wake and burial, P24,000.00 of which was for the funeral service as evidenced by the Contract of Service issued by St. Claire Funeral Homes. The remaining P90,000.00 was spent on groceries, pigs, tomb construction, transportation and funeral mass, which were not duly receipted. Julwin was a security guard at Candice Grocery in Tuguegarao City with a monthly salary of P5,000.00 until he resigned in December 2012. He also farmed corn on land less than a hectare in size with two (2) croppings. If lucky, his harvest was around 70-100 cavans, otherwise, it was less than 70 cavans.
By Judgment dated December 19, 2017, the trial court found petitioner guilty of homicide. It did not give credence to petitioner's claim of self-defense on the ground that the force he employed was not commensurate to Julwin's supposed unlawful aggression. The nature and number of wounds (5 bullet wounds and 2 lacerations) revealed petitioner's intent to kill. More, there was no incomplete self-defense because petitioner failed to present clear and convincing evidence that there was unlawful aggression on Julwin's part. Nor did it give credence to petitioner's claim of defense of property because the force employed by petitioner was not reasonably necessary. Petitioner could not also avail of defense of uncontrollable fear because he was unable to show that Julwin's actuations reduced petitioner to a mere instrument devoid of free will and acting merely out of compulsion.
The trial court credited petitioner "passion and obfuscation" and "voluntary surrender" but not "vindication of a grave offense," imposed the corresponding penalty, and granted civil indemnity and damages. Thus:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the court finds accused PRUDENCIO GANAL y Badajos, Jr. GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of HOMICIDE and applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, it hereby sentences him:
- To suffer an indeterminate prison sentence ranging from six (6) years prision correccional maximum as minimum to ten (10) years of prision mayor medium as maximum; and
- To pay the heirs of Julwin Alvarez y Javier the amounts of:
- P50,000.00 as death indemnity;
- P50,000.00 as moral damages and,
- P25,000.00 as temperate damages.
Proceedings Before the Court of Appeals
On appeal, petitioner faulted the trial court for rendering the verdict of conviction. In the main, he argued that the three (3) justifying circumstances of self-defense, defense of ascendant, and lawful defense of property rights should have been appreciated. Julwin was unlawfully aggressive towards his father, Ganal, Sr., pushing his way through the gate while carrying palm-sized stones in his hands and having a knife tucked in his waistband. Despite firing a warning shot, Julwin still continued advancing towards him while threatening to kill everyone in the house. The exempting circumstance of uncontrollable fear of an equal or greater injury can also be appreciated in his favor. In the alternative, incomplete self-defense may also be considered.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), through Assistant Solicitor General Diana Castañeda-De Vera and Associate Solicitor Alexis Joseph Noble, essentially countered that there was no unlawful aggression on Julwin's part and the means employed by petitioner to repel the imagined attack was not reasonable and commensurate to the supposed threat.
By its assailed Decision dated March 27, 2019, the Court of Appeals affirmed in full.
Petitioner sought reconsideration, which the Court of Appeals denied through its assailed Resolution dated July 2, 2019.
Petitioner seeks to reverse, via Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, the verdict of conviction for homicide rendered against him by the trial court, as affirmed by the Court of Appeals. He faults the courts below for disregarding the alleged clear evidence that it was Julwin who initiated the unlawful aggression when he smashed a large stone on his father's chest and shouted he would kill petitioner and his family. He asserts that he only shot Julwin when, even after his warning shot, the latter persisted in attacking him and his family. Thus, he insists that the justifying circumstances of self-defense and defense of relatives should be appreciated in his favor.
Petitioner invokes the first and second justifying circumstances under Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code, viz.:
ARTICLE 11. Justifying Circumstances. - The following do not incur any criminal liability:We note that petitioner's primary invocation is self-defense and his claim of defense of relative should be deemed subsumed therein. As it was, petitioner witnessed up close how Julwin threw stones onto the roofs of his and his father's houses, pushed his way through the gate, knocked petitioner's father unconscious, hitting the latter with a large stone on the chest, shouted threats that he would kill petitioner and his family, and advanced toward petitioner even after petitioner had already fired a warning shot. Clearly, petitioner was immediately put on the defensive when Julwin started disturbing the peace of his home and posing a risk to his safety and that of his family.
- 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.
- 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.
To successfully claim self-defense, an accused must satisfactorily prove these elements: (1) unlawful aggression; (2) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself or herself.
The first element, unlawful aggression, is present here. People v. Nugas explains the nature of unlawful aggression, thus:
Unlawful aggression on the part of the victim is the primordial element of the justifying circumstance of self-defense. Without unlawful aggression, there can be no justified killing in defense of oneself. The test for the presence of unlawful aggression under the circumstances is whether the aggression from the victim put in real peril the life or personal safety of the person defending himself; the peril must not be an imagined or imaginary threat. Accordingly, the accused must establish the concurrence of three elements of unlawful aggression, namely: (a) there must be a physical or material attack or assault; (b) the attack or assault must be actual, or, at least, imminent; and (c) the attack or assault must be unlawful.Actual or material unlawful aggression contemplates the offensive act of using physical force or weapon which positively determines the intent of the aggressor to cause the injury. Here, Julwin committed a series of offensive acts that patently revealed his intent to harm petitioner.
Unlawful aggression is of two kinds: (a) actual or material unlawful aggression; and (b) imminent unlawful aggression. Actual or material unlawful aggression means an attack with physical force or with a weapon, an offensive act that positively determines the intent of the aggressor to cause the injury. Imminent unlawful aggression means an attack that is impending or at the point of happening; it must not consist in a mere threatening attitude, nor must it be merely imaginary, but must be offensive and positively strong (like aiming a revolver at another with intent to shoot or opening a knife and making a motion as if to attack). Imminent unlawful aggression must not be a mere threatening attitude of the victim, such as pressing his right hand to his hip where a revolver was holstered, accompanied by an angry countenance, or like aiming to throw a pot. (Emphasis supplied)
The test is whether the aggression from the victim puts in real peril the life or personal safety of the person defending himself or herself; the peril must not be an imagined threat. Here, the attendant circumstances indubitably speak of the real and palpable peril posed by Julwin on the lives and limbs of petitioner and his father. The peril was certainly far from fiction or imaginary.
Stones were hurled at the roofs of the adjacent houses of petitioner and his father, Ganal, Sr. Ganal, Sr. went out to check and saw Angelo in the company of his uncle Julwin - the deceased. The two were in the middle of the road near the front gate. Ganal, Sr. approached and asked them to go home because his wife was suffering from hypertension and should not be disturbed. Julwin replied that he did not care if Ganal, Sr.'s wife died, he would kill all of them, including petitioner. Ganal, Sr. tried to pacify the two, assuring them that they would settle whatever problem they had the following day.
Julwin, then holding palm-sized stones in both hands, managed to push open the gate. As Ganal, Sr. tried to pull back the gate, Julwin hit him with a stone on the chest. Ganal, Sr. fell on the plant box made of hollow blocks and passed out.
Petitioner, from the main door of his house, saw what happened. Julwin, who had a knife tucked in his waistband and holding two (2) stones, started to advance toward him. Petitioner thus rushed inside his house, got his gun, and fired a warning shot into the air. Ganal, Sr. this time had regained consciousness and hid near the gate. Angelo ran away but Julwin just continued moving closer and closer to petitioner who then was constrained to shoot him once. But still Julwin did not retreat. He just kept moving closer, this time even threatening to kill everyone inside petitioner's house. Responding to the situation, petitioner then used up all the four (4) bullets on Julwin who, as a result, fell dead just within a meter from petitioner's door.
The third element of self-defense, lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself or herself, is also present here. In fact, both the prosecution and defense were one in saying that it was Julwin who went to petitioner's house and instigated the incident.
As for the second element, reasonable necessity of the means employed, we disagree with the trial court and the Court of Appeals, and hold that the same is likewise present. People v. Olarbe extensively discussed how courts may determine the reasonable necessity of the means employed:
In judging pleas of self-defense and defense of stranger, the courts should not demand that the accused conduct himself with the poise of a person not under imminent threat of fatal harm. He had no time to reflect and to reason out his responses. He had to be quick, and his responses should be commensurate to the imminent harm. This is the only way to judge him, for the law of nature - the foundation of the privilege to use all reasonable means to repel an aggression that endangers one's own life and the lives of others - did not require him to use unerring judgment when he had the reasonable grounds to believe himself in apparent danger of losing his life or suffering great bodily injury. The test is whether his subjective belief as to the imminence and seriousness of the danger was reasonable or not, and the reasonableness of his belief must be viewed from his standpoint at the time he acted. The right of a person to take life in self-defense arises from his belief in the necessity for doing so; and his belief and the reasonableness thereof are to be judged in the light of the circumstances as they then appeared to him, not in the light of circumstances as they would appear to others or based on the belief that others may or might entertain as to the nature and imminence of the danger and the necessity to kill.Here, though petitioner inflicted five (5) bullet wounds and two (2) lacerations on Julwin, the number of wounds alone should not automatically lead to the conclusion that there was a determined effort on petitioner's part to kill the victim. Petitioner was overcome by the instinct of self-preservation on seeing that Julwin brashly entered into his property and even knocked his father unconscious for getting in the way. Julwin was determined to inflict injury on petitioner - he brought two (2) large stones and knife for the purpose.
The remaining elements of the justifying circumstances were likewise established.
Reasonable necessity of the means employed to repel the unlawful aggression does not mean absolute necessity. It must be assumed that one who is assaulted cannot have sufficient tranquility of mind to think, calculate and make comparisons that can easily be made in the calmness of reason. The law requires rational necessity, not indispensable need. In each particular case, it is necessary to judge the relative necessity, whether more or less imperative, in accordance with the rules of rational logic. The accused may be given the benefit of any reasonable doubt as to whether or not he employed rational means to repel the aggression.
In determining the reasonable necessity of the means employed, the courts may also look at and consider the number of wounds inflicted. A large number of wounds inflicted on the victim can indicate a determined effort on the part of the accused to kill the victim and may belie the reasonableness of the means adopted to prevent or repel an unlawful act of an aggressor. x x x
The courts ought to remember that a person who is assaulted has neither the time nor the sufficient tranquility of mind to think, calculate and choose the weapon to be used. For, in emergencies of this kind, human nature does not act upon processes of formal reason but in obedience to the instinct of self-preservation; and when it is apparent that a person has reasonably acted upon this instinct, it is the duty of the courts to hold the actor not responsible in law for the consequences. Verily, the law requires rational equivalence, not material commensurability, viz.:
It is settled that reasonable necessity of the means employed does not imply material commensurability between the means of attack and defense. What the law requires is rational equivalence, in the consideration of which will enter the principal factors the emergency, the imminent danger to which the person attacked is exposed, and the instinct, more than the reason, that moves or impels the defense, and the proportionateness thereof does not depend upon the harm done, but rests upon the imminent danger of such injury. (Emphasis supplied)
Faced by a determined and prepared foe, petitioner, who was simply drinking with his friends, suddenly found himself in a situation where he had to defend himself and his family from serious harm or even death. Notably, petitioner first tried to simply scare off Julwin by firing a warning shot. Julwin was unfazed and still continued to advance toward him with malevolent intent. And even after petitioner shot Julwin, the latter did not even falter but instead threatened to kill petitioner and his family. How does one react to such a terrifying situation? Petitioner must have thought that his actions were so futile because Julwin was still standing there and shouting threats. Petitioner, at that instant, must have felt he had to end it once and for all - kill or be killed. So, he shot Julwin four (4) more times until the latter fell just a meter away from him. To repeat "the right of a person to take life in self-defense arises from his belief in the necessity for doing so; and his belief and the reasonableness thereof are to be judged in the light of the circumstances as they then appeared to him, not in the light of circumstances as they would appear to others or based on the belief that others may or might entertain as to the nature and imminence of the danger and the necessity to kill."
Indeed, petitioner must be exonerated for he had acted only in self-defense.
ACCORDINGLY, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision dated March 27, 2019 and Resolution dated July 2, 2019 in CA-G.R. CR NO. 41105 of the Court of Appeals are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner PRUDENCIO GANAL, JR. is ACQUITTED of HOMICIDE on ground of the justifying circumstance of self-defense.
Gesmundo,* (Acting Chairperson), Lopez, and Rosario,** JJ., concur.
Perlas-Bernabe, Senior Associate Justice, (Chairperson), on official leave.
* Acting Chairperson vice Senior Associate Justice Perlas-Bernabe.
** Designated additional member per S.O. No. 2797, dated November 5, 2020.
 Penned by Associate Justice Priscilla J. Baltazar-Padilla (retired Member of this Court) and concurred in by Associate Justices Germano Francisco D. Legaspi and Ronaldo Roberto B. Martin, all members of the Special 13th Division, rollo, pp. 32-44.
 Id. at 46-47.
 Id. at 32.
 Id. at 63.
 Id. at 63-64.
 Id. at 64.
 Id. at 64-65.
 Id. at 65.
 Id. at 65-66.
 Id. at 33.
 Id. at 34.
 Id. at 61-74.
 Id. at 66-71.
 Id. at 71-72.
 Id. at 73-74.
 Id. at 50-58.
 Id. at 77-88.
 Supra note 1.
 Supra note 2.
 See People v. Dulin, 762 Phil. 24, 36 (2015).
 677 Phil.168, 177-178 (2011).
 Supra note 6.
 Supra note 8.
 Supra note 21.
 G.R. No. 227421, July 23, 2018.