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[ GR No. 7368, Sep 03, 1912 ]



23 Phil. 132

[ G. R. No. 7368, September 03, 1912 ]




This defendant was charged  with the crime of assassination, alleged to have been committed as follows: 

"That in one of the months of the year 1898, in the municipality of Floridablanca,  Province of Pampanga,  said accused did willfully, unlawfully and criminally, in company with Isaac Gramonte, with wanton cruelty, treachery,  premeditation, abuse of superior strength and in an uninhabited place kill Mariano Vicente: having  tied him  up  by the hands and so taken him to the  woods, they did at one and the same time slash him with the bolos they carried until they left him inanimate and lifeless; in violation of law."

After hearing the evidence, the Honorable Julio Llorente, judge, found the defendant guilty of the crime charged, with the  aggravating circumstances  of alevosia and  premeditacion - 

"But considering that the affair  happened at  a time of disorder and the degree  of  education of the accused, to whom should be given the benefit of race of article 11 of the Penal Code, the penalty must be imposed in its medium degree - "

and sentenced the defendant to be imprisoned for the period of his natural life, with the accessory penalties of the  law, to indemnify the heirs  of the  offended party in the  sum of Pl,000, and to pay the costs.

From that sentence the defendant appealed.

During the  trial of the cause the  defendant practically admitted that he had taken some indirect part in the killing of the said Mariano  Vicente and  claimed for himself the benefit of the Amnesty Proclamation of July 4, 1902.

The prosecution undertook to prove that  the  crime was committed some time  in the year 1898.

The defendant attempted to prove by his witnesses that Mariano Vicente was a spy and was killed by the revolutionary soldiers in the year 1899.  The lower court found that Vicente had been killed in 1898.  There is no positive proof whatever in the record showing that Mariano Vicente was killed in the year 1898.

The first witness, Hermogenes Gramonte, testified  that upon one occasion Mariano Vicente  was at his house and that Victor Dula, the defendant, and Isaac  Gramonte came there and manacled Vicente and  carried  him across an estero and that he never saw Vicente thereafter.

It will be noted, from an examination of the declarations of Hermogenes, that it is  made to appear that the acts of the defendant, together with those of Isaac  Gramonte,  took place in the year 1898, but a careful reading of his declarations will show that every time the  year 1898 is used the same is put into  his mouth by the  prosecuting  attorney. Nowhere, in  any part of his declaration,  does  he swear positively that Victor Dula and Isaac Gramonte came to his house and manacled Mariano Vicente and carried him away in the year 1898.  The  prosecuting attorney  of the Province of Pampanga was constantly putting  into the mouth of the witness the  year 1898.  It would be difficult to find a case where the rule, that leading questions  should not be permitted, was more frequently violated than in the present case, in the examination of  the witnesses for the prosecution by the prosecuting attorney.  For example, we find the following questions, presented by the fiscal, which demonstrate how the prosecuting attorney  was constantly leading the witness  with  reference to  the  time  when the crime was committed: 

"Fiscal. Do you remember in one  of  the months  of the year 1898 to have seen a certain Mariano Vicente? 

"Fiscal. At  that time, that is, in the  year 1898, do you know in what barrio Mariano Vicente lived? 

"Fiscal. Do you  know  where Mariano Vicente's house was in the year 1898? 

"Fiscal. In what way were you acquainted with Mariano. Vicente back there in the year 1898 when that affair happened?"

Nowhere, from one end of the declaration to the other of the witness Hermogenes Gramonte, does he state, except as the words are put into his mouth, that the crime was committed in the year 1898.

Another illustration showing how the prosecuting attorney violated the rule that leading questions are not permissible is as follows: 

"Fiscal. What are  the names of those two persons who went into your house at the time when Mariano Vicente also was there?"

Prior  to this question there had been no  intimation by question or answer or otherwise that two persons  or any other number of persons had entered the house of Hermogenes Gramonte on the occasion when Mariano Vicente was manacled and carried away.   The prosecuting attorney did not seem willing to allow the witnesses  to relate  the facts as they occurred, nor did he seem to have patience to wait until the witnesses could recall the facts and relate them as they occurred.  He seemed to be anxious  constantly to lead  the witnesses and to place in their mouths the facts which  he desired to have appear of record.   As  was said above,  it would be difficult to find a case where the witness was more directly led into giving declarations such as the prosecuting attorney  desired him to make  than  in  the present case.

It  will  be noted also that the errors  committed  by  the use of leading and direct  questions on the part  of  the prosecuting attorney were but little corrected on behalf of the attorney for the defense.   He seems  to have fallen into exactly the same error.  It will be impossible for the courts to arrive at the real facts in any case and to be able to do justice if leading questions such as were permitted in  the present case shall be tolerated.

We find in the declaration of Esteban de los Santos, the second witness called for the prosecution, that practically the same errors were committed.  The prosecuting attorney here again is constantly placing in the mouth of the witness the fact that the crime was committed in  the year  1898, without giving the  witness, who claims  to have been an eyewitness  of the acts complained  of, an  opportunity to relate the facts as he saw them and as he remembered them. The prosecuting attorney did not give this witness (Esteban de los Santos) an opportunity to relate what he saw and give the place and time of the occurrence of what he saw, but insisted upon putting into the witness's mouth the year 1898. We have the following questions which illustrate this  fact: 

"Fiscal. Do you remember in what barrio you were living in the year 1898? 

"Fiscal. Do you remember in that year 1898, in one of the months thereof, to have seen a certain Mariano Vicente in some part of that barrio Malabu ?"

In no part of the declaration of this  witness does  he declare that Mariano Vicente was killed in  the year 1898, except  as that year is  placed  in  his  mouth by leading questions.   Finally and after the witness had stated positively that Mariano Vicente  had been  killed by the defendants and  others in the year 1898, by  reason of the prosecuting  attorney having placed in his mouth the year 1898, the said prosecuting attorney asked  him the question directly if he  remembered the year in which occurred the facts which  he had referred to and  the witness said: "I've forgotten because a long time has now elapsed."   (Record, p. 42.)  Which answer clearly indicates that he was unconsciously swearing to  the fact that the crime was committed in the year  1898.  Moreover, except for the admissions of the defendant and his  witnessses, we find no proof in the record showing that Mariano Vicente was killed at all.  The only proof adduced by the prosecuting attorney relating to the charges  contained in the complaint in  effect is the fact that some time the defendant, Victor Dula, and Isaac  Gramonte came to the house of Hermogenes  Gramonte where Mariano Vicente  was and manacled him  and  carried him away  and that thereafter  Vicente  had never been seen.

The defendant himself and  his witnesses admit that Mariano Vicente was manacled and carried away and killed; they attempt to  prove that  the murder took place in the year 1899; they attempt to show that Mariano Vicente was a spy; that he was constantly reporting, to the enemies of the  revolutionists, facts which they claimed to be  to their prejudice and that the chief of the insurrectos ordered that Mariano  Vicente  be  killed for  the  reason  that he was a spy.

We believe that no one can read the record in the present case without being convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that whether or not Mariano Vicente was a spy, he was killed by the defendant and others for the reason that the latter believed that he was  a spy.  Hermogenes  Gramonte,  the leading witness for the prosecution, admitted that Mariano Vicente had no profession;  that he did not know where Mariano Vicente lived; that he was found at different times in different parts  of the province, without apparently any means of support whatever during the time of the revolution.  The witness Esteban de" los Santos also testified that while he knew Mariano Vicente, he did not  know what his occupation was at that time.

It seems clear, from a careful examination of the record, that Mariano Vicente was killed as the result of an internal political  feud or.  dissension  existing among the Filipino people themselves, growing out of an insurrection which existed in the Philippine Islands during the years 1898 and 1899, and that, therefore, the defendant is  entitled to the benefit of the Amnesty Proclamation issued by Theodore Roosevelt, then President of the United States, on  the 4th of July, 1902.

The sentence of the lower court is therefore hereby  reversed, the complaint against the defendant is hereby  ordered dismissed and the defendant is hereby discharged from the custody of the law, with costs de oficio.  So ordered.

Mapa, Carson and Trent, JJ., concur.
Arellano, C. J., dissents.
Judgment reversed; defendant entitled to  amnesty.