People v. Casas
People of the Philippines v. Benjamin Casas y Vintulan
G.R. No. 212565, February 25, 2015
Accused-appellant Casas was charged with the crime of Murder and Attempted Homicide under Articles 248 and 249 of the Revised Penal Code. The RTC and the CA convicted him of the crimes charged.
Records show that accused Casas went to a certain taho factory looking for a certain Jesus. Failing to find Jesus, he brandished a knife and stuck it into a pail used for making taho. As a result, Eligio, an employee of the factory confronted Casas and told him to get rid of the knife. Thereafter, Eligio and Casas had a fistfight. Consequently, Casas was able to regain the knife and stabbed Eligio twice while the latter was fleeing. While Casas was in pursuit of Eligio, he ran into Joel who tried to help Eligio with the use of a bamboo pole. However, Joel slipped and lay prostrate on the floor. There and then, Casas stabbed him twice who eventually died.
Accused-appellant interpose self-defense to justify his actions of stabbing both Joel and Eligio alleging that Joel challenged him to a fight and that he stabbed Eligio to protect himself.
Is the conviction of Casas for the crimes of Murder and Attempted Homicide proper?
YES and NO. The Court affirmed the accused-appellant’s conviction of Attempted Homicide but found the charge of Murder improper. The accused should only be guilty of the crime of Homicide on the killing of Joel.
The Court first rules on the existence of criminal liability. There can be no self-defense unless the victim committed unlawful aggression against the person who resorted to self-defense. It was Casas who was actually the aggressor, as he was the one who wielded a knife, brought it to bear on Eligio, then on Joel as he lay prostrate, and again on Eligio as he was fleeing. The initial fistfight between Eligio and Casas does not indicate that unlawful aggression was employed by the former against the latter considering that Eligio had already yielded from the brawl and, in fact, proceeded to flee. The moment the first aggressor runs away, unlawful aggression on the part of the first aggressor ceases to exist. The core element of unlawful aggression was not proven, thus, Casas’ claim of self-defense falters and his criminal liability stands.
The Court, however, disagrees that Casas should be convicted of the crime of Murder with respect to the death of Joel due to the prosecution’s failure to prove the existence of treachery. The essence of treachery is the sudden, unexpected, and unforeseen attack on the victim, without the slightest provocation on the latter’s part. The victim must not have known the peril he was exposed to at the moment of the attack. Should it appear, however, that the victim was forewarned of the danger he was in, and, instead of fleeing from it he met it and was killed as a result, then the qualifying circumstance of treachery cannot be appreciated. In this case, Joel was fully aware of the danger posed in assisting Eligio. He knew that Casas was armed with a knife and had just used the same on Eligio. Joel elected to intervene, and even armed himself with a bamboo pole. Accordingly, it is rather obvious that Joel was aware of the danger to his life. Hence, there can be no treachery. As such, accused-appellant is guilty only of the crimes of Homicide and Attempted Homicide.