Criminal Law,  Legally Yours

People v. Fieldad

Criminal Law. Elements of carnapping. Murder (treachery). Uncontrollable fear as exempting circumstance.
People of the Philippines v. Charlie Fieldad, Ryan Cornista and Edgar Pimentel
G.R. No. 196005, October 1, 2014
Carpio, Acting C.J.:

FACTS:
Accused-appellants Charlie Fieldad, Ryan Cornista, and Edgar Pimentel are detention prisoners who are charged with the murder of two jail guards and for carnapping. The RTC and the CA found petitioners guilty of the crimes charged.

Records show that Julius Chan went to the nipa hut to ask JO2 Gamboa regarding the time of his hearing scheduled for that day. JO2 Niturada answered the telephone in the administration building and upon returning, he saw Chan place an arm on the shoulder of JO2 Gamboa, who was seated, and Chan shot the latter with a short firearm.

Meanwhile, Fieldad and Cornista grappled with JO1 Bacolor for the possession of an Armalite. Cornista struck JO1 Bacolor at the back of the head, which caused the latter to fall down. Fieldad, armed with JO2 Gamboa’s gun, shot JO1 Bacolor twice. Florante Leal took the Armalite from JO1 Bacolor and shot at JO2 Niturada. JO2 Niturada returned fire with his .38 caliber handgun.

Once outside the jail compound, Fieldad, Leal, Cornista, and Pimentel boarded a parked Tamaraw jeep belonging to Benjamin Bauzon, without the latter’s knowledge and consent. They picked up Federico Delim (Delim) and Chan along the way. The group then transferred to a Mazda pick-up truck. Eventually, they abandoned the vehicle and ran towards a cane field where they were arrested.

Appellants deny any criminal liability. Anent the crime of carnapping, they allege that they were under the influence of uncontrollable fear from Leal, who forced them to take the Tamaraw jeep to facilitate his flight from jail. With regards to the crime of murder, accused-appellants allege that the prosecution failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt and that there can be no treachery in the case since the jail guards were all issued with firearms to protect themselves from danger.

ISSUE:
Are the petitioners guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and carnapping?

HELD:
YES, the guilt of the petitioners is proven beyond reasonable doubt. Appellant argued that there can be no treachery since “the jail guards were all issued with firearms to protect themselves from danger and to maintain peace and order within the compound.” This argument is untenable.

There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against the person, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and especially to ensure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might take.

In the instant case, despite being armed, the jail officers were not afforded any chance of defending themselves. Without warning, Fieldad and his cohorts disabled the defenses of the jail officers. Chan held the shoulder of JO2 Gamboa as he shot the latter. Meanwhile, Fieldad teamed-up with Cornista to divest JO1 Bacolor of his Armalite, and to knock him down. Then Fieldad took JO2 Gamboa’s gun and shot JO1 Bacolor. Hence, there is treachery.

Anent the crime of carnapping, the prosecution likewise proved all the elements of the offense in this case. The elements of the crime of carnapping are that: (1) there is an actual taking of the vehicle; (2) the offender intends to gain from the taking of the vehicle; (3) the vehicle belongs to a person other than the offender himself; and (4) the taking is without the consent of the owner thereof, or it was committed by means of violence against or intimidation of persons, or by using force upon things.

All the elements of carnapping are present in this case. Both appellants admitted that they boarded the Tamaraw jeep and drove away in it. The owner of the vehicle, Benjamin Bauzon, testified that he did not consent to the taking of his vehicle by appellants.

The defense of uncontrollable fear is likewise untenable. A person invoking uncontrollable fear must show that the compulsion was such that it reduced him to a mere instrument acting not only without will but against his will as well. It is necessary that the compulsion be of such a character as to leave no opportunity to escape or self-defense in equal combat.

In this case, appellants had ample opportunity to escape. In the first place, Leal was already armed when Fieldad voluntarily followed him to the place where the Tamaraw jeep was parked. The vehicle stopped three times: to board Delim; to board Chan; and when they stopped to transfer vehicles. The circumstances under which appellants participated in the commission of the carnapping would not justify in any way their claim that they acted under an uncontrollable fear of being killed by their fellow carnapper. Rather, the circumstances establish the fact that appellants, in their flight from jail, consciously concurred with the other malefactors to take the Tamaraw jeep without the consent of its owner.

Hence, with all the foregoing, the accused-appellants are guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of murder and of carnapping.

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