G.R. No. 138453 May 29, 2002
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, appellee,
MELECIO ROBIÑOS y DOMINGO, appellant.
Where the law prescribes a penalty consisting of two indivisible penalties, as in the present case for parricide with unintentional abortion, the lesser one shall be applied in the absence of any aggravating circumstances. Hence, the imposable penalty here is reclusion perpetua, not death.
For automatic review by this Court is the April 16, 1999 Decision1 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Camiling, Tarlac (Branch 68), in Criminal Case No. 95-45, finding Melecio Robiños2 y Domingo guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the complex crime of parricide with unintentional abortion and sentencing him to death. The decretal portion of the Decision reads as follows:
“WHEREFORE, finding accused Melecio Robiños guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the complex crime of parricide with unintentional abortion, this Court hereby renders judgment sentencing him to suffer the penalty of DEATH by lethal injection. He is also ordered to pay P50,000.00 as civil indemnity for the death of the victim; and P22,800.00 s actual damages.”3
In an Information dated May 31, 1995,4 appellant was accused of killing his pregnant wife and the fetus inside her. It reads thus:
“That on or about March 25, 1995 at around 7:00 a.m. in Brgy. San Isidro, Municipality of Camiling, Province of Tarlac, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused Melecio Robinos, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously stab by means of a bladed knife 8 inches long, his legitimate wife Lorenza Robinos, who was, then six (6) months pregnant causing the instantaneous death of said Lorenza Robinos, and the fetus inside her womb.”5
When arraigned on July 27, 1995, appellant, with the assistance of his counsel,6 pleaded not guilty.7 After due trial, the RTC convicted him.
Version of the Prosecution
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) narrates the prosecution’s version of how appellant assaulted his pregnant wife, culminating in a brutal bloodbath, as follows:
“1. On March 25, 1995, at around seven o’clock in the morning, fifteen-year old Lorenzo Robiños was in his parents’ house at Barangay San Isibro in Camiling, Tarlac. While Lorenzo was cooking, he heard his parents, appellant Melecio Robiños and the victim Lorenza Robiños, who were at the sala, quarrelling.
“2. Lorenzo heard his mother tell appellant, ‘Why did you come home, why don’t you just leave?’ After hearing what his mother said, Lorenzo, at a distance of about five meters, saw appellant, with a double-bladed knife, stab Lorenza on the right shoulder. Blood gushed from where Lorenza was hit and she fell down on the floor. Upon witnessing appellant’s attack on his mother, Lorenzo immediately left their house and ran to his grandmother’s house where he reported the incident.1âwphi1.nêt
“3. At around eight o’clock in the morning of the same day, Benjamin Bueno, the brother of the victim Lorenza Robiños, was at the house of his mother Remedios Bueno at Barangay San Isidro. Benjamin, a resident of Barangay Mabilang in Paniqui, Tarlac, went to his mother’s house for the purpose of informing his relatives that on the evening of March 24, 1995, appellant had killed his uncle, Alejandro Robiños, at Barangay Mabilang. However while Benjamin was at his mother’s house, he received the more distressing news that his own sister Lorenza had been killed by appellant.
“4. Upon learning of the attack on his sister, Benjamin did not go to her house because he was afraid of what appellant might do. From his mother’s house, which was about 150 meters away from his sister’s home, Benjamin saw appellant who shouted at him, ‘It’s good you would see how your sister died.’
“5. Benjamin sought the help of Barangay Captain Virgilio Valdez who called the police station at Camiling, Tarlac. SPO1 Herbert Lugo and SPO3 Tirso Martin, together with the other members of the PNP Alert Team at Camiling, Tarlac, immediately went to Barangay San Isidro. The police, together with Benjamin Bueno and some barangay officials and barangay folk, proceeded to the scene of the crime where they saw blood dripping from the house of appellant and Lorenza. The police told appellant to come out of the house. When appellant failed to come out, the police, with the help of barangay officials, detached the bamboo wall from the part of the house where blood was dripping. The removal of the wall exposed that section of the house where SPO1 Lugo saw appellant embracing [his] wife.
“6. Appellant and Lorenza were lying on the floor. Appellant, who was lying on his side and holding a bloodstained double-bladed knife with his right hand, was embracing his wife. He was uttering the words, ‘I will kill myself, I will kill myself.’ Lorenza, who was lying on her back and facing upward, was no longer breathing. She appeared to be dead.
“7. The police and the barangay officials went up the stairs of the house and pulled appellant away from Lorenza’s body. Appellant dropped the knife which was taken by SPO3 Martin. Appellant tried to resist the people who held him but was overpowered. The police, with the help of the barangay officials present, tied his hands and feet with a plastic rope. However, before he was pulled away from the body of his wife and restrained by the police, appellant admitted to Rolando Valdez, a neighbor of his and a barangay kagawad, that he had killed his wife, showing him the bloodstained knife.
“8. Upon examining Lorenza, SPO1 Lugo found that she was already dead. She was pale and not breathing. The police thus solicited the services of a funeral parlor to take Lorenza’s body for autopsy. Appellant was brought to the police station at Camiling, Tarlac. However, he had to be taken to the Camiling District Hospital for the treatment of a stab wound.
“9. After the incident, Senior Inspector Reynaldo B. Orante, the Chief of Police at Camiling, Tarlac, prepared a Special Report which disclosed that:
‘The victim Lorenza Robiños was six (6) months pregnant. She suffered 41 stab wounds on the different parts of her body.
‘That suspect (Melecio Robiños) was under the influence of liquor/drunk [who] came home and argued/quarreled with his wife, until the suspect got irked, [drew] a double knife and delivered forty one (41) stab blows.
‘Suspect also stabbed his own body and [was] brought to the Provincial Hospital.
‘Recovered from the crime scene is a double blade sharp knife about eight (8) inches long including handle.’
“10. During the trial of the case, the prosecution was not able to present the doctor who conducted the autopsy on Lorenza Robiños’ body. Nor, was the autopsy report presented as evidence.”8
Version of the Defense
Appellant does not refute the factual allegations of the prosecution that he indeed killed his wife, but seeks exoneration from criminal liability by interposing the defense of insanity as follows:
“Pleading exculpation, herein accused-appellant interposed insanity. The defense presented the testimonies of the following:
“FEDERICO ROBIÑOS, 19 years old son of Melecio Robiños, testified that his parents had occasional quarrels[. B]efore March 23, 1995, his father told him that he had seen a person went [sic] inside their house and who wanted to kill him. On March 23, 1995, he heard his father told the same thing to his mother and because of this, his parents quarreled and exchanged heated words.
“LOURDES FAJARDO, nurse of the Tarlac Penal Colony, testified that she came to know Melecio Robiños only in May to June 1996. Every time she visited him in his cell, accused isolated himself, ‘laging nakatingin sa malayo’, rarely talked, just stared at her and murmured alone.
“BENEDICT REBOLLOS, a detention prisoner of the Tarlac Penal Colony, testified that he and the accused were seeing each other everyday from 6:00 o’clock in the morning up to 5:30 o’clock in the afternoon. He had observed that accused sometime[s] refused to respond in the counting of prisoners. Sometimes, he stayed in his cell even if they were required to fall in line in the plaza of the penal colony.
“DOMINGO FRANCISCO, another detention prisoner of the Tarlac Penal Colony, testified that as the accused’s inmate, he had occasion to meet and mingle with the latter. Accused sometimes was lying down, sitting, looking, or staring on space and without companion, laughing and sometimes crying.
“MELECIO ROBIÑOS, herein accused-appellant, testified that on March 25, 1995, he was in their house and there was no unusual incident that happened on that date. He did not know that he was charged for the crime of parricide with unintentional abortion. He could not remember when he was informed by his children that he killed his wife. He could not believe that he killed his wife.”9
In view of the penalty imposed by the trial court, this case was automatically elevated to this Court for review.10
Appellant submits for our consideration the following assignment of errors:
The court a quo erred in not giving probative weight to the testimony and psychiatric evaluation of Dr. Maria Mercedita Mendoza finding the accused-appellant to be suffering from psychosis or insanity classified under schizophrenia, paranoid type.
The court a quo erred in disregarding accused-appellant’s defense of insanity.”11
The Court’s Ruling
The appeal is partly meritorious.
Insanity as an Exempting Circumstance
At the outset, it bears noting that appellant did not present any evidence to contravene the allegation that he killed his wife. Clear and undisputed are the RTC findings on the identity of the culprit and the commission of the complex crime of parricide with unintentional abortion. Appellant, however, interposes the defense of insanity to absolve himself of criminal liability.
Insanity presupposes that the accused was completely deprived of reason or discernment and freedom of will at the time of the commission of the crime.12 A defendant in a criminal case who relies on the defense of mental incapacity has the burden of establishing the fact of insanity at the very moment when the crime was committed.13 Only when there is a complete deprivation of intelligence at the time of the commission of the crime should the exempting circumstance of insanity be considered.14
The presumption of law always lies in favor of sanity and, in the absence of proof to the contrary, every person is presumed to be of sound mind.15 Accordingly, one who pleads the exempting circumstance of insanity has the burden of proving it.16 Failing this, one will be presumed to be sane when the crime was committed.
A perusal of the records of the case reveals that appellant’s claim of insanity is unsubstantiated and wanting in material proof. Testimonies from both prosecution and defense witnesses show no substantial evidence that appellant was completely deprived of reason or discernment when he perpetrated the brutal killing of his wife.
As can be gleaned from the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, a domestic altercation preceded the fatal stabbing. Thus, it cannot be said that appellant attacked his wife for no reason at all and without knowledge of the nature of his action. To be sure, his act of stabbing her was a deliberate and conscious reaction to the insulting remarks she had hurled at him as attested to by their 15-year-old son Lorenzo Robiños. We reproduce Lorenzo’s testimony in part as follows:
“Q: Before your father Melecio Robiños stabbed your mother, do you recall if they talked to one and the other?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Did you hear what they talked about?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What did you hear?
A: ‘Why did you come home, why don’t you just leave?’, Sir.
In other words, you better go away, you should have not come back home.
Q: After you mother uttered those words, what did your father do?
A: That was the time that he stabbed my mother, sir.”17
Furthermore, appellant was obviously aware of what he had done to his wife. He was even bragging to her brother, Benjamin Bueno, how he had just killed her. Bueno testified thus:
Q: Now, from the house of your mother, can you see the house of your sister?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: When you arrived at the house of your mother, Lorenzo Robiños was already there in the house of your mother, is that right, Mr. Witness?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: And he was the one who informed you about your sister already dead?
A: Yes, Sir.
Q: Did you go near the house of your sister upon learning that she was already dead?
A: No, Sir.
A: My brother-in-law was still amok, Sir.
Q: Why do you know that he was amok?
A: Yes, sir, because he even shouted at me, sir.
A: It’s good you would see how your sister died, Sir.”18
Finally, the fact that appellant admitted to responding law enforcers how he had just killed his wife may have been a manifestation of repentance and remorse — a natural sentiment of a husband who had realized the wrongfulness of his act. His behavior at the time of the killing and immediately thereafter is inconsistent with his claim that he had no knowledge of what he had just done. Barangay Kagawad Rolando Valdez validated the clarity of mind of appellant when the latter confessed to the former and to the police officers, and even showed to them the knife used to stab the victim. Valdez’s testimony proceeded as follows:
“Q: And what did you discover when you went there at the house of Melecio Robiños?
A: When we arrived at the house of Melecio Robiños, it was closed. We waited for the police officers to arrive and when they arrived, that was the time that we started going around the house and when we saw blood, some of our companions removed the walling of the house and at that time, we saw the wife of Melecio Robiños lying down as if at that moment, the wife of Melecio Robiños was already dead, Sir.
Q: When you were able to remove this walling, what did you do?
A: We talked to Melecio Robiños, Sir.
x x x x x x x x x
Q: What was he doing when you talked to him?
A: When we saw them they were both lying down and when we got near, he said he killed his wife and showing the weapon he used, sir.
Q: What is that weapon?
A: Double bladed weapon, Sir.
What is that, knife?
A: It’s a double bladed knife, sir.
x x x x x x x x x
He admitted to you that he killed his wife?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: How did he say that, tell the court exactly how he tell you that, in tagalog, ilocano or what?
A: What I remember Sir he said, ‘Pinatay ko ni baket ko’ meaning ‘I killed my wife,’ Sir.”19
Clearly, the assault of appellant on his wife was not undertaken without his awareness of the atrocity of his act.
Similarly, an evaluation of the testimonies of the defense witnesses hardly supports his claim of insanity. The bulk of the defense evidence points to his allegedly unsound mental condition after the commission of the crime. Except for appellant’s 19-year-old son Federico Robiños,20 all the other defense witnesses testified on the supposed manifestations of his insanity after he had already been detained in prison.
To repeat, insanity must have existed at the time of the commission of the offense, or the accused must have been deranged even prior thereto. Otherwise he would still be criminally responsible.21 Verily, his alleged insanity should have pertained to the period prior to or at the precise moment when the criminal act was committed, not at anytime thereafter. In People v. Villa,22 this Court incisively ratiocinated on the matter as follows:
“It could be that accused-appellant was insane at the time he was examined at the center. But, in all probability, such insanity was contracted during the period of his detention pending trial. He was without contact with friends and relatives most of the time. He was troubled by his conscience, the realization of the gravity of the offenses and the thought of a bleak future for him. The confluence of these circumstances may have conspired to disrupt his mental equilibrium. But, it must be stressed, that an inquiry into the mental state of accused-appellant should relate to the period immediately before or at the precise moment of doing the act which is the subject of the inquiry, and his mental condition after that crucial period or during the trial is inconsequential for purposes of determining his criminal liability. In fine, this Court needs more concrete evidence on the mental condition of the person alleged to be insane at the time of the perpetration of the crimes in order that the exempting circumstance of insanity may be appreciated in his favor. x x x.”23 (Italics supplied)
Indeed, when insanity is alleged as a ground for exemption from criminal responsibility, the evidence must refer to the time preceding the act under prosecution or to the very moment of its execution. If the evidence points to insanity subsequent to the commission of the crime, the accused cannot be acquitted.24
The testimony of Dr. Maria Mercedita Mendoza, the psychiatrist who conducted an examination of the mental condition of appellant, does not provide much help in determining his state of mind at the time of the killing. It must be noted that she examined him only on September 11, 1995, or six months after the commission of the crime.25 Moreover, she was not able to make a background study on the history of his mental condition prior to the killing because of the failure of a certain social worker to gather data on the matter.26
Although Dr. Mendoza testified that it was possible that the accused had already been suffering from psychosis at the time of the commission of the crime,27 she likewise admitted that her conclusion was not definite and was merely an opinion.28 As correctly observed by the trial court, her declarations were merely conjectural and inconclusive to support a positive finding of insanity. According to the RTC:
“The testimony of Dr. Maria Mercidita Mendoza, who examined accused at the National Center for Mental Health, Mandaluyong City, that at the time of examination accused Melecio Robiños was still mentally ill; that accused was experiencing hallucination and suffering from insanity and it is possible that the sickness have occurred eight (8) to nine (9) months before examination; and in her opinion accused was suffering from delusion and hallucination. And her opinion that at the time accused stabbed himself, he was not in his lucid interval, is merely her conclusion. xxx xxx xxx Aside from being her opinion, she conducted the mental, physical and neurological examinations on the accused seven (7) months after the commission of the offense. That span of seven (7) months has given accused an opportunity to contrive and feign mental derangement. Dr. Mendoza had no opportunity to observed (sic) and assessed (sic) the behavior of the accused immediately before, during and immediately after the commission of the offense. Her finding is conjectural, inconclusive. She did not conduct background examination of the mental condition of the accused before the incident by interviewing persons who had the opportunity to associate with him.”29
Hence, appellant who invoked insanity should have proven that he had already been completely deprived of reason when he killed the victim.30 Verily, the evidence proffered by the defense did not indicate that he had been completely deprived of intelligence or freedom of will when he stabbed his wife to death. Insanity is a defense in the nature of a confession or avoidance and, as such, clear and convincing proof is required to establish its existence.31 Indubitably, the defense failed to meet the quantum of proof required to overthrow the presumption of sanity.1âwphi1.nêt
Although the RTC correctly rejected the defense of insanity, it nonetheless erred in imposing the death penalty on appellant. It imposed the maximum penalty without considering the presence or the absence of aggravating and mitigating circumstances. The imposition of the capital penalty was not only baseless, but contrary to the rules on the application of penalties as provided in the Revised Penal Code. Even the Office of the Solicitor General concedes this error in the imposition of the death penalty.32
Since appellant was convicted of the complex crime of parricide with unintentional abortion, the penalty to be imposed on him should be that for the graver offense which is parricide. This is in accordance with the mandate of Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code, which states: “When a single act constitutes two or more grave or less grave felonies, x x x, the penalty for the most serious crime shall be imposed, x x x.”
The law on parricide, as amended by RA 7659, is punishable with reclusion perpetua to death. In all cases in which the law prescribes a penalty consisting of two indivisible penalties, the court is mandated to impose one or the other, depending on the presence or the absence of mitigating and aggravating circumstances.33 The rules with respect to the application of a penalty consisting of two indivisible penalties are prescribed by Article 63 of the Revised Penal Code, the pertinent portion of which is quoted as follows:
“In all cases in which the law prescribes a penalty composed of two indivisible penalties, the following rules shall be observed in the application thereof:
x x x x x x x x x
2. When there are neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances in the commission of the deed, the lesser penalty shall be applied.” (Italics supplied)
Hence, when the penalty provided by law is either of two indivisible penalties and there are neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances, the lower penalty shall be imposed.34 Considering that neither aggravating nor mitigating circumstances were established in this case, the imposable penalty should only be reclusion perpetua.35
Indeed, because the crime of parricide is not a capital crime per se, it is not always punishable with death. The law provides for the flexible penalty of reclusion perpetua to death — two indivisible penalties, the application of either one of which depends on the presence or the absence of mitigating and aggravating circumstances.36
WHEREFORE, the Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Camiling, Tarlac (Branch 68) in Criminal Case No. 95-45 is hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the penalty is REDUCED to reclusion perpetua. Consistent with current jurisprudence, appellant shall pay the heirs of the victim the amount of P50,000 as civil indemnity and P22,800 as actual damages, which were duly proven. No pronouncement as to costs.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, De Leon, Jr., Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, and Corona, JJ., concur.
1 Rollo, pp. 36-49. The Decision was written by Judge Cesar M. Sotero.
2 Also spelled “Robinos” in the records.
3 RTC Decision, pp. 13-14; rollo, pp. 48-49; records, pp. 196-197.
4 Rollo, p. 11; records, Vol. I, p. 1.
6 Atty. Domingo R. Joaquin.
7 Order dated July 27, 1995; records, Vol. I, p. 30.
8 Appellee’s Brief, pp. 3-6; rollo, pp. 119-122. This was signed by Solicitor General Ricardo P. Galvez, Assistant Solicitor General Mariano M. Martinez and Solicitor Vida G. San Vicente.
9 Appellant’s Brief, pp. 6-7; rollo, pp. 81-82. This was signed by Attys. Arceli A. Rubin, Amelia C. Garchitorena and Eden B. Chavez – all of the Public Attorney’s Office.
10 This case was deemed submitted for decision on August 24, 2000, which is the deadline given by the Court for the filing of a Reply Brief, which, however, was deemed waived as none had been filed by appellant within the given period.
11 Ibid., pp. 8 & 83. Original in upper case.
12 People v. Danao, 215 SCRA 795, November 19, 1992.
13 People v. Diaz, 320 SCRA 168, December 8, 1999.
14 People v. Condino, GR No. 130945, November 19, 2001.
15 People v. Medina, 286 SCRA 44, February 6, 1998.
16 People v. Tabugoca, 285 SCRA 312, January 28, 1998.
17 TSN, August 1, 1995, pp. 9-10.
18 TSN, August 3, 1995, pp. 13-14.
19 TSN, February 6, 1996, pp. 11-14.
20 TSN, June 11, 1996, pp. 12-15. Federico Robiños testified that on March 23, 1995, or two days before the date of the commission of the crime, his father told him that there was a person who was going to enter their house who wanted to kill the father.
21 Regalado, Criminal Law Conspectus, 2000 ed., p. 53.
22 331 SCRA 142; April 27, 2000.
23 Ibid., pp. 153-154, per Bellosillo, J.
24 Aquino, The Revised Penal Code, 1987 ed., p. 213.
25 TSN, December 12, 1995, pp. 26-27.
26 TSN, January 9, 1996, p. 14.
27 Ibid., pp. 15-16.
28 Id., p. 16.
29 RTC Decision, p. 11.
30 People v. Bañez, 301 SCRA 248, January 20, 1999.
31 People v. Danao, supra.
32 See Brief for Appellee, pp. 19-20; rollo, pp. 135-136.
33 People v. Pedroso, 336 SCRA 163, July 19, 2000.
34 People v. Cayago, 312 SCRA 623, August 18, 1999; People v. Barellano, 319 SCRA 567, December 2, 1999.
35 People v. Naguita, 313 SCRA 292, August 30, 1999.
36 People v. Reyes, 292 SCRA 663, July 20, 1998; People v. Javier, 311 SCRA 576, July 28, 1999.