Deliberate, not accidental
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Atty. Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - November 15, 2019 - 12:00am

This is another case where the decision of the court is based mainly on the credibility of the evidence for the prosecution or the defense. And usually this evidence consists of the testimonies for the prosecution and the defense as well as the assessment of the trial court on the credibility of the witnesses which has the opportunity to see the reactions of the witnesses.

How does the lower court determine who is telling the truth?  In determining credibility, the trial court relies not only on whether the witnesses themselves are credible but also whether their testimonies are believable. This is illustrated in this case for today.

This is the case of Athan who is married to Isabel, the granddaughter of Lola Fely, who is known in their community as a quack doctor curing snake-bites. Athan was charged with murder for killing Lola Fely. To prove the charge, the prosecution presented Lola Fely’s son Albert, his wife Teresa and the policeman Sgt. Panganiban. The doctor who examined the corpse was also supposed to testify but died before doing so due to stress.

Base on their testimonies, the incident happened one evening when Athan, who is a farmer, went to tend to his carabao at their rice field. On the way, however he was bitten by a snake at the smallest toe of his left foot. Hence he proceeded to the house of Lola Fely for treatment of the snake bite. So Lola Fely allowed him in, got her medicine paraphernalia and started treating Athan. Then all of a sudden, Athan drew his small bolo and stabbed Lola Fely several times causing her death as she fell on the floor. After killing Lola Fely, Athan proceeded to the house of Lola Fely’s son, Albert, for the purpose of killing him and his wife Teresa also. But he did not accomplish his purpose because Albert refused to let him enter his house.

After that Athan surrendered himself with his bolo to policeman Sgt. Panganiban at the Municipal Hall. He told Panganiban that he killed Lola Fely because she said she would kill him by “barang” or witchcraft. Hence he killed her first, Athan said

When Athan testified, however, he told the court that the killing was accidental. He said that Lola Fely instructed him to open his snake bite with his bolo in order to drain out the venom. While doing so, he said he accidentally put out the kerosene lamp on the floor so Fely re-lighted said lamp by bending her body down. Then Athan lifted his right hand holding the bolo upward which accidentally hit Fely’s right chest, penetrating the nipple and causing her death. Realizing what he had done, he asked the forgiveness of Lola Fely and ran away.

The lower court however as affirmed by the Supreme Court, did not believe Athan’s story. The courts said that it is extremely difficult to believe the uncorroborated testimony of Athan because more than one wound was found in the different parts of Lola Fely’s body. The first wound may have been accidentally inflicted but the other wounds could not have been similarly inflicted. Their locations preclude the accident theory of Athan. He would have instinctively dropped the bolo after inflicting the first wound. The infliction of more wounds after the first was therefore deliberate. Athan’s own statement to Pat. Panganiban that he killed the old woman because she would kill him by “barang” also belies his story that it was accidental.

His denial is not convincing in the light of other evidence for the prosecution. Teresa testified that when Athan was already in jail, Athan also told her that he killed her mother. Even if the doctor, who issued the post mortem examination failed to testify, the sufficiency of the evidence against Athan is not affected.

The autopsy report is part of the testimony of Sgt. Panganiban. He cannot also invoke the provision of Section 20 of the Constitution that the police should have notified him of his right to remain silent because he did not make any written confession any way.

Moreover, since Athan admitted the killing, the burden is upon him to prove that it was accidentally done. But he dismally failed to do so (People vs. Taylaran, G.R. L-49149, Oct. 23, 1981)

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