Cold blooded and evil plan
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - June 19, 2020 - 12:00am

This case is also about the different circumstances that mitigates or aggravates the crime committed. Both circumstances may attend the commission of a crime. They may make the crime committed graver or lighter depending on the number of circumstances present that offset each other. The aggravating circumstances that come into play here are poisoning, evident premeditation and abuse of confidence while the mitigating circumstances are voluntary surrender and voluntary plea of guilty. The issues raised and resolved here are: whether the victim really died of poisoning through evident premeditation and abuse of confidence; and whether the accused really surrendered voluntarily. This is the case of Benj.

Benj is in the business of buying and selling appliances in his house. While engaged in said business, he met Samuel and the relations between them thereafter became so close that Samuel went to live with Benj at his house working as a helper in Benj’s business. About two months later, Benj succeeded in prevailing upon Samuel to insure himself for P100,000 when an underwriter went to their house to sell life insurance. In said insurance, Benj was the principal beneficiary under an assumed name as the younger brother of Samuel. The policy was accomplished and thumb-marked by the illiterate Samuel and was approved and issued on the same day.

Thereafter Benj waited for an opportune time to poison Samuel. The opportunity presented itself 20 days later when Samuel went to market and bought 10 “galunggong” fish and fruits. He cooked the galunggong into paksiw as Benj made up his mind to poison Samuel with arsenic solution. Since Benj did not want Samuel’s wife Agnes to take the poison accidentally, he asked her to go to their neighbors to play there. So when dinner was ready, Benj asked Samuel to get water to drink as he poured the arsenic on Samuel’s plate of rice and on the paksiw na galunggong. Then he told Samuel that he didn’t feel like eating galunggong and took only fried eggs as Samuel ate his rice and six pieces of paksiw na galunggong.

More than an hour after Samuel finished eating he started vomiting and complained of dizziness as Benj threw the remainder of the “paksiw”. Benj just watched Samuel and gave him a bottle of hot water. Later in the afternoon, he brought Samuel to a doktora but did not inform her of the arsenic solution he poured on the food. The doktora just prescribed some tablets but two days later, Samuel already died in the early morning.

Eventually Benj was investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) regarding the death by poisoning of two women. In said investigation he already made a sworn statement also admitting that he poisoned Samuel with arsenic solution. The toxic report of the NBI doctor found traces of arsenic and confirmed that the cause of death was arsenic poisoning. So about nine months after the death of Samuel, Benj was charged with murder before the lower court.

Upon arraignment, Benj voluntarily pleaded guilty duly assisted by counsel. Despite his voluntary plea, the trial court nevertheless received evidence relative to the aggravating and mitigating circumstances attendant in the commission of the crime. Thereafter the court rendered judgment finding Benj guilty of murder by means of poison with the aggravating circumstances of evident premeditation and abuse of confidence, and mitigating circumstance of voluntary plea of guilty. He was sentenced to the extreme penalty of death and to indemnify the heirs of the victim.

On automatic review by the Supreme Court, Benj contended that the lower court erred in finding that Samuel died from arsenic poisoning and in discounting the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender.

But the Supreme Court (SC) ruled that the lower court did not err in its decision. The SC said that the record is clear and indubitable that the effective cause of Samuel’s death was arsenic poisoning. In Benj’s statement given under oath to the NBI, he admitted that he poured arsenic solution on the rice and paksiw na galunggong that Samuel ate for lunch who consumed 3/4 of the poisoned food and later on vomited and died.

The court also said that voluntary surrender cannot be legally credited in favor of Benj. Voluntary surrender can be appreciated only if the offender had not been actually arrested and he voluntarily surrendered to a person in authority or the latter’s agent. In this case, Benj escaped from NBI custody while being investigated for other crimes but was immediately recaptured. Voluntary surrender was no longer possible as he was already in custody. Thus there is no voluntary surrender to speak of since Benj was already arrested.

The lower court is also correct in appreciating the aggravating circumstances of evident premeditation and abuse of confidence. The thought of insuring Samuel with himself as beneficiary first entered his mind two months before Samuel was actually insured. Then he waited for the opportunity to poison Samuel so that he could collect the amount of insurance which came about three weeks later. Obviously, Benj had nurtured, deliberated on, and persisted in his evil plan to kill Samuel for the money.

Abuse of confidence is also present here. Benj first befriended Samuel and enticed him to live together as helper in the buy and sell business. By this apparently charitable act of taking a jobless illiterate man and providing him with the necessities of life, Benj gained Samuel’s trust and confidence. It was this trust and confidence that enable him to deceive Samuel into signing his death warrant – the insurance policy. Samuel’s confidence and trust in Benj facilitated the commission of the crime.

So the decision of the lower court is affirmed with the modification of increase in the indemnity to be awarded to the heirs (People vs Hanasan alias Literal, G.R. L-25989, September 30, 1969).

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