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Denial, like alibi, if not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence is negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law.

In the morning of December 16, 2007, Clarita Disu and her daughter Marbie were tending to the former’s store in Sual, Pangasinan when two men aboard a motorcycle stopped in front of the store.  One alighted a bought a cigarette from Clarita.  He then suddenly pulled out a gun and shot Clarita.  Marbie shouted for help and rushed to her the aid of her mother.  The shooter, who was wearing yellow t-shirt, boarded the motorcycle, which headed east.  After a month, the police invited Marbie to the police station to identify whether the gunman had been among those whom they arrested.  Thereat, Marbie pointed to one of the three persons inside the cell, accused Samson Berk.  Another witness, Loreto Inocencio also identified Berk as the gunman.  Berk was later charged and convicted for murder.  The CA denied his appeal.

At the Supreme Court, Berk assails his conviction, attacking the credibility of the witnesses, as well as the fact that the trial judge who penned the decision was different from the person who received the evidence.

The Issue:

Whether or not the accused is guilty of murder.

The Ruling:

Now before the Court for final review, we affirm appellant’s conviction.

Well-settled in our jurisprudence is the rule that findings of the trial court on the credibility of witnesses deserve great weight, as the trial judge is in the best position to assess the credibility of the witnesses, and has the unique opportunity to observe the witness first hand and note his demeanor, conduct and attitude under gruelling examination. The fact that the trial judge who penned the Decision was different from the one who received the evidence does not render the same erroneous. It is not necessary for a judgment to be valid that the judge who penned the decision should actually hear the case in its entirety, for he can merely rely on the transcribed stenographic notes taken during the trial as the basis for his decision. 

That Judge Robert P. Fangayen was not the one who heard the evidence and had no opportunity to observe the demeanor of the witnesses is of no moment so long as he based his ruling on the records before him the way appellate courts review the evidence of the case raised on appeal.  Absent any showing that the trial court’s findings of facts were tainted with arbitrariness or that it overlooked or misapplied some facts or circumstances of significance and value, or its calibration of credibility was flawed, the appellate court is bound by its assessment.

In the prosecution of the crime of murder as defined in Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), the following elements must be established by the prosecution: (1) that a person was killed; (2) that the accused killed that person; (3) that the killing was attended by treachery; and (4) that the killing is not infanticide or parricide.

Our review of the records convinces us that these elements were clearly met. The prosecution eyewitnesses positively identified appellant as the person responsible for killing the victim through valid out-of-court and in-court identifications. The Court finds no reason to disbelieve these credible and straightforward testimonies. Marbie significantly testified as follows:

ATTY. FERNANDEZ
   
Q: Could you tell how were you able to know the identity who shot your mother?
A: Last January 29, 2008 [I] was invited by the police authorities to identify some of those whom they arrested, sir.
   
Q: What particular office were you invited?
A: Police Station of Sual, sir.
   
Q: Were you able to go to that police station of Sual?
A: Yes, sir.
   
Q: Do you have any companion when you went to that police station?
A: Yes, sir, there is.
   
Q: Who is that?
A: Marmolito Disu and Loreto Inocencio, sir.
   
Q: Upon reaching the office of Sual PNP, what happened there?
A: They showed me those persons they arrested, sir.
   
Q: What else did the police tell you, if any?
A: When they showed me the person they have arrested I saw the gunman who shot my mother sir.
   
Q: After seeing the gunman in the police station, what did you do?
A: I told the policemen, that is the gunman, sir.
   
Q: What did the police tell you in identifying the gunman of your mother?
A: After I pointed to the gunman they told me the name of the person by the name of Samson Berk, sir.
   
Q: Madam Witness, I request you to look inside the Courtroom and tell the Honorable Court if this alleged gunman is inside the Courtroom?
A: Than (sic) man, sir. (witness pointing to the accused and when asked of his name he answered. Samson Berk). 

The above-quoted testimony disproves appellant’s assertion that Marbie had been coaxed by the police authorities to pin him down as her mother’s assassin. We are also not persuaded by the appellant’s defenses of denial and alibi as these cannot prevail over the eyewitnesses’ positive identification of him as the perpetrator of the crime. Denial, like alibi, if not substantiated by clear and convincing evidence is negative and self-serving evidence undeserving of weight in law.  In fine, the Court finds no error in the conviction of the appellant.

The prosecution ably established the presence of the element of treachery as a qualifying circumstance. The shooting of the unsuspecting victim was sudden and unexpected which effectively deprived her of the chance to defend herself or to repel the aggression, insuring the commission of the crime without risk to the aggressor and without any provocation on the part of the victim.

The Court affirms the penalty of reclusion perpetua imposed upon appellant. Under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, the crime of murder qualified by treachery is penalized with reclusion perpetua to death. The lower courts were correct in imposing the penalty of reclusion perpetua in the absence of any aggravating and mitigating circumstances. that attended the commission of the crime. The Court likewise affirms the award of civil indemnity and moral damages but the award of the other damages should be modified, in accordance with prevailing jurisprudence, as follows: P75,000.00 as exemplary damages and P50,000.00 as temperate damages. 

Further, all the amount of damages awarded should earn interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the finality of this judgment until said amounts are fully paid. 

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision dated 29 June 2012 of the Court of Appeals, Third Division, in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. No.04573, finding Samson Berk y Bayogan guilty of murder in Criminal Case No. L-8391 is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION. Appellant is ORDERED to pay the heirs of Clarita Disu as follows:P75,000.00 as civil indemnity, P75,000.00 as moral damages, P75,000.00 as exemplary damages and P50,000.00 as temperate damages.

He is FURTHER ordered to pay interest on all damages awarded at the legal rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the date of finality of this judgment until fully paid.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

PEREZ, J.:

Velasco, Jr., (Chairperson), Peralta, Reyes and Caguioa,[*] JJ., concur.

(Citations omitted)

THIRD DIVISION, G.R. No. 204896, December 07, 2016, PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, V. SAMSON BERK Y BAYOGAN, ACCUSED-APPELLANT.

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