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The concept of newly-discovered evidence is applicable only when a litigant seeks a new trial or the re-opening of the case in the trial court. Seldom is the concept appropriate on appeal.

The evidence for the prosecution showed that Philip and Mario Lasala, with victim Erwin de Ramon, were watching a dance during an alumni homecoming, when Pedro and his co-accused Herman Licup, passed by them.  Suddenly and without warning, Pedro stabbed Erwin below the navel with a machete.  Pedro ran away.  Herman also attacked Erwin, but the latter was able to evade the blow, pulled out the machete from his body, and hit Herman in the chest. Both Erwin and Herman collapsed.  Erwin died in the hospital.  Pedro and Herman were charged with homicide.  In his defense, Pedro interposed denial and alibi; according to him, he did not enter the dance hall because he was people scampering, and he learned that Erwin and Herman stabbed each other.  The witnesses against him had an axe to grin against him after he accused them of stealing coconuts from his property.  He also presented witnesses to prove his defense.

Despite this, the RTC pronounced him guilty of homicide, and sentenced him to to suffer an imprisonment of from Ten (10) years and One (1) day of prision mayor as minimum to 17 years and 4 months of reclusion temporal as maximum and to pay the sum of P50,000.00 as civil indemnity without subsidiary imprisonment [in] case of insolvency and [to] pay the costs.  In his brief before the CA, Pedro  contended that the RTC erred in convicting him in light go the declaration of the prosecution witness that it was the accused Herman Licup who attacked Erwin.  The CA affirmed the RTC judgment, hence Pedro appealed to the Supreme Court, insisting that the the admission of Licup immediately after the incident that he had stabbed the victim; and that the res gestae statement of Licup constituted newly-discovered evidence that created a reasonable doubt as to the petitioner’s guilt.

The Issue:

Whether or not the res gestae statement of his co-accused constitute newly-discovered evidence sufficient to overturn Pedro’s condition; and

Whether or not the RTC erred in imposing the appropriate penalty.

The Ruling:

The appeal is without merit.

First of all, Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court explicitly provides that the petition for review on certiorari shall raise only questions of law, which must be distinctly set forth. A question, to be one of law, must not involve an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants or any of them. There is a question of law in a given case when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain state of facts; there is a question of fact when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsehood of alleged facts.⁠1  In appeal by certiorari, therefore, only questions of law may be raised, because the Court, by virtue of its not being a trier of facts, does not normally undertake the re-examination of the evidence presented by the contending parties during the trial.

The resolution of factual issues is the function of lower courts, whose findings thereon are received with respect and are binding on the Court subject to certain exceptions, including: (a) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures; (b) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (c) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (d) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (e) when the findings of facts are conflicting; (f) when in making its findings the CA went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee; (g) when the findings are contrary to those of the trial court; (h) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (i) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner’s main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent; (j) when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; and (k) when the CA manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion.⁠2 

There is no question that none of the foregoing exceptions applies in order to warrant the review of the unanimous factual findings of the RTC and the CA. Hence, the Court upholds the CA’s affirmance of the conviction of the petitioner.

Secondly, the res gestae statement of Licup did not constitute newly-discovered evidence that created a reasonable doubt as to the petitioner’s guilt. We point out that the concept of newly-discovered evidence is applicable only when a litigant seeks a new trial or the re-opening of the case in the trial court. Seldom is the concept appropriate on appeal, particularly one before the Court. The absence of a specific rule on the introduction of newly-discovered evidence at this late stage of the proceedings is not without reason. The Court would be compelled, despite its not being a trier of facts, to receive and consider the evidence for purposes of its appellate adjudication.

Of necessity, the Court would remand the case to the lower courts for that purpose. But the propriety of remanding for the purpose of enabling the lower court to receive the newly-discovered evidence would inflict some degree of inefficiency on the administration of justice, because doing so would effectively undo or reopen the decision that is already on appeal.⁠3 That is a result that is not desirable. Hence, the Court has issued guidelines designed to balance the need of persons charged with crimes to afford to them the fullest opportunity to establish their defenses, on the one hand, and the public interest in ensuring a smooth, efficient and fair administration of criminal justice, on the other. The first guideline is to restrict the concept of newly-discovered evidence to only such evidence that can satisfy the following requisites, namely: (1) the evidence was discovered after trial; (2) such evidence could not have been discovered and produced at the trial even with the exercise of reasonable diligence; (3) the evidence is material, not merely cumulative, corroborative, or impeaching; and (4) the evidence is of such weight that it would probably change the judgment if admitted.⁠4 

We agree with the State that the proposed evidence of the petitioner was not newly-discovered because the first two requisites were not present. The petitioner, by his exercise of reasonable diligence, could have sooner discovered and easily produced the proposed evidence during the trial by obtaining a certified copy of the police blotter that contained the alleged res gestae declaration of Licup and the relevant documents and testimonies of other key witnesses to substantiate his denial of criminal responsibility.

Thirdly, homicide is punished with reclusion temporal.⁠5  Taking the absence of any modifying circumstances into consideration, the RTC fixed the indeterminate penalty of 10 years and one day of prision mayor, as minimum, to 17 years and four months of the medium period of reclusion temporal, as maximum. The CA affirmed the penalty fixed by the RTC.

We declare that the lower courts could not impose 17 years and four months of the medium period of reclusion temporal, which was the ceiling of the medium period of reclusion temporal, as the maximum of the indeterminate penalty without specifying the justification for so imposing. They thereby ignored that although Article 64 of the Revised Penal Code, which has set the rules “for the application of penalties which contain three periods,” requires under its first rule that the courts should impose the penalty prescribed by law in the medium period should there be neither aggravating nor mitigating circumstances, its seventh rule expressly demands that “[w]ithin the limits of each period, the courts shall determine the extent of the penalty according to the number and nature of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances and. the greater or lesser extent of the evil produced by the crime.” By not specifying the justification for imposing the ceiling of the period of the imposable penalty, the fixing of the indeterminate sentence became arbitrary, or whimsical, or capricious. In the absence of the specification, the maximum of the indeterminate sentence for the petitioner should be the lowest of the medium period of reclusion temporal, which is 14 years, eight months and one day of reclusion temporal.

Lastly, the lower courts limited the civil liability to civil indemnity of P50,000.00. The limitation was a plain error that we must correct. Moral damages and civil indemnity are always granted in homicide, it being assumed by the law that the loss of human life absolutely brings moral and spiritual losses as well as a definite loss. Moral damages and civil indemnity require neither pleading nor evidence simply because death through crime always occasions moral sufferings on the part of the victim’s heirs.⁠6  As the Court said in People v. Panad:⁠7 

x x x a violent death invariably and necessarily brings about emotional pain and anguish on the part of the victim’s family. It is inherently human to suffer sorrow, torment, pain and anger when a loved one becomes the victim of a violent or brutal killing. Such violent death or brutal killing not only steals from the family of the deceased his precious life, deprives them forever of his love, affection and support, but often leaves them with the gnawing feeling that an injustice has been done to them.

The civil indemnity and moral damages are fixed at P75,000.00 each because homicide was a gross crime.

Considering that the decisions of the lower courts contained no treatment of the actual damages, the Court is in no position to dwell on this. The lack of such treatment notwithstanding, the Court holds that temperate damages of P25,000.00 should be allowed to the heirs of the victim. Article 2224 of the Civil Code authorizes temperate damages to be recovered when some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot be proved with certainty. There is no longer any doubt that when actual damages for burial and related expenses are not substantiated with receipts, temperate damages of at least P25,000.00 are warranted, for it is certainly unfair to deny to the surviving heirs of the victim the compensation for such expenses as actual damages.⁠8  This pronouncement proceeds from the sound reasoning that it would be anomalous that the heirs of the victim who tried and succeeded in proving actual damages of less than P25,000.00 would only be put in a worse situation than others who might have presented no receipts at all but would still be entitled to P25,000.00 as temperate damages.⁠9 In addition, in line with recent jurisprudence,⁠10  all the items of civil liability shall earn interest of 6% per annum, computed from the date of the finality of this judgment until the items are fully paid.

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the decision promulgated on October 22, 2004 subject to the MODIFICATION that: (a) the INDETERMINATE SENTENCE of petitioner PEDRO LADINES is 10 years and one day of prision mayor, as minimum, to 14 years, eight months and one day of the medium period of reclusion temporal, as maximum; and (b) the petitioner shall pay to the heirs of the victim Erwin de Ramon: (1) civil indemnity and moral damages of P75,000.00 each; (2) temperate damages of P25,000.00; (c) interest of 6% per annum on all items of the civil liability computed from the date of the finality of this judgment until they are fully paid; and (d) the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

BERSAMIN, J.:

Sereno, C.J., Leonardo-De Castro, Perez, and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., concur.

FIRST DIVISION, G.R. No. 167333, January 11, 2016, PEDRO LADINES, PETITIONER, VS. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES AND EDWIN DE RAMON, RESPONDENTS.

 

1 Angeles v. Pascual. G.R. No. 157150, September 21, 2011, 658 SCRA 23, 28-29.

2 Id. at 29-30.

3 Luzon Hydro Corporation v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, G.R. No. 188260, November 13, 2013, 709 SCRA 462, 476.

4 Custodio v. Sandigunbayan, G.R. Nos. 96027-28, March 8, 2005, 453 SCRA 24, 33.

5 Article 249, Revised Penal Code.

6 People v. Osianas, G.R. No. 182548, September 30, 2008, 567 SCRA 319, 339-340; People v. Buduhcm, G.R. No. 178196. August 6, 2008, 561 SCRA 337, 367-368; People v. Berondo, Jr., G.R. No. 177827, March 30, 2009, 582 SCRA 547, 554-555.

7 People v. Panado, G.R. No. 133439, December 26, 2000, 348 SCRA 679, 690-691.

8 People v. Lacaden, G.R. No. 187682, November 25, 2009, 605 SCRA 784, 804-805.

9 Id.

10 Sison v. People, G.R. No. 187229, February 22, 2012, 666 SCRA 645, 667.

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