Upon invoking the justifying circumstance of self-defense, the accused assumed the burden of proving the justification of his act with clear and convincing evidence

An accused who asserts self-defense admits his infliction of the fatal blows and bears the burden of satisfactorily establishing all the elements of self-defense. Otherwise, his conviction for the felony of murder or homicide will be affirmed.

Specifically, the RTC and the CA correctly rejected Jose’s claim of self-defense and defense of a relative because he did not substantiate it with clear and convincing proof.

The Revised Penal Code delineates the standards for self-defense and defense of a relative in Article 11, viz:

Article 11.  Justifying circumstances.  The following do not incur any criminal liability:

1.  Anyone who acts in defense of his person or rights, provided that the following circumstances concur:

First.  Unlawful aggression;

Second. Reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it;

Third. Lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.”

2. Anyone who acts in defense of the person or rights of his spouse, ascendants, descendants, or legitimate, natural or adopted brothers or sisters, or his relatives by affinity in the same degrees and those by consanguinity within the fourth civil degree, provided that the first and second requisites prescribed in the next preceding circumstance are present, and the further requisite, in case the provocation was given by the person attacked, that the one making defense had no part therein.


          Indeed, upon invoking the justifying circumstance of self-defense, Jose assumed the burden of proving the justification of his act with clear and convincing evidence.  This is because his having admitted the killing required him to rely on the strength of his own evidence, not on the weakness of the Prosecution’s evidence, which, even if it were weak, could not be disbelieved in view of his admission.[6]

It is also notable that unlawful aggression is the condition sine qua non for the justifying circumstances of self-defense and defense of a relative. There can be no self-defense unless the victim committed unlawful aggression against the person who resorted to self-defense.[7] As the CA pointed out, however, Jose did not support his claim that Jimmy had committed aggression by punching Rodolfo and by throwing stones at him and his father.[8] In fact, he and his father were not able to identify any weapon used by Jimmy aside from the stone that he supposedly picked up from the ground. Even that testimony was contrary, for Jose testified that he had unsheathed his bolo and hacked Jimmy after dodging the stone thrown at him. Plainly, he did not establish with clear and convincing proof that Jimmy had assaulted him or his father as to pose to either of them an imminent threat of great harm before he mounted his own attack on Jimmy.

Moreover, the post-mortem examination disclosed that Jimmy had sustained a total of seven wounds: two incised wounds and five hack wounds.[9] Three of the hack wounds were inflicted on Jimmy’s neck, one of which fatally extended to and cut the trachea, esophagus, and the carotid and jugular vessels that supplied blood to the heart and brain of Jimmy.[10] Dr. Moll Lee, the medico-legal expert, opined at the trial that the injuries were possibly sustained by Jimmy from the assailant who was behind him and while he was already down.[11] This opinion was consistent with Lilia’s testimony to the effect that Jose had attacked Jimmy from behind as well as when Jimmy was already lying on the ground.[12] The nature, number, and gravity of Jimmy’s wounds spoke not of defense on the part of Jose but of a criminal intent to kill Jimmy.[13] They indicated beyond doubt the treacherous manner of the assault, that is, that Jose thereby ensured that the killing would be without risk and would deny to Jimmy any opportunity to defend himself.[14]

Lastly, the testimonies of Jose and Rodolfo were infected with inconsistencies. For one, Rodolfo did not mention that his son had carried a bolo during the incident; instead, Rodolfo recalled that Jose and Jimmy had engaged in a fistfight. [15] Also, Rodolfo’s claim that he chose to return home after being badly hurt from Jimmy’s attack was unnatural, for, if that were true, he was thereby unnaturally leaving his son to engage the attacker alone.

We modify the award of damages to make their amounts consistent with the law and jurisprudence relating to an accused adjudged guilty of a crime covered by Republic Act No. 7659,[16] regardless of aggravating or mitigating circumstances.[17] The correct amounts are P75,000.00 as civil indemnity; P75,000.00 as moral damages; and P30,000.00 as exemplary damages, all to be granted without proof or pleading. In addition, the Court notes that actual damages awarded to the heirs was only P24,000.00.  In furtherance of justice and consistent with our ruling in People v. Villanueva[18] that when actual damages proven by receipts is lower than P25,000.00, the award of P25,000.00 as temperate damages is justified in lieu of actual damages of a lesser amount.[19]


About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Burden of Proof, Circumstances, Self-defense and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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