Wednesday, January 25, 2012

People vs. Toring, et al 191 SCRA 38

Facts: A benefit dance was held in one sitio in Lapu lapu City for the last canvassing of votes for the candidates for princesses, attended by the entire family of one of the candidates. Also present were members of the kwaknit gang, headed by Toring, noted for their bird-like way of dancing and their propensity for drunkenness and provoking trouble. 

Samuel, the father of the declared winner, while answering the call of nature, was approached by Toring and two others and was stabbed from behind by Toring using a knife handed to him by a companion. Samuel died of stab wound he sustained on the right side of his abdomen. 

An information for MURDER was filed against Toring. The lower court rendered a decision discrediting Toring's claim that the killing of Samuel was justified because it was done in defense of a stranger. While Toring testified that Samuel was aiming his shotgun at the chest of Ely Amyon (Amion), prosecution witness Joel Escobia claimed that he was at the receiving end of Samuel's thrusts with the butt of his shotgun. To the court, such discrepancy is fatal to the defense because in appreciating the justifying circumstance of defense of a stranger, the court must know "with definiteness the identity of the stranger defended by the accused. 

Upon appeal, Toring seeks his exoneration by contending that his assault on Samuel was justified because he acted in defense of his first cousin, Joel Escobia is the first cousin of Toring their fathers being brothers, although no explanation appears on record why they have different surnames. At any rate, this allegation on relationship was not rebutted by the prosecution. Escobia attested that as he was about to dance with a girl, Samuel stopped him, pointed his shotgun at him, took a bullet from his jacket pocket, showed it to Escobia. Samuel pointed the shotgun at his chin and told him to eat the bullet. 

Issue: Whether the act of Toring in stabbing Samuel was justified for being done in defense of his relative, Joel Escobia. 

Held: NO. SC ruled that there was no reason to doubt Joel Escobia's assertion of Samuel's unlawful aggression and that prosecution failed to prove that Joel testified to favor Toring. However, the presence of unlawful aggression on the part of the victim and the lack of proof of provocation on the part of Toring notwithstanding, full credence cannot be given, to Toring's claim of defense of a relative. 

Toring himself admitted in court that in 1979, he was shot with a .22 caliber revolver by Edgar Augusto, Samuel's brother. It cannot be said, therefore, that in attacking Samuel, Toring was impelled by pure compassion or beneficence or the lawful desire to avenge the immediate wrong inflicted on his cousin. Rather, he was motivated by revenge, resentment or evil motive because of a "running feud" between the Augusto and the Toring brothers. Indeed, vendetta appears to have driven both camps to commit unlawful acts against each other. 

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