Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bayasen v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. L-25785)

Facts: Petitioner Saturnino Bayasen, the Rural Health Physician in Sagada, Mountain Province, went to barrio Ambasing to visit a patient. Two nurses from the Saint Theodore’s Hospital in Sagada, Elena Awichen and Dolores Balcita, rode with him in the jeep assigned for the use of the Rural Health Unit. Later, at Ambasing, the girls, who wanted to gather flowers, again asked if they could ride with him up to a certain place on the way to barrio Suyo which he intended to visit anyway. Dr. Bayasen again allowed them to ride, Elena sitting herself between him and Dolores. 

On the way, the jeep went over a precipice. About 8 feet below the road, it was blocked by a pine tree. The three, were thrown out of the jeep. Elena was found lying in a creek further below. She suffered a skull fracture which caused her death. Saturnino Bayasen was charged by with Homicide Thru Reckless Imprudence. Trial Court found Bayasen sentenced him to an indeterminate penalty of 4 Months and 1 Day of arresto mayor as minimum, to 1 Year, 7 Months and 10 Days of prision correccional, as maximum, indemnify the heirs Elena Awichen P3,000.00 as compensatory damages, P1,000.00 as attorney’s fees and P1,886.00 for burial expenses of the deceased, and to pay the costs. On Appeal, CA affirmed the decision of the trial court with the modifications that the indemnity was increased to P6,000.00; the award of attorney’s fees was set aside; and that the maximum of the prison term was raised to 1 Year, 7 Months, and 17 Days of prision correccional. The motion for reconsideration of Bayasen was denied. Hence, the petition for review on certiorari. 

Issue: Whether or not the reckless driving of accused-petitioner was the proximate cause of the death of the victim. 

Held: The proximate cause of the tragedy was the skidding of the rear wheels of the jeep and not the unreasonable speed of the petitioner because there was no evidence on record to prove or support the finding that the petitioner was driving at “an unreasonable speed”. The star witness of the prosecution, Dolores Balcita who was one of the passengers in the jeep, testified that Saturnino Bayasen was driving his jeep moderately just before the accident and categorically stated that she did not know what caused the jeep to fall into the precipice. It is a well-known physical fact that cars may skid on greasy or slippery roads, as in the instant case, without fault on account of the manner of handling the car. Skidding means partial or complete loss of control of the car under circumstances not necessarily implying negligence. It may occur without fault. Herein, under the particular circumstances, Bayasen who skidded could not be regarded as negligent, the skidding being an unforeseen event, so that Bayasen had a valid excuse for his departure from his regular course. 

The negligence of Bayasen has not having been sufficiently established, his guilt of the crime charged has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. He is, therefore, entitled to acquittal. The Supreme Court set aside the decision of the Court of Appeals sought to be reviewed, and acquitted Bayasen of the crime charged in the information in Criminal Case 1056 of the CFI of Mountain Province, with costs de oficio.

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