Sunday, February 05, 2012

People vs. Abella, et.al.

Facts: It all started with an altercation during a basketball game. 3 days later, the 5 victims’ bodies were found in the Pasig River. Victims were Marlon and Joseph Ronquillo, Erwin and Andres Lojero and Felix Tamayo.

Marlon’s hands were tied at the back with an electric cord, he had wounds and died from a gunshot to the head. Andres’ hands were also bound at the back with a rope, his genitals were cut off and had wounds in his body as well, cause of death was asphyxia by strangulation. Joseph’s hands were tied at the back with a basketball t-shirt, had wounds and died of strangulation as well. Erwin’s and Felix’s body had abrasions and burns, there were cord impressions on his wrists, a fracture in his skull and died by drowning.

The accused are Abella, Granada, De Guzman, Valencia (all surnames), for MURDER, qualified by treachery and evident premeditation. There were other accused but their names were dropped from the information later on.

March 1992, the victims Ronquillo brothers were played 3 rounds of basketball in Sta. Mesa Manila against the team of Joey de los Santos. The Ronquillos brothers won the first 2 rounds but the 3rd one ended in a brawl. Later that afternoon, Joey went back to the place carrying 2 pillboxes but were apprehended. So, Joey and his brother just threw stones at the Ronquillos’ house. The neighbors saw this and ran after them and mauled them.

That night, the victims were in front of the Ronquillos’ house. Suddenly, a white Ford Fiera without a plate number stopped in front of the group. There were 10-13 people on board, including Joey and his brother. The passengers in the Fiera alighted, faces covered with handkerchiefs and they were armed. The victims tried to run but a shot was fired and Felix (victim) was shot. They were boxed, kicked and hit and dragged into the van. They were brought to a basement in a compound where witness Elena saw them being mauled, whipped with a gun, beaten with steel tubes and lead pipes. They also had a blowtorch and the victims’ hands were tied. The victims begged for mercy. Afterwards, they were herded back to the car, seeming almost dead. 2 days later, their bodies were found in the Pasig river.

Accused’ defense was an alibi, that they are INC members and were attending a panata that night. According to them, when they read their names in the newspapers as the perpetrators of the crime, they consulted the INC Central Office and were then accompanied by a lawyer to go to the police station to “clear their names,” They were later on identified in a police line-up. The RTC convicted all of them for MURDER, with a penalty of reclusion perpetua.

Issue: Whether or not the accused are entitled to the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender.

Held: No. First of all, the witnesses were able to fully establish and prove and connect the appellants-accused to the crime. The SC is sufficiently satisfied that their guilt was proven beyond reasonable doubt.

The killing was characterized by treachery. Though treachery should normally attend at the inception of the aggression, the facts show that the victims were first seized and bound and then slain, hence treachery is present. In this case, it is enough to point out that the victims’ hands were tied at the back when their bodies were found floating in Pasig River. This fact clearly shows that the victims were rendered defenseless and helpless, thereby allowing the appellants to commit the crime without risk at all to their persons. The circumstance of abuse of superior strength was absorbed in treachery.

The appellants’ move to “clear their names” cannot be accepted as voluntary surrender. For a surrender to be voluntary, it must be spontaneous and should show the intent of the accused to submit himself unconditionally to the authorities, either because (1) he acknowledges his guilt or (2) he wishes to save the government the trouble and expense necessarily included for his search and capture. When the accused goes to a police station merely to clear his name and not to give himself up, voluntary surrender may not be appreciated.

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