Thursday, February 23, 2012

People vs. Beronilla [96 Phil. 566 (1955)]

Facts: Arsenio Borjal was mayor of La Paz Abra at the outbreak of war and continued to serve as mayor during the Japanese occupation. Dec 19, 1944 accused-appellant Manuel Beronilla was appointed Military Mayor of La Paz by LT. Col Arnold. Simultaneously, he received a memorandum issued by Arnold authorizing them to appoint a jury of 12 bolomen to try persons accused of treason, espionage or aiding the enemy. He also received a list of all puppet government officials of Abra, with a memorandum instructing all Military Mayors to investigate said persons and gather against them complaints. Beronilla, pursuant to his instructions placed Borjal under custody and asked residents of La Paz to file case against him. He also appointed a 12-man jury composed of Labuguen as chairman and others, plus Alverne and Balmaceda were prosecutors; Paculdo as clerk of the jury, and Inovermo as counsel for the accused, later Atty. Ban-eras voluntarily appeared as counsel for Borjal. The jury found Borjal guilty on all counts and imposed death penalty. Mayor Beronilla forwarded the records of the case to Headquarters of Infantry for review. Records were returned on April 18,1945 with approval of Arnold. On the same day, Beronilla ordered the execution of Borjal. Immediately after the execution, Beronilla reported the execution to Arnold, the latter complementing Beronilla. 

Two years later, Mayor Beronillo and others involved in the Borjal case were indicted by CFI of Abra for murder, for allegedly conspiring and confederating in the execution of Borjal. Pres. Roxas issued E.P. no.8, granting amnesty to all persons who committed acts penalized, under RPC in furtherance of resistance to the enemy against persons aiding in the war efforts of the enemy. All the accused ( except Labuguen who filed and granted amnesty by the AFP), filed their application to Second Guerilla Amnesty Commission, which denied their application on the ground that they were inspired by purely personal motives, thus remanding case to CFI for trial on merits. On July 10, 1950 Beronillo, Paculdo, Velasco and Adriatico were convicted as conspirator and co-principals of crime murder. They appealed. 

(1) Whether or nor accused appellants are guilty of murder; and 

(2) Whether or not they should be granted amnesty. 

Held: The records are ample to show that Beronilla acted pursuant to the orders of the Infantry Headquarters. Although it was alleged by the state that there was a radiogram from certain Col. Volkmann to Lt. Col. Arnold, on the illegality of Borjal's execution, there are no sufficient evidence to show that it was known to Beronilla. Furthermore, the messages of Col. Arnold approving the decisions of Beronilla prove otherwise. The testimony of Rafael Balmaceda, relative of Borjal was also unreliable. 

The state claims that the appellants held grudges against late Borjal, but court said that the conduct of the appellants does not dispose that they were impelled by malice. In fact, prior to the execution, Beronilla sent the decision for review. The lower court also found that Borjal was really guilty of treasonable acts. The court held that the accused-appellants just acted upon the orders of superiors and criminal intent was not established. 

Even assuming the accused-appellant are guilty of murder, they should not be denied of the amnesty on the ground that the slaying took place after actual liberation of the area from enemy control. The court held that any reasonable doubt as to whether a given case falls within the amnesty proclamation shall be resolved in favor of the accused.

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