Thursday, March 08, 2012

People vs. Tabarnero

Facts: Gary went to the house of the deceased Ernesto Canatoy (Ernesto), where the former used to reside as the live-in partner of Mary Jane Acibar (Mary Jane), Ernesto’s stepdaughter. Gary and Ernesto had a confrontation during which the latter was stabbed nine times, causing his death. Gary and his father, Alberto, were charged with the crime of Murder. Gary surrendered to a barangay tanod. Alberto was later on arrested. During pre-trial conference, Gary admitted having killed Ernesto, but claimed that it was an act of self-defense (hence, reverse trial). 

During trial, SPO2 Ronnie Morales testified that he was on duty. During that night, someone reported at the police station that Ernesto had been stabbed. SPO2 Morales and Emerito (the one who reported the incident) proceeded to the Bulacan Provincial Hospital, where SPO2 Morales saw Ernesto in the operating room, very weak due to multiple injuries. While in the presence of two doctors on duty, SPO2 Morales asked Ernesto who stabbed him. Ernesto answered that the assailants were the father and son, Gary and Alberto Tabarnero. Ernesto was not able to affix his signature on the Sinumpaang Salaysay because he could no longer talk after the fourth question

RTC convicted Gary and Alberto of the crime of murder. Gary and Alberto appealed to SC. SC referred case to CA ( because of Pp v. Mateo). CA affirmed the conviction with modification as regard damages; hence, this case. 

Issue: Whether or not the statement of Ernesto before SPO2 Morales is admissible given that Ernesto was not able to testify in court, in view of his death. 

Held: YES. While Ernesto was not able to testify in court, his statement is considered admissible under Section 37, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, which provides:

Sec. 37. Dying declaration. — The declaration of a dying person, made under the consciousness of an impending death, may be received in any case wherein his death is the subject of inquiry, as evidence of the cause and surrounding circumstances of such death.

In applying this exception to the hearsay rule, we held as follows:

“It must be shown that a dying declaration was made under a realization by the decedent that his demise or at least, its imminence -- not so much the rapid eventuation of death -- is at hand. This may be proven by the statement of the deceased himself or it may be inferred from the nature and extent of the decedent’s wounds, or other relevant circumstances.” 

In the case at bar, Ernesto had nine stab wounds which caused his death within the next 48 hours. At the time he uttered his statement accusing Gary and Alberto of stabbing him, his body was already very rapidly deteriorating, as shown by his inability to speak and write towards the end of the questioning. 

We have considered that a dying declaration is entitled to the highest credence, for no person who knows of his impending death would make a careless or false accusation. When a person is at the point of death, every motive of falsehood is silenced and the mind is induced by the most powerful consideration to speak the truth. It is hard to fathom that Ernesto, very weak as he was and with his body already manifesting an impending demise, would summon every remaining strength he had just to lie about his true assailants, whom he obviously would want to bring to justice.

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