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G.R. No. 127840 – 319 SCRA 422 – Criminal Law – Book I – Aggravating Circumstances – Dwelling, Abuse of Strength, Disregard of Victim’s Sex
Remedial Law – Evidence – Testimonies of Children
On June 11, 1995, Roland Paraiso and a John Doe entered the house of Lolita Tigley. They threatened her with their knife and gun. Paraiso and his companion robbed Tigley of P200.00 cash, jewelries, a Rolex watch and a telescope all amounting to P180,000.00. Lolita Tigley was killed during the incident. Paraiso was caught and was charged with Robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons under Article 294 of the Revised Penal Code.
Paraiso interposed the defense of alibi.
During trial, the minor children of the victim testified and they positively identified Paraiso as the perpetrator. Their testimonies were used by the court in convicting Paraiso. The court sentenced Paraiso to death as it appreciated three aggravating circumstances against him, to wit: a) disregard of the respect due the offended party on account of her sex; b) dwelling; and c) abuse of superior strength.
Paraiso assails the conviction averring that the children-witnesses are not credible as he insisted that the children saw his look-alike as he insisted that he was not at the scene of the crime at the time of the incident.
ISSUE: 1. What are the aggravating circumstances attendant to the case at bar.
2. Whether or not the children-witnesses are credible.
1. The prosecution was able to prove the aggravating circumstances of dwelling and abuse of superior strength. However, the aggravating circumstance of disregard of respect due to Lolita’s sex is not appreciated against Paraiso due to the fact that; primarily, the crime charged against the accused is robbery with homicide which is a crime against property not against persons. Secondly, it was not shown that there was deliberate intent on the part of Paraiso to offend or insult the age or sex of Lolita. And thirdly, even if appreciated it would be absorbed by the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength which is attendant in the case.
Dwelling aggravates a felony where the crime was committed in the dwelling of the offended party, if the latter has not given provocation or if the victim was killed inside his house. Here, robbery was committed in the house of the victim without provocation on her part. In robbery with violence and intimidation against persons, dwelling is aggravating because in this class of robbery, the crime may be committed without the necessity of trespassing the sanctity of the offended partys house. Dwelling is considered aggravating primarily because of the sanctity of privacy the law accords to human abode. He who goes to another’s house to hurt him or do him wrong is more guilty than he who offends him elsewhere.
Abuse of strength is also present. The aggressors took advantage of their combined strength in order to consummate the offense. Abuse of strength is present not only when the offenders enjoy numerical superiority, or there is a notorious inequality of forces between the victim and the aggressor but also when the offender uses a powerful weapon which is out of proportion to the defense available to the offended party. Here, the victim was totally helpless in the face of two (2) perpetrators who were armed with a gun and a knife.
2. The children-witnesses are credible. Paraiso and his cohort were in the house of the victim for several minutes so that there was sufficient time for the children to develop some kind of familiarity with the faces of the assailants. Even the stressful condition of the witness when the crime was committed did not dilute the accuracy of her testimony. In fact, a violent incident such as the one sued upon may even serve as a catalyst to ones memory. The faces of the aggressors would in the very nature of things, also have been forcefully impinged upon and etched into the witnesses memories by the acts of ferocity perpetrated before their eyes. Most often, the face and body movements of the malefactors create a lasting impression on the witness mind which cannot be easily erased from his memory. Besides, children of sound mind are likely to be more observant of incidents which take place within their view than older persons; they make the best witnesses because of their power of observation and recall as well as their innocence.