BAGUIO CITY – The city’s Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 4 found the lone suspect in the celebrated Kayang massacre on Arpil 6, 2014 guilty beyond reasonable doubt for five counts of murder and sentenced him to suffer the maximum penalty of reclusion perpetua in all the filed cases with no eligibility for parol.
In a 21page decision, Judge Mia Joy Cawed also ordered the suspect Philip Tolentino Aviño alias Michael Geronimo to pay actual damages to the heirs of Jackielyn and Joey Nociete, Jr. P336,000, the heirs of Dave John de Guzman P40,800, the heirs of Raymond Adrian Delmendo P79,500 and the heirs of Jonalyn Lozano P70,000.
The court also ordered the suspect to pay the victims civil indemnity in the amount of P50,000 for each of the cases; moral damages in the amount of P50,000 for each of the cases exemplary damages amounting to P25,000 in each of the cases.
Cawed pointed out the award of damages to the heirs of the victims shall bear interest at the legal rate of 6 percent per anum from the finality of the judgement until the damages are fully paid, adding that the docket fees of the warded damages shall serve as a first lien on the said awards.
The case against the suspect emanated from the brutal murder of Lackielyn Nociete, 19 Joey Nociete, Jr., 9, Dave John de Guzman, Raymond Adrian
Delmendo and Jonalyn Lozano, the cook of the Nociete, right inside the apartment of the Nocietes early afternoon of April 6, 2014 The victims sustained multiple stab wounds on the different parts of their bodies when found by their relatives sprawled bloodied on the apartment.
Aviño reportedly fled from the city after committing the crime but subsequently surrendered to Manila City Vice Mayor Isco Moreno who turned him over to elements of the Baguio city Police Office.
Cawed pointed out that for a person to be convicted of murder, the prosecution must prove that the offender killed the victim; and that the killing was committed with any of the attendant circumstances under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code, such as treachery. Particularly, People v. Leozar Dela Cruz enumerates the elements of murder, thus: That a person was killed; That the accused killed him; That the killing was attended by any of the qualifying circumstances mentioned in Art. 248 and the killing is not parricide or infanticide.
“there is no doubt as to the fact that the five victims in the cases were killed. The certificates of death presented by the prosecution clearly declare this fact. Likewise, there is no showing that the victims are not related by consanguinity or affinity to the accused and the victims are not infants for parricide and infanticide to apply,” Cawed stressed.
The decision added the identification of a malefactor, to be positive and sufficient for conviction, does not always require direct evidence from an eyewitness; otherwise, no conviction will be possible in crimes where there are no eyewitnesses. Trustworthy circumstantial evidence can equally confirm the identification and overcome the constitutionally presumed innocence of the accused.
In these cases, there are circumstances found by this Family Court forming an unbroken chain leading to one fair and reasonable conclusion that the accused, to the exclusion of all others, is the guilty person. These circumstances are the following: Accused’s DNA profile was found in the crime scene; Accused was identified to be in the scene of the crime before and during the time when the killing occurred; Accused’s clothing and belt were found in the crime scene; Accused’s has motive against the private complainants and Accused fled to Manila and eventually surrendered to authorities.
The court added From the foregoing details and threads interwoven, it is shown in the evidence that the accused had the means and opportunity to kill all of the victims in these cases. He in fact left his DNA in the crime scene. DNA print or identification technology is now recognized as a uniquely effective means to link a suspect to a crime, or to absolve one erroneously accused, where biological evidence is available. For purposes of criminal investigation, DNA identification is a fertile source of both inculpatory and exculpatory evidence. It can aid immensely in determining a more accurate account of the crime committed, efficiently facilitating the conviction of the guilty, securing the acquittal of the innocent, and ensuring the proper administration of justice in every case.
Further, it noted that the identification of the accused by Kagawad Manangan, the neighbors, accused’s former girlfriend and the investigators are consistent and provide the circumstances which ties and pulls the accused, to the exclusion of all others, as the perpetrator of the victims’ killings. The voluntary surrender of the accused to Manila Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno is part of the identification process which, when taken together with the identification made by Kagawad Manangan and Amelita Fernandez who saw the accused by the door of the apartment where the killings were done, without even giving weight to their use of pictures taken by the police at the boarding house of the accused, made the identification of the accused sufficient. Taken together with the DNA evidence, this Family Court clearly is shown the culprit of the killings. In these cases, taking the totality of the evidence clearly showing the accused to be at the scene of the crime before and during the time the killings have occurred and the rest of the pieces of the prosecution’s evidence particularly the DNA evidence show that the accused committed the killings. DNA does not lie and from the proceedings in court, the prosecution was able to present and show the integrity of the samples taken from the crime scene and the conduct of the DNA test itself.
In all these cases, the Family Court notes that the circumstances of treachery, taking advantage of superior strength, and evident premeditation are alleged in the Informations filed to qualify the killing as murder.
The court stated treachery exists when “the offender commits any of the crimes against persons, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution, which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to the offender arising from the defense which the offended party might make.” What is important in ascertaining the existence of treachery is the fact that the attack was made swiftly, deliberately, unexpectedly, and without a warning, thus affording the unsuspecting victim no chance to resist or escape the attack. In People v. Lobino, the Supreme Court held that a sudden attack against an unarmed victim constitutes treachery.
Moreover, In these cases, evident premeditation was not established. There is no showing, much less an indication, that accused had taken advantage of a sufficient time to carefully plan the killing of these victims; or that a considerable time has lapsed enough for accused to reflect upon the consequences of his act but nevertheless clung to his predetermined and well-crafted plan. While the prosecution evidence establish the fact of accused’s sudden stabbing of the victims and the multiple stabs at the back, abdomen, neck and chest area, this fact only successfully establishes the qualifying circumstance of treachery but not the aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation.
While evident premeditation was not proven as a qualifying circumstance, the court cited abuse of superior strength is proven by the prosecution. To take advantage of superior strength means to purposely use excessive force out of proportion to the means of defense available to the person attacked. The appreciation of this aggravating circumstance depends on the age, size and strength of the parties, and is considered whenever there is a notorious inequality of forces between the victim and the aggressor, assuming a superiority of strength notoriously advantageous to the aggressor, which is selected or taken advantaged of by him in the commission of the crime. Unlike in treachery, where the victim is not given the opportunity to defend himself or repel the aggression, taking advantage of superior strength does not mean that the victim was completely defenseless. Abuse of superior strength is determined by the excess of the aggressor’s natural strength over that of the victim, considering the momentary position of both and the employment of means weakening the defense, although not annulling it.
The decision stated the evidence presented by the prosecution effectively identifies the accused to the exclusion of others as the person who stabbed the victims to their deaths. The identification of the accused in this case is clear and convincing through circumstantial evidence and sealed by the results of DNA test.
On the other hand, the court asserted The evidence presented by the defense was not able to raise any doubt as to the culpability of the accused which established a prima facie case which shifted the burden of evidence to the defense. The defense of the accused is denial and alibi where he claims to have been in Sta. Mesa, Manila at the time of the commission of the crime. Several prosecution witnesses placed him in Baguio City on April 6, 2014 as he was seen not only in the Baguio City Public Market but was also seen by two witnesses by the door of the apartment where the killings took place. The defense presented no evidence to prove that he was not in Baguio City on said date. In fact, he did not even take the stand to support his defense.
By Dexter A. See