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People vs. Villanueva
G.R. No.226475, March 13, 2017
At around past 5:00 a.m. of January 1, 2012, Amie Bafiaga (Bañaga) was selling tapsilog to a group of persons playing cara y cruz at the comer of an alley in Summitville, Barangay Putatan, Muntinlupa City. Thereupon, Bafiaga saw the accused-appellants and Valencia arrive and ask the group if they know Enrico Enriquez, to which they answered in the negative. Thereupon, the accused-appellants and Valencia went to the tricycle terminal, which was about 10 to 15 meters away, where they saw Enrico. They then simultaneously attacked Enrico. Villanueva punched Enrico on the face twice while Sayson hit the latter at the back of the head with a stone wrapped in a t-shirt. Valencia then stabbed Enrico on the left side of his armpit twice. Enrico tried to fight back to no avail.
The Regional Trial Court (RTC) and Court of Appeals (CA) agreed on their conviction of the crime of murder and appreciated the qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength considering that Enrico was all alone when he was attacked by the accused-appellants and Valencia.
Whether or not the RTC and CA improperly appreciated the qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength
Yes. While abuse of superior strength is one of the circumstances mentioned in Article 248 which qualifies the killing of the victim to murder, the prosecution failed to establish the qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength. The fact that the accused-appellants and Valencia, armed with a knife and a stone, ganged up on Enrico does not automatically merit the conclusion that the latter's killing was attended by the qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength. Abuse of superior strength is present whenever there is a notorious inequality of forces between the victim and the aggressor/s that is plainly and obviously advantageous to the aggressor/s and purposely selected or taken advantage of to facilitate the commission of the crime. Evidence must show that the assailants consciously sought the advantage, or that they had the deliberate intent to use this advantage. To take advantage of superior strength means to purposely use force excessively 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. In the present case, the prosecution failed to present evidence to show a relative disparity in age, size, strength, or force, except for the showing that two assailants, one of them armed with a knife, attacked the victim. The presence of two assailants, one of them armed with a knife, is not per se indicative of abuse of superior strength. Mere superiority in numbers does not indicate the presence of this circumstance. Nor can the circumstance be inferred solely from the victim's possibly weaker physical constitution. In fact, what the evidence shows in this case is a victim who is taller than the assailants and who was even able to deliver retaliatory fist blows against the knife-wielder.
Accordingly, the Court is compelled to disregard the finding of the existence of abuse of superior strength by the lower courts. The accused-appellants' guilt is, thus, limited to the crime of homicide.