Self-defense not appreciated - G.R. No. 177743

G.R. No. 177743

"x x x.

Fontanilla pleaded self-defense. In order for self-defense to be appreciated, he had to prove by clear and convincing evidence the following elements: (a) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (b) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it; and (c) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.[19] Unlawful aggression is the indispensable element of self-defense, for if no unlawful aggression attributed to the victim is established, self-defense is unavailing, for there is nothing to repel.[20] The character of the element of unlawful aggression is aptly explained as follows:

Unlawful aggression on the part of the victim is the primordial element of the justifying circumstance of self-defense. Without unlawful aggression, there can be no justified killing in defense of oneself. The test for the presence of unlawful aggression under the circumstances is whether the aggression from the victim put in real peril the life or personal safety of the person defending himself; the peril must not be an imagined or imaginary threat. Accordingly, the accused must establish the concurrence of three elements of unlawful aggression, namely: (a) there must be a physical or material attack or assault; (b) the attack or assault must be actual, or, at least, imminent; and (c) the attack or assault must be unlawful.

Unlawful aggression is of two kinds: (a) actual or material unlawful aggression; and (b) imminent unlawful aggression. Actual or material unlawful aggression means an attack with physical force or with a weapon, an offensive act that positively determines the intent of the aggressor to cause the injury. Imminent unlawful aggression means an attack that is impending or at the point of happening; it must not consist in a mere threatening attitude, nor must it be merely imaginary, but must be offensive and positively strong (like aiming a revolver at another with intent to shoot or opening a knife and making a motion as if to attack). Imminent unlawful aggression must not be a mere threatening attitude of the victim, such as pressing his right hand to his hip where a revolver was holstered, accompanied by an angry countenance, or like aiming to throw a pot.[21]

By invoking self-defense, however, Fontanilla admitted inflicting the fatal injuries that caused the death of Olais. It is basic that once an accused in a prosecution for murder or homicide admitted his infliction of the fatal injuries on the deceased, he assumed the burden to prove by clear, satisfactory and convincing evidence the justifying circumstance that would avoid his criminal liability.[22] Having thus admitted being the author of the death of the victim, Fontanilla came to bear the burden of proving the justifying circumstance to the satisfaction of the court,[23] and he would be held criminally liable unless he established self-defense by sufficient and satisfactory proof.[24] He should discharge the burden by relying on the strength of his own evidence, because the Prosecution’s evidence, even if weak, would not be disbelieved in view of his admission of the killing.[25] Nonetheless, the burden to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt remained with the State until the end of the proceedings.

Fontanilla did not discharge his burden. A review of the records reveals that, one, Olais did not commit unlawful aggression against Fontanilla, and, two, Fontanilla’s act of hitting the victim’s head with a stone, causing the mortal injury, was not proportional to, and constituted an unreasonable response to the victim’s fistic attack and kicks.

Indeed, had Olais really attacked Fontanilla, the latter would have sustained some injury from the aggression. It remains, however, that no injury of any kind or gravity was found on the person of Fontanilla when he presented himself to the hospital; hence, the attending physician of the hospital did not issue any medical certificate to him. Nor was any medication applied to him.[26] In contrast, the physician who examined the cadaver of Olais testified that Olais had been hit on the head more than once. The plea of self-defense was thus belied, for the weapons used by Fontanilla and the location and number of wounds he inflicted on Olais revealed his intent to kill, not merely an effort to prevent or repel an attack from Olais. We consider to be significant that the gravity of the wounds manifested the determined effort of the accused to kill his victim, not just to defend himself.[27]

x x x."
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