Sunday, July 11, 2010

People vs. Narvaez, 121 SCRA 389 (1983)

FACTS: Mamerto Narvaez has been convicted of murder (qualified by treachery) of David Fleischer and Flaviano Rubia. On August 22, 1968, Narvaez shot Fleischer and Rubia during
the time the two were constructing a fence that would prevent Narvaez from getting into his house and rice mill. The defendant was taking a nap when he heard sounds of construction and
found fence being made. He addressed the group and asked them to stop destroying his house and asking if they could talk things over. Fleischer responded with "No, gadamit, proceed, go
ahead." Defendant lost his "equilibrium," and shot Fleisher with his shotgun. He also shot Rubia who was running towards the jeep where the deceased's gun was placed. Prior to the
shooting, Fleischer and Co. (the company of Fleischer's family) was involved in a legal battle with the defendant and other land settlers of Cotabato over certain pieces of property. At the time
of the shooting, the civil case was still pending for annulment (settlers wanted granting of property to Fleisher and Co. to be annulled). At time of the shooting, defendant had leased his
property from Fleisher (though case pending and ownership uncertain) to avoid trouble. On June 25, defendant received letter terminating contract because he allegedly didn't pay rent.
He was given 6 months to remove his house from the land. Shooting was barely 2 months after letter. Defendant claims he killed in defense of his person and property. CFI ruled that
Narvaez was guilty. Aggravating circumstances of evident premeditation offset by the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender. For both murders, CFI sentenced him to reclusion perpetua, to indemnify the heirs, and to pay for moral damages.

ISSUES:
1. Whether or not CFI erred in convicting defendant-appellant despite the fact that he acted in defense of his person.

No. The courts concurred that the fencing and chiselling of the walls of the house of the defendant was indeed a form of aggression on the part of the victim. However, this
aggression was not done on the person of the victim but rather on his rights to property. On the first issue, the courts did not err. However, in consideration of the violation of property rights, the courts referred to Art. 30 of the civil code recognizing the right of owners to close and fence their land.

Although is not in dispute, the victim was not in the position to subscribe to the article because his ownership of the land being awarded by the government was still pending, therefore putting ownership into question. It is accepted that the victim was the original aggressor.

2. WON the court erred in convicting defendant-appellant although he acted in defence of his rights.

Yes. However, the argument of the justifying circumstance of self-defense is applicable only if the 3 requirements are fulfilled. Art. 11(1) RPC enumerates these requisites:
  • Unlawful aggression. In the case at bar, there was unlawful aggression towards appellant's property rights. Fleisher had given Narvaez 6 months and he should have left him in peace before time was up, instead of chiseling Narvaez's house and putting up fence. Art. 536 of the Civil Code also provides that possession may not be acquired through force or intimidation; while Art. 539 provides that every possessor has the right to be respected in his possession
  • Reasonable necessity of means employed to prevent or repel attack. In the case, killing was disproportionate to the attack.
  • Lack of sufficient provocation on part of person defending himself. Here, there was no provocation at all since he was asleep
Since not all requisites present, defendant is credited with the special mitigating circumstance of incomplete defense, pursuant to Art. 13(6) RPC. These mitigating circumstances are: voluntary surrender and passion and obfuscation (read p. 405 explanation) Crime is homicide (2 counts) not murder because treachery is not applicable on account of provocation by the deceased. Also, assault was not deliberately chosen with view to kill since slayer acted instantaneously. There was also no direct evidence of planning or preparation to kill. Art. 249 RPC: Penalty for homicide is reclusion temporal. However, due to mitigating circumstances and incomplete defense, it can be lowered three degrees (Art. 64) to arrestomayor.

3. WON he should be liable for subsidiary imprisonment since he is unable to pay the civil indemnity due to the offended party.

No. He is not liable to be subsidiarily imprisoned for nonpayment of civil indemnity. RA 5465 made the provisions of Art. 39 applicable to fines only and not to reparation of damage caused, indemnification of consequential damages and costs of proceedings. Although it was enacted only after its conviction, considering that RA 5465 is favorable to the accused who is not a habitual delinquent, it may be given retroactive effect pursuant to Art. 22 of the RPC.

Judgment: Defendant guilty of homicide but w/ mitigating circumstances and extenuating circumstance of incomplete self defense. Penalty is 4 months arresto mayor and to indemnify
each group of heirs 4,000 w/o subsidiary imprisonment and w/o award for moral damages. Appellant has already been detained 14 years so his immediate release is ordered.

Gutierrez, dissenting. Defense of property can only be invoked when coupled with form of attack on person defending property. In the case at bar, this was not so. Appellant should then be sentenced to prision mayor. However, since he has served more than that, he should be released.

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