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People vs Catbagan

FACTS:
After receiving complaints about the gunshots coming from the residence of Danilo Lapidante, who
was then was celebrating his birthday, appellant Carmelo Catbagan, an investigator of the Criminal
Investigation Service, Philippine National Police, went to the latters house to verify who among their
group had been firing the Armalite rifle. Suddenly, a piece of stone was hurled from the direction of
the celebrants house, hitting Catbagan. Irritated, he ordered his companion, Zosimo Pavabier, to
look for the one who threw the stone. At that moment, Sgt. Celso Suico of the Philippine Air Force
and of the Presidential Security Group, the one responsible for firing the shots, approached and
extended his hand towards Catbagan as he introduced himself. Completely ignoring the gesture of
the latter, Catbagan drew out his .9mm automatic pistol and fired successively at Suico. Ernesto
Lacaden, companion of Suico, who was abruptly awakened as the shots were fired, disembarked
from the parked owner-type jeep where he was sleeping. Unexpectedly, two shots were also fired at
him by Catbagan. Almost simultaneously, Catbagan directed his attention to Lapidante who was then
inside their compound and running towards the main door of their house upon the prompting of his
wife to evade the assailant. But before he could reach the safety of their abode, two rapid shots were
fired by Catbagan, one of which hit him in the upper part of his body. As a consequence of the
injuries they sustained, Suico and Lapidante died, whereas Lacaden had to be treated and confined
in the hospital.
In his defense, Catbagan argued that he was justified in shooting the victims, as he was merely
defending himself and fulfilling his sworn duties. He claimed that the victims were rushing and
encircling him, Lacaden toting an ice-pick while Suico drew a gun from his waist and aimed the
pistol at him. Simultaneously, he heard Lapidante shouting, which he believed was asking for a long
gun. Threatened of his safety, he drew his own gun fired at the aggressors. He then surrendered
himself and his firearms to his superior officer at the CIDG Office. The lower court, nonetheless,
convicted him with the crime of homicide, murder, and frustrated murder.
ISSUE:
1) Whether or not the appellant was justified in shooting the victims as a direct result of his
fulfillment

of

duty.

2) Whether or not the appellant was entitled to a justifying circumstance of self-defense.


3) Whether or not the appellant was entitled to a mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender.
4) Whether or not the characterization of the crimes charged by the trial court was correct.
HELD:
1) No. Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) provides that a person who acts in the fulfillment of
a duty or in the lawful exercise of a right or office does not incur any criminal liability, provided that

the following requisites must concur: 1) the accused must have acted in the performance of a duty or
in the lawful exercise of a right or office; and 2) the injury caused or the offense committed should
have been the necessary consequence of such lawful exercise. In the instant case, the above
mentioned requisites were absent. The appellant was not performing his duties at the time of the
shooting as there was no proof that he had personal knowledge on who had been firing the Armalite,
nor he was there to effect an arrest. The fatal injuries that he inflicted on the victims were not a
necessary consequence of the performance of his duty as a police officer.
2) No. Article 11 of the RPC provides that anyone who acts in defense of his person or rights do not
incur criminal liability, provided that the following circumstances concur: 1) unlawful aggression; 2)
reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it; and 3) lack of sufficient
provocation on the part of the person defending himself. In the circumstances surrounding the
shooting of Suico, only a majority of the elements of self-defense were present. However, he may still
be credited with a mitigating circumstance in accordance with Article 13 of the RPC. With regard to
the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Lapidante and Lacaden, no unlawful aggression was
shown. Thus, the justifying circumstance of self-defense will not apply.
3) Yes. In order for voluntary surrender to mitigate criminal liability, the following elements must
concur: 1) the offender has not been actually arrested; 2) the offender surrendered himself to a
person in authority; and 3) the surrender was voluntary. It is sufficient that that act be spontaneous
and clearly indicative of the intent of the accused to surrender unconditionally. At the time of his
surrender, appellant had not actually been arrested. He surrendered himself and his firearm to a
person in authority, the chief of the Assistant Directorate for Intelligence of the Philippine National
Police. Finally, the surrender was voluntary and spontaneous; it thus showed intent to surrender
unconditionally to the authorities. Thus, he was credited with the mitigating circumstance of
voluntary surrender.
4) No. The crimes were not properly characterized except with the case of Suico. Treachery was
alleged in the case, thus qualifying the shooting of Lapidante and Lacaden as murder and frustrated
murder respectively. In order to establish treachery, the following must be proven: 1) the
employment of such means of execution as would give the person attacked no opportunity for selfdefense or retaliation; and 2) the deliberate and conscious adoption of the means of execution. With
regard to the shooting of Lapidante and Lacaden, the Court held that even if the positions of the
victims were vulnerable, there was still no treachery, as the appellant did not deliberately adopt such
mode of attack. His decision to shoot them was clearly sudden. Thus, in the case of Lapidante, the
Court modified the crime from murder to homicide; while in the case of Lacaden, the crime was
modified from frustrated murder to less serious physical injuries.

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