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VOL.289,APRIL20,1998

213

Peoplevs.Castillo
*

G.R.No.120282.April20,1998.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiffappellee, vs. ROBERT


CASTILLOyMONES,accusedappellant.
Criminal Law Murder Evidence Credibility of Witnesses Factual
findings of the trial court, as well as its assessment of the credibility of
witnesses,areentitledtogreatweightandareevenconclusiveandbinding,
barringarbitrarinessandoversightofsomefactorcircumstanceofweight
andsubstance.Timeandagain,thisCourthasadheredtotherulethatthe
factualfindingsofthetrialcourt,aswellasitsassessmentofthecredibility
of witnesses, are entitled to great weight and are even conclusive and
binding,barringarbitrarinessandoversightofsomefactorcircumstanceof
weight and substance. The evaluation of the credibility of witnesses is a
matter that peculiarly falls within the power of the trial court, as it has the
opportunity to watch and observe the demeanor and behavior of the
witnesses on the stand. In this case, appellant failed to provide any
substantialargumenttowarrantadeparturefromthisrule.
SameSameSameSameTrialcourtdidnoterringivingcredenceto
the account of the prosecution.Clearly, the straightforward, detailed and
consistent narrations of the government witnesses show that the trial court
didnoterringivingcredencetotheaccountoftheprosecution.
SameSameSameJudgesItisajudgesprerogativeanddutytoask
clarificatory questions to ferret out the truth Jurisprudence teaches that
allegations of bias on the part of the trial court should be received with
caution, especially when the queries by the judge did not prejudice the
accused.The allegation of bias and prejudice is not welltaken. It is a
judges prerogative and duty to ask clarificatory questions to ferret out the
truth. On the whole, the Court finds that the questions propounded by the
judge were merely clarificatory in nature. Questions which merely clear up
dubiouspointsandbringoutadditionalrelevantevidencearewithinjudicial
prerogative. Moreover, jurisprudence teaches that allegations of bias on the
part of the trial court should be received with caution, especially when the
queriesbythejudgedidnotprejudicetheaccused.The

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_______________
*FIRSTDIVISION.

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Peoplevs.Castillo

proprietyofajudgesqueriesisdeterminednotnecessarilybytheirquantity
but by their quality and, in any event, by the test of whether the defendant
was prejudiced by such questioning. In this case, appellant failed to
demonstratethathewasprejudicedbythequestionspropoundedbythetrial
judge. In fact, even if all such questions and the answers thereto were
eliminated,appellantwouldstillbeconvicted.
Same Same Same Same Fact that the trial judge believed the
evidence of the prosecution more than that of the defense, does not indicate
that he was biased.As correctly observed by the solicitor general, there
wasnoshowingthatthejudgehadaninterest,personalorotherwise,inthe
prosecution of the case at bar. He is therefore presumed to have acted
regularlyandinthemanner[that]preserve[s]theidealofthecoldneutrality
ofanimpartialjudgeimplicitintheguaranteeofdueprocess(Mateo,Jr.vs.
Villaluz, 50 SCRA 18). That the trial judge believed the evidence of the
prosecution more than that of the defense, does not indicate that he was
biased. He simply accorded greater credibility to the testimony of the
prosecutionwitnessesthantothatoftheaccused.
Same Same Same Alibi For the defense of alibi to prosper, the
accusedmustprovenotonlythathewasatsomeotherplaceatthetimethe
crimewascommitted,butthatitwaslikewisephysicallyimpossibleforhim
to be at the locus criminis at the time of the alleged crime.Appellants
defenseofalibianddenialisunavailing.Forthedefenseofalibitoprosper,
theaccusedmustprovenotonlythathewasatsomeotherplaceatthetime
thecrimewascommitted,butthatitwaslikewisephysicallyimpossiblefor
him to be at the locus criminis at the time of the alleged crime. This the
appellantmiserablyfailedtodo.Appellantcontendsthathewasthenasleep
in his house at the time of the incident. This was supported by his mother
whostatedthathewasasleepfrom9:00p.m.to6:00a.m.thenextdayand
by Rosemarie Malikdem who said that she visited the accused on the night
of May 24, 1993 to counsel him, which was her task in the Samahang
Magkakapitbahay. Appellant failed to demonstrate, however, the distance
between the crime scene and his house. Indeed, he testified that his house
was near the crime scene. In any event, this defense cannot overturn the
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clear and positive testimony of the credible eyewitnesses who located


appellantatthelocuscriminisandidentifiedhimastheassailant.

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Peoplevs.Castillo

Same Same Same Aggravating Circumstances Evident


Premeditation Elements for evident premeditation to be appreciated.The
Court agrees with the trial court that appellant is guilty of murder for the
death of Antonio Dometita. We likewise agree that the prosecution was
unable to prove the aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation. For
this circumstance to be appreciated, there must be proof, as clear as the
evidenceofthecrimeitself,ofthefollowingelements:1)thetimewhenthe
offenderdeterminedtocommitthecrime,2)anactmanifestlyindicatingthat
he clung to his determination, and 3) a sufficient lapse of time between
determination and execution to allow himself time to reflect upon the
consequences of his act. These requisites were never established by the
prosecution.
Same Same Same Same Abuse of Superior Strength To properly
appreciate the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength, the
prosecutionmustprovethattheassailantpurposelyusedexcessiveforceout
ofproportiontothemeansofdefenseavailabletothepersonattacked.On
theotherhand,wedisagreewiththetrialcourtthatthekillingwasqualified
by abuse of superior strength. To properly appreciate the aggravating
circumstance of abuse of superior strength, the prosecution must prove that
the assailant purposely used excessive force out of proportion to the means
of defense available to the person attacked. The prosecution did not
demonstratethattherewasamarkeddifferenceinthestatureandbuildofthe
victimandtheappellantwhichwouldhaveprecludedanappropriatedefense
from the victim. Not even the use of a bladed instrument would constitute
abuse of superior strength if the victim was adequately prepared to face an
attack,orifhewasobviouslyphysicallysuperiortotheassailant.
SameSameSameQualifyingCircumstancesTreacheryTreacheryis
committed when two conditions concur, namely, that the means, methods,
andformsofexecutionemployedgavethepersonattackednoopportunityto
defend himself or to retaliate and that such means, methods, and forms of
executionweredeliberatelyandconsciouslyadoptedbytheaccusedwithout
danger to his person.Nonetheless, we hold that the killing was qualified
bytreachery.Treacheryiscommittedwhentwoconditionsconcur,namely,
that the means, methods, and forms of execution employed gave the person
attacked no opportunity to defend himself or to retaliate[] and that such
means,methods,andformsofexecutionweredeliber
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Peoplevs.Castillo

atelyandconsciouslyadoptedbytheaccusedwithoutdangertohisperson.
These requisites were evidently present in this case when the accused
appearedfromnowhereandswiftlyandunexpectedlystabbedthevictimjust
as he was bidding goodbye to his friend, Witness Velasco. Said action
rendered it difficult for the victim to defend himself. The presence of
defense wounds does not negate treachery because, as testified to by
Velasco,thefirststab,fatalasitwas,wasinflictedonthechest.Theincised
wounds in the arms were inflicted when the victim was already rendered
defenseless.

APPEALfromadecisionoftheRegionalTrialCourtofQuezon
City,Br.88.
ThefactsarestatedintheopinionoftheCourt.
TheSolicitorGeneralforplaintiffappellee.
Salacnib F. Baterina and Ismael R. Baterina for accused
appellant.
PANGANIBAN,J.:
The trial court judge is not an idle arbiter during a trial. He can
propound clarificatory questions to witnesses in order to ferret out
thetruth.Theimpartialityofajudgecannotbeassailedonthemere
groundthatheaskedsuchquestionsduringthetrial.
TheCase
1

ThisisanappealfromtheDecision datedDecember23,1994ofthe
Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 88, in Criminal Case
No.Q9345235convictingRobertCastilloyMonesofmurderand
2
sentencinghimtoreclusionperpetua.
3
On July 23, 1993, an amended Information was filed by
Assistant City Prosecutor Ralph S. Lee, charging appellant with
murderallegedlycommittedasfollows:
_______________
1Rollo,pp.1317.
2PennedbyJudgeTirsoD.C.Velasco.
3Rollo,p.5.

217
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VOL.289,APRIL20,1998

217

Peoplevs.Castillo
That on or about the 25th day of May, 1993, in Quezon City, Philippines,
the abovenamed accused, with intent to kill[,] qualified by evident
premeditation, use of superior strength and treachery did then and there,
willfully, unlawfully and feloniously assault, attack and employ personal
violenceuponthepersonofoneANTONIODOMETITA,bythenandthere
stabbing him with a bladed weapon[,] hitting him on his chest thereby
inflicting upon him serious and mortal wounds, which were the direct and
immediate cause of his untimely death, to the damage and prejudice of the
heirsofthesaidANTONIODOMETITA.
CONTRARYTOLAW.

Uponarraignment,AppellantCastillo,assistedbyCounselSalacnib
4
Baterina, entered a plea of not guilty. After trial in due course,
appellant was convicted. The dispositive portion of the assailed
Decisionreads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, accused ROBERTO CASTILLO y
MONES is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Murder
and[is]herebysentencedtosuffer[the]penaltyofreclusionperpetua.Heis
likewise ordered to pay the heirs of the deceased Antonio Dometita actual
damages in the sum of P60,000.00, the sum of P50,000.00 by way of
indemnity for the death of the victim and moral damages in the sum of
P100,000.00.Heislikewiseorderedtopaycosts.
5
SOORDERED.
6

Hence,thisappeal.

TheFacts
EvidencefortheProsecution
7

TheAppelleesBrief presentsthefactsasfollows:
_______________
4Records,p.18.
5Rollo,p.17.
6ThecasewasdeemedsubmittedfordecisiononFebruary6,1997uponreceiptby

thisCourtofAppelleesBrief.Thefilingofareplybriefwasdeemedwaived.
7

This Brief was signed by Assistant Solicitor General Carlos N. Ortega and

SolicitorGeraldineC.FielMacaraig.
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Peoplevs.Castillo
On May 25, 1993, around one oclock in the morning, Eulogio Velasco,
floor manager of the Cola Pubhouse along EDSA, Project 7, Veterans
Village, Quezon City, was sitting outside the Pubhouse talking with his co
worker, Dorie. Soon, Antonio Tony Dometita, one of their customers,
cameoutofthepubhouse.Ashepassedby,heinformedEulogiothathewas
going home. When Tony Dometita was about an armslength [sic] from
Eulogio,however,appellantRobertCastillosuddenlyappearedand,without
warning, stabbed Tony with a fan knife on his left chest. As Tony pleaded
forhelp,appellantstabbedhimoncemore,hittinghimonthelefthand.
RespondingtoTonyscryforhelp,EulogioplacedachairbetweenTony
andappellanttostopappellantfromfurtherattackingTony.Healsoshouted
atTonytorunaway.TonyrantowardstheothersideofEDSA,butappellant
pursuedhim.
Eulogio came to know later that Tony had died. His body was found
outsidethefenceoftheIglesianiCristoCompound,EDSA,QuezonCity.
Dr. Bienvenido Munoz, the medicolegal officer who autopsied Tonys
cadaver, testified that the proximate cause of Tonys death was the stab
wound on his left chest. Tony also suffered several
incised wounds and
8
abrasions,indicatingthathetriedtoresisttheattack.

VersionoftheDefense
9

Ontheotherhand,thedefenseviewedthefactsinthisway:

OnMay25,1993,thelateAntonioDometitawasfounddeadbythepolice
officersatthealleyontherightsideoftheIglesianiCristoChurchatEDSA
inBagoBantay.
ItisthetheoryoftheprosecutionthatthedeceasedAntonioDometitawas
stabbed by the accused Robert Castillo y Mones as testified to by Leo
Velasco.ThecorroborationofLeoVelascostesti
________________
8AppelleesBrief,pp.35rollo,pp.8385.
9AppellantsBrief,p.1.ThiswassignedbyAttys.SalacnibBaterinaandIsmaelBaterina.

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Peoplevs.Castillo

mony is that of Melinda Mercado who (tsn Oct. 11, 1993) stated that Leo
Velasco informed her that Dometita was stabbed. Robert Castillo was
walking away from the pubhouse with the bladed weapon. Leo Velasco
himselfdetailedthewayCastillostabbedthedeceasedAntonioDometita.
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Ontheotherhandthedefenseclaimsthatthedeceaseddiedinthealleyat
the right side of the church. That decedent Dometita was attacked by two
malefactorsastestifiedtobyEdilbertoMarcelino,atricycledriverwhosaw
twopeopleganginguponathird.Thesamewitnesssawthevictimfallingto
theground.(tsnJanuary5,1994,page8).AreportofEdilbertoMarcelino
totheBarangayTanodsOfficewasmadeintheblotteroftheBarangayand
theextract(xeroxofthepage)wasmarkedasExhibit2.

TheTrialCourtsRuling
The court a quo gave full credence to the testimonies of the two
prosecutionwitnesses,whopositivelyidentifiedtheappellantasthe
killer.Itexplained:
Fromthetestimoniesofthewitnessesoftheprosecutionandthedefense,it
canbegleanedthattheaccused,toexculpatehimselffromtheliability,clung
to the defense of alibi[,] saying that he was not at the place where the
incident took place at the time of the killing. This was supported by the
testimony of his mother and his neighbor and guide Malikdem. This,
however, is contradicted by the testimonies of the two eyewitnesses of the
prosecutionwhopositivelyidentifiedaccusedasthepersonwhostabbedthe
victim. While the testimony of Mercado is to the effect that she did not
actuallyseetheaccusedhitthevictim,shehowever,sawhimwalkingaway
andcarryingabladedweaponatthesceneofthecrime.Velascoontheother
hand, actually saw him lunged [sic] his fan knife at the victim. These were
further strengthened by the findings of the medicolegal officer
that the
10
weaponusedinkillingthevictim[was]similartoabalisong.

Thetrialcourtalsofoundthatthekillingwasqualifiedbyabuseof
superiorstrength,becausetheaccuseduseda
_______________
10Decision,p.3rollo,p.15.

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Peoplevs.Castillo

deadly weapon in surprising the victim who [was] unarmed.


Although treachery was present, the trial court held that this was
absorbedbyabuseofsuperiorstrength.
TheIssues
11

Theappellantraisesthefollowingassignmentoferrors:
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I
Thatthetrialcourtfailedtoappreciatetheevidencepresentedbytheaccused
that there was a stabbing/mauling incident at the side street near the Iglesia
ni Cristo Church at EdsaBago Bantay, Quezon City (at about the time of
the alleged stabbing of victime [sic] Antonio Dometita according to the
prosecutionversion),thesameevidencefortheaccusedbeingbuttressedand
supportedbythebarangayblotter,markedExhibit2.
II
That the trial court failed to appreciate the implications of: the medical
finding that the heart and the lungs of the victim were impaled that
according to the testimony of the prosecution witness, PO3 Manolito
Estacio, the victim was found at the side street near the Iglesia ni Cristo
Churchandthatthatsidestreetdistantfromtheplacethewitnessesforthe
prosecution stated the victim was stabbed. These matters create reasonable
doubtastotheguiltoftheaccusedandcastdistrustonthetestimonyofthe
witnessEulogioVelascowhoallegedlywitnessedthestabbingofthevictim.
III
That the trial court in many instances showed its prejudice against the
accusedandinseveralinstancesaskedquestionsthat[were]wellwithinthe
dutyoftheprosecutiontoexploreandaskitneverappreciatedothermatters
favorable to the accused, like the frontal infliction of the mortal wound and
thepresence[of]defensewoundswhichnegatetreacheryandsuperiority.
_______________
11AppellantsBrief,pp.(50)iii.

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Peoplevs.Castillo
IV
That the trial judge was bias[ed] against the accused hence the judgment of
conviction.

In the main, appellant questions the trial judges (1) assessment of


thecredibilityofthewitnessesandtheirtestimoniesand(2)alleged
partialityinfavoroftheprosecutionasshownbyhisparticipationin
theexaminationofwitnesses.
ThisCourtsRuling
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Theappealisbereftofmerit.
FirstIssue:CredibilityofWitnesses
Time and
again, this Court has adhered to the rule that the factual
12
findings of the trial 13court, as well as its assessment of the
credibility of witnesses, are entitled to great weight and are even
conclusiveandbinding,barringarbitrarinessandoversightofsome
factorcircumstanceofweightandsubstance.Theevaluationofthe
credibility of witnesses is a matter that peculiarly falls within the
power of the trial court, as it has the opportunity to watch and
14
observethedemeanorandbehaviorofthewitnessesonthestand.
Inthiscase,appellantfailedtoprovideanysubstantialargumentto
warrantadeparturefromthisrule.
The testimony of Prosecution Witness Eulogio Velasco that he
saw the appellant stab the victim is clear and unequivocal. He was
sittingoutsidethepubhousewhenthevictimcame
_______________
12Peoplevs.Sumbillo,G.R.No.105292,April18,1997Peoplevs.Quinao, G.R.

No.108454,March13,1997Peoplevs.Nuestro,240SCRA221,January18,1995.
13People vs. Ombrog,G.R. No. 104666, February 12, 1997 People vs. Sumbillo,

supraPeoplevs.Ortega,G.R.No.116736,July24,1997Peoplevs.deGuzman,188
SCRA405,August7,1990.
14Peoplevs.Morin,241SCRA709,February24,1995People vs. Cogonon, 262

SCRA693,October4,1996.
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Peoplevs.Castillo

out.Dometita,whowasthenonlyanarmslengthawayfromhim,
turnedaroundtosaygoodbyewhen,suddenly,theaccusedcameout
ofnowhereandstabbedthevictim.Velasconarratedfurtherthatthe
victim asked him for help, so he responded by placing a chair
between15the victim and the appellant to block the assault of the
accused. Thereafter, he told Dometita to run away. The accused
16
then chased the victim towards the other side of EDSA. The
relevantportionsofVelascostestimonyarereproducedhereunder:
Q Immediatelythereafter,wasthereanyunusualincidentthat
happened?
A

WhenDoriewentinsidethepubhouse,thatwasthetimeTony
wentout,sir.

COURT:
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WhoisthisTony?

AntonioDimatita[sic]aliasTony,YourHonor.

PROS.LEE:
Q

WhenAntonioDimatita[sic]aliasTonywentout,what
happened?

Tonyaskedpermissionfrommethathewillgohome,sir.

Andwhathappenedthereafter?

Whenheha[d]notgonefaryetfromme,RobertCastillo
suddenlyattackedhimandstabbedhim,sir.

WhathappenedtoAntonioDimatita[sic]aliasTonywhenhe
wasstabbedbyaccusedRobertCastillo?

Hewastakenaback.Hewasnotabletocoveruphimselfandhe
washitbythestabmadebyRobertCastillo,sir.

Onwhatpartofthebodywashehit?

Ontheleftsideofthechest,sir.

Anddidyouseeinwhatsummer[sic]accusedRobertCastillo
stabbedAntonioDimatita[sic]?

Likethis,sir.(Witnessdemonstratingwithhisrightarmabove
hisshoulderwithdownwardstabbingposition.)

_______________
15TSN,September1,1993,p.12.
16Ibid.,p.51.

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Peoplevs.Castillo
Q Asyoustated,afterTonywashitontheleftsideof[his]chest,
whathappenednext?
A Hewasstabbedagainandwashitonthearm,sir.
Q Whatarm?Leftorright?
A Ontheleftarm,sir.(Witnessispointingtohisleftarminbetween
the1standsecondfinger.)
Q Afterhewashitontheleftarm,whathappenednext?
A Hewentnearmeandaskedforhelp,sir.Iplacedabenchonthe
middletoblockthewaysothatRobertCastillo[would]notbe
abletoreachhimandItoldTonytorunaway,sir.
Q DidTonyrunawaythereafter?
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A Yes,sir.
Q HowaboutaccusedRobertCastillo,whatwashedoingthe[n]?
A Hechased,sir.
Q Whathappenednext?
A IheardTonywasalreadydead,sir.

ThetestimonyofVelascothattheaccusedstabbedthevictimonthe
leftsideofthechestandthenontheleftarmwasconfirmedbythe
17
medical findings, particularly
the autopsy report of Dr. Munoz,
18
whotestifiedasfollows:
COURT
Q CanyoutelltheCourttherelativepositionofthevictimandthe
assailantwhenthestabwoundwasinflicted?
TRIALPROS.RALPHS.LEE

Basedonthewound,doctor.

WITNESS
A Ifthevictimandtheassailantwereinastandingposition,the
assailantandthevictimwouldbefacingeachotherandthefatal
woundwasdeliveredfromupwardtodownward,yourhonor.
_______________
17TSN,September1,1993,p.11.
18TSN,August12,1993,p.10.

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Peoplevs.Castillo

Witness Velasco further testified that19 the accused used a bladed


weaponwhichlookedlikeafanknife.
Thiswasalsosupportedby
20
Dr.Muoz,viz.:
Q Dr.Muoz,inyourlearnedmedicalknowledge,whatcouldhave
causedthisstabwoundmarkedasExhibitD?
A

Thiswasinflictedbyasharppointedsinglebladedinstrument
likekitchenknifeorbalisongoranysimilarinstrument.

Melinda Mercado, the other prosecution witness, corroborated the


storyofVelasco.Shetestifiedthatwhenshewasinsidethepub,she
21
heardVelascoshoutthatAntonioDometitawasstabbed. Shewent
outtoverifyandsawtheaccusedwalkingaway.Whatshesawwas
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not the stabbing incident


itself, but the accused wrapping a bladed
22
weaponinhisshirt. ThisconfirmstheassertionofVelascothatthe
accused
was still holding the bladed instrument as he chased the
23
victim.
Clearly,thestraightforward,detailedandconsistentnarrationsof
the government witnesses show that the trial court did not err in
givingcredencetotheaccountoftheprosecution.
Appellant contends that the trial court failed to appreciate the
testimony of Defense Witness Edilberto Marcelino who narrated a
stabbing/mauling incident on a side street that fateful night near
the Iglesia ni Cristo Church, where the victims body was found.
Said witness testified that he was driving his tricycle,24when he
noticed a group ganging
up on a man (pinagtutulungan). Hethen
25
sawthepersonfall. He
_______________
19TSN,September1,1993,p.13.
20TSN,August12,1993,p.8.
21TSN,October11,1993,p.8.
22Ibid.,pp.910.
23TSN,September1,1993,p.14.
24TSN,January5,1995,p.8.
25Ibid.,p.16.

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Peoplevs.Castillo

didnotnoticeiftheassailantshadweapons,ashewasabitfarfrom
them, illumination coming only from the headlight of his tricycle.
Hestatedthattheappellant,withwhomhewasfamiliarbecausehe
26
oftensawhimsellingcigarettesalongEDSA, wasnotoneofthose
he saw ganging up on the person who fell to the ground. He
described one of the malefactors as longhaired and lanky,
and the
27
other one as faircomplexioned with medium build, descriptions
which did not fit the accused. Upon witnessing the incident,
Marcelinoimmediatelyproceededtothebarangayhalltoreportthe
matter.
The trial court did not accord weight to said testimony. We
sustain this holding. Marcelino admitted that
he was about twenty
28
fivemetersawayfromtheplaceofincident andthatsaidplacewas
not lighted. Furthermore,
his tricycle was then moving because he
29
wasinahurry. Thus,weagreewiththisstatementofthetrialcourt:
[C]onsidering that it was dark and the distance from where the
witness saw the incident [was] quite far, it could not have
been
30
possibleforhimtorecognizethevictimandhisattackers.
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Appellantalsoassertsthatthetrialcourtfailedtoappreciatethe
implications of the medical finding that the heart and lungs of the
victim were impaled. He argues that these wounds made it
impossibleforthevictimtotraversethedistancefromthepubhouse
totheIglesianiCristoChurcharea,wherehisbodywaseventually
found. However, the testimony of the medicolegal expert did not
ruleoutthispossibility,asgleanedfromthefollowing:
Q Andifthestabwoundwasfatal,howlongcouldhavehe[sic]
livedaftertheinflictionofthewound?
_______________
26Id.,p.17.
27Id.,p.18.
28TSN,January5,1995,p.27.
29Ibid.,p.30.
30Decision,p.4rollo,p.16.

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Peoplevs.Castillo

A Itwouldbeveryverydifficulttogivethedurationofsurvival
becausedifferentindividual[s]wouldhavedifferenttypesof
survival.Otherswould[live]forfiveminutesandotherswould
surviveforatleast...inshortertime.
Q Butfiveminutesdoctorwouldbealongtimealready.Itcouldbe
thesurvivaltimeofapersonwhohasastrongconstitution.Do
youagreewithme?
A No,sir.Inthisparticularcaseconsideringthattheinvolvement
hereoftheheartistheleftventriclewhichisaverythickportion
oftheheart,Idontthinkhewoulddieinlessthanfiveminutes
becausethethickportionoftheheartservesasasealeroncethe
instrumentispulledout,thetendencyofthethickmuscleisto31
closetheinjurysothereisamuchlongertimeforsurvival.
(Italicssupplied.)

SecondIssue:PartialityoftheTrialJudge
Appellant declares that the trial judge was biased against him for
propounding questions that were well within the prerogative of the
prosecution to explore and ask. More pointedly, appellant alleges
that the trial judge took over
from the prosecution and asked
32
questionsinaleadingmanner, interruptedthecrossexaminationto
33

help the witness give answers favorable to the prosecution,


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33

help the witness give answers favorable to the prosecution, and


askedquestionswhichpertainedtomattersofopinionandallusions
of bad moral character, which could not be objected to by defense34
counsel, because they have been ventilated by the judge himself.
Tosubstantiatetheallegedbiasandprejudiceofthejudge,appellant
in his35brief cited several pages from the transcript of stenographic
notes.
The allegation of bias and prejudice is not welltaken. It is a
judgesprerogativeanddutytoaskclarificatoryquestionsto
________________
31TSN,August12,1993,p.12.
32AppellantsBrief,p.7.
33Ibid.,p.8.
34Id.,p.11.
35AppellantsBrief,pp.613.

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Peoplevs.Castillo
36

ferretoutthetruth. Onthewhole,theCourtfindsthatthequestions
propounded by the judge were merely clarificatory in nature.
Questions which merely clear up dubious points and bring out
additional relevant evidence are within judicial prerogative.
Moreover,jurisprudenceteachesthatallegationsofbiasonthepart
of the trial court should be received with caution, especially when
thequeriesbythejudgedidnotprejudicetheaccused.Thepropriety
of a judges queries is determined not necessarily by their quantity
but by their quality and, in any event, by the test of whether the
defendant was prejudiced by such questioning. In this case,
appellant failed to demonstrate that he was prejudiced by the
questions propounded by the trial judge. In fact, even if all such
questionsandtheanswerstheretowereeliminated,appellantwould
stillbeconvicted.
As correctly observed by the solicitor general, there was no
showingthatthejudgehadaninterest,personalorotherwise,inthe
prosecution of the case at bar. He is therefore presumed to have
actedregularlyandinthemanner[that]preserve[s]theidealofthe
cold neutrality of an impartial judge implicit in the
guarantee of
37
dueprocess(Mateo, Jr. vs. Villaluz,50SCRA18). That the trial
judgebelievedtheevidenceoftheprosecutionmorethanthatofthe
defense, does not indicate that he was biased. He simply accorded
greatercredibilitytothetestimonyoftheprosecutionwitnessesthan
38
tothatoftheaccused.
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Alibi
Appellantsdefenseofalibianddenialisunavailing.Forthedefense
of alibi to prosper, the accused must prove not only that he was at
some other place at the time the crime was committed, but that it
waslikewisephysicallyimpossible
_______________
36Peoplevs.Tabarno,242SCRA456,March20,1995Venturavs.Yatco,105Phil.

287,March16,1959Peoplevs.Catindihan,97SCRA196,April28,1980.
37AppelleesBrief,p.13rollo,p.93.
38Peoplevs.Tabarno,supra.

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Peoplevs.Castillo
39

forhimtobeatthelocuscriminisatthetimeoftheallegedcrime.
Thistheappellantmiserablyfailedtodo.Appellantcontendsthathe
was then asleep in his house at the time of the incident. This was
supported by his mother who stated
that he was asleep from 9:00
40
p.m. to 6:00 a.m. the next day and by Rosemarie Malikdem who
said that she visited the accused on the night of May 24, 1993 to
counsel him, which
was her task in the Samahang
41
Magkakapitbahay. Appellant failed to demonstrate, however, the
distancebetweenthecrimesceneandhishouse.Indeed,hetestified
thathishousewasnearthecrimescene.Inanyevent,thisdefense
cannot overturn the clear and positive testimony of the credible
eyewitnesses who located appellant
at the locus criminis and
42
identifiedhimastheassailant.
AggravatingCircumstances
The Court agrees with the trial court that appellant is guilty of
murder for the death of Antonio Dometita. We likewise agree that
theprosecutionwasunabletoprovetheaggravatingcircumstanceof
evidentpremeditation.Forthiscircumstancetobeappreciated,there
must be proof, as clear as the evidence of the crime itself, of the
following elements: 1) the time when the offender determined to
committhecrime,2)anactmanifestlyindicatingthatheclungtohis
determination, and 3) a sufficient lapse of time between
determination and execution to allow
himself time to reflect upon
43
the consequences of his act. These requisites were never
establishedbytheprosecution.
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________________
39 People vs. Umali, 242 SCRA 17, March 1, 1995 People vs. Hortillano,

177

SCRA729,September19,1989Peoplevs.Cabresos,244SCRA362,May26,1995.
40TSN,February23,1994,p.4.
41TSN,July12,1994,pp.67.
42Peoplevs.Sumbillo,supraPeoplevs.Baydo,GRNo.113799,June17,1997.
43Peoplevs.Baydo,supraPeoplevs.Halili,245SCRA340,June27,1995.

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Peoplevs.Castillo

On the other hand, we disagree with the trial court that the killing
wasqualifiedbyabuseofsuperiorstrength.Toproperlyappreciate
the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength, the
prosecution must prove that the assailant purposely used excessive
force out of proportion
to the means of defense available to the
44
person attacked. The prosecution did not demonstrate that there
was a marked difference in the stature and build of the victim and
the appellant which would have precluded an appropriate defense
from the victim. Not even the use of a bladed instrument would
constitute abuse of superior strength if the victim was adequately
preparedtofaceanattack,orifhewasobviouslyphysicallysuperior
totheassailant.
Nonetheless,weholdthatthekillingwasqualifiedbytreachery.
Treachery is committed when two conditions concur, namely, that
the means, methods, and forms of execution employed gave the
person attacked no opportunity to defend himself or to retaliate[]
and that such means, methods, and forms of execution were
deliberatelyandconsciouslyadoptedbytheaccusedwithoutdanger
45
tohisperson. Theserequisiteswereevidentlypresentinthiscase
when the accused appeared from nowhere and swiftly and
unexpectedlystabbedthevictimjustashewasbiddinggoodbyeto
hisfriend,WitnessVelasco.Saidactionrendereditdifficultforthe
victim to defend himself. The presence of defense wounds does
not negate treachery because, as testified to by Velasco, the first
stab,fatalasitwas,wasinflictedonthechest.Theincisedwounds
in the arms were inflicted when the victim was already rendered
defenseless.
Damages
Thetrialcourtawardedindemnityandactualandmoraldamagesto
theheirsofthevictim.Wesustaintheawardof

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______________
44 People vs. Ruelan, 231 SCRA 650, April 19, 1994 People vs. Casingal,

243

SCRA37,March29,1995.
45 People vs. Maalat, GR No. 109814, July 8, 1997, per Romero, J. People

vs.

Tuson,GRNos.10634546,September16,1996.
230

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SUPREMECOURTREPORTSANNOTATED
Peoplevs.Castillo

indemnityintheamountofP50,000,butwecannotdothesamefor
theactualandmoraldamageswhichmustbesupportedbyproof.In
this case, the trial court did not state any evidentiary basis for this
award. We have examined the records, but we failed to find any,
either.
WHEREFORE, the appeal
is hereby DENIED and the assailed
46
Decision is AFFIRMED, but the award of actual and moral
damages is DELETED for lack of factual basis. Costs against
appellant.
SOORDERED.
Davide,Jr.(Chairman),Bellosillo,Vitug and Quisumbing,
JJ.,concur.
Appealdenied,assaileddecisionaffirmed.
Note.Like treachery, evident premeditation should be
established by clear and positive evidence. Mere presumptions and
inferencesnomatterhowlogicalandprobabletheymightbewould
notbeenough.(Peoplevs.Villanueva,265SCRA216[1996])
o0o
_______________
46 As discussed, however, the killing is qualified by treachery, not by abuse of

superiorstrength.
231

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