SC upholds conviction of broadcaster’s killer

By , on July 3, 2014

Supreme Court of the Philippines. Photo by Mike Gonzales courtesy of Wiki Commons.
Supreme Court of the Philippines. Photo by Mike Gonzales courtesy of Wiki Commons.

MANILA — The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) convicting a man for the killing of a broadcaster in Imus, Cavite in 1997.

“Wherefore, in light of all the foregoing, the petition is hereby denied. The decision dated July 6, 2007 and resolution dated September 14, 2007 of the Court of Appeals…are affirmed with the modifications that petitioner Jose Espinel a.k.a. Danilo “Danny” Espinel is further ordered to pay the heirs of the victim Alberto “Bert” Berbon P50,000.00 as moral damages as well as interest on all the damages assessed at the legal rate of 6% per annum from date of finality of this judgment until fully paid,” the SC ruling said.

Espinel was charged with the crime of murder before the Imus, Cavite Regional Trial Court (RTC) on June 24, 1997.

Espinel, together with Sotero Paredes and three other unidentified persons, assaulted and shot Berbon in December 1996.

He was arrested on July 1, 1997 and when arraigned on July 7, 1997 with the assistance of counsel, entered a “not guilty” plea.

In its ruling promulgated on July 6, 2007, the CA upheld with modification the findings of the RTC.

The CA said that since none of the prosecution witnesses saw how the killing of the victim was perpetrated, the qualifying circumstance of abuse of superior strength cannot be appreciated.

In its ruling, the CA said that “the appealed Decision dated August 31, 1999 of the Regional Trial Court of Imus, Cavite, Branch 90 is hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that accused-appellant is hereby found GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Homicide and is hereby sentenced to an indeterminate prison term of ten (10) years of prision mayor, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months of reclusion temporal, as maximum.”

It added that neither can nighttime serve as an aggravating circumstance as the time of the commission of the crime was not even alleged in the information.

The CA found petitioner guilty only of homicide instead of murder.

“All the circumstances must be consistent with one another, consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty and at the same time inconsistent with the hypothesis that he is innocent. Thus, conviction based on circumstantial evidence can be upheld provided that the circumstances proved constitute an unbroken chain which leads to one fair and reasonable conclusion that points to the accused, to the exclusion of all others as the guilty person,” the SC ruling said.

“The Court has carefully scrutinized the evidence presented in this case in the light of the standards discussed above and finds the foregoing circumstantial evidence sufficient to support a judgment of conviction,” it said.

“Anent the award of factual damages, this Court sees no reason to disturb the amount awarded by the trial court as upheld by the CA since the itemized medical and burial expenses were duly supported by receipts and other documentary evidence,” the SC said.