Homicide is “any killing of a human being by another human being.”
For the killing to be culpable, it must coincide with the intent to harm or injure another.
Death as a result of nonfatal intentional injuries may also be considered as homicide (see Barron’s Law Dictionary)
Intent is a condition of the mind which can only be proven by manifest acts.
The testimonies of witnesses giving detailed accounts of the events leading to the commission of the crime are vital in proving such acts.
These witnesses, having personal knowledge of the facts, can assist the court in determining whether intent actually exists.
If the resulting death was due to imprudence, the crime committed is reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.
Examples include deaths due to the collision of two cars, or death from an illegally discharged firearm colloquially known as “ligaw na bala.”
Murder, on the other hand, is the unlawful killing of a person, which is not parricide or infanticide, through any of the qualifying circumstances enumerated under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code.
Similar to homicide, the victim dies; however, the presence of such circumstances increase the imposable penalties.
A person who employs means to weaken the defense of another, with treachery, taking advantage of superior strength, and with the aid of armed men shall be guilty of murder (Article 248, Revised Penal Code).
Treachery is present when the offender avails (himself/herself) of “means, methods or forms… to ensure its execution [killing] without risk to himself… from the defense which the offended party might make” (People v. Grabador, et al., G.R. 227504, June 13, 2018).
“‘The essence of treachery is that the attack comes without a warning and in a swift, deliberate, and unexpected manner, affording the hapless… victim no chance to resist or escape the sudden blow.’
“A frontal attack may be regarded as treacherous when it was so sudden on an unsuspecting, or an unarmed victim, who had no chance to repel the attack or avoid it” (G.R. 227504, June 13, 2018).
In People v. Grabador, “Dennis (victim) had no inkling that an attack was forthcoming.
Although Dennis and Rodolfo (an accused) had an altercation, they shook hands before parting ways.
The said gesture assuaged Dennis into believing their issues had been sorted… to Dennis’ surprise, Rodolfo came back after 15 minutes, this time accompanied by three other armed men” (G.R. 227504, June 13, 2018).
“Dennis, who was unarmed, was completely unaware of the imminent peril to his life. In a rapid motion, the men, including Alex (another accused), suddenly shot Dennis with their sumpak (homemade gun).
“The onslaught was so sudden and unexpected that Dennis had no chance to run, mount a defense or evade the bullets” (G.R. 227504, June 13, 2018).
The circumstance of abuse of superior strength may be considered by the court as qualifying or aggravating if “the accused purposely uses excessive force out of proportion to the means of defense available to the person attacked, or if there is notorious inequality of forces between the victim and aggressor, and the latter takes advantage of superior strength” (People v. Norada, G.R. 218958, December 13, 2017).
In the case of People v. Aquino, et al., the prosecution failed to adduce evidence of a relative disparity in age, size, strength, or force, except for showing that two assailants stabbed the victim while three others restrained him.
“[T]he presence of several assailants does not ipso facto indicate an abuse of superior strength. Mere superiority in numbers is not indicative of the presence of this circumstance” (G.R. 203435, April 11, 2018).
Premeditation should be evidenced in the execution of a criminal act; it should be “[p]receded by cool thought and reflection… to carry out the criminal intent, during the space of time sufficient to arrive at a calm judgment. The premeditation to kill must be plain and notorious, and thereafter proven by evidence of outward acts showing such intent to kill” (G.R. 227504, June 13, 2018).
“It is imperative to prove that the accused indeed underwent a process of ‘cold and deep meditation, and a tenacious persistence in the accomplishment of the criminal act.’
“Accordingly, there can be no evident premeditation when the determination to commit the crime was immediately followed by execution” (G.R. 227504, June 13, 2018).
“Evident premeditation cannot be presumed in the absence of evidence showing when and how the accused planned, and prepared for the crime, and that a sufficient amount of time had lapsed between his determination and execution… [a]bsent any clear and positive evidence, mere presumptions and inferences…, no matter how logical and probable, shall be deemed insufficient” (G.R. 227504, June 13, 2018).
In the Grabador case, the prosecution failed to identify the time at which Alex decided to kill Dennis.
Instead, the prosecution randomly concluded that there was evident premeditation from the fact that Rodolfo left and came back after 15 minutes with Alex, and thereafter killed Dennis (G.R. 227504, June 13, 2018).
“[A] lapse of 15 minutes preceding the attack is not sufficient to conclude that evident premeditation attended the commission of the offense.”
In People v. Illescas, “the Court ruled that a 15-minute interval cannot be deemed as sufficient time for the accused to coolly reflect on his acts…” (cited in G.R. 227504, June 13, 2018).
Another qualifying circumstance for murder is that the killing was in consideration of a price, reward or promise.
A mastermind and a hired gunman or assassin who kills a victim are both guilty of murder. An example of this is a husband who hires a gunman to kill his wife to be able to collect a life insurance policy wherein he is the beneficiary.
Murder is also committed “by means of inundation, fire, poison, explosion, shipwreck, stranding of a vessel, derailment or assault upon a street car or locomotive, fall of an airship, by means of motor vehicles, or with the use of any other means involving great waste and ruin.”
The killing of victims by throwing a hand grenade at them is murder qualified by explosion (Gregorio, Fundamentals of Criminal Law Review citing People v. Tayo ).
Cruelty, a qualifying circumstance, is defined as deliberately and inhumanly augmenting the suffering of the victim. (see Article 248, Revised Penal Code).
“The gagging of the mouth of a three-year-old child with stockings, dumping him with head downwards into a box, and covering the box with sacks and other boxes,… causing slow suffocation, is cruelty” (People v. Lora, G.R. L-49430, March 30, 1982).
“Where the victim was already dead and the body aside from being stabbed on the face several times, was still subjected to further beatings on the head with the Thompson submachine gun causing the brain to scatter, is an example of outraging and scoffing” (Gregorio, Fundamentals of Criminal Law Review citing People v. Orzamme ).
“It is an elementary rule in criminal law that each of the qualifying circumstances must be alleged in the Information, and must be proven as clearly as the crime itself.
“Every element of the offense must be shown to exist beyond reasonable doubt and cannot be the mere product of speculation. In the absence of a qualifying circumstance, the crime committed is homicide, and not murder” (G.R. 227504, June 13, 2018).
“In the crime of murder, the qualifying circumstance raising the killing to the category of murder must be specifically alleged in the information.
Further, Sections 8 and 9 of Rule 110 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure require both the qualifying and aggravating circumstances must be specifically alleged in the information to be appreciated as such” (G.R. 203435, April 11, 2018).