Case Brief: People v Diaz

G.R. No. 130210 December 8, 1999
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee,
vs.
RALPH VELEZ DIAZ alias “JIMBOY,” accused-appellant.

Facts:
On 11 April 1997, the Regional Trial Court found accused-appellant Ralph Velez Diaz guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder in relation to sexual abuse (sodomy) of an 11-year-old child by the name of Francis Bart Fulache, attended by treachery (RA 7610). He was sentenced to death and ordered to pay the heirs of the victim P50,000.00 as death indemnity, P250,000.00 as moral damages, P100,000.00 as exemplary damages and P40,000.00 as reimbursement for funeral expenses.

The trial court was convinced that notwithstanding the exclusion of the extrajudicial confession of accused-appellant and the absence of any eyewitness to the crime, there were enough pieces of circumstantial evidence to support his conviction, to wit:

(a) the testimony of 10-year old Felbart that he saw his brother last alive in the company of accused-appellant;
(b) the physical evidence of sexual abuse through sodomy committed against the victim;
(c) the exculpatory plea of insanity which only tended to negate liability but was an admission of guilt;
(d) the reenactment of the crime by accused-appellant the details of which could not have been known to anybody but himself; and,
(e) the fact that accused-appellant voluntarily confessed to the crime without any evidence of coercion, duress or intimidation exerted upon him.

Issues:
1. Whether the trial court is correct in finding the accused-appellant guilty of murder.
2. Whether the trial court is correct in imposing upon him the supreme penalty of death.
3. Whether the accused-appellant is guilty of the crime on the grounds that he might have been insane upon its commission and insanity constitutes a valid exempting circumstance.

Held:
1. Yes. The Supreme Court agrees with the RTC that the crime committed by the accused-appelant was murder even in the absence of the qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation because treachery and abuse of superior strength were present – either of which qualified the crime to murder. The killing of Francis Bart must be deemed ipso facto qualified by treachery by reason of his inherent defenselessness. Likewise, there is a clear case of abuse of superior strength although it is understood to be absorbed in treachery.

2. No. The Supreme Court agrees with accused-appellant that he should not be meted the supreme penalty of death.
Records showed that the Information charged him only with murder qualified by treachery, abuse of superior strength and evident premeditation. It failed to mention the commission of sexual abuse or “sodomy” on the victim. The real nature of the criminal charge should be determined by the actual recital of facts in the complaint or information, not by a mere reference to a law. Thus, even if there is positive proof of sexual abuse accused-appellant cannot be convicted therefor as it was not so alleged in the information.
For ignominy to be appreciated as an aggravating circumstance in the instant case, it must be shown that the sexual assault on Francis Bart was done by accused-appellant to put the former to shame before killing him. This is clearly not the case here for accused-appellant’s intention was shown to be the commission of sexual abuse on the victim as an act of revenge for his similar experience as a child. Surely, the killing was done to eliminate the only witness to his crime.

3. Yes.
Parens patriae is Latin for “parent of the nation.” In law, it refers to the public policy power of the state to intervene against an abusive or negligent parent, legal guardian or informal caretaker, and to act as the parent of any child or individual who is in need of protection e.g., someone whose mental capacity is impared.

The defense, invoking the doctrine of parens patriae, also appeals to this Court for the psychiatric examination and evaluation of accused-appellant, emphasizing the fact that accused-appellant was institutionalized twice within a considerable period in the National Center for Mental Health; consequently, there is no certainty that he was sane when he committed the crime imputed to him.

Supreme Court did not grant the request. When accused-appellant was committed to the National Center for Mental Health, he was not diagnosed as insane but was suffering from pedophilia. Thus, there is no doubt in our mind that he was sane during his two-year confinement in the center, pedophilia being dissimilar to insanity.

A defendant in a criminal case who interposes the defense of mental incapacity has the burden of establishing that fact, i.e., he was insane at the very moment when the crime was committed. In the instant case, the defense of insanity as an exempting circumstance was not established and did not overcome the legal presumption that a person’s acts are of his own free will and intelligence. Thus, the conviction of accused-appellant no doubt is in order.

WHEREFORE, the 11 April 1997 Decision of the RTC-Br. 15, Cebu City, is MODIFIED. Accused-appellant Ralph Velez Diaz is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder and sentenced to reclusion perpetua instead of death. He is also ordered to pay the legal heirs of Francis Bart Fulache the amount of P50,000.00 as death indemnity, P100,000.00 as moral damages, P25,000.00 as exemplary damages and P40,000.00 as reimbursement for funeral expenses. Costs de oficio.

 

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