People vs. Fontanilla

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G.R. No. 177743
January 25, 2012


Jose Olais was walking along the provincial road in Butubut Oeste, Balaoan, La Union when Alfonso Fontanilla suddenly struck him in the head with a piece of wood called bellang. Olais fell facedown to the ground, but Fontanilla hit him again in the head with a piece of stone. Fontanilla desisted from hitting Olais a third time only because Joel Marquez and Tirso Abunan, the sons-in-law of Olais, shouted at him, causing him to run away. Marquez and Abunan rushed their father-in-law to a medical clinic, where Olais was pronounced dead on arrival.

At the trial, Fontanilla claimed self-defense. He said that on the night of the incident, he had been standing on the road near his house when Olais, wielding a nightstick and appearing to be drunk, had boxed him in the stomach. Although he had then talked to Olais nicely, the latter had continued hitting him with his fists, striking him with straight blows. Olais, a karate expert, had also kicked him with both his legs. He had thus been forced to defend himself by picking up a stone with which he had hit the right side of the victim’s head, causing the latter to fall face down to the ground. He had then left the scene for his house upon seeing that Olais was no longer moving. The RTC rejected Fontanilla’s plea of self-defense. On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC.


What is the standard of proof required in order for self defense to be appreciated?


In order for self-defense to be appreciated, he had to prove by clear and convincing evidence the following elements: (a) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim; (b) reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it; and (c) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. Unlawful aggression is the indispensable element of self-defense, for if no unlawful aggression attributed to the victim is established, self-defense is unavailing, for there is nothing to repel.

By invoking self-defense, however, Fontanilla admitted inflicting the fatal injuries that caused the death of Olais. It is basic that once an accused in a prosecution for murder or homicide admitted his infliction of the fatal injuries on the deceased, he assumed the burden to prove by clear, satisfactory and convincing evidence the justifying circumstance that would avoid his criminal liability. Having thus admitted being the author of the death of the victim, Fontanilla came to bear the burden of proving the justifying circumstance to the satisfaction of the court, and he would be held criminally liable unless he established self-defense by sufficient and satisfactory proof. He should discharge the burden by relying on the strength of his own evidence, because the Prosecution’s evidence, even if weak, would not be disbelieved in view of his admission of the killing. Nonetheless, the burden to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt remained with the State until the end of the proceedings.

Fontanilla did not discharge his burden. A review of the records reveals that, one, Olais did not commit unlawful aggression against Fontanilla, and, two, Fontanilla’s act of hitting the victim’s head with a stone, causing the mortal injury, was not proportional to, and constituted an unreasonable response to the victim’s fistic attack and kicks.

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