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Unacceptable defense

This is another unique case involving husband and wife. Here the wife was accused of parricide for killing her husband and admitted it after allegedly being repeatedly maltreated that caused her to be possessed by an evil spirit. The main issue resolved here is whether such maltreatment and the supposed belief that the victim is an evil spirit who threatened to kill her, can be considered self-defense that justifies her to commit the crime. This is the case of Berna.

Berna was married to Gardo and the couple was residing in a Visayan province. They had two children, the eldest being Cindy, 20 years old and Cyrus 15 years old. The couple’s marital relationship however was quite shaky because Gardo had been squandering the family funds in gambling and in keeping a paramour, Dina. Gardo also had the drinking habit that sometimes led him to violently maltreat Berna every time they quarreled which was very often.

The killing here happened one evening in the conjugal home when Gardo arrived from a tuba drinking spree, very drunk. Gardo and Berna had a bitter discussion about all their lands he sold with the proceeds of sale lost through gambling, and in keeping a mistress. Thereafter Gardo slept right away in one small room without having dinner while Berna and the children slept in another room. Then at about 10 p.m., Berna woke up her daughter Cindy and told her that her father was dead. Berna told Cindy that she killed Gardo because he threatened to kill her. So upon the prodding of Berna, Cindy helped her mother carry the corpse to a nearby creek and left it there.

The following day at about noon the chief of police of the town proceeded to the barrio upon learning of the dead body in the creek, accompanied by the Justice of Peace and the Sanitary Inspector. They found Gardo’s corpse in the creek so the health officer examined it. After conferring with Cindy, the Chief of Police arrested Brenda who made and signed a statement before him. The next day the Chief of Police accompanied Brenda to the Justice of Peace who privately asked Brenda whether she signed her statement freely and voluntarily. After Brenda swore to the truth of the statement in the presence of two witnesses, the Justice of the Peace authenticated it.

So after preliminary investigation, Brenda was charged with the crime of parricide before the Regional Trial Court. The prosecution presented as witnesses, Brenda’s daughter Cindy, the Chief of Police, the Justice of Peace who all reiterated and confirmed what happened as contained in Brenda’s statement marked as exhibit “C”, and the health officer who testified on his findings that Gardo died of internal hemorrhage, brain concussion and compression as a result of blows of a hard instrument which crushed the nasal bone, the molar cheek, and jaw bones, smashed the dental arches leaving him toothless.

Brenda declared in Court: (a) that at about 6 p.m., Gardo arrived from a tuba drinking spree, very drunk; (b) that upon entering he immediately boxed her in the stomach causing her to faint; (c) that when she regained consciousness, she asked Gardo why he boxed her and Gardo replied that if she will resist, he will do it again. So she just kept quiet and prepared supper; (d) that while eating supper, Gardo threw away the rice from the plate and did not eat but went to look for tobacco he can chew. And when he returned, he boxed her again because she was always jealous of him for keeping a mistress and mad for having sold all their lands and losing the proceeds through gambling; (e) that while they were all sleeping, she immediately got the hammer and chisel near Gardo’s head and struck him in the head and face until he was dead; (f) that she wrapped Gardo’s body with a mat and asked her daughter Cindy to help her bring the body to the nearby creek; (g) that after initially refusing, Cindy relented upon being threatened; (h) that she killed Gardo because he maltreated her and thus felt that an evil spirit had possessed her so she lost control of herself; (i) that she awoke later when a man was supposedly strangulating her, prompting her to get a piece of wood and gave the man two blows in the face whom she found our to her amazement to be Gardo when she lighted a lamp.

But the trial court rejected Brenda’s defense and convicted her of parricide, sentencing her to life imprisonment. This decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court which said that her explanation is non-acceptable for the following reasons: (1) the 11 incised wounds on the head of Gardo could not have been the effect of two strokes with a blunt instrument; (2) In her signed confession before the police chief (Exh “C”) , she never mentioned the piece of wood she used; (2) she already confessed her guilt during the preliminary investigation; (3) if the facts she related really happened, she should have told them to her children who would undoubtedly absolved her but did not. In fact Cindy even testified against her and was resentful of her. The court said that Exhibit “C” reflected the true facts because they were uttered at a time when she was overwhelmed by remorse and had not yet the opportunity to think about the excuse of self-preservation. So she is really guilty even if her husband may have been unworthy, a rascal and a bully which is not even a mitigating circumstance. She should thus be sentenced to life imprisonment pursuant to Article 246 of the Revised Penal Code. One Justice however said that the President should give her Executive Clemency ( People vs. Canja, G.R. L-2800, May 30, 1950).

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