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Two-edged sword

Ian Alfredo Magno .

ONE stark distinction between murder and homicide is pre-meditation.  Such a term denotes a measured planning, plotting or deliberation before perpetrating a fatal intent upon another.  Although the end point is the same, that is the killing of another, the difference significantly lies in the state of mind of the perpetrator, which could be gleaned in the manner the fatal blow was executed, among others.

Meanwhile, among the many defenses utilized in homicide cases is the theory of self-defense. In a recently decided case, however, the accused were not able to capitalize on such a defense as they obviously wished they could have. The Supreme Court had this to say in People vs Panerio G.R. No. 205440 dated Jan. 15, 2018:

“The plea of self-defense is as much a confession as it is an avoidance.  By invoking self-defense, the accused admits having killed or having deliberately inflicted injuries on the victim, but asserts that he has not committed any felony and is not criminally liable therefor.  Thus, the plea of self-defense can be described as a double-edged sword which can either bring favorable or unfavorable consequences to the accused.”

In invoking self-defense, the following elements must be established:  unlawful aggression on the part of the victim, reasonable necessity of the means employed by the accused, and lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.  Absent any one of which, the theory of self-defense is futile.

Generally in criminal cases, the burden of proof is upon the prosecution to prove the accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.  Upon invoking self-defense, however, this burden is shifted to the accused, inasmuch as this defensive theory is in the nature of a confession.  Henceforth, the accused must rely on the strength of his own evidence – that is in establishing all three elements of self-defense.  After confessing to the crime, the accused could no longer exonerate himself by merely casting doubt on the prosecution’s case.

In the case, the victim suffered 11 stab wounds from the two accused.  Seven of these were deemed fatal in the autopsy report as they were inflicted on vital organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, and the intestines. In sum, therefore, such a large number of stab wounds indicate a strong resolve to kill the victim. It rather negates the notion of self-defense, than anything else at all.  The theory of self-defense becomes incredible at this point.

Eleven stab wounds were not a reasonable means employed by the accused to repel any unlawful aggression. If indeed there initially was aggression from the victim, a single stab wound would have been enough to immobilize or at least neutralize such an aggression.  It apparently seemed the accused intended more than just that. In such design, there was intent to kill.

Not being able to establish all three elements, their theory of self-defense operated to their disadvantage and, thus, conviction was their (accused) lot.


(Ian Alfredo T. Magno is a Cagayan de Oro-based lawyer, and a legal officer at Philhealth. E-mail:


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TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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