People vs Tolentino (GR No. 70836 October 18, 1988)

People of the Philippines vs Tolentino
GR No. 70836 October 18, 1988

Facts: On or about July 26, 198, in Quezon City, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this honorable court, the above named accused, conspiring together with and aiding one another, did, then and there willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously with intent to kill, qualified by evident premeditation and treachery attack, assault and employ personal violence upon the person of Alfredo Quitoriano Y Bayot by then and there throwing at him stones hitting him on the head and stabbing the said victim thereby inflicting upon him serious and mortal wounds which were the direct and immediate cause of his untimely death, to the damage and prejudice of his heirs. In order to determine the identity of the other accused, the fiscal conducted a reinvestigation and thereafter submitted his resolution to the trial court wherein he noted the failure of the complainant during the investigation to present any witness to establish the identity of said John Doe. Hence, the reinvistigation was terminated with the identity of said Jon Doe still undetermined. Accordingly, only the herein accused was arraigned and tried. A plea of not guilty was entered by the accused. His application for bail was denied. A medico-legal officer, Dr. Gregorio Blanco was presented, who also performed the autopsy on the victim. The necropsy report states that the fatal injuries in the head caused by a sharp object was the reason or cause of death.

Issue: Whether or not the testimony by the medico-legal officer could be accepted as evidence.

Held: Yes. In this jurisdiction, expert opinion constitutes one of the few exceptions to the general rule that a mere opinion of a witness regarding a particular matter is not admissible. In this correction, Rule 130, section 43 provides “The opinion of a witness regarding a question of science, art or trade, when he is entitled therein, may be received in evidence.”

In the field of medicine, opinions of doctors qualified by training and experience us to causation are competent and in many cases controlling and binding upon the court. In this case, Dr. Blanco’s opinion as to the cause of the victim’s injuries should be accorded great respect, it being peculiarly within the expertise of medical practitioners.

A careful examination of the findings of the medico legal officer on his necropsy report, particularly on the wounds found on the victim’s head, bolsters the appellant’s claim that his guilt has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt. Wound no. 1, an abrasion was located above the victim’s eyebrow and therefore, could not have been inflicted by the appellant as Ferrer plainly testified that the appellant was behind the victim when he threw the stones. The same can be said of wound no. 3, a contusion locate near the right cheek of the victim. The infliction of the fatal wound, wound no. 2, a lacerated wound measuring only 2.5 by .3cm, located at the back of the victim’s head cannot likewise be attributed to appellant, as according to the expert opinion of the doctor who examined the wound, it was caused by a sharp instrument like a balisong. While the doctor’s testimony on record does not preclude the possibility that the wound could have also been caused by a stone, it was incumbent upon the prosecution, for in case against the accused to succeed to elicit a positive statement that effect from the doctor.

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