November 23, 2018

The 1908 Killing in Ibaan of a Traveling Peddler and his 12-Year Old Son

Image source:  United States Library of Congress.  Colorized courtesy of Algorithmia.
Image source:  United States Library of Congress.  Colorized courtesy of Algorithmia.
[In this article: Supreme Court of the Philippines, Supreme Court historical cases, American colonial era, Ibaan Batangas, Lipa Batangas, robbery with homicide, premeditation in robbery with homicide]
From the annals of the Supreme Court of the Philippines1, we get this account of the gruesome killing of a traveling salesman from Ibaan as well as his 12-year old son. On the 8th of July in the year 1908, traveling salesman Nicomedes Pasia of the Batangas town of Ibaan, arrived in Pagsanjan, Laguna with his 12-year old son Candido.

Father and son went to look for Santos Pasia, Nicomedes’ brother, with whom they stayed while they were in Pagsanjan. Also lodged in Santos’ house were one Albino Magtibay and one Filomeno de Torres. The Supreme Court document failed to say if Santos operated a lodging house or if he had any sort of relationship with Magtibay and de Torres.

Nicomedes and son presumably went around Pagsanjan selling their goods. Just before leaving back for Ibaan, back at Santos’ lodge Nicomedes counted the proceeds of his sales, amounting to ₱540.50 (around ₱14,969.75 in 20172). Unfortunately, his doing so was in full view of Magtibay and de Torres.

The following day, Nicomedes and his son Candido took the steamship from Pagsanjan to Calamba on their way back to Ibaan. Magtibay and de Torres took the same steamship as well. The two apparently stalked father and son all the way to Lipa.

In the morning of the 10th, Nicomedes and Candido were seen on a road passing through “a barrio of Lipa adjacent to a barrio of Ibaan.” Later, they were seen climbing up a slope on a trail leading to an area called Madrecacao. Later, they were seen again descending the same slope, each carrying a bundle. They were accompanied by Magtibay and de Torres.

The following day, the corpses of father and son were found “almost beheaded and partly disemboweled.” As things happened, the killing was actually witnessed by a traveler who encountered the party along the trail leading up to Madrecacao. The Supreme Court document described what he witnessed:
“The traveler who had met them on the road leading down the slope heard the boy soon afterwards crying out: ‘Why are you killing my father?’ This caused him to turn back to the place whence the cry came, and concealing himself in the underbrush he saw at a distance of some 20 feet, Nicomedes stretched out on the ground and Torres dragging him by the legs in order to remove him to a place covered with bushes, while Magtibay was chasing the boy.”
Witnesses also saw Magtibay and de Torres heading for Rosario with bloodstained shirts. They boarded a calesa (a horse-drawn carriage) and proceeded to an eatery in Rosario, where they met with an acquaintance, whom they admonished not to mention to anyone that he had met with them.

Both Magtibay and de Torres presumably laid low for a while. As the Supreme Court document said, they “appeared no more around Ibaan.” Because there were witnesses who saw them in bloodstained shirts near the site of the killing, not to mention the traveler who actually saw what happened, before long the authorities tracked them down.



Magtibay was arrested first, followed by de Torres. Both were sentenced by the lower court to the death penalty3, something that was subsequently elevated for review by the Supreme Court. Lawyers representing the defendants were trying to get the sentence commuted to life imprisonment, their primary defense being that “there is no ground for holding that there was either deliberate premeditation or the circumstances of (the use of) superior strength and uninhabited place.”

These three – deliberate premeditation, use of superior strength and commission of the crime in an uninhabited place – were seen by the lower court as aggravating circumstances that necessitated the heavier penalty of death, since there were no mitigating circumstances.

The reader will recall that the defendants had actually stalked Nicomedes and son and committed the crime at a place where, presumably, they both thought they could get away with it. The Supreme Court was not blind to this and cited an 1885 ruling by the Supreme Court of Spain which was “strictly applicable to the case at bar:”
“That if the trial court considers deliberate premeditation as an aggravating circumstance, isolating for the purpose of such characterization the established fact that the culprit took pains to accompany the persons robbed for the purpose of consummating the robbery in a place which seemed to him best suited therefor, it is beyond doubt that he does so intentionally, because this conduct on the part of the accused demonstrates studied and persistent thought, which characterizes said circumstance in accordance with intelligent construction of the law and the legal precedents established.”
Thus, the Supreme Court affirmed the penalty of death earlier given by the lower court.

Notes and references:
1 The particulars of the case are from “The United States v Filomeno Torres and C. J. Arellano,” online at the LawPhil Project.
2 Amount according to “The Inflation Calculator,” online at Morgan Friedman.
3 At the time, “the penalty for the complex crime of robbery with homicide is life imprisonment to death.” The LawPhil Project, ibid.

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