Felonies

Felonies

Classes of crimes:

1. Felonies (mala in se) are acts and omissions punishable by the Revised Penal Code, either:

a. Intentional (dolo), the elements are:

1) Intelligence is the ability to use his judgment; reasoning powers.

2) Freedom of action where the actor had the choice of doing or not doing the felonious act.

3) Intent is the purpose to perform the felonious act.  “Dolo” involves malice or deliberate intent.  Intent is presumed from the commission of an unlawful act.  It is negatived by mistake of facts.

Mistake of facts is an act or omission which is the result of a misapprehension of facts that is voluntary but not intentional. The actor performed an act which would be lawful had it been true as he believed it to be.  To be exempting, it must be committed in good faith or under an honest belief.  If there is negligence, it is not exempted and he is liable for a felony by means of culpa.  In the case of US v. Ah Chong, 15 Phil. 488, the circumstance of the stabbing of the victim whom the accused believed to be an intruder showed a mistake of facts due to good faith and exempted him from criminal liability.  However, in People v. Fernando, 49 Phil. 75, since the accused did not first verify the identity of the victim before firing at him, considering he had opportunity to do so, he was not exempted from criminal liability because the mistake of fact was held to be due to negligence.

b. Culpable (culpa), the elements are:

1) Intelligence

2) Freedom of action

3) Negligence or imprudence, the lack of skills or foresight.  “Culpa” results from negligence, imprudence, lack of foresight or of skill.  Imprudence is deficiency of action while negligence is deficiency of perception.

2. Offense (mala prohibita), acts or omission punishable under special law.

An act mala in se is a wrong from its very nature and lack of criminal intent or good faith is a valid defense except when the crime results from criminal negligence; while, an act mala prohibita is a wrong because it is prohibited by law.  Hence, the mere commission of that act is what constitutes the offense punished and lack of criminal intent or good faith is not a defense.

So, although as a rule, special laws punish acts that are mala prohibita, if the act punished is wrongful in its very nature, or inherently immoral, like the offense punished by the Revised Election Code, which is a special law, regarding the omission or failure to include a voter’s name in the registry list of voters, such is a wrong per se and not a wrong because it is prohibited. (People v. Sunico, 50 OG 5880) In this case, such an act is malum in se and malum prohibitum at the same time. (Q1, 1997 Bar)

Motive is the reason which impels one to commit an act for a definite results while intent is the purpose to use a particular means to effect such a result.  Intent is an element of crime while motive is not.  Motive may become necessary to be proved in case there is a doubt whether the accused has committed the crime or not or when the evidence on the commission of the crime is purely circumstantial or inconclusive.  Motive is not sufficient to support a conviction if there is no reliable evidence from which it may deduced that the accused was the malefactor.  A crime may be committed even without a motive but just for the sake of committing it, due for instance, the extreme moral perversion of the accused. (Q1, 1996 Bar)

A crime may be committed without criminal intent in two cases: (1) felonies committed by means of culpa, and (2) offenses punishable as mala prohibita. (Q1, 1996 Bar)

Criminal liability shall be incurred:

1. By any person committing a felony (delito) although the wrongful act done be different from that which he intended.

 

“He who is the cause of the cause is the cause of the evil caused” and one is liable for all the direct and natural consequences of his unlawful act, even if the ultimate result had not been intended. (People v. Narciso, 0353, Jan. 13, 1964)  In this case, two elements are required:

a. A felony is committed.

 

The rule does not apply to felonies committed by culpa because in this article there must be criminal intent.  It follows that if the act committed is lawful, even though an injury results, there is no criminal liability (People v. Bindoy, 56 Phil. 15), except if the act is committed with negligence.  Thus, if one fired in self-defense at his aggressor, who was, however, not his, and instead an innocent bystander was hit, killing him, there is no criminal liability because the act committed is lawful.

 

b. The wrong done must be the direct, natural and logical consequence of the felony committed even though different from that intended.

An example of which is: A victim who jumped into the river and was drowned because he was threatened or chased by the accused with a knife (US v. Valdez, 42 Phil. 497); hence, if a man creates in another man’s mind a sense of immediate danger which causes such person to try to escape and in so doing he injures himself, the person who creates such state of mind is responsible for the injuries which resulted. (Q4, 1996 Bar; Q2, 1997 Bar)

Vicente’s felonious act of causing a two-inch wound on Anacleto’s right palm may still be regarded as the proximate cause of the latter’s death because without such wound, no tetanus infection could have developed from the victim’s right palm, and without such tetanus infection the victim would not have died with it. (Q9, 1996 Bar)

Rustom is criminally liable for the death of the child because his felonious act of pulling Olive’s hand (at least slight coercion) caused the latter to fall on her baby.  In short, Rustom’s felonious act is the cause of the evil caused.  Any person performing a felonious act is criminally liable for the direct, natural and logical consequence thereof although different from what he intended. (People v. Pugay, 74324, Nov. 18, 1988) (Q5, 1994 Bar)

Instances of result of a felonious act different from that intended:

a. Aberratio ictus is mistake in the blow occurs when a felonious act missed the person against whom it was directed and his instead somebody who was not the intended victim.  A, intending to kill B, fires his gun at the latter but because of poor aim or lack of precision, he hits C instead, who suffers physical injury.  In this case, two offenses are actually committed by the offender, that which he intended to commit and that which he actually committed.  But if these two offenses are both either grave or less grave, since they are produced by one single act, a complex crime will result. (See Art. 48) (Q12, 1993 Bar)

b. Error in personae is mistake in the identity occurs when the felonious act was directed at the person intended, but who turned out to be somebody else.  A intended to kill B, his enemy, and thus shot the supposed victim turning out to be his father.  In this case, only one crime is committed.  A is liable for parricide (the crime actually committed) with a penalty for the crime committed or intended whichever is lower but the same will be imposed in its maximum period. (See Art. 49) (Q2, 1994 Bar)

c.  Praeter intentionem is an act beyond the intent.  This is a mitigating circumstance that the offender had no intention to commit so grave a wrong as that committed. A inflicts a fist blow on B, the latter falls down and hits his head on the pavement causing his death.  A is liable for homicide although he had not intended to kill B.

2. By any person performing an act which would be an offense against persons or property, were it not for the inherent impossibility of its accomplishment or on account of the employment of inadequate or ineffectual means. (Art. 4)

The reason for punishing an impossible crime is that subjectively the offender is a criminal although objectively no crime is committed.  If the acts performed constitute another distinct felony, an impossible crime is not committed because objectively a crime is committed.  There is no frustrated or attempted impossible crime because in an impossible crime the acts performed are believed by the accused to be capable of consummation as an offense against person or property.(Q12, 1993 Bar)

Stabbing a person already dead (inherent impossibility) or giving a drink to another which was mixed with salt in which the accused believed to be poison (ineffectual means) or it were poison, the quantity was not sufficient (inadequate means) are examples of an impossible crime.  Also, when the offenders, with intent to kill, shot at the room where they thought the intended victim as asleep at the time but in fact the latter was out of her house, the criminal liability of the offenders is not for attempted murder but for the so-called impossible crime. (Intod v. CA, Oct. 21, 1992)  Liability for impossible crime arises not only when the impossibility is legal, but likewise when it is factual or physical impossibility, as in the above case. (Q10, 1994 Bar)

Stages of execution:

1. Attempted

The offender commences the commission of a felony directly by overt acts (outward act done in pursuance of a criminal intent), and does not perform all the acts of execution which would produce the felony by reason of some cause or accident other than his own spontaneous desistance.  In this case, the offender never passes the subjective phase of the offense, that portion of the acts constituting the crime included between the act which begins the commission of the crime and the last act performed by the offender which, with the prior acts, should result in the consummated crime.  From that time forward, the phase is objective.  The acts performed by the offender must have a direct bearing with the crime he intended to commit.

Illustration:

 

a. Victim was not hit by the accused who fired 4 shots because of poor aim. (People v. Calalo, 59 Phil. 715).  In People v. Pilones, 32754, July 21, 1978, the Supreme Court held that attempted murder was committed and not frustrated murder since the victim was shot only on the knee which was not fatal.

b. Where the defendant threw a flaming torch at the roof of the complainant’s house, which did not however burn, because the torch rolled and fell to the ground. (People v. Baisa, 20304, June 18, 1959).  Also, if the offender poured gasoline under the house of another and was about to strike the match to set the house on fire when he was apprehended. (People v. Go Kay, 54 OG 2225)

c. If there is an intent to lie with the victim as when the accused threw her on the ground and then place himself on top of her after raising her dress but did not succeed in his intent because of the resistance of the victim. (People v. Brocal 36 OG 856)

d. When the lock of a jeep was already broken but he was caught before he succeeded in driving away the jeep. (People v. De la Cruz, 43 OG 3202)

e. If all the acts of execution are not performed due to an accident or any cause, the crime is attempted.  But if the offender voluntary desisted, no attempted felony is committed, although the acts so far performed may constitute another felony.  Thus, if the offender prepared a picklock to rob a house and on the way he desisted, attempted robbery is not committed, but if arrested immediately after desistance, he is liable for the crime of illegal possession of a picklock.

f. There is no attempted felony by omission because overt acts are not performed.

g. A proposal to another to kidnap the victim is only a preparatory act and not an overt act.  Under the RPC, proposal to commit kidnapping is not a crime. (Q8, 1996 Bar)

2. Frustrated

The offender performs all the acts of execution which should produce the felony as a consequence but which, nevertheless, do not produce it by reason of causes independent of the will of the perpetrator.  The offender has performed everything that was necessary to do to attain his purpose; all he has to do is wait for the expected result, but this does not come because of a cause independent of his will.  The subjective phase has passed.

Illustration:

a. Where the victim was mortally wounded by the accused who stabbed him in the abdomen but who did not die due to timely medical intervention. (People v. Mercado, 51 Phil. 99)

b. Although the accused did not hit the victim but which he believed to have done when he stabbed him, the subjective phase has already passed. (People v. Borinaga, 55 Phil. 433)

c. Setting on fire some rags soaked in gasoline to burn the building but no portion of the building was burned. (US v. Valdez, 39 Phil. 240)

d. In rape, when all the acts necessary for the penetration have been performed but penetration failed because of the disparity of the organs of parties. (People v. Erina, 50 Phil. 998)

e. Accused was discovered with the stolen articles at a checkpoint which must first be passed before the loot could be subject to the control and disposal of the offender. (People v. Dino, 45 OG 3446)

3. Consummated

All the elements necessary for its execution and accomplishment are present.

Illustration:

a. Even if only a portion of the building is burned, arson is consummated.

b. Even if there is only a slight penetration, the rape is consummated. (People v. Hernandez, 49 Phil. 980)  Penetration of the labia of the pudendum or entry of the labia or lips of the female organ, even if there is no rupture of the hymen. (People v. Pastores, 40 SCRA 498)

c. So when the unlawful taking is complete and the article has come under the control and disposal of the offender, the theft is consummated.  So, mere abstraction by the accused of a belt from the baggage of a passenger of a vessel and secreting it in his desk in the customs house where it was discovered. (US v. Adiao, 38 Phil. 754)

Formal crimes are those which are always consummated by a single act like slander.  Material crimes are those which have three (3) stages of execution, namely: attempted, frustrated, and consummated.

Conspiracy exists when 2 or more persons come into agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it. There is proposal when the person who decided to commit a felony propose its execution to some other person(s). (Art. 8 )

Conspiracy may be established either by:

1. Direct evidence.

To establish conspiracy, it is not necessary to prove previous agreement to commit a crime if there be proof that the malefactors have acted in concert and in pursuance of the same objective.  Conspiracy may be inferred from the acts of the accused themselves when such point to a joint purpose and design. (People v. Mada-I Santalani, 29979, Sept. 28, 1979) In other words, the existence of a conspiracy among the offenders can be clearly deduced or inferred from the manner they committed the crime, demonstrating a common criminal purpose and intent. (Q9, 1994 Bar)

2. Circumstantial evidence

By such conduct or behavior of the conspirator, showing community of purpose and unity of design, before and during the commission of the felony. (People v. Atencio, 156 SCRA 242)  The circumstances attending each particular case that, considered in the whole, would lead to a reasonable conclusion of the existence of previous agreement and understanding.

Conspiracy must be prove with the same clarity and positiveness as any other element of the crime. (People v. Llamera, 51 SCRA 48)  In order to hold an accused guilty of conspiracy, it must be established that he performed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy, either:

1. By actively participating in the actual commission of the crime.

2. By lending moral assistance to his co-conspirators, by being present at the scene of the crime.

3. By exerting moral ascendancy over the rest of the conspirators as to move them to executing the conspiracy. (People v. Peralta, 25 SCRA 759)

It is not enough that supposed co-conspirator be present when the crime was committed, because conspiracy transcends companionship. (Jaculina v. Napolcom, 200 SCRA 489)  There must be a logical relation between the commission of the crime and the acts of the supposed conspirators, evidencing a clear and intimate connection between and among the latter, such that their overt acts appear to have been done in pursuance of a common criminal design. (People v. Realon, 99 SCRA 422)  Mere knowledge, acquiescence to, or approval of the act, without cooperation or at least, agreement to cooperate, is not enough to constitute a conspiracy.  There must be intentional participation in the crime with a view to further the common felonious objective. (People v. Iligan, 191 SCRA 643) (Q4, 1997 Bar)

In the absence of conspiracy, each of the accused is responsible only for the consequences of his own acts. (People v. Catara, 12702, March 30, 1962) But once conspiracy has been established, it is immaterial to determine who inflicted the fatal wound or whether one’s participation was material or not.  The act of one is the act of all.  All are equally liable for the offense irrespective of one’s degree of participation. (Q8, 1993 Bar)

Conspiracy and proposal to commit felony are punishable only in the cases in which the law specially provides a penalty therefor. (See Art. 8 )

There are only five (5) conspiracies to commit a crime that are punished in the Revised Penal Code and special laws:

1. Conspiracy to commit treason. (Art. 115)

2. Conspiracy to commit rebellion. (Art. 136)

3. Conspiracy to commit sedition. (Art. 141)

4. Conspiracy to commit arson. (PD 1613)

5. Conspiracy to maliciously damage any building or personal or real property by explosives or incendiary device. (PD 1728)

There are only three (3) proposals to commit a crime that are punished in the RPC and special laws:

1. Proposal to commit treason. (Art. 115)

2. Proposal to commit rebellion. (Art. 136)

3. Proposal to maliciously damage or destroy any building by explosives or incendiary device. (PD 1728)

Classification of felony according to gravity:

1. Grave Felonies - are those in which the law attaches a capital punishment or a penalty which is afflictive in any of its periods.

2. Less Grave Felonies – are those in which the penalties in their maximum period are correctional.

3. Light Felonies – are those infractions of law in which the penalty is arresto menor or a fine not exceeding P 200.00 or both. (Art. 9)

Light felonies are punishable only when they have been consummated, with the exception of those committed against person or property. (Art. 7)

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