Crimes against the Civil Status of Persons/Honor

CRIMES AGAINST THE CIVIL STATUS OF PERSONS

(Title Twelve)

BIGAMY

The elements are:

 

1. Offender has been married.

2. He/she contracts a second or subsequent marriage.

3. Without the first marriage having been legally dissolved or in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead under the civil code.

4. The second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for validity. (Art. 349)

The crime of bigamy does not fall within the category of private crimes that can be prosecuted only at the instance of the offended party.  The offense is committed not only against the first and second wife but also against the state. (People v. Concepcion, 41 OG 2878)

There must be a summary proceeding to declare the absent spouse presumptively dead.  The period of absence is now 4 years.  Also, a judicial declaration of the nullity of a marriage void ab initio is now required.

One convicted by bigamy may be prosecuted for concubinage as both are distinct offenses.

Failure to exercise due diligence to ascertain the whereabouts of the first wife is bigamy thru reckless imprudence. (US v. Biasbas, 25 Phil. 71)  Believing in good faith that his first marriage was dissolved by the death of his first wife, cannot be deemed guilty of the crime of bigamy, because there is no fraudulent intent which is one of the essential elements of the crime. (US v. Enriquez, 32 Phil. 202)

The absolute nullity of a previous may be invoked for purposes of remarriage on the basis solely of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void. (Art. 40, Family Code)  In short, there is a need of a judicial declaration of such nullity before the accused may validly remarry. (Terre v. Terre, 211 SCRA 6)

One although not yet married before, who knowingly consents to be married to one who is already married is guilty of bigamy knowing that the latter’s  married is still valid and subsisting. (People v. Archilla, L-15632, Feb. 28, 1961)  It is believed, however, that since the cooperation is indispensable, the liability should be that of a principal.

A simulated marriage (such as one lacking the essential elements) which before the eyes of the law, is not a marriage at all, can be adduced as a defense in the criminal case for bigamy and cannot be deemed a prejudicial question to the bigamy charge. (People v. Villasenor, 37069, April 28, 1966)

MARRIAGE CONTRACTED AGAINST PROVISIONS OF LAWS

The elements are:

 

1. The offender contracted a marriage without being included in bigamy.

2. He knew at the time that the requirements of the law have not been complied with or the marriage was in disregard of legal impediments. (Art. 350) (Q9, 1993 Bar)

Penalty is increased if consent of the other was obtained by means of violence, intimidation or fraud.

PREMATURE MARRIAGES

Acts punished:

1. A widow who married within 301 days from the date of her husband’s death or before her delivery, if she was pregnant at the time of his   death.

2. A woman, whose marriage having been dissolved or annulled, married before her delivery or within 301 days after the legal separation. (Art. 351)

This article does not apply when the wife knew that she was pregnant when she contracted the subsequent marriage.  Art. 351 punishes premature marriages in order to prevent doubtful paternity. (People v. Rosal, 49 Phil. 539)

If the widow contracts the marriage in good faith in the belief that her husband was permanently impotent or sterile, there is no liability. (People v. Masinsin, CA, 49 OG 39081)

CRIMES AGAINST HONOR

(Title Thirteen)

LIBEL

Libel is a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstances tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or judicial person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead. (Art. 353)

The elements are:

1. An imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or an imputation of any act, omission, condition, status or circumstances tending to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.

 

Libel does not necessarily involve moral turpitude. (Benguete v. Mayor, 6538, May 10, 1954)

2. Malice, either in law or in fact.

Malice is prompted by personal ill will or spite and speaks not in response to duty, but merely to injure the reputation of the person as where the accused is motivated by vengeance, personal resentment or aversion (People v. Quemel, 0853, March 18, 1964) or where the accused harbors ill will and hatred against the complainant. (People v. Dianelan, 13 CAR p. 34)  Constructive criticism of a matter of public interest is not malice. (People v. Andrada, 37 OG 1783)

Kinds of malice:

 

a. Malice in law – it is a thing, which the law presumes to exist in injurious publication.  In the absence of proof of justifiable motive, the legal presumption of malice must stand.

b. Malice in fact – in order to establish absence of malice as a fact, it obviously becomes necessary to prove that justifiable motives existed for the publication.  The proposition cannot be inverted. (US v. Prautch, 10 Phil. 562)

Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown, except in the following cases:

a. A private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal, moral or social duty.

b. A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks, of any judicial, legislative or other official proceedings which are not of confidential nature, or any statement, report or speech delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act performed by public officers in the exercise of their functions. (Art. 354)

This article is the so-called conditionally privileged communication which are those, although containing defamatory imputations, could not be actionable unless made with malice or bad faith, and malice exists when the defamer has been prompted by ill-will or spite and speaks not in response to duty but to injure the reputation of the person defamed. (Orfanel v. People, 26877, Dec. 26, 1969)

The fact that a communication is privileged is not a proper ground for the dismissal of a complaint for libel based thereon.  In the first place, it is a matter of defense.  In the second place, the fact that a communication is privileged does not mean that it is not actionable; the privileged character simply does away with the presumption of malice, which the plaintiff has to prove in such a case. (Ku Sing, infra)

3. Publication (communication to third person[s]) of the imputation.

To publish is to make public, to make known to the persons in general. (Ocampo v. Evangelista, 37 OG 2196)  But where a defamatory letter contained in a closed envelope, was delivered through another, the offender having parted with its possession in such a way that it could have been read by persons other than the defamed party, it was held that there was sufficient publication. (People v. Andrada, 37 OG 1783)  Also, sending of a letter to the wife defamatory to her husband is sufficient publication, although in law the husband and wife are regarded as one. (US v. Urbina, 1 Phil. 741)

4. Person defamed is identifiable.

The publication need not refer by name to the libeled party.  Plaintiff may call his friends to state that on reading the libel, they at once concluded it was aimed at the plaintiff. (Causin v. Jakosalem, 5 Phils. 155) (Q7, 1993 Bar)

Libel in answer to another libel is not justified (Pelicena v. Gonzales, 6 Phil. 50) but if published in self-defense in good faith, without malice, and is not unnecessarily defamatory of his assailant, it privileged. (People v. Baja, 40 OG 206)  Self-defense in libel is allowed as when the utterance is not excessive but adequate to repel the sting of the aspersion cast upon him by another person. (People v. Chua Hong, CA, 51 OG 1932)

In matters of libel “the question is not what the writer of an alleged libel means, but what is the meaning of the words he has used.” The alleged defamatory statements should be construed not only as to the expression used but also with respect to the whole scope and apparent object of the writer. (People v. Encarnacion, 48 OG 1817)

Under the RPC, one who falsely accuses another of a crime may be held liable either for libel or perjury, depending upon the manner or form in which the act is committed. (Ku Sing v. Lu Tiong Gui, 76 Phil. 669)  If the false accusation is under oath, the crime committed is, therefor, perjury; if not, it is libel.

There are as many offenses of libel as there are persons libeled, and the computation of the number is not the publication but the writing or composing of the libel.  Hence, if in a single publication there are persons defamed, each has a right to file separate charges of libel to vindicate his honor and reputation. (People v. Del Rosario, 2254, April 20, 1950)

Well-settled is the rule that parties, counsels, and witnesses are exempted from liability in libel or slander cases for words otherwise defamatory, uttered or published in the course of judicial proceedings, provided the statements are pertinent and relevant to the case. (Malit v. People, 114 SCRA 348)

The desire of a newspaper is to keep the public informed of what takes place.  The publication by a newspaper of an incorrect statement of the contents of a complaint filed in court is not privileged under the libel law. (Macleod v. Phil. Publishing, 12 Phil. 427)

When the discreditable imputation is directed against a public person in his public capacity, it is not necessarily actionable.  In order that it may be actionable, it must be either a false allegation of fact or a comment based upon a false supposition. (People v. Velasco, 40 OG 3694)  But any attack upon the private character of the officers may constitute libel, for under our laws the right of the press to criticize public officers does not authorize defamation. (US v. Bustos, 37 Phil. 731)

WIRETAPPING LAW (RA 4200, June 19, 1965)

This law prohibits and punishes wiretapping as a violation of privacy of communication.

It shall be unlawful for any person, not being authorized by all the parties to any private communication or spoken word, tap any wire or cable, or by using any other device or arrangement, to secretly overhear, intercept, or record such communication or spoken word by using a device commonly known as a dictaphone or dictagraph or detectaphone or walkie-talkie or tape-recorder, or however otherwise described.

The phrase “any other device or arrangement” does not cover an extension line.  The use of extension line cannot be considered as “tapping” the wire or cable or a telephone line.  What the law provides is the recording and not merely listening to a telephone conversation. (Ganaan v. IAC, 145 SCRA 40) (Q16, 1993 Bar)

LIBEL BY MEANS OF WRITING OR SIMILAR MEANS

A libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition or any similar means. (Art. 355)

This article enumerates the means by which libel may be committed.  Defamation thru amplifier system is slander and  not libel. (People v. Santiago, 5 SCRA 231)

If defamatory remarks are made in the heat of passion which culminated in a threat, the derogatory statements will not constitute an independent crime of libel but a part of the more serious crime of threats. (People v. Yebra, 60 OG 2652)

SLANDER

Kinds:

1. Grave insult (oral defamation) – a defamation of a serious and insulting nature.

2. Light insult (oral defamation) – not serious in nature.

Offensive and scurrilous epithets, including words imputing unchastity to the mother and tending to injure the character of the daughter constitute grave slander. (US v. Toloso, 37 Phil. 166) Words uttered in the heat of anger constitute light oral defamation. (People v. Doronilla, 40 OG 231)

Defamation in a political meeting on election when feelings were running high and people could not think clearly normally constitute light slander. (People v. Laroga, 40 OG 123) (Q6, 1990 Bar)

Merely insulting words are not actionable, unless they constitute defamation.  But if the utterances were made publicly and were heard by many people and the accused at the same time leveled his finger at the complainant, oral defamation is committed. (People v. Sallegue, CA, 04158, July 13, 1965)

SLANDER BY DEED

Any person who shall perform any act not included and punished in this title, which shall cast dishonor, discredit or contempt upon another person. (Art. 359)

Example: cutting the hair of another to humiliate or ridicule him.  Whether a certain slanderous act constitutes slander by deed of a serious nature or not, depends on diverse factors, such as the social standing of the offended party, the circumstances under which the act was committed, the occasion, etc.  For instance, the slapping of the face of a priest while he is saying mass undoubtedly constitutes slander by deed of a serious nature.  On the other hand, slapping the face of the a prostitute inside the house of prostitution, only the other prostitutes being present, may not constitute slander by deed of a serious nature.

PERSONS RESPONSIBLE

Any person who shall publish, exhibit, or cause the publication or exhibition of any defamation in writing or by similar means, shall be responsible for the same.

 

The author or editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business manager of a daily newspaper, magazine or special publication shall be responsible for the defamation contained therein to the same extent as if he were the author thereof.

The criminal and civil action for damages in cases of written defamation shall be filed simultaneously or separately with the RTC of the province or city where the libelous article is printed and first published or where any of the offended parties actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense. (Art. 360)

PROOF OF TRUTH

Proof of truth is admissible in 2 cases:

1. When the act or omission constitutes a crime.

2. When the imputation is made against government employees with respect to facts related to the discharge of their official duties.

In every criminal prosecution for libel, the truth may be given in evidence to the court and if it appears that the matter charged as libelous is true. (Art. 361)  In addition to the above, it must also be shown that the imputation was published with good motives and for justifiable ends. (People v. Salumbides, 56 OG 5769)

Honest mistake would serve only to mitigate damages where the article is libelous per se.  It is not a complete defense. (Phee v. La Vanguardia, 45 Phil. 211)

LIBELOUS REMARKS

Libelous remarks or comments on privileged communications, if made with malice, are punishable. (Art. 362)

This article is a limitation to the defense of privileged communication.  Privileged communication (Art. 354) negatives malice in law, but malice in fact may always be proved.  Its proof will make the offender liable.

INCRIMINATING INNOCENT PERSON

The elements are:

1. Offender performs an act not constituting perjury.

2. Such act directly incriminate or imputes to an innocent person the commission of a crime.

3. The act must be malicious. (Art. 363)

Article 363 limits to acts of “planting” evidence and the like, which do not in themselves constitute false prosecutions but tend directly to cause false prosecution. (People v. Rivera, 59 Phil. 236)

If the victim was first evicted without reasonable ground and while being supposedly investigated, marked money was commingled with the money taken from the victim, the complex crime of incriminatory machination thru unlawful arrest may be committed. (People v. Alagao, 20721, April 30, 1966)

INTRIGUING AGAINST HONOR

Any intrigue which has for its principal purpose to blemish the honor or reputation of a person. (Art. 364)

This is necessarily included in grave oral defamation.  The only element of grave oral defamation not found in intriguing against honor is publication.  This article punishes any intrigue  or “gossiping” made for the purpose of blemishing the honor or reputation of a person.

Intriguing against honor refers to any scheme or plot designed to blemish the reputation of another or of such trickery or secret plot.  When the offender uttered to another “Why are you going with her? Masamang tao iyan.  All her neighbors are her enemies.” slander is committed and not intriguing against honor.

QUASI-OFFENSES

(Title Fourteen)

Criminal Negligence

The principal factor in said offenses is the negligence itself and not the effects thereof. (Pabular v. Palarca, 21 SCRA 769)  As the careless act is single, whether the injurious result should affect one person or several persons, the offense remains one and the same.  It cannot be split into different crimes and prosecutions. (People v. Buan, 65 OG 6127)

Reckless imprudence is not a crime in itself but is simply a way of committing a crime and it merely determines a lower degree of criminal liability.  Negligence becomes a punishable act when it results in a crime. (Lontok v. Gorgonio, 37396, April 30, 1979)

IMPRUDENCE AND NEGLIGENCE

Any person who, by reckless imprudence, or by simple imprudence or negligence, shall commit any act which, had it been intentional, would constitute a grave felony, less grave felony, or a light felony.

 

When the execution of the act shall have only resulted in damage to property of another, the offender shall be punished by a fine ranging from an amount equal to the value of said damages to 3 times such value. (Art. 365)

Kinds:

Reckless Imprudence consists in voluntary, but without malice, doing or failing to do an act from which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing or failing to perform such act, taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical condition and other circumstances regarding persons, time and place.

Simple Imprudence consists in the lack of precaution displayed in those cases in which the damage impending to be caused is not immediate nor the danger clearly manifest.

The penalty is next higher in degree if the offender fails to lend on the spot to the injured parties such help as may be in his hands to give. (As amended by RA 1790, June 21, 1957)

The test of negligence – Did the defendant in doing the alleged negligent act use that reasonable care and caution which an ordinary prudent person would have used in the same situation ?  If not, then he is guilty of negligence.

In crimes committed by culpa, the act is voluntary but the criminal result is not willed.  It is essential, however, that the act performed be lawful; otherwise, any result intended will be punished according to the provision of Art. 4. (People v. Rabas, 67 Phil. 255)  The exception is the violation of the automobile law or a special law.

Penalty to be imposed depends upon the discretion of the court. (RA 384) Mitigating or aggravating circumstances are not considered. (People v. Agito, 54 OG 7393)

A person is guilty of homicide with serious physical injuries through reckless imprudence, where, by his own recklessness and unreasonable fast driving and by carrying a number of passengers in excess of what is permitted by law and regulation, his car collided with another as a result of which a passenger dies and another is seriously injured, he violates the provisions of Section 67, par. (d) of the Revised Motor Vehicle Law. (People v. Olefernes, 40 OG 765)

In accordance with the doctrine of “last clear chance” the contributory negligence of the party injured will not defeat the action if it be shown that the accused might, by exercise of reasonable care and prudence, have avoided the consequence of the negligence of the injured party.  At most, such contributory negligence would merely be considered as a mitigating circumstance. (People v. Quinones, 44 OG 1520)

A professional driver who permits any unlicensed person to drive the car placed under his responsibility violates the provision of Act 3992 (Revised Motor Vehicle Law) which imposes a specific requirement to omit to do a definite act, is negligence per se.

The presumption of negligence of the surgeon cannot arise or is not available simply because the operation was not successful. (Abaya v. Favis, 3 CAR, 450) There must be proof of breach of duty on his part and the causal connection between such breach and the resulting death of the patient.

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