Power of Congress to Enact Penal Laws
The limitations upon the power of congress to enact penal laws are as follows:
1. Congress cannot enact an ex post facto law.
2. Congress cannot enact a bill of attainder.
3. Congress cannot provide for a cruel punishment.
However, other limitations may be considered such as:
1. Congress cannot enact a law which shall punish for a condition. Congress shall punish an act and not the condition or status. (Robinson v. California)
2. Congress should consider Article 21 of the Revised Penal Code which provides that “penalties that may be imposed.” No felony shall be punishable by any penalty not prescribed by law prior to its commission.”
Doctrine of Pro Reo
The Doctrine of Pro Reo provides that whenever a penal law is to be construed or applied and the law admits of two interpretations, one lenient to the offender and one strict to the offender, that interpretation which is lenient or favorable to the offender will be adopted.
Following this doctrine, crimes under Art. 48 of the RPC are complexed and punished with a single penalty (that prescribed for the most serious crime and to be imposed in its maximum period). The rationale being, that the accused who commits two crimes with a single criminal impulse demonstrates lesser perversity than when the crimes are committed by different acts and several criminal resolutions. (People v. Comadre, G.R. No. 153559, June 8, 2004)
However, Art. 48 shall be applied only when it would bring about the imposition of a penalty lesser than the penalties imposable for all the component crimes if prosecuted separately.
The fundamental principle in interpreting and applying penal laws is the principle of pro reo. The phrase “in dubio pro reo” means “when in doubt, for the accused” (Intestate Estate of Gonzales v. People, GR No. 181409, February 11, 2010). This is in consonance with the constitutional guarantee that the accused ought to be presumed innocent until and unless his guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt (See People v. Temporary, GR No. 173473)
Mala in Se and Mala Prohibita
In concept, crimes mala in se are those where the acts or omissions penalized are intently bad, evil, or wrong that they are almost universally condemned. Crimes mala prohibita are those where the acts penalized are not inherently bad, evil, or wrong but prohibited by law for public good, public welfare, or interest and whoever violate the prohibition are penalized.
In legal implications, in crimes mala in se, good faith or lack of criminal intent or negligence is a defense, while in crimes mala prohibita, good faith or lack of criminal intent or malice is not a defense; it is enough that the prohibition was voluntarily violated. Also, criminal liability is generally incurred in crimes mala in se even when the crime is only attempted or frustrated, while in crimes mala prohibita, criminal liability is generally incurred only when the crime is consummated.
Further, in crimes mala in se, mitigating and aggravating circumstances are appreciated in imposing the penalties, while in crimes mala prohibita, such circumstances are not appreciated unless the special law has adopted the scheme or scale of penalties under the Revised Penal Code.
Lack of criminal intent is a valid defense in mala in se except when the crime results from criminal negligence. Such defense is not available in cases of mala prohibita.
All crimes punished under the Revised Penal Code, and any amendments thereto through special penal laws, are considered mala in se. As such, they are called Felonies. While Crimes punished by special penal laws, standing alone, are considered as mala prohibita.
YES, an act may be malum in se and malum prohibitum at the same time. In People v. Sunico, et. al. (CA, 50 OG 5880) it was held that the omission or failure of election inspection and poll clerks to include a voter’s name in the registry list of voters is wrong per se because it disenfranchises a voter of his right to vote. In this regard, it is considered as malum in se. Since it is punished under a special law (Sec. 101 and 103, Revised Election Code), it is considered malum prohibitum.
Applicability and Effectivity of the Penal Code
The characteristics of criminal law are as follows:
1. Generality – that the law is binding upon all persons who reside to sojourn in the Philippines, irrespective of age, sex, color, creed, or personal circumstances.
2. Territoriality – that the law is applicable to all crimes committed within the limits of Philippine territory, which includes its atmosphere interior water and maritime zone. (Art. 2)
3. Prospectivity – that the law does not have any retroactive effect, except if it favors the offender unless he is a habitual delinquent (Art. 22) or the law otherwise provides.
7.) Abe, married to Liza, contracted another marriage with Connie in Singapore. Thereafter, Abe and Connie returned to the Philippines and lived as husband and wife in the hometown of Abe in Calamba, Laguna. Can Abe be prosecuted for bigamy?
NO. Abe may not be prosecuted for bigamy since the bigamous marriage was contracted or solemnized in Singapore; hence, such violation is not one of those where the Revised Penal Code, under Art. 2 thereof, may be applied extraterritoriality. The general rule on territoriality of criminal law governs the situation.
8.) After drinking one (1) case of San Miguel Beer and taking two plates of “pulutan”, Binoy, a Filipino seaman, stabbed to death Sio My, a Singaporean seaman, aboard M/V “Princess of the Pacific”, an overseas vessel which was sailing in the South China Sea. The vessel, although Panamanian registered, is owned by Lucio Sy, a rich Filipino businessman. When M/V “Princess of the Pacific” reached a Philippine Port at Cebu City, the Captain of the vessel turned over the assailant Binoy to the Philippine authorities. An Information for homicide was filed against Binoy in the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City. He moved to quash the Information for lack of jurisdiction. If you were the judge, will you grant the motion? Why?
YES. The motion to quash the information should be granted. The Philippine court has no jurisdiction over the crime committed since it was committed on the high seas or outside of Philippine territory and on board a vessel not registered or licensed in the Philippines. (US v. Fowler, 1 Phil 614)
It is the registration of the vessel in accordance with the laws of the Philippines, not the citizenship of her owner, which makes it a Philippine ship. The vessel being registered in Panama, the laws of Panama shall govern while it is in the high seas.
9.) Ando, an Indonesian national who just visited the Philippines, purchased a ticket for a passenger vessel bound for Hong Kong. While on board the vessel, he saw his mortal enemy Iason, also an Indonesian national, seated at the back portion of the cabin and who was busy reading a newspaper. Ando stealthily approached Iason and when he was near him, Ando stabbed and killed Iason. The vessel is registered in Malaysia. The killing happened just a few moments after the vessel left the port of Manila. Operatives from the PNP Maritime Command arrested Ando. Presented for the killing of Iason, Ando contended that he did not incur criminal liability because both he and the victim were Indonesians. He likewise argued that he could not be prosecuted in Manila because the vessel is a Malaysian- registered ship. Discuss the merits of Ando's contentions.
Both contentions of Ando lack merit. The argument of Ando that he did not incur criminal liability because both he and the victim were Indonesians is not tenable. Under the generality principle, penal laws shall be obligatory upon all who live or sojourn in the Philippine territory (Art. 14, New Civil Code). The foreign characteristic of an offender and offended party does not exclude him from operation of penal laws (People v. Galacgac, C.A., 54 O.G. 1027). Under the Revised Penal Code, except as provided in treaties and laws of preferential application, penal laws of the Philippines shall have force and effect within its territory. Here, since the killing took place within the Philippine territory, our penal laws applies and Ando may be held criminally responsible despite his being and Indonesian citizen.
Retroactive Effect of Penal Laws