September 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law

Here are selected September 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on criminal law:

Revised Penal Code

Bigamy;  nullity of previous marriage. Petitioner’s conviction of the crime of bigamy must be affirmed. The subsequent judicial declaration of nullity of petitioner’s two marriages to Alocillo cannot be considered a valid defense in the crime of bigamy. The moment petitioner contracted a second marriage without the previous one having been judicially declared null and void, the crime of bigamy was already consummated because at the time of the celebration of the second marriage, petitioner’s marriage to Alocillo, which had not yet been declared null and void by a court of competent jurisdiction, was deemed valid and subsisting. Neither would a judicial declaration of the nullity of petitioner’s marriage to Uy make any difference. As held in Tenebro, “[s]ince a marriage contracted during the subsistence of a valid marriage is automatically void, the nullity of this second marriage is not per se an argument for the avoidance of criminal liability for bigamy. x x x A plain reading of [Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code], therefore, would indicate that the provision penalizes the mere act of contracting a second or subsequent marriage during the subsistence of a valid marriage.” Victoria S. Jarillo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 164435, September 29, 2009

Bigamy;  prescription.  Under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code, bigamy is punishable by prision mayor, which is classified under Article 25 of said Code as an afflictive penalty. Article 90 thereof provides that “[c]rimes punishable by other afflictive penalties shall prescribe in fifteen years,” while Article 91 states that “[t]he period of prescription shall commence to run from the day on which the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents x x x .”

Petitioner asserts that Uy had known of her previous marriage as far back as 1978; hence, prescription began to run from that time. Note that the party who raises a fact as a matter of defense has the burden of proving it. The defendant or accused is obliged to produce evidence in support of its defense; otherwise, failing to establish the same, it remains self-serving. Thus, for petitioner’s defense of prescription to prosper, it was incumbent upon her to adduce evidence that as early as the year 1978, Uy already obtained knowledge of her previous marriage.  Victoria S. Jarillo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 164435. September 29, 2009

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