February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Criminal Law and Procedure

Here are selected February 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:

Criminal Law

1.     Revised Penal Code

Criminal liability; exemption. Under Art. 332 of the Revised Penal Code, the relationship by affinity created between the husband and the blood relatives of his wife is not dissolved by the death of one spouse, thus ending the marriage which created such relationship by affinity. The Supreme Court upheld the continuing affinity view, which maintains that the relationship by affinity between the surviving spouse and the kindred of the deceased spouse continues even after the death of the deceased spouse, regardless of whether the marriage produced children or not.

The continuing affinity view was adopted by the Supreme Court in interpreting Art. 332 of the Revised Penal Code. First, Art. 332(1) is meant to be beneficial to relatives by affinity within the degree covered under the said provision. This view has been applied in the interpretation of laws in order to benefit step-relatives or in-laws. Second, Art. 332(1) is couched in a general language because the legislative intent is to make no distinction between the spouse of one’s living child and the surviving spouse of one’s deceased child can be drawn from it without doing violence to its language. Third, the continuing affinity view is more in accord with family solidarity and harmony as declared by the Constitution in Section 12, Art. II, and Section 1, Art. 15. Fourth, the fundamental principle of in dubio pro reo (when in doubt, rule for the accused) and rule of lenity, must be applied.  These principles call for the adoption of an interpretation which is more lenient. Since the basic purpose of Art. 332 is to preserve family harmony by providing an absolutory cause, the court should adopt the continuing affinity view. Intestate of Manolita Gonzales vda. De Carungcong, represented by Mediatrix Carungcong as Administratirix vs. People of the Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 181409, February 11, 2010.

Criminal liability; command responsibility. Gen. Esperon and P/Dir Gen. Razon were included in the case on the theory that they, as commanders, were responsible for the unlawful acts allegedly committed by their subordinates against petitioners. While in a qualified sense tenable, the dismissal by the Court of Appeals of the case against them is incorrect if viewed in the light of command responsibility.

“Command responsibility” in its simplest terms, means the “responsibility of commanders for crimes committed by subordinate members of the armed forces or other persons subject to their control in international wars or domestic conflict. In this sense, command responsibility is properly a form of criminal complicity.

The Hague Conventions of 1907 adopted the doctrine of command responsibility, and recently, this doctrine has been codified in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to which the Philippines is a signatory. Section 28 of the Statute imposes individual responsibility on military commanders for crimes committed by forces under their control. However, the country is not yet formally bound by the terms and provisions embodied in this treaty-statute, since the Senate has yet to extend concurrence in its ratification. Thus, while there are several pending bills on command responsibility, there is still no Philippine law that provides for criminal liability under that doctrine.

It may be plausibly contended that command responsibility, as legal basis for criminal liability, may be made applicable to this jurisdiction on the theory that the command responsibility doctrine now constitutes a principle in international law in accordance with the incorporation clause of the Constitution. Still it would be inappropriate to apply to these proceedings this doctrine, as a form of criminal complicity through omission, if any, since the issue of criminal culpability is beyond the reach of a writ of amparo. Lourdes D. Rubrico, et al. vs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al., G.R. No. 183871, February 18, 2010.

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