CRIMINAL LAW IN THE PHILIPPINES

Posted on Saturday, December 26, 2009. Filed under: PHILIPPINE LAW AND JURISPRUDENCE | Tags: , , |

The term “law” refers to the set of rules and regulations or orders, usually written, created and enacted by the people that must be abided by the people themselves. The aim of the passage of laws is social control, that is, people binded by the laws will know what acts should be done and what acts that should not be done.

One classification of law is the criminal law. Criminal law is defined as that branch or division of public law which defines crimes, treats of their nature, and provides for their punishment it.

Crime is a general term that refers to acts or omissions punishable by criminal law. An act or omission is punishable only if there is a law prohibiting the performance of the act or a law that commands a person to do an act but he failed to perform. In the Philippines, we follow the legal maxim of NULLUM CRIMEN, NULLA POENA SINE LEGE which means “there is no crime if there is no penal law punishing it”. Therefore, in order for an act or omission to be punished, there must be a law that forbids it and that law at the same time must provide for a penalty violating it.

The sources of criminal law in the Philippines are: 1) The Revised Penal Code (RA 3815) and its amendments; 2) Republic Acts; 3) Presidential Decrees, and 4) other Special Penal laws passed by the Philippine Commission, Philippine Assembly, Philippine Legislature, National Assembly, the Congress of the Philippines, and the Batasang Pambansa.

The basic of all criminal laws where some of the special laws were patterned is the Revised Penal Code (RA 3815) that took effect on January 1, 1932. Presidential Decrees and Republic Acts are the two (2) well – known names of special criminal laws in the Philippines. Presidential Decrees are special laws which were passed during the Martial Law era wherein the Philippine was placed under a Parliamentary system of government. Republic Acts are special laws which were passed after the 1987 Philippine Constitution was enacted where the system of our government is now democratic and republican.

At present, the national law – making body of the Philippines is the (House of) Congress which is composed of the Senators and the Representatives. Both belong to the legislative branch of the government and they exercise legislative power, which is the authority under the Constitution to make, amend, modify, or to repeal laws (Section 1, Article VI).  Any law passed by the Congress is national in scope and application.

The legislative power is shared by the Congress with the local legislatives or the local law – making bodies of the different political divisions of the Philippines which are the provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays. A law passed by a local legislative is termed as “ordinance” and is only applicable within their respective political jurisdiction.

Specifically, violation of the Revised Penal Code is termed as “felony” while violation of special criminal laws and ordinances is termed as “offense”. Any person who committed a crime may be held liable criminally, civilly, administratively, both or all of the above. Criminal liability means imprisonment with the duration is usually provided by the law violated. Civil liability is the payment of damages in the form of money. Administrative liability is a penalty associated with the principal penalty and usually bestowed if the offender is a public official or employee like suspension in the performance of functions, demotioninf rank, or dismissal from service

Principles of Philippine Criminal Law and the Exemptions in its Application

  1. Principle of Generality – Criminal law is binding on all persons who live or sojourn in the Philippine territory.

Exceptions: The following are not subject to the operation of the Philippine criminal laws based to the well – established principles of international law:

a)      Sovereigns and other chiefs of state.

b)      Ambassadors, ministers plenipotentiary, ministers resident, and charges d’affaires

  1. Principle of Territoriality – Criminal laws undertake to punish crimes committed within Philippine territory.

Exceptions: The provisions of the Revised Penal Code shall be applicable in the following cases even if the felony is committed outside of the Philippines:

a)      When the offender should commit an offense while on a Philippine ship or airship.

A Philippine vessel or aircraft must be understood as that which is registered in the Philippine Bureau of Customs.

b)      When the offender should forge or counterfeit any coin or currency note of the Philippines or obligations and securities issued by the (Philippine) Government.

c)      When the offender should be liable for acts connected with the introduction into the Philippines of the obligations and securities mentioned in the preceding number.

d)     When the offender, while being a public officer or employee, should commit an offense in the exercise of his functions.

Some crimes that may be committed in the exercise of public functions are direct bribery (Art. 210), indirect bribery (Art. 211), and malversation of public funds or property (Art 217).

e)      When the offender should commit any of the crimes against the national security and the law of nations.

Some of the crimes under this title are treason (Art. 114), espionage (Art. 117) and piracy and mutiny in the high seas (Art. 122).

3)      Principle of Prospectivity – Penal laws cannot make an act punishable in a manner in which it was not punishable when committed.

Exception: A new law can be given a retroactive effect if it is favorable to the accused.

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