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Insanity Plea: No Guarantee To Exempt An Individual From Criminal Liability

It is easy to use insanity plea as an escape from possible prosecution due to committing a criminal offense. Insanity is the best defense for an individual to avoid criminal liability. However, there are some conditions that must be taken into consideration. An insane person under Paragraph 1, Article 1 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, the person is exempt from criminal liability if he or she acted during lucid interval. There should be clear and convincing evidence to prove the defendant's insanity. 

Art. 12. Circumstances which exempt from criminal liability. — the following are exempt from criminal liability:

1. An imbecile or an insane person, unless the latter has acted during a lucid interval.

When the imbecile or an insane person has committed an act which the law defines as a felony (delito), the court shall order his confinement in one of the hospitals or asylums established for persons thus afflicted, which he shall not be permitted to leave without first obtaining the permission of the same court.

Here's a court decision that did not accept insanity defense as a valid reason to absolve the perpetrator from the crime he committed: 

When insanity is used as a defense, the burden is on the defense as the appellant has to prove that the perpetrator is insane immediately before the commission of the crime or at the momen of its execution. There should be proof that the accused acted without discernment.

On November 26, 2002 at around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, Vicente Ringor was staying with his two-year old granddaughter, Maureen Joy Ringor, at the terrace of their house located at Villanueva, San Manuel, Isabela. Suddenly, Roger Ringor Umawid appeared and started attacking Vicente with a long bolo (panabas) without any reason. While Vicente was able to escape Umawid's blows, the latter nevertheless hit Maureen on her abdomen and back, causing her instant death. Upon seeing Maureen bloodied, Umawid walked away.

Thereafter, Umawid went to a nearby house which was only five meters away from Vicente's house where his nephew, Jeffrey Mercado, was sleeping. Awaken by the sudden noise, Jeffrey went outside only to see his uncle rushing to attack him with his panabas.

Jeffrey, along with his sister and cousin, rushed inside the house to seek for safety. However, Umawid was able to prevent Jeffrey from closing the door and the former barge into the house. Jeffrey crouched and covered his head with his arms to shield him from Umawid's impending attacks.

Umawid delivered fatal hacking blows to Jeffrey, causing the mutilation of the latter's fingers. Umawid only stopped upon seing Jeffrey, who was then pretending to be dead, leaning on the wall and blood-stained.

In court, Umawid set up the defense of insanity, but did not, however, take the witness stand to attest the same. Instead, he presented the testimonies of Dr. Arthur M. Quincina and Dr. Leonor Andres Juliana to support his claim. Dr. Quincina testifies that he evaluated Umawid's psychiatric condition in May 2002, February 2003, and on March 2003 and found that the latter was evident od psychotic symptoms. However, he could not tell with certainty whether Umawid was psychotic at the time of the commission of the crimes. On the other hand, Dr. Juliana failed to testify on Umawid's mental stare since she merely referred the latter to another doctor for further evaluation.


Whether or not the accused is exempted from criminal liablity due to insanity?


No. Under Article 12 of the RPC:

Article 12. Circumstances which exempt from criminal liabity - The following are exempt from criminal liability:

 1. An imbecile or an insane person, unless the latter has acted during a lucid interval.

The defense of insanity is in the nature of confession and avoidance because an accused invoking the same admits to have committed the crime but claims that he or she is not guilty because of insanity. The presumption is in favor of sanity, anyone who pleads the said defense bears the burden of proving it with clear and convincing evidence. Considering the case, the evidence must relate to the time immediately before or during the commission of the offense/s with which one is charged. Also, to support the defense of insanity, it must be shown that the accused had no full and clear understanding of the nature and consequences of his or her acts.

In this case, Umawid relied solely on the defense of Dr. Quincina and Dr. Juliana to support his claim of insanity. However, Dr. Quincina only examined Umawid six months before he committed the crime and three months and four months thereafter. Her findings as she admitted did not include Umawid's mental disposition immediately before or during the commission of the crimes. Also, given that Dr. Juliana failed to testify in favor of the accused, Umawid's defense of insanity remained unsubstiantiated, hence, he was properly adjudged by the RTC and CA as criminally liable.

Strange Laws You Never Knew Existed: Part 12 Of 15 Family Members Who Commit Theft Are Not Criminally Liable

Filipinos are known for being family-oriented and this dominant quality is probably one of the reasons a law that exempts family who commit theft, swindling and malicious mischief from criminal liability exists. While it is a dead give-away that Filipinos value their family more than anyone or anything else, can this law be a good reason to promote solidarity in spite of criminal liability of a loved one?

Under Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code, "No criminal liability, but only civil liability shall result from the commission of the crime of theft, swindling, or malicious mischief committed or caused mutually by the following persons:

1.Spouses, ascendants and descendants, or relatives by affinity in the same line;

2.The widowed spouse with respect to the property which belonged to the deceased spouse before the same shall have passed into the possession of another; and

3.Brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, if living together.

The exemption established by this article shall not be applicable to strangers participating in the commission of the crime."

However, there are still some exceptions to the rule. A family will not be criminally liable for the aforementioned crimes, but the person will still be subject to civil liability. A complex crime will also be treated as one and will be subject to a single criminal prosecution. The exception only applies to a complex crime and not a crime of simple estafa. As mentioned under Article 332 the law only applies to the felonies of theft, malicious mischief and swindling. However, if the crimes that are included in Article 332 are perpetrated with another crime such as estafa, extension will not be applied.  A person still has a criminal liability regardless of his relationship to the offended party. 

The provision’s coverage is only for estafa, simple theft and malicious mischief. This means complex crimes are not covered by such provisions. In one case involving an accused who did not only commit simple estafa but estafa through falsification of public document, the offense’s real nature was identified by the facts presented. As a result, the accused was not given the ability to avail himself of the absolutory cause that is only provided under the exempting law. The law still brings confusion when it comes to exception and if promoting solidarity and harmony is the only reason to deter the offended party from pursuing criminal charges, then it is no longer surprising this law has been considered strange and absurd.

Premature Campaigning: No Longer A Violation

As 2016 election approaches, more and more political hopefuls are going the extra mile to win more votes. You can see a plethora of political ads and various campaign strategies, which are clear signs that election is just around the corner.  In the past, premature campaigning is considered a violation but based on the country’s statute books, it is no longer a violation. It was used to be a criminal offense that can result in disqualification of the candidate. 

Under Section 68 of the Election code, any candidate who in a protest or action in which he is a party is declared, based on the final decision of a competent court is considered guilty of violating any of Sections 80, 83, 85, 86 and 261. This leads to the disqualification of candidate from holding the office or running for election. If you see political ads on TV, they are not considered as a violation of the election code. 

Premature Campaigning And Its Considerations

An act will only be considered as election campaigning when it intends to promote the election or defeat of a person who has already filed a certificate for candidacy. Even if the person deemed most qualified for public office appears to be campaigning, he still does not violate any laws unless he has officially filed his COC. 

No one can be punished for prematurely campaigning under Section 80 of the Election Code if the person is not yet legally a candidate. In the past elections, the voting and counting process were still manual and a timeline must be observed for filing a COC. It should not be later than one day before the start of the campaign period. This is to ensure that the opportunity to campaign is maximized without breaking the law. 

However, when automated election was introduced by RA 8436 in 1997, the deadline for filing COCs has also changed. It should not be later than 120 days before the election. If candidates file their COCs earlier than the said deadline, they will be punished for premature campaigning especially if campaigns took place between the date of COC filing and the start of the campaign period.

With the most recent amendment, Section 11 of the law states that even if COCs are filed before the campaign period, the candidates will not be liable for violating laws on campaigning. The law takes effect on the start of the campaign period. In the simplest term, no one can be charged for premature campaigning if there are no candidates yet.