FACTS: On January 30, 1955, the acting chief of police of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, filed with the justice of the peace court of that municipality a complaint for homicide against Alfredo Araquel accusing him of having hacked and killed Alberto Pagadian with a bolo. On July 3, 1956, while said complaint was still pending in the justice of the peace court, the chief of police of Narvacan moved for the amendment thereof, alleging that upon reinvestigation of the facts he found that the crime committed by the accused was not homicide as charged in the original complaint but that of homicide under exceptional circumstances as provided for in Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code. Finding the motion to be well taken, the justice of the peace court, on July 16, allowed the filing of the amended complaint which charged the accused with “the crime of HOMICIDE UNDER EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES defined and punished under Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code.” That same day, the accused was arraigned under the amended complaint. And as he entered a plea of “guilty”, the justice of the peace court, also on that same day, sentenced him to suffer the penalty of destierro for a period of one year to any place not within the radius of at least 25 kilometers from the municipal building of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur.
During the service of the sentence by the accused, the acting Provincial Fiscal of Ilocos Sur was informed of the case through the Department of Justice to which the private prosecutor had lodged a complaint. And after conducting an investigation, the said acting provincial fiscal on February 16, 1957, filed with Court of First Instance of the province an information against the accused Alfredo Araquel charging him with homicide as defined and penalized under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code for the killing Alberto Pagadian. On July 9, 1957, the accused moved to quash the information on the ground of double jeopardy, invoking the previous charge against him for homicide under exceptional circumstances and the subsequent sentence passed upon him by the justice of the Peace Court of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur. The fiscal opposed the motion, but the trial court, in this order of July 18, 1957, sustained the plea of double jeopardy and dismissed the information. Hence, this appeal.
ISSUE: Is the Court of First Instance correct in sustaining the plea of double jeopardy considering the plea of guilty was already made in the charge of HOMICIDE UNDER EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES defined and punished under Article 247 and a subsequent charge of homicide under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code was made for the same killing of Alberto Pagadian?
HELD: NO. The plea of jeopardy made by the accused was, to our minds, erroneously sustained by the lower court.
In order that a defendant may legally be placed in jeopardy, one of the necessary and indispensable conditions is that he should have been tried before a court of competent jurisdiction. (Sec. 9 Rule 113, Rules of Court.) The court below, in upholding the plea of double jeopardy, held that the Justice of the Peace Court of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, had jurisdiction to take cognizance of the complaint for “homicide under exceptional circumstances defined and punished under Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code,” on the theory that “the act defined” in that article “is a felony” which is penalized with destierro and, consequently, falls under the jurisdiction of the inferior court, following the ruling laid down in the case of Uy Chin Hua vs. Dinglasan, et al., (86 Phil., 617; 47 Off. Gaz. No. 12, Supp., p. 233) There can of course be no question that, under the rule enunciated in the case of Uy Chin Hua vs. Dinglasan et al., supra, offenses penalized with destierro fall under the jurisdiction of the justice of the peace and municipal courts. (See also De los Angeles vs. People, 103 Phil., 295.) That rule, however, cannot be made to apply to the present case, for it is apparent that Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code does not define a crime distinct and separate from homicide, parricide, or murder, as the case may be, depending, in so far as those crimes are concerned, upon the relationship of the victim to the killer and the manner by which the killing is committed.
We, therefore, conclude that Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code does not define and provide for a specific crime, but grants a privilege or benefit to the accused for the killing of another or the infliction of serious physical injuries under the circumstances therein mentioned. Consequently, a complaint or information charging homicide under the exceptional circumstances provided in Article 247 must fall under the jurisdiction of the Courts of First Instance, the offense charged being actually that of homicide. The fact that the exceptional circumstances are also pleaded — as was done in the amended complaint filed with the Justice of the Peace Court of Narvacan — would not affect the nature of the crime charged. For they are not integral elements of the crime charged but are matters which the accused has to prove in order to warrant the application of the benefit granted by the law. As unnecessary and immaterial averments to the crime charged, they may be stricken out as surplusage and still leave the offense fully described.
Conformably to the above finding, we hold that defendant was not tried by a court of competent jurisdiction when he was arraigned before the Justice of the Peace Court of Narvacan upon the amended complaint for “homicide under exceptional circumstances” filed against him by the chief of police of the municipality, and consequently, has not legally been placed in jeopardy in the present case.
As may readily be seen from its provision and its place in the Code, the above-quoted article, far from defining a felony, merely, provides or grants a privilege or benefit–amounting practically to an exemption from an adequate punishment — to a legally married person or parent who shall surprise his spouse or daughter in the act of committing sexual intercourse with another, and kill any or both of them in the act or immediately thereafter, or shall inflict upon them any serious physical injury. Thus, in case of death or serious physical injuries, considering the enormous provocation and his righteous indignation, the accused — who would otherwise be criminally liable for the crime of homicide, parricide, murder, or serious physical injury, as the case may be — is punished only with destierro. This penalty is mere banishment and, as held in a case, is intended more for the protection of the accused than a punishment. (People vs. Coricor, 79 Phil., 672.)And where physical injuries other than serious are inflicted, the offender is exempted from punishment circumstances mentioned therein, amount to an exempting circumstances, for even where death or serious physical injuries is inflicted, the penalty is so greatly lowered as to result to no punishment at all. A different interpretation, i.e., that it defines and penalizes a distinct crime, would make the exceptional circumstances which practically exempt the accused from criminal liability integral elements of the offense, and thereby compel the prosecuting officer to plead, and, incidentally, admit them, in the information. Such and interpretation would be illogical if not absurd, since a mitigating and much less an exempting circumstance cannot be an integral element of the crime charged. Only “acts or omissions . . . constituting the offense” should be pleaded in a complaint or information, and a circumstance which mitigates criminal liability or exempts the accused therefrom, not being an essential element of the offense charged — but a matter of defense that must be proved to the satisfaction of the court — need not be pleaded. (Sec. 5, Rule 106, Rules of Court; U.S. vs. Campo, 23 Phil., 368.)
That the article in question defines no crime is made more manifest when we consider that its counterpart in the old Penal Code (Article 423) was found under the General Provision (Chapter VIII) of Title VIII covering crimes against persons. There can, we think, hardly be any dispute that as part of the general provisions, it could not have possibly provided for a distinct and separate crime.
We also note that under Republic Act No. 296, the jurisdiction of the justice of the peace and municipal courts, as enlarged, extends only to “assaults where the intent to kill is not charged or evident at the trial.”(Section 87 [c]). A fortiori, where the intent to kill is evident — as in cases of homicide under the exceptional circumstances provided in Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code — the case must necessarily fall beyond the jurisdiction of the inferior courts. An absurd situation would, indeed, be created if the justice of the peace courts could exercise jurisdiction over a case involving an acting killing, when they lack jurisdiction to try even a case of slight physical injury where the intent to kill was evident. Such could not have been the intendment of the law.
It may not be amiss to state here that the killing under exceptional circumstances under both the old (Art. 423)and Revised Penal Code (Art. 247) had invariably been tried before the Courts of First Instance under an information charging the accused with either homicide, parricide, or murder. (See U.S. vs. Vargas, et al., 2 Phil., 194; U.S. vs. Melchor, 2 Phil., 588; U.S. vs. Posoc, et al., 10 Phil., 711; U.S. vs. Alano, 32 Phil., 381; U.S. vs. Verzola, 33 Phil., 285; People vs. Zamora de Cortez, 59 Phil., 568; People vs. Gonzales, 69 Phil., 66; People vs. Dumon, 72 Phil., 41; People vs. Coricor, 79 Phil., 672; People vs. Sabilul, 89 Phil., 283; 49 Off. Gaz., 2743.) In all the above-cited cases, the accused merely invoked the privilege or benefit granted in Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code or Article 423 of the old Penal Code.