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Aggravating circumstances, A14 Revised Penal Code

1. Concept

Aggravating circumstances – refers to circumstances which increases the criminal penalties for the offense/crime committed by the accused.

a. Legal basis

Article 14. Aggravating circumstances. – The following are aggravating circumstances:
1. That advantage be taken by the offender of his public position.
2. That the crime be committed in contempt or with insult to the public authorities.
3. That the act be committed with insult or in disregard of the respect due the offended party on account of his rank, age, or sex, or that is be committed in the dwelling of the offended party, if the latter has not given provocation.
4. That the act be committed with abuse of confidence or obvious ungratefulness.
5. That the crime be committed in the palace of the Chief Executive or in his presence, or where public authorities are engaged in the discharge of their duties, or in a place dedicated to religious worship.
6. That the crime be committed in the night time, or in an uninhabited place, or by a band, whenever such circumstances may facilitate the commission of the offense.
Whenever more than three armed malefactors shall have acted together in the commission of an offense, it shall be deemed to have been committed by a band.
7. That the crime be committed on the occasion of a conflagration, shipwreck, earthquake, epidemic or other calamity or misfortune.
8. That the crime be committed with the aid of armed men or persons who insure or afford impunity.
9. That the accused is a recidivist.
A recidivist is one who, at the time of his trial for one crime, shall have been previously convicted by final judgment of another crime embraced in the same title of this Code.
10. That the offender has been previously punished by an offense to which the law attaches an equal or greater penalty or for two or more crimes to which it attaches a lighter penalty.
11. That the crime be committed in consideration of a price, reward, or promise.
12. That the crime be committed by means of inundation, fire, poison, explosion, stranding of a vessel or international damage thereto, derailment of a locomotive, or by the use of any other artifice involving great waste and ruin.
13. That the act be committed with evidence premeditation.
14. That craft, fraud or disguise be employed.
15. That advantage be taken of superior strength, or means be employed to weaken the defense.
16. That the act be committed with treachery (alevosia).
There is treachery when the offender commits any of the crimes against the person, employing means, methods, or forms in the execution thereof which tend directly and specially to insure its execution, without risk to himself arising from the defense which the offended party might make.
17. That means be employed or circumstances brought about which add ignominy to the natural effects of the act.
18. That the crime be committed after an unlawful entry. There is an unlawful entry when an entrance is effected by a way not intended for the purpose.
19. That as a means to the commission of a crime a wall, roof, floor, door, or window be broken.
20. That the crime be committed with the aid of persons under fifteen years of age or by means of motor vehicles, airships, or other similar means.
21. That the Wrong done in the commission of the crime be deliberately augmented by causing other wrong not necessary for its commission.

(Revised Penal Code)

b. Effects of aggravating circumstances

1) Increases criminal penalties

The presence of an aggravating circumstance/s in the commission of the crime increases the penalties that may be imposed on the accused.

Both aggravating and mitigating circumstances are established in the Revised Penal Code for the purpose of increasing or decreasing the penalty to be imposed, according to the greater or lesser seriousness of the crime committed, either by itself or arising from the defendant’s moral attributes. (People v. Tanyaquin, En Banc, G.R. No. L-37124, October 28, 1932, Per Villa-Real, J.)

Mitigating and aggravating circumstances being part of the circumstances of the whole case, must certainly be taken into consideration, but not in the sense that they determine by force of law what the degree of the additional penalty shall be. The additional penalty is determined by the rule of reasonableness, upon just appreciation of all the facts and circumstances of the case. To the criticism that such a discretion is uncontrolled and arbitrary, the answer is that it is not and need not be any more so than in case of other powers, executive, legislative, and judicial, that must be left to the discretion of competent men who have taken a solemn oath to perform their duty faithfully. (Sanchez v People, G.R. No. L-37054, December 23, 1932, Per Butte, J.)

People v. Natindim, G.R. No. 201867, November 04, 2020, Per Hernando, J.:

• Article 248 of the RPC provides that the presence of the attending circumstance of treachery qualified the killing into murder which is punishable by reclusion perpetua to death. Article 63 of the same Code provides that if the penalty is composed of two indivisible penalties, as in the instant case, and there is an aggravating circumstance the higher penalty should be imposed. Since evident premeditation can be considered as an ordinary aggravating circumstance, treachery, by itself, being sufficient to qualify the killing, the proper imposable penalty – the higher sanction – is death. However, in view of the enactment of Republic Act No. 9346 prohibiting the imposition of the death penalty, the penalty for the killing of Pepito is reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole. The penalty thus imposed by the RTC and affirmed by the appellate court on each appellant is correct.

a) Duly proven

Aggravating circumstances before being taken into consideration for the purpose of increasing the degree of the penalty to be imposed must be proved with equal certainty and clearness as that which establishes the commission of the act charged as the criminal offense. (People v. Bacule, En Banc, G.R. No. 127568, January 28, 2000, Per Kapunan, J.)

2) Justify award of exemplary or corrective damages

The attendance of aggravating circumstances in the perpetration of the crime serves to increase the penalty (the criminal liability aspect), as well as to justify an award of exemplary or corrective damages (the civil liability aspect), moored on the greater perversity of the offender manifested in the commission of the felony such as may be shown by (1) the motivating power itself, (2) the place of commission, (3) the means and ways employed, (4) the time, or (5) the personal circumstances of the offender or the offended party or both. (People v. Catubig, En Banc, G.R. No. 137842, August 23, 2001, Per Vitug, J.)

3) No analogous aggravating circumstances; strictly construed

Unlike mitigating circumstances which allows or recognizes analogous mitigating circumstances which may not be in the list under Article 13 of the Revised Penal Code, the provisions in Article 14 do not recognize nor acknowledge analogous aggravating circumstances.

Unlike mitigating circumstances under Article 13 of the Revised Penal Code, Article 14 does not include circumstances “similar in nature” or analogous to those mentioned in paragraphs 1 to 21 of Article 14. The term “aggravating circumstances” is strictly construed, not only because what is involved is a criminal statute, but also because its application could result in the imposition of the death penalty. The list of aggravating circumstances in Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code is thus exclusive for the purpose of raising a crime to its qualified form. (People v. Orilla, En Banc, G.R. Nos. 148939-40, February 13, 2004, Per Carpio, J.)

4) Hierarchy in aggravating circumstances

[S]ome aggravating circumstances are graver than others. Indeed, the same aggravating circumstances may connote a greater degree of malice or perversity in one case than in another. (People v. Nabual, En Banc, G.R. No. L-27758, July 14, 1969, Per Curiam)

For example, insult is lesser in perversity as against recidivism or treachery.

d. What are the aggravating circumstances

The following are aggravating circumstances:

1) Public position;

2) Contempt or with insult to the public authorities;

3) Insult or dwelling;

4) Abuse of confidence or obvious ungratefulness

5) Chief Executive’s palace or in his presence, or public authorities discharging duties, or place dedicated to religious worship.

6) Night time, uninhabited place, by a band

7) Calamity or misfortune

8) Aid of armed men or persons who insure or afford impunity

9) Recidivism

10) Habituality (reiteracion)

11) In consideration of a price, reward, or promise

12) Use of artifice involving great waste and ruin

13) Evident premeditation

14) Craft, fraud or disguise

15) Superior strength, weaken the defense

16) Treachery (alevosia)

17) Add ignominy

18) After an unlawful entry

19) Wall, roof, floor, door, or window be broken

20) Aid of persons under 15 years old or by means of motor vehicles, airships, etc.

21) Cruelty

d. 4 kinds of aggravating circumstances

Four kinds of aggravating circumstances:

1) Generic or those that can generally apply to all crimes;

2) Specific or those that apply only to particular crimes;

3) Qualifying or those that change the nature of the crime; and

4) Inherent or those that must of necessity accompany the commission of the crime. (People v. Lab-Eo, G.R. No. 133438, January 16, 2002, Per Carpio, J.); People v. Orilla, En Banc, supra.)

1) Generic or those that can generally apply to all crimes

These are the aggravate circumstances that apply to all crimes. For example, the crimes listed under Article 14 are generic aggravating circumstances – unless they are deemed or considered qualifying or inherent to a particular crime. For example, breaking of walls or windows is a generic aggravating circumstance to many crimes except that in robbery it is considered as a qualifying circumstance.

2) Specific or those that apply only to particular crimes

These aggravating circumstances apply only to specific or particular crimes. For instance, the alternative circumstance of relationship becomes an aggravating circumstance in the crimes of rape and crimes against chastity.

3) Qualifying or those that change the nature of the crime; and

The rule is that when more than one qualifying circumstance is proven, the others must be considered as generic aggravating. (People v. Barriga, G.R. No. 178545 [formerly G.R. No. 135972], September 29, 2009, Per Tinga, J.)

[W]hen the other circumstances are absorbed or included in one qualifying circumstance, they can not be considered as generic aggravating. Certainly, once a circumstance is used to qualify a crime, the same could no longer be considered as generic aggravating. (People v. Reynes, En Banc, G.R. No. 134607, December 12, 2001, Per Carpio, J.)

People v. Barriga, G.R. No. 178545 [formerly G.R. No. 135972], September 29, 2009, Per Tinga, J.:

• The qualifying circumstance of “with the aid of armed men” serves in this case as a generic aggravating circumstance, meriting the imposition of the penalty of death in the absence of any mitigating circumstance. However, pursuant to Republic Act No. 934666 which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty, the Court can only impose reclusion perpetua, which will be in lieu of the death penalty.

4) Inherent or those that must of necessity accompany the commission of the crime.

Aggravating circumstances which are inherent are those which are integrated or necessarily part of the principal crime. For examples, the aggravating circumstance of public official will not be appreciated in crimes committed public officers, such as knowingly rendering judgment (A204), unjust interlocutory order (A206), direct bribery (A210), among other things.

2. Things to note

a. Specifically alleged in the Information

Rule 110 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides:

Section 8. Designation of the offense. — The complaint or information shall state the designation of the offense given by the statute, aver the acts or omissions constituting the offense, and specify its qualifying and aggravating circumstances. If there is no designation of the offense, reference shall be made to the section or subsection of the statute punishing it. (8a)
Section 9. Cause of the accusation. — The acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense and the qualifying and aggravating circumstances must be stated in ordinary and concise language and not necessarily in the language used in the statute but in terms sufficient to enable a person of common understanding to know what offense is being charged as well as its qualifying and aggravating circumstances and for the court to pronounce judgment. (9a)

[F]or both qualifying and aggravating circumstances to be considered in the case, they must be specifically alleged in the Information or Complaint, as provided in the [Rules of Court]. (People v. Natindim, G.R. No. 201867, November 04, 2020, Per Hernando, J.)

Sections 8 and 9 of Rule 110 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure provide that for qualifying and aggravating circumstances to be appreciated, it must be alleged in the complaint or information. This is in line with the constitutional right of an accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. Even if the prosecution has duly proven the presence of the circumstances, the Court cannot appreciate the same if they were not alleged in the Information. Hence, although the prosecution has duly established the presence of the aforesaid circumstances, which, however, were not alleged in the Information, this Court cannot appreciate the same. (People v. Lapore, G.R. No. 191197, June 22, 2015, Per Perez, J.)

People v. Natindim, G.R. No. 201867, November 04, 2020, Per Hernando, J.:

• [E]vident premeditation as a qualifying circumstance cannot be appreciated in this case for failure of the prosecution to specifically allege in the Information the acts constituting it. Mere reference to evident premeditation is not sufficient because it is in the nature of a conclusion of law, not factual averments. Section 9, Rule 110 of the Rules of Court requires that the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense must be stated in “ordinary and concise language without repetition, not necessarily in the terms of the statute defining the offense.” This is to sufficiently apprise the accused of what he or she allegedly committed. Thus, the Information must state the facts and circumstances alleging the elements of a crime to inform the accused of the nature of the accusation against him/her so as to enable him/her to suitably prepare his/her defense. In this case, however, the prosecution failed to specifically allege in the Information the acts constituting evident premeditation. Nevertheless, it can still be considered a generic aggravating circumstance, as in this case.

b. Civil Code: Aggravating circumstances

The term “aggravating circumstances” used by the Civil Code, the law not having specified otherwise, is to be understood in its broad or generic sense. The commission of an offense has a two-pronged effect, one on the public as it breaches the social order and the other upon the private victim as it causes personal sufferings, each of which is addressed by, respectively, the prescription of heavier punishment for the accused and by an award of additional damages to the victim. The increase of the penalty or a shift to a graver felony underscores the exacerbation of the offense by the attendance of aggravating circumstances, whether ordinary or qualifying, in its commission. Unlike the criminal liability which is basically a State concern, the award of damages, however, is likewise, if not primarily, intended for the offended party who suffers thereby. It would make little sense for an award of exemplary damages to be due the private offended party when the aggravating circumstance is ordinary but to be withheld when it is qualifying. Withal, the ordinary or qualifying nature of an aggravating circumstance is a distinction that should only be of consequence to the criminal, rather than to the civil, liability of the offender. In fine, relative to the civil aspect of the case, an aggravating circumstance, whether ordinary or qualifying, should entitle the offended party to an award of exemplary damages within the unbridled meaning of Article 2230 of the Civil Code. (People v. Catubig, En Banc, G.R. No. 137842, August 23, 2001, Per Vitug, J.)

References

Title I – Felonies and Circumstances which Affect Criminal Liability, Book I, Act No. 3815, Revised Penal Code

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