Applicability of PH criminal law – Criminal Law

1. Principle of generality

Under the principle of generality, all persons within the jurisdiction of the Philippines are subject to and bound by the country’s penal laws.

2. Principle of territoriality

Except as provided in the treaties and laws of preferential application, the provisions of the Revised Code shall be enforced not only within the Philippine Archipelago, including its atmosphere, its interior waters and maritime zone, but also outside of its jurisdiction, against those who:

1) Should commit an offense while on a Philippine ship or airship

2) Should forge or counterfeit any coin or currency note of the Philippine Islands or obligations and securities issued by the Government of the Philippine Islands;

3) Should be liable for acts connected with the introduction into these islands of the obligations and securities mentioned in the presiding number;

4) While being public officers or employees, should commit an offense in the exercise of their functions; or

5) Should commit any of the crimes against national security and the law of nations, defined in Title One of Book Two of this Code. (Article 2, Ibid.)

3. Prospectivity

No felony shall be punishable by any penalty not prescribed by law prior to its commission. (Article 21, Revised Penal Code)

Statutes, including administrative rules and regulations, operate prospectively unless the legislative intent to the contrary is manifest by express terms or by necessary implication  because the retroactive application of a law usually divests rights that have already become vested. This is based on the Latin maxim: Lex prospicit non respicit (the law looks forward, not backward). (Sps. Lintag v. NAPOCOR, G.R. No. 158609, 27 July 2007)

The presumption is that laws operate prospectively, unless the contrary clearly appears or is clearly, plainly and unequivocally expressed or necessarily implied. In every case of doubt, the doubt will be resolved against the retroactive operation of laws. (People v. Derilo, En Banc, G.R. No. 117818, 18 April 1997)

a. Coverage

The principle of prospectivity applies not only to original amendatory statutes and administrative rulings and circulars, but also, and properly so, to judicial decisions. (Columbia Pictures, Inc. v. CA, En Banc, G.R. No. 110318, 28 August 1996)

1) Judicial decisions

A judicial interpretation becomes a part of the law as of the date that law was originally passed, subject only to the qualification that when a doctrine of this Court is overruled and a different view is adopted, and more so when there is a reversal thereof, the new doctrine should be applied prospectively and should not apply to parties who relied on the old doctrine and acted in good faith. To hold otherwise would be to deprive the law of its quality of fairness and justice then, if there is no recognition of what had transpired prior to such adjudication. (Columbia Pictures, Inc. v. CA, supra.)


⦁ Book I, Act No. 3815, Revised Penal Code

Disclaimer: All information is for educational and general information only. These should not be taken as professional legal advice or opinion. Please consult a competent lawyer to address your specific concerns. Any statements or opinions of the author are solely his own and do not reflect that of any organization he may be connected.

Table of Contents

Read more

Law Articles

Piracy, Revised Penal Code

1. Concept Article 122. Piracy in general and mutiny on the high seas. – The penalty of reclusion temporal shall be inflicted upon any person

Succession in general

1. DEFINTIONS Succession. Succession – is a mode of acquisition by virtue of which the property, rights and obligations to the extent of the value