Arson refers to the malicious burning of property by means of fire.
Arson – is the malicious burning of property. (People v. Soriano, G.R. No. 142565, July 29, 2003, Per Bellosillo, J.)
Arson – is defined as the malicious destruction of property by fire. (People v. Acosta, G.R. No. 126351, February 18, 2000)
Art. 320. Destructive Arson. – The penalty of reclusion perpetua to death shall be imposed upon any person who shall burn:
1. One (1) or more buildings or edifices, consequent to one single act of burning, or as a result of simultaneous burnings, committed on several or different occasions.
2. Any building of public or private ownership, devoted to the public in general or where people usually gather or congregate for a definite purpose such as, but not limited to, official governmental function or business, private transaction, commerce, trade, workshop, meetings and conferences, or merely incidental to a definite purpose such as but not limited to hotels, motels, transient dwellings, public conveyances or stops or terminals, regardless of whether the offender had knowledge that there are persons in said building or edifice at the time it is set on fire and regardless also of whether the building is actually inhabited or not.
3. Any train or locomotive, ship or vessel, airship or airplane, devoted to transportation or conveyance, or for public use, entertainment or leisure.
4. Any building, factory, warehouse installation and any appurtenances thereto, which are devoted to the service of public utilities.
5. Any building the burning of which is for the purpose of concealing or destroying evidence of another violation of law, or for the purpose of concealing bankruptcy or defrauding creditors or to collect from insurance.
Irrespective of the application of the above enumerated qualifying circumstances, the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death shall likewise be imposed when the arson is perpetrated or committed by two (2) or more persons or by a group of persons, regardless of whether their purpose is merely to burn or destroy the building or the burning merely constitutes an overt act in the commission or another violation of law.
1. Any arsenal, shipyard, storehouse or military powder or fireworks factory, ordnance, storehouse, archives or general museum of the Government.
If as a consequence of the commission of any of the acts penalized under this Article, death results, the mandatory penalty of death shall be imposed. (as amended by R.A. 7659)
Article 321. Other forms of arson. – When the arson consists in the burning of other property and under the circumstances given hereunder, the offender shall be punishable:
(a) if the offender shall set fire to any building, farmhouse, warehouse, hut, shelter, or vessel in port, knowing it to be occupied at the time by one or more persons;
(c) If the building burned is a public building and the purpose is to destroy evidence kept therein to be used in instituting prosecution for the punishment of violators of the law, irrespective of the amount of the damage;
(d) If the building burned is a public building and the purpose is to destroy evidence kept therein to be used in legislative, judicial or administrative proceedings, irrespective of the amount of the damage; Provided, however, That if the evidence destroyed is to be used against the defendant for the prosecution of any crime punishable under existing laws, the penalty shall be reclusion perpetua;
(e) If the arson shall have been committed with the intention of collecting under an insurance policy against loss or damage by fire.
(a) If an inhabited house or any other building in which people are accustomed to meet is set on fire, and the culprit did not know that such house or building was occupied at the time, or if he shall set fire to a moving freight train or motor vehicle, and the value of the damage caused exceeds 6,000 pesos;
(b) If the value of the damage caused in paragraph (b) of the preceding subdivision does not exceed 6,000 pesos;
(c) If a farm, sugar mill, cane mill, mill central, bamboo groves or any similar plantation is set on fire and the damage caused exceeds 6,000 pesos; and
(d) If grain fields, pasture lands, or forests, or plantings are set on fire, and the damage caused exceeds 6,000 pesos.
(b) If a building not used as a dwelling or place of assembly, located in a populated place, is set on fire, and the damage caused exceeds 6,000 pesos;
(a) If a building used as dwelling located in an uninhabited place is set on fire and the damage caused exceeds 1,000 pesos;
(b) If the value or the damage caused in the case mentioned in paragraphs (c) and (d) of subdivision 2 of this article does not exceed 200 pesos.
5. By prision correccional in its medium period to prision mayor in its minimum period, when the damage caused is over 200 pesos but does not exceed 1,000 pesos, and the property referred to in paragraph (a) of the preceding subdivision is set on fire; but when the value of such property does not exceed 200 pesos, the penalty next lower in degree than that prescribed in this subdivision shall be imposed.
6. The penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods, if the damage caused in the case mentioned in paragraph (b) of subdivision 3 of this article does not exceed 6,000 pesos but is over 200 pesos.
7. The penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods, if the damage caused in the case mentioned paragraph (b) subdivision 3 of this article does not exceed 200 pesos.
8. The penalty of arresto mayor and a fine ranging from fifty to one hundred per centum if the damage caused shall be imposed, when the property burned consists of grain fields, pasture lands, forests, or plantations when the value of such property does not exceed 200 pesos. (As amended by R.A. 5467, approved May 12, 1969).
Article 322. Cases of arson not included in the preceding articles. – Cases of arson not included in the next preceding articles shall be punished:
1. By arresto mayor in its medium and maximum periods, when the damage caused does not exceed 50 pesos;
2. By arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period, when the damage caused is over 50 pesos but does not exceed 200 pesos;
3. By prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods, if the damage caused is over 200 pesos but does not exceed 1,000 pesos; and
Article 323. Arson of property of small value. – The arson of any uninhabited hut, storehouse, barn, shed, or any other property the value of which does not exceed 25 pesos, committed at a time or under circumstances which clearly exclude all danger of the fire spreading, shall not be punished by the penalties respectively prescribed in this chapter, but in accordance with the damage caused and under the provisions of the following chapter.
Article 324. Crimes involving destruction. – Any person who shall cause destruction by means of explosion, discharge of electric current, inundation, sinking or stranding of a vessel, intentional damaging of the engine of said vessel, taking up the rails from a railway track, maliciously changing railway signals for the safety of moving trains, destroying telegraph wires and telegraph posts, or those of any other system, and, in general, by using any other agency or means of destruction as effective as those above enumerated, shall be punished by reclusion temporal if the commission has endangered the safety of any person, otherwise, the penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed.
Article 325. Burning one’s own property as means to commit arson. – Any person guilty of arson or causing great destruction of the property belonging to another shall suffer the penalties prescribed in this chapter, even though he shall have set fire to or destroyed his own property for the purposes of committing the crime.
Article 326. Setting fire to property exclusively owned by the offender. – If the property burned shall be the exclusive property of the offender, he shall be punished by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period, if the arson shall have been committed for the purpose of defrauding or causing damage to another, or prejudice shall actually have been caused, or if the thing burned shall have been a building in an inhabited place.
Article 326-A. In cases where death resulted as a consequence of arson. – If death resulted as a consequence of arson committed on any of the properties and under any of the circumstances mentioned in the preceding articles, the court shall impose the death penalty.
Article 326-B. Prima facie evidence of arson. – Any of the following circumstances shall constitute prima facie evidence of arson:
1. If after the fire, are found materials or substances soaked in gasoline, kerosene, petroleum, or other inflammables, or any mechanical, electrical chemical or traces or any of the foregoing.
2. That substantial amount of inflammable substance or materials were stored within the building not necessary in the course of the defendant’s business; and
3. That the fire started simultaneously in more than one part of the building or locale under circumstances that cannot normally be due to accidental or unintentional causes: Provided, however, That at least one of the following is present in any of the three above-mentioned circumstances:
(a) That the total insurance carried on the building and/or goods is more than 80 per cent of the value of such building and/or goods at the time of the fire;
The penalty of prision correccional shall be imposed on one who plants the articles above-mentioned, in order to secure a conviction, or as a means of extortion or coercion. (As amended by R.A. 5467, approved May 12, 1969).
(Revised Penal Code)
SECTION 1. Arson. – Any person who burns or sets fire to the property of another shall be punished by prision mayor.
The same penalty shall be imposed when a person sets fire to his own property under circumstances which expose to danger the life or property of another.
SECTION 2. Destructive Arson. – The penalty of reclusion temporal in its maximum period to reclusion perpetua shall be imposed if the property burned is any of the following:
1. Any ammunition factory and other establishments where explosives, inflammable or combustible materials are stored;
2. Any archive, museum, whether public or private, or any edifice devoted to culture, education or social services;
4. Any train, airplane or any aircraft, vessel or watercraft, or conveyance for transportation of persons or property;
5. Any building where evidence is kept for use in any legislative, judicial, administrative or other official proceedings;
6. Any hospital, hotel, dormitory, lodging house, housing tenement, shopping center, public or private market, theater or movie house or any similar place or building;
SECTION 3. Other Cases of Arson. – The penalty of reclusion temporal to reclusion perpetua shall be imposed if the property burned is any of the following:
SECTION 4. Special Aggravating Circumstances in Arson. – The penalty in any case of arson shall be imposed in its maximum period:
3. If the offender is motivated by spite or hatred towards the owner or occupant of the property burned;
4. If committed by a syndicate. The offense is committed by a syndicate if it is planned or carried out by a group of three (3) or more persons.
SECTION 5. Where Death Results from Arson. – If by reason of or on the occasion of arson death results, the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death shall be imposed.
SECTION 6. Prima Facie Evidence of Arson. – Any of the following circumstances shall constitute prima facie evidence of arson:
2. If substantial amount of flammable substances or materials are stored within the building not necessary in the business of the offender nor for household use.
3. If gasoline, kerosene, petroleum or other flammable or combustible substances or materials soaked therewith or containers thereof, or any mechanical, electrical, chemical, or electronic contrivance designed to start a fire, or ashes or traces of any of the foregoing are found in the ruins or premises of the burned building or property.
4. If the building or property is insured for substantially more than its actual value at the time of the issuance of the policy.
5. If during the lifetime of the corresponding fire insurance policy more than two fires have occurred in the same or other premises owned or under the control of the offender and/or insured.
6. If shortly before the fire, a substantial portion of the effects insured and stored in a building or property had been withdrawn from the premises except in the ordinary course of business.
7. If a demand for money or other valuable consideration was made before the fire in exchange for the desistance of the offender or for the safety of other person or property of the victim.
SECTION 7. Conspiracy to Commit Arson. – Conspiracy to commit arson shall be punished by prision mayor in its minimum period.
SECTION 8. Confiscation of Object of Arson. – The building which is the object of arson including the land on which it is situated shall be confiscated and escheated to the State, unless the owner thereof can prove that he has no participation in nor knowledge of such arson despite the exercise of due diligence on his part.
Buebos v. People, G.R. No. 163938, March 28, 2008, Per Reyes, R.T., J.:
• THE law on arson has always been a constant source of confusion not only among members of the bar, but also among those of the bench. The bewilderment often centers on what law to apply and what penalty to impose.
• Overview of the law on arson
• The confusion surrounding arson has been confounded by the dearth of annotation on this part of our penal law. Certainly, the law on arson is one of the least commented in this jurisdiction. For the guidance of the bench and bar, a brief legislative history of the body of laws on arson is in order.
• Previously, arson was defined and penalized under nine different articles of the Revised Penal Code: Article 320 (destructive arson), Article 321 (other forms of arson), Article 322 (cases of arson not included in the preceding articles), Article 323 (arson of property of small value), Article 324 (crimes involving destruction), Article 325 (burning one’s own property to commit arson), Article 326 (setting fire to property exclusively owned by the offender, Article 326-a (in cases where death resulted as a consequence of arson), and Article 326-b (prima facie evidence of arson).
• On March 7, 1979, citing certain inadequacies that impede the successful enforcement and prosecution of arsonists, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential Decree (P.D) No. 1613. P.D. 1613 supplanted the penal code provisions on arson….
• On November 11, 1980, the law on arson was again revisited via P.D. No. 1744. The new law expanded the definition of destructive arson by way of reinstating Article 320 of the Revised Penal Code. The amendatory legislation also paved the way for the reimposition of the capital punishment on destructive arsonists.
• When Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7659 (An Act to Impose the Death Penalty on Certain Heinous Crimes) was passed on December 13, 1993, Article 320 again underwent a revision… [a]s it now stands…
• Of course, with the repeal of the Death Penalty Law on June 24, 2006 through R.A. No. 9346, arson is no longer a capital offense.
The following are the modes of committing the offense:
1) Destructive arson, Article 320 of the Revised Penal Code; or
2) Simple arson, PD 1613.
Under Art. 320 of The Revised Penal Code, as amended, and PD 1613, Arson is classified into two kinds: (1) Destructive Arson (Art. 320) and (2) other cases of arson (PD 1613). This classification is based on the kind, character and location of the property burned, regardless of the value of the damage caused. (People v. Soriano, supra.)
Article 320 of The Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA 7659, contemplates the malicious burning of structures, both public and private, hotels, buildings, edifices, trains, vessels, aircraft, factories and other military, government or commercial establishments by any person or group of persons. The classification of this type of crime is known as Destructive Arson, which is punishable by reclusion perpetua to death. The reason for the law is self-evident: to effectively discourage and deter the commission of this dastardly crime, to prevent the destruction of properties and protect the lives of innocent people. Exposure to a brewing conflagration leaves only destruction and despair in its wake; hence, the State mandates greater retribution to authors of this heinous crime. The exceptionally severe punishment imposed for this crime takes into consideration the extreme danger to human lives exposed by the malicious burning of these structures; the danger to property resulting from the conflagration; the fact that it is normally difficult to adopt precautions against its commission, and the difficulty in pinpointing the perpetrators; and, the greater impact on the social, economic, security and political fabric of the nation. (People v. Soriano, G.R. No. 142565, July 29, 2003, Per Bellosillo, J.)
The nature of Destructive Arson is distinguished from Simple Arson by the degree of perversity or viciousness of the criminal offender. The acts committed under Art. 320 of The Revised Penal Code constituting Destructive Arson are characterized as heinous crimes “for being grievous, odious and hateful offenses and which, by reason of their inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity and perversity are repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society.” On the other hand, acts committed under PD 1613 constituting Simple Arson are crimes with a lesser degree of perversity and viciousness that the law punishes with a lesser penalty. In other words, Simple Arson contemplates crimes with less significant social, economic, political and national security implications than Destructive Arson. (Buebos v. People, G.R. No. 163938, March 28, 2008, Per Reyes, R.T., J.)
In sum, “Article 320 contemplates the malicious burning of structures, both public and private, hotels, buildings, edifices, trains, vessels, aircraft, factories and other military, government or commercial establishments by any person or group of persons.” (People v. Macabando, G.R. No. 188708, July 31, 2013, Per Brion, J.)
The elements of simple arson under Section 3(2) of P.D. No. 1613 are:
1) There is intentional burning; and
2) What is intentionally burned are those enumerated in Article 320. (REVISED PENAL CODE, Article 320)
On the other hand, PD 1613 which repealed Arts. 321 to 326-B of The Revised Penal Code remains the governing law for Simple Arson. This decree contemplates the malicious burning of public and private structures, regardless of size, not included in Art. 320, as amended by RA 7659, and classified as other cases of arson. These include houses, dwellings, government buildings, farms, mills, plantations, railways, bus stations, airports, wharves and other industrial establishments.14 Although the purpose of the law on Simple Arson is to prevent the high incidence of fires and other crimes involving destruction, protect the national economy and preserve the social, economic and political stability of the nation, PD 1613 tempers the penalty to be meted to offenders. This separate classification of Simple Arson recognizes the need to lessen the severity of punishment commensurate to the act or acts committed, depending on the particular facts and circumstances of each case. (People v. Soriano, G.R. No. 142565, July 29, 2003, Per Bellosillo, J.)
Under Sec. 4 of PD 1613, if special aggravating circumstances are present in the commission of Simple Arson, the penalty under Sec. 3 shall be imposed in its maximum period: (a) If committed with intent to gain; (b) If committed for the benefit of another; (c) If the offender is motivated by spite or hatred towards the owner or occupant of the property burned; and, (d) If committed by a syndicate, or group of three (3) or more persons. If by reason, or on the occasion of Simple Arson death results, the penalty of reclusion perpetua to death shall be imposed. (People v. Soriano, G.R. No. 142565, July 29, 2003, Per Bellosillo, J.)
P.D. No. 1613 contemplates the malicious burning of public and private structures, regardless of size, not included in Article 320 of the RPC, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659. This law punishes simple arson with a lesser penalty because the acts that constitute it have a lesser degree of perversity and viciousness. Simple arson contemplates crimes with less significant social, economic, political, and national security implications than destructive arson. (People v. Macabando, G.R. No. 188708, July 31, 2013, Per Brion, J.)
The elements of simple arson under Section 3(2) of P.D. No. 1613 are:
1) There is intentional burning; and
2) What is intentionally burned is an inhabited house or dwelling. (Ibid.)
People v. Macabando, G.R. No. 188708, July 31, 2013, Per Brion, J.:
• Both these elements have been proven in the present case. The Information alleged that the appellant set fire to his own house, and that the fire spread to other inhabited houses. These allegations were established during trial through the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses which the trial and appellate courts found credible and convincing, and through the report of the Bureau of Fire Protection which stated that damaged houses were residential, and that the fire had been intentional. Moreover, the certification from the City Social Welfare and Development Department likewise indicated that the burned houses were used as dwellings. The appellant likewise testified that his burnt two-story house was used as a residence. That the appellant’s act affected many families will not convert the crime to destructive arson, since the appellant’s act does not appear to be heinous or represents a greater degree of perversity and viciousness when compared to those acts punished under Article 320 of the RPC. The established evidence only showed that the appellant intended to burn his own house, but the conflagration spread to the neighboring houses.
People v. Acosta, G.R. No. 126351, February 18, 2000, Per Quisumbing, J.:
• In this case, we find the trial court correctly held that the following circumstances taken together constitute an unbroken chain of events pointing to one fair and logical conclusion, that accused started the fire which gutted the house of private complainant. Although there is no direct evidence linking [the Accused] to the arson, we agree with the trial court holding him guilty thereof in the light of the following circumstances duly proved and on record:
First, [the Accused] had the motive to commit the arson. It is not absolutely necessary, and it is frequently impossible for the prosecution to prove the motive of the accused for the commission of the crime charged, nevertheless in a case of arson like the present, the existence or non-existence of a sufficient motive is a fact affecting the credibility of the witnesses.15 It was duly proved that at around 4:30 in the afternoon of February 27, 1996, private complainant’s grandson, Elmer Montesclaros, stormed the house of [the Accused] and his wife and burned their clothes, household furniture and appliances, like TV and karaoke. When [the Accused] arrived home at around 5:00 in the afternoon and was informed of the incident, he got mad, and as his common-law wife testified, [the Accused] threw a tantrum (“nagdadabog”). [The Accused] had every reason to feel aggrieved about the incident and to retaliate in kind against Montesclaros and his grandmother.
Second, [the Accused]’s intent to commit the arson was established by his previous attempt to set on fire a bed (“papag”) inside the same house (private complainant’s) which was burned later in the night. Prosecution witness Mona Aquino testified that at around 5:00 in the afternoon of the same day, she saw [the Accused] carrying a gas stove and knife. When she asked him what he was going to do with the stove, he answered that he was going to burn the house of private complainant.18 Later, she heard the sound of somebody throwing a chair and breaking bottles next door. When she peeped in the kitchen, she saw that [the Accused] entered the house of private complainant and started pouring gas on a bed (“papag”) and then lighted a fire with a disposable lighter. [The Accused]’s wife rushed in and extinguished the fire with a broomstick. The two later left the house at around 6:00 in the evening.
While it is true that “evidence that one did or did not do a certain thing at one time is not admissible to prove that he did or did not do the same or similar thing at another time,” it may be received “to prove a specific intent or knowledge, identity, plan system, scheme, habit, custom or usage, and the like.”
Shortly thereafter, at around 9:00 in the evening, defense witness Ernesto Riolloraza who lived behind the house of [the Accused]’s mother, saw [the Accused] and his family transferring their belongings to said house of [the Accused]’s mother.
Third, [the Accused] was not only present at the locus criminis before the incident, he was seen inside the yard of the burning house during the height of the fire. At around 1:00 in the morning of February 28, 1996, prosecution witness Lina Videña was awakened by the barking of their dog, so she went to the back of their house to investigate. Through the holes of the GI sheets, she saw [the Accused] standing alone inside private complainant’s yard watching the house burning. [The Accused] even looked happy with a canine smile and crazy-looking expression. (“Siya para bang ang mukha niya ay natutuwa na hindi naman humahalakhak, … para bang ngiting aso at mukhang nakakaluko, your honor”).
Fourth, [the Accused]’s actions subsequent to the incident further point to his culpability. At around 12:00 noon of the same day, private complainant went with prosecution witness Lina Videña to the place of Kagawad Tecson. They were about to leave when [the Accused] arrived. Private complainant asked him why he burned her house and [the Accused] answered, “So what if I burned your house?” Then [the Accused] stared meanly at private complainant, who got nervous and had to take medications. The following day, [the Accused] threatened prosecution witness Mona Aquino, saying that if she would testify against him, he would also bum her house.
All the foregoing circumstances were duly established by the evidence on record. Inseparably linked with one another, they point to no other conclusion than [the Accused]’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. While nobody actually saw [the Accused] light the match which set the house on fire, the facts and circumstances proved make a complete chain strongly leading, to the conclusion that it was the [the Accused] who perpetrated the crime.
The following are some additional things to note about this offense.
This offense shares common provisions with other offenses under Title X of the Revised Penal Code – Crimes Against Property. See: Crimes Against Property
Although intent may be an ingredient of the crime of Arson, it may be inferred from the acts of the accused. There is a presumption that one intends the natural consequences of his act; and when it is shown that one has deliberately set fire to a building, the prosecution is not bound to produce further evidence of his wrongful intent. If there is an eyewitness to the crime of Arson, he can give in detail the acts of the accused. When this is done the only substantial issue is the credibility of the witness. In the crime of Arson, the prosecution may describe the theatre of the crime and the conditions and circumstances surrounding it. Evidence of this type is part of the res gestae. (People v. Soriano, supra.)
The following are some procedural matters.
Proof of the corpus delicti is indispensable in the prosecution of arson, as in all kinds of criminal offenses. Corpus delicti means the substance of the crime; it is the fact that a crime has actually been committed. In arson, the corpus delicti rule is generally satisfied by proof of the bare occurrence of the fire, e.g., the charred remains of a house burned down and of its having been intentionally caused. Even the uncorroborated testimony of a single eyewitness, if credible, may be enough to prove the corpus delicti and to warrant conviction. (People v. Gonzales, G.R. No. 180448, July 28, 2008)
People v. Gutierrez, G.R. No. 100699, July 5, 1996, Per Vitug, J.:
• The information charges appellant with “‘violation of P.D. 1613” without specifying the particular provision breached. The information having failed to allege whether or not the burnt house is inhabited, 20 and not having been established that the house is situated in a populated or congested area, 21 appellant should be deemed to have only been charged with plain arson under Section 1 of the decree. Kalookan City might be a densely populated part of the metropolis but its entire territory cannot be said to be congested. Although the whole 2-storey wood and galvanized iron house has not been completely gutted by the fire, the crime committed is still consummated arson. 22 It is enough that a portion thereof is shown to have been destroyed. 23 Under Section 1 of the decree, the offense of simple arson committed is punishable by prision mayor. The Court feels that the trial court should not have appreciated the “special” aggravating circumstance, under Section 4(3) of the decree, of the offender having been “motivated by spite or hatred towards the owner or occupant of the property burned.” The prosecution does not dispute the mauling of appellant by a son of Mario Alano just a few hours before the incident. It would appear to us to be more of impulse, heat of anger or risen temper, rather than real spite or hatred, that has impelled appellant to give vent to his wounded ego.
Buebos v. People, G.R. No. 163938, March 28, 2008, Per Reyes, R.T., J.:
• The information charges accused-appellants with “violation of P.D. 1613” without specifying the particular provision breached. The information having failed to allege whether or not the burnt house is inhabited, and not having been established that the house is situated in a populated or congested area, accused-appellants should be deemed to have only been charged with plain arson under Section 1 of the decree. Under Section 1 of the decree, the offense of simple arson committed is punishable by prision mayor.
• [T]he information failed to allege that what was intentionally burned was an inhabited house or dwelling. That is fatal.
• Sections 8 and 9 of the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure state:
Sec. 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.
Sec. 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 for the court to pronounce judgment.
• Under the new rules, the information or complaint must state the designation of the offense given by the statute and specify its qualifying and generic aggravating circumstances. Otherwise stated, the accused will not be convicted of the offense proved during the trial if it was not properly alleged in the information.
• Perusing the information, there was no allegation that the house intentionally burned by petitioners and their cohorts was inhabited. Rather, the information merely recited that “accused, conspiring, confederating and helping one another, with intent to cause damage, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, feloniously and maliciously set on fire the nipa roof of the house of ADELINA B. BORBE, to the latter’s damage and prejudice.”
• Although the rule took effect only on December 1, 2000, while the petitioners were convicted by the RTC on April 7, 1998, it may be applied retroactively. It is elementary that rules of criminal procedure are given retroactive application insofar as they benefit the accused.
• In fine, petitioners can be convicted only of simple arson, under Section 1, paragraph 1 of P.D. No. 1613, punishable by prision mayor.
In cases where both burning and death occur, in order to determine what crime/crimes was/were perpetrated – whether arson, murder or arson and homicide/murder, it is de rigueur to ascertain the main objective of the malefactor: (a) if the main objective is the burning of the building or edifice, but death results by reason or on the occasion of arson, the crime is simply arson, and the resulting homicide is absorbed; (b) if, on the other hand, the main objective is to kill a particular person who may be in a building or edifice, when fire is resorted to as the means to accomplish such goal the crime committed is murder only; lastly, (c) if the objective is, likewise, to kill a particular person, and in fact the offender has already done so, but fire is resorted to as a means to cover up the killing, then there are two separate and distinct crimes committed – homicide/murder and arson. (People v. Sota, G.R. No. 203121, November 29, 2017, Per Martires, J.)
People v. Sota, G.R. No. 203121, November 29, 2017, Per Martires, J.:
• Foremost, there is a need to determine whether the crime committed by the petitioners based on the facts was arson, murder or arson and homicide/murder using the following guidelines based on jurisprudence…
• According to Jocelyn, when Artemio refused to open the door, the group began shooting at the house. The group followed Artemio when he ran under the house, and there shot him – facts that unerringly leave the conclusion that the group’s objective was to kill Artemio.
• Jocelyn testified that when Artemio refused to heed the demand of the group to give them food by opening the door, the group started to bum the house using a lighted torch of coconut leaves, which flames Artemio was able to put out. When Artemio still refused to open the door, the group threatened that they would burn the house. They made good their threat before they went after Artemio who ran below his house. Undoubtedly, the group’s intent was also to burn down the house of Artemio, not only to kill him.
• With these established facts, the prosecution was correct in charging Sota, Gadjadli, and the three unnamed persons with murder and arson.
• Presidential Decree No. 1613
/Updated: June 25, 2023