Calamity or misfortune, A14(7) Revised Penal Code

1. Concept

Calamity or misfortune, as an aggravating circumstance under the Revised Penal Code – refers to the circumstance when the offender commits the crime on the occasion of a calamity or misfortune.

a. Legal basis

Article 14. Aggravating circumstances. – The following are aggravating circumstances:
7. That the crime be committed on the occasion of a conflagration, shipwreck, earthquake, epidemic or other calamity or misfortune.

(Revised Penal Code)

2. Calamity or misfortune

For the aggravating circumstance of calamity or misfortune, the offender commits the crime on the occasion of a:

1) Conflagration

2) Shipwreck

3) Earthquake

4) Epidemic

5) Other calamity or misfortune.

Note that the above-list is not exhaustive, as other calamity or misfortune may be taken into account.

People v. Arpa, En Banc, G.R. No. L-26789, April 25, 1969, Per Teehankee, J.:

• We hold, however, against the trial court’s finding of a second aggravating circumstance in that the crime was committed “on the occasion of a conflagration, shipwreck, earthquake, epidemic, or other calamity or misfortune.” In so holding, the trial Court reasoned:

The Court believes that the development of engine trouble in the middle of the sea is a misfortune which tends to create confusions and apprehensions of the passengers and, thereby, to commit a crime at such a time the accused manifested greater perversity and instead of rendering help increased their affliction by taking advantage of the said misfortune. (Decision, p. 3).

• The development of engine trouble at sea is a misfortune, but it does not come within the context of the phrase “other calamity or misfortune” as used in Article 14, paragraph 7 of the Revised Penal Code, which refer to other conditions of distress similar to those precedingly enumerated therein, namely, “configuration, shipwreck, earthquake, epidemic”, such as the chaotic conditions resulting from war or the liberation of the Philippines during the last World War. The reason for the provision of this aggravating circumstance “is found in the debased form of criminality met in one who, in the midst of a great calamity, instead of lending aid to the afflicted adds to their suffering by taking advantage of their misfortune to despoil them.” Clearly, no such condition of great calamity or misfortune existed when the motor banca developed engine trouble.

• It should be added that there is nothing in the record whatever to indicate that the engine trouble developed was a serious one such as to create confusion and apprehension on the part of the passengers as perceived by the trial court, and that the same was not easily repaired; if at all, the indications are to the contrary, for as alleged in the information, the accused succeeded in stealing the motor banca at sea.

U.S. v. Rodriguez, En Banc, G.R. No. L-6344, March 21, 1911, Per Moreland, J.:

• From the proofs presented by the Government, it appears that the appellants, with nine other, being members of the second company of the Constabulary stationed at Davao, mutinied on the 6th day of June, 1909, attempting, during the course of such mutiny, to kill one of their superior officers, Lieutenant Goicuria; that immediately after such revolt the mutinees, having taken arms and ammunition from the depositary, left the vicinity of Davao and marched toward the mountains of Lipada; that on the 8th day of June, 1909, said mutineers returned to Davao for the purpose of attacking the town; that the inhabitants thereof, having received previous notice of the proposed attack, prepared themselves to meet it; that J. L. Burchfield, P. C. Libby, A. M. Templeton, and Roy Libby, armed with rifles, having been detailed by those commanding the defense of the town, on the afternoon of the day referred to, advanced to the cemetery within the limits of the town, forming an outpost for the purpose of awaiting the coming of the mutineers; that about 4.15 o’clock they sighted the mutineers; that immediately thereafter they heard a shot, followed by others, which came from near the cemetery, where the mutineers had halted and dismounted; that after a few shots had been exchanged Roy Libby was struck with a ball and killed; that the outpost retreated to the convent and took refuge therein; that the mutineers advanced against the town, attacking it at various points and especially the convent, where a portion of the residents of the town had gathered, including the women and children, or the purpose of defending themselves; that no other person except Roy Libby was killed, although several others were more or less severely wounded.

• The learned trial court found premeditacion conocida as the element qualifying the crime as murder.

• The trial court found that the crime charged was committed with the aggravating circumstances [among other things, that the crime was committed on the occasion of a calamity or misfortune].

• The reason for the existence of this circumstance is found in the debased form of criminality met in one who, in the midst of a great calamity, instead of lending aid to the afflicted, adds to their suffering by taking advantage of their misfortune to despoil them.

• As is readily seen from the facts, no such condition as is described in this paragraph existed in Davao on the occasion of the attack.

3. Distinguished

The following should be distinguished.

a. Calamity/misfortune, A14(7) RPC vs Murder, A248 RPC

FactorsCalamity/misfortune, A14(7) RPCMurder, A248 RPC
EffectGeneric aggravating circumstance (i.e. it applies to all crimes) – unless it is an attendant circumstance as in murderAttendant circumstance to the crime of murder; hence, calamity is absorbed in and qualifies the crime of murder
Overt ActsOffender commits a crime on the occasion of a calamity or misfortune.Offender commits the crime of murder on the occasion of a public calamity.

Under Article 248 of the RPC, the following is an attendant circumstance to murder if the killing was done: on the occasion of a public calamity.

These may include:

1) inundation

2) fire

3) poison

4) explosion

5) shipwreck

6) stranding of a vessel

7) derailment or assault upon a street car or locomotive

8) fall of an airship

9) With the use of any other means involving great waste and ruin

10) earthquake

11) eruption of a volcano

12) destructive cyclone

13) epidemic

14) other public calamity.

See related:

Murder, A248 Revised Penal Code


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

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