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RPC Application, A2 Revised Penal Code

1. Concept

The application of the Revised Penal Code – refers to its to the scope and extent of its enforceability, whether inside or outside of the Philippines.

a. Legal basis

Article 2. Application of its provisions. – Except as provided in the treaties and laws of preferential application, the provisions of this 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.

(Revised Penal Code)

2. Extra-territorial application of the Revised Penal Code

Generally, laws operate only within a jurisdiction in line with a country’s sovereignty. Thus, the Philippines cannot pass legislation that would operate outside of it its territorial borders, particularly if it would mean affecting another country sovereignty.

However, in the case of the Revised Penal Code, it has extra-territorial application or its provisions are enforced inside and outside of the Philippines against those who:

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

2) Those who 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) Those who are 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, those who commit an offense in the exercise of their functions; or

5) Those who commit any of the crimes against national security and the law of nations under the RPC.

a. Philippine ship or airship

The Revised Penal Code has extra-territorial application against those who commit an offense while on a Philippine ship or airship.

A ship or airship owned by the Philippines or carrying a Philippine flag is an extension of the Republic of the Philippines. Thus, while such ship or airship is outside of the country, any crime or offense made on such vehicles shall be considered as if made under Philippine territory.

1) English rule vs French rule

There are two fundamental rules on this particular matter in connection with International Law; to wit, the French rule, according to which crimes committed aboard a foreign merchant vessels should not be prosecuted in the courts of the country within whose territorial jurisdiction they were committed, unless their commission affects the peace and security of the territory; and the English rule, based on the territorial principle and followed in the United States, according to which, crimes perpetrated under such circumstances are in general triable in the courts of the country within territory they were committed. Of this two rules, it is the last one that obtains in this jurisdiction, because at present the theories and jurisprudence prevailing in the United States on this matter are authority in the Philippines which is now a territory of the United States. (People v. Wong Cheng, En Banc, G.R. No. L-18924, October 19, 1922, Per Romualdez, J.)

U.S. v. H.N. Bull, En Banc, G.R. No. L-5270, January 15, 1910, Per Elliott, J.:

• According to the French theory and practice, matters happening on board a merchant ship which do not concern the tranquility of the port or persons foreign to the crew, are justiciable only by the court of the country to which the vessel belongs. The French courts therefore claim exclusive jurisdiction over crimes committed on board French merchant vessels in foreign ports by one member of the crew against another. (See Bonfils, Le Droit Int. (quat. ed.), secs. 624-628; Martens, Le Droit Int., tome 2, pp. 338, 339; Ortolan, Dip. de la Mer, tit. 1, p. 292; Masse, Droit Int., tome 2, p. 63.)

• Such jurisdiction has never been admitted or claim by Great Britain as a right, although she has frequently conceded it by treaties. (Halleck, Int. Law (Baker’s ed.), vol. 1, 231; British Territorial Waters Act, 1878.) Writers who consider exterritoriality as a fact instead of a theory have sought to restrict local jurisdiction, but Hall, who is doubtless the leading English authority, says that —

It is admitted by the most thoroughgoing asserters of the territoriality of merchant vessels that so soon as the latter enter the ports of a foreign state they become subject to the local jurisdiction on all points in which the interests of the country are touched. (Hall, Int. Law, p. 263.)

• The United States has adhered consistently to the view that when a merchant vessel enters a foreign port it is subject to the jurisdiction of the local authorities, unless the local sovereignty has by act of acquiescence or through treaty arrangements consented to waive a portion of such jurisdiction. (15 Op. Attys. Gen., U. S., 178; 2 Moore, Int. Law Dig., sec. 204; article by Dean Gregory, Mich. Law Review, Vol. II, No. 5.) Chief Justice Marshall, in the case of the Exchange, said that —

When merchant vessels enter for the purpose of trade, in would be obviously in convinient and dangerous to society and would subject the laws to continual infraction and the government to degradation if such individual merchants did not owe temporary and local allegiance, and were not amendable to the jurisdiction of the country.

• The Supreme Court of the United States has recently said that the merchant vessels of one country visiting the ports of another for the purpose of trade, subject themselves to the laws which govern the ports they visit, so long as they remain; and this as well in war as in peace, unless otherwise provided by treaty. (U. S. vs. Diekelman, 92 U. S., 520-525.)

• Certain limitations upon the jurisdiction of the local courts are imposed by article 13 of the treaty of commerce and navigation between Sweden and Norway and the United States, of July 4, 1827, which concedes to the consul, vice-consuls, or consular agents of each country “The right to sit as judges and arbitrators in such differences as may arise between the captains and crews of the vessels belonging to the nation whose interests are committed to their charge, without the interference of the local authorities, unless the conduct of the crews or of the captains should disturb the order or tranquillity of the country.” (Comp. of Treaties in Force, 1904, p. 754.) This exception applies to controversies between the members of the ship’s company, and particularly to disputes regarding wages. (2 Moore, Int. Law Dig., sec. 206, p. 318; Tellefsen vs. Fee, 168 Mass., 188.) The order and tranquillity of the country are affected by many events which do not amount to a riot or general public disturbance. Thus an assault by one member of the crew upon another, committed upon the ship, of which the public may have no knowledge whatever, is not by this treaty withdrawn from the cognizance of the local authorities.

• In 1876 the mates of the Swedish bark Frederike and Carolina engaged in a “quarrel” on board the vessel in the port of Galveston, Texas. They were prosecuted before a justice of the peace, but the United States district attorney was instructed by the Government to take the necessary steps to have the proceedings dismissed, and the aid of the governor of Texas was invoked with the view to “guard against a repetition of similar proceedings.” (Mr. Fish, Secretary of State, to Mr. Grip, Swedish and Norwegian charged, May 16, 1876; Moore, Int. Law Dig.) It does not appear that this “quarrel” was of such a nature as to amount to a breach of the criminal laws of Texas, but when in 1879 the mate for the Norwegian bark Livingston was prosecuted in the courts of Philadelphia County for an assault and battery committed on board the ship while lying in the port of Philadelphia, it was held that there was nothing in the treaty which deprived the local courts of jurisdiction. (Commonwealth vs. Luckness, 14 Phila. (Pa.), 363.)

People v. Wong Cheng, En Banc, G.R. No. L-18924, October 19, 1922, Per Romualdez, J.:

• [A]ppellee is accused of having illegally smoked opium, aboard the merchant vessel Changsa of English nationality while said vessel was anchored in Manila Bay two and a half miles from the shores of the city.

• The point at issue is whether the courts of the Philippines have jurisdiction over crime, like the one herein involved, committed aboard merchant vessels anchored in our jurisdiction waters.

• [The English Rule] obtains in this jurisdiction, because at present the theories and jurisprudence prevailing in the United States on this matter are authority in the Philippines which is now a territory of the United States.

• In the cases of The Schooner Exchange vs. M’Faddon and Others (7 Cranch [U. S.], 116), Chief Justice Marshall said:

… When merchant vessels enter for the purposes of trade, it would be obviously inconvenient and dangerous to society, and would subject the laws to continual infraction, and the government to degradation, if such individuals or merchants did not owe temporary and local allegiance, and were not amenable to the jurisdiction of the country. . . .

• In United States vs. Bull (15 Phil., 7), this court held:

… No court of the Philippine Islands had jurisdiction over an offense or crime committed on the high seas or within the territorial waters of any other country, but when she came within three miles of a line drawn from the headlands, which embrace the entrance to Manila Bay, she was within territorial waters, and a new set of principles became applicable. (Wheaton, International Law [Dana ed.], p. 255, note 105; Bonfils, Le Droit Int., secs. 490 et seq.; Latour, La Mer Ter., ch. 1.) The ship and her crew were then subject to the jurisdiction of the territorial sovereign subject to such limitations as have been conceded by that sovereignty through the proper political agency. . . .

• It is true that in certain cases the comity of nations is observed, as in Mali and Wildenhus vs. Keeper of the Common Jail (120 U.S., 1), wherein it was said that:

… The principle which governs the whole matter is this: Disorder which disturb only the peace of the ship or those on board are to be dealt with exclusively by the sovereignty of the home of the ship, but those which disturb the public peace may be suppressed, and, if need be, the offenders punished by the proper authorities of the local jurisdiction. It may not be easy at all times to determine which of the two jurisdictions a particular act of disorder belongs. Much will undoubtedly depend on the attending circumstances of the particular case, but all must concede that felonious homicide is a subject for the local jurisdiction, and that if the proper authorities are proceeding with the case in the regular way the consul has no right to interfere to prevent it.

• Hence in United States vs. Look Chaw (18 Phil., 573), this court held that:

Although the mere possession of an article of prohibited use in the Philippine Islands, aboard a foreign vessel in transit in any local port, does not, as a general rule, constitute a crime triable by the courts of the Islands, such vessels being considered as an extension of its own nationality, the same rule does not apply when the article, the use of which is prohibited in the Islands, is landed from the vessels upon Philippine soil; in such a case an open violation of the laws of the land is committed with respect to which, as it is a violation of the penal law in force at the place of the commission of the crime, no court other than that established in the said place has jurisdiction of the offense, in the absence of an agreement under an international treaty.

As to whether the United States has ever consented by treaty or otherwise to renouncing such jurisdiction or a part thereof, we find nothing to this effect so far as England is concerned, to which nation the ship where the crime in question was committed belongs. Besides, in his work “Treaties, Conventions, etc.,” volume 1, page 625, Malloy says the following:

There shall be between the territories of the United States of America, and all the territories of His Britanic Majesty in Europe, a reciprocal liberty of commerce. The inhabitants of the two countries, respectively, shall have liberty freely and securely to come with their ships and cargoes to all such places, ports and rivers, in the territories aforesaid, to which other foreigners are permitted to come, to enter into the same, and to remain and reside in any parts of the said territories, respectively; also to hire and occupy houses and warehouses for the purposes of their commerce; and, generally, the merchants and traders of each nation respectively shall enjoy the most complete protection and security for their commerce, but subject always to the laws and statutes of the two countries, respectively. (Art. 1, Commerce and Navigation Convention.)

• We have seen that the mere possession of opium aboard a foreign vessel in transit was held by this court not triable by or courts, because it being the primary object of our Opium Law to protect the inhabitants of the Philippines against the disastrous effects entailed by the use of this drug, its mere possession in such a ship, without being used in our territory, does not being about in the said territory those effects that our statute contemplates avoiding. Hence such a mere possession is not considered a disturbance of the public order.

• But to smoke opium within our territorial limits, even though aboard a foreign merchant ship, is certainly a breach of the public order here established, because it causes such drug to produce its pernicious effects within our territory. It seriously contravenes the purpose that our Legislature has in mind in enacting the aforesaid repressive statute. Moreover, as the Attorney-General aptly observes:

… The idea of a person smoking opium securely on board a foreign vessel at anchor in the port of Manila in open defiance of the local authorities, who are impotent to lay hands on him, is simply subversive of public order. It requires no unusual stretch of the imagination to conceive that a foreign ship may come into the port of Manila and allow or solicit Chinese residents to smoke opium on board.

Illuh Asaali v. Commissioner of Customs, En Banc, G.R. No. L-24170, February 28, 1969, Per Fernando, J.:

•[P]etitioners, “owners of five sailing vessels and the cargo loaded therein declared forfeited by respondent Commissioner of Customs for smuggling,” raised the principal question of “the validity of their interception and seizure by customs officials on the high seas, the contention being raised that importation had not yet begun and that the seizure was effected outside our territorial waters.”

•”The facts according to the above opinion ‘are not controverted.’ Thus: ‘It appears that on September 10, 1950, at about noontime a customs patrol team on board Patrol Boat ST-23 intercepted the five (5) sailing vessels in question on the high seas, between British North Borneo and Sulu while they were heading towards Tawi-tawi, Sulu. After ordering the vessels to stop, the customs officers boarded and found on board, 181 cases of ‘Herald’ cigarettes, 9 cases of ‘Camel’ cigarettes, and some pieces of rattan chairs. The sailing vessels are all Philippine registry, owned and manned by Filipino residents of Sulu, and of less than thirty (30) tons burden. They came from Sandakan, British North Borneo, but did not possess any permit from the Commissioner of Customs to engage in the importation of merchandise into any port of the Sulu sea, as required by Section 1363(a) of the Revised Administrative Code. Their cargoes were not covered by the required import license under Republic Act No. 426, otherwise known as the Import Control Law.””

•It should not escape notice that the jurisdictional question was vigorously pressed before the Court of Tax Appeals. It was not deemed persuasive. As noted in its opinion: “We perfectly see the point of the petitioners but considering the circumstances surrounding the apprehension of the vessels in question, we believe that Section 1363(a) of the Revised Administrative Code should be applied to the case at bar. It has been established that the five vessels came from Sandakan, British North Borneo, a foreign port, and when intercepted, all of them were heading towards Tawi-tawi, a domestic port within the Sulu sea. Laden with foreign manufactured cigarettes, they did not possess the import license required by Republic Act No. 426, nor did they carry a permit from the Commissioner of Customs to engage in importation into any port in the Sulu sea. Their course announced loudly their intention not merely to skirt along the territorial boundary of the Philippines but to come within our limits and land somewhere in Tawi-tawi towards which their prows were pointed. As a matter of fact, they were about to cross our aquatic boundary but for the intervention of a customs patrol which, from all appearances, was more than eager to accomplish its mission.”

•As a matter of fact, our decision likewise quoted the vigorous language employed by the late Judge Luciano in rejecting such a plea, one that must have been prompted by his sense of realism. As he so emphatically expressed it: “To entertain even for a moment the thought that these vessels were probably not bound for a Philippine port would be too much a concession even for a simpleton or a perennial optimist. It is quite irrational for Filipino sailors manning five Philippine vessels to sneak out of the Philippines and go to British North Borneo, and come a long way back laden with highly taxable goods only to turn about upon reaching the brink of our territorial waters and head for another foreign port.”

• “It is unquestioned that all vessels seized are of Philippine registry. The Revised Penal Code leaves no doubt as to its applicability and enforceability not only within the Philippines, its interior waters and maritime zone, but also outside of its jurisdiction against those committing offense while on a Philippine ship… The principle of law that sustains the validity of such a provision equally supplies a firm foundation for the seizure of the five sailing vessels found thereafter to have violated the applicable provisions of the Revised Administrative Code.”

•There was an added reason for the conclusion reached by us. Thus: “Moreover, it is a well-settled doctrine of International Law that goes back to Chief Justice Marshall’s opinion in Church v. Hubbart, an 1804 decision, that a state has the right to protect itself and its revenues, a right not limited to its own territory but extending to the high seas. In the language of Chief Justice Marshall: ‘The authority of a nation within its own territory is absolute and exclusive. The seizure of a vessel within the range of its cannon by a foreign force is an invasion of that territory, and is a hostile act which it is its duty to repel. But its power to secure itself from injury may certainly be exercised beyond the limits of its territory.”

b. Forgery or counterfeit of Philippine coin or currency note, and issued obligations and securities

The Revised Penal Code has extra-territorial application against those who forge or counterfeit any coin or currency note of the Philippine Islands or obligations and securities issued by the Government of the Philippine Islands.

Such offenses have an immense gravity and impact to the economy and financial system of the Philippines. Thus, the country via the Government has a strong and compelling interest to punish those who commit such offenses, even if they were committed abroad.

The falsification of bank notes and of documents of credit payable to bearer and issued by the State, to which class the two certificates in question belong, is an act severely punished by the law as tending to bring such documents into discredit and because such offenses produce a lack of confidence on the part of the holders of said documents to the prejudice of the interest of society and of the State, and for this reason the law punishes this crime more severely than it does the counterfeiting of money, in consideration of the fact that it is easier to counterfeit such certificates, notes, and documents of credit payable to bearer than to make counterfeit coin, and that the profit which is derived therefrom by the forger of such documents is greater and the incentive for the commission of such a crime more powerful. (U.S. v. Gardner, En Banc, G.R. No. 1468, March 14, 1904, Per Torres, J.)

c. Introduction of forged or counterfeit Philippine obligations and securities

The Revised Penal Code has extra-territorial application against those who are liable for acts connected with the introduction into these islands of the obligations and securities mentioned in the presiding number.

See earlier discussions.

d. Public officers or employees

The Revised Penal Code has extra-territorial application against those who, while being public officers or employees, commit an offense in the exercise of their functions.

Public officers or employees are held to a higher standard. As the 1987 Constitution provides, a public office is a public trust. Thus, despite being outside of the Philippines, the Revised Penal Code may extend to them if they commit crimes or offenses while in the exercise of their functions.

These include but are not limited to ambassadors, consuls, vice-consuls, their staff, as well as other public officers or employees who are on an official business trip abroad.

e. Crimes against national security and the law of nations

The Revised Penal Code has extra-territorial application against those who commit any of the crimes against national security and the law of nations under the RPC.

Such offenses are grave and serious as they pose a national security threat to the country and its citizenry. Accordingly, the Philippine has a legitimate interest in prosecuting these offenders even if the conspire and/or commit acts outside of the country’s jurisdiction.

3. Summary

The rules on the extra-territorial application of the Revised Penal Code may be summarized as follows:

General RuleThe RPC is enforced in the Philippines.
ExceptionThe RPC may be enforced outside of the Philippines against certain specific individuals, namely:   1) Those who commit an offense while on a Philippine ship or airship   2) Those who 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) Those who are 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, those who commit an offense in the exercise of their functions; or   5) Those who commit any of the crimes against national security and the law of nations, defined in Title One of Book Two of this Code.  
Exception to the ExceptionThe extra-territorial application of the RPC is subject to treaties and laws of preferential application.

References

Preliminary Provisions, Book I, Act No. 3815, Revised Penal Code

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