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Serious physical injuries, A263 Revised Penal Code

1. Concept and legal basis

Serious physical injuries contemplate physical deformity or the loss of a body part resulting in the alteration of one’s physical appearance. (Ruego v. People, G.R. No. 226745, May 03, 2021, Per Leonen, J.)

a. Legal basis

Article 263. Serious physical injuries. – Any person who shall wound, beat, or assault another, shall be guilty of the crime of serious physical injuries and shall suffer:
1. The penalty of prision mayor, if in consequence of the physical injuries inflicted, the injured person shall become insane, imbecile, impotent, or blind;
2. The penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods, if in consequence of the physical injuries inflicted, the person injured shall have lost the use of speech or the power to hear or to smell, or shall have lost an eye, a hand, a foot, an arm, or a leg or shall have lost the use of any such member, or shall have become incapacitated for the work in which he was therefor habitually engaged;
3. The penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods, if in consequence of the physical injuries inflicted, the person injured shall have become deformed, or shall have lost any other part of his body, or shall have lost the use thereof, or shall have been ill or incapacitated for the performance of the work in which he as habitually engaged for a period of more than ninety days;
4. The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period, if the physical injuries inflicted shall have caused the illness or incapacity for labor of the injured person for more than thirty days.
If the offense shall have been committed against any of the persons enumerated in Article 246, or with attendance of any of the circumstances mentioned in Article 248, the case covered by subdivision number 1 of this Article shall be punished by reclusion temporal in its medium and maximum periods; the case covered by subdivision number 2 by prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its minimum period; the case covered by subdivision number 3 by prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods; and the case covered by subdivision number 4 by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods.
The provisions of the preceding paragraph shall not be applicable to a parent who shall inflict physical injuries upon his child by excessive chastisement. (Act 3815, Revised Penal Code)

2. Elements of the offense

The following are the modes of committing the offense and their respective elements.           

a. 1st Mode

Elements of the offense:

1) That the offender has wounded, beaten, or assaulted another; and

2) That the physical injuries inflicted shall have caused the illness or incapacity for labor of the injured person for more than 30 days. (Pilares, Jr. v. People, G.R. No. 165685, 14 March 2007)

b. 2nd Mode

Elements of the offense:

1) That the offender has wounded, beaten, or assaulted another; and

2) That the person injured shall have become deformed, or shall have lost any other part of his body, or shall have lost the use thereof, or shall have been ill or incapacitated for the performance of the work in which he as habitually engaged for a period of more than ninety (90) days.

For Article 263(3), the following are the elements:

1) That the perpetrator wounds, beats, or assaults another;

2) That the person injured shall have gone through any of the following circumstances: (a) become deformed; (b) lost any other part of their body; (c) lost that body part’s use; or (d) been ill or incapacitated for the work performance in which they were habitually engaged for a period of more than 90 days. (Ruego v. People, supra, Per Leonen, J.)

Ruego v. People, supra, Per Leonen, J.:

• The loss of a tooth, may, in most cases, be later repaired or replaced with an artificial tooth by a competent dentist. Thus, for the loss of a tooth to be considered within the scope of serious physical injuries, the circumstances surrounding its loss and whether it caused a physical deformity or permanent alteration of one’s physical appearance must be examined on a case-to-case basis.

• Due to respondent Calubiran’s fractured tooth, petitioner was charged with violation of Article 263(3) of the Revised Penal Code, with the Municipal Trial Court, Regional Trial Court, and Court of Appeals concluding that the tooth fracture is a permanent deformity, since it had to be extracted and replaced by an artificial tooth. These conclusions were based on the 1934 case of People v. Balubar.

• In Balubar, the accused had struck the victim on the mouth with an “iron instrument used for cranking the engine of a motor truck,” breaking four of the victim’s front teeth and inflicting a wound on his upper lip. The broken teeth had to be extracted because they hurt the victim’s gums. The trial court judge had observed, during trial, that there was a visible disfigurement to the victim’s mouth.

• This Court, through Justice Vickers, first points out that the text of the law did not include the word “tooth” or “teeth,” observing that the official English translation of the Article 263(3), which had been written in Spanish, was inaccurate:

The principal question involved in this case is whether or not the physical injuries inflicted by the defendant upon the offended party constitute a violation of subsection 3 of article 263 of the Revised Penal Code, the Spanish text of which reads as follows:

Con la pena de prision correctional en sus grados minimo y medio, si de resultas de las lesiones el ofendido hubiere quedado deforme, o perdido cualquier otro miembro o quedado inutilizado de el, o hubiere estado incapacitido para su trabajo habitual o enfermo por mas de noventa dias.

• The official English translation is as follows:

“The penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods, if in consequence of the physical injuries inflicted, the person injured shall have become deformed, or shall have lost any other part of his body, or shall have lost the use thereof, or shall have been ill or incapacitated for the performance of the work in which he was habitually engaged for a period of more than ninety days.:

• It will be noticed that the phrase “cualquier otro miembro” has been translated to read “any other part of his body”. The Spanish text scarcely justifies that translation. “Cualquier otro miembro” is more accurately translated “any other member”, meaning any other member than an eye, a hand, a foot, an arm, or a leg, which are those mentioned in subsection 2. “Deforme” is better translated “disfigured.”

Balubar then proceeds to discuss several cases by the Supreme Court of Spain from 1884 to 1910, all holding that the loss of teeth was a “deformidad” or a disfigurement under the Revised Penal Code. However, it makes mention of a 1903 Spanish Supreme Court case where the loss of an incisor of a 70-year-old woman would not constitute as a disfigurement, since the loss of teeth was common to those of advanced age.

• Interestingly, Balubar mentions two unreported cases by the Philippine Supreme Court, where this Court held that the cases of the Spanish Supreme Court had since been rendered “obsolete” due to the advances in dental science and that the loss of teeth was not, per se, a disfigurement since they could be replaced by artificial teeth:

• In the case of People vs. Rodas (G. R. No. 31807, promulgated February 7, 1930, not reported), where two of the offended party’s lower incisors were knocked out, a division of this court consisting of four members refused to follow the decisions of the Supreme Court of Spain on the ground that they were obsolete because of the progress in dental science, and held that in the United States and the Philippine Islands the loss of one or more teeth need not be taken as a permanent physical abnormality; and in the case of People vs. Medina (G. R. No. 32113, promulgated on the same date and by the same division, not reported), it was held that the loss of four teeth did not constitute a disfigurement within the meaning of the law, because it was not permanent; that the disfigurement was not permanent, because the four natural teeth lost by the offended party had been substituted by artificial teeth. The defendant was sentenced to suffer thirty days of arresto menor and to indemnify the offended party in the sum of P60, the cost of the false teeth.

• We have not found any decision of this court en banc that is in point.

• Balubar, however, found these Division cases unsatisfactory and proceeded to hold that the loss of teeth impairs one’s appearance, and that the offender must take liability even when the disfigurement could be lessened by some artificial means:

The Rodas and Medina cases, supra, were decided upon the finding that there was no disfigurement because the injuries were not permanent, since the teeth that were broken out could be substituted with artificial teeth. In our opinion this was not a correct interpretation of the law. The injury contemplated by the Code is an injury that cannot be repaired by the action of nature, and if the loss of the teeth is visible and impairs the appearance of the offended party, it constitutes a disfigurement. The fact that he may, if he has the necessary means and so desires, have artificial teeth substituted for the natural teeth he has lost does not repair the injury, although it may lessen the disfigurement. The case of a child or an old person is an exception to the rule.

• One who unlawfully wounds another is responsible for the consequences of his act. If as a result thereof, the offended party is impaired in his appearance in such a way that the disfigurement cannot be removed by nature, the person causing the injuries is responsible for the disfigurement, and he is not relieved of that responsibility because the offended party might, if he had the means, lessen the disfigurement by some artificial contrivance.

• The offended party in the case at bar was twenty-five years old, and he was conspicuously disfigured by the loss of four front teeth. We are therefore of the opinion that the defendant is guilty of a violation of subsection 3 of article 263 of the Revised Penal Code.

• Justice Malcolm vigorously dissented against the majority “considering the ease with which an injury of this nature could be remedied by any reputable dentist.” He mentions People v. Oh Suilay, a case that appears to have been ignored by the majority, which considered the loss of two teeth as less serious physical injuries:

In the case of People vs. Oh Suilay (G. R. No. 40699, p. 1024, post), the information alleged that various blows had caused the loss of two teeth producing a deformity. The evidence substantiated this allegation and on appeal to this court it was specifically found as a fact that the injured party received several blows “one of which knocked out two of his teeth.” The Solicitor-General, taking cognizance of the evidence to this effect, argued that the case fell under article 263 of the Revised Penal Code, but this court declining to follow this suggestion merely found the accused guilty of the crime of less serious physical injuries penalized by article 265 of the Revised Penal Code. The decision here referred to, it should be mentioned, was written by Justice Street of the first division And concurred in by Justices Abad Santos and Hull, and was promulgated on July 20 of this year.

• More important, Justice Malcolm pointed out that while decisions of the Spanish Supreme Court were persuasive, they were not binding, and that this Court should take a more progressive stance in light of medical advances:

The majority decision lays great stress on a number of decisions of the Supreme Court of Spain. If it be desired to take into account these decisions, it should be recalled that according to the Supreme Court of Spain, by deformity is meant visible ugliness, permanent and visible physical abnormality. (5 Viada, Codigo Penal Comentado, 144.) If this doctrine is correct, the breaking of one or more teeth need not produce permanent and visible deformity, for any dentist can fill or replace such teeth. Moreover, while decisions coming from the Supreme Court of Spain are entitled to persuasive respect just as decisions coming from any other country are entitled to similar respect, they are no longer absolutely binding on the Supreme Court of the Philippines, and this court is at liberty to take a progressive stand in interpreting our Revised Penal Code.

• In hindsight, this Court could not possibly continue upholding Balubar’s rationale. The physical injury, as stated in the Revised Penal Code, must be of such serious nature that it cannot be restored through medical means. As Justice Malcolm pointed out, the deformity contemplated by law is disfigurement, or “visible ugliness, permanent[,] and visible physical abnormality.”

• Deformity or the loss of any other part of the body under Article 263(3), therefore, should be properly interpreted to mean the loss of an eye, an ear, or any of the limbs-all of which would visibly alter one’s physical appearance and body functions.

• The loss of an eye results in blindness that artificial eyes cannot restore. The loss of an ear will alter one’s head shape and may result in deafness. Persons with artificial limbs will have different postures and gaits. Osseointegration, or “a direct structural and functional connection between ordered living bone and the surface of a load-carrying implant,” has been used for prosthetic limbs by integrating “titanium implants into the medullary cavity of the bone [where] the implants extend from the bone, emerging through the skin to create an anchor for the prosthetic limb.” This process can lead to infection and metal corrosion.

• Moreover, modern prosthetics also involve the connection of a socket to the residual limb, which can sometimes lead to instability, tissue damage, and pain. The socket’s structural design must take into account “ratio of muscle, the movement of the femur, and movement of the residual limb, all of which would affect gait and other gross functional movements.”

• In contrast, artificial teeth are so common that they are known to the general public by its colloquial term: pustiso (dentures). In some cases, they are even used to beautify one’s appearance. As far back as 1934, it has already been observed that the loss of a tooth is not a serious affair, considering “the ease with which an injury of this nature could be remedied by any reputable dentist.”

• It is conceded that there may be cases where the loss of teeth would cause a physical deformity that can no longer be remedied by science. In those instances, it should be the duty of courts to impose the proper, and graver, penalties required by the law. Trial courts should consider all the factual circumstances surrounding the injury and the resulting consequences. They should not equate, for example, the loss of a fingernail with the loss of a hand.

• Thus, it is inequitable for this Court to arbitrarily apply the Balubar doctrine in all cases where a tooth has been chipped or fractured and then later medically repaired in a manner where no visible deformity could be seen. Article 263 itself provides for a gradation of penalties according to the factual circumstances surrounding the injury, from the extent of the injury to the consequences suffered by the offended party. There is no reason for this Court to stubbornly declare that the loss of a tooth is immediately classified as a serious physical injury, without taking into account all the circumstances that may affect the nature and consequences of the injury.

• Thus, in determining whether or not the loss of a tooth could be considered a serious physical injury under Article 263, there must first be a factual determination during trial that the loss of the tooth resulted in a visible deformity. Where deformity is not apparent at trial, whether as a result of a lesser injurious act or through medical intervention, a lesser penalty should be imposed.

• In this case, Dr. Owen Jaen Lebaquin opined that respondent Calubiran’s tooth fracture had caused a permanent deformity and that the tooth had to be extracted. Respondent Calubiran was asked to show to the trial court his tooth, to which the trial court noted that it was already an artificial tooth. More accurately, the trial court observed that his tooth had “already [been] repaired by means of a modern dental technological procedure that has not been revealed in the evidence[.]” In other words, respondent Calubiran’s face had no visible disfigurement that would warrant petitioner’s conviction of serious physical injuries under Article 263(3) of the Revised Penal Code.

The evidence, however, does not reveal how many days it took for the dentist to replace respondent Calubiran’s fractured tooth. The 1934 case of People v. Oh Suilay had categorized the offense as less serious physical injuries under Article 265 of the Revised Penal Code and imposed a penalty of arresto mayor. Taking into account that respondent Calubiran did not appear to have any visible deformity at trial, this Court is constrained to categorize this offense as slight physical injuries under Article 26670 of the Revised Penal Code.

c. 3rd Mode

Elements of the offense:

1) That the offender has wounded, beaten, or assaulted another; and

2) That the person injured shall have lost the use of speech or the power to hear or to smell, or shall have lost an eye, a hand, a foot, an arm, or a leg or shall have lost the use of any such member, or shall have become incapacitated for the work in which he was therefor habitually engaged.

d. 4th Mode

Elements of the offense:

1) That the offender has wounded, beaten, or assaulted another; and

2) That the injured person shall become insane, imbecile, impotent, or blind.

Parent. The crime is not be applicable to a parent who shall inflict physical injuries upon his child by excessive chastisement. (Paragraph 3, Article 263, Ibid.)

Distinguished from other offense

a. Serious physical injuries v. Attempted murder

1) Fatality of wound

 [W]hen nothing in the evidence shows that the wound would be fatal without medical intervention, the character of the wound enters the realm of doubt; under this situation, the doubt created by the lack of evidence should be resolved in favor of the petitioner. (Peñaranda v. People, G.R. No. 214426, December 02, 2021, Per Caguioa, J., citing Serrano v. People, G.R. No. 175023, July 5, 2010)

2) Intent to kill

When the intent to kill is lacking, but wounds are shown to have been inflicted upon the victim, as in this case, the crime is not frustrated or attempted murder but physical injuries. (Ibid.)

Peñaranda v. People, supra, Per Caguioa, J.:

• In the case under review, the prosecution failed to present evidence that the wound inflicted on Gutierrez was fatal and would have caused his death had medical help not been provided. Thus, the crime committed is attempted, not frustrated murder, so long as there was intent to kill. However, as hereunder discussed, the crime cannot be attempted murder.

• Going now to the issue of whether there was intent to kill, the Court holds that there was none. Intent to kill is the principal element of homicide or murder, in whatever stage of commission. Such intent must be proved in a clear and evident manner to exclude every possible doubt as to the homicidal intent of the aggressor.

• Moreover, intent to kill is a state of mind which courts can discern only through external manifestations, i.e., acts and conduct of the accused at the time of the assault and immediately thereafter. The factors to determine intent to kill are: 1) the means used by the malefactors; 2) the nature, location, and number of wounds sustained by the victim; 3) the conduct of the malefactors before, during or immediately after the killing; and 4) the circumstances under which the crime was committed and the motives of the accused.

• Here, it must be emphasized that petitioner and his fellow malefactors were armed with a samurai, steel pipes, and a stone, whereas Gutierrez was rendered defenseless when he was asked to put down the steel pipe he was initially holding. Clearly, petitioner and his companions possessed all the necessary weapons to kill Gutierrez but chose not to do so. Rather, the facts indicate that after ganging up on Gutierrez, and after seeing that he was down, petitioner and his companions fled. They did not continue to beat Gutierrez nor did they leave him for dead. If the aggressors intended to kill Gutierrez, they could have easily done so, given that each of the five aggressors had weapons in comparison to the lone defenseless victim. They did not, however, kill him.

• Worthy of mention, too, is that immediately after petitioner and his companions left Gutierrez, the latter was able to pick himself up and then immediately go to the barangay hall on his own. That Gutierrez was able to go to the barangay hall and request an ambulance without being pursued by his aggressors further establishes the lack of any intention on the part of petitioner and his companions to kill him.

• Nonetheless, petitioner is not without any criminal liability. When the intent to kill is lacking, but wounds are shown to have been inflicted upon the victim, as in this case, the crime is not frustrated or attempted murder but physical injuries. Based on the medical certificate, Gutierrez sustained several hack wounds on the different parts of his body, which required more than thirty (30) days to heal.28 Hence, the crime committed is serious physical injuries under Article 263, paragraph 4 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

• Although the Information charged petitioner with frustrated murder, a finding of guilt for the lesser offense of serious physical injuries may be made considering that the latter offense is necessarily included in the former.

• The essential ingredients of physical injuries constitute and form part of those constituting the felony of murder. Simply put, an accused may be convicted of slight, less serious, or serious physical injuries in a prosecution for homicide or murder, inasmuch as the infliction of physical injuries could lead to any of the latter offenses when carried to its utmost degree despite the fact that an essential requisite of the crime of homicide or murder — intent to kill — is not required in a prosecution for physical injuries.

References

Title 8 – Crimes Against Persons, Book 2, Revised Penal Code

/Updated: April 30, 2023

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