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  • Aggregate Crimes [Multiple Felonies]: How Do We Categorize and Penalize Them?

In our everyday lives, we always heard news of killings, crimes, and breaches of peace and order. Thus, there are aggregate crimes accompanying our existence. Yet, on a minuscule level, we may encounter situations such as but not limited to a single act producing the commission of multiple offenses. One glaring example is the throwing of a grenade, killing several people in an instant, hence, an aggregate of crimes.

In the Philippines, we have termed this Complex Crimes. As we go along, we will find its metamorphosis.

Aggregate Crimes [Complex Felonies]

Complex Crime is defined in the Revised Penal Code particularly in Article 48 as follows:

Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code states the Penalty for Complex Crimes – When a single act constitutes two or more grave or less grave felonies, or when an offense is a necessary means for committing the other, the penalty for the most serious crime shall be imposed, the same to be applied in its maximum period. (As amended by Commonwealth Act No. 4000, December 5, 1932)

Compound and Complex Crime Proper

Two kinds of Complex Crime can be derived from the above stated provision, first (1) is the Compound Crime which is a single act constitutes two or more grave or less grave felonies and the second (2) is Complex Crime Proper which an offense is a necessary means for committing the other.

Compound Crimes

Stabbing KnifeIn Compound Crimes, only a single act is done, which produces either two or more grave felonies, or two or more less grave felonies, or one or more grave felonies and less grave felonies combined.

An example of this is when AA, firing a gun and the same bullet hits CC and DD, both a bystander standing in a parallel position. Another example is when EE stabbed FF, causes an injury to the latter, who is also pregnant. Hence, the fetus later died because FF expired as a result of the said stabbing.

Complex Crime Proper

Money Vault | Criminal FraudIn Complex Crime Proper, at least two offenses are committed, not limited to grave or less grave felony, which the first offense is necessary to commit the other offense. In jurisprudence, the Supreme Court added that both offenses should come from a single statute. An example of this is when GG committed falsification in order to commit Estafa, which is primarily intended by the offender.

Constituting a Single Crime Only

Although a Complex Crime requires two (2) or more crimes that are actually committed, it is still considered a single crime. This is because aside from it is considered a single crime in the eyes of the law, the intent of the offender is only one.

Thus, the penalty to be imposed should also be one, and that is, as stated in the above-mentioned provision (Article 48, Revised Penal Code), the maximum period of most serious crime present.  While said provision is in favor of the offender, it must be noted that it is only applicable when the law or the Revised Penal Code does not provide a specific penalty therefor.

Special Complex Crime

A Special Complex Crime, also known as a Composite Crime, is where a single indivisible offense in the eyes of the law, yet in substance consists of two or more crimes having specific penalty. It is to be noted that in Special Complex Crime, it must always be consummated and no frustrated and attempted.

Examples are:

1) Rape with Homicide

2) Kidnapping with Homicide

3) Kidnapping with Rape

4) Robbery with Homicide

5) Robbery with Serious Physical Injury

6) Robbery with Rape

7) Robbery with Arson

8) Arson with Homicide.

Relevant Jurisprudence

Special Complex Crime are explained by the Supreme Court in different Jurisprudences as follows:

(1) First is in People v. Larrañaga, the Court explained the concept of a special complex crime:

“A discussion on the nature of special complex crime is imperative. Where the law provides a single penalty for two or more component offenses, the resulting crime is called a special complex crime. In a special complex crime, the prosecution must necessarily prove each of the component offenses with the same precision that would be necessary if they were made the subject of separate complaints.”

(2) Second is in People v. Barros, Justice Regalado in his separate opinion explained that

“Composite crimes are neither of the same legal basis as nor subject to the rules on complex crimes in Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code, since they do not consist of a single act giving rise to two or more grave or less grave felonies [compound crimes] nor do they involve an offense being a necessary means to commit another [complex crime proper]. However, just like the regular complex crimes and the present case of aggravated illegal possession of firearms, only a single penalty is imposed for each of such composite crimes although composed of two or more offenses.”

(3) Third is In People of the Philippines v. Conrado Laog, the court ruled that:

“Special complex crime, or more properly, a composite crime, has its own definition and special penalty in the Revised Penal Code, as amended.”

(4) Fourth is in People v. De Leon, the court explained the Special Complex Crime in case of robbery with homicide:

“In robbery with homicide, the original criminal design of the malefactor is to commit robbery, with homicide perpetrated on the occasion or by reason of the robbery. The intent to commit robbery must precede the taking of human life. The homicide may take place before, during or after the robbery. It is only the result obtained, without reference or distinction as to the circumstances, causes or modes or persons intervening in the commission of the crime that has to be taken into consideration. The constitutive elements of the crime, namely, robbery with homicide, must be consummated. In the special complex crime of rape with homicide, the term “homicide” is to be understood in its generic sense, and includes murder and slight physical injuries committed by reason or on occasion of the rape. There is no special complex crime of robbery with murder under the Revised Penal Code. Here, treachery forms part of the circumstances proven concerning the actual commission of the complex crime.”

(5) Fifth is in People v. Jugueta:

“In a special complex crime, like robbery with homicide, if, aside from homicide, several victims (except the robbers) sustained injuries, they shall likewise be indemnified. It must be remembered that in a special complex crime, unlike in a complex crime, the component crimes have no attempted or frustrated stages because the intention of the offender/s is to commit the principal crime which is to rob but in the process of committing the said crime, another crime is committed.”

Extant in Laws

The provisions in the Revised Penal Code for the examples of Special Complex Crime are as follows: Article 297 which states that Attempted and frustrated robbery committed under certain circumstances. – When by reason or on occasion of an attempted or frustrated robbery a homicide is committed, the person guilty of such offenses shall be punished by reclusion temporal in its maximum period to reclusion perpetua, unless the homicide committed shall deserve a higher penalty under the provisions of this Code.

Another is Article 294 which states that Robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons – penalties – Any person guilty of robbery with the use of violence against or intimidation of any person shall suffer: x x x x . . . . In this article, it considers robbery and homicide as a single offense.

Aggregate Crimes: Broken Down to Reveal Distinctions

With the above-cited authorities, it is noteworthy that Special Complex Crime is different from Complex Crime. In the former, it must be proved that each substance of the offense must be in the same precision which is necessary if made in different complaints. Also, there is no frustrated and attempted stage because what matters is the intention in the principal crime. On the other hand, in a rather similar fashion, both are punished by a single penalty.

How do we differentiate Complex Crime from Special Complex Crime?

Handcuffs | Criminal RetributionAs to the penalty, in Complex Crimes, the penalty for the most serious crimes shall be imposed, and it is in its maximum period. In Special Complex Crimes, the penalty to be imposed is specifically provided for the provision defining the crime itself. Thus, it shall be applied according to the rules on imposition of the penalty.

As to the concept, Complex Crimes are consisting of two or more crimes either because they were brought about by a single act or because one offense is a necessary means to commit the other offense or offenses. While the Special Complex Crimes are made up of two or more crimes which are considered only as components of a single indivisible offense being punished in one provision of the Revised Penal Code or Special Laws, as the case may be.


RALB Law | RABR & Associates Law Firm

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