People vs. Nang Kay, where the accused is charged with illegal possession of firearms, is a landmark case in Philippine criminal law, besides being an aberration to the application of the Act No. 4103, otherwise known as the Indeterminate Sentence Law.
Such decision has established the rule on alibi, among others. In this case, the accused invoked alibi as his defense, claiming that he was in a different place at the time the crime was committed. The Supreme Court rejected the defense and held that the accused’s alibi cannot prevail over the positive identification made by the prosecution witnesses.
Alibi is an inherently weak defense and should be rejected when there is positive identification by credible prosecution witnesses. In criminal cases, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, but the accused has the burden of proving his defense. In this case, the accused failed to discharge that burden.
Overall, the case reinforces the importance of credible and positive identification in criminal cases, and the need for the accused to present solid evidence to support their defenses. Equally important is the non-application of Indeterminate Sentence Law, where it was fitting not to apply the latter taking into consideration the prejudicial effect against the accused.
Application of Indeterminate Sentence Law
While punitive in character, the Indeterminate Sentence Law is the bridge between the harsh penalty of imprisonment and the relative compassion of the justice system to those convicts who may be eligible to have the opportunity to be integrated once more, the soonest possible time, to the society, without fully serving their sentence.
It is the duty of the Court to provide justice not only to the injured party but also to the convicted person, who, during the service of his sentence, has demonstrated good conduct and wants again to become a member of the society.
The fundamental principle in interpreting criminal laws, including the Indeterminate Sentence law, is to resolve all doubts in favor of the accused. This is in consonance with the constitutional guarantee that the accused ought to be presumed innocent until and unless his guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt.1
The main purpose of the Indeterminate Sentence Law is “to uplift and redeem valuable human material, and prevent unnecessary and excessive deprivation of personal liberty and economic usefulness” (Message of the Governor-General, Official Gazette No. 92, vol. XXXI, August 3, 1933).
What is the General Rule in the application of ISLAW in crimes punishable by special laws?
Crimes punishable by special law is also govern by ISLAW. The general rule is laid down in Section 1 of Act. No. 4103 as amended by Act. No. 445 which states that:
“if the offense is punished by any other law, the court shall sentence the accused to an indeterminate sentence, the maximum term of which shall not exceed the maximum fixed by said law and the minimum shall not be less than the minimum term prescribed by the same.”2
However, ISLAW is not applicable to the following persons:3
The consideration here is the imposed penalty, not the imposable penalty. It is also noted that reclusion perpetua is not excluded by ISLAW. However, jurisprudence has considered reclusion perpetua as synonymous to life imprisonment for ISLAW purposes.
5] Who are habitual delinquents [Paragraph 7 Art. 62 of the RPC];8
6] Who have escaped from confinement or evaded sentence [Art. 157 to 159 of the RPC];9
Escaped from confinement means that a person who was incarcerated in an imprisonment facility (not in a mental institution), breaks out from it.
7] Who having been granted conditional pardon by the Chief Executive shall have violated the terms thereof;10
8] Whose maximum term of imprisonment does not exceed one year;11
9] Already sentenced by final judgment at the time of approval of this Act, except as provided in Section 5 of ISLAW.12
Illustration of ISLAW’s applicability and non-applicability
In People of the Philippines vs. Luna,13 the Supreme Court held that:
In Criminal Case No. 25250-2015-C, appellant Angelo Jimenez y Luna is found GUILTY of violation of Section 5, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165. He is sentenced to life imprisonment and fine in the amount of P500,000.00; and14
When comparing the two dispositive, it should be observed that the decision above does not contain a minimum or maximum time because the sentence of life imprisonment is an exception, however the decision below has because the sentence imposed is not life imprisonment and exceeds one year.
In Criminal Case No. 25251-2015-C, appellant Angelo Jimenez y Luna is found GUILTY of violation of Section 11, Article II of Republic Act No. 9165. He is sentenced to imprisonment of twelve (12) years and one (1) day, as minimum, to fifteen (15) years, as maximum, and fine of’P300,000.00.15
Charged with Illegal Possession of Firearms
People vs. Nang Kay, G.R. No. L-3565, April 20, 1951
In the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Nang Kay alias Sy Kee was charged with illegal possession of firearms in that in his possession were found three grease guns and two Thompson Submachine guns, and empty magazines, without the necessary license.
When in court, Nang Kay appeared without counsel. Upon being arraigned, he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to imprisonment for five (5) years and one (1) day, with the accessories of the law, and to pay costs. The firearms and ammunition in question were ordered confiscated in favor of the Government.
The Solicitor General questions the correctness of the penalty imposed, expressing the opinion and making the recommendation that the law on indeterminate sentence should have been applied.
Whether or not the Solicitor General is correct in questioning the correctness of the penalty imposed, expressing an opinion and making the recommendation that the law on indeterminate sentence should have been applied.
The law on indeterminate sentence as a rule is intended to favor the defendant in a criminal case particularly to shorten his term of imprisonment, depending upon his behavior and his physical, mental, and moral record as a prisoner, to be determined by the Board of Indeterminate Sentence. Upon favorable recommendation by that Board, the prisoner may be released on parole upon the expiration of his minimum sentence.
Under the special law on illegal possession of firearms applicable to this case, already referred to, if there was no law on indeterminate sentence in the court’s jurisdiction, considering the plea of guilty entered by the appellant, the trial court could well and lawfully have given him a prison sentence of five (5) years.
If the court were to apply the statute on indeterminate sentence in this case, the prison term would have to exceed five years because the minimum could not be less than five years and the maximum could not exceed ten years.
This would obviously not be in compliance with the intent of the law on indefinite sentence; in fact, it would be in opposition to its spirit. Under this opinion, it is obvious that the trial court did not err in sentencing the appellant to imprisonment for five (5) years and one (1) day.
What is the peculiarity in People vs. Nang Kay?
The case of People vs. Nang Kay demonstrated the odd situation wherein the application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law to the said case would be in contradiction to the very purpose of the said law.
The Court acknowledges the contention of the Solicitor General that the court shall sentence the accused to an indeterminate sentence on the ground that it is still applicable even in offenses punished by other laws than that of the Revised Penal Code.
On the other hand, the application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law to the case of Nang Kay runs counter to the spirit of the law, as it would be unfavorable to him.
Considering that Nang Kay was sentenced to imprisonment for five (5) years and one (1) day and the offense he committed is penalized with imprisonment of not less than five (5) years nor more than ten (10)years, it follows that the penalty upon application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law would be not less than five (5) years and not more than a period exceeding ten (10) years.
This leads to the conclusion that the penalty imposed under the Indeterminate Sentencing Law would be unfavorable to Nang Kay, the accused.
As a result, the Court held that the indeterminate sentence provision should not be applied and that the appellant’s applicable sentence is imprisonment for five (5) years and one (1) day only.
Is ISLAW applicable in Nang Kay case?
ISLAW does not apply in this situation. Generally, the law on indeterminate sentence favors the defendant in a criminal case by reducing his prison time depending on his behavior and physical, mental, and moral record as a prisoner, as judged by the Board of Indeterminate Sentence.
The prisoner may then be released on parole after serving his minimum sentence, if the Board recommends it favorably.
However, in this case, Nang Kay alias Sy Kee, who was charged with illegal possession of firearms, was sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment for five (5) years, taking into consideration the plea of guilty that he entered before the trial court.
Hence, if the Court was to apply the law on indeterminate sentence, the prison sentence of Nang Kay would be greater than five (5) years because the law on indeterminate sentence dictates that the minimum could not be less than five (5) years and the maximum could not be less than five (5) years but not more than ten (10) years.
This will unquestionably defeat the intention of the law and will necessarily go against the spirit of what it was trying to accomplish, a pernicious result that will not be favorable to the accused. Therefore, the ISLAW’s application will prejudice rather than benefit the accused.
Furthermore, it has been ruled that, under the law controlling indeterminate sentences, it is not mandatory for the court to mention in the sentence such maximum and minimum penalty as the laws itself provides for the same as regards the accused’s punishment.
Moreover, it has been determined that the law governing indeterminate sentences of a penal nature necessitates a strict interpretation against the State and liberally in favor of the individual receiving the penalty.
Hence, the law governing indefinite punishments cannot be applied in this instance. The Supreme Court rejected the availability of ISLAW because, under the circumstances, it would have been unfair to the accused.
Because of the punitive nature of the penalty, the High Court explained that an indeterminate sentence must be strictly construed in favor of the offender. The preceding example illustrates the necessity of honoring both the rights of the accused and the letter of the law when seeking justice.
Indeterminate Sentence Law was enacted to to uplift and redeem valuable human material, and prevent unnecessary and excessive deprivation of personal liberty and economic usefulness.16
If the offense is punishable by any other law, the court must impose an indeterminate sentence on the person of the accused. The maximum term of this sentence cannot be longer than the maximum term prescribed by the violated law, and the minimum term cannot be shorter than the minimum term prescribed therein.17
The Court, however, may give some leeway to comply with the spirit of the law. Such as the case of People vs Nang Kay where the Court did not apply the Indeterminate Sentence as it would be prejudicial to the accused.
- People vs. Temporada, G.R. No. 173473, December 17, 2008
- Section 1, Act No. 4103
- Section 2 of Act No. 4103
- G.R. No. 251438, December 7, 2021
- Supra., Message of the Governor-General, Official Gazette No. 92, vol. XXXI, August 3, 1933
- Section 1, Act. 4103