To Extra-Suffer: The Effect of Cruelty in the Commission of a Crime
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Under the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, cruelty is considered an aggravating circumstance in criminal cases. This means that if a crime was committed with cruelty, the penalty for the crime will be increased. We shall discuss the effect of cruelty in the commission of the crime.

Cruelty refers to the intentional infliction of physical or moral suffering on a person. It may be deemed as an aggravating circumstance because it shows that the offender acted with a higher degree of malice or wickedness. The law recognizes that crimes committed with cruelty are more heinous and deserve a harsher punishment.

Examples of crimes that can be considered as committed with cruelty include physical abuse, torture, rape, and murder, among others. In these cases, the offender not only committed a crime but also caused the victim to suffer unnecessarily. The aggravating circumstance of cruelty takes into account the suffering of the victim and ensures that the offender is punished accordingly.

Why cruelty is aggravating?

Crimes are punished because they violate the moral, public or natural principles of the humanity. Ultimately, mala in se crimes are considered evil or bad by their nature, whether there is a law or a law that prohibits them. They are punished for the purpose of retribution, reformation, or rehabilitation. Thus, employing other wrong, imposing extra-suffering along with the commission of a crime is another story to tell— in the eyes of law and society, it makes the crime even worse.

Cruelty is defined as a deliberate and malicious infliction of mental or physical pain upon persons or animals.((Legal Dictionary)) In the Philippine Law, cruelty refers to physical suffering of the victim purposely intended by the offender. As a result, the wrong must be done while the victim is still alive. Cruelty exists when the perpetrator enjoys and delights in slowly and gradually causing his victim to suffer.

The law treats, cruelty as an aggravating circumstance with the effect of increasing the penalty. The basis of “cruelty” as an aggravating circumstance is the ways employed in committing the crime.((Reyes, 2021, pp. 484.)) Merely, it is the extra-way used by the offender in placing the crime which also placed him to be additionally liable in the eyes of law.

Nobody enjoys seeing someone suffer slowly and gradually, than him — the offender.

Effect of Cruelty in the Commission of a Crime | Article 14, Paragraph 21 Explained 

Article 14, Paragraph 3 is an aggravating circumstance providing:

That the wrong done in the commission of the crime be deliberately augmented by causing other wrong no necessary for its commission.

Elements of Cruelty as an Aggravating Circumstance

  • The injury caused be deliberately increased by causing other wrong;
  • The other wrong be unnecessary for the execution of the purpose of the offender.

This paragraph is last ordinary aggravating circumstance as enumerated in Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code. So, for  cruelty to exist, it must be evident in the culprit that the offender enjoys and delights in making his victim suffer slowly and gradually, causing him unnecessary physical or moral pain in the consummation of the act.((People vs. Gatcho, G.R. No. L-27251, February 26, 1981))

In aggravating circumstance of “cruelty”, the law requires that the injury caused be deliberately increased by causing other wrong, which means that at the time of the act, the offender had the deliberate intention of prolonging the victim’s suffering. It must be proved that the intention is to prolong the sufferings of the victim, slowly and increasingly, which makes former delighted.

Jurisprudence decided that there is no evident deliberate intention of increasing other wrong in cases where the victim was drowned in the sear after stabbing him while bound.((People vs. Luna, G.R. No. L-28812, July 31, 1974)) Nor in a situation where the victim was buried after being stabbed((People vs. Ong, G.R. No. L-37908, October 23, 1981)) cannot be considered as a cruelty because there is no evidence that the victim was by while still alive to make him suffer but the act of burying is for the purpose of concealment at of the body and the crime itself. Again, the intention of extra-physical suffering must be deliberately intended by the offender.

Secondly, cruelty requires that the other wrong be unnecessary for the execution of the purpose of the offender. The employment of additional act or ways by the offender, which makes the victim suffer must be unnecessary to the consummation of the crime. The way must be specifically sought to add  physical suffering, not affecting by anyway the commission of the crime.

In a situation of robbery,((Reyes, 2021, pp. 485.)) where Y was being tied and struck to by a gun to make him point the place of his money, cruelty cannot be appreciated. Striking the gun may be appreciated as “other wrong” but it is especially sought to make Y physically suffer but is necessary to for the commission of robbery.

Thus, the law substantially established that the test in appreciating cruelty as an aggravating circumstance is whether the accused deliberately and sadistically augmented the wrong by causing another wrong not necessary for its commission, or inhumanly increased the victim’s suffering or outraged or scoffed at his person or corpse.((People vs. Sitchon, G.R. No. 134362, February 27, 2002))

The nature of cruelty lies in the fact that the culprit enjoys and delights in making his victim suffer slowly and gradually, causing him moral and physical pain which is unnecessary for the consummation of the criminal act which he intended to commit. The sheer number of wounds, however, is not a test for determining whether cruelty attended the commission of a crime.((Ibid.))

Cases at Bar

In U.S. vs. Oro,((G.R. No. L-5781, August 14, 1911)) the Supreme Court of the Philippines marked “cruelty” as an aggravating circumstance in the murder case where the defendant burned the mouth of a child. The court classified the act of burning the mouth and other parts of the body of an 11-month old infant as an extreme cruelty because the defendant may kill he infant without employing such act of burning which received by the child as great suffering for long time if it is his sole purpose.((Ibid.))

Similarly, in People vs. Mariquina,((G.R. No. L-2428, June 20, 1949)) the Court ruled for the attendance of cruelty. In this case, the victim’s hands were tied at his back and started to strike him with a cane on the head and on different parts of the body, thereafter, his eyes were extracted from its sockets with the pointed end of the cane and stuffed the victim’s mouth with mud. It was held that the defendant may had to accomplish his delicate purpose by all means even without the aid of any one, he would have done so in a simple manner by simply firing shots at the intended victim without the necessity of elaborating a number of unnecessary acts of cruelty.((Ibid.))

However, there plurality of wounds alone does not constitute cruelty.  In the instant case of murder the number of wounds found upon the corpse does not, by itself alone, justify the acceptance of the circumstance of cruelty, it being necessary to show that the accused deliberately and inhumanly increased the sufferings of the victim.((People vs. Aguinaldo, G.R. No. L-33843, February 11, 1931)) Neither there is cruelty when the other wrong was done after the victim was dead.

The Court refused to consider the circumstance of cruelty in the case where there is no showing that the other wounds found on the bodies of the victims were inflected unnecessarily while they were still alive in order to prolong their physical suffering.((People vs. Curiano, G.R. Nos. L-15256-5, October 31, 1963))

Conclusion

Cruelty pertains to physical suffering of the victim, the victim has to be alive. To properly appreciate cruelty or vindictiveness, evidence must establish that the sadistic perpetrator, for his joy and gratification, has caused the victim to suffer slowly and progressively and inflicted unwarranted moral and bodily suffering on him..

Therefore, to consider “cruelty” as an aggravating circumstance it must be shown that there is 1) deliberate prolongation of physical suffering of the victim through employment of 2) other wrong, which is unnecessary for the commission of the crime.

Number of wounds is not controlling in considering cruelty, but the test of inhumanly increasing the victim’s physical suffering. Jurisprudence also established that there must be no cruelty by showing the plurality of wounds alone nor when the other wrong were one after the victim was dead, as there is no more suffering after death.

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RALB Law | RABR & Associates Law Firm

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