In this article, we shall discuss Ignominy in Criminal Law.
The Philippines “values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”1 Thankfully, we have laws conveying this value to our dignity and to protect this guarantee of full respect for human rights. The Revised Penal Code provides penalties for violation of prohibited acts against life and chastity. It is a crime to commit acts in violation of such prohibitions.
But what if you fall prey to someone who commits a crime against your life or chastitiy? And along with it, add salt to injury? Does it in a manner that adds disgrace and obloquy to the material injury caused by the crime, making its effects more humiliating?
It is already bad when someone commits a crime. And it is so much worse when it is committed with ignominy, in a manner that makes it more humiliating.
With the humility, it is difficult to even talk or write about it. Much more difficult to talk about it in front of others in order to bring justice and prevent the criminal to do it again.
We are haunted by thoughts whether to speak or not. If you fall prey to someone who violates your rights, acknowledge all the things that run in your mind. And remember that you are not responsible for the acts of other people. But you are responsible for your own actions.
And only you can decide whether to fight for your rights or let the criminal go unpunished and does not benefit from the corrective effect of the law.
It is difficult. But others and the Philippines will not be able to do its part if we do not do ours, in valuing everyone’s dignity and in respecting human rights.
So first, we have to know the law.
We have been discussing crimes and circumstances that affect criminal liability.
For this article, we will be discussing about the aggravating circumstance of ignominy.
Article 14, par. 17 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) provides the following as an aggravating circumstance:
“That means be employed or circumstances brought about which add ignominy to the natural effects of the act.”2
Aggravating circumstances increase the criminal liability of the offender if it is alleged in the information and proven during trial. Ignominy is one of those provided by the RPC as an aggravating circumstance. Ignominy increases the criminal liability of the offender.
What is ignominy?
In the case of U.S. vs. Abaigar, ignominy is defined as “a circumstance pertaining to the moral order, which adds dis[grace] and obloquy to the material injury caused by the crime.”3
The crime would still have been committed even without ignominy “which adds to the moral suffering of the victim.”4
In the above case, it was held that ignominy was not present because no means were employed to make the effects of the crime more humiliating. Killing the husband in front of his wife did not have such more humiliating effect.
So what are the requirements for ignominy to increase criminal liability?
Elements: When does ignominy aggravate criminal liability?
Ignominy aggravates criminal liability when the manner employed:
- adds to the moral suffering of the victim; or5
- adds disgrace or obloquy to the material injury suffered by the victim caused by the crime; or6
- make the effects of the crime more humiliating to the victim or to put the offended party to shame.7
It must be noted that the victim himself must have suffered additional humiliation, shame or disgrace in addition to the material injury he has suffered in order to increase criminal liability.
In the case of People vs. Bernido Detuya, et al,8 ignominy is present because the following made the effects of the crime more humiliating:
- Indin Subana was raped in the presence of her husband; and9
- Graciana Jumalon was successively raped by five men these circumstances.10
In the case of People vs. Doroteo S. Mejorada,11 the accused thereupon had sexual intercourse with her in a “dog-style” position. While such a position has been resorted to by consenting adults, it adds ignominy when employed in rape cases.12
In the case of People vs. Fernando,13 there is ignominy because the accused, in compelling an old woman to confess to the theft of clothes, maltreated her and took off her drawers. The removing of her drawers could have no other purpose but to put her to shame.
In U.S. vs. De Leon,14 ignominy is present because the victim was forced by the accused to kneel in front of his house servants drawn up in line before him before he was killed.
Whereas in the case of People vs. Carmina,15 ignominy was not appreciated because the victim was already dead when his body was dismembered. He could not have been humiliated by his dismemberment because he was already dead.
To appreciate the aggravating circumstances of ignominy, the additional humiliation or shame must have added to the moral suffering of the victim while he is alive. Again, mere presence of the circumstances is not enough. Ignominy must be alleged in the information and proven during trial for the court to appreciate them as aggravating circumstances.
One must have an active participation in protecting one’s rights and dignity because we live in a world full of imperfect human beings, just as we are.
This starts by knowing the law. It also starts by accepting what we have suffered. And the journey continues by going to the courts for justice.
One must be clear in the information so that it can properly allege all circumstances related to the case and be duly proven during trial.
Ignominy must both be alleged in the information and proven during trial to increase the penalty of a crime.
Be an agent of justice, in valuing the dignity of every human person, including yourself, and in guaranteeing full respect of human rights, including yours, by not letting humiliation stop you from disclosing the truth.
- Article II, Sec. 11 of the 1987 Constitution
- Article 14, Par. 17 of the Revised Penal Code
- G.R. No. 1255, August 17, 1903
- Alejandria, Basic Criminal Law, The Revised Penal Code Articles 1-113, p. 154 [2022 edition]
- Reyes, Revised Penal Code, 1974, Book I, p. 457
- G.R. No. L-39300, 1987-09-30
- G.R. No. 102705 | 1993-07-30
- C.A., 43 O.G. 1717
- 1 Phil. 163, 164
- G.R. No. 81404, January 28, 1991