Incomplete Justifying or Exempting Circumstances | Significance
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What is the significance of incomplete justifying or exempting circumstances in the commission of certain criminal act? We shall discuss the same. In the meantime, mitigating circumstances, under Article 13 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, list the scenarios that can lessen the punishment for a crime.

Among these are the person’s age, education, level of involvement in the crime, whether or not they were provoked, and whether or not they gave up on their own. This provision makes sure that the punishment for a criminal offense is fair and fits the same, taking into account the specifics of the case.

They are situations that, if present or extant when a felony is committed, would lower the possible penalty because they show that the offender is not as perverse as when the crime was committed without such attendant circumstances.

There is no lack of voluntariness, but there is a decrease thereof because of a reduction in any of the elements of voluntariness, such as criminal intent, freedom of action, or intelligence. There is not a single instance of these characteristics of voluntariness present in exempting or justifying conditions. Hence, the offender does not face any legal consequences for their actions.

The Law | Article 13, paragraph 1, Revised Penal Code 

Those mentioned in the preceding chapter, when all the requisites necessary to justify or to exempt from criminal liability in the respective cases are not attendant.1

Incomplete justifying or exempting circumstances

How would you know whether an Incomplete Justifying Circumstance or Exempting Circumstance is an Ordinary Mitigating Circumstance or a Privileged Mitigating Circumstance?

1] If the majority of the elements required to justify the act or exempt it from liability are present, it is considered a Privileged Mitigating Circumstance (PMC).

2] If there is less than a majority, it is an Ordinary Mitigating Circumstance (OMC) that can be offset by a Generic Aggravating Circumstance (GAC).

3] If only two (2) elements are required to justify the act or exempt from criminal liability, the presence of one (1) element is already a Privileged Mitigating Circumstance.

However, while this may be an opinion, it is submitted that in order to be considered as privilege mitigating, there must be present the element of “Unlawful Aggression” in all instances, provided one of the remaining elements is present.

In the case of People vs. Silvano,2 the essential requisites of self-defense mentioned are:

(1) unlawful aggression on the part of the victim;3

(2) reasonable scrutiny of the means employed to prevent or repel it; and4

(3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.5

Article 11, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code also contains the essential elements for the acts to be justified. Incomplete self-defense is not considered a justifying act, but rather a mitigating circumstance; thus, the accused does not bear the burden of proving the crime charged in the information.

In the case of insufficient self-defense, insufficient defense of a relative, or insufficient defense of a stranger, there must always be unlawful aggression for the mitigating circumstances to apply. Incomplete self-defense should be treated as an OMC if only the element of unlawful aggression is present.

If, in addition to unlawful aggression, another element is present but not all, it is to be treated as a PMC. If all of the elements are present, the situation is justified. If there is the presence of one  mitigating circumstance, which has for its elements, unlawful aggression and another one, the penalty should be one (1) degree lower or from reclusion temporal to prision mayor to be imposed in its minimum period since it will be deemed as privilege mitigating.

As stated, there must always be unlawful aggression for the mitigating circumstances to mitigate. In the case of People vs. Sta. Maria,6 unlawful aggression by itself or in combination with either of the other two requisite suffices to establish incomplete self-defense.

Absent the unlawful aggression, there can never be self-defense, complete or incomplete, because if there is nothing to prevent or repel, the other two requisites of defense will have no basis.7

Is there fulfillment of duty or at least incomplete fulfillment of duty?

There are only two (2) elements in fulfillment of duty under Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code.8 The first element is that the accused acted in the due performance of his duty or in lawful exercise of his proper office.9

The second element is that the injury caused is an unavoidable consequence of the due performance of a duty. In a case that one of the elements is absent, therefore, based on the rule that if there are only two elements necessary to justify the act and the presence of one is already considered as the majority and it is considered as a PMC.10

Therefore, in this case, there is an incomplete fulfillment of duty which is a PMC which may lower the imposable penalty by degrees not only by period.


Mitigating circumstances serve to temper the harshness of the law and to recognize the varying degrees of culpability and moral blameworthiness of the offender. They are circumstances that do not justify or excuse the commission of a crime, but which may reduce the penalty to be imposed on the offender.

The presence of mitigating circumstances can lead to a reduction of the penalty by periods or by one or two degrees, depending on the number and nature of the circumstances present. This means that the offender may receive a lower sentence than would otherwise be imposed if mitigating circumstances were not present.

The importance of mitigating circumstances lies in their ability to ensure that the punishment is proportional to the gravity of the offense and the degree of moral culpability of the offender. They  promote rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society by providing them with an opportunity to receive a lesser penalty and to work towards reforming their behavior.


The inclusion of mitigating circumstances in the Revised Penal Code highlights the importance of a nuanced and contextual approach in the administration of justice. It recognizes that each case is unique and that the law should be applied with a degree of flexibility that takes into account the specific circumstances and context in which the crime was committed.

Mitigating circumstances can be important in considering the appropriate punishment for a crime. In certain situations, a person’s actions may have been influenced by factors that lessen the degree of their culpability. For instance, an accused who committed a crime under duress or out of necessity may be less deserving of punishment than someone who acted with malicious intent.

  1. Article 13, Paragraph 1, Revised Penal Code[]
  2. G.R. No. 125923, January 31, 2001[]
  3. Ibid.[]
  4. Ibid.[]
  5. Ibid.[]
  6. G.R. No. 171019, February 23, 2007[]
  7. Ibid.[]
  8. Article 11, Revised Penal Code[]
  9. Id.[]
  10. Article 11, Reyes, Book 1[]

RALB Law | RABR & Associates Law Firm

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