Often times we think that a crime, even the most gruesome one, is committed only in a place where no one sees it, where it is dark and nobody reaches it – in other words, secluded. Well, at least, that is what the idea of committing a crime that the Filipino television has instilled in us.
However, in a mischievous thinking of a criminal, there are crimes that are committed regardless of how secluded the place of the commission is or how influential a person may be.
Can you imagine, murdering a public official in a public place. The nerve of disrespect.
Can you imagine, molesting a teen in a place of religious worship. The brazen disregard of due reverence.
How far can human conscience go? Committing a crime in a place where the holy goes or where public authorities perform their duties. The nerve.
Given the circumstances of the commission of the crime, does the Philippine Law provides for the same average penalty or a much severe penalty, as the case may be?
The Law | Article 14, Paragraph 5 of the Revised Penal Code
Under the Philippine Law, the Revised Penal Code provides for the aggravating circumstances that increase the severity and culpability of a criminal act, and one of these is clearly articulated in Article 14, paragraph 5 which provides that:
“That the crime be committed in the palace of the Chief Executive, or in his presence, or where public authorities are engaged in the discharge of their duties, or in a place dedicated to religious worship.”1
Palace and Public Office or Place of Worship
The basis of this specific provision of the law is the greater perversity of the offender, which is evidenced by the place of the commission of the crime, which must also be taken into consideration.2
Furthermore, it is imperative to note the places of the commission of offenses that are explicitly mentioned in the aforementioned provision. Thus, in order for a crime to be aggravating under Article 14, paragraph 5 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, the crime should commit: (1) In the palace of the Chief Executive; (2) In his presence; (3) Where public authorities are engaged in the discharge if their duties; or (4) In a place dedicated to religious worship.
Not necessary for the Chief Executive to be performing his official duties
To qualify for the aggravating circumstance of Article 14, paragraph 5, the Chief Executive need not be performing his official duties at this time. The Chief Executive’s mere presence at the scene of a crime is sufficient enough to establish an aggravating circumstance, provided, however, that the perpetrator is aware that the Chief Executive is there when the former commits the punishable offense.
Public Authorities must be engaged in the performance of their functions
In the case of public authorities, on the other hand, they must be actively involved in the accomplishment of their duties in their office, and some public functions must be performed therein.
This is in consonance with the Chief Executive where mere presence and knowledge of and for the same is sufficient enough to constitute an aggravating circumstance of Article 14, paragraph 5.
Under Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, there are two (2) paragraphs that seem to be synonymous with each other with regard to offenses committed against public authorities.
However, Justice Reyes in his book made a pertinent discussion about the distinction of the two.
In paragraph 5, the public authorities must be in their office while fulfilling their official functions. In paragraph 2, on the other hand, public authorities need not be in their office while in the performance of their functions, in other words, they are outside of their office.
Furthermore, under paragraph 5, the public authority may be the offended party, while under paragraph 2, the offended party should not be the public authority involved.
Lastly, as to comparison of the two (2) paragraphs, par. 5 and par. 2, the public authorities in both circumstances are performing their functions.3
Commission of the crimes in the Malacañang Palace or church is always aggravating
Regardless of whether State, official, or religious ceremonies are taking place, the place of the crime—whether it be the Malacañang Palace or a church—is always aggravating.4
Place considered as a place of religious worship
The place must be earmarked permanently for purposes of public religious worship. Hence, private chapels are therefore excluded.
Furthermore, it is worthy to note that cemeteries are not considered places that are dedicated to worship God.5
When the offender entered the place, he must have had the intent to perpetrate a crime
Under the existing jurisprudence of People vs. Jaurigue, et al.,6 the Supreme Court has ruled that for a criminal act to be considered as an aggravating circumstance, the accused must have purposefully sought out the place for the commission of the offense and committed it in the same regardless of the respect to which it was entitled, rather than where it was merely an accidental or incidental circumstance.
In other words, the intention of the offender in the perpetration of the crime should be present for it to be considered aggravating.
Under the Philippine jurisprudence, the Supreme Court has ruled a diverse number of cases with regard to the aggravating circumstance of Article 14, paragraph 5, and two (2) of them are as follows:
In the case of People vs. Canoy,7 one of the deadly occurrences, that plagued the general election in the Philippines on November 8, 1949, was at the center of this case.
Dioscoro Nacua, a poll watcher in Precinct No. 1 in the barrio of Napo, municipality of Carcar, Cebu, where the polling site was held in the Napo Elementary School, was shot and killed shortly after 11:00 a.m. on election day.8
Thereafter, his brother Quirino Nacua arrived at the scene of the incident and started to climb the stairs of the aforementioned building when he, too, became a victim of the gunfire. Appellant Adolfo Canoy admitted shooting Quirino once, but maintained that he acted in self-defense, and claimed that prosecution witness Illuminado Nacua was responsible for the additional bullet wounds found in the body of Quirino Nacua.
Norberto Catao and Policarpo Tantano, the appellants, claimed they had an alibi and were not involved in the murder of Quirino Nacua.
Hence, the Supreme Court held that a murder committed on election day at an electoral precinct or polling place is considered to have the aggravating circumstance “that the crime be committed while public authorities are engaged in the exercise of their duty.” Therefore, defendants in this case are hereby convicted for the crime of murder.9
In the case of People vs. de la Cruz,10 on the other hand, a young girl named Brigida Venancio, who was then just seven (7) years old, on September 6, 1980, about 8:00P.M., was walking through a strong rainstorm on her way to her grandparents’ house.
The accused, Carlos dela Cruz y Venancio, a blood related of Brigida’s (the record does not specify in what civil degree), grabbed Brigida’s arm as she passed by the Chapel in Sta. Cruz, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, and dragged her inside. With the lights out, the accused escorted her to the very back of the chapel, where he bound her to the seat and undressed her. In addition, the accused took off his pants and either attempted to insert his penis into young Brigida’s private organ or inserted it.
Hence, the Supreme Court held that given the circumstances of the commission of the crime, there was the generic aggravating circumstance of the crime being committed in a location earmarked for religious worship because it occurred in the Sta. Cruz Chapel in Sta. Maria, Bulacan.
To sum it all up, it is pivotal in the aggravating circumstance of Article 14, paragraph 5 that the place of the commission of the crime should be taken into consideration. That in order for a crime to be aggravating under the aforementioned provision of the law, the crime should commit:
(1) In the palace of the Chief Executive;
(2) In his presence;
(3) Where public authorities are engaged in the discharge if their duties; or
(4) In a place dedicated to religious worship.
Furthermore, with regard to the Chief Executive, it is not necessary that he is in the Malacañang Palace nor in the performance of his official functions in the place where the crime was committed, however, his mere presence alone is sufficient enough to claim that a criminal act constitutes an aggravating circumstance.
On the other hand, in the case where public authorities are involved, it is necessary that they are in the performance of their official functions in their very office, when a criminal act was committed in order for it to qualify as an aggravating circumstance.
Meanwhile, as to the place of the commission of the crime, it is always aggravating when a criminal act is committed in the Malacañang Palace or a church, regardless of whether a State, official, or religious ceremonies are being held therein.
Furthermore, the ambiguity with respect to the places that fall under the category of ‘place dedicated for religious worship’ has also been discussed. Whereas cemeteries and private chapels are not places considered to be dedicated for the worship of God. But rather those places that are earmarked permanently for purposes of public religious worship, hence a church, is considered to be a place dedicated to religious worship.
Lastly, the commission of the crime should not be incidental nor accidental, it should be intentional. Whereas, the offender must have had the intention to commit a crime when he enters the aforementioned places, regardless of the respect that those places deserve.
All told, the places where we thought that brutal crimes cannot be committed – a place where the holy goes or where public authorities perform duties – are, in fact, the places where crimes or felonies can blatantly and confidently be committed.
In a twisted mind of a culprit, a church is never a church. All his eyes can see is another place where silence, peacefulness, and serenity reside, but all of which he will wreck and put in a chaos as he commits brutal and gruesome crimes, hence disrespecting the holy.
- Article 14, Paragraph 5, Revised Penal Code
- The Revised Penal Code, Criminal Law, Book One, Articles 1-113, 2021 Edition, Luis B. Reyes, p. 378
- The Revised Penal Code, Criminal Law, Book One, Articles 1-113, 2021 Edition, Luis B. Reyes, p. 378-379
- The Revised Penal Code, Criminal Law, Book One, Articles 1-113, 2021 Edition, Luis B. Reyes, p. 379
- The Revised Penal Code, Criminal Law, Book One, Articles 1-113, 2021 Edition, Luis B. Reyes, p. 380
- C.A. No. 3824, February 21, 1946
- G.R. No. L-6037, September 30, 1954
- Supra., People vs. Canoy, G.R. No. L-6037, September 30, 1954
- G.R. No. 75267, September 10, 1990