We will shed light on passion or obfuscation as a mitigating circumstance.
“Nagdilim na po ang aking paningin at doon ko po ipinutok,“1 Ernie in explaining that he shot Lumbera because he lost his mind due to anger.
What is Passion or Obfuscation?
A state of passion is a hot blood, or rage, anger, resentment, terror or fear as to indicate the absence of deliberate design to kill or as to cause one to act on impulse without reflection.2
Meanwhile, passion is also referred to as “heat of passion”3 which is described to as a passion of fear or rage in which the defendant loses his normal self-control as a result of circumstances that would provoke such a passion in an ordinary person, but which did not justify the use of deadly force.4
Obfuscation in its essence is making something difficult to understand or perceived towards act of darkening or bewildering.
Thus, there is passional obfuscation when the crime was committed due to an uncontrollable burst of passion provoked by prior unjust or improper acts, or due to a legitimate stimulus so powerful as to overcome reason.5
Passion or Obfuscation mitigates criminal liability
Passion or obfuscation is a mitigating circumstance because the offender who acts with passion or obfuscation suffers a diminution of his intelligence and intent.6 And when there is reduction of mens rea or criminal intent, there shall be reduction of penalty.
This article discourses how the law appreciate passion or obfuscation as a mitigating circumstance by establishing its provision, elements, rules, exception, and application in case law.
The Law | Article 13, Paragraph 6 of the Revised Penal Code
Article 13, Paragraph 6 of the Revised Penal Code provides the mitigating circumstance:
That of having acted upon an impulse so powerful as naturally to have produced passion or obfuscation.7
The Law requires:
- The accused acted upon an impulse; and
- The impulse should be so immense that it logically results to passion or obfuscation.
Elements of Passion or Obfuscation
As a mitigating circumstance
There be an act, both unlawful and sufficient to produce such a condition of mind;
- That said act which produced the obfuscation was not far removed from the commission of the crime by a considerable length of time, during which the perpetrator might recover his normal equanimity.
Passion or Obfuscation cannot be considered mitigating when perpetrated:
- In the spirit of lawlessness
- In the spirit of revenge
Pertinent Rules and Jurisprudence
Passion or obfuscation has the effect of reducing penalty if present in the commission of the crime but it may only considered as a mitigating circumstance when the same arose from lawful sentiments. This requisite of lawful sentiments refers to “legitimate feelings”8 which do not arise from vicious, unworthy and immoral passions. Thus:
As against the two foregoing aggravating circumstances no mitigating circumstances is present, not even that mentioned in paragraph 7 of article 9 of the Penal Code, to wit loss of reason and self-control produced by jealousy as alleged by the defense, inasmuch as the only causes which mitigate the criminal responsibility for the loss of self-control are such as originate from legitimate feelings, not those which arise from vicious, unworthy, and immoral passions.9
For this reason, the passion or obfuscation of the offender when committed in a spirit of lawlessness or committed in spirit of revenge cannot be appreciated as a mitigating circumstance.
That, obfuscation arising from jealousy cannot be invoked in favor of the accused whose relationship with the woman is illegitimate. Nor the accused cannot be mitigated when he killed his sweetheart’s father for objecting to their plan of marriage.10
Hence, in order to be entitled to the mitigating circumstance of passion or obfuscation, the elements shall concur in hereto:
There must be an act, both unlawful and sufficient to produce such a condition of mind. The first element requires that the crime committed by the accused must be provoked by prior unjust or improper acts of the injured party and those acts are sufficient11 to produce such condition of mind characterized by of loss of self-control.
As discussed in People vs. Oloverio,12 “the turmoil and unreason which naturally result from a quarrel or fight should not be confused with the sentiment or excitement in the mind of a person injured or offended to such a degree as to deprive him of his sanity and self-control, because the cause of this condition of mind must necessarily have preceded the commission of the offense”.13
In People vs. Wilson,14 in asking the appellant to leave, the victim did not do anything unlawful. There is an absolute lack of proof that the appellant was utterly humiliated by the victim’s utterance.15
Nor was it shown that the victim made that remark in an insulting and repugnant manner. The victim’s utterance was not the stimulus required by jurisprudence to be so overwhelming as to overcome reason and self-restraint.16
That said act which produced the obfuscation was not far removed from the commission of the crime by a considerable length of time, during which the perpetrator might recover his normal equanimity.17
There is no unified definition of “a significant length of time.” The provocation and the conduct of the crime should not be separated by such a long period of time that the accused has had time to calm down and ponder on the repercussions of his or her actions.
What is important is that the accused has not yet “recovered his normal equanimity” when he committed the crime.18
It is well-entrenched in the jurisprudence that there can be no passion or obfuscation in 24 hours, several hours, or half an hour lapse between the alleged unlawful act and the commission of the crime because the unlawful act ceases to exist. But at the same time, passion or obfuscation may build up over time.
In People vs. Oloverio,19 the accused’s passion linger and build up overtime until it can no longer be repressed when the victim threatened to molest his daughter and accused him of having incestuous relationship with her mother.
This duality should not brought confusion in the eyes of the law, as, “to appreciate passion and obfuscation as a mitigating circumstance, the facts must be examined on a case-to-case basis.”20
Passion or obfuscation is one of the enumerated circumstance by Revised Penal Code which aids to reduce the penalty of the accused coming from the diminution of intelligence and intent, colloquially heard as defense of “nagdilim ang paningin ko.”
The law provides that having acted upon an impulse so powerful as naturally to have produced passion or obfuscation is a mitigating circumstance.
Hence, a valid passion and obfuscation requires that: it arose from lawful or legal sentiments; there be an act, both unlawful and sufficient to produce such a condition of mind; and the said act which produced the obfuscation was not far removed from the commission of the crime by a considerable length of time, during which the perpetrator might recover his normal equanimity.21
Lastly, as established by the jurisprudence, the consideration of length of time in this circumstance is dependent on a case-to-case-basis. This provision indeed shed light on the darkness begotten by obfuscation.
- People vs. Orense, G.R. No. 213383, June 22, 2015[↩]
- U.S. vs. Visinaiz, 428 F.3d 1300,November 16, 2005[↩]
- U.S. vs. Browner, 889 F.2d 549 [↩]
- People vs. Lobino, G.R. No. 123071, October 28, 1999[↩]
- Reyes, The Revised Penal Code. Book One, p. 301[↩]
- Article 13, Paragraph 6, Revised Penal Code[↩]
- U.S. vs. Hicks, G.R. No. 4971, September 23, 1909[↩]
- People vs. Gravino, G.R. No. L-31327-29 May 16, 1983, 122 SCRA 123[↩]
- Must not be trivial and slight[↩]
- G.R. No. 211159, March 18, 2015[↩]
- G.R. No. 133438, January 16, 2002[↩]
- Supra., People vs. Oloverio[↩]