We shall explain what is aid of armed men in Criminal Law. In accordance with Article 14 of the Revised Criminal Code, an act of criminality that is carried out with the aid of armed individuals is considered to be an aggravating factor.
It is for this reason that the presence of armed men or those who ensure impunity improves the perpetrators’ confidence in their ability to get away with their crime.
It gives the offender the confidence that the crime will be carried out without any interruptions or the prospect that the crime will be stopped.
“The aid of armed men” is one of the aggravating circumstances that can be taken into account in determining the penalty for a crime.
Nevertheless, “aggravating circumstances which in themselves constitute a crime specially punishable by law or which are included by the law in defining a crime and prescribing the penalty therefor shall not be taken into account.”1
In practice, the aid of armed men is often used to refer to the involvement of a group or gang in a criminal act, particularly in cases of robbery, kidnapping, or murder.
The presence of firearms or deadly weapons can increase the danger and violence of the crime, and can also make it more difficult for law enforcement officials to apprehend the perpetrators.
As such, the use of armed men in the commission of a crime is considered a serious aggravation of the offense under Philippine law.
What is aid of armed men in Criminal Law?
Article 14, Paragraph 8 provides that the crime be committed with the aid of armed men or persons who insure or afford impunity.2 The following are the requisites for a crime to be considered done with an aid of armed men.
- That the armed men or persons (at least two) took part in the commission of the crime, directly or indirectly;
- That the accused availed himself of their aid or relied upon them when the crime was committed; and
- Actual aid is not necessary, it is enough that the accused relied upon their aid.
On the other hand, there are exceptions too. These are the instances where the aid of armed men in the commission of a crime is not appreciated.
It is not aggravating;
1) when both the offender and the aggrieved party have access to the same amount of weapons or are equally armed.
2) if the person committing the crime and the armed men are in conspiracy.
- The aggravating circumstance of aid of armed men is not appreciated when the accused and those who assisted and cooperated with him in the execution of a crime, acted under the same purpose. The presence of such in the commission of a crime would give rise to conspiracy, wherein the act of one is deemed to be an act of all.
- For aid of armed men to be appreciated, the accused and the persons he sought help from should have not acted under the same plan. Therefore, when conspiracy between the accused and the armed men is established by the prosecution, aid of armed men, in this case, is not aggravating. The armed men under paragraph 8, Article 14 of the RPC may be considered as co-principals to the commission of the crime. Moreover, if the felony is perpetrated in “band,” everyone is a principal to the said crime, as well
3) When the other individuals were present, but only incidentally or casually, and the perpetrator did not make use of any of their assistance, or when the perpetrator did not deliberately count on the assistance of such other individuals in the execution of the crime.
- The casual presence of armed men near the place where the crime was committed does not constitute an aggravating circumstance when it appears that the accused did not avail himself of their aid or rely upon them to commit the crime.
The aid of armed men is inherent in other aggravating circumstances
Inherent aggravating circumstances have no effect. Hence, they do not increase criminal liability or the penalty. Treachery, for example, absorbs the aggravating circumstance of aid of armed men. Moreover, if there are four-armed men, the aid of armed men is absorbed in the employment of a band.
It is significant to note that “aid of armed men” differs from “by a band”
In terms of the number of members, in the former, at least two (2) would qualify it under the aid of armed men, whereas in the latter, it requires more than 3 armed malefactors.
As to their actions, the former is present even if one of the offenders merely relied on their aid, for actual aid is not necessary.
Armed men are mere accomplices; whereas in the latter, more than three (3) malefactors shall have acted together in the commission of the offense. Thus, band members are all principals in the said crime.
The participation of armed men, with the objective of assisting the principal, in the commission of a crime aggravates the same, thus, requiring prompt and effective law enforcement action to preserve public safety and ensure those responsible are held accountable for their conduct.
The presence of these armed persons might heighten the danger and threat to potential victims, law enforcement officers, and others in the area.
Presence of aid of armed men in the commission of a crime
In The People vs. Primitivo Pinca @ Tiboy, et al.,3 the Supreme Court held that:
The crime was committed with the aid of armed men. At least, two of the accused, the appellants herein, were armed with carbine and bolo, when the five accussed perpetrated the crime. From which We may deduce that as far as the evidence in the case at bar is concerned, there exists three aggravating circumstances, to wit: dwelling, treachery and the crime was committed with the aid of armed men.4
When the aid of armed men is absorbed in treachery
In People vs. Rogelio Natindim,5, the High Court explained that:
Since treachery qualified the crime to murder, the generic aggravating circumstances of abuse of superior strength, in aid of armed men and nighttime are absorbed by and necessarily included in the former.6
The Court held that for both qualifying and aggravating circumstances to be considered in the case, they must be specifically alleged in the Information or Complaint, as provided in the amended Sections 8 and 9, Rule 110, of the Rules of Court. Otherwise, they will not be appreciated even if duly proved during the trial.7
This Court gives this doctrinal rule a retroactive effect being favorable to the appellants. Hence, only the qualifying circumstance of treachery which absorbs abuse of superior strength, in aid of armed men and nighttime, as well as the generic aggravating circumstance of evident premeditation, can be considered in the present case.8
When there is conspiracy
In People vs. Candado,9 the Supreme Court ruled that:
We are convinced that the foregoing circumstances clearly show that the appellants, who used bladed weapons and attacked the deceased unexpectedly, had conspired to commit the crime they were convicted of, thus rendering of no consequence the fact that not all the wounds inflicted by them one after the other were fatal.10
In conspiracy, the act of any of the conspirators becomes the act of all the others and responsibility for the act will be borne by them equally regardless of the degree of their respective participation in the execution of the act.11
Once an express or implied conspiracy is proved, all of the conspirators are liable as co-principals regardless of the extent and character of their respective active participation in the commission of the crime or crimes perpetrated in furtherance of the conspiracy because in contemplation of law, the act of one is the act of all.12
The generic aggravating circumstance of “aid of armed men” should not be applied in this case, considering that appellants, as well as those who cooperated with them in the commission of the crime in question, acted under the same plan and for the same purpose.13
When the aid of armed men is not appreciated
In The United States vs. Felipe Abaigar,14, the Supreme Court held that:
The judgment condemns the accused to the penalty of death, the court considering that the crime was committed with the aggravating circumstances of deliberate premeditation, the employment of means tending to add ignominy to the necessary effects of the act, and the commission of the crime with the assistance of armed men.15
However, the evidence shows that the crime was not committed with the assistance of armed men. The mere casual presence of armed men, more or less numerous, near the place of the occurrence does not constitute an aggravating circumstance when it appears that the defendant did not avail himself in any way of their aid, and did not knowingly count upon their assistance in the commission of the crime.16
From the aforementioned jurisprudence, there are preconditions before aid of armed men, as a aggravating circumstance in the commission of a crime, can be appreciated. It must be properly distinguished from that of a crime “committed by a band.”
The instances wherein “aid of armed men” is to be absorbed by other aggravating circumstances are of equal importance as well as these would have a different effect on the crime committed.
Lastly, the satisfaction of the requirements under par. 8, article 14 is what is required for it to be appreciated as an aggravating circumstance. Hence, the absence of one (1) or the presence of any of the exceptions listed above would give grounds not to appreciate the “aid of armed men” as an aggravating circumstance in a certain situation.
When a crime is being committed, the assistance of armed men, just like any other punishable offense, can undoubtedly pose a grave and serious threat to public safety and security. The use of weapons in the commission of crimes, whether an aid or a means, not only endangers the lives of victims and law enforcement personnel, but it also instills fear and insecurity in the community.
Law enforcement agencies must take strict measures to prevent and deter such crimes, including robust enforcement efforts, education and outreach programs, and harsh penalties for those caught engaging in such activities. We can help to ensure that our communities are safe and secure for all by doing so.
- Article 62, Revised Penal Code[↩]
- Article 14, Paragraph 8, Revised Penal Code[↩]
- G.R. No. L-16595, February 28, 1962[↩]
- G.R. No. 201867, November 04, 2020[↩]
- G.R. No. L-34089, August 1, 1978[↩]
- G.R. No. 1255, August 17, 1903[↩]