When is illness considered a mitigating circumstance? The Court has recognized only a mitigating circumstance, not an exonerating one, when the accused failed to demonstrate total mental impairment or loss of intelligence. It is a simple illness that would merely weaken the offender’s willpower without robbing him of the awareness of his actions.
When is illness considered as mitigating circumstance?
Article 13 of the Revised Penal Code are circumstances that if present at the time of the commission of a crime may reduce the penalty. It is based on the premise that the offender has mental disability, lack of intelligence, intent or is suffering from a physical or mental defects that restricts his means of action, defense or communication. However, these circumstances will not exempt the offender from his criminal liability.
Article 13, Paragraph 9 pertains to an offender who suffers an illness that diminish his will power but did not deprive him of his consciousness.
The Law | What is Article 13 Paragraph 9, Revised Penal Code?
Circumstances which mitigate criminal liability1
Article 13. Mitigating circumstances. – The following are mitigating circumstances:2
“9. Such illness of the offender as would diminish the exercise of the will-power of the offender without however depriving him of the consciousness of his acts.”3
- That the illness of the offender must diminish the exercise of his will-power; and4
- That such illness should not deprive the offender of consciousness of his acts.5
That the illness of the offender must diminish the exercise of his will-power6
Will-power is the ability of one person to control his action, emotion and impulses. It is analogous with self-discipline and self-restraint. If the will power of the offender is diminished due to illness, the person has limited control of his action but may still have power to discern.
Diminished capacity” is not the same as “complete deprivation of intelligence or discernment.” Mere abnormality of mental faculties does not exclude imputability.7
That such illness should not deprive the offender of consciousness of his acts8
Consciousness is defined as the state or being aware especially within oneself.9 In such illness, the offender did not loss his consciousness during the commission of the crime. If the offender is aware and ignore the danger, he therefore assumed its risk.
In People Rafanan Jr.,10 the following transpired, to wit:
The complainant, Estelita Ronoya was only fourteen years old when she was hired as a housekeeper by Ines Rafanan, mother of the defendant. On the evening of March 16, 1976, the complainant was sent to help the defendant in the store.
The accused called the complainant to help him close the store. When she was near him, he suddenly pulled the complainant and ask her to have a sexual intercourse with him. The accused held a bolo pointing at her throat threatening to kill her if she resisted.
Then, she was forced to lie down on a bamboo bed and succeeded having carnal knowledge of her in spite of her resistance and struggle.
When the mother of the complainant learned that her daughter was raped, they reported it to the police. The accused was latter brought to the police headquarter with the bolo. The accused attested, as a defense, that he has a mental condition at the time of the commission of the rape.
The trial court ordered the appellant to be confined at the National Mental Hospital in Mandaluyong City for observation and treatment.
The lower court find him guilty of the crime of rape.
The issue in this case was whether or not lower court erred in convicting the accused-appellant, who has mental condition, of the crime of rape.
The Supreme Court ruled that:
The lower court did not err in its conviction of the defendant-appellant of rape.
The mental condition did not deprive the accused-appellant of his will-power nor loss his consciousness during the commission of the rape.
The principal submission of the accused-appellant is that he was suffering from a mental aberration characterized as schizophrenia when he violated Estelita. The court relied on the testimony of his doctor that the act of the defendant-appellant during the act of rape negates the complete destruction of intelligence.
The fact that he was able to threatened the complainant with death, to the mind of the Court, he was aware of the reprehensible moral quality of the assault. Hence, the lower court did not err in its decision.
In People vs. Racal,11, the factual antecedents are as follows, to wit:
Roger Racal (Racal) was charged with the crime of murder. On April 19, 2006, armed with a knife, suddenly and unexpectedly, attack, assault Jose “Joe” Francisco by stabling thereby inflicting a fatal wound and died.
Racal did not deny stabbing Francisco. However, he raised the defense of insanity. He presented expert witnesses who contented that he has predisposition to snap into an episode where he loses his reason and thereby acts compulsively, involuntary and outside his conscious control.
Under this state, the defense argued that Racal could not distinguished right from wrong and, thus, not capable of forming a mental intent at the time that he stabbed Francisco. The Regional Trial Court 12 convicted Racal as charged.
According to the RTC, the evidence for the defense is insufficient to convince the court that Racal was indeed deprived of his mind and reason at the time when he committed the crime to exempt him from criminal liability because his depression and psychotic features are not the kind of insanity contemplated by law.13
The decision was affirmed by the Curt of Appeals 14. However, the CA appreciated the mitigating circumstance which is analogous to an illness of the offender that would diminish the exercise of his will power.
The issue in this case was whether or not CA is correct that the mental illness of Racal is only a mitigating circumstance.
The High Court held that the CA is correct in its ruling.
The defense failed to overcome the presumption of sanity. The testimonies of the doctors as qualified witness failed to support his claim of insanity. The Court ruled that an inquiry into the mental state of an accused should relate to the period immediately before or at the very moment the felony is committed.15
The Court, nonetheless, agrees with the CA in appreciating the mitigating circumstance of illness as would diminish the exercise of willpower of appellant without, however, depriving him of the consciousness of his acts, pursuant to Article 13, paragraphs 9 and 10 of the RPC, as he was found by his examining doctors to have “diminish[ed] capacity to discern what was wrong or right at the time of the commission of the crime.16
The Court’s pronouncement in the case of People vs. Estrada17 is comprehensive, to wit:
The basic principle in our criminal law is that a person is criminally liable for a felony committed by him. Under the classical theory on which our penal code is mainly based, the basis of criminal liability is human free will. Man is essentially a moral creature with an absolutely free will to choose between good and evil. When he commits a felonious or criminal act (delito doloso), the act is presumed to have been done voluntarily, i.e., with freedom, intelligence and intent. Man, therefore, should be adjudged or held accountable for wrongful acts so long as free will appears unimpaired.18
In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the law presumes that every person is of sound mind and that all acts are voluntary. The moral and legal presumption under our law is that freedom and intelligence constitute the normal condition of a person. This presumption, however, may be overthrown by other factors; and one of these is insanity which exempts the actor from criminal liability.19
The defense of a person who is suffering from a mental illness is not an automatic ground for exempting him from his criminal liability. Yet, this is appreciated in jurisprudence that the presence of such illness is a mitigating circumstance that may be analogous to Article 13 Paragraph 9 of the Revised penal Code, which will lower the penalty.
The mitigating circumstance of an illness which diminish the exercise of the will-power of the offender is only considered by the court if back up with strong evidentiary support, like a testimony from a Psychiatrist. The offender who alleges this defense has the burden of proof to show that he has mental illness. Absence of which, every man is presume sane and acting within his will-power.
- Chapter 3, Revised Penal Code[↩]
- Article 13, Revised Penal Code[↩]
- Paragraph 9, Id.[↩]
- Reyes, Revised Penal Code[↩]
- Infra., People vs. Racal[↩]
- Meriam Webster Dictionary[↩]
- G.R. No. L-54135, November 21, 1991[↩]
- G.R. No. 224886, G.R. No. 224886[↩]
- G.R. No. 130487, June 19, 2000, cited in People vs. Racal, Supra.[↩]