Saturday, February 25, 2012

People vs. Oanis

Facts: The accused Antonio Z. Oanis and Alberto Galanta, chief of police of Cabanatuan and corporal of the Philippine Constabulary, respectively after due trial were found guilty by the lower court of homicide through reckless imprudence. 

Captain Godofredo Monsod, a Constabulary Private Inspector, received a telegram of the following tenor: “Information received escaped convict Anselmo Balagtas with bailarina Irene in Cabanatuan get him dead or alive”. Monsod instructed Oanis and Galanta to find Balagtas. After inquiring about the whereabouts of Irene, defendants immediately went to the room of Irene and on seeing a man sleeping with his back towards the door where they were, simultaneously fired at him with their .32 and .45 caliber revolvers. It turned out that the person shot and killed was not the notorious criminal Anselmo Balagtas but a peaceful and innocent citizen named, Serapio Tecson, Irene’s paramour. 

Both appellants gave different testimony. According to Galanta, when Oanis inquired where room of Irene was, Brigada indicated the place and upon further inquiry as to the whereabouts of Anselmo Balagtas, she said that he too was sleeping in the same room. Oanis went to the room thus indicated and upon opening the curtain covering the door, he said, “If you are Balagtas, stand up.” Tecson, the supposed Balagtas sit up in Bed, and Oanis fired at him. Oanis the shouted “That is Balagtas.” Galanta then fired at him. Oanis testified as he was opening the curtain and after having said “if you are Balagtas, stand up.” Galanta at once fired at Tecson while Tecson was still lying on bed. That it was only after seeing Balagtas picking something from the floor that he fired at him. 

Issue: Whether or not they may, upon such facts, be held responsible for the death thus caused to Tecson 

Held: “We are of the opinion, however, that under the circumstances of the case, the crime committed by appellants is murder though specially mitigated by circumstance.” 

Appellants rely on the case of Ah Chong. The maxim is ignoratia facti excusat, but this applies only when mistake is committed without fault or carelessness. 

In the instant case, appellants found no circumstances whatsoever which would press them to immediate action. The person in the room being then asleep, appellants had ample time and opportunity to ascertain his identity without hazard to themselves and could even effect a bloodless arrest if any reasonable effort to that end has been made, as the victim was unarmed. 

The doctrine in the new Rules of Court states that “No unnecessary or unreasonable forces shall be used in making an arrest and the person arrested shall not be subject to any greater restraint than is necessary for his detention. And a peace officer cannot claim exemption from criminal liability if he uses unnecessary force or violence in making an arrest. 

It may be true that Anselmo Balagtas was a notorious criminal, but the facts alone constitute no justification for killing him when he offers no resistance for he was asleep. 

The crime committed by appellants is not merely criminal negligence, the killing being intentional and not accidental. In criminal negligence, the injury caused to another should be unintentional, it being simply the incident of another act performed without malice. 

According to Article 11, No. 5 of the Revised penal code, “A person incurs no criminal liability when he acts in the fulfillment of a duty or in the lawful exercise of a right or office. “There are two requisites in order that the circumstance maybe taken as a justifying one (a) that the offender acted in the performance of a duty or in the lawful exercise of a right and (b) that the injury or offense committed be the necessary consequence of the due performance such duty or the lawful exercise of such right or office 

In the case, the first requisite is present. The second requisite is absent. Their duty was to arrest Balagtas or to get him dead or alive if resistance is offered by him and they are overpowered. But through impatience or over-anxiety or in their desire to take no chance, they have exceeded in the fulfillment of such duty by killing the person whom they believed to be Balagtas without any resistance from him and without inquiry about his identity. 

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