People of the Philippines vs Lorenzo Veneracion
249 SCRA 244 – Civil Law – Preliminary Title – Application of Laws – Duty of a Judge to Impose Prescribed Penalty
In August 1994, four accused were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of rape with homicide committed against a seven year old girl. The Presiding judge was Lorenzo Veneracion.
Under Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code which treats of the crime of Rape with Homicide, the penalty imposable shall be death. However, Judge Veneracion refused to impose the death penalty but instead he sentenced the four accused to reclusion perpetua. The city prosecutor filed a motion for reconsideration praying that the penalty of death be imposed upon the four accused but the judge refused to act.
ISSUE: Whether or not Judge Veneracion has the discretion to impose a lesser penalty than that imposed by law.
HELD: No. The Supreme Court ruled that the law mandates that after an adjudication of guilt, the judge should impose the proper penalty provided for by the law on the accused regardless of his own religious or moral beliefs. In this case, the judge must impose the death penalty. This is consistent in the rule laid down in the Civil Code (Article 9 thereof) which provides that no judge or court shall decline to render judgment by reason of the silence, obscurity, or insufficiency of the laws.