People of the Philippines vs Yu Hai

December 6, 2017
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99 Phil. 725 – Criminal Law – Prescription of Offenses – Article 90 – Prescription of Light Offenses

Statutory Construction – Intention of the Legislature – Spirit of the Law

On 26 June 1954, a certain Yu Hai was caught engaging in illegal gambling operation then punished under Article 195 of the Revised Penal Code (Now, illegal gambling is defined and punished by P.D 1602, as amended). On 22 October 1954, an information was filed against him for said illegal act with the Justice of the Peace Court (Municipal Trial Court) of Caloocan. Yu Hai moved for the quashal of the information on the ground that the offense, being a light offense, already prescribed at the time of the filing of the information. The judge granted the motion to quash.

The Solicitor General, in questioning the decision of the judge, argued that illegal gambling under Article 195 of the RPC may be imposed a maximum fine of Php200.00. And under Article 26 of the RPC, a fine of Php200.00 but not exceeding Php600.00 is considered a correctional penalty. Further, Article 90 of the RPC provides that offenses punishable by correctional penalties prescribed in ten (10) years, hence, the charge against Yu Hai did not prescribe on 22 October 1954.

ISSUE: Whether or not the Solicitor General is correct.

HELD: No. It is true that there seem to be a conflict between the provisions of Articles 9 and 26 of the Revised Penal Code. These Articles provide:

ART. 9. Grave felonies, less grave felonies, and light felonies. — x x x

Less grave felonies are those which the law punishes with penalties which in their period are correctional, in accordance with the above mentioned article.

Light felonies are those infraction of law for the commission of which the penalty of arresto mayor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos or both, is provided.

xxx

ART. 26. Fine, when afflictive, correctional, or light. — A fine, whether imposed as a single or as an alternative penalty, shall be considered an afflictive penalty, if it exceeds 6,000 pesos; a correctional penalty, if it does not exceed 6,000 pesos but is not less than 200 pesos; and a light penalty if it be less than 200.

Meanwhile, Article 90 reads:

ART. 90. Prescription of crimes. — x x x

Those punishable by a correctional penalty shall prescribe in ten years; with the exception of those punishable by arresto mayor, which shall prescribe in six months.

The crime of libel or other similar offenses prescribe in two years. The offense of oral defamation and slander by deed shall prescribe in six months.

Light offense prescribe in two months.

The term light offense is defined by Article 9 of the RPC. It is controlling over Articles 26 and 90. Congress, in writing Article 26 and 90, could not have intended to provide two prescriptive periods for light offenses, to wit: (1) will prescribe in two months if  punishable by arresto menor and/or fine not exceeding Php200.00, and (2) will expire in ten years if punishable by not more than Php6,000.00 but not less than Php200.00. This would render the difference of one peso to be the ultimate determinant whether or not a light offense prescribes in ten years or two months. These absurd results the lawmakers could not have wittingly intended, especially since more serious offenses as those punishable by arresto mayor (a correctional penalty) prescribe, also under Article 90, in five years, while other “less grave” offense like libel, and oral defamation and slander, prescribe in even shorter periods of times, two years and six months respectively. There is no reason to suppose that the law-maker would raise the prescriptive period for certain light offenses over other light offenses.

Further, the interpretation more favorable to the accused should be adopted. In this case, it is more favorable for the accused for the SC to rule that indeed, crimes punished by a maximum of Php200.00 are considered light offenses the prescriptive period of which is two months.

 

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