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People vs.

February 27, 1974
On September 5, 1964, the accused was found to be in possession of a revolver
without the requisite license or permit. He claimed to be entitled to exoneration because,
although he had no license or permit, he had appointments as Secret Agent from the
Provincial Governor of Batangas and as Confidential Agent from the PC Provincial
Commander, and the said appointments expressly carried with them the authority to
possess and carry the said firearm. The accused further contended that in view of his
appointments, he was entitled to acquittal on the basis of the Supreme Court’s decisions in
People vs. Macarandang and in People vs. Lucero.
The trial court found the accused criminally liable for illegal possession of firearm and
ammunition on the ground that the rulings in Macarandang* and in Lucero* were reversed
and abandoned in People vs. Mapa**.
The case was elevated to the Supreme Court.
Whether or not the appellant should be acquitted on the basis of the Supreme Court’s
rulings in the cases of Macarandang and of Lucero.
The appellant was acquitted.
Decisions of the Supreme Court, although in themselves not laws, are nevertheless
evidence of what the law means; this is the reason why Article 8 of the New Civil Code
provides that, “Judicial decisions applying and interpreting the laws or the constitution shall
form part of the legal system.” The interpretation upon a law by the Supreme Court
constitutes in a way a part of the law as of the date the law was originally passed, since the
court’s construction merely establishes the contemporaneous legislative intent that the law
thus construed intends to effectuate. The settled rule supported by numerous authorities is
a restatement of the legal maxim “legis interpretatio legis vim obtinet”—the interpretation
placed upon the written law by a competent court has the force of law. The doctrine laid
down in Lucero and in Macarandang was part of the jurisprudence, hence, of the law of the
land, at the time appellant was found in possession of the firearm and when he was
arraigned by the trial court. It is true that the doctrine was overruled in Mapa case in 1967,
but when a doctrine of the Supreme Court is overruled and a different view is adopted, the
new doctrine should be applied prospectively, and should not apply to parties who had relied
on the old doctrine and acted on the faith thereof.
Considering that the appellant possessed a firearm pursuant to the prevailing
doctrine enunciated in Macarandang and in Lucero, under which no criminal liability would
attach to his possession of said firearm, the appellant should be absolved. The appellant
may not be punished for an act which at the time it was done was held not to be punishable.

*The accused were acquitted for through their appointment as confidential/secret agent they
were deemed to be “peace officers”. Peace officers had the privilege of carrying firearms
without license.
**Mapa was convicted although he was a secret/confidential agent. The court ruled that the
law did not explicitly provide that secret/confidential agents are among those who are
exempted from acquiring a license to carry a firearm.