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A. Definition and background
Branch of public law that defines criminal offenses and prescribes specific
punishment for them
It treats of acts or omission of the citizens which are deemed primarily as
wrongs against the State more than the offended party
Defines crimes, treat their nature and provide for their punishment
2. Revised Penal Code was based on the Spanish Penal Code of 1870.
B. Characteristics of Penal Law
It is binding on all persons who reside or sojourn in the Philippines whether
citizens or not
Based on Art. 14 of the Civil Code and on equal protection clause in Art.
III(1) of 1987 Constitution.
It refers to the persons covered, with no reference to territory.
Article 2 of RPC except as provided in the treaties and laws of
preferential application.
Article 14 of NCC subject to the principles of public international
law and treaty stipulation
o Treaty Stipulation
Base Agreement
Visiting Forces Agreement
o Law of preferential application
R.A. 75
It is a law to penalize acts which would impair the proper
observance, by the Republic and inhabitants of the Philippines
of the immunities, rights and privileges of duly accredited
foreign diplomatic representative in the Philippines.
Favors diplomatic representative and their domestic servant.
This is not applicable when the country adversely affected
does not provide similar protection to our diplomatic
o Public International Law
Persons which are immune from the application of penal laws in
the country they are assigned Ambassador, ministers
plenipotentiary, ministers resident, charges daffaires,
Sovereigns and other chief of state.
Exception to the exception: Consuls, vice-consuls and other
commercial representative of foreign nations do not pessess the
status of, and cannot claim the priveleges and immunities
accorded to ambassadors and ministers.
Penal laws of the Philippines are enforceable only within its territory.
Based on Article 2 of RPC
It cannot commit crimes committed outside the Philippines
The territory of the country is not limited to the land where its sovereignty
resides but includes the maritime and interior waters as well as the
Terrestrial Jurisdiction jurisdiction exercised over the land
Fluvial Jurisdiction jurisdiction exercised over maritime and interior
Aerial Jurisdiction jurisdiction exercised over the atmosphere
Exception: Art. 2 of RPC binding crimes even outside the Philippines:
Offenses committed while on a Philippine ship or airship
Forging or counterfeiting any coin or currency note of the
Philippines or obligations and securities issued by the Philippine
Acts connected with the introduction into the Philippines of the
obligations and securities mentioned in the preceding number
While being public officers and employees, any offense committed
in the exercise of their function
Any crimes committed against national security and the law of
nations, defined in Title One of Book Two of RPC
Penal law cannot make an act punishable in a manner in which it was not
punishable when committed
Base on Art. 21 and 22 of RPC; Art. III(22) of the Constitution; Art. 4 of NCC
Crimes are punished under the laws in force at the time of their commission
(Art. 366, RPC)
Law does not have any retroactive effect (Irretrospectivity)
Exception: Art. 22 of RPC
Penal law shall have a retroactive effect insofar as they favor of
person guilty of felony
Exception to the Exception:
The new law is expressly made inapplicable to pending
actions or existing cause of action
Offender is a habitual criminal under Rule 5 of Art. 62, RPC
(Art. 22, RPC)
Different effects of repeal of penal law:
If the repeal makes the penalty lighter in the new law, the new law
shall be applied, except when the offender is a habitual delinquent
or when the new law is made not applicable to pending actions or
existing cause of action
If the new law imposes a heavier penalty, the law in force at the
time of the commission of the offense shall be applied

If the new law totally repeals the existing law so that the act which
was penalized under the old law is no longer punishable, the crime
is obliterated
Rule of prospectivity also applies to circulars, judicial decisions and
administrative rulings
There is no crime when there is no law that defines and punishes it (Nullum
crimen nulla poena sine lege)
This is true for civil country, but not to common law countries where laws
are evolved
Not any law punishing an act or omission may be valid as a criminal
law. If the law punishing an act is ambiguous, it is null and void.
Penal laws are enacted hence , no matter how heinous is an act it is not
considered a crime unless there is a law that punishes it (Art. 5, RPC)
No crime shall be punishable b any penalty not prescribed by laqw prior to
its commission (Art. 21, RPC)
Penal laws are strictly construed against the Government and liberally on
favor of the accused
The rule that penal statutes should be strictly construed against the State
may be invoked only where the law is ambiguous and there is doubt as to its
No interpretation by analogy
In the construction or interpretation of the provisions of the RPC, Spanish
text is controlling as provided in Sec 15 of Revised Administrative Code
because it was approved and enacted in Spanish
C. Underlying Philosophies
Basis of criminal liability Human free will, man has the capacity to choose
between right and wrong, good and evil. When he does or omits to do an
act, he does it willingly and voluntarily with full knowledge of its effects and
Purpose of penalty retribution an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
(occulo pro occulo, dente pro dente) Offender should be given the penalty
he deserved. Justice is for the offended party, which requires that the
offender be repaid with commensurate punishment
Determination of penalty sstablished by a specific and predetermined
penalty for the offense committed. The penalty is mechanically determined
in direct proportion to the crime committed.
Emphasis of the law on the offense and not the offender
Penal code is generally governed by this theory
Basis of criminal liability Man is inherently good, but the offender is
socially sick. He is a product of biological factors and his environment. His
actions and thoughts are influenced by his upbringing, social environment
and asscociation.
Purpose of penalty reformation Penalty should be corrective and
curative to reform him and bring him back to his good nature.
Determination of penalty after an individual examination of the offender.
The penalty should be suited to the individual offender precisely because
the purpose is to reform him
Emphasis of the law on the offender and not on the offense
Combines the good features of both classical and positivist theories
Classical theory should be applied to grievous or heinous crimes; whereas
positivist is made to apply on economic and social crime
Revise Penal Code follows this theory
Basic principle of our criminal law is that a person is criminally liable for a
felony committed.
When man commits a felonious or criminal act (delito doso), the act is
presumed to be done voluntarily, therefore he should be held accountable
for his wrongful act as long as free will is unimpaired.
Rigid penalty in Book II of RPC under classical theory is tempered by certain
factors approximating the positivist theory:
Indeterminate Sentence Law
Modifying Circumstances
Extenuating / absolutory circumstances
Three-fold rule on multiple penalties
40-yr maximum limit for penalty
Executive clemency under Article 5 and Article 70
D. Sources and Legal Basis
1. The Revised Penal Code (Act No. 3815) and its amendments
2. Special Penal Laws passed by the Philippine Commission, Philippine Assembly,
Philippine Legislature, National Assembly, the Congress of the Philippines, and the
Batasang Pambansa
3. Penal Presidential Decrees issued during Martial Law.
E. Power to Enact Penal Laws and the Limitations
The State has the authority, under its police power, to define and punish crimes and to
lay down the rules of the criminal procedures
Court decisions are not sources of criminal law, because they merely explain the
meaning of, and apply, the law as enacted by the legislative branch of the government
Limitations on Power of Congress to Enact Penal Laws: Based on Article III (Bill of Rights)
of the 1987 Constitution
1. The law must be in general application so as not to violate the equal protection
clause. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of
law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the law (section 1)
2. No law must be passed imposing cruel and unusual punishment or excessive
fines (Section 12[2])
3. Ex pos facto law
Penal law which is given retroactive application to the prejudice of the
It makes an act or omission criminal which when committed is not yet so
Examples of ex pos facto law:
o Statutes that make an act punishable as a crime when such act was not
an offense when committed
o Aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed
o Changes the punishment and inflicts a greater punishment than the law
annexed to the crime when committed
o Those which alter the rules of evidence so as to make it substantially
easier to convict a defendant
o Assumes to regulate civil rights and remedies only in effect imposes
penalty or deprivation of a right for something which when done was
o Deprives a person accused of a crime some lawful protection to which
he has become entitled, such as the protection of a former conviction
or acquittal, or a proclamation of amnesty
4. Bill of Attainder
Legislative act which inflicts punishment without trial
Its essence is the substitution of a legislative act for a judicial determination
of guilt
It offends against the due process clause and has the features of ex pos
facto law
No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due
process of law (Art. III, Sec. 14[1]
F. Doctrine of Pro Reo
Whenever a penal law is to be construed or applied and where a penal law is susceptible to
two interpretation one lenient to the offender and one strict to the offender that
interpretation which is lenient or favorable to the offender will be adopted
All doubts shall be construed in favor of the accused
Consistent with the presumption of the innocence In all criminal prosecutions, the
accused shall be presumed innocent until contrary is proved (Art. III, Sec. 14*2+, 1987
G. Equipoise Rule
When the evidence of the prosecution of the defense are equally balanced, the scale should
be tilted in favor of the accused in obedience to the constitutional presumption of
H. Utilitarian Theory
The primary function of punishment in criminal law is to protect the society from potential
and actual wrong doers.
The retributive aspect of penal laws should be directed against the potential and actual
wrong doers