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The People of the Philippines, plaintiff and appellee, vs.

Luisa Navarro, defend


ant and appellant
No. 11846-R | 1955-02-05
De Leon, J.:
This much is not controverted by the parties: Luisa Navarro was 13 years, 11 mon
ths and 3 days old on July 28, 1952. She was then a sixth grade pupil. In the mo
rning of the day in question, Luisa Navarro was asked by her elder sister to loo
k after her said sister's sidewalk store located in front of the Quiapo market,
City of Manila. She was approached by Rogelio Mendoza and P. Santos who turned o
ut to be agents of the Price Enforcement Division of the PRISCO. Agent P. Santos
asked Luisa Navarro for the price on one tin of Hershey's cocoa, and the latter
said that it was P1.20. Santos paid the exact amount and took one tin of Hershe
y's cocoa. Immediately thereafter, Luisa Navarro was grabbed and was told that s
he was being arrested for selling coca eleven centavos more than its ceiling pri
ce.
Luisa Navarro was accused and, after due trial, found guilty of violating Execut
ive Order No. 447 in connection with section 12 of Republic Act No. 509, known a
s the Anti-Profiteering Law, as amended by Republic Acts Nos. 608 and 728, and s
entenced to be committed to the care and custody of the Philippine Training Scho
ol for Girls at Mandaluyong, Rizal, then and there to be confined until she reac
hes the age of majority, unless sooner released by order of the court.
In this appeal, appellant's counsel and the Solicitor General urge a reversal of
the decision under review, claiming that the benefits of the provisions of Arti
cle 12, paragraph 3, of the Revised Penal Code, should have been applied in her
favor. This is a question of law. If we invoke the aforementioned provision of t
he Code, the next question which must necessarily be resolved is whether the sai
d appellant acted with or without discernment, which is one of fact.
If we should adjudge the appellant as criminally irresponsible, can we apply Art
icle 12, paragraph 3, of the Revised Penal Code, although she is charged with vi
olating an executive order promulgated pursuant to a special law penal in charac
ter? We believe so. Republic Act No. 509, as amended by Republic Acts Nos. 608 a
nd 728, is silent as to the proceedings to be taken in the event the offender is
a minor. There is also nothing contained in said special laws that the Revised
Penal Code shall not be suppletory to their provisions. Article 10 of the Code p
rovides that "offenses which are or in the future may be punishable under specia
l laws are not subject to the provisions of this Code." However, it adds that "T
his Code shall be supplementary to such laws, unless the latter should specially
provide the contrary." Courts have already consistently held that Article 22 of
the Revised Penal Code is applicable to violations of special laws and ordinanc
es (U.S. vs. Parrone, 24 Phil., 29; People vs. Tamayo, 62 Phil., 225).
In U.S. vs. Parrone, supra, the Supreme Court commented that it did not believe
that the Legislature, in enacting Article 7 of the Penal Code (Now Article 10 of
the Revised Penal Code) intended to provide that Article 22 should not be appli
cable to special laws. The Supreme Court has gone further than that. It ruled th
at Articles 100 and 39 of the Code were applicable to violations of Act No. 3992
, otherwise known as the Motor Vehicle Law, with respect to indemnity to heirs a
nd subsidiary imprisonment (People vs. Moreno, 60 Phil., 712). In People vs. Tam
ayo (40 Off. Gaz., 2313), it was also held that Article 91 of the Revised Penal
Code was applicable for violations of section 2722 of the Revised Administrative
Code, with respect to the period of prescription for violations penalized by an
y law or part of law administered by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, because the
Revised Administrative Code contains no rule regarding the application or enfor

cement of the period of prescription established therein. The Revised Penal Code
was applied to special laws in the cases above-cited pursuant to Article 10 of
the said Code.
If the provisions of the Revised Penal Code were held applicable, in a supplemen
tary way, to the Motor Vehicle Law and section 2722 of the Revised Administrativ
e Code, in order to enforce the penal provisions of said laws; if a minor, who i
s over 9 years old and under 15 years, who commits, for instance, homicide, with
out discernment, is exempt from criminal responsibility by the Code by reason of
his age, with more reason should the same exempting circumstance be invoked in
favor of an accused who has acted without discernment in the violation of an off
ense punishable by a special law, because a malum in se, like homicide, is undou
btedly more intensely evil than a malum prohibitum, like violation of the Anti-P
rofiteering Law (Bishop on Criminal Law, S. 658).
We are not unaware of the fact that intent is immaterial in crimes mala prohibit
a. It is enough that the prohibited act was voluntarily committed. But the circu
mstances which exempt from criminal liability are based on lack of intelligence,
intent and spontaneity. In the language in which Article 12, paragraph 3, was w
orded, the State has the burden of proving that the minor has acted with discern
ment, otherwise such minor shall be adjudged to be criminally irresponsible sole
ly by reason of his age showing lack of intelligence. In view hereof, and consid
ering the presumption that the legislature intended exceptions to its general la
nguage which would avoid injustice, oppression or absurdity (In re Allen, 2 Phil
., 640), we are of the considered opinion that it could not have been the intent
ion of the law-making body to bar the application of the exempting circumstances
provided for under Article 12, paragraph 3, of the Revised Penal Code, in the p
roper cases in special penal statutes.
Having thus decided, we now take up the next question which is, whether the appe
llant in this case has acted with or without discernment. Discernment that const
itutes an exception to the exemption from criminal liability of a minor under 15
years of age but over 9, who commits an act prohibited by law, is his mental ca
pacity to understand the difference between right and wrong (People vs. Doquena,
68 Phil., 580). Prof. Padilla, in his book on Criminal Law (1953 Ed.), says tha
t "discernment is more than the mere understanding between right and wrong. Rath
er it means the mental capacity of a minor between 9 and 15 years of age to full
y appreciate the consequences of his unlawful act."
In the case at bar, an inference of discernment might be drawn from the result o
f the investigation of the appellant (Exhibit C):
"Q. What happened on that day?- A. On that day, a man came and asked the price o
f Hershey's cocoa, when I said it was P1.20 he bought it without bargaining for
the price. I used to sell cocoa at P1.10 but the man who bought from me did not
ask for the reduction so I gave him at P1.20.
Q. Do you know the ceiling price of commodities?- A. Yes, sir."
The manner which the appellant frankly and unhesitatingly answered her investiga
tors would tend to show that she was unaware that the price of one tin of cocoa,
which she quoted at P1.20, was above the regulation price for the same. Further
more, young as she is and being then only a 6th grade pupil, we do not believe t
hat she understood what the word "ceiling" really means. Perhaps, she thought th
at her investigators were asking her for the selling prices of the commodities d
isplayed in the store of her sister. Even the lower court doubted that appellant
understood the real import of the question propounded to her when it said: "it
might be true that the defendant did not really know the controlled price fixed
for the said merchandise by the government, but that is no reason why she should
be exempt from criminal responsibility."

The appellant testified that she was born on August 25, 1938. When she was appr
ehended on July 28, 1952, she was, therefore, only 13 years, 11 months and 3 day
s old. The age of the accused, for purposes of determining whether she comes wit
hin the exempting circumstances provide for under paragraph 3 of Article 12 of t
he Code, should be computed only up to the commission of the crime charged, not
up to the date of trial, as was done by the trial court. On July 28, 1952, she m
erely substituted her sister in the store of the latter. The record does not dis
close that she is a merchant. It is, therefore, safe to conclude that she then d
id not know the laws and regulations on price control. When this case was orally
argued before the Division of the Court, counsel pointed to the appellant who w
as inside the session hall. Her appearance has sufficiently convinced us that on
the date of the commission of the act charged, she was really young and lacking
in intelligence. The trial court did not make any finding as to whether the app
ellant acted with or without discernment because of its erroneous conclusion tha
t her age, for purposes of fixing her liability, should be reckoned up to the da
te of trial. In view hereof, considering the facts and circumstances as disclose
d by the record, and our own observation of the appellant, we are of the opinion
, and so hold, that the appellant acted without discernment when she sold a can
of cocoa to agents of the PRISCO at a price above the government price on July 2
8, 1952.
However, in convicting the appellant, the trial court sought shelter under the p
rinciple that ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith and,
particularly, in cases mala prohibita, that good faith is not a defense.
As we have already stated, the appellant is a minor over 9 years old and under 1
5 years and could, therefore, avail herself of the benefits of Article 12, parag
raph 3, of the Revised Penal Code. We believe that the principle that ignorance
of the law excuses no one should not be applied with equal full force in the cas
e of minors. Our criminal and civil laws treat minors differently due to their l
ack of intelligence. For instance, the civil law considers minors without capaci
ty to act and their contracts as voidable at their initiative and choice. The Re
vised Penal Code considers a minor over 9 years old and under 15 years as crimin
ally irresponsible, unless he has acted with discernment, in which case he shall
be proceeded against in accordance with Article 80 of the Code. The principle t
hat ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith applies to all
laws, whether penal or civil. To temper our civil laws and the Revised Penal Co
de with sound reason and mercy, but deny that same treatment in the case of spec
ial laws penal in nature, is to create a situation at once absurd and unfair, wh
ich we should not, if courts are to properly discharge their function of interpr
eting the laws, because it is presumed that the legislature does not intend absu
rdity or that absurd consequences shall flow from its enactments, if the terms o
f the act admit it, by reasonable construction (Black, Statutory Construction, p
p. 129-131.)
Wherefore, the decision appealed from should be, as it is hereby, reversed. In c
onformity with the recommendation of the Solicitor General, appellant Luisa Nava
rro is hereby committed to the care and custody of her family who shall be charg
ed with her surveillance and education, pursuant to paragraph 2, Article 12 (3)
of the Revised Penal Code, with costs de oficio. So ordered.
Dizon and Rodas, JJ., concur.
Judgment reversed.