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Nelmida principle

May 6th, 2017

In People vs. Lawas, L-7618-20, June 30, 1955, if several accused killed several victims pursuant to a
single criminal impulse to obey the order to fire their guns at the victims, they shall be held liable for
compound crime of multiple murders. The Lawas principle should only be applied in a case where (1)
there is no conspiracy (People vs. Hon. Pineda, G.R. No. L-26222, July 21, 1967) and (2) it is impossible to
ascertain the number of deaths caused by each accused. Lawas doctrine is more of an exception than a
general rule (People vs. Remollino, G.R. No. L-14008, September 30, 1960). To apply Article 48 on
compound crime, there must be singularity of criminal act; singularity of criminal impulse is not written
into the law (People vs. Pineda, G.R. No. L-26222, July 21, 1967). In Lawas case, the Supreme Court was
merely forced to apply Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code because of the impossibility of ascertaining
the number of persons killed by each accused (People vs. Nelmida, G.R. No. 184500, September 11,
2012). Thus, the Lawas doctrine should not be applied if there is conspiracy since the number of victims
actually killed by each conspirator is not anymore material (People vs. Elarcosa, G.R. No. 186539, June
29, 2010).

In People vs. Abella, G.R. No. L-32205, August 31, 1979, if several prisoners killed fellow prisoners
pursuant to a single criminal purpose to take revenge, they shall be held liable for compound crime of
multiple murders. To apply the Lawas principle, it is important that there is no conspiracy. However, to
apply the Abella, there must be conspiracy that animates several persons to commit crimes under a
single criminal purpose. The single purpose rule was adopted in consideration of the plight of the
prisoners; hence, it is only applicable if the offenders committed the crimes in prison against their fellow
prisoners (People vs. Pincalin, G.R. No. L-38755, January 22, 1981).

However, People vs. Sanidad, G.R. No. 146099, April 30, 2003, Per Curiam, the Supreme Court applied
Lawas and the Abella although there is conspiracy and accused and victims are not prisoners. In the
2007 Revised Penal Code written by Marlo Campanilla, the author made the following opinion regarding
the case of People vs. Sanidad:

The principle in Sanidad case should be re-examined. The Supreme Court in Sanidad case applied the
Lawas principle even though there is conspiracy and the Abbella principle even though the conspirators
are not prisoners. This is contrary to the conspiracy principle that the in conspiracy the act of one is the
act of all and all conspirators are liable for death of the victims regardless of who inflicted the mortal
wounds.

In People vs. Nelmida, G.R. No. 184500, September 11, 2012, the Supreme Court, En Banc stated:

The reliance in Sanidad, on Lawas and Abella is incorrect.

The application of the Abella doctrine, has already been clarified in Pincalin, thus: where several killings
on the same occasion were perpetrated, but not involving prisoners, a different rule may be applied,
that is to say, the killings would be treated as separate offenses. Since in Sanidad, the killings did not
involve prisoners or it was not a case of prisoners killing fellow prisoners. As such, Abella would not
apply.
To repeat, in Lawas, this Court was merely forced to apply Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code because
of the impossibility of ascertaining the number of persons killed by each accused. Since conspiracy was
not proven therein, joint criminal responsibility could not be attributed to the accused. Each accused
could not be held liable for separate crimes because of lack of clear evidence showing the number of
persons actually killed by each of them.

Our repeated ruling is that in conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all. It is as though each one
performed the act of each one of the conspirators. Each one is criminally responsible for each one of the
deaths and injuries of the several victims. The severalty of the acts prevents the application of Article 48.
The applicability of Article 48 depends upon the singularity of the act, thus the definitional phrase "a
single act constitutes two or more grave or less grave felonies."

In footnote numbers 84 and 101, the Supreme Court cited Campanilla, The Revised Penal Code (Book
One) 2007, pp. 916-917.