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Whether nighttime is an aggravating circumstance in incurring criminal

liability.

Laws are created in order to maintain peace and order in the society and
to protect the rights of the people, to name one of the laws, there is Criminal
Law. Criminal law as defined in the Revised Penal Code is that branch or
division of law which defines crimes, treats of their nature, and provides for
their punishment. Punishment is imposed not only to correct the offender but
also to serve justice to the offended party. It is also based or should be
computed based on the gravity of the offender’s criminal liability.

In incurring criminal liability, there are many things to be considered. One


of which is the aggravating circumstances. Aggravating circumstances increase
the penalty of the crime and can change the nature of the crime be committed.
The Revised Penal Code states that these circumstances show a greater
perversity of the offender in the commission of the crime. Nighttime, as one of
the aggravating circumstances enumerated in the Code, show a greater
perversity of the offender based on the time of the commission of the crime.

Nighttime or night is the period from sunset to sunrise. It is during that


certain period when the streets are emptied, the world is quiet and people’s
defenses are down. Thus, I believe that nighttime is aggravating in incurring
criminal liability. For a person to commit an evil thing during this period of
time, putting himself on the advantage side and the victim on the contrary,
indeed proves his greater perversity.

In the case of United States v. Baguio1, 14 Phil. 240, the Supreme Court held that the
appreciation of nocturnity as an aggravating circumstance lies in the discretion of the court. As
a general rule, nighttime is not aggravating. For nocturnity to be considered
aggravating, Paragraph 6, Article 14 of the Revised Penal Code suggests that
when any of these requisites is present, norturnity is considered: 1) when
nighttime facilitated the commission of the crime or 2) when especially sought
for by the offender to insure the commission of the crime or for the purpose of
impunity or 3) when the offender took advantage thereof for the purpose of
impunity.

The first requisite was appreciated by Justice Hull in his dissenting opinion
in the case of People v. Matbagon2 where he stated that the accused could not
have succeeded in committing a sudden, murderous assault if it was
committed in broad daylight. The facts of the case were that the deceased
Retubado and the accused Matbagon had a fight at the cockpit in Ilihan, Cebu
at around eleven o’clock in the evening of May 13, 1994. Shortly after the fight,
Retubado left the scene with his son and just about 50 meters away from the
cockpit, when they came opposite a colo tree, Matbagon holding a knife,
approached the deceased and stabbed him in the breast. Retubado struck him
on the head with a torch struck in a bottle that he was carrying. The bottle
was broken so the light went out. There they struggle and Matbagon stabbed
Retubado again and again.

In People v. Berbal, at about eight in the evening, the accused Berbal


stabbed to death Cristina Basul while sleeping inside her room while her
grandchildren were also sleeping in the living room. The court ruled that it was
self-evident that it was sought by the offender to facilitate the commission of
the offense when all the members of the household were asleep. In this case, if
the victim and her grandchildren were not yet asleep and/or it was not yet that
time of night, the accused could not have successfully trespassed in their
house and accomplished their plan. They could have shouted for help or could
have done something to defend themselves or they could have prevented the
crime. Clearly, nighttime had been deliberately chosen by the accused in this
case.

Though there was no direct evidence in People v. Lungbos, et al. that the accused sought the
nighttime to commit the crime of robbery charged against them but the fact they waited in the
restaurant close to three hours before carrying out their plan to commit robbery clearly indicates
that they waited for darkness to deepen to pursue their evil plan and to ensure their escape with
the aid of darkness of the night. They entered the Sweet Angel Gardens Restaurant at about 7:30
in the evening and started the execution of their plan at about 10 in the evening. Here, the
accused took advantage of the nighttime for the purpose of impunity and that nighttime
facilitated the commission of the crime.