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People v. Sylvestre, G.R. No.

357489 December 14, 1931

FACTS:

In March, 1930, Romana Silvestre, wife of Domingo Joaquin by her second marriage,
cohabited with Martin Atienza in the barrio of Masocol, Paombong, Bulacan. Domingo filed
against her wife and her paramour a complaint of adultery. The two accused were arrested but
were dismissed after begging to Domingo to withdraw his complaint upon a promise that the two
would discontinue cohabitation and not to live again in the barrio of Masocol. The two accused
left Masocol and went to live in Sto. Nino.

In November, 1930, Romana met her son by her former marriage, Nicolas de la Cruz, in
Sto. Nino to ask for nipa leaves. Romana followed her son to Masocol and remained there.
Martin Atienza, who had continued to cohabit with Romana, also followed her and lived in the
home of Nicolas. On one night, Martin Atienza set fire to the house of Nicolas to take revenge
upon the people of Masocol for initiating the complaint against them. Holding a pistol, Nicolas
and his wife were not able to stop Martin Atienza. The burning house later spread and burnt 48
houses. The neighbors saw Martin Atienza going away from the house where the fire started and
Romana leaving it.

Martin Atienza was found to be guilty of arson as principal by direct participation while
Romana was charged of arson as accomplice that she only listened to Martin Atienza’s threat
without raising a protest and did not give the alarm when the latter set fire to the house.

ISSUE:

Whether or not Romana should be charged as an accomplice to Martin Atienza’s crime of arson
by her mere passive presence at the scene of the crime

HELD:

No. The Court held that mere passive presence at the scene of another’s crime, mere silence and
failure to give the alarm, without evidence of agreement or conspiracy, do not constitute the
cooperation required by article 14 of the Revised Penal Code. Conspiracy requires a certain
degree of cooperation, whether moral, through advice, encouragement, or agreement, or material,
through external acts. In the case of Romana, her mere presence and silence while they are
simultaneous acts do not constitute cooperation as it does not appear that they encouraged Martin
Atienza to commit arson. Also, her failure to give the alarm does not make her liable as an
accomplice. Since there is no law that punishes a person who does not report to the authorities
the commission of a crime he or she witnessed, the omission to do so is not a felony. Romana
was acquitted.