Criminal Law

People v. Dicto Arpa and Maalum Arpa G.R. No. L-26789. April 25, 1969 Aggravating Circumstance of a conflagration, shipwreck, earthquake, epidemic, or other calamity or misfortune

FACTS:

Having boarded a motor banca owned by Epimaco Mola, together with other passengers bound for Talicud Island, Davao, and once the motor banca was in the middle of the sea and when it developed engine trouble, the accused, conspiring together and helping one another, with intent to steal the motor banca and by means of intimidation, the accused Dicto Arpa firing his .22 cal. revolver to scare the passengers of the banca, and fired at one of the passengers, hitting the said passenger at the right shoulder, wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously took and carried away the said motor banca “MAMI I,” belonging to the said Epimaco Mola. As a result of the jumping into the sea of all the passengers of the motor banca, Alfonso Villegas, Bernardo Villegas and Lourdes Villegas, all passengers of the motor banca were drowned and died.

Tre trial court sentenced each of the accused the penalty of death and rendered a decision finding two aggravating circumstances against the accused. The first constitutes the aggravating circumstance that the crime was committed in an uninhabited place. And the second constitutes the aggravating circumstance that the crime is committed on the occasion of conflagration, shipwreck, earthquake, epidemic or other calamity or misfortune.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the crime committed was attended by the aggravating circumstance of a conflagration, shipwreck, earthquake, epidemic, or other calamity or misfortune attended the crime.

RULING:

We hold against the trial court’s finding of a second aggravating circumstance in that the crime was committed “on the occasion of a conflagration, shipwreck, earthquake, epidemic, or other calamity or misfortune.”

The development of engine trouble at sea is a misfortune, but it does not come within the context of the phrase “other calamity or misfortune” as used in Article 14, paragraph 7 of the Revised Penal Code, which refer to other conditions of distress similar to those precedingly enumerated therein, namely, “conflagration, shipwreck, earthquake, epidemic,” such as the chaotic conditions resulting from war or the liberation of the Philippines during the last World War. The reason for the provision of this aggravating circumstance “is found in the debased form of criminality met in one who, in the midst of a great calamity, instead of lending aid to the afflicted, adds to their suffering by taking advantage of their misfortune to despoil them.” Clearly, no such condition of great calamity or misfortune existed when the motor banca developed engine trouble.

It should be added that there is nothing in the record whatever to indicate that the engine trouble developed was a serious one such as to create confusion and apprehension on the part of the passengers as perceived by the trial court, and that the same was not easily repaired; if at all, the indications are to the contrary, for as alleged in the information, the accused succeeded in stealing the motor banca at sea.

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