Criminal Law

PEOPLE vs. MACATANDA G.R. No. L-51368 November 6, 1981 Mitigating Circumstance, Lack of Instruction


Saglala Macatanda was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Cattle Rustling penalized under PD No. 533. From the judgment of conviction, he appealed direct to this Court.

In the evening of December 25, 1976, complainant left his two carabaos near his house in Salug, Sapad, Lanao del Norte. the following morning, however, he noticed they were missing. He immediately reported the loss to Welfredo Bucol, who was the team leader of the constabulary home defense unit. Complainant joined the posse composed of the members of the unit, and the barangay captain to search for the missing Carabaos. When they reached Pawak, Salvador, Lanao del Norte, they saw Macabaas, Mangigya, Makaonggos, and appellant in possession of the two carabaos. These four, surprised at being discovered engaged the posse in a gun battle, as a result of which, appellant was wounded. Appellant’s companions fled, leaving him and the carabaos behind.

Appellant was taken into custody and was charged with cattle rustling. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced accordingly.


Whether the mitigating circumstances of (1) lack of instruction, and (2) being a member of a cultural minority, being a Moslem, should be appreciated in his favor, which the court a quo refused to consider in the imposition of the penalty.


Citing the case of U.S. vs. Maqui, appellant contends that his lack of instruction and education and his being a Moslem belonging to a cultural minority should mitigate his liability, and the penalty imposed by the trial court should be reduced accordingly. Under the circumstances of the present case, the Maqui case may not be invoked as a precedent. In the first place, in that case, the SC found indication in the record which tends to show that Maqui was an uncivilized Igorot. In the present case, owing to appellant’s plea of guilty, the records discloses no evidence presented to prove the mitigating circumstances of lack of instruction, which needs to be proven, as all circumstances modifying criminal liability should be proved directly and positively.

Some later cases which categorically held that the mitigating circumstance of lack of instruction does not apply to crimes of theft and robbery leave us with no choice but to reject the plea of appellant. Membership in a cultural minority does not per se imply being an uncivilized or semi- uncivilized state of the offender, which is the circumstance that induced the Supreme Court in the Maqui case, to apply lack of instruction to the appellant therein who was charged also with theft of large cattle.

A legal impediment stands in the way to giving the lenient treatment appellant invokes in his appeal. It is that the records of the case do not afford any basis on which to judge the degree of instruction of the appellant, no evidence having been taken relative thereto because he entered a plea of guilty. And the stricter treatment provided by P.D. 533 for the crime charged with a more severe penalty imposed thereon, hardly justifies the courts to apply said law with leniency.


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