Criminal Law

People vs. Rogado G.R. No. L-13025 December 29, 1959 Article 12 of the RPC, Exempting Circumstance of Uncontrollable Fear

FACTS:

On July 12, 1956, Salvador Areza, a farmer residing in Lilio, Laguna, left his house carrying with him a bolo on lots scabbard to gather firewood in his farm in barrio Bubukal. When he failed to return home that day, his wife Lydia Nudal went out to search for him. She was accompanied by some armed men, the mayor, and a sanitary health officer, and after a brief search, they found the decapitated body of her husband in an uninhabited place in Bubukal about half kilometer away from the road. The gruesome find revealed that Areza’s head was totally severed from his body with his hands tied together. The health officer, Dr. Dominador L. Gomez, found the body to be in state of decomposition, which led him to conclude that the deceased must have died three to five days prior to his discovery. Areza’s bolo and his scabbard were also found near his body.

Pedro Merin, a member of the group who surrendered to the authorities, made a sworn statement before the Justice of the Peace of Nagcarlan, Laguna, stating therein that Salvador Areza was killed by Ezer and Sako upon order of Commander Sulit. Domingo Golfeo also made a sworn statement before the justice of the Peace of Sta. Cruz, Laguna, admitting his participation in the killing of Areza upon order of Commander Sulit.

Cresencio Arsenal also made a written statement before the Mayor of Sta. Cruz, Laguna, admitting that he was one of those who killed Areza. Both Domingo Golfeo and Cresencio Arsenal, while admitting their participation in the killing of the deceased, claimed in exculpation that they acted under the pressure of an irresistible force in that they merely obeyed the order of their Commander, Rogado alias Commander Sulit, who would have killed them if they disobeyed his order. The other appellants merely contended that the killing was done in furtherance of the huk rebellion.

ISSUE:

Whether the accused should be exempt from criminal responsibility for having acted under the influence of uncontrollable fear.

RULING:

Both Domingo Golfeo and Cresencio Arsenal, while admitting their participation in the killing of the deceased, claimed in exculpation that they acted under the pressure of an irresistible force in that they merely obeyed the order of their Commander, Rogado alias Commander Sulit, who would have killed them if they disobeyed his order.

The defense of Golfeo is clearly untenable not only because of the well-settled rule that obedience to an order of a superior will only justify an act which otherwise would be criminal when the order is for a lawful purpose, but also because the circumstances under which Golfeo participated in the torture and liquidation of Areza cannot in any way justify his claim that he acted under an uncontrollable fear of being punished by his superiors if he disobeyed their order. In the first place, at the time of the killing, Golfeo was armed with automatic carbine such that he could have protected himself from any retaliation on the part of his superiors if they should threaten to punish him if he disobeyed their order to kill Areza.

In the second place, the evidence shows that Areza was brought to a secluded place quite far from that where his superiors were at the time and in such a predicament, he and companion Arsenal could have escaped with Areza to void the ire of their superiors. The fact that he carried out their order although his superiors were at some distance from him and that without pity and compunction he struck his victim in a Kempetai fashion show that he acted on the matter not involuntarily or under the pressure of fear of force, as he claims, but out of his own free will and with the desire to collaborate with the criminal design of his superiors. In the circumstances, we find that the trial court did not err in finding him responsible for the death of Areza as co-principal by direct participation. Same situation obtained with regard to Cresencio Arsenal. Arsenal took the bolo himself and gave the fatal blow which completely severed the head of Areza from his body. There is therefore no doubt that Arsenal directly cooperated with Golfeo in carrying out the concerted plan of killing Areza because of the hostile attitude he adopted in denying them the help they demanded from him.

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