Criminal Law

Retroactive effect of penal laws

An illustration of the Retroactive effect of penal laws

Article 22, Revised Penal Code. Retroactive effect of penal laws.-

Penal laws shall have a retroactive effect insofar as they favor the person guilty of a felony, who is not a habitual criminal, as this term is defined in Rule 5, Article 62 of this Code, although at the time of the publication of such laws a final sentence has been pronounced and the convict is serving the same.


G.R. No. 127753

In Criminal Case No. U-8720, appellant was found guilty of the crime of Illegal Possession of Firearms and Ammunition punished under P.D. 1866 and was sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay the costs. His separate indictment was on account of the unlicensed firearm used in the killing. Under Section 1 of Republic Act No. 8294, if homicide or murder is committed with the use of an unlicensed firearm, such use of an unlicensed firearm shall be considered as an aggravating circumstance. Although the crime in this case was committed in 1995, the amendatory law (R.A. No. 8294) which became effective on July 6, 1997, fifteen (15) days after its publication in Malaya and Philippine Journal on June 21, 1997, since it is favorable to appellant,shall be given a retroactive effect. Therefore, the illegal possession or use of the unlicensed firearm may no longer be separately charged and only one offense should be punished, viz., murder in this case, and the use of unlicensed firearm should only be considered as an aggravating circumstance.Considering that appellant is liable for murder, the illegal possession case can no longer be pursued because it is merely treated as an aggravating circumstance.


The principle in criminal law, favorabilia sunt amplianda adiosa restrigenda – Penal laws which are favorable to accused are given retroactive effect.


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