Criminal Law, Political Law


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In Vera vs. People, G.R. No. L-18184, January 31, 1963, the Supreme Court En Banc rejected the argument of the petitioners that it is not necessary for them to admit the commission of the crime charged to be entitled to the benefits of amnesty proclamation. Amnesty presupposes the commission of a crime, and when an accused maintains that he has not committed a crime, he cannot have any use for amnesty. Where an amnesty proclamation imposes certain conditions, as in this case, it is incumbent upon the accused to prove the existence of such conditions. The invocation of amnesty is in the nature of a plea of confession and avoidance, which means that the pleader admits the allegations against him but disclaims liability therefor on account of intervening facts which, if proved, would being the crime charged within the scope of the amnesty proclamation.
Under Amnesty Proclamation no. 8, dated September 7, 1946 issued by President Roxas and concurred by Congress, declares amnesty in favor of persons, who committed felony in furtherance of the resistance to the enemy during the Japanese occupation. The proclamation tasked the Amnesty Commission to determine if the crime is committed within the terms thereof. However, while the Commission can take cognizance of the applications for amnesty, the courts are not excluded to decide any claim for amnesty. An accused charged before the courts may claim amnesty as a defense, waive the filing of an application therefor, and submit evidence thereof in the trial of his case (to prove that the crime was committed in furtherance of the resistance to the enemy). In sum, while all applications should be passed upon by commissions, an accused may, instead of filing an application, choose the alternative remedy of just raising the issue in a court of justice in the trial of his case (People vs. Macadaeg, G.R. No. L-4316, May 28, 1952). If a person opted to file an application for amnesty with the commission, but he is unable to obtain his release through executive channels although he is entitled to the benefits of this proclamation, it devolves on the courts to protect his right (Tolentino vs. Catoy, G.R. No. L-2503, December 10, 1948).
Under Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code, amnesty totally extinguishes criminal liability, the penalty for the crime and all its effects. However, if the granting of benefit under amnesty proclamation is subject to a condition, the criminal extinction will only occur upon happening of the condition and not upon the issuance of the proclamation by the President, or concurrence of Congress.
Under Amnesty Proclamation no. 8, dated 1946, the amnesty covers crimes committed in furtherance of resistance against the enemy as determined by the Commission. In Vera vs. Nanadiego, G.R. No. L-26539, February 28, 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that the criminal liability of the appellee had been completely extinguished by virtue of the amnesty extended to him by Commission in 1956.
Amnesty Proclamation no. 76, dated June 21, 1948 issued by President Quirino, granted amnesty to huks, who have committed the rebellion subject to the condition that they must presented themselves with all their arms to the authorities within 20 days from the date of concurrence by the Congress. Compliance with the condition as determined by the amnesty commission or the court shall extinguish his criminal liability (Tolentino vs. Catoy, G.R. No. L-2503, December 10, 1948).
Can the incumbent President revoke the amnesty proclamation issued by a former President and concurred in by Congress?
No. Amnesty proclamation issued by a former President under express authority of the Constitution and concurred in by Congress has the nature, force, effect, and operation of a law (People vs. Macadaeg, G.R. No. L-4316, May 28, 1952). Hence, an incumbent president cannot unilaterally revoke the bilateral acts of the former President and Congress in making an amnesty proclamation. Same as a law, amnesty proclamation can only revoke by concurrent actions of the President and Congress. Moreover, amnesty extinguishes the criminal liability of the amnesty beneficiary. Hence, revocation made after the criminal extinction will not prejudice the amnesty beneficiary.
Can the incumbent President nullify the decision of the Department of National Defense for failure to file application for amnesty as an express precondition to the granting of the benefit under an amnesty proclamation and failure to admit his guilt?
Yes. The Department of National Defense is under the control power of the President. Hence, he can nullify its decision granting amnesty benefit despite of the failure of the beneficiary to comply with conditions of the amnesty proclamation. But the nullification is subject to the judicial review. If the court finds that amnesty beneficiary made an application and admitted his guilt therein and the Department of National Defense properly approved the application, it may reverse the decision of the President on the ground of grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack or in excess of jurisdiction. The proper approval of the amnesty application extinguishes the criminal liability of the applicant for the crime covered by the proclamation.

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