• Criminal liability extinguished by death

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    There was a case that was filed against my uncle for homicide. According to my aunt, the decision by the RTC was in favor of the family of the deceased and my uncle was being asked to pay the indemnity of P30,000. He appealed his case, but unfortunately, he passed away due to stroke while his appeal is still ongoing.

    My aunt just wants to know if she will have to pay that amount. She has no income right now and is really worried. She barely has money to feed herself and my cousin. I hope you can give us advice.

    Carolina

    Dear Carolina,
    As a general rule, not only properties are transmitted upon the death of the decedent, but also the latter’s rights and obligations. This legal mode of transmission is called succession (Article 774, New Civil Code of the Philippines).

    In the situation which you have presented, it is understandable that your aunt is feeling very anxious about the financial obligations left to her by reason of the criminal case which was filed against your uncle, the latter’s untimely demise, and her other financial predicaments which you have mentioned. However, we wish to inform you that the payment of the indemnity rendered by the Regional Trial Court, in the amount of P30,000 will not be transmitted to your aunt and cousin through succession because the same has already been extinguished by reason of your uncle’s death prior to the finality of his case. This is in consonance with Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines which provides that:

    “Art. 89. How criminal liability is totally extinguished. — Criminal liability is totally extinguished: 1. By the death of the convict, as to the personal penalties and as to pecuniary penalties, liability therefore is extinguished only when the death of the offender occurs before final judgment. x x x”

    It is safe to say that there is no final judgment yet as to the homicide case that was filed against your uncle, given that, as what you have mentioned, his case for homicide was still pending appeal when he passed away. Accordingly, his criminal liability and his civil liability are thereby extinguished. This has been explained in the case of People vs. Consorte (G.R. No. 194068, November 26, 2014), reiterating the ruling in People vs. Brillantes (G.R. No. 190610, 25 April 2012, 671 SCRA 388, 393) “1. Death of the accused pending appeal of his conviction extinguishes his criminal liability as well as the civil liability based solely thereon. As opined by Justice Regalado, in this regard, “the death of the accused prior to final judgment terminates his criminal liability and only the civil liability directly arising from and based solely on the offense committed, i.e., civil liability ex delicto in sensostrictiore.”

    Since no criminal or civil liability was completely conferred to your uncle, no obligation relating thereto can be transmitted to your aunt and cousin who are his heirs.

    We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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