Criminal liability not extinguished by complainant’s death


Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My husband filed a criminal case against me for bigamy when he was still alive. The prosecutor found probable cause to file an information against me and the case is now pending before the Regional Trial Court. While the case was still being litigated, my husband passed away. I want to know the effect of my husband’s death on the criminal case that he filed against me. Will the case be dismissed because of my husband’s death? Thank you.

Dear Val,
The causes for the extinguishing of criminal liability are enumerated in Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code, as follows:

“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;

2. By service of the sentence;

3. By amnesty, which completely extinguishes the penalty and all its effects;

4. By absolute pardon;

5. By prescription of the crime;

6. By prescription of the penalty;

7. By the marriage of the offended woman, as provided in Article 344 of this code.”

The above enumeration does not include death of the offended party as a mode by which criminal liability is extinguished. This means that despite the death of the complainant, the trial will still continue as the criminal liability of the accused is not extinguished upon the complainant’s death.

In your situation, while you may observe that upon the death of your husband you are already considered free to marry again, the point is that you allegedly transgressed the law against bigamy at such time that the first marriage or your marriage with your late husband still subsists. Hence, we are of the opinion that such case should continue despite your husband’s death.

We also emphasize that there is no rule or jurisprudence that prescribes that the death of the complainant would invalidate or result in dismissal of the previously filed complaint of the offended party himself.

Thus, the death of your husband, who is the complainant in the case filed against you, has no effect on the ongoing trial. The trial will still continue despite his death because your criminal liability will not be extinguished by virtue of his death.

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


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