• Criminal responsibility latches to participants in commission of a crime

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    I got married in 2003, but we separated after two years when I found out that my wife was having an illicit relationship with another man. I did not file a case against my wife and her paramour. Instead, I forgave them and moved on. My wife died this year, and I was surprised to learn that she and her paramour got married. Can I still file criminal cases against her paramour even if my wife is already dead?
    Sison

    Dear Sison,
    It is still possible to file criminal charges against the paramour of your wife even if the latter is already dead. Criminal responsibility attaches to every person who participated in the commission of a crime, whether his participation is that of a principal, accomplice or accessory. Each one may be prosecuted for his crime and it is not necessary that all persons who committed the crime must be charged in court. It is indispensable, however, to prove that the crime was indeed committed, and the person charged in court participated in its commission (Vino vs. People of the Philippines and Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 84163, October 19, 1989, 178 SCRA 626).

    Based on your narration, your late wife and her para-mour committed the crimes of adultery and bigamy, which our Revised Penal Code defines as follows:

    “Art. 333. Who are guilty of adultery. — Adultery is committed by any married woman who shall have sexual intercourse with a man not her husband and by the man who has carnal knowledge of her knowing her to be married, even if the marriage be subsequently declared void. xxx

    Art. 349. Bigamy. — The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgm- ent rendered in the pro- per proceedings.”

    As already mentioned, a criminal case may still be filed even though one of the perpetrators is already dead, as long as the crime and the participation of the accused can be proven by evidence. However, we still have to consider other possible de-fenses of the accused.

    As to the adultery case, one possible defense of the accused which may extinguish his criminal responsibility is pardon by or consent of the offended party (Article 344, Revised Penal Code). The pardon to be a defense must be made before the criminal action is institu- ted and must include both offenders—the wife and her paramour (People vs. Infante, G.R. No. L-36270, August 31, 1932).

    You mentioned that you have already forgiven your wife and her paramour. Moreover, your pardon or forgiveness came before a criminal action was filed in court. This is a clear case of express pardon which will bar prosecution of your wife’s paramour for the crime of adultery. Hence, you may only pursue the bigamy case against the paramour of your wife.

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appre-ciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

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