I filed a case of serious physical injury against our neighbor for inflicting wounds on my nephew. The case is now pending in court. After a few weeks in the hospital, the condition of my nephew aggravated and resulted in his untimely death. Is it possible for us to change the charge to homicide? Kelvin
The law that addresses your situation is Section 7, Rule 117, of the Rules of Court:
“Section 7. Former conviction or acquittal; double jeopardy. — When an accused has been convicted or acquitted, or the case against him dismissed or otherwise terminated without his express consent by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon a valid complaint or information or other formal charge sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction and after the accused had pleaded to the charge, the conviction or acquittal of the accused or the dismissal of the case shall be a bar to another prosecution for the offense charged, or for any attempt to commit the same or frustration thereof, or for any offense which necessarily includes or is necessarily included in the offense charged in the former complaint or information.
“However, the conviction of the accused shall not be a bar to another prosecution for an offense which necessarily includes the offense charged in the former complaint or information under any of the following instances:
(a) the graver offense developed due to supervening facts arising from the same act or omission constituting the former charge;
(b) X x x; or
(c) X x x.
“In any of the foregoing cases, where the accused satisfies or serves in whole or in part the judgment, he shall be credited with the same in the event of conviction for the graver offense.”
Related to this, is the case of Conrado Carmelo vs. The People of the Philippines (G.R. No. L-3580, March 22, 1950), penned by former Chief Justice Manuel Moran, which explains the provision on supervening facts:
“This rule of identity does not apply, however when the second offense was not in existence at the time of the first prosecution, for the simple reason that in such case there is no possibility for the accused, during the first prosecution, to be convicted for an offense that was then inexistent. Thus, where the accused was charged with physical injuries and after conviction the injured person dies, the charge for homicide against the same accused does not put him twice in jeopardy. This is the ruling laid down by the Supreme Court of the United States in the Philippines case of Diaz vs. US, 223 US 442, followed by this court in People vs. Espino, G. R. No. 46123, 69 Phil., 471, and these two cases are similar to the instant case. Stating it in another form, the rule is that “where after the first prosecution a new fact supervenes for which the defendant is responsible, which changes the character of the offense and, together with the fact existing at the time, constitutes a new and distinct offense” (15 Am. Jur., 66), the accused cannot be said to be in second jeopardy if indicated for the new offense.” [Text in the original, emphasis supplied in some.]
In your situation, the subsequent death of your nephew caused by the aggravation of his injuries is a supervening fact, which does not put the accused twice in jeopardy. The mere requirement is that the supervening fact must be attributable to the injury caused by the accused. Thus, taking this into account, the modification of the case from serious physical injury to homicide is warranted under the Rules of Court and existing jurisprudence. Hence, the doctrine of double jeopardy shall not apply.
Finally, it is noteworthy to mention, that under Section 14, Rule 110 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure, if at any time before judgment, a mistake has been made in charging the proper offense, the court shall dismiss the original complaint or information upon the filing of a new one charging the proper offense in accordance with Section 19, Rule 119, provided the accused shall not be placed in double jeopardy. Hence, the amendment of the complaint of your nephew is proper and in accord with the Rules of Court.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.