Last month, my father filed a complaint before barangay (village) authorities because of physical injuries he sustained in a fight with a neighbor. But he was not able to attend hearings on his complaint because he had to watch over my younger sister who was hospitalized. Besides, it was only last week that my father was able to obtain his medical certificate from the hospital where his injuries were treated. It says in the certificate that it will require him 10 to 15-day medication. He went to the village officials and was told that his complaint was not completely acted upon because it was only the neighbor whom he had fought with who showed up in the three hearings set by the barangay chairman.
My father is considering to refile his complaint but our neighbor said it cannot be done because there is already double jeopardy. Is that correct? Has the crime also prescribed? Please advise me on this matter.
The principle of double jeopardy provides a barrier to the filing of a second or subsequent complaint against a person who has already been convicted or acquitted of the same offense. This principle is expressly provided for under Section 21, Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which states that “(n)o person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense. If an act is punished by law or an ordinance, conviction or acquittal under either shall constitute a bar to another prosecution for the same act.”
It bears stressing, though, that all the elements of double jeopardy must be present in order for such barrier to attach, to wit: (a) that there has been a valid indictment, (b) such indictment was before a competent court, (c) that it was made after arraignment, (d) after a valid plea having been entered; and (e) that the case was dismissed or otherwise terminated without the express consent of the accused (Icasiano vs. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No. 95642, May 28, 1992).
In the situation that you have presented, we believe that there is no double jeopardy yet considering that the elements thereof are wanting. It is true that your father has filed a complaint against your neighbor but such was only filed before the barangay. While the barangay provides an avenue for parties to amicably settle their disputes and the complaint is well within the jurisdiction of the barangay, such is not considered as a “competent court.”
Corollary thereto, your father may refile his complaint before the barangay if conciliation proceedings concerning the complaint, which he filed last month, has been terminated because of his non-appearance. As mentioned and contrary to what your neighbor claims, there is no double jeopardy yet.
It is also important to note that the complaint may still be filed since the crime has not yet prescribed. Under the Revised Penal Code, the imposable penalty for the crime of less serious physical injuries is arresto mayor or imprisonment for one month and one day to six months. Crimes with such penalty prescribe in five years (Article 265 in relation to Articles 27 and 90, Ibid.). Considering that only a month has passed since the altercation between your father and your neighbor, it is well within the five-year prescriptive period. Hence, it may still be refiled before the barangay.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org