My neighbor, Paldo, assaulted my son without any reason. We filed a complaint for physical injuries before the barangay. During the last hearing, Paldo’s mother appeared. She claimed that her son did not commit the offense, because he is insane. A certificate to file action was issued by the barangay, since the conciliation proved futile. Is insanity really a defense to avoid criminal liability?
An imbecile or insane person, unless the latter acted during lucid interval, is exempt from criminal liability (Paragraph 1, Article 12, Revised Penal Code (RPC) of the Philippines). The commission of an offense and insanity are two (2) different things; hence, the claim of Paldo’s mother that he cannot commit the offense because of insanity does not stand. If she wants to invoke insanity as an exempting circumstance, it necessarily follows that Paldo must admit that he committed the alleged offense. She must also present clear and convincing evidence to prove the insanity of Paldo.
Also, it is important to note that not all insane persons or imbeciles are absolutely exempted from criminal liability. There are times that these persons can commit a crime during lucid interval; hence, they can be made criminally liable.
The Supreme Court expounded on insanity as exempting circumstance in the case of People of the Philippines vs. Umawid (G.R. No. 208719, June 9, 2014), where the High Court said:
“Xxx xxx xxx the defense of insanity is in the nature of confession and avoidance because an accused invoking the same admits to have committed the crime but claims that he or she is not guilty because of such insanity. As there is a presumption in favor of sanity, anyone who pleads the said defense bears the burden of proving it with clear and convincing evidence.
“Accordingly, the evidence on this matter must relate to the time immediately preceding or simultaneous with the commission of the offense/s with which he is charged.
“Insanity exists when there is a complete deprivation of intelligence while committing the act, i.e., when the accused is deprived of reason, he acts without the least discernment because there is a complete absence of power to discern, or there is total deprivation of freedom of the will. Mere abnormality of the mental faculties is not enough, especially if the offender has not lost consciousness of his acts. Insanity is evinced by a deranged and perverted condition of the mental faculties and is manifested in language and conduct. Thus, in order to lend credence to a defense of insanity, it must be shown that the accused had no full and clear understanding of the nature and consequences of his or her acts.”
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation 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.
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