• Prescription of penalties imposed by final sentence

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    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    My sister filed a criminal case for serious physical injuries against one person who, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge. Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued. The accused filed a motion for bail that was granted by the court. The court rendered a judgment and declared the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt and was meted the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods. The accused, however, failed to attend the promulgation of judgment, prompting the judge to issue an order of arrest and directing the confiscation of his bond. Eleven years later, the accused surfaced and filed a motion to quash the warrant of arrest on the ground that the penalty against him has prescribed. Is his contention correct?
    Sincerely yours,
    Ariel

    Dear Ariel,
    Under Article 92 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), correctional penalties, such as the penalty imposed against the accused in the case of your sister, prescribe in ten (10) years. Prescription provides for the limitation of time within which a penalty must be executed. Otherwise, it is forever barred. The law is reproduced hereunder, thus:
    “Art. 92. When and how penalties prescribe. — The penalties imposed by final sentence prescribe as follows:

    1. Death and reclusion perpetua, in twenty years;

    2. Other afflictive penalties, in fifteen years;

    3. Correctional penalties, in ten years; with the exception of the penalty of arresto mayor, which prescribes in five years;

    4. Light penalties, in one year.”

    Parenthetically, Article 93 of the RPC provides for the period by which prescription may be said to commence to run. The same provides as follows:

    “Art. 93. Computation of the prescription of penalties. — The period of prescription of penalties shall commence to run from the date when the culprit should evade the service of his sentence, and it shall be interrupted if the defendant should give himself up, be captured, should go to some foreign country with which this government has no extradition treaty, or should commit another crime before the expiration of the period of prescription.”

    In Jovendo Del Castillo vs. Hon. Rosario Torrecampo (G.R. No. 1309033, December 18, 2002; ponente: then-Chief Justice Renato Corona), the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, which declared that “for prescription of penalty imposed by final sentence to commence to run, the culprit should escape during the term of such imprisonment.” It was further made clear by the High Court that “evasion of service of sentence can be committed only by those who have been convicted by final judgment by escaping during the term of his sentence.” It held as correct, the explanation of the Solicitor General that “escape” means “unlawful departure of prisoner from the limits of his custody.”

    Applying the facts, you have provided, the accused has not been committed to prison yet. As such, he cannot be said to have escaped therefrom. As a necessary consequence, prescription never commenced to run in his favor. Simply put, the offender can still be arrested to serve his sentence.

    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 dearpao@manilatimes.net.

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