Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Death of the accused pending appeal; legal effect of - G.R. No. 197042

"x x x.

Olacos death on February 17, 2010, during the pendency of her appeal, extinguished not only her criminal liability for qualified theft committed against private complainant Ruben Vinluan, but also her civil liability, particularly the award for actual damages, solely arising from or based on said crime.

According to Article 89(1) of the Revised Penal Code, criminal liability is totally extinguished:

1. By the death of the convict, as to the personal penalties; and as to pecuniary penalties, liability therefor is extinguished only when the death of the offender occurs before final judgment.

Applying the foregoing provision, we laid down the following guidelines in People v. Bayotas[11]:

1. Death of the accused pending appeal of his conviction extinguishes his criminal liability as well as the civil liability based solely thereon. As opined by Justice Regalado, in this regard, the death of the accused prior to final judgment terminates his criminal liability and only the civil liability directly arising from and based solely on the offense committed, i.e., civil liability ex delicto in senso strictiore.

2. Corollarily, the claim for civil liability survives notwithstanding the death of [the] accused, if the same may also be predicated on a source of obligation other than delict. Article 1157 of the Civil Code enumerates these other sources of obligation from which the civil liability may arise as a result of the same act or omission:

a) Law

b) Contracts

c) Quasi-contracts

x x x x

e) Quasi-delicts

3. Where the civil liability survives, as explained in Number 2 above, an action for recovery therefor may be pursued but only by way of filing a separate civil action and subject to Section 1, Rule 111 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure as amended. This separate civil action may be enforced either against the executor/administrator or the estate of the accused, depending on the source of obligation upon which the same is based as explained above.

4. Finally, the private offended party need not fear a forfeiture of his right to file this separate civil action by prescription, in cases where during the prosecution of the criminal action and prior to its extinction, the private-offended party instituted together therewith the civil action. In such case, the statute of limitations on the civil liability is deemed interrupted during the pendency of the criminal case, conformably with [the] provisions of Article 1155 of the Civil Code, that should thereby avoid any apprehension on a possible privation of right by prescription.[12]

Clearly, it is already unnecessary for us to rule on Olacos appeal. Olacos appeal was still pending and no final judgment had been rendered against her at the time of her death. Hence, whether or not Olaco was guilty of the crime charged had become irrelevant because even assuming that Olaco did incur criminal liability and civil liability ex delicto, these were totally extinguished by her death, following Article 89(1) of the Revised Penal Code and our disquisition in Bayotas.

For the same reasons, the appealed Decision dated January 20, 2011 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR.-H.C. No. 02756 finding Olaco guilty of qualified theft, sentencing her to reclusion perpetua, and ordering her to pay private complainant Ruben Vinluan actual damages in the amount ofP200,000.00 had become ineffectual.

x x x."