ROGELIO J. GONZAGA vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 195671, January 21, 2015
“x x x.
Reckless imprudence, as defined in Article 36540 of the RPC, consists in voluntarily, but without malice, doing or failing to do an act from which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing or failing to perform such act, taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical condition and other circumstances regarding persons, time and place.
In order to establish a motorist’s liability for the negligent operation of a vehicle,
it must be shown that there was a direct causal connection between such negligence and the injuries or damages complained of. To constitute the offense of reckless driving, the act must be something more than a mere negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle – a willful and wanton disregard of the consequences is required.41 Willful, wanton or reckless disregard for the safety of others within the meaning of reckless driving statutes has been held to involve a conscious choice of a course of action which injures another, either with knowledgeof serious danger to others involved, or with knowledge of facts which would disclose the danger to any reasonable person. Verily, it is the inexcusable lack of precaution or conscious indifference to the consequences of the conduct which supplies the criminal intent and brings an act of mere negligence and imprudence under the operation of the penal law, without regard to whether the private offended party may himself be considered likewise at fault.42
In the present case, the RTC and the CA uniformly found that Rogelio’s act of driving very fast on the wrong side of the road was the proximate cause of the collision, resulting to the death of Dionesio, Sr. and serious physical injuries to Dionesio, Jr. and Cherry. Notably, the road where the incident occurred was a curve sloping upwards towards Brgy. Bocboc where the Inguitos were bound and descending towards the opposite direction where Rogelio was going. Indeed, the very fact of speeding, under such circumstances, is indicative of imprudent behavior. As a motorist, Rogelio was bound to exercise ordinary care in such affair by driving at a reasonable rate of speed commensurate with the conditions encountered, as this would enable him to keep the vehicle under control and avoid injury to others using the highway.43 Moreover, it is elementary in traffic school that a driver slows down before negotiating a curve as it may be reasonably anticipated that another vehicle may appear from the opposite direction at any moment. Hence, excessive speed, combined with other circumstances such as the occurrence of the accident on or near a curve, as in this case, constitutes negligence.44 Consequently, the Court finds that Rogelio acted recklessly and imprudently in driving at a fast speed on the wrong side of the road while approaching the curve where the incident happened, thereby rendering him criminally liable, aswell as civilly accountable for the material damages resulting therefrom. Nonetheless, while the CA and the RTC concurred that the proximate cause of the collision was Rogelio’s reckless driving, the CA Decision made no mention as to the presence or absence of the limiting element in the last paragraph of Article 365 of the RPC, which imposes the penalty next higher in degreeupon the offender who "fails to lend on the spot to the injured parties such help as may be in his hands to give." Based on case law, the obligation under this paragraph: (a) is dependent on the means in the hands of the offender, i.e., the type and degree of assistance that he/she, at the time and place of the incident, is capable of giving; and (b) requires adequate proof.45
X x x.
Under Article 365 of the RPC, when reckless imprudence in the use of a motor vehicle results in the death of a person, as in this case, the accused shall be punished with the penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods, i.e., two (2) years, four (4) months and one (1) day to six (6) years. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law,51 the minimum of said penalty should be taken from arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period, or four (4) months and one (1) day to two (2) years and four (4) months. Consequently, the Court finds a need to modify the penalty to be imposed on Rogelio and thus, sentences him to suffer an indeterminate penalty of two (2) years of prision correccional in its minimum, as minimum, to six years of prision correccional in its maximum, as maximum.
X x x.”
40 Art. 365. Imprudence and negligence.— Any person who, by reckless imprudence, shall commit any act which, had it been intentional, would constitute a grave felony, shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayorin its maximum period to prision correccional in its medium period; if it would have constituted a less grave felony, the penalty of arresto mayorin its minimum and medium periods shall be imposed; if it would have constituted a light felony, the penalty of arresto menorin its maximum period shall be imposed.
Any person who, by simple imprudence or negligence, shall commit an act which would, otherwise, constitute a grave felony, shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayorin its medium and maximum periods; if it would have constituted a less serious felony, the penalty of arresto mayor in its minimum period shall be imposed.
When the execution of the act covered by this article shall have only resulted in damage to the property of another, the offender shall be punished by a fine ranging from an amount equal to the value of said damages to three times such value, but which shall in no case be less than 25 pesos.
A fine not exceeding two hundred pesos and censure shall be imposed upon any person who, by simple imprudence or negligence, shall cause some wrong which, if done maliciously, would have constituted a light felony.
In the imposition of these penalties, the court shall exercise their sound discretion, without regard to the rules prescribed in Article 64.
The provisions contained in this article shall not be applicable:
1. When the penalty provided for the offense is equal to or lower than those provided in the first two paragraphs of this article, in which case the court shall impose the penalty next lower in degree than that which should be imposed, in the period which they may deem proper to apply.
2. When, by imprudence or negligence and with violation of the Automobile Law [Act No. 3992 entitled "An Act to Amend and Compile the Laws Relative to Motor Vehicles"], the death of a person shall be caused, in which case the defendant shall be punished by prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods.
Reckless imprudence consists in voluntarily, but without malice, doing or failing to do an act from which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing or failing to perform such act, taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical conditions and other circumstances regarding persons, time and place.
Simple imprudence consists in the lack of precaution displayed in those cases in which the damage impending to be caused is not immediate nor the danger clearly manifest.
The penalty next higher in degree to those provided for in this article shall be imposed upon the offender who fails to lend on the spot to the injured parties such help as may be in his hands to give. (Emphases supplied)
41 Dumayag v. People, G.R. No. 172778, November 26, 2012, 686 SCRA 347, 359.
42 Caminos,Jr. v. People, 605 Phil. 422, 434-435 (2009).
43 Id. at 437.
44 Gabriel v. CA, 483 Phil. 142, 157-158 (2004).
45 Abueva v. People, 438 Phil. 610, 623-624 (2002).
50 Art. 263. Serious physical injuries. — Any person who shall wound, beat, or assault another, shall be guilty of the crime of serious physical injuries and shall suffer:
1. The penalty of prision mayor, if in consequence of the physical injuries inflicted, the injured person shall become insane, imbecile, impotent, or blind;
2. The penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum period, if in consequence of the physical injuries inflicted, the person injured shall have lost the use of speech or the power to hear or to smell, or shall have lost an eye, a hand, a foot, an arm, or a leg, or shall have lost the use of any such member, or shall have become incapacitated for the work in which he was theretofore habitually engaged;
3. The penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods, if in consequence of the physical injuries inflicted, the person injured shall have become deformed, or shall have lost any other part of his body, or shall have lost the use thereof, or shall have been ill or incapacitated for the performance of the work in which he as habitually engaged for a period of more than ninety days;
4. The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period, if the physical injuries inflicted shall have caused the illness or incapacity for labor of the injured person for more than thirty days.
If the offense shall have been committed against any of the persons enumerated in Article 246, or with attendance of any of the circumstances mentioned in Article 248, the case covered by subdivision number 1 of this Article shall be punished by reclusion temporalin its medium and maximum periods; the case covered by subdivision number 2 by prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its minimum period; the case covered by subdivision number 3 by prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods; and the case covered by subdivision number 4 by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods.
The provisions of the preceding paragraph shall not be applicable to a parent who shall inflict physical injuries upon his child by excessive chastisement.
51 Pertinently, Section 1 of the Indeterminate Sentence Law which provides:
Section 1. Hereafter, in imposing a prison sentence for an offense punished by the Revised Penal Code, or its amendments, the court shall sentence the accused to an indeterminate sentence the maximum term of which shall be that which, in view of the attending circumstances, could be properly imposed under the rules of the said Code, and the minimum shall be within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by the Code for the offense; and if the offense is punished by any other law, the court shall sentence the accused to an indeterminate sentence, the maximum term of which shall not exceed the maximum fixed by said law and the minimum shall not be less than the minimum term prescribed by the same.
52 See Articles 2217 to 2220 of the Civil Code.
53 People v. Berondo, Jr., 601 Phil. 538, 546 (2009); citing People v. Whisenhunt, 420 Phil. 677, 701 (2001).
54 See People of the Philippines v. Torres, G.R. No. 189850, September 22, 2014.