Thursday, February 4, 2016

The principle of conspiracy may be applied suppletorily to R.A. No. 9262 cases - G.R. No. 168852

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Section 3 of R.A. No. 9262 defines ''[v]iolence against women and their children'' as any act or a series of acts committed by any person against a woman who is his wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child, or against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate, within or without the family abode, which result in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering, or economic abuse including threats of such acts, battery, assault, coercion, harassment or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

While the said provision provides that the offender be related or connected to the victim by marriage, former marriage, or a sexual or dating relationship, it does not preclude the application of the principle of conspiracy under the RPC.

Indeed, Section 47 of R.A. No. 9262 expressly provides for the suppletory application of the RPC, thus:

SEC. 47. Suppletory Application. - For purposes of this Act, the Revised Penal Code and other applicablelaws, shall have suppletory application. (Emphasis supplied)

Parenthetically, Article 10 of the RPC provides:

ART. 10. Offenses not subject to the provisions of this Code. Offenses which are or in the future may be punishable under special laws are not subject to the provisions of this Code. This Code shall be supplementary to such laws, unless the latter should specially provide the contrary. (Emphasis supplied)

Hence, legal principles developed from the Penal Code may be applied in a supplementary capacity to crimes punished under special laws, such as R.A. No. 9262, in which the special law is silent on a particular matter.

Thus, in People v. Moreno,[18] the Court applied suppletorily the provision on subsidiary penalty under Article 39 of the RPC to cases of violations of Act No. 3992, otherwise known as the Revised Motor Vehicle Law, noting that the special law did not contain any provision that the defendant could be sentenced with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.

In People v. Li Wai Cheung,[19] the Court applied suppletorily the rules on the service of sentences provided in Article 70 of the RPC in favor of the accused who was found guilty of multiple violations of R.A. No. 6425, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972, considering the lack of similar rules under the special law.

In People v. Chowdury,[20] the Court applied suppletorily Articles 17, 18 and 19 of the RPC to define the words principal, accomplices and accessories under R.A. No. 8042, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, because said words were not defined therein, although the special law referred to the same terms in enumerating the persons liable for the crime of illegal recruitment.

In Yu v. People,[21] the Court applied suppletorily the provisions on subsidiary imprisonment under Article 39 of the RPC to Batas Pambansa (B.P.) Blg. 22, otherwise known as the Bouncing Checks Law, noting the absence of an express provision on subsidiary imprisonment in said special law.

Most recently, in Ladonga v. People,[22] the Court applied suppletorily the principle of conspiracy under Article 8 of the RPC to B.P. Blg. 22 in the absence of a contrary provision therein.

With more reason, therefore, the principle of conspiracy under Article 8 of the RPC may be applied suppletorilyto R.A. No. 9262 because of the express provision of Section 47 that the RPC shall be supplementary to said law.Thus, general provisions of the RPC, which by their nature, are necessarily applicable, may be appliedsuppletorily.

Thus, the principle of conspiracy may be applied to R.A. No. 9262. For once conspiracy or action in concert to achieve a criminal design is shown, the act of one is the act of all the conspirators, and the precise extent or modality of participation of each of them becomes secondary, since all the conspirators are principals.[23]

It must be further noted that Section 5 of R.A. No. 9262 expressly recognizes that the acts of violence against women and their children may be committed by an offender through another, thus:

SEC. 5. Acts of Violence Against Women and Their Children. - The crime of violence against women and their children is committed through any of the following acts:

x x x

(h) Engaging in purposeful, knowing, or reckless conduct, personally or through another, that alarms or causes substantial emotional or psychological distress to the woman or her child. This shall include, but not be limited to, the following acts:

(1) Stalking or following the woman or her child in public or private places;

(2) Peering in the window or lingering outside the residence of the woman or her child;

(3) Entering or remaining in the dwelling or on the property of the woman or her child against her/his will;

(4) Destroying the property and personal belongings or inflicting harm to animals or pets of the woman or her child; and

(5) Engaging in any form of harassment or violence; x x x. (Emphasis supplied)

In addition, the protection order that may be issued for the purpose of preventing further acts of violence againstthe woman or her child may include

individuals other than the offending husband, thus:

SEC. 8. Protection Orders. x x x The protection orders that may be issued under this Act shall include any, some or all of the following reliefs:

(a) Prohibition of the respondent from threatening to commit or committing, personally or through another, any of the acts mentioned in Section 5 of this Act;

(b) Prohibition of the respondent from harassing, annoying, telephoning, contacting or otherwise communicating with the petitioner, directly or indirectly; x x x (Emphasis supplied)

Finally, Section 4 of R.A. No. 9262 calls for a liberal construction of the law, thus:

SEC. 4. Construction. - This Act shall be liberally construed to promote the protection and safety of victims of violence against women and their children. (Emphasis supplied)

It bears mention that the intent of the statute is the law[24] and that this intent must be effectuated by the courts. In the present case, the express language of R.A. No. 9262 reflects the intent of the legislature for liberal construction as will best ensure the attainment of the object of the law according to its true intent, meaning and spirit - the protection and safety of victims of violence against women and children.

Thus, contrary to the RTC's pronouncement, the maxim "expressio unios est exclusio alterius finds no application here. It must be remembered that this maxim is only an ancillary rule of statutory construction. It is not of universal application. Neither is it conclusive. It should be applied only as a means of discovering legislative intent which is not otherwise manifest and should not be permitted to defeat the plainly indicated purpose of the legislature.[25]

The Court notes that petitioner unnecessarily argues at great length on the attendance of circumstances evidencing the conspiracy or connivance of Steven and respondents to cause verbal, psychological and economic abuses upon her. However, conspiracy is an evidentiary matter which should be threshed out in a full-blown trial on the merits and cannot be determined in the present petition since this Court is not a trier of facts.[26] It is thus premature for petitioner to argue evidentiary matters since this controversy is centered only on the determination of whether respondents may be included in a petition under R.A. No. 9262. The presence or absence of conspiracy can be best passed upon after a trial on the merits.

Considering the Court's ruling that the principle of conspiracy may be applied suppletorily to R.A. No. 9262, the Court will no longer delve on whether respondents may be considered indispensable or necessary parties. To do so would be an exercise in superfluity.

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