Justifying Circumstances

Justifying Circumstances –  where the act of a person is in accordance with law such that said person is deemed not to have violated the law.

General Rule: No criminal and civil liability incurred.

Exception: There is civil liability with respect to par. 4 where the liability is borne by persons benefited by the act.

Par. 1 Self-defense
1. Unlawful Aggression
- indispensable requirement
- There must be actual physical assault or aggression or an immediate and imminent threat, which must be offensive and positively strong.
- The defense must have been made during the existence of aggression, otherwise, it is no longer justifying.
- While generally an agreement to fight does not constitute unlawful aggression, violation of the terms of the agreement to fight is considered an exception.

2. Reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it

Test of reasonableness depends on:
(1) weapon used by aggressor
(2) physical condition, character, size and  other circumstances of aggressor
(3) physical condition, character, size and circumstances of person defending himself
(4) place and occasion of assault

3. Lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself

NOTE: Perfect equality between the weapons used, nor material commensurability between the means of attack and defense by the one defending himself and that of the aggressor is not required

REASON: the person assaulted does not have sufficient opportunity or time to think and calculate.

Rights included in self-defense:
   1. defense of person
   2. defense of rights protected by law
   3. defense of property (only if there is also an actual and imminent danger on the person of the one defending)
   4. defense of chastity

Kinds of Self-Defense:
1. self-defense of chastity – there must be an attempt to rape the victim
2. defense of property – must be coupled with an attack on the person of the owner, or on one entrusted with the care of such property.

People v. Narvaez, (GR No. L-33466-67, April 20, 1983) Attack on property alone was deemed sufficient to comply with element of unlawful aggression.

3. self-defense in libel – justified when the libel is aimed at a person’s good name.

“Stand ground when in the right” - the law does not require a person to retreat when his assailant is rapidly advancing upon him with a deadly weapon.

NOTE: Under Republic Act 9262 (Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004), victim-survivors who are found by the Courts to be suffering from Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) do not incur any criminal or civil liability despite absence of the necessary elements for the justifying circumstance of self-defense in the RPC. BWS is a scientifically defined pattern of psychological and behavioral symptoms found in women living in battering relationships as a result of cumulative abuse.

2002 Bar Exam Question

Justifying Circumstances: Defense of Honor

When A arrived home, he found B raping his daughter. Upon seeing A, B ran away. A took his gun and shot B, killing him. Charged with Homicide, A claimed he acted in defense of his daughter's honor.

Is A correct? If not, can A claim the benefit of any mitigating circumstance or circumstances?

No, A cannot validly invoke defense of his daughter's honor in having killed B since rape was already consummated; moreover, B already ran away, hence, there was no aggression to defend against and no defense to speak of.

A may, however, invoked the benefit of the mitigating circumstance of having acted in
immediate vindication of a grave offense to a descendant, his daughter, under par.5,
article 13 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended.

2003 Bar Exam Question and Answer (Defense of Property)

The accused lived with his family in a neighborhood that often was the scene of frequent robberies. At one time, past midnight, the accused went downstairs with a loaded gun to investigate what he thought were footsteps of an uninvited guest. After seeing what  appeared to him as an armed stranger looking around and out to rob the house, he fired his gun seriously injuring the man. When the lights were turned on, the unfortunate victim turned out to be a brother-in-law on his way to the kitchen to get some light snacks. The accused was indicted for serious physical injuries.

Should the accused, given the circumstances, be convicted or acquitted? Why?

The accused should be convicted because, even assuming the facts to be true in his belief, his act of shooting a burglar when there is no unlawful aggression on his person is not justified. Defense of property or property right does not justify the act of firing a gun at a burglar unless the life and limb of the accused is already in imminent and immediate danger. Although the accused acted out of a misapprehension of the facts, he is not absolved from criminal liability.

Alternative Answer:

Considering the given circumstances, namely: the frequent robberies in the neighborhood, the time was past midnight, and the victim appeared to be an armed burglar in the dark and inside his house, the accused could have entertained an honest belief that his life and  limb or those of his family are already in immediate and imminent danger. Hence, it may be  reasonable to accept that he acted out of an honest mistake of fact and therefor without  criminal intent. An honest mistake of fact negatives criminal intent and thus absolves the accused from criminal liability.

2000 Bar Exam Question; Defense of Honor

Osang, a married woman in her early twenties, was sleeping on a banig on the floor of their nipa hut beside the seashore when she was awakened by the act of a man mounting her. Thinking that it was her husband, Gardo, who had returned from fishing in the sea, Osang continued her sleep but allowed the man, who was actually their neighbor, Julio, to have sexual intercourse with her. After Julio satisfied himself, he said "salamat osang" as he turned to leave. Only then did Osang realize that the man was not her husband. Enraged, Osang grabbed a balisong from the wall and stabbed Julio to death. When tried for homicide, Osang claimed defense of honor.

Should the claim be sustained? Why?

No, Osang's claim of defense of honor should not be sustained because the aggression on her honor had ceased when she stabbed the aggressor. In defense of rights under paragraph 1, Article 11 of the RPC, It is required inter alia that there be 1.Unlawful aggression and 2.Reasonable necessity of the means employed to to prevent or repel it. The unlawful aggression must be continuing when the aggressor was injured or disabled by the person making a defense.

But if the aggression that was begun by the injured or disabled party already ceased to exist when the accused attacked him, as in the case at bar, the attack made is a retaliation, and not a defense. Paragraph 1, Article 11 of the code does not govern.

Hence, Osang's act of stabbing Julio to death after the sexual intercourse was finished, is not defense of honor but an immediate vindication of a grave offense committed against her, which is only mitigating.

Par. 2 Defense of Relative
1. Unlawful Aggression (indispensable requirement)
2. reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it
3. In case the provocation was given by the person attacked, the one making the defense had no part in such provocation.

   Relative entitled to the defense:
   1. spouse
   2. ascendants
   3. descendants
   4. legitimate, natural or adopted brothers and sisters, or
      relatives by affinity in the same degrees
   5. relatives by consanguinity within the 4th civil degree

NOTE: The relative defended may be the original aggressor. All that is required to justify the act of the relative defending is that he takes no part in such provocation.

Par. 3 Defense of Stranger
1. unlawful aggression (indispensable requirement)
2. reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it
3. person defending be not induced by revenge, resentment or other evil motive

2002 Bar Exam Question

A chanced upon three men who were attacking B with fist blows. C, one of the men, was  about to stab B with a knife. Not knowing that B was actually the aggressor because he had earlier challenged the three men to a fight. A shot C as the latter was about to stab B.

May A invoked the defense of a stranger as a justifying circumstance in his favor? Why?

Yes. A may invoke the justifying circumstance of defense of stranger since he was not involved in the fight and he shot C, when the latter was about to stab B. There being no indication that A was induced by revenged, resentment or any other evil motive in shooting C, his act is justified under paragraph 3, Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code as amended.

Par. 4 State of Necessity (Avoidance of Greater Evil or Injury)
1. evil sought to be avoided actually exists
2. injury feared be greater than that done to avoid it
3. no other practical and less harmful means of preventing it

NOTE: The necessity must not be due to the negligence or violation of any law by the actor.

2004 Bar Exam Question

Par. 5 Fulfillment of Duty or Lawful Exercise of a Right or Office
1. accused acted in the performance of duty or in the lawful exercise of a right or office
2. the injury caused or offense committed be the necessary consequence of the due performance of the duty, or the lawful exercise of such right or office.

NOTE: The accused must prove that he was duly appointed to the position claimed he was discharging at the time of the commission of the offense. It must also be shown that the offense committed was the necessary consequence of such fulfillment of duty, or lawful exercise of a right or office.

2000 Bar Examination Question (Fulfillment of Duty)

Lucresia, a store owner, was robbed of her bracelet in her home. The following day, at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, a neighbor, 22-year old Jun-Jun, who had an unsavory reputation, came to her store to buy bottles of beer.Lucresia noticed her bracelet around the right arm of Jun-Jun. As soon as the latter left, Lucresia went to the nearby police stationand sought the help of a policeman on duty, Pat. Willie Reyes. He went with Lucresia to the house of Jun-Jun to confront the latter. Pat. Reyes introduced himself as a policeman and tried to get hold of Jun-Jun who resisted and ran away. Pat. Reyes  chased him and fired two warning shots in the air. Jun-Jun continued to run and when he was about seven meters away, Pat. Reyes shot him in the right leg. Jun-Jun was hit and he fell down but he crawled towards a fence, intending to pass through an opening underneath. When Pat. Reyes was about 5 meters away, he fired another shot at Jun-Jun hitting him at  the right lower hip. Pat. Reyes brought Jun-Jun to the hospital, but because of profuse bleeding, he eventually died. Pat. Reyes was subsequently charged with Homicide. During the trial, Pat. Reyes raised the defense, by way of exoneration, that he acted in the  fulfillment of a duty.

Is the defense tenable? Explain.

No, the defense of Pat.Reyes is not tenable. The defense of having acted in the fulfillment of a duty requires as a condition, inter alia, that the injury or offense committed be the unavoidable or necessary consequence of the due performance of duty (People vs. Oanis, et. al, 74 Phil. 257). It is not enough that the accused acted in the fulfillment of a duty.

After Jun-Jun was shot in the right leg and was already crawling, there was no need for Pat. Reyes to shoot him further. Clearly, Pat. Reyes acted beyond the call of duty which brought about the cause of death of the victim.

Par. 6 Obedience to a Superior Order
1. an order has been issued
2. order has a lawful purpose (not patently illegal)
3. means used by subordinate to carry out said order is lawful

NOTE: The superior officer giving the order cannot invoke this justifying circumstance. Good faith is
material, as the subordinate is not liable for carrying out an illegal order if he is not aware of its illegality and he is not negligent.

General Rule: Subordinate cannot invoke this circumstance when order is patently illegal.

Exception: When there is compulsion of an irresistible force, or under impulse of uncontrollable fear.


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