Proximate Cause | Felonious Act | Criminal Liability

Vicente hacked Anacleto with a bolo but the latter was able to parry it with his hand, causing upon him a two-inch wound on his right palm. Vicente was not able to hack Anacleto further because three policemen arrived and threatened to shoot Vicente if he did not drop his bolo. Vicente was accordingly charged by the police at the prosecutor's office for attempted homicide. Twenty-five days later, while the preliminary investigation was in progress, Anacleto was rushed to the hospital because of symptoms of tetanus infection on the two-inch wound inflicted by Vicente. Anacleto died the following day.

Can Vicente be eventually charged with homicide for the death of Anacleto? Explain.

Yes, Vicente may be charged of homicide for the death of Anacleto, unless the tetanus infection which developed 25 days later, was bough about by an efficient supervening cause. Vicente's felonious act of causing a two-inch wound on Anacleto's right palm may still be regarded as the proximate cause of the latter's death because without such  wound, no tetanus infection could develop from the victim's right palm, and without such tetanus infection the victim would not have died with it.

Proximate Cause (1994 Bar Exam Question)

Bhey eloped with Scott. Whereupon, Bey's father, Robin, and brother, Rustom, went to Scott's house. Upon reaching the house, Rustom inquired from Scott about his sister's whereabouts, while Robin shouted and threatened to kill Scott. The latter then went downstairs but Rustom held his (Scott's) waist. Meanwhile Olive, the elder sister of Scott, carrying her 2-month old child, approached Rustom and Scott to pacify them. Olive attempted to remove Rustom's hand from Scott's waist. But Rustom pulled Olive's hand  causing her to fall over her baby. The baby then died moments later.

Is Rustom criminally liable for the death of the child?

Yes, Rustom is criminally liable for the death of the child because his felonious act was the proximate cause of such death. It was Rustom's act of pulling Olive's hand which  caused the latter the fall on her baby. Had it not been for the said act of Rustom, which is undoubtedly felonious (at least slight coercion) there was no cause for Olive to fall ever her baby. In short, Rustom's felonious act is the cause of the evil caused. Any person performing a felonious act is criminally liable for the direct, natural, and logical consequence thereof although different from what he intended.(Art.4, Par.1, RPC;
People vs. Pugay. et al, GR No.74324, Nov.18,1988)

Proximate Cause (1997 Bar Examination Question)

While the crew of a steamer prepared to raise anchor at the Pasig River, A, evidently impatient with the progress of work, began to use abusive language against the men. B, one of the members of the crew, remonstrated saying that they could work best if they were not insulted. A took B's attitude as a display of insubordination and, rising in a rage, moved towards B wielding a big knife and threatened to stab B. At the instant when A was only a few feet from B, the latter, apparently believing himself to be in great  and imminent peril, threw himself into the water, disappeared beneath the surface, and

May A be held criminally liable for the death of B?

Yes. A can be held criminally liable for the death of B, Article 4 of the Revised Penal Code provides in part that criminal liability shall be incurred by any person committing a felony although the wrongful act done be different from that which he intended.

In US vs. Valdez, 41 Phil. 497, where the victim who was threatened by the accused with a knife, jump into the river but because of the strong current or because he did not know how to swim, he drowned, the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction for homicide of the accused because, if a person against whom a criminal assault is directed believes  himself to be in danger of death or great bodily harm and in order to escape jumps into the water, impelled by the instinct of self-preservation, the assailant is responsible for the homicide in case death results by drowning.

Proximate Cause (1999 Bar Examination Question)

During the robbery in a dwelling house, one of the culprits happened to fire his gun upward in the ceiling without meaning to kill anyone. The owner of the house who was hiding thereat was hit and killed as a result.

The defense theorized that the killing was a mere accident and was not perpetrated in connection with, or for purposes of, the robbery.

Will you sustain the defense? Why?

No, I will not sustain the defense. The act being felonious and the proximate cause of the victim's, the offender is liable therefore although it may not be intended or  different from what he intended. The offender shall be prosecuted for the composite  crime of robbery with homicide, whether the killing was intentional or accidental, as long as the killing was on occasion of the robbery.

2001 Bar Examination Question 

Luis Cruz was deeply hurt when his offer of love was rejected by his girlfriend  Marivella one afternoon when he visited her. When he left her house, he walked as if  he was sleepwalking so much so that a teenage snatcher was able to grab his cell phone and flee without being chased by Luis. At the next LRT station, he boarded one of the coaches bound for Baclaran. While seated, he happened to read a newspaper left on the seat and noticed that the headlines were about the sinking of the Super Ferry while on its way to Cebu. He went over the list of missing passengers who were presumed dead and came across the name of his grandfather who had raised him from childhood after he was orphaned. He was shocked and his mind went blank for a few minutes, after which he ran amuck and,
using his balisong, started stabbing at the passengers who then scampered away, with  three of them jumping out of the train and landing on the road below. All the three passengers died later of their injuries at the hospital.

Is Luis liable for the death of the three passengers who jumped out of the moving train? State your reasons.

Yes, Luis is liable for their death because he was committing a felony when he started stabbing at the passengers and such wrongful act was the proximate cause of said passengers' jumping out of the train; hence their deaths.

Under Article 4, Revised Penal Code, any person committing a felony shall incur criminal liability although the wrongful act done be different from that which he intended. In this case, the death of the three passengers was the direct, natural, and logical consequence of Luis' felonious act which created an imminent sense of danger in the minds of said passengers who tried to avoid or escape from it by jumping out of the train.(People vs. Arpa, 27 SCRA 1037; US vs. Valdez, 41 Phil. 497)

2004 Bar Exam Question

On his way home from office, ZZ rode in a jeepney. Subsequently, XX boarded the same jeepney. Upon reaching a secluded spot in QC, XX pulled out a grenade from his bag and announced a hold-up. He told ZZ to surrender his watch, wallet and cellphone. Fearing for his life, ZZ jumped out of the vehicle. But as he fell, his head hit the pavement, causing his instant death.

Is XX liable for ZZ's death? Explain briefly.

Yes, XX is liable for ZZ's death because his act of pulling out a grenade and announcing a hold-up, coupled with a demand for the watch, wallet and cellphone of ZZ is felonious, and such felonious act was the proximate cause of ZZ's jumping out of the jeepney, resulting in the latter's death. Stated otherwise, the  death of ZZ was the direct, natural and logical consequence of XX's felonious act which created an immediated sense of danger in the mind of ZZ who tried to avoid such danger by jumping out of the jeepney. (People vs. Arpa, 27 SCRA 1037).