Monday, June 25, 2012

People v. Echegaray (CRIM1)

People of the Philippines v. Leo Echegaray y Pilo
People of the Philippines, Plaintiff-Appellee v.  Leo Echegaray y Pilo, Defendant Appellant

Per Curiam
Doctrine: Neither excessive fines nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment
Date: February 7, 1997
Ponente: As it is a Per curiam decision, the court is acting collectively & anonymously.


  • The SC rendered a decision in the instant case affirming the conviction of the accused-appellant for the crime of raping his ten-year old daughter. 
  • The crime having been committed sometime in April, 1994, during which time Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7659, commonly known as the Death Penalty Law, was already in effect, accused-appellant was inevitably meted out the supreme penalty of death.
  • The accused-appellant timely filed a Motion for Reconsideration which focused on the sinister motive of the victim's grandmother that precipitated the filing of the alleged false accusation of rape against the accused.  The motion was dismissed as the SC found no substantial arguments on the said motion that can disturb the verdict.
  • On August 6, 1996, accused-appellant discharged the defense counsel, Atty. Julian R. Vitug, and retained the services of the Anti-Death Penalty Task Force of the Free Legal Assistance Group of the Philippines. (FLAG)
  • A supplemental Motion for Reconsideration prepared by the FLAG on behalf of accused-appellant aiming for the reversal of the death sentence.
  • In sum, the Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration raises three (3) main issues: (1) mixed factual and legal matters relating to the trial proceedings and findings; (2) alleged incompetence of accused-appellant's former counsel; and (3) purely legal question of the constitutionality of R.A. No. 7659.
Issue/s: WON the death penalty law (RA no. 7659) is unconstitutional

Held: No.
Wherefore, the motion for reconsideration & supplemental motion for reconsideration are denied for lack of merit.

  • Accused-appellant first claims that the death penalty is per se a cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment as ruled by the United States (U.S.) Supreme Court in Furman v. Georgia. To state, however, that the U.S. Supreme Court, in Furman, categorically ruled that the death penalty is a cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment, is misleading and inaccurate.
    • The issue in Furman was not so much death penalty itself but the arbitrariness pervading the procedures by which the death penalty was imposed on the accused by the sentencing jury.  Thus, the defense theory in Furman centered not so much on the nature of the death penalty as a criminal sanction but on the discrimination against the black accused who is meted out the death penalty by a white jury that is given the unconditional discretion to determine whether or not to impose the death penalty.
    • Furman, thus, did not outlaw the death penalty because it was cruel and unusual per se.  While the U.S. Supreme Court nullified all discretionary death penalty statutes in Furman, it did so because the discretion which these statutes vested in the trial judges and sentencing juries was uncontrolled and without any parameters, guidelines, or standards intended to lessen, if not altogether eliminate, the intervention of personal biases, prejudices and discriminatory acts on the part of the trial judges and sentencing juries.
  • accused-appellant asseverates that the death penalty is a cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment for the crime of rape mainly because the latter, unlike murder, does not involve the taking of life.  
    • In support of his contention, accused-appellant largely relies on the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Coker v. Georgia:: "Rape is without doubt deserving of serious punishment; but in terms of moral depravity and of the injury to the person and to the public, it does not compare with murder, which does involve the unjustified taking of human life.  Although it may be accompanied by another crime, rape by definition does not include the death of or even the serious injury to another person.  The murderer kills; the rapist, if no more than that, does not.  Life is over for the victim of the murderer; for the rape victim, life may not be nearly so happy as it was, but it is not over and normally is not beyond repair.  We have the abiding conviction that the death penalty, which 'is unique in its severity and irrevocability' x x x  is an excessive penalty for the rapist who, as such, does not take human life"
    • The U.S. Supreme Court based its foregoing ruling on two grounds: 
      • first, that the public has manifested its rejection of the death penalty as a proper punishment for the crime of rape through the willful omission by the state legislatures to include rape in their new death penalty statutes in the aftermath of Furman;
        • Phil. SC: Anent the first ground, we fail to see how this could have any bearing on the Philippine experience and in the context of our own culture.
      • second, that rape, while concededly a dastardly contemptuous violation of a woman's spiritual integrity, physical privacy, and psychological balance, does not involve the taking of life.
        • Phil. SC: we disagree with the court's predicate that the gauge of whether or not a crime warrants the death penalty or not, is the attendance of the circumstance of death on the part of the victim.  Such a premise is in fact an ennobling of the biblical notion of retributive justice of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth".
  •  The Revised Penal Code, as it was originally promulgated, provided for the death penalty in specified crimes under specific circumstances.  As early as 1886, though, capital punishment had entered our legal system through the old Penal Code, which was a modified version of the Spanish Penal Code of 1870.
  • Under the Revised Penal Code, death is the penalty for the crimes of treason, correspondence with the enemy during times of war, qualified piracy, parricide, murder, infanticide, kidnapping, rape with homicide or with the use of deadly weapon or by two or more persons resulting in insanity, robbery with homicide, and arson resulting in death.
  • The opposition to the death penalty uniformly took the form of a constitutional question of whether or not the death penalty is a cruel, unjust, excessive or unusual punishment in violation of the constitutional proscription against cruel and unusual punishment
    • Harden v. Director of Prison- "The penalty complained of is neither cruel, unjust nor excessive.  In Ex-parte Kemmler, 136 U.S., 436, the United States Supreme Court said that 'punishments are cruel when they involve torture or a lingering death, but the punishment of death is not cruel, within the meaning of that word as used in the constitution.  It implies there something inhuman and barbarous, something more than the mere extinguishment of life.
    • People v. Limaco- "x x x there are quite a number of people who honestly believe that the supreme penalty is either morally wrong or unwise or ineffective.  However, as long as that penalty remains in the statute books, and as long as our criminal law provides for its imposition in certain cases, it is the duty of judicial officers to respect and apply the law regardless of their private opinions,"
  • Article III, Section 19 (1) of the 1987 Constitution simply states that congress, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, may re-impose the death penalty.  Nothing in the said provision imposes a requirement that for a death penalty bill to be valid, a positive manifestation in the form of a higher incidence of crime should first be perceived and statistically proven following the suspension of the death penalty.  Neither does the said provision require that the death penalty be resorted to as a last recourse when all other criminal reforms have failed to abate criminality in society
    • what R.A. No. 7659 states is that "the Congress, in the interest of justice, public order and rule of law, and the need to rationalize and harmonize the penal sanctions for heinous crimes, finds compelling reasons to impose the death penalty for said crimes.
    • Heinous crime is an act or series of acts which, by the flagrantly violent manner in which the same was committed or by the reason of its inherent viciousness, shows a patent disregard and mockery of the law, public peace and order, or public morals.  It is an offense whose essential and inherent viciousness and atrocity are repugnant and outrageous to a civilized society and hence, shock the moral self of a people.
  • The right of a person is not only to live but to live a quality life, and this means that the rest of society is obligated to respect his or her individual personality, the integrity and the sanctity of his or her own physical body, and the value he or she puts in his or her own spiritual, psychological, material and social preferences and needs. 
    • Seen in this light, the capital crimes of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for ransom resulting in the death of the victim or the victim is raped, tortured, or subjected to dehumanizing acts; destructive arson resulting in death, and drug offenses involving minors or resulting in the death of the victim in the case of other crimes; as well as murder, rape, parricide, infanticide, kidnapping and serious illegal detention where the victim is detained for more than three days or serious physical injuries were inflicted on the victim or threats to kill him were made or the victim is a minor, robbery with homicide, rape or intentional mutilation, destructive arson, and carnapping where the owner, driver or occupant of the carnapped vehicle is killed or raped, which are penalized by reclusion perpetua to death, are clearly heinous by their very nature.
  • SC: the death penalty is imposed in heinous crimes because:
    • the perpetrators thereof have committed unforgivably execrable acts that have so deeply dehumanized a person or criminal acts with severely destructive effects on the national efforts to lift the masses from abject poverty through organized governmental strategies based on a disciplined and honest citizenry
    • they have so caused irreparable and substantial injury to both their victim and the society and a repetition of their acts would pose actual threat to the safety of individuals and the survival of government, they must be permanently prevented from doing so
  • People v. Cristobal:  "Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity.  Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right.  It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act xxx an outrage upon decency and dignity that hurts not only the victim but the society itself.

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