Erroneous belief and unavailable defense
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - March 14, 2018 - 12:00am

Under Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code, any legally married person who, having surprised his/her spouse in the act of committing sexual intercourse with another person or immediately thereafter, shall kill any of them or both of them, or shall inflict upon them any serious physical injury, shall suffer only the penalty of  destierro. This means that the guilty spouse shall not be permitted to enter the place or places designated in the sentence, nor within the radius therein specified, which shall be not more than 250, and not less than 25 kilometers from the place designated. When can this provision be invoked? What if the person just mistook the victim to be his/her spouse, is this provision still applicable? This is answered in this case of Danny and Delia.

Although Danny and Delia have been married for 13 years and with two children, their relationship has been stormy and their married life has been loveless. In fact Danny first suspected and eventually learned from Delia herself that the latter was in love and preferred to live with another man named Val. So Danny prepared a document wherein he and his wife agreed to live apart and each of them was allowed to look for another mate with whom they could live. Although the document was intended to be signed by both of them only Danny eventually signed it. And although their ensuing separation was punctuated by occasional visits of Delia sometimes at the instance of Danny or of the children, they were never again reconciled.

A month later, Delia left their province on the pretext that she was bound for Manila but she actually went to a nearby province to look for Val her paramour, with the help of Sylvia her relative who was staying there. Unable to find Val, she stayed in the house of Mando and Rita, a newly married couple where she was seen to have been visited by a man who took her out frequently.

A week later, Danny learned that Delia was in the nearby province rather than in Manila staying at an address he got from an anonymous letter sent to him. Armed with a revolver and accompanied by his friend, Larry, Danny hurriedly went to the said address arriving there at 2 o’clock a.m., the following morning. Upon locating the address, Danny passed through the window and entered the room of Mando and Rita who were lying together in one bed. Thereafter, he shot and killed them, believing that they were his wife Delia and her paramour.

Upon being arrested and after proper investigation by the Police where he admitted shooting the couple believing that the woman was his wife, Danny was charged in court for double murder.

After trial, the lower court convicted Danny of double homicide instead of double murder, and sentenced him, for each homicide, to imprisonment ranging from four years, two months and one day, minimum, to eight years and one day, plus the proper indemnity to the heirs of the deceased, and costs. The court found that after Danny had entered the room and was convinced that the woman lying in bed was his wife, he proceeded to lift the mosquito net rousing the couple from their bed. Then he saw the woman look for something and after the man had given blows on his shoulder and tried to wrest his gun from him, Danny fired the fatal shots.

Danny appealed this decision, contending, among others, that he merely acted in self-defense and that even if he shot the couple, he mistook them for his wife and paramour. So he said that he should be sentenced only to destierro, pursuant to Article 247 of the Revised Penal Code.

But the Supreme Court, to which the appeal was forwarded by the Court of Appeals, did not accept Danny’s arguments.  The SC ruled that even if the lower court refused to believe that the deceased couple were in the act of copulation, it is not even necessary to determine if such finding is correct or not, because even if the deceased couple were engaged in sexual act, Article 247 of the RPC cannot still be applied since Danny has expressly allowed his wife to commit adultery as proven by the document he signed where he ordered his wife to look for and live with another man.

Danny’s claim of self defense cannot also be accepted because his intrusion into the house constituted sufficient provocation and the weapon he used was not reasonably necessary. The actions taken by the deceased couple Mando and Rita, upon finding Danny in the room cannot likewise be considered as unlawful aggression. So, all the elements of self-defense are not present here. Thus the lower court is correct in finding Danny guilty of homicide and imposing the sentence for each homicide of 4 years 2 months and 1 day to 8 years and 1 day imprisonment (People vs. Dumon, G.R. 47315, April 25, 1941)

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