Desperate and distraught
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - May 8, 2019 - 12:00am

The crime of serious illegal detention under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) is committed when a person, simulating a public authority, detains and illegally deprives a minor, female or public officer of liberty for more than five days and inflicts serious physical injuries, with threats to kill the victim. To be guilty of this crime, what must be indubitably proven? This is the issue answered in this case of Carina.

While living-in and co-habiting with her lover Joseph, Carina became pregnant. But right after giving birth to her daughter, baby Jessica, Joseph hastily abandoned them. So Carina went to the house of Lenny and inquired if the latter was interested in adopting her daughter explaining that her offer was due to Joseph’s hasty departure. Unable to refuse, Lenny accepted the offer and immediately prepared a sinumpaang salaysay to formalize the adoption.

Four months later however, Carina regretted her decision and went to the house of Lenny and decided to take her daughter back. This was not taken lightly by Lenny who vehemently refused to relinquish custody of Baby Jessica.

Thereupon, a scuffle ensued between Carina and Lenny during which Carina managed to hit Lenny on the head with a chisel rendering the latter weak and immobilized. Then Carina threatened Lenny with a pair of scissors as she demanded from Lenny to reveal where the sinumpaang salaysay was located. Meanwhile the commotion attracted a curious crowd which gathered outside Lenny’s residence. Sensing danger, Carina demanded money and a get-away vehicle to extricate herself from her predicament. But on her way to the car, a melee ensued resulting in Carina’s immediate arrest by the responding policemen.

Carina, on the other hand narrates a different scenario. She admits that a struggle occurred between her and Lenny after the latter refused her request for the return of her child. But while she acknowledged that she brandished a pair of scissors before Lenny, this was motivated more out of fear of the crowd assembled outside the house which might harm her. So she said she had to use Lenny as a “human shield” to keep the crowd at bay.

The trial court however was not convinced of Carina’s version of the incident and convicted her of serious illegal detention and less serious physical injuries. At the same time the court acquitted her of frustrated murder.

On appeal, Carina contended that she cannot be guilty of serious illegal detention since she had no intention to deprive or detain Lenny of her liberty.

Carina is correct, according to the Supreme Court (SC). Based on the testimony of Lenny herself, Carina really had no intention to kidnap her. Carina’s actuations appear more to be a product of a mother’s desperation and distraught mind when her plea for the return of her child was refused by Lenny, unmindful of the consequences which her reckless outburst would cause to the latter. What actually transpired was the rage of a woman scorned.

The fact that Carina demanded and received P1,000 from Lenny does not constitute ransom as to make Carina guilty of kidnapping within the contemplation of Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code. There is no showing whatsoever that Carina wanted to extort money from Lenny prior to their confrontation which is essential to show that the kidnapping or detention was committed for the purpose of extorting ransom.

When Carina coerced Lenny to reveal the whereabouts of the sinumpaang salaysay for the purpose of destroying the same the act merely constituted grave coercion as provided in Article 286 of the RPC because (1) she compelled Lenny to do something against her will be it right or wrong and the compulsion is effected by violence through material force or display of it as would produce intimidation and control over the will of Lenny; and (2) Carina has no right to do so because it was not made under authority of law or in the exercise of any lawful right.

While Carina did compel Lenny to do something against her will, the same cannot be categorized as an act of illegal detention, but it will not preclude a guilty verdict for the crime of grave coercion because such offense is necessarily included in illegal detention. As such, an Information for illegal detention will not bar the conviction of Carina for grave coercion instead of the original charge.  So Carina is guilty only of grave coercion and is sentenced six months imprisonment. And considering that she has been in detention for three years and three months already, there is no more legal justification for her continued confinement for she has served longer than she should (People vs. Villamar, G.R. 121175, November 4, 1998)

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com

SERIOUS ILLEGAL DETENTION
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