Irrelevant, immaterial
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - June 5, 2019 - 12:00am

Under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code, the crime of kidnapping for ransom is committed when a person is deprived, in any manner, of his liberty for the purpose of extorting money, price or consideration from him or from any other person in exchange for his release. The penalty for this crime is death. But, is the motive that may have impelled the accused to extort money material? Will it still be considered kidnapping for ransom if he detains a person for purposes of collecting a debt? And what is the liability of persons who merely cooperate in the execution of the crime by previous or simultaneous acts? These are the issues answered in this case of Manoling, Tony and Tito.

Manoling, Tony and Tito were accused of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for the purpose of extorting ransom by willfully, unlawfully and feloniously kidnapping Arthur and detaining him for more than five hours as well inflicting physical injuries and threatening to kill him for the purpose of extorting ransom.

The victim Arthur testified that when he came home one afternoon, his siblings informed him that Manoling wanted to speak with him. So, he went to Manoling’s residence in a compound. But just as Manoling opened the gate, he pointed and fired his 9 mm gun at him with its bullet whizzing by his right ear that threw him to the concrete wall of the house. Tito and Tony heard the gunshots and went to Manoling’s house to help the latter in bringing Arthur inside the house and mauling him with an iron club. Then Manoling handed a phone to Arthur and ordered him to tell his family to raise P20,000 and bring it to a designated place. The call was repeated five times until 12 midnight but nobody showed up at the drop off points specified. So Manoling, Tony and Tito left the house and stayed by the gate conversing with one another. Arthur tried to escape by jumping out of the window but the noise he created caught the attention of Manoling who fired his gun at Arthur, planting a bullet at his buttocks. Arthur’s plea for help attracted some barangay officials who immediately came to his rescue and brought him to a hospital as they also tried to catch Manoling, Tito and Tony. Manoling was able to escape and remained at large. So, when they were charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention for the purpose of extorting ransom, only Tony and Tito pleaded not guilty and were tried by the court.

Tony has a different version for the defense. He testified that he knew Arthur way back as he used to fix repairable items at his house. On the day of the incident he said he received a note from Manoling asking him to build a platform for his water pump and to look for a “mason.” On his way he chanced upon Tito who said he could take the job of mason. When they arrived at Manoling’s house, he and his wife were not there. Later when they arrived they asked Tony and Tito to clean up the place. When they finished around midnight, they had a drinking spree. But while drinking, a noise coming from the other house alerted them. So Tony and Tito rushed inside while Manoling got his gun. Then Tito and Tony saw someone descending from an adjacent tree, so they hurled stones at the intruder. Later a gunshot reverberated as Manoling shot the intruder who turned out to be Arthur. Manoling thus asked Tony and Tito to stay around as he left and did not return any more. Thereafter, Tony and Tito were invited by the police to go to the hospital where they were identified by Arthur. So they were subsequently charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

After trial Tony and Tito were convicted for having conspired with Manoling in the perpetration of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for ransom and sentenced to the penalty of death.

On automatic review by the Supreme Court, Tony and Tito claimed that the ransom money theory is not true and that, if at all, Manoling’s intention was really to compel Arthur to pay his debt.     

The Supreme Court however said that even if the intention of Manoling is merely to compel Arthur to pay his debt, the offense is still kidnapping for ransom. In its ordinary sense, “ransom is the money, price or consideration paid or demanded for the redemption of a captured person, a payment that releases him/her from captivity. Since the accused in this case demanded money as a requisite for releasing Arthur from captivity, said money is still ransom under the law, whatever other motives have impelled them to do so. It is not even necessary to show that the ransom is actually paid to or received by the perpetrators.

But Tony and Tito are not equally liable with Manoling for the crime because no conspiracy among them has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. In this case, it has not been established that they knew of Manoling’s criminal intent to commit said crime and that there has been an agreement among them to commit it. The complicity of Tony and Tito, per account of Arthur himself was their part in the mauling incident and in acceding to the instructions of Manoling to go to designated places to collect money being demanded by Manoling.

Nevertheless, since Tony and Tito cooperated in the execution of the crime by their previous and simultaneous acts, they are liable as accomplices and should be sentenced one degree lower, which is reclusion perpetua (People vs Castro, G.R.132726, July 23, 2002)

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