Believe it or not, there are several provisions in various Philippine laws that actually allow people to get away with murder. Here are three (3) of them.
WHAT NOT TO DO!!!
Before we discuss how to get away with murder, it is important to point out what defenses and legal strategies will NOT work here in the Philippines.
- TEMPORARY INSANITY – Hollywood has made this defense very popular. How many movies and television shows have we watched wherein the accused got away with murder by proving that he was temporarily insane during the time he committed the crime. This was the main defense used in legal blockbusters such as “A Time to Kill” and “Primal Fear”. This defense is probably a sound one when used in U.S. courtrooms. There, it might be recognized that an accused, who is generally lucid can still be considered briefly insane at the time the crime was committed due to external factors such as extreme anger, passion or obfuscation. Unknown to many non-lawyers here, however, this plea of temporary insanity is not recognized in the Philippines. For insanity to be a defense herein, the defendant must be suffering from a real and grave mental illness. In other words, he must really be crazy. Not the kind of crazy we love to be during parties but the kind of crazy that needs a straight jacket.
- APPEAL TO EMOTION – In one episode of the popular show How to Get Away with Murder, we find the legal team employing this tactic. In that episode, a teenager shot his father in the back because the victim was beating up his wife, the killer’s mother. There, the lawyers knew that their legal defense was weak. Hence, they opted to appeal to the jury’s emotions in the hope that they will simply disregard the law and “decide with their hearts”. Again, this tactic might be sound in the U.S. legal setting. In fact, as can be seen in that very same episode, the U.S. legal system recognizes a principle called “jury nullification”, wherein the jury could simply ignore the law and rule on the case based on their emotions. However, I highly doubt that this tactic will work in the Philippines for the very simple reason that cases herein are not decided by a jury but rather by a judge. This distinction is very important considering that jurors are usually non-lawyers who have little or even no idea of the law. Thus, they may easily be persuaded by emotional arguments. A judge, however, is a lawyer. And, aside from the fact that lawyers are obviously heartless, legal practitioners think differently. We know what the law is and how it works. We can easily separate our emotions from our legal duties. This is most especially true for judges who are trained to be so. Believe me; never try to make a judge cry. Most probably, you, or worse, your client, will be the one who will end up crying.
CRIMES OF PASSION
Now that we discussed what will not work, let us discuss how one can really get away with murder. As mentioned above, there are principles in Philippine criminal laws that allow people to commit crimes such as murder without having to go to jail.
The first one of these legal provisions is found in Article 247 of the Philippine Revised Penal Code. It deals with death under exceptional circumstances. A married person who caught his or her spouse having sex with another may legally kill one or both of them without having to incur severe criminal liability. The murderer shall not go to prison or even pay a fine. He or she will merely be punished with destierro, which is Spanish for banishment. The murderer will simply be forbidden to enter or go near a certain city or place. This is what is called a Crime of Passion in the legal world. However, to be considered as such, two very important elements must be present. The first is that the murderer must be legally married to one of the victims. I’m sorry but you cannot kill your boyfriend or girlfriend. Marry them first. The second element is that the murderer must have caught the victim committing the act of sexual intercourse. Again, I’m sorry but you cannot kill two persons merely kissing each other. Let them take of their clothes and wait for them to do the deed.
CRIMES COMMITTED BY MINORS
Republic Act 9344, also known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, totally exempts from criminal liability children fifteen years of age and below. This simply means that a 15-year-old kid can commit any crime whatsoever without going to jail. In fact, he cannot even be detained by the police for even a short while. The law provides that, upon arrest, the child must immediately be released to his or her parents. For, the lawmakers believed that the ages of 15 below are the child’s formative years. A child is supposedly innocent at that time and does not have the concept of right or wrong. Hence, when he commits a crime at that age, he supposedly does not know what he was doing.
Do we really believe this? Think back and recall when you were fifteen. You are most probably a sophomore in high school. Think of all the crazy things you did and tell me you did not know, at that time, that these things were wrong. Of course you did. When I was fifteen, I knew that committing theft or inflicting physical injuries were absolutely wrong. I still did it, but I knew it was wrong. I knew that murder is a crime and that I would go to jail and probably be executed if I committed it.
This law clearly does not make any sense. Worse, it is subject to abuse. In fact, I have heard of cases wherein drug dealers use fifteen-year-old kids to sell their goods. If they are caught, they are simply returned to their parents. They will probably get a spanking but the next day, they will be selling drugs again. Anyway, this law is in place. Until and after it is repealed, a child fifteen years old or below can clearly get away with murder.
SELF-DEFENSE; DEFENSE OF A RELATIVE; AND DEFENSE OF A STRANGER
It is common knowledge that every person has a right to defend himself. The law also recognizes a person’s right to defend his relatives, or even a stranger. Hence, in defense of one’s self, his relative or a stranger, a person is allowed to commit a crime, even murder. However, to successfully get away with murder using self-defense, three requisites must concur. First, there must be unlawful aggression from the victim. Second, the murderer must have employed reasonable means to repel it. And third, there must be no provocation from the murderer.
When defending a relative, there must also be unlawful aggression and the means used to defend must also be reasonable. Here, however, even if the relative provoked the victim, one may still get away with murder as long as the murderer had no part in such provocation.
In defending a stranger, the above-stated elements of unlawful aggression and reasonable means of defense must also be present. And, as long as the murderer is not induced by revenge, resentment or evil motive, he can get away with murder. These are all provided under Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.
There are other ways to get away with murder under Philippine Law. But since these other ways are not clearly specified under a certain legal provision, I will refrain from stating them herein. But as can be seen, it is true that every law has exceptions. No matter how heinous a crime is considered, there are ways to get away from it. All it takes is a devious mind and, probably, a good lawyer.