Sps. Bacar v. De Guzman
Spouses Jose and Trinidad Bacar v. Judge Salvador P. De Guzman, Jr.
A.M. No. RTJ-96-1349, April 18, 1997
Petitioner-spouses Jose and Trinidad Bacar pray for the dismissal from the service of respondent Judge Salvador P. de Guzman, Jr., presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 142, on the grounds of 1) gross ignorance of the law, and; 2) rendering an unjust judgment in Criminal Cases Nos. 89-1360 and 89-2878 for homicide and attempted homicide respectively, both entitled “People of the Philippines v. Gerardo Fortaleza Marcial”
Respondent judge modified his decision on the aforesaid cases after considering the two (2) mitigating circumstances of want of intent to commit so grave a wrong and sufficient provocation which immediately preceded the act, set forth in the motion for reconsideration filed by the accused.
On rendering an unjust judgment, petitioners allege that in imposing a straight penalty of six (6) years imprisonment for homicide, after taking into consideration the aforesaid mitigating circumstances, the respondent judge has rendered an unjust judgment in Criminal Case No. 89-1360. It is contended that under the graduation and application of penalties, the penalty that should be imposed can in no case be justified to only six (6) years “flat”.
Is the penalty of imprisonment of six years “flat” proper?
No. respondent judge is liable for gross ignorance of the law for imposing a straight penalty of six (6) years imprisonment on the accused in his modified judgment in the case for homicide. It is basic law that, as stated above, the application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law is mandatory where imprisonment exceeds one (1) year, except only in certain cases.
In crimes punishable under the Revised Penal Code, the maximum term of the indeterminate penalty is determined in accordance with the rules and provisions of the Code exactly as if the Indeterminate Sentence Law had never been enacted. However, the aforesaid rules and provisions in those articles, particularly Arts. 50 to 57, 62, 64 and 65, are not applicable in fixing the minimum term of the indeterminate penalty. The Court has unqualified discretion to fix the term of the minimum. The only limitation is that it is within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by the Code for the offense committed, without regard to its three (3) periods.
Take the present case, for example, of homicide in which two (2) mitigating circumstances attended its commission. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the minimum of the penalty shall be within the range of the penalty next lower in degree which is prision correccional and the maximum of which shall be within the range of the medium period of prision mayor. Since respondent judge imposed the straight penalty of six (6) years which is erroneous, he is therefore liable for gross ignorance of the law.