1. Penalties that maybe imposed (Article 21)
No felony shall be punishable by any penalty not prescribed by law prior to its commission.
Note: Article 21 simply announces the policy of the State as regards punishing crimes.
This provision prohibits the government from punishing any person for any felony with any penalty which has not been prescribed by the law.
Article 21 - Is not a penal provision. It neither defines a crime nor provides a punishment for one. It has simply announced the policy of the government with reference to punishment of alleged criminal acts. It is a guaranty to the citizen of this country that no act of his, will be considered criminal until the government has made it so by law and has provided a penalty. It is a declaration that no person shall be subject to criminal prosecution for any act of his until after the State has defined the crime and has fixed a penalty therefor.
Reason for the provision.
An act or omission cannot be punished by the State if at the time it was committed there was no law prohibiting it, because a law cannot be rationally obeyed unless it is first shown, and a man cannot be expected to obey an order that has not been given.
No penalty prescribed by law prior to its commission.
A was charged with “fraud or infringement of literary rights or property,” because A allegedly reproduced and sold fraudulent copies of another’s literary work. At that time, we had no copy right law. Can A be punished for such act? No, because there was no law at that time defining and penalizing the act. (U.S. vs. Yam Tung Way, 21 Phil. 67).
2. Retroactive effect of penal Laws (Article22)
Penal laws shall have a retroactive effect in so far as they favour the person guilty of a felony, who is not habitual criminals, as this term is defined in Rule 5 of Article 62 of this Code, although at the time of the publication of such laws a final sentence has been pronounced and the convict is serving the same.
Article 22 - Is not applicable to the provisions of the Revised Penal Code.
This provision clearly has no direct application to the provisions of the Revised Penal Code. Its application to the RPC can only be invoked where some former or subsequent law is under consideration. It must clearly relate (1) to penal laws existing prior to the Revised Penal Code, in which the penalty was less severe than those of the Code; (2) to laws enacted subsequent to the Revised Penal Code, in which the penalty is more favourable to the accused.
If by an amendment to the Revised Penal Code or by a later special law, the punishment for an act is made severe than by the provision of the Code, then the accused person might invoke the provision of Art 22 ( U.S. vs Parrone, 24 Phil. 29, 35-36)
To give criminal laws prospective effect
Before art 365 of the Revised Penal Code was amended, slight physical injuries a light felony through reckless imprudence was not punishable. On September 21, 1954, the offended party suffered slight physical injuries through reckless imprudence of the accused. On June 21, 1957, before the case against the accused could be finally decided, Republic Act No. 1790 was approved, amending Art 365 and making slight physical injuries through reckless imprudence punishable. It was held that since the act involved occurred long before the enactment of the amendatory legislation, it cannot be applied as it is axiomatic that criminal law may not be given retroactive effect.
The favourable retroactive effect of a new law may find the defendant in one of these situations:
1. The crime has been committed and prosecution begins;
2. Sentence has been passed but service has not begun;
3. The sentence is being carried out.
The provision of article 22 that penal laws shall have a retroactive effect insofar as they favour the person guilty of a felony is applicable even if the accused is already serving...