Persons Who Are Criminally Liable

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Under the Revised Penal Code, when more than one person participated in the commission of the crime, the law looks into their participation because in punishing offenders, the Revised Penal Code classifies them as: 1) principal; (2)accomplice; or (3)accessory.

This classification is true only under the Revised Penal Code and is not used under special laws, because the penalties under the latter are never graduated. Do not use the term principal when the crime committed is a violation of special law. Only use the term “offender.” Also only classify offenders when more than one took part in the commission of the crime to determine the proper penalty to be imposed. So, if only one person committed a crime, do not use principal. Use the “offenders,” “culprits,” or the “accused.”

When a problem is encountered where there are several participants in the crime, the first thing to find out is if there is a conspiracy. If there is, as a general rule, the criminal liability of all will be the same, because the act of one is the act of all.

However, if the participation of one is so insignificant, such that even without his cooperation, the crime would be committed just as well, then notwithstanding the existence of a conspiracy, such offender will be regarded only as an accomplice. The reason for this ruling is that the law favors a milder form of criminal liability if the act of the participant does not demonstrate a clear perversity.

As to the liability of the participants in a felony, the Code takes into consideration whether the felony committed is grave, less grave, or light.

When the felony is grave, or less grave, all participants are criminally liable.

But where the felony is only light only the principal and the accomplice are liable. The accessory is not.

But even the principal and the accomplice will not be liable if the felony committed is only light and the same is not consummated unless such felony is against persons or property. If they are not and the same is not consummated, even the principal and the accomplice are not liable.

Therefore it is only when the light felony is against person or property that criminal liability attaches to the principal or accomplice, even though the felony is only attempted or frustrated, but accessories are not liable for liable for light felonies.

Principal by indispensable cooperation distinguished from an accomplice

It is not just a matter of cooperation, it is more than if the crime could hardly be committed. It is not that the crime would not be committed because if that is what you would imply it becomes an ingredient of the crime and that is not what the law contemplates.

In the case of rape, where three men were accused, one was on top of the woman, one held the hands, one held the legs, the Supreme Court ruled that all participants are principals. Those who held the legs and arms are principals by indispensable cooperation.

The accused are father and son. The father told his son that the only way to convince the victim to marry him is to resort to rape. So when they saw the opportunity the young man grabbed the woman, threw her on the ground and placed himself on top of her while the father held both legs of the woman and spread them. The Supreme Court ruled that the father is liable only as an accomplice.

The point is not just on participation but on the importance of participation in committing the crime.

In the first situation, the facts indicate that if the fellow who held the legs of the victim and spread them did not do so, the offender on top could hardly penetrate because the woman was strong enough to move or resist. In the second situation, the son was much bigger than the woman so considering the strength of the son and the victim, penetration is possible even without the assistance of the father. The son was a robust farm boy and the victim undernourished. The act of...
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