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People v Oanis

Territory, People, and Government – People, Citizenship


Date: July 27, 1943, 1935 Constitution
Ponente: Moran, J.

ISSUES:

1. Whether or not they should be held liable for Tecson’s death

FACTS:

1. December 24, 1938 – Captain Monsod received a telegram to catch escape convict Anselmo Balagtas
with bailarina Irene dead or alive. He called for his men to do the task, which includes defendants
Alberto Galanta and Oanis.
2. The defendants went to the room of Irene and saw a man sleeping with his back towards the door
where they were, and started to fire at him with their revolvers. Irene saw that her partner was already
wounded but the defendants were still firing at him. It turns out later that the person killed was no the
notorious criminal but a peaceful citizen named Serapio Tecson.
3. According to Galanta, Oanis went to the room thus indicated and open opening the curtain covering the
door, he said “If you are Balagtas, stand up.” Tecson, was about to sit up on his bed when Oanis fired at
him. Wounded Tecson leaned towards the door, and Oanis receded and shouted, “That is Balagtas.”
Galanta then fire at Tecson.
4. According to Oanis, after having said “if you are Balagtas stand up”, Galanta at once fired at Tecson,
while the latter was still lying in bed, that it was only thereafter that he, Oanis, entered the door and
upon seeing the supposed Balagtas, who was then apparently watching and picking up something from
the floor, he fired at him. The court refused to believe their testimonies because of contradictions. Other Details
5. True fact therefore: while Tecson was sleeping in his room with his back towards the door, Oanis and
Galanta, on sight, fired at him simultaneously or successively, believing him to be Anselmo Balagtas
but without having made previously any reasonable inquiry as to his identity
HOLDING:
RPC, Art. 11. Justifying circumstances.
1. It is contended that, as appellants acted in innocent mistake of fact in the honest performance of their
— The following do not incur any
official duties, both of them believing that Tecson was Balagtas, they incur no criminal liability, because
criminal liability:
of this, the lower court declared them guilty of the crime of homicide through reckless imprudence.

2. Common mistake of fact: there is an innocent mistake of fact committed without any fault or 5. Any person who acts in the
carelessness because the accused, having no time or opportunity to make a further inquiry, and being fulfillment of a duty or in the lawful
exercise of a right or office.
pressed by circumstances to act immediately, had no alternative but to take the facts as they then
appeared to him, and such facts justified his act of killing. (US v Ah Chong)
3. In the instance case, however, there was no circumstance that would press them to immediate action.
The person was asleep, so the appellants had ample time to ascertain his identity peacefully. They were
also not to kill Balagtas at sight, but to arrest him and get him dead or alive when there is resistance or
aggression.
4. A police officer cannot claim exemption form criminal liability if he uses unnecessary force or violence in
making an arrest.
5. It is, however, suggested that a notorious criminal "must be taken by storm" without regard to his right
to life which he has by such notoriety already forfeited. But it does not apply to this case because Tecson
was not a notorious criminal.
6. As the deceased was killed while asleep, the crime committed is murder with the qualifying
circumstance of alevosia. There is, however, a mitigating circumstance of weight consisting in the
incomplete justifying circumstance defined in Article 11, No. 5, of the Revised Penal Code.
7. According to it, a person incurs no criminal liability when he acts in the fulfilment of a duty or in the
lawful exercise of a right or office. There are two requisites in order that the circumstance may be
taken as a justifying one: (a) that the offender acted in the performance of a duty or in the lawful
exercise of a right; and (b) that the injury or offense committed be the necessary consequence of the
due performance of such duty or the lawful exercise of such right or office.
8. Only the first one applies to the case.

The judgment is modified and appellants are hereby declared guilty of murder with the
mitigating circumstance above mentioned, and accordingly sentenced to an indeterminate
penalty of from five (5) years of prisión correccional to fifteen (15) years of reclusion
temporal, with the accessories of the law, and to pay the heirs of the deceased Serapio Tecson
jointly and severally an indemnity of P2,000, with costs.