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DIMAYUGA, GIANINA IRMA A.

184034

LITO CORPUZ vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES


G.R. No. 180016, April 29, 2014
Peralta, J:

FACTS:
Danilo Tangcoy turned over to Lito Corpuz the following items: an 18k diamond ring for
men; a woman's bracelet; one (1) men's necklace and another men's bracelet, with an aggregate
value of ₱98,000.00. They both agreed that petitioner shall remit the proceeds of the sale, and/or,
if unsold, to return the same items, within a period of 60 days. The period expired without
Corpuz remitting the proceeds of the sale or returning the pieces of jewelry. When private
complainant was able to meet petitioner, the latter promised the former that he will pay the value
of the said items entrusted to him, but to no avail. Corpuz was charged with the crime of Estafa.

CA modified the ruling of the RTC. The RTC imposed the indeterminate penalty of four
(4) years and two (2) months of prision correccional in its medium period, as minimum, to
fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months of reclusion temporal in its minimum period, as
maximum. However, the CA imposed the indeterminate penalty of four (4) years and two (2)
months of prision correccional, as minimum, to eight (8) years of prision mayor, as maximum,
plus one (1) year for each additional ₱10,000.00, or a total of seven (7) years.

ISSUE/S:
Whether or not the court could amend an outdated imposition of fines pegged according
to the value of money in 1930 when the RPC was enacted?

RULING: DENIED
AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION that the penalty imposed is the indeterminate penalty
of imprisonment ranging from THREE (3) YEARS, TWO (2) MONTHS and ELEVEN DAYS of
prision correccional, as minimum, to FIFTEEN (15) YEARS of reclusion temporal as
maximum. Pursuant to Article 5 of the Revised Penal Code, let a Copy of this Decision be
furnished the President of the Republic of the Philippines, through the Department of Justice.
Also, let a copy of this Decision be furnished the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the
House of Representatives.

RATIO DECIDENDI
The Supreme Court's Third Division was deliberating on this case, the question of the
continued validity of imposing on persons convicted of crimes involving property came up. The
legislature apparently pegged these penalties to the value of the money and property in 1930
when it enacted the Revised Penal Code. Since the members of the division reached no
unanimity on this question and since the issues are of first impression, they decided to refer the
case to the Court en banc for consideration and resolution.
There seems to be a perceived injustice brought about by the range of penalties that the
courts continue to impose on crimes against property committed today, based on the amount of
damage measured by the value of money eighty years ago in 1932. However, this Court cannot
modify the said range of penalties because that would constitute judicial legislation. What the
legislature's perceived failure in amending the penalties provided for in the said crimes cannot be
remedied through this Court's decisions, as that would be encroaching upon the power of
another branch of the government. This, however, does not render the whole situation without
any remedy. It can be appropriately presumed that the framers of the Revised Penal Code (RPC)
had anticipated this matter by including Article 5, which reads:
ART. 5. Duty of the court in connection with acts which should be repressed but which are not
covered by the law, and in cases of excessive penalties. - Whenever a court has knowledge of any
act which it may deem proper to repress and which is not punishable by law, it shall render the
proper decision, and shall report to the Chief Executive, through the Department of Justice, the
reasons which induce the court to believe that said act should be made the subject of penal
legislation.

There is an opinion that the penalties provided for in crimes against property be based on
the current inflation rate or at the ratio of ₱1.00 is equal to ₱100.00 . The opinion advanced by
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno echoes the view that the role of the Court is not merely
to dispense justice, but also the active duty to prevent injustice. Thus, in order to prevent
injustice in the present controversy, the Court should not impose an obsolete penalty pegged
eighty three years ago, but consider the proposed ratio of 1:100 as simply compensating for
inflation. Furthermore, the Court has in the past taken into consideration "changed conditions" or
"significant changes in circumstances" in its decisions.

With due respect to the opinions and proposals advanced by the Chief Justice and my
Colleagues, all the proposals ultimately lead to prohibited judicial legislation. Short of being
repetitious and as extensively discussed above, it is truly beyond the powers of the Court to
legislate laws, such immense power belongs to Congress and the Court should refrain from
crossing this clear-cut divide.

Considering that the amount of ₱98,000.00 is ₱76,000.00 more than the ₱22,000.00
ceiling set by law (Art. 315, RPC), then, adding one year for each additional ₱10,000.00, the
maximum period of 6 years, 8 months and 21 days to 8 years of prision mayor minimum would
be increased by 7 years. Taking the maximum of the prescribed penalty, which is 8 years, plus an
additional 7 years, the maximum of the indeterminate penalty is 15 years.

Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, since the penalty prescribed by law for the
estafa charge against petitioner is prision correccional maximum to prision mayor minimum, the
penalty next lower would then be prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods.
Thus, the minimum term of the indeterminate sentence should be anywhere from 6 months and 1
day to 4 years and 2 months.

The Court should give Congress a chance to perform its primordial duty of lawmaking.
The Court should not pre-empt Congress and usurp its inherent powers of making and enacting
laws. While it may be the most expeditious approach, a short cut by judicial fiat is a dangerous
proposition, lest the Court dare trespass on prohibited judicial legislation.