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PEOPLE v.

ECHEGARAY
February 7, 1997 | Per Curiam | Penalties that may be imposed - Death Penalty

PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE: People of the Philippines


ACCUSED-APPELLANT: Leo Echegaray
SUMMARY: Accused-appellant Echegaray was convicted for raping his 10-year old daughter. Since the punishment at
that time was the death penalty, his case was automatically elevated to the SC. Echegaray was the first Filipino to be
sentenced to death after the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1993.
DOCTRINES:
(1) The Constitutional Amendment did NOT ABSOLUTELY ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY. The amendment
merely says that the death penalty shall not be imposed unless for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the
Congress hereafter provides for it, and if already imposed, shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua.
(2) RA 7659 correctly identified crimes warranting the mandatory penalty of death. As to the other crimes punished by
reclusion perpetua to death- the proper time to determine their heinousness in contemplation of law is on automatic
review. BUT! Aggravating circumstances under the RPC need not be additionally alleged in order for the TC to validly
impose the death penalty for crimes under RA 7659, which are punished with the flexible penalty of reclusion perpetua
to death.
(3) Death penalty is imposed because the heinous crimes have so deeply dehumanized a person or the criminal acts
have severely destructive effects on the national efforts to lift the abject masses from poverty (public interest). Their
acts have caused irreparable injury to both the victim and society, and repetition of the acts would pose an actual threat
to the individual and the government, so they must permanently be prevented from doing so.

FACTS: would act as a bar on the criminal


1. The RPC, enacted in 1932, included death prosecution  No bearing; an
penalty as a punishment. affidavit of desistance is merely an
2. 1986 Constitution: Article III, Sec 19(1) additional ground to buttress the
Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, accused’s defenses- not the sole
degrading, or inhuman punishment inflicted. consideration that can result in
Neither shall death penalty be imposed, acquittal. During the trial
unless,for compelling reasons involving heinous proceedings, the victim admitted
crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it. that she signed the Affidavit of
Any death penalty already imposed may be Desistance, yet the was not
reduced to recluscion perpetua” withdrawing the charge against the
3. December 1993-Death Penalty law came into accused because he might do the
effect, R.A. 7659 (“An Act to Impose the Death same sexual assaults to other
Penalty on Certain Heinous Crimes, Amending women. The denial of the crime and
for that Purpose the RPC as Amended, Other the alibi presented by Echegaray
Special Penal Laws, and for other Purposes”) cannot outweigh the positive
4. April 1994-Accused-appellant Echegaray identification and convincing
allegedly raped his 10-year old daughter. Upon testimonies given by the prosecution
his conviction of guilty, his case was ii. Alleged incompetence of Echegaray's
automatically elevated to the SC. former counsel  court found that there
5. June 25,1996- Court rendered decision, was no gross incompetence and the alleged
affirming conviction of Echegaray. Death errors committed by the previous counsel
penalty ordered. could not have overturned the judgment of
6. Echegaray filed a Motion for Reconsideration- conviction
no findings to disturb verdict iii. Purely legal question of the
7. Echegaray filed the Supplemental Motion for constitutionality of RA 7659: R.A. [No.]
Reconsideration (with FLAG as the new 7659, Defnese argues that reimposing the
defense counsel) with 3 main grounds for death penalty is unconstitutional per se:
reversal of death sentence:  That the death penalty
i. Mixed factual and legal matters relating to is unconstitutional per
the trial proceedings and findings se for having been
-Included the affidavit of enacted in the absence
desistance which defense claimed of compelling reasons
 For crimes where no itself provides thereof in specific and well defined
death results from the criminal acts.
offense, the death
penalty is a severe and -RPC (1932) - Imposed death penalty for crimes of
excessive penalty in treason, qualified piracy, parricide, murder, infanticide,
violation of Article III, kidnapping, rape with homicide, etc. This list was
Sec. 19 (I) of the 1987 amended to include death penalty for leaders of
Constitution. rebellion, hijacking, dangerous drugs, homicide with an
unlicensed firearm, etc.
In summary, Echegaray's argument was: The death
penalty is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of -1973 Constitution nullified; Constitutional
Article III, Sec. 11 of the 1987 Constitution."  SC Commission for the 1986 Constitution
found it to be not unconstitutional (discussion below) -Voted that the death penalty can be
reinstated, the framers of the Constitution did
HELD: Motion for Reconsiderations were denied for not forbid/completely abolish it. It merely
lack of merit; guilty- penalty of death sentence affirmed suspended the death penalty. Congress has the
power to re-impose the death penalty for
compelling reasons involving heinous crimes.
“ Article III, Sec 19(1) Excessive fines
ISSUES sall not be imposed, nor cruel,
degrading, or inhuman punishment
1. WON Congress can legislate the imposition of inflicted. Neither shall death penalty be
the death penalty? YES imposed, unless,for compelling reasons
2. WON RA 7659 provides sufficient standards for involving heinous crimes, the Congress
the determination of the legal situation hereafter provides for it. Any death
warranting imposition of death penalty? YES penalty already imposed may be reduced
a. Nothing in the constitutional provision to recluscion perpetua”
imposes a requirement that for the death Note: At the ConstiComm,
penalty to be valid, there must be a Commissioner Rama pointed out that
positive manifestation in the form of “Never in our history has there been a
higher incidence of crime, or that it must higher incidence of crime and that
be resorted to as a last recourse when all criminality was at its zenith at the last
other reforms failed. decade; did not want to leave society
b. Test of heinousness applied to RA- helpless in the face of future upsurge of
found to be sufficient crimes or other similar emergencies"
3. WON the death penalty imposed in rape is -The amendment did NOT ABSOLUTELY
violative of the constitutional proscription ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY. The amendment
against cruel, degrading or inhuman merely says that the death penalty shall not be imposed
punishment? NO unless for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes,
a. WON death penalty is per se cruel, the Congress hereafter provides for it and if already
degrading or inhuman punishment? NO imposed shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua.
(Echegaray’s contention, citing Furman -The Commission voted to re-incorporate death as a
v. Georgia) penalty in the scale of penalties as provided in the RPC.
b. WON death penalty is cruel, inhuman or The mandate of the committee was to retain the death
degrading for the crime of rape mainly penalty, while the main debate would be the
because unlike murder, it does not determination of the crime to be considered heinous.
involve the taking of life? NO -Constitutional exercise of this power entails:
(Echegaray’s contention) a. That congress define or describe what was
meant by heinous crimes
RATIO b. That Congress specify and penalize by death,
only crimes that qualify as heinous in
ISSUE #1: WON Congress can legislate the accordance with the definition or description set
imposition of the death penalty? - YES out in the death penalty bill and/or designate
crimes punishable by recluscion pereptua to
- Note: Courts are not the fora for protracted debate on death in which latter can, death can be imposed
the morality or propriety of death sentence where the law upon the attendance of circumstances duly
proven in court that characterize the crime to be of significance to the commission of the
heinous in accordance with the definition, or crime or its effects on the victim or on
description set in the death penalty bill society, which circumstances characterize
c. That Congress in enacting the death penalty bill the criminal acts as heinous
be motivated by “compelling reasons involving  Crimes penalized by mandatory death
heinous crimes” penalty:
-Ex: qualified bribery, rape with the victim
ISSUE #2: WON RA 7659 provides sufficient becoming insane, rape with homicide and
standards for the determination of the legal situation qualified rape
warranting imposition of death penalty? - YES -Upon the attendance of certain specified
a. Nothing in the constitutional provision qualifying circumstances
imposes a requirement that for the death -It is specifically against the capital crimes
penalty to be valid, there must be a stated in RA 7659 that the test of
positive manifestation in the form of heinousness is applied;
higher incidence of crime, or that it must -Evil of crime takes many forms,
be resorted to as a last recourse when all crime:
other reforms failed. 1. By their very nature,
b. Test of heinousness applied to RA- despicable, either because life
found to be sufficient was callously taken or the
victim was treated like an
- RA 7659 was passed on December 1993, it amended animal and utterly dehumanized
the RPC as Amended and other penal laws as to completely disrupt the
- The bill defined heinous crimes as “grevious, odious, normal course of his or her
and hateful offenses and which, by reason of their growth as a human being, the
inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness and right of a person to live a quality
atrocity and perversity are repugnant and outrageous to life, and society is obligated to
the common standards and norms of decency and respect the person and the
morality in a just, civilized and ordered society” person’s integrity—in this light,
- SC finds it a sufficient criterion of what is to be those crimes listed are shown to
considered a heinous crime. be deserving of penalties
1. Criterion is deliberately undetailed as to the ranging from recluscion
circumstances of the victim, the accused, place, perpetua to death
time, the manner of commission of crime, its 2. Abomination lies in the
proximate consequences and effects on the significance and implications
victim as well as on society, to afford the of the criminal act in the
sentencing authority leeway to exercise his scheme of the larger socio-
discretion in imposing the appropriate penalty in political and economic context
cases where RA 7659 imposes the more flexible in which the state finds itself
penalty of recluscion perpetua to death struggling to develop and
provide for its poor and
-2 types of crimes in the death penalty bill: underprivileged masses, ex:
 Crimes penalized by reclusion perpetua destructive arson, drug offenses,
to death (scale): etc.
-Ex: treason qualified piracy, parricide,
murder, infanticide, etc.; not capital crimes - RA 7659 correctly identified crimes warranting the
per se, flexible penalties mandatory penalty of death. As to the other crimes
-Premature to demand for a specification of punished by reclusion perpetua to death- the proper
the heinous elements in each of the crimes time to determine their heinousness in contemplation
-Elements are only relevant when the court of law is on automatic review. BUT! Aggravating
is faced with a scale, but chooses to go to circumstances under the RPC need not be
the extreme and imposes death penalty additionally alleged in order for the TC to validly
because it has found the attendance of impose the death penalty for crimes under RA 7659,
certain circumstances in the manner by which are punished with the flexible penalty of
which the crime was committed, or in the reclusion perpetua to death.
person of the accused on his own or in
relation to the victim, or in any other matter
- RA 7659 provides the test and yardstick for retributive justice (eye for an eye). Forfeiture of life,
determination of the legal situation warranting simply because life was taken was never a defining
imposition of supreme penalty of death. essence of the death penalty.

- RA 7659 and RPC (on aggravating circumstances). - Death penalty is imposed because the heinous
may be construed in pari materia, crimes have so deeply dehumanized a person or the
(1) Death penalty may be imposed when aggravating criminal acts have severely destructive effects on the
circumstances attend the commission of the crime as to national efforts to lift the abject masses from poverty
make operative the provision of the RPC regarding the (public interest). Their acts have caused irreparable
imposition of the maximum penalty, injury to both the victim and society, and repetition
(2) Other circumstances attend the commission of the of the acts would pose an actual threat to the
crime which characterize it as heinous as contemplated individual and the government, so they must
by RA 7659. permanently be prevented from doing so.

- The Congress, in the interest of justice, order, and rule -Not question of life over death: re. the menaing of life
of law, and the need to rationalize and harmonize the and the rights of the living
penal sanctions for heinous crimes, finds compelling
reasons to impose the death penalty for said crimes (does -Rape defined in People v. Cristobal
not require death penalty to be a deterrent, just need  "Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual
compelling reasons involving heinous crimes) intimacy of another person. It does injury to
justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the
ISSUE #3: WON the death penalty imposed in rape is respect, freedom, and physical and moral
violative of the constitutional proscription against integrity to which every person has a
cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment? - NO right. It causes grave damage that can mark
a. WON death penalty is per se cruel, the victim for life. It is always an
degrading or inhuman punishment? intrinsically evil act xxx an outrage upon
NO (appellant’s contention, citing decency and dignity that hurts not only the
Furman v. Georgia) victim but the society itself."
b. WON death penalty is cruel,
inhuman or degrading for the crime
of rape mainly because unlike
murder, it does not involve the
taking of life? NO (appellant’s
contention)

- Death penalty is not cruel and unusual per se, it was


nullified in the US decision on the Furman v. Georgia
case because the discretion of the statues vested in the
trial judges and sentencing juries was uncontrolled and
without any parameters, standards, guidelines, etc.

- Echegaray argues that rape does not involve the taking


of life, the rape victim may still repair life-it is not
completely taken away and thus should not be punished
with death.
 SC disagrees, short of homicide, rape is the
ultimate violation of self. It is violent crime
because it normally involves force, or the
threat of force and intimidation to overcome
the will or capacity to resist. Rape inflicts
mental and psychological damage, it
undermines the community’s sense of
security, so there is public injury as well.

- The premise on whether a crime warrants death on not


is gauged on the death of the victim is wrong, reverts to