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#17

People v. Oanis, 74 Phil. 257


G.R. No.L-47722 July 27, 1943

FACTS:
Upon receiving a telegram from Major Guido ordering the arrest of Anselmo Balagtas,
Captain Godofredo Monsod, Constabulary Provincial Inspector at Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija,
asked that he be given four men, one of whom who reported was defendant Alberto
Galanta. The same instruction was given to defendant Antonio Oanis, chief of police of
Cabanatuan, who was likewise called by the Provincial Inspector. The Provincial Inspector
divided the party into two groups with defendants Oanis and Galanta taking the route
leading to the house of a bailarina named Irene, where Balagtas was believed to be staying.
Upon arriving, the group went to the Irene’s room and on seeing a man sleeping with his
back towards the door where they were, simultaneously or successively fired at him with
their .32 and .45 caliber revolvers. It turned out later that the person shot and killed was
not Balagtas but an innocent citizen named Serapio Tecson, Irene’s paramour.

ISSUE:
1) Whether or not the defendants are criminally liable for the death of Serapio Tecson.
2) Whether or not the defendants are entitled to a privileged mitigating circumstance in
case they are found criminally liable

HELD:
1) Yes. If a person acted in innocent mistake of fact in the honest performance of his official
duties, then he incurs no criminal liability. Nonetheless, the maxim ignorantia facti excusat,
applies only when the mistake is committed without fault or carelessness. In the instant
case, the defendants found no circumstances whatsoever which would press them to
immediate action, as the person in the room being then asleep would give them ample time
and opportunity to ascertain his identity. Moreover, they were instructed not to kill
Balagtas at sight but to arrest him, and to get him dead or alive only if resistance or
aggression is offered by him. Thus, the crime committed by defendants was not merely
criminal negligence, the killing being intentional and not accidental.

2) Yes. The Court held that the defendants committed the crime of murder with the
qualifying circumstance of alevosia, but may be entitled to an incomplete justifying
circumstance as provided in Article 11, No. 5, of the Revised Penal Code. 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.
In the instant case, only the first requisite is present. Thus, Article 69 of the Revised Penal
Code, which provides that a penalty lower by one or two degrees than that prescribed by
law in case the crime committed is not wholly excusable, was imposed, entitling the
defendants to a privileged mitigating circumstance.