Published 28 October 2022, The Daily Tribune

We discussed in the previous article how to properly characterize Article 365 (Quasi-crimes) of the Revised Penal Code and whether Article 48 (complex crimes) can be applied in prosecuting the same.

Now, we move on to the determination of its penalties when it results in both damage to property and physical injuries vis-à-vis paragraph 3 of Article 365 as well as where jurisdiction lies.

The Supreme Court continued in the case and stated that penalties provided in Article 365 are clear and straightforward except for its third paragraph, in instances where the imprudent or negligent act resulted not only in damage to property but also in physical injuries. The third paragraph provides that when an imprudent or negligent act resulted in damage to property only, the offender shall be punished by a fine.

Now, can the third paragraph still be applied when there is also damage or injury to persons as in the case at the bar?

The SC answered this in the affirmative in its decision on the Angeles v. Jose case. There, the SC ruled that the third paragraph still applies to the resulting damage to property, and an additional penalty shall be imposed on the resulting injury to a person. The “additional penalty” pertains to the penalty scheme under Article 365. (Emphasis supplied)

The Separate Concurring Opinion of Justice Caguioa relating to the penalties and jurisdiction concisely summarizes the pronouncement of the SC, to wit:

“As the ponencia discusses, there is a conflict in jurisprudence as to whether the fine fixed under paragraph 3 of Article 365 applies when the reckless imprudence likewise results in injuries to persons. This conflict arises from the use of the exclusive language of “only.” Paragraph 3 reads:
When the execution of the act covered by this article shall have only resulted in damage to the property of another, the offender shall be punished with a fine ranging from an amount equal to the value of said damage to three times such value, but which shall in no case be less than five thousand pesos (P5,000).
(Emphasis supplied)

The ponencia affirms the ruling in Angeles that paragraph 3 imposing a penalty of fine still applies even where the reckless imprudence results in injury to persons fixed under the same Article 365. In other words, the penalties for the injury to persons shall simply be imposed in addition to the fine for the damage to property under paragraph 3.

The propriety of applying paragraph 3 had often arisen from the issue of which court has jurisdiction over the case filed. In Cuyos v Garcia (Cuyos), the Court cited Angeles and ruled that in determining such issue of jurisdiction, the fine fixed in paragraph 3 must be considered.

Such fine may constitute a grave or less grave felony, thus, may be graver than the penalty corresponding to the physical injuries. Hence, in Cuyos, while the penalty for the resulting less serious physical injuries may place the case under the jurisdiction of the municipal trial courts, the proper court having jurisdiction was held to properly be the then Court of First Instance (now RTC) because of the amount of the imposable fine.

The cases of People v. Villanueva, and People v. Malabanan — both involving reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property and physical injuries — also applied the rule on allocation of jurisdiction as determined in Angeles, by considering the imposable fine for the damage to property under paragraph 3 and not just the penalty for physical injuries.

However, as discussed in the case, with the amendment of Batas Pambansa 129 by Republic Act No. 7691 on 25 March 1994, the amount of fine corresponding to the damage to property is no longer considered to determine which court has jurisdiction. The quasi-crime under Article 365 now falls under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, except when the same is qualified according to the circumstances mentioned in the law, in which case jurisdiction lies with the Regional Trial Courts.”

In sum, the Morales case finally abandons the De los Santos doctrine and declares that: (1) Article 48 does not apply to quasi-offenses under Article 365; (2) the jurisdiction lies with the MeTCs, MTCs, and MCTCs, with certain exceptional circumstances under the law, in which cases, jurisdiction lie with the RTC; and (3) the penalties under Article 365 are clear, paragraph 3 is still applicable even if the quasi-offense likewise results in physical injuries only with an additional penalty.

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