Self-defense 101

This case taught us that the right of self-defense is not absolute and we must therefore limit our actions to what is only necessary to stop or repel the actual or impending aggression

Because of the alarming rise of criminality in our society today, people started enrolling in different classes that will equip them with basic and advanced techniques to ward off any potential harm. However, defending oneself can be complicated when it becomes an issue in Court. According to Art. 11 of the Revised Penal Code, anyone who acts in defense of his person or rights must prove three important factors or elements.

First is unlawful aggression. It is defined as an attack that is impending or at the point of happening. It must not consist of a mere threatening or intimidating attitude, nor must it be merely imaginary, but must be actual, menacing, and positively strong, manifestly showing the wrongful intent to cause injury. This is the most important element of self-defense. So much so that, there is no more point in discussing the other two requisites. If there’s no unlawful aggression, the need to employ self-defense tactics or techniques is likewise absent.

Second, the employment of reasonable force to the said aggression. This is the most common element missed by many. For self-defense to be valid, the person on defense must only use the amount of force that would stop the aggression. In the landmark case of People v. Jaurigue (G.R. No. L-384, 21 February 1946) the offended party was sitting in a chapel during the day with several people around when the offending party placed his hand on her thighs. Then and there, the offended party grabbed her fan knife and stabbed the offending party causing him to bleed out and eventually die. The Court held the offended party guilty of the crime of homicide.

If everyone will be allowed to use the claim of       self-defense that easily, it would open the floodgates for the unwarranted use of unreasonable force and violence.

The Court explained that while it is true that if there is an actual danger of being raped, a woman is justified in killing her aggressor in the defense of her honor, the same cannot be considered in this case. The following facts were considered in appreciating self-defense:

  1. The said chapel was illuminated with electric lights; and
  2. There were already several people, about ten of them, inside the chapel, including her own father and the barrio lieutenant, and other dignitaries of the organization.

Under the circumstances, there was and there could be no possibility of her being raped. So, when she gave the offending party a thrust at the base of the left side of his neck, inflicting upon him a mortal wound 4 1/2 inches deep, causing his death a few moments later, the means employed by her in the defense of her honor was evidently excessive. This case taught us that the right of self-defense is not absolute and we must therefore limit our actions to what is only necessary to stop or repel the actual or impending aggression.

Third, is the lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. Some people gain confidence knowing that they can defend themselves using the fighting tactics or techniques that they have learned. It is important to know that learning these techniques is not a license to commence violence. A claim of self-defense would also fail if the person defending himself initially gave sufficient provocation to his aggressor.

It is easy to say that a person is acting in self-defense, but the same is difficult to prove in court. The aforementioned elements must all be present for a person to be justified in killing or injuring another person in the course of defending oneself. If everyone will be allowed to use the claim of self-defense that easily, it would open the floodgates for the unwarranted use of unreasonable force and violence. Thus, it is important to always keep in mind these elements as it will not just save your life but would also save you from incurring any criminal liability.

 

Atty. Romeo O. Cabuhat Jr. obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Arellano University School of Law and was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 2023. He is currently an Associate Lawyer at Aranas Cruz Araneta Parker & Faustino Law Offices.


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