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Insanity as an excuse

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Dear Atty. Joji,

My nephew was assaulted by his friend Efren for no reason. We filed a complaint before the barangay and Efren’s mother came to the hearing saying that the physical injury charges against his son should be dropped because he is insane. Even so, the Certificate to File Action was issued by the Barangay. Makes me wonder, is insanity really a defense to avoid criminal liability?

Rico

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Dear Rico,

According to Paragraph 1, Article 12, Revised Penal Code (RPC) of the Philippines, an imbecile or insane person, unless the latter acted during lucid interval, is exempt from criminal liability.
Efren’s mother must first present clear and convincing evidence that her son is insane.

Please also be informed that not all insane persons or imbeciles are absolutely exempted from criminal liability. There are times that these persons can commit a crime during lucid interval; hence, they can be made criminally liable.

The Supreme Court expounded on insanity as exempting circumstance in the case of People of the Philippines vs Umawid (G.R. 208719, 9 June 2014), where the High Court said:

“Xxx xxx xxx the defense of insanity is in the nature of confession and avoidance because an accused invoking the same admits to have committed the crime but claims that he or she is not guilty because of such insanity. As there is a presumption in favor of sanity, anyone who pleads the said defense bears the burden of proving it with clear and convincing evidence.

“Accordingly, the evidence on this matter must relate to the time immediately preceding or simultaneous with the commission of the offense/s with which he is charged.

“Insanity exists when there is a complete deprivation of intelligence while committing the act, i.e., when the accused is deprived of reason, he acts without the least discernment because there is a complete absence of power to discern, or there is total deprivation of freedom of the will. Mere abnormality of the mental faculties is not enough, especially if the offender has not lost consciousness of his acts. Insanity is evinced by a deranged and perverted condition of the mental faculties and is manifested in language and conduct. Thus, in order to lend credence to a defense of insanity, it must be shown that the accused had no full and clear understanding of the nature and consequences of his or her acts.”

Atty. Joji Alonso

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