by Joshua Jim Clerigo

PEOPLE v. CANUTO BERNAL, GR No. 44988, 1936-10-31

Facts:

The accused  was charged with the crime  of theft, the information  alleging that,  aside from the presence of the aggravating circumstance of nocturnity,  the accused  is an habitual delinquent because he had been convicted,... prior to the commission of  the  offense at bar, thrice of the same crime of  theft.  The accused pleaded  not  guilty,  but the court, after trial, found  him  guilty as charged, and  sentenced him to four (4)  months... and  one  (1) day of arresto mayor, to pay the accessories of the law, to return the three stolen roosters to  Mariano  de Leon or to indemnify the latter the value thereof in the sum of P3,  and to pay the costs.  As an habitual delinquent,... because  previously convicted three times of the same crime of theft, he was sentenced to an additional penalty of seven  (7)  years of prision mayor.

The accused  was charged with the crime  of theft, the information  alleging that,  aside from the presence of the aggravating circumstance of nocturnity,  the accused  is an habitual delinquent because he had been convicted,... prior to the commission of  the  offense at bar, thrice of the same crime of  theft.  The accused pleaded  not  guilty,  but the court, after trial, found  him  guilty as charged, and  sentenced him to four (4)  months... and  one  (1) day of arresto mayor, to pay the accessories of the law, to return the three stolen roosters to  Mariano  de Leon or to indemnify the latter the value thereof in the sum of P3,  and to pay the costs.  As an habitual delinquent,... because  previously convicted three times of the same crime of theft, he was sentenced to an additional penalty of seven  (7)  years of prision mayor

The facts are not disputed by the defense.

The defense assigns only one error of law in the judgment, to wit, in finding the accused an habitual delinquent under subsection (6)  of paragraph 5 of article 62 of  the Revised Penal Code, and in imposing upon him the penalty therein provided.  It contends that... the applicable provision is that found in subsection (a)  of the aforesaid codal paragraph and  article,  because in  truth and according to the decisions, the accused  has  no more than two prior convictions, the third being the one at ... bar.  Elaborating on this contention,  the defense alleges that the conviction on October 19, 1935, for the crime of theft should not be counted against the  accused because it took place after the commission of the offense at bar on the 11th of the said month and... year.

The defense assigns only one error of law in the judgment, to wit, in finding the accused an habitual delinquent under subsection (6)  of paragraph 5 of article 62 of  the Revised Penal Code, and in imposing upon him the penalty therein provided.  It contends that... the applicable provision is that found in subsection (a)  of the aforesaid codal paragraph and  article,  because in  truth and according to the decisions, the accused  has  no more than two prior convictions, the third being the one at ... bar.

Issues:

The question arose, in  the course of our deliberation on this case, of whether  or not in instances where the accused turns  out to be an  habitual  delinquent the  aggravating circumstance of recidivism, when alleged and proved, should be taken... into account in fixing the penalty  applicable for the commission of the principal offense, independently of the additional penalty provided  by  law for habitual  delinquency.

Ruling:

The  Solicitor-General in his brief agrees with the defense, and recommends  that the penalty fixed  in subsection (a)  of paragraph  5 of article 62 of the Revised Penal  Code  be imposed  upon the accused.  We hold... that the third conviction, having taken place after  the commission of the  last offense  with which the accused is now charged,  should not  be  reckoned  with in  determining habitual delinquency  and the additional penalty to be... imposed, upon the authority of the decisions of this court in People vs. Santiago (55 Phil., 266), People vs. Ventura (56 Phil.,  1,  5),  and People vs.  Reyes  (G. R.  Nos. 43904, 43905, October 18, 1935 [62 Phil., 9661).

The aggravating circumstance of recidivism  should be taken into account in the commission of the crime of theft in view of the established fact that the accused was thrice convicted of the said crime prior to the  trial  of this case on November 4, 1935 (art. 14,... par. 9, Revised Penal Code). For this  reason, the  penalty  imposable should be  six  (6) months and  one (1) day of  prision correctional.  As an habitual delinquent, because he was twice convicted of the crime  of ... theft prior to the commission  of the  offense at bar  (art. 62, last paragraph  of the  Revised Penal Code), he  should be sentenced to the additional penalty of three (3)  years of prision correctional pursuant to ... subsection (a)  of paragraph 5 of the said article.

Principles: