Case Digests Law School

Case Digest: Joemar Ortega vs. People – G.R. No. 151085

Case Title: Joemar Ortega vs. People

Case Number: G.R. No. 151085, August 20, 2008

Doctrine/Relevant Topic: Construction of penal laws

Facts:

       Petitioner Joemar Ortega, then about 14 years old, was charged before Bacolod City Regional Trial Court (RTC) with the crime of Rape in two separate informations both dated April 20, 1998, for allegedly raping AAA, then about eight years of age at the time of the institution of the criminal action. Accordingly, the families of both parties were considerably close then, being good neighbors to one another.

       The alleged act of the petitioner against the victim was discovered one evening when the victim’s older brother caught the two in the act of sexual intercourse. The older brother reported the incident to their mother. At the time of the commission of rape, the accused was only 13 years old, while the victim AAA was 6, both of them, being minors. It was alleged that the petitioner raped her three times on three different occasions in 1996.

       Initially, an amicable settlement was reached between the two families. Part of the settlement required the petitioner to depart from their house to avoid contact with AAA and stay with a certain priest in the locality. However, a few months later, the petitioner went home for brief visits in order to bring his dirty clothes for laundry. At the sight of the petitioner, AAA’s father FFF was infuriated, and confrontations ensued. In this instance, AAA’s parents went to the National Bureau of Investigation, which assisted them in filing the three (3) counts of rape. However, the prosecutor’s office only filed the two (2) instant cases.

       After trial, the lower courts convicted him of rape thereby imposing criminal and civil liabilities. The case was pending trial when Republic Act 9344 (R.A. 9344) or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, took effect on May 20, 2006 which amended the age of criminal irresponsibility, raising it from 9 years of age to 15 years old.

       The accused had reached the age of majority at the time the judgment was issued. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) claimed that the petitioner is not exempt from criminal liability because he is no longer a child as defined by R.A. No. 9344. The OSG also claimed that the retroactive effect of the law applies only if the child-accused is still under the age of 18.

       The RTC found the petitioner guilty. The Court of Appeals affirmed the factual findings of the RTC. Hence, this appeal.

Issue:

       Whether or not the petitioner is exempt in the crime alleged by reason of minority.

Held:

       The Supreme Court held that the petitioner is exempt from criminal liability. Although a person who acts under any of the exempting circumstances commits a crime, no criminal liability arises due to the complete absence of any of the conditions that constitute free will or voluntariness of the act. As a result, even though a crime was committed, no criminal liability exists.

       The petitioner was only 13 years old at the time of the commission of the alleged rape. This was duly proven by the certificate of live birth, by the petitioner’s own testimony, and by the testimony of his mother. By virtue of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, the age of criminal irresponsibility has been raised from 9 to 15 years old. The first paragraph of Section 6 of R.A. 9344 clearly provides that, a child fifteen (15) years of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability.

       However, the child shall undergo an intervention program pursuant to Section 20 of R.A. 9344. The Court gives retroactive application insofar as it favors those guilty of a felony. While the law exempts the petitioner from criminal liability, he is not exempt from civil liability. For this reason, the petitioner and/or his parents are liable to pay AAA civil indemnity in the amount of One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) and moral damages in the amount of One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

three × 4 =