Case Title: People vs. Rafael Avecilla
Case Number: G.R. No. 117033, February 15, 2001
Doctrine/Relevant Topic: Characteristics of criminal law – Prospective
On December 14, 1991 at around 11pm, Rafael Avecila arrived at a basketball court in Pandacan, Manila and suddenly fired a gun in the air for no apparent reason. He then went to a nearby alley and then to a closed store 4m from the basketball court. At the store, he began arguing with a group of three men, Boy Manalaysay, Jimmy Tolentino, and Macario Afable, Jr.
When Afable tried to pacify Avecilla, the latter placed his left arm around Afable’s neck and shot him point blank in the abdomen. Afable ran toward the alley and Avecilla ran after him. Another shot was heard. A bystander, Carlos Taganas went to the alley where he saw Afable and Avecilla grappling for possession of the gun (a paltik 0.38 Caliber). It was found out that the said firearm is not licensed.
The Chief Barangay Tanod arrived and wrested the gun from Avecilla. Thereafter, Avecilla immediately fled. Afable was rushed to the Philippine General Hospital where he eventually died.
Avecilla was charged with Qualified Illegal Possession of Firearm (Sec. 1, Par. 2, PD 1866) at the Regional Trial Court (RTC), which found him GUILTY as charged and sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua.
Later on, P.D. 1866 was amended by Republic Act (RA) No. 8294. The third paragraph of Section 1 of said Act provides that if homicide or murder is committed with the use of an unlicensed firearm, such use of an unlicensed firearm shall be considered as an aggravating circumstance. In short, only homicide or murder should be punished, and the use of an unlicensed firearm should be considered aggravating.
Hence, the appeal to the Supreme Court.
Whether or not RA 8294 be applied retroactively given its favorable effect on the accused.
In this case, because the amendatory law is favorable to the accused-appellant, it may be applied retroactively. This new law applies retroactively to violations committed prior to its effective date, as provided by Article 22 of the Revised Penal Code.
The crime involved in the case was committed on December 14, 1991. On the other hand, RA 8294 took effect on July 6, 1997. As a general rule, penal laws will generally have prospective application except where the new law will be advantageous to the accused. Hence, in this case, RA 8294 will spare accused-appellant from a separate conviction for the crime of illegal possession of firearm. As a result, the aforementioned law should apply retroactively.
Likewise, the accused-appellant cannot be charged with simple illegal possession. It can only be done if no other crime is committed. For this reason, the accused-appellant cannot be convicted of homicide or murder with “the use of the unlicensed firearm as aggravating” because the felonies are not charged in the information but only mentioned as a result of the use of the unlicensed firearm. Appellant was not charged with homicide or murder. It is therefore impossible to convict him without violating his right to due process and to information about the charges against him.