Conspiracy

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Conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a crime and decide to commit it.[1] In a conspiracy, every act of one of the conspirators in furtherance of a common design or purpose of such a conspiracy is the act of all.[2] Judge Learned Hand once called conspiracy "the darling of the modern prosecutor's nursery." [3]


Contents

Elements of conspiracy

To prove conspiracy, the prosecution must establish the following three requisites: (1) that two or more persons came to an agreement; (2) that the agreement concerned the commission of a crime; and (3) that the execution of the felony was decided upon.[4]

How proved

Conspiracy may be proved by direct or circumstantial evidence consisting of acts, words or conduct of the alleged conspirators before, during and after the commission of the felony to achieve a common design or purpose.[5] Conspiracy need not be proven by direct evidence. After all, secrecy and concealment are essential features of a successful conspiracy. Conspiracies are clandestine in nature. It may be inferred from the conduct of the accused before, during and after the commission of the crime, showing that they had acted with a common purpose and design. Paraphrasing the decision of the English Court in Regina v. Murphy, conspiracy may be implied if it is proved that two or more persons aimed by their acts towards the accomplishment of the same unlawful object, each doing a part so that their combined acts, though apparently independent of each other, were, in fact, connected and cooperative, indicating a closeness of personal association and a concurrence of sentiment. To hold an accused guilty as a co-principal by reason of conspiracy, he must be shown to have performed an overt act in pursuance or furtherance of the complicity. There must be intentional participation in the transaction with a view to the furtherance of the common design and purpose.[6]

Settled as a rule of law is that the conspiracy continues until the object is attained, unless in the meantime the conspirator abandons the conspiracy or is arrested. There is authority to the effect that the conspiracy ends at the moment of any conspirator's arrest, on the presumption, albeit rebuttable, that at the moment the conspiracy has been thwarted, no other overt act contributing to the conspiracy can possibly take place, at least as far as the arrested conspirator is concerned. The longer a conspiracy is deemed to continue, the greater the chances that additional persons will be found to have joined it. There is also the possibility that as the conspiracy continues, there may occur new overt acts. If the conspiracy has not yet ended, then the hearsay acts and declarations of one conspirator will be admissible against the other conspirators and one conspirator may be held liable for substantive crimes committed by the others.[7]


Degree of proof required

Conspiracy as a mode of incurring criminal liability must be proven separately from and with the same quantum of proof as the crime itself.[8] Conspiracy requires the same degree of proof required to establish the crime—proof beyond reasonable doubt; as mere presence at the scene of the crime at the time of its commission without proof of cooperation or agreement to cooperate is not enough to constitute one a party to a conspiracy.[9]


Proof of overt act

Except in the case of the mastermind of a crime, it must be shown that the accused performed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.[10] To hold an accused guilty as a co-principal by reason of conspiracy, he must be shown to have performed an overt act in pursuance or furtherance of the complicity. There must be intentional participation in the transaction with a view to the furtherance of the common design and purpose.[11]


Liability of co-conspirators

When conspiracy is established, the responsibility of the conspirators is collective, not individual, that render all of them equally liable regardless of the extent of their respective participations, the act of one being deemed to be the act of the other or the others, in the commission of the felony. Each conspirator is responsible for everything done by his confederates which follows incidentally in the execution of a common design as one of its probable and natural consequences even though it was not intended as part of the original design. Responsibility of a conspirator is not confined to the accomplishment of a particular purpose of conspiracy but extends to collateral acts and offenses incident to and growing out of the purpose intended. Conspirators are held to have intended the consequences of their acts and by purposely engaging in conspiracy which necessarily and directly produces a prohibited result, they are, in contemplation of law, chargeable with intending that result.[12]

Each conspirator is responsible for everything done by his confederates which follows incidentally in the execution of a common design as one of its probable and natural consequences even though it was not intended as part of the original design. Responsibility of a conspirator is not confined to the accomplishment of a particular purpose of conspiracy but extends to collateral acts and offenses incident to and growing out of the purpose intended. Conspirators are held to have intended the consequences of their acts and by purposely engaging in conspiracy which necessarily and directly produces a prohibited result that they are in contemplation of law, charged with intending the result. Conspirators are necessarily liable for the acts of another conspirator even though such act differs radically and substantively from that which they intended to commit.[13]


Acquittal of co-conspirator

By its nature, conspiracy is a joint offense as one person cannot conspire alone. In conspiracy, the commission of a crime is through the joint act or intent of two or more persons. However, there is nothing irregular with the acquittal of one of the supposed co-conspirators and the conviction of another. Generally, conspiracy is only a means by which a crime is committed as the mere act of conspiring is not by itself punishable. Hence, it does not follow that one person alone cannot be convicted when there is a finding of conspiracy. As long as the acquittal of a co-conspirator does not remove the basis of a charge of conspiracy, one defendant may be found guilty of the offense.[14] In People vs. Arlalejo,[15] the evidence proved only the existence of a conspiracy but not the culpability of the co-accused who was acquitted. In People vs. Uganap,[16], unlike in Arlalejo, the evidence showed that the conspirators implemented their plan to full effect.


Co-conspirator distinguished from accomplice

Conspirators and accomplices have one thing in common: they know and agree with the criminal design. Conspirators, however, know the criminal intention because they themselves have decided upon such course of action. Accomplices come to know about it after the principals have reached the decision, and only then do they agree to cooperate in its execution. Conspirators decide that a crime should be committed; accomplices merely concur in it. Accomplices do not decide whether the crime should be committed; they merely assent to the plan and cooperate in its accomplishment. Conspirators are the authors of a crime; accomplices are merely their instruments who perform acts not essential to the perpetration of the offense.[17] The importance of making the distinction lies in the fact that liability in conspiracy is collective, while the liability of an accomplice is one degree lower than that of a principal.[18]


When conspiracy not proven

If there is lack of complete evidence of conspiracy, the liability is that of an accomplice and not as principal.[19] Any doubt as to the participation of an individual in the commission of the crime is always resolved in favor of lesser responsibility.[20]


References

  1. Article 8, Revised Penal Code; People vs. Tomas, Sr., et al., G.R. No. 192251, 16 February 2011; People vs. Montanir, et al., G.R. No. 187534, 4 April 2011
  2. People vs. Tomas, Sr., et al., G.R. No. 192251, 16 February 2011
  3. People v. Pagalasan, G.R. Nos. 131926 & 138991, 18 June 2003, cited in People vs. Bautista, et al., G.R. No. 188601, 29 June 2010
  4. People vs. De Vera, et al., G.R. No. 128966, 18 August 1999
  5. People vs. Tomas, Sr., et al., G.R. No. 192251, 16 February 2011
  6. People v. Pagalasan, G.R. Nos. 131926 & 138991, 18 June 2003, cited in People vs. Bautista, et al., G.R. No. 188601, 29 June 2010
  7. People v. Pagalasan, G.R. Nos. 131926 & 138991, 18 June 2003, cited in People vs. Bautista, et al., G.R. No. 188601, 29 June 2010
  8. People v. Pagalasan, G.R. Nos. 131926 & 138991, 18 June 2003, cited in People vs. Bautista, et al., G.R. No. 188601, 29 June 2010
  9. People vs. Tomas, Sr., et al., G.R. No. 192251, 16 February 2011
  10. People vs. De Vera, et al., G.R. No. 128966, 18 August 1999
  11. People vs. Bautista, et al., G.R. No. 188601, 29 June 2010
  12. People vs. Montanir, et al., G.R. No. 187534, 4 April 2011
  13. People v. Pagalasan, G.R. Nos. 131926 & 138991, 18 June 2003, cited in People vs. Bautista, et al., G.R. No. 188601, 29 June 2010
  14. People vs. Arlalejo, G.R. No. 127841, 16 June 2000
  15. G.R. No. 127841, 16 June 2000
  16. People vs. Uganap, G.R. No. 130605, 19 June 2001
  17. People vs. De Vera, et al., G.R. No. 128966, 18 August 1999
  18. People vs. De Vera, et al., G.R. No. 128966, 18 August 1999
  19. People vs. Tulin, G.R. No. 111709, 30 August 2001, citing People v. Tolentino, 40 SCRA 514 (1971)
  20. People vs. Tulin, G.R. No. 111709, 30 August 2001, citing People v. Corbes, 270 SCRA 465 (1997); People vs. Elfano, Jr., 125 SCRA 792 (1983); People v. Pastores, 40 SCRA 498 (1971)
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