Highway Robbery/Brigandage

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The crime of brigandage was covered under Articles 306 and 307 of the Revised Penal Code. Presidential Decree No. 532, also known as the Anti-Piracy and Anti-Highway Robbery Law of 1974 and issued on 8 August 1974, introduced amendments to Articles 306 and 307 by increasing the penalties, albeit limiting its applicability to the offenses stated therein when committed on the highways and without prejudice to the liability for such acts if committed. Furthermore, the decree does not require that there be at least four armed persons forming a band of robbers; and the presumption in the RPC that said accused are brigands if they use unlicensed firearms no longer obtains under the decree.[1] P.D. 532 is not a modification of Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code on kidnapping and serious illegal detention, but of Articles 306 and 307 on brigandage. This is evident from the fact that the relevant portion thereof which treats of "highway robbery" invariably uses this term in the alternative and synonymously with "brigandage", that is, as "highway robbery/brigandage."

Contents

Simple highway robbery/brigandage

Highway robbery/brigandage without any qualifying circumstances, referred to as simple highway robbery,[2] is defined as the "seizure of any person for ransom, extortion or other unlawful purposes, or the taking away of the property of another by means of violence against or intimidation of person or force upon things of other unlawful means, committed by any person on any Philippine Highway."[3]

Highway robbers (ladrones) and brigands are synonymous.[4] A band of brigands, also known as highwaymen or freebooters, is more than a gang of ordinary robbers. Jurisprudence on the matter reveals that during the early part of the American occupation of the Philippines, roving bands were organized for robbery and pillage and since the then existing law against robbery was inadequate to cope with such moving bands of outlaws, the old Brigandage Law was passed.[5]

The purpose of brigandage is, inter alia, indiscriminate highway robbery.[6] The essence of brigandage (bandolerismo) under the RPC as a crime of depredation wherein the unlawful acts are directed not only against specific, intended or preconceived victims, but against any and all prospective victims anywhere on the highway and whosoever they may potentially be, is the same as the concept of brigandage which is maintained in Presidential Decree No. 532, in the same manner as it was under its aforementioned precursor in the RPC and, for that matter, under the old Brigandage Law.[7]

In People vs. Mendoza,[8] the Supreme Court ruled that to obtain a conviction for highway robbery, the prosecution should have proven that the accused were organized for the purpose of committing robbery indiscriminately. There, however, was a total absence of such proof. There was also no evidence of any previous attempts at similar robberies by the accused to show the "indiscriminate" commission thereof.

Number of perpetrators not essential. Under the old doctrine, brigandage was committed by a "cuadrilla" or by "more than three armed persons" per the definition of brigands in Article 306 of the Revised Penal Code. The number of perpetrators is no longer an essential element of the crime of brigandage as defined by P.D. No. 532.[9]

Definition of "Philippine Highway"

It shall refer to any road, street, passage, highway and bridges or other parts thereof, or railway or railroad within the Philippines used by persons, or vehicles, or locomotives or trains for the movement or circulation of persons or transportation of goods, articles, or property or both.[10]

However, just because the crime is committed on a highway does not mean that it constitutes the crime of Highway Robbery. If the mere fact that the offense charged was committed on a highway would be the determinant for the application of Presidential Decree No. 532, it would not be farfetched to expect mischievous, if not absurd, effects on the corpus of our substantive criminal law. For, if a motor vehicle, either stationary or moving on a highway, is forcibly taken at gun point by the accused who happened to take a fancy thereto, would the location of the vehicle at the time of the unlawful taking necessarily put the offense within the ambit of Presidential Decree No. 532, thus rendering nugatory the categorical provisions of the Anti-Carnapping Act of 1972? And, if the scenario is one where the subject matter of the unlawful asportation is large cattle which are incidentally being herded along and traversing the same highway and are impulsively set upon by the accused, should we apply Presidential Decree No. 532 and completely disregard the explicit prescriptions in the Anti-Cattle Rustling Law of 1974.[11]

Distinctions between Robbery and Highway Robbery/Brigandage

The following salient distinctions between brigandage and robbery are succinctly explained in a treatise on the subject and are of continuing validity:[12]

The main object of the Brigandage Law is to prevent the formation of bands of robbers. The heart of the offense consists in the formation of a band by more than three armed persons for the purpose indicated in art. 306. Such formation is sufficient to constitute a violation of art. 306. It would not be necessary to show, in a prosecution under it, that a member or members of the band actually committed robbery or kidnapping or any other purpose attainable by violent means. The crime is proven when the organization and purpose of the band are shown to be such as are contemplated by art 306. On the other hand, if robbery is committed by a band, whose members were not primarily organized for the purpose of committing robbery or kidnapping, etc., the crime would not be brigandage, but only robbery. Simply because robbery was committed by a band of more than three armed persons, it would not follow that it was committed by a band of brigands. In the Spanish text of art. 306, it is required that the band "sala a los campos para dedicarse a robar."[13]

The purpose of brigandage is, inter alia, indiscriminate highway robbery. If the purpose is only a particular robbery, the crime is only robbery, or robbery in band if there are at least four armed participants.[14]

Penalty

The penalty of reclusion temporal in its minimum period shall be imposed for simple highway robbery/brigandage. If physical injuries or other crimes are committed during or on the occasion of the commission of robbery or brigandage, the penalty of reclusion temporal in its medium and maximum periods shall be imposed. If kidnapping for ransom or extortion, or murder or homicide, or rape is committed as a result or on the occasion thereof, the penalty of death shall be imposed.[15]

The penalty for simple highway robbery is reclusion temporal in its minimum period. However, since P.D. 532 is a special law which adopted the penalties under the Revised Penal Code in their technical terms, with their technical signification and effects, the indeterminate sentence law is applicable. Accordingly, for the crime of highway robbery, the indeterminate prison term is from seven (7) years and four (4) months of prision mayor, as minimum, to thirteen (13) years, nine (9) months and ten (10) days of reclusion temporal, as maximum.[16]


Aiding highway robbers/brigands or abetting highway robbery/brigandage

Any person who knowingly and in any manner aids or protects highway robbers/brigands, such as giving them information about the movement of police or other peace officers of the government, or acquires or receives property taken by such brigands or in any manner derives any benefit therefrom; or any person who directly or indirectly abets the commission of highway robbery or brigandage, shall be considered as an accomplice of the principal offenders and be punished in accordance with the Rules prescribed by the Revised Penal Code.[17]

It shall be presumed that any person who does any of the acts provided in this Section has performed knowingly, unless the contrary is proven.[18]


References

  1. People vs. Puno, G.R. No. 97471, 17 February 1993
  2. See, for instance, Sayoc vs. People, G.R. No. 157723, 30 April 2009
  3. Presidential Decree No. 532, Sec. 2(e)
  4. People vs. Puno, G.R. No. 97471, 17 February 1993
  5. People vs. Puno, G.R. No. 97471, 17 February 1993
  6. People vs. Puno, G.R. No. 97471, 17 February 1993
  7. People vs. Puno, G.R. No. 97471, 17 February 1993
  8. G.R. No. 104461, 23 February 1996
  9. People vs. Mendoza, G.R. No. 104461, 23 February 1996, citing People vs. Puno, G.R. No. 97471, 17 February 1993
  10. Presidential Decree No. 532, Sec. 2(c)
  11. People vs. Puno, G.R. No. 97471, 17 February 1993
  12. People vs. Puno, G.R. No. 97471, 17 February 1993
  13. Aquino, R.C., The Revised Penal Code, Volume Three, 1989 ed., p. 174, citing U.S. vs. Decusin, 2 Phil. 536 (1903) and U.S. vs. Maaño, 2 Phil. 718 (1903)
  14. People vs. Puno, G.R. No. 97471, 17 February 1993
  15. Presidential Decree No. 532, Sec. 3(b)
  16. Sayoc vs. People, G.R. No. 157723, 30 April 2009
  17. Presidential Decree No. 532, Sec. 4
  18. Presidential Decree No. 532, Sec. 4
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