Indeterminate Sentence Law

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The purpose of the Indeterminate Sentence Law is to be beneficial to the convict in order to uplift and redeem valuable human material, and prevent unnecessary and excessive deprivation of personal liberty and economic usefulness.[1] The governing law is Act No. 4103, as amended by Act No. 4225 and Republic Act No. 4203. The first two sections of the law deals with indeterminate sentence, one of the most difficult aspects of criminal law, while the rest deals with parole. See Parole for more discussions on that subject.


Contents

Codal provisions

The pertinent provisions of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, Sections 1 and 2, are deceptively simple. To put the entire discussion in perspective, the two provisions read in full:

Sec. 1. Hereafter, in imposing a prison sentence for an offense punished by the Revised Penal Code, or its amendments, the court shall sentence the accused to an indeterminate sentence the maximum term of which shall be that which, in view of the attending circumstances, could be properly imposed under the rules of the said Code, and the minimum which shall be within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by the Code for the offense; and if the offense is punished by any other law, the court shall sentence the accused to an indeterminate sentence, the maximum term of which shall not exceed the maximum fixed by said law and the minimum shall not be less than the minimum term prescribed by the same.
Sec. 2. This Act shall not apply to persons convicted of offenses punished with death penalty or life-imprisonment; to those convicted of treason, conspiracy or proposal to commit treason; to those convicted of misprision of treason, rebellion, sedition or espionage; to those convicted of piracy; to those who are habitual delinquents; to those who have escaped from confinement or evaded sentence; to those who having been granted conditional pardon by the Chief Executive shall have violated the terms thereof; to those whose maximum term of imprisonment does not exceed one year, not to those already sentenced by final judgment at the time of approval of this Act, except as provided in Section 5 hereof.


Rules in the application of the ISL

Section 1 of the Indeterminate Sentence Law makes a distinction between offenses punished under the Revised Penal Code and all other laws. It provides the following basic rules in the implementation of the law. However, before a determination of whether the rules for offenses under the Revised Penal Code or special laws shall apply, it must first be established that the case is not one of the exceptions to the applicability of the ISL.

When the ISL is not applicable

The Indeterminate Sentence Law is not applicable under the following circumstances:[2]

  • Persons convicted of piracy.
  • Persons who have escaped from confinement or evaded sentence.
  • Persons whose maximum term of imprisonment does not exceed one (1) year.

Offenses under the Revised Penal Code

For offenses under the Revised Penal Code or its amendments, the court shall sentence the accused to an indeterminate sentence the maximum term of which shall be that which, in view of the attending circumstances, could be properly imposed under the rules of the Revised Penal Code, and the minimum which shall be within the range of the penalty next lower to that prescribed by the Revised Penal Code for the offense.[3]

The Supreme Court, however, applied the ISL in offenses covered by special laws, including special laws that provide for penalties taken from the range of penalties in the Revised Penal Code.[4] These special laws, with the specific application discussion below, include:

  • R.A. 6425, also known as the Illegal Drugs Act[5]
  • Illegal possession of firearms.[6]
  • R.A 7610 (The Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act),[7] including sexual abuse of a child under Article III of R.A. No. 7610[8] and Other Acts of Child Abuse.[9]

Offenses covered by all other laws

The court shall sentence the accused to an indeterminate sentence, the maximum term of which shall not exceed the maximum fixed by said law and the minimum shall not be less than the minimum term prescribed by the same.[11] In other words, so long as the penalty imposed is not less than the minimum, and not more than, the imposable penalty, the court has the discretion to fix the same depending on the circumstances of the case. It is not exactly correct, however, to say that determination of the indeterminate sentence for special laws is easier than offenses under the Revised Penal Code. Unless there is already a decided case, the court has to determine if a special law shall be treated similarly to offenses under the Revised Penal Code, as discussed above.


Other guidelines in implementation

Discretion of court to fix minimum

In determining the minimum penalty, the law confers upon the courts in fixing the penalties the widest discretion that the courts have ever had. The determination of the minimum term is left entirely within the discretion of the court to fix it anywhere within the range of the penalty next lower without reference to the periods into which it may be subdivided.[12] This obviously applies only for offenses under the Revised Penal Code.

Basis is penalty actually imposed

To determine whether an indeterminate sentence and not a straight penalty is proper, what is considered is the penalty actually imposed by the trial court, after considering the attendant circumstances, and not the imposable penalty.[13]

Plea to a lesser offense

A sentence arrived at by a court after a valid plea bargaining should constitute is not an added exception to the Indeterminate Sentence Law.[14] The fact that the lesser offense, and its necessarily lower penalty, resulted from a plea bargaining agreement is of no moment as far as the penalty to be imposed is concerned. Plea bargaining is authorized by the present Rules and is in fact required to be considered during pre-trial conference. The downgraded offense and its lower penalty shall control the proceedings before the court a quo.[15] For instance, if the crime originally charged is robbery with homicide, with a higher penalty of reclusion perpetua to death, and the accused was allowed to plead guilty to homicide punishable by reclusion temporal, the felony of homicide must constitute the basis for the penalty to be imposed.[16]


Specific application

This list, by no means exhaustive, illustrates how the ISL is applied for specific offenses.

Carnapping

In People vs. dela Cruz,[17] the accused were charged separately with the crimes of carnapping and murder, which means that they cannot be convicted with qualified carnapping. As none of the qualifying circumstances were alleged in the information, the accused could only be convicted with carnapping under the first clause of R.A. 6539, Section 14, with a penalty of not less than fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months and not more than seventeen (17) years and four (4) months. Applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the proper penalty is an indeterminate sentence of fourteen (14) years and eight (8) months, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months, as maximum.

In Mercado vs. People,[18] the accused broke a quarter window of the Isuzu Trooper to gain access to it, thus demonstrating that force was used upon the vehicle. Republic Act No. 6539 imposes the penalty of imprisonment for seventeen (17) years and four (4) months to thirty (30) years when the carnapping is committed by means of violence against or intimidation of any person, or force upon things. The Supreme Court held that this does not merit the imposition of the full penalty. With the application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law, the penalty to be imposed may be reduced to an indeterminate prison term of seventeen (17) years and four (4) months to twenty-two (22) years. The maximum term of 30 years was imposed in People vs. Paramil,[19] considering that homicide was present, although charged separately. See Anti-Carnapping Act of 1972 for more discussions.

Highway robbery

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.[20]

Homicide

The penalty for homicide under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code is reclusion temporal in its entire extent and, in the absence of modifying circumstances, the penalty should be imposed in its medium period.[21] This has a duration of 14 years, 8 months and 1 day to 17 years and 4 months, and shall be the basis of an indeterminate sentence the maximum term of which shall be that which, in view of the attending circumstances, could be properly imposed under the rules of the Revised Penal Code.[22]

In People vs. Paramil,[23] considering that the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength attended the killing of the victim (not murder as it was not alleged in the information), the penalty of reclusion temporal was imposed in its maximum period. The indeterminate sentence of prision mayor, as minimum, and reclusion temporal in its maximum period, as maximum, was imposed.

In People vs. Laurente,[24] the accused was sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty ranging from ten (10) years of prision mayor medium, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months of reclusion temporal medium, as maximum. Since no modifying circumstances have been established, the penalty of homicide under Article 249 (reclusion temporal) shall be imposed in its medium period pursuant to Article 64(1) of the Revised Penal Code.


Illegal Possession of Firearms (low powered)

Illegal possession of firearms.[25] Although Illegal Possession of Firearms is considered a special law, the penalty provided is taken from the range of penalties in the Revised Penal Code.[26] It is, therefore, covered by the rules governing offenses under the Revised Penal Code for purposes of applying the ISL. It may be worthwhile to note that in 1996, prior to the amendment of P.D. 1866, the Supreme Court did not apply the rule governing offenses under the Revised Penal Code for illegal possession of low-powered firearms (paltik), applying a penalty not exceeding the maximum fixed by law and not lower than the minimum likewise fixed by law.[27] Illegal Possession of Firearms under Presidential Decree 1866 was reclusion temporal in its maximum period to reclusion perpetua. In view of the enactment of R.A. 8294 on 6 June 1997, certain provisions of P.D. 1866 have been amended. With the passage of the aforementioned law, the penalty for simple illegal possession of a low-powered firearm, such as paltik[28] or 9mm Walther pistol[29], has been reduced to prision correccional in its maximum period.

The penalty for illegal possession of firearms (low powered) under P.D. 1866, as amended by R.A. 8294, is prision correccional in its maximum period. The penalty imposed in Cadua vs. Court of Appeals, there being no aggravating and mitigating circumstances, is 2 years, 4 months, and 1 day of prision correccional medium as minimum, to 5 years, 4 months, and 20 days of prision correccional maximum as maximum.[30] The indeterminate penalty imposed in People vs. Go is 2 years, 4 months and 1 day of prision correccional, as minimum, to 4 years, 2 months and 1 day of prision correccional, as maximum.[31]

Other Acts of Child Abuse under R.A. 7610

The penalty for Other Acts of Child Abuse under R.A. 7610 is prision mayor in its minimum period. In the absence of any modifying circumstances, and because it is favorable to accused, the penalty is four (4) years, nine (9) months and eleven (11) days of prision correccional, as minimum, to six (6) years, eight (8) months and one (1) day of prision mayor, as maximum.[32]

Robbery under Art. 294(5)

The penalty for simple robbery under Article 294(5) of the Revised Penal Code is prision correccional in its maximum period (4 years, 2 months and 1 day) to prision mayor in its medium period (10 years). In Eduarte vs. People,[33], the Supreme Court imposed the penalty of 4 months and 1 day of arresto mayor, as minimum, to 6 years of prision correccional, as maximum. Minimum. Under Section 1 of the ISL, the court may impose a minimum term which shall be within the range of the penalty next lower prescribed by the Revised Penal Code, which is arresto mayor in its maximum period (4 months and 1 day) to prision correccional in its medium period (4 years and 2 months). The determination of the minimum term is left entirely within the discretion of the court to fix it anywhere within the range of the penalty next lower without reference to the periods into which it may be subdivided. Considering the circumstances (i.e., gainfully employed for the past 15 years in a reputable company and involvement in civic activities) that have arisen after the commission of the felony, the minimum of the indeterminate sentence is 4 months and 1 day of arresto mayor. Maximum. Under Section 1 of the ISL, the maximum term shall be that which, in view of the attending circumstances, could be properly imposed. In the instant case, the maximum term has a range of prision correccional in its maximum period (4 years, 2 months and 1 day) to prision mayor in its medium period (10 years). The maximum term of the indeterminate penalty is broken down as follows:

  • Minimum (4 years, 2 months and 1 day to 6 years, 1 month and 10 days)
  • Medium (6 years, 1 month and 11 days to 8 years and 20 days)
  • Maximum (8 years and 21 days to 10 years)

With the attendance of one mitigating circumstance (akin to voluntary surrender), the maximum term of the indeterminate penalty imposed is the minimum period (4 years, 2 months and 1 day to 6 years, 1 month and 10 days).


References

  1. People vs. Temporada, G.R. No. 173473, 17 December 2008
  2. Act No. 4103, as amended, Sec. 2
  3. Indeterminate Sentence Law, Sec. 1
  4. Cadua vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 123123, 19 August 1999
  5. People v. Simon, G.R. No. 93028, 29 July 1994, 234 SCRA 555
  6. Cadua v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 123123, 19 August 1999
  7. Sanchez vs. People, G.R. No. 179090, 5 June 2009
  8. Dulla v. Court of Appeals, 382 Phil. 791 (2000)
  9. Sanchez vs. People, G.R. No. 179090, 5 June 2009
  10. Sayoc vs. People, G.R. No. 157723, 30 April 2009
  11. Act No. 4103, as amended, Sec. 1
  12. Eduarte vs. People, G.R. No. 176566, 2 October 2009, citing People vs. Ducosin, 59 Phil. 109, 116 (1933)
  13. Ladino vs. Garcia, G.R. No. 123991, 6 December 1996
  14. Ladino vs. Garcia, G.R. No. 123991, 6 December 1996
  15. Ladino vs. Garcia, G.R. No. 123991, 6 December 1996
  16. Ladino vs. Garcia, G.R. No. 123991, 6 December 1996
  17. G.R. Nos. 141162-63, 11 July 2002
  18. G.R. No. 149375, 26 November 2002
  19. G.R. Nos. 128056-57, 31 March 2000
  20. Sayoc vs. People, G.R. No. 157723, 30 April 2009
  21. Ladino vs. Garcia, G.R. No. 123991, 6 December 1996, citing Article 64(1), Revised Penal Code
  22. Ladino vs. Garcia, G.R. No. 123991, 6 December 1996
  23. G.R. Nos. 128056-57, 31 March 2000
  24. G.R. No. 116734, 29 March 1996
  25. Cadua v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 123123, 19 August 1999
  26. Cadua vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 123123, 19 August 1999
  27. People vs. Lua, G.R. Nos. 114224-25, 26 April 1996
  28. Cadua vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 123123, 19 August 1999
  29. People vs. Go, G.R. No. 116001, 14 March 2001
  30. Cadua vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 123123, 19 August 1999
  31. People vs. Go, G.R. No. 116001, 14 March 2001
  32. Sanchez vs. People, G.R. No. 179090, 5 June 2009
  33. G.R. No. 176566, 2 October 2009
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