People of the Philippines vs Efren Mendoza

G.R. No. 133382 – 327 SCRA 695 – Criminal Law – Book I – Qualifying Circumstances cannot offset Mitigating Circumstances

On July 14, 1993 about 7:30 pm in the Municipality of Vinzons, Camarines Norte, Efren Mendoza hacked Anchito Nano with a bolo which immediately killed the latter. Later, Mendoza voluntarily surrendered and he was sued for murder. In court, it was proven that Mendoza employed treachery because most of the wounds sustained by Nano were found on his back. The trial court did not appreciate the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender because it ruled that the same was offset by the aggravating circumstance of treachery.

ISSUE: Whether or not the trial court erred in ruling that the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrendered was offset by the aggravating circumstance of treachery.

HELD:Yes. Treachery is a qualifying circumstance in the present case therefore it cannot offset the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender. The trial court failed to appreciate the distinction between a generic aggravating circumstance and a qualifying one. A qualifying circumstance changes the nature of the crime. A generic aggravating circumstance, on the other hand, does not affect the designation of the crime; it merely provides for the imposition of the prescribed penalty in its maximum period. Thus, while a generic aggravating circumstance may be offset by a mitigating circumstance, a qualifying circumstance may not. Treachery in the present case is a qualifying, not a generic aggravating circumstance. Its presence served to characterize the killing as murder; it cannot at the same time be considered as a generic aggravating circumstance to warrant the imposition of the maximum penalty. Thus, it cannot offset voluntary surrender.

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