Criminal Law

Robert Sierra vs People of the Philippines

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G.R. No. 182941 – 609 Phil. 446 – 591 SCRA 666 – Criminal Law – Special Penal Laws – RA 9344; Juvenile Justice Act – Determination of Age

Book I – Exempting Circumstances – Minority – Meaning of “15 years old or below”

In 2006, Robert Sierra was convicted for the rape of AAA. On appeal before the Court of Appeals, he argued, among others, that he is exempt from criminal liability because at the time of the alleged incident, he was only fifteen years old. His mother corroborated this allegation.

The OSG argued that Sierra failed to prove that he was fifteen years old because he did not present his birth certificate and that testimonial evidence is not enough to prove his age.

The CA affirmed Sierra’s conviction.


1. Who has the burden of proving minority or non-minority?

2. Whether or not Sierra’s conviction must be affirmed.


1. Minority (or non-minority) is not an element of the crime charged against Sierra. As such, it is not upon the prosecution to prove that Sierra was not 15 years old or below. The burden of evidence is on the defense to prove exemption from criminal liability because of his age when he committed the crime. The defense has the burden of showing by evidence that the Sierra was 15 years old or less when he committed the rape charged.

2. No. Sierra was able to prove that he was fifteen years old at the time of the commission of the crime. RA 9344 or the Juvenile Justice Act provides that a minor 15 years or below is exempt from criminal liability. The age of a child may be determined from the child’s birth certificate, baptismal certificate or any other pertinent documents. In the absence of these documents, age may be based on information from the child himself/herself, testimonies of other persons, the physical appearance of the child and other relevant evidence. Thus, testimonial evidence is competent evidence to prove minority. Further, the prosecution never rebutted the testimonies of Sierra and his mother.

But not all fifteen-year-olds are exempt as one must be exactly fifteen (not a day older) when the crime was committed in order to be exempt, is Sierra still exempt?

Yes. Absent the birth certificate which is supposed to show the exact age of the minor, there is doubt as to Sierra’s exact age. In case of doubt as to the age of the child, it shall be resolved in his/her favor. In this case, the testimony that the Sierra was 15 years old when the crime took place should be read to mean that he was not more than 15 years old as this is the more favorable reading that RA 9344 directs.

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