The political offense doctrine

Under the political offense doctrine, “common crimes, perpetrated in furtherance of a political offense, are divested of their character as “common” offenses and assume the political complexion of the main crime of which they are mere ingredients, and, consequently, cannot be punished separately from the principal offense, or complexed with the same, to justify the imposition of a graver penalty.”[1]

Any ordinary act assumes a different nature by being absorbed in the crime of rebellion.[2] Thus, when a killing is committed in furtherance of rebellion, the killing is not homicide or murder. Rather, the killing assumes the political complexion of rebellion as its mere ingredient and must be prosecuted and punished as rebellion alone.

However, this is not to say that public prosecutors are obliged to consistently charge respondents with simple rebellion instead of common crimes. No one disputes the well-entrenched principle in criminal procedure that the institution of criminal charges, including whom and what to charge, is addressed to the sound discretion of the public prosecutor.[3]

But when the political offense doctrine is asserted as a defense in the trial court, it becomes crucial for the court to determine whether the act of killing was done in furtherance of a political end, and for the political motive of the act to be conclusively demonstrated.[4] The political offense doctrine is not a ground to dismiss the criminal charge prior to a determination by the trial court that the murders were committed in furtherance of rebellion.[5]

The Supreme Court has already ruled that the burden of demonstrating political motivation must be discharged by the defense, since motive is a state of mind which only the accused knows.[6] The proof showing political motivation is adduced during trial where the accused is assured an opportunity to present evidence supporting his defense. It is not for the Supreme Court to determine such factual matter, not being a trier of facts.[7]

[1] People v. Hernandez, 99 Phil. 515, 541 (1956).

[2] People v. Lovedioro, 320 Phil. 481, 489 (1995).

[3] Glaxosmithkline Philippines, Inc. v. Malik, 530 Phil. 662 (2006); Punzalan v. Dela Peña, 478 Phil. 771 (2004); Potot v. People, 432 Phil. 1028 (2002).

[4] People v. Lovedioro, 320 Phil. 481, 489 (1995).

[5] Ocampo v. Abando, G.R. No. 176830, February 11, 2014.

[6] People v. Lovedioro, 320 Phil. 481, 489 (1995).

[7] Ocampo v. Abando, G.R. No. 176830, February 11, 2014.