Capital offense exists even without death penalty

Accused-appellant was charged with murder, defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC). Murder is punishable by reclusion perpetua to death, making said crime a capital offense.[1]It must be noted that murder remains a capital offense despite the proscription against the imposition of death as a punishment.[2] In People v. Albert,[3] the Supreme Court ruled that "in case death was found to be the imposable penalty, the same would only have to be reduced to reclusion perpetua in view of the prohibition against the imposition of the capital punishment, but the nature of the offense of murder as a capital crime, and for that matter, of all crimes properly characterized as capital offenses under the Revised Penal Code, was never tempered to that of a non-capital offense."[4]

Thus, when accused-appellant pleaded guilty during his arraignment, he pleaded to a capital offense. Sec. 3, Rule 116 of the 2000 Revised Rules is relevant, viz.:

SECTION 3. Plea of guilty to capital offense; reception of evidence. — When the accused pleads guilty to a capital offense, the court shall conduct a searching inquiry into the voluntariness and full comprehension of the consequences of his plea and [shall] require the prosecution to prove his guilt and the precise degree of culpability. The accused may present evidence in his behalf.[5]

[1] SECTION 6. Capital offense, defined. — A capital offense is an offense which, under the law existing at the time of its commission and of the application for admission to bail, may be punished with death. (Rule 114, Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure)

[2] People v. Albert, 321 Phil. 500. 508 (1995).

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 508.