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CRIM1: MISTAKE OF FACT

THE UNITED STATES (plaintiff-appellee) vs. AH the defendant, fearing that the intruder was a
CHONG (defendant-appellant) robber or a thief, leaped to his feet and called
out. "If you enter the room, I will kill you."
G.R. No. L-5272 March 19, 1910
At that moment he was struck just
above the knee by the edge of the chair
FACTS: which had been placed against the door.

1. The defendant, Ah Chong, was employed as a In the darkness and confusion the
cook at "Officers' quarters, No. 27," Fort Mc defendant thought that the blow had
Kinley, Rizal Province, and at the same place been inflicted by the person who had
Pascual Gualberto, deceased, was employed as forced the door open, whom he
a house boy or muchacho. "Officers' quarters supposed to be a burglar
No. 27".

No one slept in the house except the Seizing a common kitchen knife which he kept
two servants, who jointly occupied a under his pillow, the defendant struck out
small room toward the rear of the wildly at the intruder who, it afterwards
building. turned out, was his roommate, Pascual.

The door of the room was not furnished with a Pascual ran out upon the porch and fell
permanent bolt or lock, and occupants, as a down on the steps in a desperately
measure of security, had attached a small hook wounded condition, followed by the
or catch on the inside of the door, and were in defendant, who immediately recognized
the habit of reinforcing this somewhat insecure him in the moonlight.
means of fastening the door by placing against it
a chair. Seeing that Pascual was wounded, he
called to his employers who slept in the
In the room there was but one small next house, No. 28, and ran back to his
window, which, like the door, opened room to secure bandages to bind up
on the porch. Aside from the door and Pascual's wounds.
window, there were no other openings
of any kind in the room. There had been several robberies in Fort
McKinley not long prior to the date of the
2. On the night of August 14, 1908, at about 10 incident just described, one of which took
o'clock, the defendant, who had received for place in a house in which the defendant was
the night, was suddenly awakened by some employed as cook; and as defendant alleges, it
trying to force open the door of the room. was because of these repeated robberies he
kept a knife under his pillow for his personal
He sat up in bed and called out twice, protection.
"Who is there?" He heard no answer
and was convinced by the noise at the The deceased and the accused, who roomed
door that it was being pushed open by together and who appear to have on friendly
someone bent upon forcing his way and amicable terms prior to the fatal incident,
into the room. had an understanding that when either
returned at night, he should knock at the door
Due to the heavy growth of vines along the and acquiant his companion with his identity.
front of the porch, the room was very dark, and
CRIM1: MISTAKE OF FACT

No reasonable explanation of the remarkable criminal negligence; and in cases where,


conduct on the part of Pascuals suggests itself, under the provisions of article 1 of the
unless it be that the boy in a spirit of mischief Penal Code one voluntarily committing
was playing a trick on his Chinese roommate, a crime or misdeamor incurs criminal
and sought to frightened him by forcing his way liability for any wrongful act committed
into the room, refusing to give his name or say by him, even though it be different from
who he was, in order to make Ah Chong believe that which he intended to commit.
that he was being attacked by a robber.
The general provisions of article 1 of the code
Defendant was placed under arrest forthwith, clearly indicate that malice, or criminal intent
and Pascual was conveyed to the military in some form, is an essential requisite of all
hospital, where he died from the effects of the crimes and offense therein defined, in the
wound on the following day. absence of express provisions modifying the
general rule, such as are those touching liability
ISSUE: WON in this jurisdiction one can be resulting from acts negligently or imprudently
held criminally responsible who, by reason of a committed, and acts done by one voluntarily
mistake as to the facts, does an act for which he committing a crime or misdemeanor, where the
act committed is different from that which he
would be exempt from criminal liability if the
intended to commit.
facts were as he supposed them to be, but
which would constitute the crime of homicide The celebrated Spanish jurist Pacheco,
or assassination if the actor had known the true discussing the meaning of the word "voluntary"
state of the facts at the time when he as used in this article, say that a voluntary act
committed the act. is a free, intelligent, and intentional act, and
roundly asserts that without intention
(intention to do wrong or criminal intention)
HELD: NO. there can be no crime;

RATIO DECIDENDI: The word "malice" in this article is manifestly


substantially equivalent to the words "criminal
To this question we think there can be but one intent," and the direct inference from its
answer, and we hold that under such provisions is that the commission of the acts
circumstances there is no criminal liability, contemplated therein, in the absence of malice
provided always that the alleged ignorance or (criminal intent), negligence, and imprudence,
mistake or fact was not due to negligence or does not impose any criminal liability on the
bad faith. actor.

In broader terms, ignorance or mistake of fact, if The word "voluntary" as used in article 1 of the
such ignorance or mistake of fact is sufficient to Penal Code would seem to approximate in
negative a particular intent which under the law meaning the word "willful" as used in English
is a necessary ingredient of the offense charged and American statute to designate a form of
(e.g., in larcerny, animus furendi; in murder, criminal intent.
malice; in crimes intent) "cancels the
presumption of intent," and works an acquittal; It has been said that while the word "willful"
sometimes means little more than intentionally
Except in those cases where the or designedly, yet it is more frequently
circumstances demand a conviction understood to extent a little further and
under the penal provisions touching approximate the idea of the milder kind of legal
CRIM1: MISTAKE OF FACT

malice; that is, it signifies an evil intent without innocent of the commission of any crime and
justifiable excuse. wholly exempt from criminal liability, although
if he knew the real state of the facts when he
And Shaw, C. J., once said that ordinarily in a took the life of his friend he would
statute it means "not merely `voluntarily' but undoubtedly be guilty of the crime of homicide
with a bad purpose; in other words, corruptly." or assassination.

But even in the absence of express words in a Under such circumstances, proof of his innocent
statute, setting out a condition in the definition mistake of the facts overcomes the presumption
of a crime that it be committed "voluntarily," of malice or criminal intent, and (since malice or
willfully," "maliciously" "with malice criminal intent is a necessary ingredient of the
aforethought," or in one of the various modes "act punished by law" in cases of homicide or
generally construed to imply a criminal intent, assassination) overcomes at the same time the
we think that reasoning from general presumption established in article 1 of the code,
principles it will always be found that with the that the "act punished by law" was committed
rare exceptions hereinafter mentioned, to "voluntarily."
constitute a crime evil intent must combine
with an act.
A careful examination of the facts as disclosed
Legal maxims. The ancient wisdom of the in the case at bar convinces us that the
law, equally with the modern, is distinct on this defendant Chinaman struck the fatal blow
subject. It consequently has supplied to us such alleged in the information in the firm belief that
maxims as Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit the intruder who forced open the door of his
rea, "the act itself does not make man guilty sleeping room was a thief, from whose assault
unless his intention were so;" he was in imminent peril, both of his life and of
his property and of the property committed to
Actus me invito factus non est meus actus, "an his charge;
act done by me against my will is not my act;"
and others of the like sort. That in view of all the circumstances, as they
must have presented themselves to the
If one has reasonable cause to believe defendant at the time, he acted in good faith,
the existence of facts which will justify without malice, or criminal intent, in the belief
a killing if without fault or that he was doing no more than exercising his
carelessness he does believe them legitimate right of self-defense;
he is legally guiltless of the homicide;
though he mistook the facts, and so That had the facts been as he believed them to
the life of an innocent person is be he would have been wholly exempt from
unfortunately extinguished. criminal liability on account of his act;

If, without fault or carelessness, he is misled And that he cannot be said to have
concerning them, and defends himself been guilty of negligence or
correctly according to what he thus supposes recklessness or even carelessness in
the facts to be the law will not punish him falling into his mistake as to the facts, or
though they are in truth otherwise, and he was in the means adopted by him to defend
really no occassion for the extreme measures. himself from the imminent danger
which he believe threatened his person
**No one will doubt that if the facts were such
as the slayer believed them to be he would be
CRIM1: MISTAKE OF FACT

and his property and the property


under his charge.