People v. Ah Chong 15 Phil. 488
G.R. No. L-5272 March 19, 1910
Lesson: mistake of fact, definition of felony
Laws: Article 1 RPC, Art 3 RPC
• August 14, 1908 About 10 pm: Ah Chong, a cook was suddenly awakened by some trying to force open the door of the room. He sat up in bed and called out twice, "Who is there?" He heard no answer and was convinced by the noise at the door that it was being pushed open by someone bent upon forcing his way into the room. The defendant, fearing that the intruder was a robber or a thief, leaped to his feet and called out. "If you enter the room, I will kill you." At that moment he was struck just above the knee by the edge of the chair (thought to be an unlawful aggression) which had been placed against the door. Seizing a common kitchen knife which he kept under his pillow, the defendant struck out wildly at the intruder who, it afterwards turned out, was his roommate, Pascual who is a house boy or muchacho who in the spirit of mischief was playing a trick on him
• Seeing that Pascual was wounded, he called to his employers and ran back to his room to secure bandages to bind up Pascual's wounds.
• There had been several robberies not long prior to the date of the incident, one of which took place in a house where he was employed as cook so he kept a knife under his pillow for his personal protection.
• trial court held it as simple homicide
ISSUE: W/N defendant can be held criminally responsible who, by reason of a mistake as to the facts, does an act for which he would be exempt from criminal liability if the facts were as he supposed them to be, but which would constitute the crime of homicide or assassination if the actor had known the true state of the facts at the time when he committed the act.
HELD: trial court should be reversed, and the defendant acquitted of the crime
• GR: acts constituting the crime or offense must be committed with malice or with criminal intent in order that the actor may be held criminally liable
EX: it appears that he is exempted from liability under one or other of the express provisions of article 8 of the code
• Article 1 RPC of the Penal Code is as follows:
Crimes or misdemeanors are voluntary acts and ommissions punished by law.
o A person voluntarily committing a crime or misdemeanor shall incur criminal liability, even though the wrongful act committed be different from that which he had intended to commit.
o voluntary act is a free, intelligent, and intentional act
o "malice" signifying the intent
o Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea - "the act itself does not make man guilty unless his intention were so
o “ Actus me incito factus non est meus actus” - an act done by me against my will is not my act
• GR: courts have recognized the power of the legislature to forbid, in a limited class of cases, the doing of certain acts, and to make their commission criminal WITHOUT regard to the intent of the doer
• EX: intention of the lawmaker to make the commission of certain acts criminal without regard to the intent of the doer is clear and beyond question the statute will not be so construed
• ignorantia facti excusat applies only when the mistake is committed without fault or carelessness
• defendant at the time, he acted in good faith, without malice, or criminal intent, in the belief that he was doing no more than exercising his legitimate right of self-defense; that had the facts been as he believed them to be he would have been wholly exempt from criminal liability on account of his act; and that he can not be said to have been guilty of negligence or recklessness or even carelessness in falling into his mistake as to the facts, or in the means adopted by him to defend himself from the imminent danger which he believe threatened his person and his property and the property under his charge.
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