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Subject: Pro Reo Principle

Intestate Estate of Manolita Gonzales Vda. De Carungcong v. People


G.R. no. 181409
February 11, 2010

Facts:
Accused William Sato, petittioner’s brother-in-law, allegedly defraud their mother,
Manolita who was already blind and 79 years old to sign and thumbmark a special power of
attorney in favour of the daughter of Sato.
Sato moved for the quashal of the Information claiming that under Article 332 of the
Revised Penal Code, he was exempt from criminal liability, there being the deceased Manolita to
be his mother-in-law, hence cannot be charged of the crime of estafa under Article 315 (3) of the
Revised Penal code. However, the Trial Prosecutor contended that the death of the wife of the
accused severed the relationship of affinity between accused and his mother-in-law therefore the
mantle of protection provided to the accused by relationship is no longer obtaining.

Issue:
Should the exempting circumstance under Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code apply to
William Sato?

Ruling:
The Court held that the second view from the American legal system that reads: “the
relationship by affinity is continued despite the death of one of the spouses where there are living
issues or children of the marriage, “in whose veins the blood of the parties are commingled, since
the relationship of affinity was continued through the medium of the issue of marriage’ – this
indicates an intent to benefit step-relatives or in-laws, the “tie-affinity” between these people and
their relatives-by-marriage is not to be regarded as terminated upon the death of the married
parties.”
Such view is a similar contemplation of the in dubio pro reo principle or the rule of
lenity. The rule applies when the court is faced with two interpretations of a penal statute, one
that is prejudicial to the accused and another that is favourable to him. The rule calls for the
adoption of an interpretation which is more lenient to the accused. Lenity becomes appropriate as
an application to the basic purpose of Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code to preserve family
harmony by providing an absolutory cause. Therefore, the exempting circumstance applies to the
accused.

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