Agote vs. Lorenzo
G.R. No. 142675. July 22, 2005
Petitioner: Vicente Agote
Respondents: Hon. Manuel Lorenzo, Presiding Judge, RTC, Branch 43, Manila and People of the Philippines
Ponente: J. Garcia
Petitioner Vicente Agote was charged to have violated Presidential Decree No. 1866 (Illegal Possession of Firearms) and COMELEC Resolution No. 2826 (Gun Ban) for having in possession one (1) .38 cal. Rev. with four (4) live bullets in a public place during the election period without having secured the necessary license and authority from the COMELEC. During the pendency of the case, Republic Act No. 8294 was approved into law. Eventually, the trial court rendered judgment of conviction in both cases wherein separate penalties were imposed respectively. Petitioner moved for reconsideration, claiming that the penalty for illegal possession of firearms under P.D. No. 1866 had already been reduced by the subsequent enactment of Republic Act No. 8294, which the trial court subsequently denied. He then filed a petition before the Court of Appeals which was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 2991-UDK, but was likewise dismissed.
1) Whether or not Republic Act No. 8294 should be applied retroactively.
2) Whether or not such use of an unlicensed firearm shall be considered as a special aggravating circumstance.
1) Yes. The rule is that penal laws shall have a retroactive effect in so far as they favor the person guilty of a felony. Republic Act No. 8294 lowers the penalty for illegal possession of firearms depending on the class of firearm possessed. The lighter penalty may be imposed to a person who shall unlawfully possess any firearm or ammunition, “unless no other crime was committed”. Moreover, the Court has already ruled in Gonzales vs. Court of Appeals that said law must be given retroactive effect in favor of those accused under P.D. No. 1866. But as violation of COMELEC Resolution No. 2826 or the Gun Ban was also committed by the petitioner at the same time, the Court cannot but set aside petitioner’s conviction for illegal possession of firearm.
2) No. Section 1 of RA 8294 substantially provides that any person who shall unlawfully possess any firearm or ammunition shall be penalized, “unless no other crime was committed”. It further provides that such use of an unlicensed firearm shall be considered only as an aggravating circumstance in cases of homicide or murder. Since the crime committed was in violation of COMELEC Resolution No. 2826 or the Gun Ban, illegal possession of firearms cannot be deemed an aggravating circumstance.