Mistake Of Fact Principle { 2021 } - Mistake of Fact and Mistake of Law - Limburg 60


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Saturday, 25 September 2021

Mistake Of Fact Principle { 2021 } - Mistake of Fact and Mistake of Law

Mistake Of Fact Principle

Mistake Of Fact Principle. That the acts did would have been lawful had the facts been as the accused believed them to be.

Mistake Of Fact Principle


(1) That the acts did would have been lawful had the facts been as the accused believed them to be.

(2) that the mistake of fact is not due to negligence or unlawful intent of the offender. The Supreme Court in several Cases had applied the “mistake of fact Principle” doctrine, which allowed the accused, who committed a crime on a mistaken belief, to enjoy the benefit of the justifying circumstance of self-defense. 

(United States vs. Ah Chong, 15 Phil.,488), 

defense of person and right (the US vs. Bautista, G.R. No. 10678 August 17, 1915), 

defense of honor (the United States vs. Apego, 23 Phil. 391), the performance of duty, (People vs. Mamasalaya, 

G.R. No.L-4911, February 10, 1953), and the exempting circumstance of obedience of an order of superior officer (People vs. Beronilla, G.R. No. L-4445, February 28, 1955). In Ah Chong, the accused, who believed that the victim was a robber and that his life was in danger because of the commencement of unlawful aggression, was acquitted due to a mistake of fact doctrine in relation to the rule on self-defense. 

In Oasis vs. Galanta, the accused, who believed that the sleeping victim is a notorious criminal to be arrested by them, was held guilty of murder for shooting him since the mistake of fact principle in relation to the performance of duty is not applicable. 

The second element is not present since they did not ascertain first his identity despite the opportunity. The first element is not likewise present since the killing of a victim believed to be a criminal was not a necessary consequence of the due performance of duty of the accused as police officers. 

Mistake Of Fact Principle

The gist of the theft is the intent to deprive another of his property in a chattel, either for gain or out of wantonness or malice to deprive another of his right in the thing taken. This cannot be where the taker honestly believes the property is his own or that of another, and that he has a right to take possession of it for himself or for another, for the protection of the latter. 

However, the belief of the accused of his ownership over the property must be honest and in good faith and not a mere sham or pretense. If the claim is dishonest, a mere pretense, taking the property of another will not protect the taker (Gaviola vs. People, G.R. No. 163927, January 27, 2006). This belief of ownership as a defense in theft is in accordance with the mistake of fact doctrine.

X informed the authorities regarding armed rebel elements onboard a vehicle in a certain barangay. Several policemen, Barangay officers, and members of the Civil Home Defense Force (CHDF) responded to information and set a checkpoint. X pointed at an approaching jitney occupied by rebels. They flagged down the vehicle but the same did not stop. They attacked the vehicle with automatic weapons by firing directly there. 

Mistake Of Fact Principle

One died and another was wounded. It turned out however that the victims are unarmed innocent civilians. Are those responsible for the death and injuries of the victims liable for homicide? Is the doctrine of mistake of fact applicable? Answer: They are liable for homicide and attempted homicide. The duty of those manning the checkpoint is to identify the occupants of their suspect vehicle and search for firearms inside it to validate the information they had received; 

they may even affect a bloodless arrest. While rebellion is a continuing offense, they cannot open fire at or kill the suspects under any and all circumstances. There is no evidence showing that they were placed in real mortal danger in the presence of the victims. Hence, the mistake of fact principle is not applicable since there is negligence or bad faith on their part (Yapyucu vs. Sandiganbayan, GR No. 120744-46, June 25, 2012).

South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has been found guilty of culpable homicide after the judge found he killed his girlfriend by mistake. The judge said the athlete had acted "negligently" when he fired shots through a toilet door, but in the "belief that there was an intruder". If the case happened here, should the athlete be convicted of homicide or reckless imprudence resulting in homicide?

Answer: The athlete should be held liable with homicide with privilege mitigating circumstance of defense of property.

In the mistake of fact Principle, which negates Dolo, it is important requisite that that act would have been lawful had the fact been as the accused believed them to be. If there was really an intruder inside the toilet, it would be considered unlawful aggression against his property, which would allow him to use reasonable means to repel it in accordance with the self-help doctrine under Article 429 of the Civil Code and defense of property under Article 12 of the Revised Penal Code.

 However, the means employed by him firing shots through the toilet door is not reasonable; and hence, he has only entitled to privilege migrating circumstance of incomplete defense of property (See: People vs. Narvaez, G.R. Nos. L-33466-67, April 20, 1983). In sum, the act would have been attended by the privilege mitigating circumstance of incomplete justification had the facts been as the accused believed them to be.

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