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Definition of Criminal Law and the main characteristics of Philippine

Criminal Law

Criminal law is that branch or division of law which defines crimes, treats of their
nature, and provides for their punishment.

Characteristics of Philippine Criminal law

a. GENERAL. Criminal law is binding on all persons who live or sojourn in
Philippine Territory. (Article 14, Civil Code of the Philippines)
b. TERRITORIAL. Criminal laws undertake to punish crimes committed within
Philippine territory. The principle of territoriality means that as a rule, penal
laws of the Philippines are enforceable only within its territory.
c. PROSPECTIVE. A penal law cannot make an act punishable in a manner in
which it was not punishable when committed.

2. Exemptions to Characteristics/cardinal features of criminal law.

There are cases where our Criminal Law does not apply even if the crime is
committed by a person residing or sojourning in the Philippines. These
constitute the exceptions.
The opening sentence of Article 2 of the Revised Penal Code says that the
provisions of this Code shall be enforced within the Philippine Archipelago,
except as provided in the treaties and laws of preferential application.
Article 14 of the Civil Code provides that penal laws and those of public
security and safety shall be obligatory upon all who live or sojourn in
Philippine territory, subject to the principles of public international law and to
treaty stipulations.


The following are not subject to the operation of our criminal laws:
1) Sovereigns and other chiefs of state.
2) Ambassadors, ministers plenipotentiary, ministers resident, and charges

3. Exceptions to the Territoriality Rule in Criminal Law

Article 2 of the Revised Penal Code Provides that its provisions shall be
enforced outside of the jurisdiction of the Philippines against those who:
I. Should commit and offense while on a Philippine ship or airship;
II. Should forge or counterfeit any coin or currency note of the Philippines
or obligations and securities issued by the Government of the
III. Should be liable for acts connected with the introduction into the
Philippines of the obligations and securities mentioned in the preceding
IV. While being public officers or employees, should commit an offense in
the exercise of their functions; or
V. Should commit any of the crimes against national security and the law
of nations, defined in Title One of book Two of the Revised Penal

4. Concept of Ex Post Facto Law

Ex Post Facto Law is Latin for "after the fact," which refers to laws adopted after
an act is committed making it illegal although it was legal when done, or
increases the penalty for a crime after it is committed.

5 kinds of an ex post facto law:

1. It declares an act as criminal although at the time it was committed, it was not
a crime.
2. When it aggravates the seriousness of the crime already committed.
3. It imposes a higher penalty than that provided by law at the time it was
4. If the law makes it easier to establish the guilt by the prosecution.
5. If it requires a lesser quantum of evidence.

5. Void for Vagueness Doctrine, Doctrine of Pro reo and Equipoise Doctrine in
Criminal Law

VOID FOR VAGUENESS DOCTRINE is a doctrine requiring that a penal statute

define a criminal offense with sufficient definiteness that ordinary people can
understand what conduct is prohibited and in a manner that does not encourage
arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.
Under the void-for-vagueness doctrine, a vague law is a violation of due process
because the law does not provide fair warning of a prohibition and fails to set
standards for enforcement that would govern the exercise of the police power.

DOCTRINE OF PRO REO is when there is doubt on whether the law/s should be
applied, all doubts should be resolved in favor of the accused.

EQUIPOISE DOCTRINE is when the evidence of the prosecution and of the

defense is equally balanced, the scale should be titled in favor of the accused in
obedience to the constitutional presumption of innocence.