Prescription of crimes barely composed

Dear PAO,

My brother, who is a doctor, is threatened with legal action for allegedly issuing a false medical certificate. According to my informant’s story, the same thing happened quite a long time ago, that is, six and a half years ago. Assuming that my brother actually issued a false medical certificate, can he still be prosecuted for it? Isn’t the previously mentioned crime considered a minor offense that has a short statute of limitations?

Armand

Dear Armand,

The answer to your question can be found in the relevant provisions of Law number 3815, also known as the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended. Firstly, article 174 of the said law defines and punishes the offense of false medical certificate, namely:

“Art. 174. False medical certificates, false certificates of merit or service, etc. – The penalties of arrest of the mayor in its maximum period to the correctional prison in its minimum period and a fine not exceeding two hundred thousand pesos ( P200,000) will be imposed:

“1. Any doctor or surgeon who, in the exercise of his profession, issues a false certificate; and

“2. Any public official who will issue a false certificate of merit of service, good conduct or similar circumstances.

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“Will be punished by arrest any individual who has falsified a certificate falling within the classes mentioned in the two (2) previous subsections. (Underlining and underlining provided)

In addition to the definition of the crime, the preceding provision of the law indicates the penalty provided for any doctor who would issue a false certificate in relation to his profession. Regarding the penalty provided by law, it should be noted to your question that the law provided for a compound sentence when it said “arresto mayor xxx à prison correccional or imprisonment from one month and one day to six months, up to at six months and one day at six years.

In relation to the above, article 90 of the RPC is enlightening with regard to the question of the prescription of the crime:

“Article 90. Prescription of the crime. – Crimes punishable by death, life imprisonment or time imprisonment are prescribed in twenty years.

“Crimes punished by other afflictive penalties shall be prescribed by fifteen years.

“Those who are liable to a correctional sentence are prescribed in ten years; with the exception of those who are punished by order of the mayor, which are prescribed in five years.

“The crime of defamation or other similar offenses is prescribed by one year.

“The crime of oral defamation and insult by act is prescribed by six months.

Minor offenses are time-barred in two months.

“Where the penalty fixed by law is a compound penalty, the higher penalty shall be based on the application of the rules contained in the first, second and third paragraphs of this section. (As amended by RA 4661, approved on 19 June, 1966).” (Underlining and underlining provided)

In application of the above, it is the higher sentence between the arresto mayor with the five-year limitation period and the correccional prison with the ten-year limitation period that will serve as the basis for determining whether the alleged crime is already prescribed. According to your brief account, the alleged crime occurred six and a half years ago. Thus, considering that the highest penalty imposed for the offense of false medical certificate is the correctional prison which has a limitation period of ten years, it is clear that the offense with which your brother is charged has not been prescribed. As such, a complaint can still be filed against him.

We hope we were able to answer your questions. Remember that this advice is based solely on the facts you have reported and our assessment of them. Our opinion may change when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily chronicle of the public ministry. Questions for Chef Acosta can be sent to [email protected]

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