R.A. 8294, now known as ‘The Revilla Law’, was purportedly crafted by Senator Ramon Revilla Sr. to benefit those incarcerated during the Marcos dictatorship for their political beliefs and whose imprisonment was brought about by the abusive execution of P.D. 1866. However, many believed that R.A. 8294 was enacted solely for the benefit of Robin Padilla, the solon’s family friend and an avid Ramos campaigner, who was then serving sentence for illegal possession of firearms.
Under R.A. 8294, the use of an unlicensed weapon is either considered as an aggravating circumstance in murder or homicide, or absorbed as an element of rebellion, insurrection, sedition or attempted coup d’etat. In brief, the separate penalty for illegal possession of firearm shall no longer be imposed because it becomes merely a special aggravating circumstance in the crime of murder or homicide and a qualifying circumstance in rebellion, insurrection, sedition or attempted coup d’etat.
What if an unlicensed weapon is used in the commission of ‘other crime’ other than homicide, murder, rebellion, insurrection, sedition or attempted coup d’ etata? Stated otherwise, what happens when an unlicensed firearm is used in the commission of ‘other crime’ like alarms and scandals, direct assault, grave threat, violation of gun ban or serious physical injuries? Section 1 of R.A. 8294 provides an answer to these questions, which reads in part :
The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period and a fine of not less than Fifteen thousand pesos (P15,000) shall be imposed upon any person who shall unlawfully manufacture, deal in, acquire, dispose, or possess any low powered firearm, such as rimfire handgun, .380 or .32 and other firearm of similar firepower, part of firearm, ammunition, or machinery, tool or instrument used or intended to be used in the manufacture of any firearm or ammunition: Provided, That no other crime was committed.
"The penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period and a fine of Thirty thousand pesos (P30,000) shall be imposed if the firearm is classified as high powered firearm which includes those with bores bigger in diameter than .38 caliber and 9 millimeter such as caliber .40, .41, .44, .45 and also lesser calibered firearms but considered powerful such as caliber .357 and caliber .22 center-fire magnum and other firearms with firing capability of full automatic and by burst of two or three: Provided, however, That no other crime was committed by the person arrested.
The above provisions suggest that the accused can be convicted of simple illegal possession of firearms, provided that “no other crime was committed by the person arrested’. In other words, if the accused commits the ‘other crime’ (other than homicide, murder, rebellion, insurrection, sedition or attempted coup d’etat) with the use of an unlicensed weapon, no separate charge for such use will be brought against him.
Now, does the mere filing of an information for ‘other crime’ against an accused necessarily preclude his prosecution for illegal possession of firearm? This was clarified by the Supreme Court in the case of Celino, Sr. vs. CA (GR 170562, 29 June 2007), viz :
The law is indeed clear. The accused can be convicted of illegal possession of firearms, provided no other crime was committed by the person arrested. The word “committed” taken in its ordinary sense, and in light of the Constitutional presumption of innocence, necessarily implies a prior determination of guilt by final conviction resulting from successful prosecution or voluntary admission.
In other words, if an accused is convicted of other crime - let say alarms and scandals - with the use of unlicensed firearm, which carries an imposable penalty of arresto menor, the prosecution of his case involving illegal possession of firearm should be discontinued. Ergo, the case of illegal possession of firearm, which carries a higher penalty than that of alarms and scandals, would become judicially irrelevant. How absurd! R.A. 8294 deserves a second look by our lawyers-legislators.