Crimes committed under force or compulsion

What is the liability of a person who commits a crime under duress or compulsion? We ask this question in light of the release of the video showing certain individuals beheading their victims and who are now claiming that they did so only upon the orders and threats of members of the Abu Sayaf. 

Under paragraphs 5 and 6, Article 12 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, any person who act under the compulsion of irresistible force and any person who acts under the impulse of an uncontrollable fear of an equal or greater injury shall be exempted from criminal prosecution.

The irresistible force must be physical and must come from a third person. In this scenario, the accused must have acted not only without a will but against his will. It cannot consist of an impulse or passion or obfuscation. In a case, the Supreme Court excused an accused as an accessory, after it was shown that he was struck with the butt of a gun by the real killers to compel him to bury the victim. The court found that he was not liable because he acted under the compulsion of an irresistible force.

A person who acts under the compulsion of an irresistible force, like one who acts under the impulse of uncontrollable fear of equal or greater injury is exempt from criminal liability because he does not act with freedom. The force must be irresistible to reduce him to a mere instrument who acts not only without will but against his will. The duress, force, fear or intimidation must be present, imminent and impending and of such a nature as to induce a well-grounded apprehension of death or serious bodily harm if the act is not done. It should not be inspired by speculative, fanciful, or remote fear. A threat of future injury is not enough. The compulsion must be of such a character as to leave no opportunity to the accused for escape or self-defense in equal combat. A person who invokes the exempting circumstance of compulsion due to irresistible force must prove his defense by clear and convincing evidence.