December 4, 2022

In a recent press briefing in the slay case of broadcaster Percy Lapid, the Department of Justice Secretary referred to the “Totality Rule” as the basis in indicting several personalities for double murder.
Technically speaking, there is no direct evidence linking (him to the murder), but we are also using the concept of totality of circumstances. In this test, decisions are made on all available information so it doesn’t mean there has to be one direct connection to something. It could be understood that we focus on all the other circumstances of a particular case rather than any one factor, he said.
I must have been absent in Criminal Law class but me thinks he must be referring to conspiracy. It exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission and decide to commit a crime.
Proof of the actual agreement to do a crime need not be direct because conspiracy may be implied or inferred from their actsand no need to establish the actual agreement among the conspirators to show a preconceived plan or motive for the commission of the crime.
Proof of concerted action before, during, and after the crime, which demonstrates their unity of design and objective, is sufficient. Simply, the act of one is the act of all regardless of their degree of participation.
Conspiracy cannot be presumed. It must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Mere presence at the scene of the incident and knowledge of the plan or acquiescence thereto are not sufficient grounds to hold a person liable as a conspirator. The mere fact that the accused had prior knowledge of the criminal design of the principal perpetrator and aided the latter in consummating the crime likewise does not automatically make him a co-conspirator.
To be held guilty as a co-principal by reason of conspiracy, there must be an overt or external act, some physical activity or deed, indicating the intention to commit crime, more than mere planning or preparation; when carried out to its complete termination following its natural course, without being frustrated by external obstacles nor by the spontaneous desistance of the perpetrator, logically and necessarily ripen into a concrete offense.
Be that as it may, the Supreme Court has ruled that conspiracy is not sufficiently proven where the only act attributable to the other accused is an apparent readiness to provide assistance, but with no certainty as to its ripening into a crime.
To be sure, conspiracy is not a harmless innuendo to be taken lightly or accepted at every turn. It is a legal concept that imputes culpability under specific circumstances.
Evidence must be positive and convincing, considering it is a convenient and simplistic device by which the accused may be ensnared and kept within the penal fold.
Criminal liability cannot be based on a general allegation of conspiracy, and a judgment of conviction must always be founded on the strength of the prosecution’s evidence.
At most, if the prosecution realizes the weakness of its evidence against accused, they will peg the crime on its sweeping theory of conspiracy.
The DOJ must have an ace in its sleeve to rely on its totality rule. At the end of the day, may justice prevail even if heaven falls.
Sigh!