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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. L-3482. September 7, 1907. ]

THE UNITED STATES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. BARTOLOME GRAY, Defendant-Appellant.

E. Pineda, for Appellant.

Attorney-General Araneta, for Appellee.

SYLLABUS


1. IGNORANCE OF THE LAW. — It is an express legal rule that ignorance of the law is not an excuse for failure to comply therewith. (Art. 2, Civil Code.)

2. MUNICIPAL OFFICERS; INTEREST IN COCKPITS. — The councilor of a municipality is specially required to be acquainted with the municipal laws in connection with his duties and obligations, because he is bound to comply with them and to see that they are complied with by others, and he can not plead his ignorance thereof. On the contrary, there exists a presumption that, being a councilor, he is well aware of their provisions.


D E C I S I O N


TORRES, J.:


By means of written complaint dated the 24th of April, 1906, Bartolome Gray, a councilor and resident of the municipality of Candon, was accused by the provincial fiscal of Ilocos Sur of violation of Act No. 663, in that since 1904 to the present day the accused was and is duly elected councilor of said municipality, and that since 1905 to this day, being then and there councilor, was unlawfully and feloniously interested in the direct manner in a cockpit established in said town, having secured a license therefor in the year 1905, which was renewed on the 5th of January, 1906.

Act No. 663, amending paragraph (a) of section 28 of the Municipal Code, provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"SEC. 28. (a) No municipal officer shall be directly or indirectly interested in any contract work, or cockpits, or other permitted games and amusements, or business of the municipality, or in the purchase of any real estate or any other property belonging to the corporation."cralaw virtua1aw library

And paragraph (b) of said section 28 of Act No. 82, entitled the Municipal Code, then prescribes that —

"(b) Any officer violating the provisions of this section shall, upon a two-thirds vote of all the members of the council, be removed from office; and, upon trial and conviction in a court of competent jurisdiction, shall be imprisoned for not less than six months and not more than two years."cralaw virtua1aw library

The case having proceeded to trial upon the said complaint, and after the accused had pleaded not guilty, the provincial fiscal, in order to shorten the proceedings, moved that the following facts stated in the complaint be considered proven, as they were indisputable (fol. 13):chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

(1) That since the year 1904 to April 24, 1906, the accused, Gray had acted as a duly elected councilor of the municipality of Candon, and had during the said time exercised the rights and duties inherent to such office.

(2) That since 1905 until the first months of 1906 he was directly interested in the cockpit business in the municipality of Candon.

(3) That for the purpose above stated he secured the corresponding license from the municipal treasurer of Candon for the year 1905, the same having been renewed on the 5th of January, 1906.

The above facts, as set forth by the fiscal, were admitted by the counsel for defense, although he alleged that the accused have never intended to commit an offense, which intent is the basis of the penalty, and that he was ignorant that, being a councilor, he could not take part in any contract in which the municipality was interested, nor in cockpits, so much so that as soon as hi attention was called thereto by intelligent person he at once asked that his license be canceled, and that it was then that it was discovered that he was a contractor for the cockpit.

The judge, in view of the proceedings in the case, rendered judgment therein and sentenced the accused, Bartolome Gray, to the penalty of six months’ imprisonment for violating Act. No. 82, as amended by Act No. 663, and to pay the costs; from which judgment counsel for the accused appealed.

It is an express legal precept that ignorance of the law does not excuse from anyone from compliance therewith (art. 2, Civil Code), and the exculpatory allegation offered by the accused, to the effect that he was ignorant of the prohibitive provisions of said municipal law, as amended, is therefore not all admissible. It was the duty of the accused, as councilor for the town of Candon, to be acquainted with all the laws in force, especially the municipal laws in connection with his duties and obligations, because he was obliged not only to comply with them but also to see that they were complied with by all of his townsmen and upon this theory he could not be ignorant thereof; on the contrary, the presumption exists that he was well aware of their provisions, particularly such laws as Act No. 82. which was in force since January 31, 1901, an its amendment by Act No. 663, enacted on the 5th of March, 1903, both of which dates are long prior to the time when he began the performance of his duties as councilor of the municipality.

In view of the foregoing considerations, the judgment appealed from should be affirmed with costs. So ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Johnson, Willard, and Tracey, JJ., concur.

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