Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence

Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1921 > February 1921 Decisions > G.R. No. 16466 February 16, 1921 - UNITED STATES v. HONORIO BRIONES ET AL.

041 Phil 927:



[G.R. No. 16466. February 16, 1921. ]

THE UNITED STATES, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. HONORIO BRIONES ET AL., Defendants. HONORIO BRIONES, Appellant.

P. J. Sevilla for Appellant.

Acting Attorney-General Feria for Appellee.


1. GAMBLING; MAXIMUM PENALTY FOR A JUSTICE OF THE PEACE. — One B, while a justice of the peace, conducted a gambling house and acted as banker of the prohibited game of monte. The maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment and the payment of a fine of P500 imposed. U. S. v. Salaveria ([1918], 39 Phil., 102), approved and followed.



This appeal brings before us the grave question of whether or not the defendant and appellant Honorio Briones, while justice of the peace of Paombong, Province of Bulacan, violated the Gambling Law by conducting a gambling house and acting as banker of the prohibited game of monte.

The facts, stated in their plainest terms, and uncontradicted by no evidence of the defense, are that about midnight of July 27, 1919, a Constabulary detachment under the command of Lieutenant Fawcett, surprised a number of persons engaged in playing monte in the house of Honorio Briones, situated in the municipality of Paombong, Province of Bulacan. As a result, an information was filed, charging Briones and four other persons with a violation of the Gambling Law. The last four plead guilty and were sentenced to pay small fines. Briones asked for a separate trial, which was granted. After various postponements extending over a period of approximately two months, the case was finally called, and the attorney for the defendant not being present, an attorney de oficio was named. The trial judge found the defendant guilty and sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment, to pay a fine of P500, with the corresponding subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to pay a proportional part of the costs.

The sole assignment of error on appeal is that the trial was celebrated without the defendant being given an opportunity to defend himself by means of lawyers. This is a puerile contention, as a perusal of the record will demonstrate. The trial judge showed great patience in repeatedly postponing the trial, while no constitutional right of the defendant was invaded, since he was actually defended by counsel and, since as a justice of the peace, it is to be expected that he had some knowledge of the law.

The defendant seems to have realized his guilt and merely to have utilized the method of delay in order to postpone the day of reckoning.

The defendant, it will be recalled, was at the time he was conducting a gambling house and fomenting the gambling evil in violation of law, the justice of the peace of an important municipality of the Philippines. The trial judge very appropriately took this fact into consideration when he imposed a relatively severe penalty on the accused. This was exactly the sort of a case we had in mind when in our decision in U. S. v. Salaveria ([1918], 39 Phil., 102), we suggested that where a person found guilty of a violation of the Gambling Law is a man of station or standing in the community, the maximum penalty should be imposed. (See also U. S. v. Meñez, R. G. No. 15753, decided February 13, 1920, not reported.)

Gambling is an act beyond the pale of good morals which, for the welfare of the Filipino people, should be exterminated. To be condemned in itself, it has the further effect of causing poverty, dishonesty, fraud, and deceit. Our experience as judges has constantly demonstrated that the cause of the commission of many crimes is a passion for the gambling board. It is better, therefore, to strike at the root of the tree of crime than merely to whittle off the twigs, only to see them continually renew themselves in fresh branches. To change the figure of speech, the gambling cancer must be eradicated if the disease be kept from permeating the whole social and political body.

Judgment is modified so that in place of six months’ imprisonment the defendant shall be sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, with the costs of this instance against him.

So ordered.

Araullo, Street, Avanceña and Villamor, JJ., concur.

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