In America there are four common law murders: intentional killing murder, depraved heart murder, serious bodily harm murder and “felony murder”. This note will discuss the felony murder rule in relation to the recent bloody hostage taking that resulted to death of 8 Hongkong Tourists, one hostage taker and one Filipino tourist guide.
Felony murder, is a classification of murder which holds that as a result of a felony being committed, death results. The accused is liable for the underlying felony, which is kidnapping as well as murder.
In RP, hostage taking is actually “kidnapping” defined and penalized under Art. 267, Book II, Revised Penal Code, which is depriving the individual with his liberty of movement. Had Inspector Rolando Mendoza lived, he would be liable for the crime of multiple kidnapping resulting in death. A complaint for kidnapping can be filed against him multiplied by the number of hostages he held. If the hostages were physically harmed, as in this case, the penalty is life imprisonment to death. It is possible that he could receive multiple life sentences or death sentences. But Inspector Mendoza would be liable only for one single crime of “kidnapping multiplied by the numbers of his hostages” and the death or serious physical injuries that came about will be crucial only in the imposition of the penalty. The revised penal code seems not to classify this as a complex crime, but uses only the physical injury or even death as a result of kidnapping in the imposition of the penalty. Additionally, in kidnapping which resulted to death(s), the prosecutor must prove that the hostage taker shot the victims himself.
In America Inspector Mendoza is liable for three distinct offenses of “multiple kidnapping”, “multiple murders” and “multiple aggravated assaults by the use of firearm”. Some States consider “aggravated assault” a lesser included offense of murder, therefore it does not constitute a separate offense.
Here is a very unique feature of this common law felony murder which holds that if death result even if it is not due to the direct act of the kidnapper but at the hands of responding policemen, fault is still ascribed to the kidnapper under the theory that had he not ventured into kidnapping his victims, the police had no reason to assault and made an effort to rescue the hostages. This philosophy is embraced in a concept of “foreseeable result of the criminal endeavor” . It is foreseeable for someone taking hostages that attempts would be made by policemen to free the hostages and if deaths result as a consequence of the rescue, those deaths are imputable to the hostage-taker though the bullets that killed the victims were actually those from the responding policemen.
But the felony murder rule acquires no meaning in the light of the fact that the hostage-taker himself is dead. And his death, aside from the shame it brings to the nation, burdens the nation financially as well because the government assumes the cost of the hospitalization of his victims that lived. The government must be able to recoup her financial loss by running after the estate of Inspector Mendoza, through escheat proceedings. This way, we can impose our own collective retribution against a man whose singular criminal feat has disgraced the nation and her people.