Destierro means banishment or only a prohibition from residing within the radius of 25 kilometers from the actual residence of the accused for a specified length of time. While it is technically not imprisonment, it still is a penalty imposed under the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.
The duration of destierro is the same as prision correccional, which is six (6) months and one (1) day, to six (6) years. Based on the duration of offenses, it is higher than arresto mayor, which has a duration of one (1) month and one (1) day, to six (6) months. [See Duration and Effects of Penalties]
In terms of jurisdiction, the initial impression is that destierro is within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court (RTC). Under Batas Pambasa Blg. 129, otherwise known as the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, RTCs have exclusive original jurisdiction in all criminal cases not within the exclusive jurisdiction of any court, tribunal, or body. On the other hand, Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts (collectively, “MTCs”) have jurisdiction over all offenses punishable with imprisonment of not exceeding 4 years and 2 months.
Article 334 of the Revised Penal Code, defining and penalizing the crime of concubinage, imposes a penalty of prision correccional, in its minimum and medium periods (6 months and 1 day, to 4 years and 2 months), on the husband, and destierro on the concubine or mistress. There appears to be an absurd situation in concubinage, wherein the husband is under the jurisdiction of the MTC and the concubine/mistress appears to be under the jurisdiction of the RTC (destierro having a duration identical with prision correccional). However, according to the Supreme Court, destierro cannot be above arresto mayor.
Destierro is not a higher penalty than arresto mayor. Arresto mayor means imprisonment or complete deprivation of liberty, whereas destierro means banishment or only a prohibition from residing within a radius of 25 kilometers from the actual residence of the accused for a specified length of time. The respective severities of arresto mayor and destierro must not be judged by the duration of each of these penalties, but by the degree of deprivation of liberty involved. Penologists have always considered destierro lighter than arresto mayor. In the graduated scale of penalties under Article 71 of the Revised Penal Code, destierro is placed below arresto mayor.
In summary, jurisdiction over concubinage is with the MTCs.
[Sources: Revised Penal Code; Uy Chin Hua vs. Dinglasan, G.R. No. L-2907, 30 June 1950; People vs. Eduarte, G.R. No. 88232, 26 February 1990]
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