Notes: (1) Please surf to the complete list of available PDFs on legal procedures in criminal and civil cases.
(2) What is the difference between reclusion perpetua and life imprisonment?
The Supreme Court in Administrative Circular No. 6-A-92 explained the substantial difference between reclusion perpetua under the Revised Penal Code and life imprisonment when imposed as a penalty by special law.
The Court explained that reclusion perpetua under the Revised Penal Code is imprisonment for at least thirty  years after which the convict becomes eligible for pardon, and carries with it accessory penalties like perpetual special disqualification, etc. On the other hand, life imprisonment as imposed by a special law does not appear to have any definite extent or duration, and does not carry with it any accessory penalty. The complete text Administrative Circular No. 6-A-92 is posted below:
The Court has observed that several trial judges, in their judgments of conviction for such serious offenses as Murder, Robbery with Homicide and Rape with Homicide under the Revised Penal Code and violation of Section 4, Art. II, RA 6425, as amended by P. D. 1675 [Dangerous Drugs Act], fail to appreciate and observe the substantial difference between reclusion perpetua under the Revised Penal Code and life imprisonment when imposed as a penalty by special law.(3) The Indeterminate Sentence Law (R.A. 4103, as amended) is meant to “uplift and redeem valuable human material and prevent unnecessary and excessive deprivation of personal liberty and economic usefulness” through the shortening of the term of imprisonment of the convict, depending upon his behavior, physical, mental or moral record.
For the guidance of all concerned, the admonition by the Court on the subject in People vs. Penillos, January 30, 1992 [205 SCRA 546] is reproduced hereunder:
“As noted from the dispositive portion of the challenged decision, the trial court imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. Evidently, it considered the latter as the English translation of the former, which is not the case. Both are different and distinct penalties. In the recent case of People vs. Baguio, [April 30, 1991, 196 SCRA 459], this Court held:
‘The Code (Revised Penal Code) does not prescribe the penalty of life imprisonment for any of the felonies therein defined, that penalty being invariably imposed for serious offenses penalized not by the Revised Penal Code but by special law. Reclusion perpetua entails imprisonment for at least thirty  years after which the convict becomes eligible for pardon. It also carries with it accessory penalties, namely: perpetual special disqualification, etc. It is not the same as life imprisonment which, for one thing, does not carry with it any accessory penalty, and for another, does not appear to have any definite extent or duration.’
“As early as 1948, in People vs. Mobe, reiterated in People vs. Pilones and in the concurring opinion of Justice Ramon Aquino in People vs. Sumadic, this Court already made it clear that reclusion perpetua is not the same as imprisonment for life or life imprisonment. Every Judge should take note of the distinction and this Court expects that, henceforth, no trial judge should mistake one for the other.”
It does not apply, however, to offenses punished by death or reclusion perpetua; to those convicted of treason, conspiracy or proposal to commit treason; misprision of treason, rebellion, sedition or espionage, piracy; habitual delinquents; those who escaped from confinement or those who evaded sentence; those granted conditional pardon and who violated terms of the pardon; those whose maximum period of imprisonment does not exceed one year.
The basis of the application of the law is the penalty actually imposed and not that imposable by law. The Indeterminate Sentence Law covers crimes under the Revised Penal Code or by special law.
(4) Subsidiary penalty Art. 39 RPC: If the convict cannot pay the fine, he shall be subject to a subsidiary personal liability at the rate of one day for each eight pesos. Subsidiary imprisonment is proper only if the principal penalty is prision correccional or lower. It does not violate the constitutional prohibition against imprisonment for non-payment of debts. If his finances improve, he must still pay.