Exemption from Criminal Liability for Damage to Property

Dear PAO,

My brother owns an auto repair shop. The shop employs some of our relatives, including our cousins. Unfortunately, they stole some of the company’s property. When knowledge of the theft was brought to their attention, they rejoiced at their alleged exoneration from criminal liability due to their relationship with my brother. As such, can we know if the “cousin” of a plaintiff is actually exonerated from criminal responsibility for the crime of theft?

so here

Dear Donici,

The answer to your question is no. To elucidate this answer, allow us to draw your attention to the provisions of Law 3815, otherwise known as the “Revised Penal Code of the Philippines”. In summary, Article 332 of the said law reads as follows:

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“EXEMPTION FROM CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY IN OFFENSES AGAINST PROPERTY Article 332. Persons exempt from criminal responsibility. – No criminal liability, but only civil, will result from the commission of the crime of theft, fraud or malicious intent committed or mutually caused by the following persons:

“1. Spouses, ascendants and descendants or relatives in the same line.

“2. The widowed spouse, as to the property which belonged to the spouse who died before him, passed into the possession of another; and

“3. Brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, if they live together.

The exemption established by this section does not apply to foreigners participating in the commission of the crime.” (Emphasis and underlining provided).

In connection with the foregoing, the following guidance on the relationships found in the provisions of Republic Act 386, or commonly referred to as the “Civil Code of the Philippines” is instructive:

“Article 964. The sequence of degrees forms a line, which can be either direct or collateral. The direct line is that constituted by the sequence of degrees between ascendants and descendants.

“A collateral line is that constituted by the series of degrees between persons who are not ascendants and descendants, but who come from a common ancestor. (916a)

“Article 965. The direct line is either descending or ascending.

“The first unites the head of the family to those who descend from him.

“The latter binds a person with those from whom he descends.”

In relation to the foregoing, it is specified that the relatives mentioned in article 332 of the revised Penal Code, other than brothers and sisters, are limited to relatives in the direct line, that is to say either ascendants or descendants. Obviously, the law does not include someone’s cousin because the latter only shares a common ascendant but is not directly related as an ascendant-descendant.

In addition to the above, your account also shows an employee’s unlawful taking of personal effects belonging to the employer. As such, the possibility of the commission of the crime of robbery cannot be excluded. Therefore, applying the terms of the Supreme Court in the case of the ab intestate succession of Vda. From Carungcong c. People (GR 181409, Feb. 11, 2010) written by the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, the absolute cause or exemption provided by our law is clearly inapplicable to your request, thus:

“The absolute cause provided for in article 332 of the revised Penal Code applies only to the crimes of theft, fraud and malicious intent. Under the terms of the said provision, the State retains the criminal responsibility of the offender in the event of theft, fraud and malicious intent. act of grace, the State renounces to prosecute the perpetrator of the said crimes but leaves to the injured private the possibility of engaging the civil liability of the perpetrator.

“However, the scope of section 332 is strictly limited to the offenses mentioned therein. The clear, categorical and unequivocal language of the provision shows that it applies exclusively to simple offenses of theft, fraud and malicious intent. It does not apply when one of the offenses referred to in Article 332 is complex with another offence, such as theft by falsification or estafa by falsification.” (Underlining and underlining provided).

We hope we were able to answer your questions. This advice is based solely on the facts you have related and our assessment of them. Our opinion may change when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily chronicle of the public ministry. Questions for Chef Acosta can be sent to [email protected]