Brother-in-law living with brother and his wife civilly liable for criminal acts


Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I married my husband, Jake, last year and we rented a house in Taguig City (Metro Manila). He is the eldest in his family that, hence, is sometimes dependent on him for financial support. One of his brothers was sent by my parents-in-law to stay with us until he finishes college. The problem with Jake’s brother, is that he is a drunkard. In most instances, he spends his allowance on alcoholic beverages. Thus, he always asks my husband for money for his school needs. One time, my brother-in-law asked for money from my husband, who refused and scolded him. When my husband left for office, I chanced upon my brother-in-law and his friend stealing my jewelry and when they noticed me, they immediately fled. I reported the matter to the police for the filing of criminal case against my brother-in-law but I was surprised that only the friend of my brother-in-law was charged. According to the police, they cannot file a complaint against my brother-in-law but they did not elaborate. Please guide me on this matter.    

Dear Bettina,
Article 332 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, explicitly states, “No criminal, but only civil, liability shall result from the commission of the crime of theft, swindling or malicious mischief committed or caused mutually by the following persons:

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

2.The widowed spouse with respect to the property which belonged to the deceased spouse before the same shall have passed into the possession of another; and

3. Brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, if living together.”

The exemption established by this article shall not be applicable to the strangers participating in the commission of the crime.”

Your brother-in-law is included in the above-mentioned persons who are exempted from criminal liability if the crimes committed are theft, swindling and malicious mischief and the former is living with you and your husband. The friend of your brother-in-law who participated in stealing your jewelry is not exempted from criminal liability. This is the legal basis on why the Police omitted your brother-in-law from the criminal complaint. Even if your brother-in-law, however, is exempted from criminal liability, he can be made civilly liable for his acts.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to


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