• Difference between arbitrary detention and unlawful arrest

    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    We want to ask for clarification about the difference between the crime of arbitrary detention and illegal arrest. My neighbor was arrested and detained by our barangay (village) officials for unspecified reason. As a concerned citizen, I find the action as somewhat abusive. What is the proper case to file against these officials? I hope for your helpful response.

    Dear Janus,
    To explain and compare the difference between the crime of arbitrary detention and illegal arrest, we shall refer to the Revised Penal Code (RPC) of the Philippines, which provides legal definition of these crimes.

    According to Article 124 of the RPC, arbitrary detention is committed by any public officer or employee who without legal grounds detains a person. Under this provision, the commission of a crime or violent insanity or any other ailment requiring the compulsory confinement of the patient in a hospital, shall be considered legal grounds for the detention of any person. (Ibid.)

    On the other hand, Article 269 of the law provides that unlawful arrest is committed by any person who, in any case other than those authorized by law, or without reasonable ground, shall arrest or detain another for the purpose of delivering him to the proper authorities.

    As seen from the above-cited definitions, arbitrary detention is committed by a public officer while both public officers and private persons can commit the crime of unlawful arrest. The essence of the crime of arbitrary detention is a public officer’s act of detaining a person without any lawful cause. In unlawful arrest, the crime is the act of arresting a person without a legal cause for the purpose of delivering the person arrested to proper authorities. Conversely, it is considered arbitrary detention when the public officer merely detains a person without any intention in bringing the person to the proper authorities.

    Therefore in your situation in the barangay, if the person was detained for no lawful reason, the village officials may be liable for arbitrary detention. If your neighbor, however, was arrested illegally for the purpose of bringing him to judicial authorities, then your officials may be liable for unlawful arrest.

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

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


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    1. Dear Atty Acosta,
      Grace Poe &her lawyers are saying that foundling are natural born Filipinos. My question pertains to citizenship of thoseborn with Filipino mother & foreign father who wasn’t able to elect Filipino citizenship. They remain stateless. Foundling (very few) is better than them (greater in no.)How are they going to be naturalized considering that they are in senior years?They are not allowed to secure passport since they are stateless.

      • Rolando Tubo Jr on

        Hi Sir Tito de Mesa.

        You may refer to the Article 5 Section 1 Paragraph 2 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

        She is indeed a Filipino Citizen by just having a Filipino Mother.

        If you’re trying to pertain to her eligibility to run for presidency then you must check Article 7 Section 2 of the same constitutuon. In here it is stated that for a person to qualify as a candidate for presidency she must atleast has been a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 yrs which is contradictory to the fact that she hasn’t stayed here that long.

        Hope everything’s quite clear now.
        Rj Tubo