Failure to return lost object constitutes theft

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I am a 3rd year college student somewhere in Manila. One day, I left my iPad mini inside our classroom. After almost a week, I saw the said gadget in my classmate’s bag. But when I tired to talk to him, he denied that it was my iPad mini. I am one hundred percent sure that it was really my iPad mini. What case can I file against my classmate?
Claire

Dear Claire,
As clearly provided under the law, whoever finds a lost property but fails to return the same to its owner or the local authorities shall be guilty of the crime of theft. This is according to Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, which states:

“Art. 308. Who are liable for theft — Theft is committed by any person who, with intent to gain but without violence against or intimidation of persons nor force upon things, shall take personal property of another without the latter’s consent.

Theft is likewise committed by:

1. Any person who, having found lost property, shall fail to deliver the same to the local authorities or to its owner; xxx”

As explicitly stated in the aforementioned law, theft is not only committed by the intentional taking of another’s property but likewise by failure to return a lost thing to its owner or to turn it over to the local authorities.

The provision of Article 719 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines is applicable to the foregoing discussion as it directs the finder of a lost thing or property to return the same to its owner or to the proper authority. It specifically provides:

“Art. 719. Whoever finds a movable, which is not treasure, must return it to its previous possessor. If the latter is unknown, the finder shall immediately deposit it with the mayor of the city or municipality where the finding has taken place.

The finding shall be publicly announced by the mayor for two consecutive weeks in the way he deems best.

If the movable cannot be kept without deterioration, or without expenses which considerably diminish its value, it shall be sold at public auction eight days after the publication.

Six months from the publication having elapsed without the owner having appeared, the thing found, or its value, shall be awarded to the finder. The finder and the owner shall be obliged, as the case may be, to reimburse the expenses.”

As explained above, if you are certain that the gadget you saw in your classmate’s bag really belongs to you and you can prove it, then he may be held criminally liable for theft.

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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