• Prescription of crimes

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    In 2006, the owner of the house I am renting, with the help of other persons, forcibly entered our home and took my antique cabinets. What happened is that they lured my wife out of the house and forcibly entered our house through the rear door. Then, they refused to let us in and began piling our belongings outside on the street. However, the antique cabinets were kept as payment for our back rentals. Can we still file a case against them though the incident happened in 2006?       
    Sonica5

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    Dear Sonica5,
    Before answering your question concerning prescription of crimes, it is crucial to establish first what crime was actually committed.

    Based on your narration, the acts of the owner of the house and his aides would constitute theft. There is theft when a person who, with intent to gain but without violence against, or intimidation of persons or force upon things, shall take personal property of another without the latter’s consent (Art. 308, Revised Penal Code [RPC]). The elements of the crime of theft are: 1) taking of personal property; 2) the property belongs to another; 3) done with intent to gain; 4) done without consent of the owner; and 5) accomplished without the use of violence against or intimidation of persons, or force upon things (People vs. Yusay, 50 Phil. 598).

    Applying the foregoing to your case, it is clear that the first four elements are present. The owner of the house and his aides took the antique cabinets you own with intent to gain, that is, to apply it to the unpaid rents, and that the same was executed without your consent. As to the last element referring to violence, intimidation and force, your narration is devoid of any allegation of violence or intimidation employed by the owner of the house and his aides against you and your wife to secure possession of the antique cabinets. Hence, we assume that there is none. Moreover, though you mention a forcible entry, none of the instances mentioned in Article 299 of the RPC, constituting force upon things such as breaking of door, using false keys or pretending the exercise of public authority to enter your house is apparent from your narration. The lack of allegation on these matters leads us to conclude that there is no violence, intimidation of persons, or force upon things present in your case, satisfying the final element of the crime of theft.

    This is not to say that forcible entry into a house is not punishable by law. The forcible entry into your house could be separately considered as trespass to dwelling. Trespass to dwelling is committed by any person who shall enter the dwelling of another against the latter’s will. (Art. 280, Id.) Under this law, the offender may be prosecuted so long as the entry is prohibited by the owner, expressly or impliedly, even though no violence was employed. The entry of the owner of the house and his aides into your house which you categorize as forcible creates an impression to us that the entry was effected against your will and thus we consider the crime of trespass to dwelling.

    Going to your query on prescription of crimes, Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code sets the period of prescription of crimes or the period allowed to institute a case which is not uniform for all crimes. It ranges from two months to 20 years depending on the classification of the imposable penalty. In general, the higher the penalty, the longer the prescription period.

    Theft is penalized according to the value of personal property taken and the penalty that can be imposed on the offender ranges from aresto menor in its minimum period to reclusion temporal. Thus, depending on the value of personal property taken, the crime of theft prescribes in two months or up to 20 years (Article 309 in relation to Sections 25 & 90, Id.) As there is no allegation as to the value of the antique cabinets taken, the period of prescription cannot be ascertained. Assuming, however, that the value of the antique cabinets taken were more than P12,000, then you at least have 15 years to file the case.

    As to the trespassing case, we regret to inform you that the case may no longer be filed. Simple trespass to dwelling is punishable by aresto mayor which prescribes in five years. (Article 280 in relation to Sections 25 & 90, Id.) Considering that the crime occurred in 2006 or around nine years ago, your right to file the case has already prescribed.

    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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