I hope you can enlighten me on the difference between theft and qualified theft. I was advised by a friend to file a case for qualified theft against our househelp who stole our personal belongings including some jewelry. Will there be any difference if qualified theft is filed instead of just theft? What should I file against this person who stole our valuables? I will wait for your advice.
The answer to your question can be found in the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines which defines and distinguishes theft from qualified theft. According to our laws:
“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 xxx” (Revised Penal Code of the Philippines).
Note that the degree of penalty inflicted or duration of imprisonment as punishment to the crime of theft depends on the value of the property which is provided for in our law.
Qualified theft on the other hand is committed when a domestic servant or a person who abuses the confidence entrusted to him/her commits theft. Such act qualifies theft because of the circumstance of trust given to the offender. In detail, the law provides that:
“Art. 310. Qualified theft.— The crime of theft shall be punished by the penalties next higher by two degrees than those respectively specified in the next preceding article, if committed by a domestic servant, or with grave abuse of confidence, or if the property stolen is motor vehicle, mail matter or large cattle or consists of coconuts taken from the premises of the plantation or fish taken from a fishpond or fishery, or if property is taken on the occasion of fire, earthquake, typhoon, volcanic eruption, or any other calamity, vehicular accident or civil disturbance” (As amended by R.A. 120 and B.P. Blg. 71, May 1, 1980) (Revised Penal Code of the Philippines).
It can be seen here that the main difference between theft and qualified theft is the element of abuse of confidence by the offender which if present, turns the crime of a simple theft into qualified theft. In addition, the penalty for the latter is set to be higher from a simple theft.
Considering that the person you are accusing of theft is your househelp, the element of abuse of confidence is present since that person is entrusted to take care of your belongings. As a result, that person is liable of qualified theft instead of just 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@manilAatimes.net