We have an ancestral home here in Taguig City (Metro Manila). One room is being occupied by my family, while the other room is occupied by my brother and his family. The problem is, my wife and my sister-in-law are always quarrelling. Most of the time, I have to side with my wife while my brother would also protect his spouse.
On one occasion, I caught my brother stealing my cellular phone. This resulted in an argument and we ended up at the barangay (village) hall when I filed a complaint against him. Conciliation proceedings before the barangay failed, and I obtained a Certificate to File Action. I am now intending to file a case for theft against him but I am having second thoughts considering that my brother has two little kids. Please advise me regarding the matter.
Theft is committed by any 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. Theft is also committed by:
1) Any person who, having found lost property, shall fail to deliver the same to local authorities or to its owner;
2) Any person who, after having maliciously damaged the property of another, shall remove or make use of the fruits or objects of the damage caused by him; and
3) Any person who shall enter an enclosed estate or a field where trespass is forbidden or which belongs to another and without the consent of its owner, shall hunt or fish upon the same or shall gather fruits, cereals or other forest or farm products (Article 308, Revised Penal Code of the Philippines or RPC ).
The act of your brother in stealing your cellular phone is punishable as theft. But even if you decide to file the criminal case of theft against him, the same will be dismissed, because your brother is one of the persons who is exempt from criminal liability if the offense committed is a crime against property and the offended party is a relative. This finds support under Article 332 of the RPC, which states:
“No criminal, but only civil liability shall result from the commission of the crime of theft, swindling or malicious mischief 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.”
In your situation, your brother falls squarely under No. 3 of the above-mentioned provision of law since the crime committed is against property and you are living together. The remedy that is left to you is to hold him civilly liable for his act.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.