The employer of my husband filed a complaint for malicious mischief against him. Does the penalty for this involve imprisonment? We don’t know anything about this crime. Please help us.
Malicious mischief is defined as the willful damaging of another’s property for the sake of causing damage due to hate, revenge or other evil motive. To successfully make a person liable for malicious mischief, the following elements must be proved: 1) that the offender deliberately caused damage to the property of another; 2) that such act does not constitute arson or other crimes involving destruction; 3) that the act of damaging another’s property be committed merely for the sake of damaging it (Luis B. Reyes, The Revised Penal Code, Book II (15th Ed.), page 837).
The penalty for the crime of malicious mischief shall depend upon the value and the kind of the property damaged. The kinds of malicious mischief and its penalties are provided in Articles 328, 329 and 330 of the Revised Penal Code, to wit: “Article 328. Special cases of malicious mischief. – Any person who shall cause damage to obstruct the performance of public functions, or using any poisonous or corrosive substance; or spreading any infection or contagion among cattle; or who cause damage to the property of the National Museum or National Library, or to any archive or registry, waterworks, road, promenade, or any other thing used in common by the public, shall be punished:
1. By prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods, if the value of the damage caused exceeds 1,000 pesos;
2. By arresto mayor, if such value does not exceed the abovementioned amount but it is over 200 pesos; and
3. By arresto menor, in such value does not exceed 200 pesos.
“Article 329. Other mischiefs. – The mischiefs not included in the next preceding article shall be punished:
1. By arresto mayor in its medium and maximum periods, if the value of the damage caused exceeds 1,000 pesos;
2. By arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods, if such value is over 200 pesos but does not exceed 1,000 pesos; and
3. By arresto menor or fine of not less than the value of the damage caused and not more than 200 pesos, if the amount involved does not exceed 200 pesos or cannot be estimated.
“Article 330. Damage and obstruction to means of communication. – The penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods shall be imposed upon any person who shall damage any railway, telegraph or telephone lines.”
To further assist your husband in his concern, he may visit our district office nearest to the place where the case against him was filed. However, to be a bona fide client of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), a prospective client must pass our indigency test as provided in Section 3 of the PAO Operations Manual.
“ Xxx (T)he following shall be considered indigent persons:
1. If residing in Metro Manila, whose net income does not exceed P14,000.00 a month;
2. If residing in other cities, whose net income does not exceed P13,000.00 a month; and
3. If residing in all other places, whose net income does not exceed P12,000.00 a month.
The term “net income” as herein employed, shall be understood to refer to the income of the litigant less statutory deductions.
“Statutory deductions” shall refer to withholding taxes, Government Service Insurance System or Social Security System contributions, Pag-IBIG, health insurance and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation premiums as well as mandatory deductions.
For purposes of this Section, ownership of land shall not per se, constitute a ground for disqualification of an applicant for free legal assistance, in view of the ruling in Juan Enaje v. Victorio Ramos, et al. (G.R. No. L-22109, January 30, 1970), that the determinative factor for indigency is the income of the litigant and not his ownership of real property.
The same provision enumerates proofs of indigency. We require our prospective clients to submit any of the following:
1. Latest Income Tax Return or pay slip or other proofs of income; or
2. Certificate of Indigency from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, its local District Office, or the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office having jurisdiction over the residence of the applicant; or
3. Certificate of Indigency from the Barangay Chairman having jurisdiction over the residence of the applicant.
A prospective client must not only pass the PAO Indigency Test but also its Merit Test. Section 2 of the PAO Operations Manual elucidates on the Merit Test, thus:
“Section 2. Merit Test. – A case shall be considered meritorious, if an assessment of the law and evidence on hand, discloses that the legal services of the office will assist, or be in aid of, or in the furtherance of justice x x x.”
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts that you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
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