I am a businessman operating a boutique in a commercial strip. Similar establishments in the area reported a man who identifies himself as an inspector officer of the fire department of our city and often inspects the establishments in our area. Some business owners became suspicious of his actions since he does not seem knowledgeable on what he is doing particularly the technicalities of his inspection when asked about it. Other concerned businessmen communicated with the fire department to confirm if they really have such an inspector tasked to check up commercial establishments. While the fire department confirmed that they indeed had rounds of inspection in our area, they denied that the person who inspected our area was an officer or even a staff of the fire department.
Since knowing this information, the man pretending to be an inspector failed to return, and so we are unable to confront him. Because of this, I am wondering what we can file against that person if he ever comes back and pretends to inspect our establishment. We hope to receive your advice soon. Thank you!
Based from your narration, you may file a criminal charge against the man pretending to be a fire inspector officer who goes around inspecting business establishments. This person’s actions can be prosecuted under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines for usurpation of authority or official functions.
This law provides that:
“Art. 177. Usurpation of authority or official functions. — Any person who shall knowingly and falsely represent himself to be an officer, agent or representative of any department or agency of the Philippine Government or of any foreign government, or who, under pretense of official position, shall perform any act pertaining to any person in authority or public officer of the Philippine Government or any foreign government, or any agency thereof, without being lawfully entitled to do so, shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods.”
As seen from the cited law, there are two ways of committing the crime of usurpation of authority or official functions. First is by pretending to be an officer of the government and the second one is by performing acts of a person in authority or public officer under the pretense of such authority despite being unauthorized to do so.
It is clear in your narration that the person pretending to be a fire inspector officer was performing an act, the inspection of establishments, which is a task being performed by authorized government officers. The said person also misrepresented himself as an authorized officer despite being unauthorized to do so. Thus, this person pretending to be and acting like a fire inspector is clearly usurping the authority and official functions of a public officer which makes him criminally liable for his actions.
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