Valid claim of self-defense


Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My brother and our neighbor have not been in good terms for about a year now. They frequently quarrel when they see each other. One day, our neighbor barged into our house and tried to punch him, so my brother was forced to push him back. As a result, our neighbor tripped over and injured his arms. Because of this, he filed a case of physical injury against my brother. May I know if my brother has a defense under the circumstances?

Dear Tina,
Your brother may invoke self-defense to justify his actions. Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code authorizes a person to act in defense of his person or rights. It states:

“Justifying circumstances. — The following do not incur any criminal liability:

1. Anyone who acts in defense of his person or rights, provided that the following circumstances concur;

First. Unlawful aggression.

Second. Reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it.

Third. Lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself. xxx”

Such self-defense is not limited to cases where a person acts to defend himself against harm. The provision also allows a person to act in defense of his rights, including property rights. However, this does not mean that a person can take the law into his hands. In order to claim complete self-defense, the person depending himself must show compliance with the requirements set by law.

First, there must be unlawful aggression on the part of the alleged victim. The test for the presence of unlawful aggression under the circumstances is whether the aggression from the victim put in real peril the life or personal safety of the person defending himself; the peril must not be an imagined or imaginary threat (People vs. Dulin,G.R. No. 171284, June 29, 2015, Ponente: Honorable Associate Justice Lucas P. Bersamin). Second, the means employed to prevent or repel the attack must be reasonably necessary. This means that the force used by the person defending himself must be commensurate to the force used by his attacker. If his resistance is disproportionate to the attack/aggression, then he becomes criminally liable (People vs. Narvaez,G.R. Nos. L-33466-67 April 20, 1983, Ponente: Honorable former Chief JusticeFelix V. Makasiar). Finally, there must be a lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the defending person, which means the defending party must not have incited the aggressor to attack him.

In the case of your brother, it appears to us that all the elements of self-defense are present. First, the act of your neighbor, that is, barging into your house and trying to inflict harm on your brother, clearly constitutes unlawful aggression absent any clear and valid reason to do so. Second, the act of pushing away a person who barged into one’s house uninvited and who even tried to inflict harm could arguably be considered reasonable under the circumstances. Lastly, there appears to be no provocation on the part of your brother based on your narration. As such, we believe that he may validly claim self-defense in the physical injury case that your neighbor filed against him.

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


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