Through Kith And Kin: Can You Defend Your Relative?
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Filipinos are known for their strong familial bonds, popularly known as the culture of “close family ties,” whereas the family and kinship structure has consistently been identified as the primary socialization unit in Philippine society. The belief that family members must uphold duties and responsibilities to all members, through thick and thin, is referred to as filial piety. Can you defend your relative? “Ubusan ng lahi,” as Tagalogs may say, is the extermination of one’s opponent’s family line and close relatives until no one cares enough to avenge their deaths.

Can you defend your relative? The aid of law

Henceforth, the penal law of the Philippines is explicit in guaranteeing defense of relatives,1 where one’s act of defending his relative is justified, bearing no liability at all because there is no crime. The rationale for defending relatives is based on humanitarian sentiment rather than the instinct of blood, which drives men to rush in the face of great danger2 to save a close relative.

But how far can you go to defend your family in the eyes of law?

On what extent you  can defend your blood?

The Law

Article 11, Paragraph 2 of the Revised Penal Code  provides that:

Anyone who acts in defense of the person or rights of his spouse, ascendants, descendants, or legitimate, natural or adopted brothers or sisters, or of his relatives by affinity in the same degrees, and those by consanguinity within the fourth civil degree, provided that the first and second requisites prescribed in the next preceding circumstance are present, and the further requisite, in case the provocation was given by the person attacked, that the one making defense had no part therein.3

Elements of the Defense of Relative 

  • Unlawful aggression;
  • Reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it;
  • Provocation was given by the person attacked, the one making defense had no part.

Relatives that can be Defended

  • Spouse
  • Ascendants
  • Descendants
  • Legitimate, natural or adopted brothers and sisters, or relatives by affinity in the same degree.
  • Relatives by consanguinity within fourth civil degree.

Defense of Blood, Justified 

A defense of relatives is a justifying circumstance amongst listed by the Code, which exempts the accused from criminal and civil liability for having no mens rea or criminal intent. There being no intent, there is no crime committed — the act is justified. Provided that the following elements are present:

Unlawful Aggression

The first element is unlawful aggression,  a condition sine qua non to all justifying circumstances, that, if there is no unlawful aggression, there is nothing to prevent. Unlawful aggression is the attack or assault with physical force or weapon committed by the offender.

The aggression must be unlawful, immediate and imminent that it presupposes actual existence of danger and peril to one’s life or personal safety. Where the aggression had already ceased, defense cannot be justified.

Reasonable Necessity 

The second element is reasonable necessity of means employed to prevent or repel it. It requires reasonable proportionality between unlawful aggression and the defensive response.

Under the Doctrine of Proportional Equivalence, reasonable necessity of the means employed does not imply material commensurability between means of attack and defense. What the law requires is rational equivalence in the consideration of the imminent danger to which the person attacked is exposed, impelling him for the defense.

Hence, appropriateness (proportion) does not depend upon the harm done but upon imminent danger of such injury defensive response. Jurisprudence has established the proportion and appropriateness of the means employed vis-à-vis danger.

Lack of Sufficient Provocation

The third element is the clause provocation was given by the person attacked, the one making defense had no part”. The general rule in this defense is that the person defending such relative must not have participated in the provocation, even if it is actually the relative who provoked the offender. The former is just prompted by some noble sentiment to protect or rescue a relative, therefore, it is immaterial whether the fact that the defended relative gave provocation or not. The former is just prompted by some noble sentiment to protect or rescue a relative.

Covered Relatives

Lastly, the relatives which are entitled to defense is exclusively enumerated by the law, including the spouse; ascendants; descendants; brothers or sisters, whether legitimate, natural or adopted; parents-in-law, brother-in-law or sister-in-law as relatives by affinity in the same degree;4 and brothers and sisters, uncle and niece and  first cousins,  as relatives by consanguinity5within 4th civil degree in the same degree. If the one being defended is a relative but is not included  in the mentioned list, the defense would be of Defense of a Stranger (with different elements).

Cases at Bar

Supreme Court meticulously scrutinizes the elements of a valid defense. The court reversed the ruling of Court of Appeals in depreciating Procerfina’s employment of bolo against Jimenez at the height of anger after seeing her husband mauled, hence, convinced that the act is a justified defense of her husband.  She herself had not given any such provocation; and the means employed by her were not in the premises unreasonable considering that without any weapon, she was no match for either of the assailants, much less both of them.6

While, in  People vs. Toring,7 the third element of non-participation of the person invoking the defense is lacking. Toring stabbed Samuel, for allegedly defending his first cousin, Joel when the former thrust the butt of his shotgun on the chin of the latter. However, the court did not appreciate the defense because Toring was impelled by pure compassion or beneficence or the lawful desire to avenge the immediate wrong inflicted on his cousin. Rather, he was motivated by revenge, resentment or evil motive because of a “running feud” between.8


In light of the society’s culture of close family ties, defense of relative is one of the relevant laws in the Philippines. This connotes that we, Filipinos, value our own roots. Hence, we are almost always that every person, if not all, cares for any of the members of his family. The love and affection, as may be inferred from the law itself, extends to relatives by affinity or the juridical relation by reason of marriage.

The law states that it is legal to defend a relative only to the extent that the law allows. When invoking a relative’s defense, the relatives entitled to defense are only limited to the exclusive enumeration of Art. 11, par (2), whereas all of the elements must be present to exempt one from criminal and civil liability. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, ensures a strict but compassionate interpretation of when the defense of blood is justified.

  1. Paragraph 2, Art. 11 of the Revised Penal Code[]
  2. Reyes, The Revised Penal Code Book One. Articles 1-113, pp. 207[]
  3. Paragraph 2, Art. 11 of the Revised Penal Code[]
  4. Relationship by marriage[]
  5. Relationship by blood[]
  6. Olbinar vs. CA, G.R. No. 76235, January 21, 1991[]
  7. G.R. No. L-56358, October 26, 1990[]
  8. Ibid.[]

RALB Law | RABR & Associates Law Firm

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