Crimes Against Public Interest | What You Need to Learn
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In this article, we shall discuss crimes against public interest under the Revised Penal Code [RPC]. As embodied in the 1987 Constitution, Section 7 of Article III states that:

“The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized.  Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.”[1]Section 7, Article III, 1987 Constitution

Yet, what if the information documents, papers, and records referred to in this paragraph are falsified? Forged? Tampered? What are the sanctions for these crimes? Are forgery and falsification the same?

How do you define crimes against public interest?

Crimes against public interest are those crimes which are committed involving the acts of counterfeiting, forgery, falsification, and other falsities. These crimes are committed against public interest and is penalized according to the provisions in the Revised Penal Code.

How do you define forgery under the Revised Penal Code?

Forgery is defined as the act of fraudulently making a false document or altering a real one to be used as if genuine in the Black’s Law Dictionary. It is also stated that the crime of forgery involves the making, altering, or completing of an instrument by someone other than the ostensible maker or drawer or an agent of the ostensible maker or drawer.

In Article 169 of the Revised Penal Code, the term forgery refers to the falsification and counterfeiting of treasury or bank notes or any instruments payable to bearer or to order.

The offense of counterfeiting or forging treasury or bank notes or other papers payable to bearer or to order, as defined in this article, comprises (1) actions of counterfeiting or forging said documents and (2) acts of falsification. To fabricate an instrument is to create a fake instrument that is meant to be passed off as real.

What are the crimes in the category of Forgeries and Falsification under the Revised Penal Code?

The following are the crimes called forgeries under the Revised Penal Code:

  • Forging the seal of the Government, signature or stamp of the Chief Executive (Art. 161, RPC);
  • Using forged signature, seal or stamp (Art. 162, RPC);
  • Counterfeiting coins (Art. 163, RPC);
  • Mutilation of coins (Art. 164, RPC);
  • Forging treasury or bank notes or other documents payable to bearer (Art. 166, RPC)
  • Falsification of legislative documents (Art. 170, RPC);
  • Falsification by public officer, employee or notary ecclesiastical minister (Art. 171, RPC);
  • Falsification by private individuals (Art. 172, RPC);
  • Falsification of wireless, cable, telegraph and telephone messages (Art. 173, RPC);
  • Falsification of medical certificates, certificates of merit or service (Art. 174, RPC)

How are those crimes committed? 

These are felonies and offenses classified under the Revised Penal Code as Crimes against Public Interest. As you may notice, when forgeries are committed, it pertains to falsifying and forging specific signature (Chief Executive of the Philippines), documents, seal, stamp, which are governmental in character.

On the other hand, if the felonies are categorized as falsification, they may involve public, commercial, or private documents.

Forging the Seal of the Government

Forging the seal of the Government, signature, or stamp of the Chief Executive is committed when any person forges the Great Seal of the Government of the Philippines or the signature or stamp of the Chief Executive.[2]Article 161, RPC

When in a Government document the signature of the President is forged, it is not called falsification. Article 161 of RPC governs the case. The name of the crime is forging the signature of the Chief Executive.

Use of forged signature

Using forged signature, seal or stamp is committed when any person knowingly makes use of the counterfeit seal or forged signature or stamp mentioned in Article 161 of the Revised Penal Code.[3]Article 162, RPC The offender should not be the one who forged the great seal or the signature of the Chief Executive. Otherwise, he will be penalized under Article 161.

Counterfeiting coins

Counterfeiting coins is committed when a person makes, imports, or utters, false coins, in connivance with counterfeiters, or importers.  Counterfeiting is defined as the means of imitation of a legal or genuine coin. It may contain more silver than the ordinary coin.[4]Article 163, RPC

Mutilation of coins

Mutilation of coins is committed when a person mutilates coins of the legal currency of the Philippines or import or utter mutilated current coins, or in connivance with mutilators or importers. Mutilation is the removal of a portion of a metal, either by filing it or exchanging it for a lower-quality metal.[5]Article 164, RPC

Forging treasury or bank notes or other documents payable to bearer

Forging treasury or bank notes or other documents payable to bearer is committed by giving to a treasury or bank note or any instrument payable to bearer or to order the appearance of a true and genuine document. Importing fraudulent or counterfeit obligation or notes is bringing them into the Philippines, which implies that the obligation or notes were forged or fabricated in another nation.[6]Article 166, RPC

Falsification of legislative documents

Falsification of legislative documents is committed when a person, without proper authority therefor alters any bill, resolution, or ordinance enacted or approved or pending approval by either House of the Legislature or any provincial board or municipal council. Any individual who does not have the appropriate authority to make the change is the offender.[7]Article 170, RPC

He might be a private citizen or a public official. Article 170 of RPC does not need the perpetrator to be a private individual. All that the provision needs is that the offender lacks the necessary power to make the change. As a result, the criminal might be a private citizen or a governmental official.

Falsification by public officer, employee, or notary ecclesiastical minister

Falsification by public officer, employee or notary ecclesiastical minister is committed when a public officer, employee, or notary who, taking advantage of his official position, falsifies a document by committing any of the following acts:[8]Article 171, RPC

  1. Counterfeiting or imitating any handwriting, signature or rubric;[9]Id.
  2. Causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate;[10]Id.
  3. Attributing to persons who have participated in an act or proceeding statements other than those in fact made by them;[11]Id.
  4. Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts;[12]Id.
  5. Altering true dates;[13]Id.
  6. Making any alteration or intercalation in a genuine document which changes its meaning;[14]Id.
  7. Issuing in an authenticated form a document purporting to be a copy of an original document when no such original exists, or including in such a copy a statement contrary to, or different from, that of the genuine original;[15]Id. or
  8. Intercalating any instrument or note relative to the issuance thereof in a protocol, registry, or official book.[16]Id.

The same penalty shall be imposed upon any ecclesiastical minister who shall commit any of the offenses enumerated in the preceding paragraphs of this article, with respect to any record or document of such character that its falsification may affect the civil status of persons.[17]Id.

Falsification by private individuals

Falsification by private individuals is committed when a private individual who shall commit any of the falsifications enumerated in the next preceding article in any public or official document or letter of exchange or any other kind of commercial document; and when a person who, to the damage of a third party, or with the intent to cause such damage, shall in any private document commit any of the acts of falsification enumerated in the next preceding article.[18]Article 172, RPC

Any person who shall knowingly introduce in evidence in any judicial proceeding or to the damage of another or who, with the intent to cause such damage, shall use any of the false documents embraced in the next preceding article, or in any of the foregoing subdivisions of this article, shall be punished by the penalty next lower in degree.[19]Id.

Falsification of wireless, cable, telegraph and telephone messages

Falsification of wireless, cable, telegraph and telephone messages is committed when an officer or employee of the Government or of any private corporation or concern engaged in the service of sending or receiving wireless, cable or telephone message utters a fictitious wireless, telegraph or telephone message of any system or falsifies the same.[20]Article 173, RPC

Any person who shall use such falsified dispatch to the prejudice of a third party or with the intent of cause such prejudice, shall suffer the penalty next lower in degree. Unless he is an employee of a corporation involved in the business of transmitting or receiving wireless telegraph or telephone signals, a private individual cannot directly participate in the crime of falsification of telegraphic transmissions.[21]Id.

Falsification of medical certificates, certificates of merit or service

Falsification of medical certificates, certificates of merit or service is committed when (1) a physician or surgeon who, in connection, with the practice of his profession, issues a false certificate; and (2) a public officer issues a false certificate of merit of service, good conduct or similar circumstances.[22]Article 174, RPC

A certificate is any written document that provides witness that a thing has occurred or has not occurred. The phrase “or similar circumstances” in Article 174 does not seem to cover property, because the circumstance contemplated must be like “merit,” “service,” or “good conduct.”

What is the crime of Falsification under the Revised Penal Code?

Under the Revised Penal Code, falsification is committed by erasing, substituting counterfeiting, or altering by any means, the figures, letters, words, or signs contained therein.

What are the acts of falsification?

Under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code, any public officer, employee, or notary, who shall take advantage of his official position, is liable for the crime of falsification of a document by committing any of the following acts:

  • Counterfeiting or imitating any handwriting, signature, or rubric;
  • Causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate;
  • Attributing to persons who have participated in an act or proceeding statements other than those in fact made by them;
  • Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts;
  • Altering true dates;
  • Making any alteration or intercalation in a genuine document which changes its meaning;
  • Issuing in an authenticated form a document purporting to be a copy of an original document when no such original exists, or including in such copy a statement contrary to, or different from, that of the genuine original; or
  • Intercalating any instrument or note relative to the issuance thereof in a protocol, registry, or official book.
  • However, the acts mentioned above can also be committed by a private individual or a public officer who does not take advantage of his official position under Article 172.

Ways of committing acts of falsification

Paragraph 1

Under paragraph 1 of Article 171, there are two ways of committing falsification, namely: (1) counterfeiting, and (2) feigning. In counterfeiting, there is an original signature or handwriting. Imitation is necessary, but it is not required to be perfect.

Following from this logic: if there is a sufficient resemblance between the real and the forged signatures, then it can be concluded that the offender had the intention to imitate the signature of the offended party.

In contrast, there is no original signature, handwriting or rubric in feigning, but only a forgery of a signature, handwriting, or rubric that does not exist. One good example is making it appear that a person who does not know how to write has signed the document. Thus, it may be considered feigning of a signature.

Paragraph 2

In falsification under paragraph 2, the imitation of the signature is not necessary. It is substantial that the offender caused it to appear in a document that a person participated in an act or a proceeding, and such person did not in fact so participate in the said act or proceeding.

In the case of People vs. Villanueva[23]G. R. Nos. L-39047-39052, October 31, 1933(58 Phil. 671), the defendant signed two documents by forging the signatures of the offended party in order to receive the money orders and appropriate the respective amounts thereof.

The Court ruled that, even if the signatures of the offended party had not been imitated on the money orders, the fact that they were signed thereon to make it appear that they intervened in the execution in the sense that they received the corresponding amounts, when in fact they did not, is sufficient to constitute the crime of falsification.[24]Ibid.

Paragraph 3

The requisites of falsification under paragraph 3 are the following: (1) that a person participated in an act or a proceeding; (2) that such person made statements in that act or proceeding; and (3) that the offender, in making a document, attributed to such person statements other than those in fact made by such person.

The case of U.S. vs. Capule[25]G. R. No. L-7447, January 2, 1913(24 Phil. 13) suitably illustrated falsification under paragraph 3 of Article 171. In this case, the owners did not sell their land to the defendant or that they executed in the defendant’s favor any document of sale.

In fact, the owners of the land only conferred a power of attorney upon the defendant so that the latter might represent them in a suit because of their absolute confidence in the defendant. However, the defendant executed acts constituting falsification by counterfeiting the intervention of the owners of the land, to whom he ascribed statements different from what they had made to him.

The defendant made them to understand that the document contained a power of attorney, when in fact it was a deed of sale of the land, whereof the owners had never consented to its alienation.

Paragraph 4

Paragraph 4 talks about making untruthful statements in a narration of facts, and the following are its requisites:

  1. That the offender makes in a document statements in a narration of facts;
  2. That he has a legal obligation to disclose the truth of the facts narrated by him;
  3. That the facts narrated by the offender are absolutely false; and
  4. That the perversion of truth in the narration of facts was made with the wrongful intent of injuring a third person.

The most important thing to remember under this paragraph is that there must be a legal obligation on the part of the accused to disclose the truth of the facts narrated. It simply means that there must be a law requiring the disclosure of the truth of the facts narrated.

Thus, absent any legal obligation to disclose such truth, an untruthful statement would no longer constitute the crime of falsification perpetrated by making false statements in a narration of facts. In People vs. Poserio[26]C.A. 53 O.G. 6159, the prosecution has failed to point to any law or ordinance imposing upon the defendant the legal obligation to reveal his previous conviction in filling the personal data sheet. Hence, the defendant was acquitted.

Paragraph 5

There is falsification under paragraph 5 only when the date in the document is essential, and the alteration of such date must affect the veracity and the effects of the document.

Thus, in the case of People vs. Reodica and Cordero[27]G.R. No. L-42557, December 7, 1935(62 Phil. 567), when the municipal treasurer certified that he paid the salary of an employee on July 31, when in fact it was done on July 23, it was held that it was immaterial whether it was done on July 23 or July 31.

The alteration of the date of the actual payment of the salary of the employee, not being essential, did not affect either the veracity of the document or the effects thereof.

Paragraph 6

The requisites of falsification under paragraph 6 (Making alteration or intercalation in a genuine document which changes its meaning) are:

  1. That there be an alteration (change) or intercalation (insertion) on a document;
  2. That it was made on a genuine document;
  3. That the alteration or intercalation has changed the meaning of the document; and
  4. That the change made the document speak something false.

In the case of People vs. Manansala[28]G. R. No. L-13142, January 30, 1959(105 Phil. 1253), the accused was found guilty of falsification of an official document, by making alterations on a genuine document which changed its meaning. The accused was arrested for having in his possession a falsified duplicate copy of Traffic Violation Report previously issued to him as a temporary driver’s permit. The accused made alterations to hide his previously pending traffic violation cases and thereby avoid immediate arrest should he be caught committing another traffic violation.

Paragraph 7

Acts of falsification under paragraph 7 can only be committed by a public officer or notary public who takes advantage of his official position because the authentication of a document can be made only by the custodian or the one who prepared and retained a copy of the original document.

An example is when a notary public made a supposed copy of a deed of sale which was never executed and of which he had no copy. Another is when a civil registrar stated in a certified copy of a record of birth that the person mentioned therein was legitimate when there was no such statement in the original.

Falsification under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code

Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code expressly states that:

“Falsification by private individual and use of falsified documents. — The penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods and a fine of not more than P1,000,000 pesos shall be imposed upon:[29]Supra., Article 172, RPC

    1. Any private individual who shall commit any of the falsifications enumerated in the next preceding article in any public or official document or letter of exchange or any other kind of commercial document; and[30]Id.
    2. Any person who, to the damage of a third party, or with the intent to cause such damage, shall in any private document commit any of the acts of falsification enumerated in the next preceding article.”[31]Id.

Under paragraph 1 of Article 172, the offender must be a private individual or a public officer or employee who does not take advantage of his official position. Furthermore, the offender under this article should commit any of the acts of falsification enumerated in Article 171, and the falsification should be done in a public or official or commercial document.

On the other hand, the elements of falsification under paragraph 2 of Article 172 are: (1) that the offender committed any of the acts of falsification, except those in paragraph 7, enumerated in Art. 171; (2) that the falsification was committed in any private document; and (3) that the falsification caused damage to a third party or at least the falsification was committed with intent to cause such damage.

Paragraph 1 of Article 172 does not punish falsification by a public officer or employee who takes advantage of his official position. As stated above, it only punishes falsification by a private individual or a public officer or employee who did not take advantage of his official position. Whereas in paragraph 2, the offender is a private individual.

In paragraph 1, damage or intent to cause damage is not necessary because in the falsification of a public or official documents, whether by public officials or by private persons, the principal thing punished is the violation of the public faith and the destruction of the truth as solemnly proclaimed. Consequently, lack of malice or criminal intent may be a defense in falsification of a public document.

Contrary to falsification of a public document under paragraph 1, mere falsification of private documents under paragraph 2 is not enough. Two things are required: (1) the offender must have counterfeited the false document, and (2) the offender must have performed an independent act which operates to the prejudice of a third person.

What do you mean by the Doctrine of Common element?

According to Justice Florenz Regalado, the doctrine of common element states that an element used to complete one crime cannot be legally re-used to complete the requisites of a subsequent crime.

Hence, as for an example, there can be no complex crime of estafa through falsification of a private document. The immediate result of falsifying a private document is the same as estafa. The fraudulent gain achieved via deception in estafa, in the commission of which a private document was falsified, is nothing more than the damage caused by the falsification of such document.

Therefore, the crime committed is falsification of a private document under paragraph 2 of Article 172 only if a private document is falsified to obtain from the offended party the money which the offender later misappropriated; however, if a private document is falsified to conceal the misappropriation of the money which has been in the possession of the offender, the crime committed is estafa only.

Contrary to the falsification of a private document, the falsification of a public, official, or commercial document may be a means of committing estafa because damage or intent to cause damage is not necessary in the crime of falsification of a public document. Thus, the two crimes form a complex crime under Article 48 of the Revised Penal Code.

Distinguish Forgery from Falsification

Forgery, under Article 169 of the Revised Penal Code, refers to the falsification and counterfeiting of treasury or bank notes or any instruments payable to bearer or order.

“Art. 169. How forgery is committed. — The forgery referred to in this section may be committed by any of the following means:[32]Article 169, RPC

    1. By giving to a treasury or bank note or any instrument payable to bearer or to order mentioned therein, the appearance of a true and genuine document.[33]Id.
    2. By erasing, substituting, counterfeiting, or altering by any means the figures, letters, words, or sign contained therein.”[34]Id.

Falsification, on the other hand, is the commission of any of the 8 acts mentioned in Article 171 on legislative (only the act of making alteration), public or official, commercial, or private documents, or wireless, or telegraph messages.

“Art. 171. Falsification by public officer, employee or notary or ecclesiastical minister. — The penalty of prision mayor and a fine not to exceed P 1,000,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any public officer, employee, or notary who, taking advantage of his official position, shall falsify a document by committing any of the following acts:[35]Supra., Article 171, RPC

    1. Counterfeiting or imitating any handwriting, signature, or rubric;[36]Id.
    2. Causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate;[37]Id.
    3. Attributing to persons who have participated in an act or proceeding statements other than those in fact made by them;[38]Id.
    4. Making untruthful statements in a narration of facts;[39]Id.
    5. Altering true dates;[40]Id.
    6. Making any alteration or intercalation in a genuine document which changes its meaning;[41]Id.
    7. Issuing in an authenticated form a document purporting to be a copy of an original document when no such original exists, or including in such copy a statement contrary to, or different from, that of the genuine original; or[42]Id.
    8. Intercalating any instrument or note relative to the issuance thereof in a protocol, registry, or official book.”[43]Id.

How is Falsification of wireless, cable, telegraph and telephone message committed and the use thereof?

Falsification comes in many forms, Art. 173 of the Revised Penal Code provides how Falsification of wireless, cable, telegraph and telephone message are committed and its penalty. The three acts punishable are:

(1) Uttering fictitious wireless, telegraph, or telephone message,

(2) Falsifying the same, and

(3) Using said falsified message.

With the penalty ranging from prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods

In his book, L.B. Reyes provides that in the first two acts, the following elements must concur for the crime to be deemed instituted.

(a) That the offender is a government officer or employee or part of a private corporation, which is engaged in the service of sending or receiving wireless, cable or telephone messages

(b) That the offender commits the first two acts of:

(1) uttering fictitious wireless, telegraph, or telephone message, or

(2) Falsifying the same

The qualifying element for an act to fall under the first two acts punishable in Falsification of wireless, cable, telegraph and telephone message, is that the offender, who may be a government official or employee, or a private individual must be engage in the service of sending of receiving wireless, cable or telephone message, otherwise the act is not punishable by Art. 173 of the RPC.

Similarly, LB Reyes provides that in the third act of using said falsified message, the following elements must concur.

(a) That the accused knew that the wireless, cable, telegraph, or telephone message, was falsified under Art. 173.

(b) That the offender indeed made used of the falsified communication.

(c) That the usage of falsified communication resulted in the prejudice of a third party, or that the use thereof was with intent to cause such prejudice.

Emphasis is placed on the accountability of private individuals, who cannot be principally liable by direct participation of committing the above-mentioned crime, if said individual is not in the business of wireless, telegraph or telephone messages. However, he can still be held principally liable by inducement in the said illicit act.

Lastly, Art. 173 provides that “any person” knowingly uses said falsified message to the prejudice of a third person, or with intent to cause such prejudice, thus, in this instance it is not material if he is connected to such corporation or not.

How are Articles 174 to 176 of the Revised Penal Code violated? 

First, the RPC provides in article 174 that the penalties of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prison correctional in its minimum period and a fine not exceeding one thousand pesos shall be imposed on upon:

  1. Any physician or surgeon who, in connection, with the practice of his profession, shall issue a false certificate; and
  2. Any public officer who shall issue a false certificate of merit or service, good conduct or similar circumstances.

The penalty of arresto mayor shall be imposed upon any private person who shall falsify a certificate falling within the classes mentioned in the two preceding subdivisions.

A certificate is defined in the book of LB Reyes as any writing by which testimony is given that a fact has or has not taken place. [44]Law Dictionary, p. 442, which requires the following instances are persons liable for falsification of certificates.

  1. Physician or surgeon who, in connection with the practice of his profession, issued a false certificate, which will result in the crime of False Medical Certificate by a physician.
  2. Public officer who issued a false certificate of merit or service, good conduct or similar circumstances, which in turn will fall under the crime of False Certificate of Merit or Service by a public officer.
  3. Private individual who issued falsified certificates that are covered in the classes mentioned in Nos. 1 and 2.

Second, in Article 175 of the RPC it is provided that the penalty of arresto menor shall be imposed upon anyone who shall knowingly use any of the false certificates mentioned in the next preceding article.

This was further elaborated by L.B. Reyes in his book that the following element should be present for the crime to be valid:

  1. That like in the preceding chapter of the code, a physician or surgeon had issued a false medical certificate, or a public officer had issued a false certificate of merit or service, good conduct, or similar circumstances, or a private person had falsified any of the materials mentioned.
  2. That the offender is aware that the certificate were falsified.
  3. That he used the same.

In instances that false certificates that falls under Art. 174 are submitted for use in judicial proceedings, then, Art. 172 cannot be applied as the usage of false documents in judicial proceeding is only limited to those embraced in Arts. 171 and 172

Lastly, Article 176 falls under Section Six of the RPC which penalizes the Manufacturing, importing, and possession of instruments or implements intended for the commission of falsification.

Said article expressly provides that the penalty of prision correccional in its medium and maximum and a fine not to exceed pesos shall be imposed upon any who shall commit these two punishable acts, namely:

(1) the Making or introducing into the Philippines any stamps, dies, marks, or other instruments or implements for counterfeiting or falsification, and

(2) Possessing with intent to use the instruments or implements for counterfeiting or falsification made in or introduced into the Philippines by another person.

Both Art. 165 and 176 of the Revised Penal Code punishes constructive possession, which means that the possession in question in general is not only actual physical possession but the subjection of the thing to one’s control.

What is Usurpation of Authority? 

Usurpation of authority is a crime defined in Article 177 of the RPC. This is committed by any person who knowingly and falsely represents himself as an officer, agent, or representative of any department or agency of the Philippine Government or of any foreign government. The perpetrator shall suffer the penalty of prision correcional in its minimum and medium periods.[45]Article 177, RPC

Emphasis should be placed on the fact that, in usurpation of authority, the offender knowingly and falsely represented himself to be a person in authority or public officer is already sufficient to be criminally liable under Article 177.

What is Usurpation of Official Functions? 

Usurpation of Official Functions is another crime penalized in Article 177 of the RPC. This is the performance of any act pertaining to any person in authority or public officer of the Philippine Government or of a foreign government or any agency thereof, under pretense of official position, and without being lawfully entitled to do so. Said crime is also given a penalty of prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods.[46]Id.

It should be noted that in usurpation of official functions, in addition to the other requisites, the essential circumstance present should be that there was an act performed by the offender that pertains to the duty of a person in authority or public officer.

How is the crime of Using Fictitious and Concealing True Name committed?

A fictitious name, based on jurisprudence, is defined as any other name which a person publicly applies to himself without authority of law. [47]U.S. vs. To Lee 35 Phil. 4, G.R. No. 11522. September 26, 1916

According to Article 178 of the RPC, any person who openly uses a fictitious name for the purpose of hiding a crime, evading the execution of a judgment, or inflicting harm faces arresto mayor and a fine of not more than 500 pesos.

Likewise, it also penalizes any person who conceals his true name and other personal circumstances with a penalty of arresto menor or a fine not to exceed 200 pesos.

In his book, LB Reyes discussed how the two crimes are committed:

First, in using a fictitious name, the following element must concur, namely:

(1) The offender uses a name that is not his real name,

(2) Offender uses that fictitious name publicly,

(3) The purpose of the offender is to conceal a crime; to evade the execution of a judgment; or to cause damage to public interest.

Second, in concealing one’s true name, the following requisites must be present, namely:

(1) the offender conceals, his true name and all other personal circumstances

(2) For the purpose concealing his identity.

The main distinction between the two crimes is that in the use of a fictitious name, publicity is an essential element for the crime, on the other hand in concealing one’s true name and other personal circumstances, publicity is immaterial.

The main purpose in the use of fictitious name should fall upon the three enumerated circumstances, which are to conceal, to evade the execution of a judgment, or to cause damage, while in concealing true name, there is only a singular purpose which is to conceal one’s identity.

False Testimony

When you hear the word testimony, there are two possible related discussions that may come to your mind. First, it may refer to a story of a person about how he/she came to have a personal relationship with God, give honor and glory to Him.

This is the religious aspect of the word testimony where his/her story is based on personal encounter with God. On the other hand, when it comes to law of the land, testimony is a form evidence obtained from a witness who makes a solemn statement or declaration of fact.

It may be oral or written and is usually made by oath or affirmation. What happens when the testimony is falsify? We don’t know what is the punishment imposed to those who will falsify their testimony under our God. But in our law, punishment is provided under the Revised Penal Code. This discussion will delve about certain laws which everyone must know and be aware of.

False testimony is committed by someone who, when under oath and obligated to testify as to the truth of a particular matter in a hearing before a competent authority, shall deny the truth or say something contrary to it (Reyes, 2008, p. 265).

The Revised Penal Code divides false testimony into three different forms. First is false testimony in a criminal case which is provided under Article 180 and 181. Second is false testimony in a civil case under Article 182. Lastly, false testimony in other cases.

Article 180 of the revised penal code provides, “False testimony against a defendant. – Any person who shall give false testimony against the defendant in any criminal case shall suffer:[48]Article 180, RPC

    1. The penalty of reclusion temporal, if the defendant in said case shall have been sentenced to death;[49]Id.
    2. The penalty of prision mayor, if the defendant shall have been sentenced to reclusion temporal or reclusion perpetua;[50]Id.
    3. The penalty of prision correccional, if the defendant shall have been sentenced to any other afflictive penalty; and[51]Id.
    4. The penalty of arresto mayor, if the defendant shall have been sentenced to a correctional penalty or a fine, or shall have been acquitted.”[52]Id.

In order to justify the acts under Article 180, the following elements must be present:

  1. That there be a Criminal proceeding;
  2. Offender testifies falsely under oath against the defendant therein;
  3. Offender knows that it is false; and
  4. The defendant against whom the false testimony is given is either acquitted or convicted in a final judgment.

With regards to way of committing violation under Article 180, it must be proven that there is criminal intent on the part of the offender or witness. Hence, the said violation is not application if it is committed through negligence. In this particular provision, the witness may be still held liable for giving a false statement notwithstanding the court does not consider his/her testimony.

Article 181 of the Revised Penal Code provides:

False testimony favorable to the defendants. – Any person who shall give false testimony in favor of the defendant in a criminal case, shall suffer the penalties of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period a fine not to exceed To hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00), if the prosecution is for a felony punishable by an afflictive penalty, and the penalty of arresto mayor in any other case”.[53]Article 181, RPC

The following elements must be present to prove the false testimony favorable to the defendants:

  1. A person gives false testimony;
  2. In favor of the defendant;
  3. In a criminal case.

False testimony, under this provision, does not need not be beneficial to the defendant. Intent to favor the defendant is sufficient to identify that the said false testimony was given. It is also worth to note that conviction or acquittal of defendant in the principal case is not necessary as long as the defendant in the said case is prosecuted for committing a felony which is punishable by afflictive penalty or by other penalty.

In other words, the gravity of crime in the principal case must be shown. The defendant may also be held liable for false testimony by means of falsifying his/her testimony in his own behalf because his/her actuation is a clear manifestation of giving favor to the defendant.

Article 182 of the Revised Penal Code provides:

“False testimony in civil cases. – Any person found guilty of false testimony in a civil case shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period and a fine not to exceed One million two hundred thousand pesos (P 1,200,000.00), if the amount in controversy shall exceed One million pesos (P 1,00,000.00); and the penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period and a fine not to exceed Two hundred thousand pesos (P 200,000.00), if the amount in controversy shall not exceed said amount or cannot be estimated.”[54]Article 182, RPC

In order to established the commission of provision provided in Article 182, the following elements must be concur:

  1. That the testimony must be given in a civil case.
  2. That the testimony must relate to the issues presented in said case.
  3. That the testimony must be false.
  4. That the false testimony must be given by the defendant knowing the same to be false.
  5. That the testimony must be malicious and given with an intent to affect the issues presented in said case.

In this article, the testimony given in the civil case must be false and the falsity of the said testimony must be established. If the false testimony is given in the special proceeding, the said provision is not applicable and the crime will be considered as perjury.

With respect to penalty provided in this provision, amount involved in the civil case needs to be considered. Take note that in this provision, just like in the preceding article, conviction or acquittal of defendant in the principal case is also not necessary.

Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code provides:

“False testimony in other cases and perjury in solemn affirmation. – The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon any person who, knowingly making untruthful statements and not being included in the provisions of the next preceding articles, shall testify under oath, or make an affidavit, upon any material matter before a competent person authorized to administer an oath in cases in which the law so requires.[55]Article 183, RPC

“Any person who, in case of a solemn affirmation made in lieu of an oath, shall commit any of the falsehoods mentioned in this and the three preceding articles of this section, shall suffer the respective penalties provided therein.”[56]Id.

Provision, under Article 183, pertains to how perjury is committed in an instant case. Perjury may be committed by any person in two ways.

First, they are by falsely testifying under oath and it should not be in judicial proceeding. Second is by making a false affidavit. Oath refers to any form of attestation by which a person signifies that he is bound in conscience to perform an act faithfully and truthfully.

It entails appealing to God to bear testimony to what is claimed to be true, and it is expected to be followed by an invocation of His vengeance or renunciation of His favor in the event of lying. (Reyes, 2008, p. 273). And, an affidavit is a sworn statement in writing; a declaration in writing, made upon oath before an authorized magistrate or officer (Reyes, 2008, p. 273).

Action violative under perjury must have the following elements:

  1. That the accused made a statement under oath or executed an affidavit upon a material matter;
  2. That the statement or affidavit was made before a competent officer, authorized to receive and administer oath;
  3. That in that statement or affidavit, the accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood; and
  4. That the sworn statement or affidavit containing the falsity is required by law.

A special law which is Republic Act [RA] No. 11584[57]RA 11594 entitled “An Act Increasing the Penalties for Perjury, Amending for The Purpose Articles 183 And 184 Of the Act No. 3815, As Amended, Otherwise Known as The Revised Penal Code has been enacted.

Gordon, who chairs the Senate justice and human rights committee, hailed the signing of Republic Act (RA) 11594 which amends Articles 183 and 184 of the Revised Penal Code that sets the punishment for the crime of perjury.[58]New perjury law imposes stiffer penalty vs erring gov’t officials – Gordon

“The new law should be a stark reminder to everyone, especially to those who are called to testify before the courts and any other legal proceeding, that lying under oath shall be meted with stricter penalties,” he said.[59]Ibid.

“Increasing the penalties for perjury would send a strong signal to all that even those in power shall be held accountable for their lies. You cannot lie under oath and go scot-free anymore,” he added.[60]Ibid.

Under the new law, perjury is punishable by prison mayor, or six years and one day to eight years, to its medium period of eight years and one day to 10 years.[61]Ibid.

The effect of the mentioned special penal law on the provisions of Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code is that the amendment in the said law increase the penalties for perjury from “arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correctional in it minimum period” to “prision mayor in its minimum period”.

RA 11594 also provides “that the offender shall also suffer a fine not to exceed One million pesos (P1,000,000.00) and perpetual absolute disqualification from holding any appointive or elective position in the government or in any agency, entity, or instrumentality thereof.” This change in the law, which increases the penalty for perjury, will deter individuals from committing the crime. It will assure that folks would think twice before committing the criminal act.

In the case of People vs. Reyes [62]C.A., 48 O.G. 1837, the accused in the case was the star witness in a prosecution for robbery against Jemenia. Before the trial, an affidavit was executed by the accused and manifested that in the prosecution of the case, he was not interested and wanted to give the accused a chance of living in wisely and in the honest way.

However, the dismissal of the case was being ask to refuse by the fiscal. Subsequently, the case was called for trial and the accused testified that he could not remember anymore the face of Jemenia when he was asked to identify Jemenia. After subsequent interrogation failed to extract any information, the court dismissed the case against Jemenia, resulting in his acquittal.

The court ruled that the defense’s claim that Jemenia’s acquittal was attributable to the fiscal’s refusal to summon additional witnesses who may have accurately identified Jemenia was irrelevant.

It is not essential for the witness’s testimony to directly impact the acquittal judgment; it is sufficient that it was delivered with the aim to benefit and favor the accused. In this case, false testimony in favor of defendant need not directly influence the decision of acquittal.

Conclusion

Nothing is more pleasing than a life, living with integrity and knowing that you have not wronged someone or deceived another person. Unfortunately, deception co-exists with human in our times and is probably one of the most common evil acts committed by the people.

We must learn that whatever happens in the dark, always come to light and that we must not put ourselves into this kind of situations just to have that contentment of being ahead with another.

Forgeries and Falsification are offenses under the Revised Penal Code that are pernicious in their commission and consequences. They are wrong per se and can ruin the life of a person, be it being deprived of his property or of living a better existence.

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RALB Law | RABR & Associates Law Firm

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