Corruption can be defined as the abuse of power in a public office for personal gain. Taking advantage of public position is a form of corruption. Nonetheless, it is not just about resources or money; rather, it is also about taking advantage of those who disagree with the actions that the public official is taking.
Among the most problematic parts of government is the use of official position for personal gain. It might be challenging to evaluate whether a public figure is abusing his or her position for own advantage.
Getting things done is easier when you use the power and influence that come with your public office. Thus, Article 14, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code considered it as one of the circumstances which aggravates criminal liability when committed, that is: advantage be taken by the offender of his public position. This suggests that a person’s criminal liability is increased when he commits a crime while abusing his public position, thereby, aggravating his punishment.
The Law | What is Article 14, Paragraph 1, Revised Penal Code?
Par. 1 – That advantage be taken by the offender of his public position.1
1] Offender is a public officer.
2] Public officer must use the influence, prestige, or ascendancy which his office gives him as the means to realize criminal purpose.2
- The offender must be a public officer.
- He takes advantage of his public position to commit the crime.
- It is not considered as an aggravating circumstance where taking advantage of official position is made by law an integral element of the crime or inherent in the offense such as Malversation of Public Funds or Property under Art. 217 and Falsification of a Document by a Public Officer under Art. 171 of the Revised Penal Code.
Taking advantage of public position
A public office is a public trust. People, by law, should put their faith, confidence, and trust to public officers who are placed in such position not to serve themselves, but the public in general. Hence, it is not acceptable under the law when a public officer will utilize his position to gain some favors from the public, either monetary or otherwise.
As a result, when a public officer abuses his position, especially when committing a crime, he not only violates his sworn duty, but he also undermines public trust, eroding the people’s trust and confidence in the very fabric of governance.
In U.S. vs. Rodriguez,3 the Court ruled that “In order that this aggravating circumstance exist it is necessary that the person committing the crime be a public official and that he uses the influence, prestige or ascendency which such office gives him as the means by which he realizes his purpose.”4
In People vs. Ural,5 the Court held “that the accused took advantage of his public position. He could not have maltreated the victim if he was not a policeman on guard duty. Because of his position, he had access to the cell where the victim was confined. The prisoner was under his custody.”6
In People vs. Reyes,7 the Court held that the crime was committed with the aggravating circumstance of abuse of public position. The police officer in the course of investigation of a charge against him shot the complainant in a treacherous manner.8
In People vs. Asuncion,9 the Court held that “abuse of public position was present in the commission of the crime, for the appellants used their authority as members of the police and constabulary to disarm the victim before shooting him.”10
In U.S. vs. Torrida,11 the Court declared that the “defendant took advantage of his position as councilman to induce the injured parties to pay him the pretended fines. He could not have secured the money in this manner in his private capacity”.12
In People vs. Cerdeña,13 the Court ruled that “it has been proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused Antonino Cerdeña led the search of the ship in question and afterwards, by means of intimidation and taking advantage of his authority, obtained the sum of P70 from said crew without any justification therefor.”14
In People vs. Fortuna,15 the Court held that “the mere fact that the three (3) accused were all police officers at the time of the robbery placed them in a position to perpetrate the offense. If they were not police officers, they could not have terrified the Montecillos into boarding the mobile patrol car and forced them to hand over their money. Precisely it was on account of their authority that the Montecillos believed that Mario had in fact committed a crime and would be brought to the police station for investigation unless they gave them what they demanded.”16
One of the circumstances aggravating an offender’s criminal liability under Article 14, paragraph 1 of the Revised Penal Code is when he committed the felony by taking advantage of his public position.
Taking advantage of a public position, in general, increases criminal liability. Meaning, the penalty of deprivation of liberty is increased by period(s).
On the other hand, it is not considered an aggravating circumstance when such “taking advantage of an official position” is made by law an integral element of the crime or is inherent in the offense, such as Malversation of Public Funds or Property and Falsification of a Document by a Public Officer.
When someone uses his or her position to achieve an unjustified personal benefit for himself or another person, he or she is engaging in corrupt behavior. It is possible for such situation to take place at any level of a government agency or institution, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.
The criminal liability of an offender is aggravated when the crime he committed was done by means of taking advantage of his public position. As explained, it refers to the act of using one’s official or public position to one’s advantage. It is most commonly applied to government officials who use their position to gain financially or politically at the expense of the public.
The exception to this rule is when such “taking of advantage of official position” is an integral element of the crime or inherent in the offense. This is so in cases of malversation of public funds or property under Article 217 and falsification of a document by a public officer under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code. In these cases, the offender’s criminal liability is qualified.
- Article 14, Paragraph 1, Revised Penal Code[↩]
- Infra., U.S. vs. Rodriguez[↩]
- G.R. No. L-6344, March 21, 1911[↩]
- G.R. No. L-30801, March 27, 1974[↩]
- G.R. No. L-33154, February 27, 1976[↩]
- G.R. No. 83870, November 14, 1989[↩]
- G.R. No. 7450, 7451 and 7452, September 18, 1912[↩]
- G.R. No. 28389, January 20, 1928[↩]
- G.R. No. 135784, December 15, 2000[↩]