A person who shall deliberately cause damage to property of another can be guilty of the crime of malicious mischief.
Malicious mischief is punishable under Article 327 of the Revised Penal Code.
Being mischievous may sound cute but it can land you in jail. Childish as it may sound, destroying the property of another is punishable as a crime. Article 327 of the Revised Penal Code provides:
“Article 327. Who are liable for malicious mischief. – Any person who shall deliberately cause the property of another any damage not falling within the terms of the next preceding chapter shall be guilty of malicious mischief.”
As held in the case of Taguinod vs. People [G.R. No. 185833, 12 October 2011], the elements of malicious mischief are as follows:
(1) That the offender deliberately caused damage to the property of another;
(2) That such act does not constitute arson or other crimes involving destruction;
(3) That the act of damaging another’s property be committed merely for the sake of damaging it.
Anent the first element, damage means not only loss but also diminution of what is a man’s own. Thus, damage to another’s house includes defacing it [Luis B. Reyes, The Revised Penal Code Criminal Law Book 2 (19th Ed.) p.925 (2017)].
To constitute the crime of malicious mischief, the property destroyed must belong to another. Hence, when a person cuts the banana tress as an authorized occupant or possessor of the land, the first element is absent since he merely cut down his own plantings [Caballes vs. Department of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 78214, 05 December 1988].
With regard to the third element, the essence of this felony is that the offender should have not only the general intention to carry out the felonious act (a feature common to all willful crimes) but that he should act under the impulse of a specific desire to inflict injury to another [Quizon vs. Justice of the Peace of Bacolor, Pampanga, G.R. No. L-6641, 28 July 1955]. Thus, destroying the fence of another to vent his anger or disgust is considered as malicious mischief [Grana vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 202111, 25 November 2019].
Malicious mischief embraces those attempts against another’s property inspired sometimes by hatred or a desire for revenge and sometimes by the mere pleasure of destroying [Luis B. Reyes, The Revised Penal Code Criminal Law Book 2 (19th Ed.) p.924 (2017)]. Malice is necessary. It follows that, in the very nature of things, malicious mischief cannot be committed through negligence, since culpa (negligence) and malice ( or deliberateness) are essentially incompatible [Quizon vs. Justice of the Peace of Bacolor, Pampanga, G.R. No. L-6641, 28 July 1955].
Malicious mischief is punishable by imprisonment or a fine.
Maliciously destroying property of others may seem trivial and foolish. However, once found guilty of such crime, you may be imprisoned or slapped with a fine. The duration of imprisonment and amount of fine will depend on the value of the property destroyed. This is governed by Articles 328 and 329 of the Revised Penal Code, which provide:
“Art. 328. Special cases of malicious mischief. – Any person who shall cause damage to obstruct the performance of public functions, or using any poisonous or corrosive substance; or spreading any infection or contagion among cattle; or who causes damage to the property of the National Museum or National Library, or to any archive or registry, waterworks, road, promenade, or any other thing used in common by the public, shall be punished:
1. By prisión correccional in its minimum and medium periods, if the value of the damage caused exceeds Two hundred thousand pesos (₱200,000);
2. Bv arresto mayor if such value does not exceed the abovementioned amount but is over Forty thousand pesos (₱40,000); and
3. By arresto menor, if such value does not exceed Forty thousand pesos (₱40,000).”
“Art. 329. Other mischiefs. – The mischiefs not included in the next preceding article shall be punished:
1. By arresto mayor in its medium and maximum periods, if the value of the damage caused exceeds Two hundred thousand pesos (₱200,000);
2. By arresto mayor in its minimum and medium periods, if such value is over Forty thousand pesos (₱40,000) but does not exceed Two hundred thousand pesos (₱200,000); and
3. By arresto menor or a fine of not less than the value of the damage caused and not more than Forty thousand pesos (₱40,000), if the amount involved does not exceed Forty thousand pesos (₱40,000) or cannot be estimated.”
So yes, destroying your neighbor’s fence or your friend’s shirt can subject you to a criminal prosecution of malicious mischief. Although being mischievous sounds cute, surely, being a felon is not.
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