Question: I work at a packing and processing plant. When evening arrives, several of the employees like to band together, wear paramilitary uniforms and proceed to break into homes at surrounding posh subdivisions.

Several times the police have asked people in the neighborhood for information leading to the arrest of the robbers. This is my dilemma. If I keep silent and refuse to report what I know, am I liable?

Answer: Under the Revised Penal Code, you are not liable. Under PD 1829 you are may be liable.

First, the only provision explicitly punishing the failure to report is found in Article 116 – Misprision of Treason. If you know of treason and fail to report, you are guilty of a crime.

Second, you might be liable as an accessory but only if the crime were treason, parricide, murder, or an attempt to take the life of the Chief Executive. Allow me to quote the law.

Art. 16. Who are criminally liable. — The following are criminally liable for grave and less grave felonies:
1. Principal
2. Accomplices.
3. Accessories.
The following are criminally liable for light felonies:
1. Principals
2. Accomplices.
Art. 17. Principals. — The following are considered principals:
1. Those who take a direct part in the execution of the act;
2. Those who directly force or induce others to commit it;
3. Those who cooperate in the commission of the offense by another act without which it would not have been accomplished.chanrobles virtual law library
Art. 18. Accomplices. — Accomplices are those persons who, not being included in Art. 17, cooperate in the execution of the offense by previous or simultaneous acts.
Art. 19. Accessories. — Accessories are those who, having knowledge of the commission of the crime, and without having participated therein, either as principals or accomplices, take part subsequent to its commission in any of the following manners:
1. By profiting themselves or assisting the offender to profit by the effects of the crime
2. By concealing or destroying the body of the crime, or the effects or instruments thereof, in order to prevent its discovery.
3. By harboring, concealing, or assisting in the escape of the principals of the crime, provided the accessory acts with abuse of his public functions or whenever the author of the crime is guilty of treason, parricide, murder, or an attempt to take the life of the Chief Executive, or is known to be habitually guilty of some other crime.

Nonetheless, you may be liable for Obstruction of Justice under PD 1829. This recent law punishes the mere concealment or harboring of fugitives.

Section 1. The penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period, or a fine ranging from 1,000 to 6,000 pesos, or both, shall be imposed upon any person who knowingly or willfully obstructs, impedes, frustrates or delays the apprehension of suspects and the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases by committing any of the following acts:

(a) preventing witnesses from testifying in any criminal proceeding or from reporting the commission of any offense or the identity of any offender/s by means of bribery, misrepresentation, deceit, intimidation, force or threats;

(b) altering, destroying, suppressing or concealing any paper, record, document, or object, with intent to impair its verity, authenticity, legibility, availability, or admissibility as evidence in any investigation of or official proceedings in, criminal cases, or to be used in the investigation of, or official proceedings in, criminal cases;

(c) harboring or concealing, or facilitating the escape of, any person he knows, or has reasonable ground to believe or suspect, has committed any offense under existing penal laws in order to prevent his arrest prosecution and conviction;

(d) publicly using a fictitious name for the purpose of concealing a crime, evading prosecution or the execution of a judgment, or concealing his true name and other personal circumstances for the same purpose or purposes;

(e) delaying the prosecution of criminal cases by obstructing the service of process or court orders or disturbing proceedings in the fiscal’s offices, in Tanodbayan, or in the courts;

(f) making, presenting or using any record, document, paper or object with knowledge of its falsity and with intent to affect the course or outcome of the investigation of, or official proceedings in, criminal cases;