Obstruction of justice refers to the commission of acts penalized under Presidential Decree No. 1829 (“Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of Criminal Offenders”). Any person — whether private or public — who commits the acts enumerated below may be charged with violating PD 1829.
I. PUNISHABLE ACTS
The law covers the following acts of any person who knowingly or willfully obstructs, impedes, frustrates or delays the apprehension of suspects and the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases:
- 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 fiscals’ 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.
- g. Soliciting, accepting, or agreeing to accept any benefit in consideration of abstaining from, discontinuing, or impeding the prosecution of a criminal offender.
- h. Threatening directly or indirectly another with the infliction of any wrong upon his person, honor or property or that of any immediate member or members of his family in order to prevent a person from appearing in the investigation of, or official proceedings in, criminal cases, or imposing a condition, whether lawful or unlawful, in order to prevent a person from appearing in the investigation of or in official proceedings in criminal cases.
- i. Giving of false or fabricated information to mislead or prevent the law enforcement agencies from apprehending the offender or from protecting the life or property of the victim; or fabricating information from the data gathered in confidence by investigating authorities for purposes of background information and not for publication and publishing or disseminating the same to mislead the investigator or the court.
II. PENALTY FOR “OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE
The penalty is imprisonment, fine or both. Imprisonment ranges from 4 years, 2 months and 1 day to 6 years (prision correccional in its maximum period). The fine ranges from P1,000 – P6,000.
In case a public officer is found guilty, he shall also suffer perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
III. PURPOSE OF PD 1829
The declared purpose of PD 1829 is to discourage public indifference or apathy towards the apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders, it is necessary to penalize acts which obstruct or frustrate or tend to obstruct or frustrate the successful apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders.
IV. ACTUAL CASES
In Posadas vs. Ombudsman (G.R. No. 131492, 29 September 2000), certain officials of the University of the Philippines (UP) were charged for violating PD 1829 (paragraph c above). The UP officers objected to the warrantless arrest of certain students by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). According to the Supreme Court, the police had no ground for the warrantless arrest. The UP Officers, therefore, had a right to prevent the arrest of the students at the time because their attempted arrest was illegal. The “need to enforce the law cannot be justified by sacrificing constitutional rights.”
In another case, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile was charged under PD 1829, for allegedly accommodating Col. Gregorio Honasan by giving him food and comfort on 1 December 1989 in his house. “Knowing that Colonel Honasan is a fugitive from justice, Sen. Enrile allegedly did not do anything to have Honasan arrested or apprehended.” The Supreme Court ruled that Sen. Enrile could not be separately charged under PD 1829, as this is absorbed in the charge of rebellion already filed against Sen. Enrile.
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