Blog Lecture No. 29: Obstruction of Justice

Sorry class for not posting earlier. I had some problems I had to take care of that took all night…

Anyway, let’s proceed to the lesson for today on obstruction of justice.

There is such an offense and this is covered by Presidential Decree No. 1829.

To start, this crime does not involve preventing Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan and other justices from arriving at their respective destinations, as the offense suggests. Section 1 thereof states that a penalty is imposed upon any person who knowingly or wilfully 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;

(g) soliciting, accepting, or aggreeing to accept any benefit in consideration of abstaining from, discounting, 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 such 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 to the court.

Can you give examples of each?

Sure.

1. Telling a witness that the hearing where he will be called will be held on 17 July 2005. The witness did not know that this falls on a Sunday and that the hearing will actually be held on 18 July 2005.

2. To CSI fans, corrupting or destroying cricial evidence.

3. Hiding or providing a safe house for known fellons.

4. Publicly changing one’s name from “Malu Hwang” to “Nalu Hwang” to evade a sentence imposed upon Malu.

5. Using bomb threats to delay proceeding in court, prosecutors and the Office of the Ombudsman.

6. Surreptitiously inserting or substituting original specimens of signatures in any investigation or judicial proceeding so that it would match the signature of an impostor (sounds familiar, Mr. Nipa Hut?)

7. A police office taking a bribe for not appearing as a prosecution witness in a case he handled and brought to court.

8. Making death threats on a person to prevent him from appearing as a witness to a case.

9. An informant misleading investigating police officers by giving false leads or tips.

What if the means used in obstruction of justice likewise constitutes a crime?

Then, according to the same law, the offender shall be punished by the crime with the higher penalty.

By the way, what is the penalty for this?

It is prission correccional in its maximum period (imprisonment from 4 years, 2 months and one day to six years) and/or a fine ranging from P1,000.00 to P6,000.00.

If the offender is a public officer, he shall likewise be perpetully disqualified from further holding any other public office.

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