Destructive Arson

Art.320 - Art.326 expressly repealed by PD 1613 But PD 1744 revived Art.320 (Destructive Arson)

Arson is the malicious destruction of property by fire.

Arson is committed by any person who burns or sets fire to the property of another or to his own property under circumstances which expose to danger the life or property of another.

Attempted: Ex. Rags in gasoline,

Consummated: If any part of the building burned

Frustrated: There is fire, but no part of the house burned

1. Arson
2. Destructive arson; and
3. Other cases of arson.

1. That the offender causes destruction of the property; and
2. That the destruction was done by means of:
a. explosion,
b. discharge of electric current,
c. inundation,
d. sinking or stranding of a vessel,
e. damaging the engine of the vessel,
f. taking up rails from the railway track,
g. destroying telegraph wires and posts or those of any other system, or
h. other similar effective means of destruction.

1. That the offender set fire to or destroyed his own property;
2. That the purpose of the offender in doing so was to commit arson or to cause great destruction; and
3. That the property belonging to another was burned or destroyed.

1. That the property burned is the exclusive property of the offender; and
2. That
(a) the purpose of the offender is burning it is to defraud or cause damage to another, or
(b) prejudice is actually caused, or
(c) the thing burned is a building in an inhabited place.

Special aggravating circumstances in arson:
1. If committed with intent to gain;
2. If committed for the benefit of another;
3. If the offender is motivated by spite or hatred towards the owner or occupant of the property burned; or
4. If committed by a syndicate.

The penalty of reclusion temporal in its maximum period to reclusion perpetua shall be imposed upon any person who shall burn:
1. Building or Edifice
2. Building Open to Public
3. Train, Locomotive, Ship or Vessel for transportation, public use, leisure, entertainment
4. Building, factory, warehouse for service of Public Utilities
5. Building to conceal evidence, conceal bankruptcy, defraud creditors
6. Arsenal/Military/General Museum
7. Inhabited Place

1. If the fire started simultaneously in more than one part of the building or establishment
2. If substantial amount of flammable substances or materials are stored within the building not of the offender nor for household use
3. If gasoline, kerosene, petroleum or other flammable or combustible substances or materials soaked therewith or containers thereof, or any mechanical, electrical, chemical, or electronic contrivance designed to start a fire, or ashes or traces of any of the foregoing are found in the ruins or premises of the burned building or property
4. If the building or property is insured for substantially more than its actual value at the time of the issuance of this policy
5. If during the lifetime of the corresponding fire insurance policy more than two fires have occurred in the same or other premises owned or under control of the offender and/or insured
6. If shortly before the fire, a substantial portion of the effects insured and stored in a building or property had been withdrawn from the premises except in the ordinary course of business
7. If a demand for money or other valuable consideration was made before the fire in exchange for the desistance of the offender or for the safety of the person or property of the victim

1994 Bar Exam Question

Tata owns a three-story building located at No. 3 Herran Street. Paco, Manila. She wanted to construct a new building but had no money to finance the construction. So, she insured the building for P3,000,000.00. She then urged Yoboy and Yongsi, for monetary consideration, to burn her building so she could collect the insurance proceeds. Yoboy and Yongsi burned the said building resulting to its total loss. What crime did Tata, Yoboy, and Yongsi commit?

Suggested Answer:

Tata, Yoboy, and Yongsi committed the crime of destructive arson because they collectively caused the destruction of property by means of fire under the circumstances which exposed to danger the life or property of others (Art, 320, par. 5, RPC. as amended by RA No. 7659).

Bar Exam Question (2000)

Arson; Destructive Arson (2000)

One early evening, there was a fight between Eddie Gutierrez and Mario Cortez. Later that evening, at about 11 o'clock, Eddie passed by the house of Mario carrying a plastic bag containing gasoline, threw the bag at the house of Mario who was inside the house watching television, and then lit it. The front wall of the house started blazing and some neighbors yelled and shouted. Forthwith, Mario poured water on the burning portion of the house. Neighbors also rushed in to help put the fire under control before any great damage could be inflicted and before the flames have extensively spread. Only a portion of the house was burned. Discuss Eddie's liability.

Suggested Answer:

Eddie is liable for destructive arson in the consummated stage. It is destructive arson because fire was resorted to in destroying the house of Mario which is an inhabited house or dwelling. The arson is consummated because the house was in fact already burned although not totally. In arson, it is not required that the premises be totally burned for the crime to be consummated. It is enough that the premises suffer destruction by burning.

Bar Exam Question (2004)

Arson; New Arson Law (2004)

CD is the stepfather of FEL. One day, CD got very mad at FEL for failing in his college courses. In his fury, CD got the leather suitcase of FEL and burned it together with all its contents.

1. What crime was committed by CD?
2. Is CD criminally liable? Explain briefly. 

Suggested Answer:

1. The crime committed by CD is arson under Pres. Decree No. 1613 (the new Arson Law) which punishes any person who burns or sets fire to the property of another (Section 1 of Pres. Decree No. 1613).
2. CD is criminally liable although he is the stepfather of FEL whose property he burnt, because such a relationship is not exempting from criminal liability in the crime of arson but only in crimes of theft, swindling or estafa, and malicious mischief (Article 332, Revised Penal Code). The provision (Art. 323) of the Code to the effect that burning property of small value should be punished as malicious mischief has long been repealed by Pres. Decree 1613; hence, there is no more legal basis to consider burning property of small value as malicious mischief.

Bar Exam Question (1995)

Robbery; Homicide; Arson (1995)

Harry, an overseas contract worker, arrived from Saudi Arabia with considerable savings. Knowing him to be "loaded", his friends Jason, Manuel and Dave invited him to poker session at a rented beach cottage. When he was losing almost all his money which to him was his savings of a lifetime, he discovered that he was being cheated by his friends. Angered by the betrayal he decided to take revenge on the three cheats.

Harry ordered several bottles of Tanduay Rhum and gave them to his companions to drink, as they did, until they all fell asleep. When Harry saw his companions already sound asleep he hacked all of them to death. Then he remembered his losses. He rifled through the pockets of his victims and got back all the money he lost. He then ran away but not before burning the cottage to hide his misdeed. The following day police investigators found among the debris the charred bodies of Jason, Manuel, Dave and the caretaker of the resort.

After preliminary investigation, the Provincial Prosecutor charged Harry with the complex crime of arson with quadruple homicide and robbery. Was Harry properly charged? Discuss fully.

Suggested Answer:

No, Harry was net properly charged. Harry should have been charged with three (3) separate crimes, namely: murder, theft and arson.

Harry killed Jason, Manuel and Dave with evident premeditation, as there was considerable lapse of time before he decided to commit the crime and the actual commission of the crime. In addition, Harry employed means which weakened the defense of Jason, Manuel, and Dave. Harry gave them the liquor to drink until they were drunk and fell asleep. This gave Harry the opportunity to carry out his plan of murder with impunity.

The taking of the money from the victims was a mere afterthought of the killings. Hence, Harry committed the separate crime of theft and not the complex crime of robbery with homicide. Although theft was committed against dead persons, it is still legally possible as the offended party are the estates of the victims.

In burning the cottage to hide his misdeed. Harry became liable for another separate crime, arson. This act of burning was not necessary for the consummation of the two (2) previous offenses he committed. The fact that the caretaker died from the blaze did not qualify Harry's crime into a complex crime of arson with homicide for there is no such crime.

Hence, Harry was improperly charged with the complex crime of arson with quadruple homicide and robbery. Harry should have been charged with three (3) separate crimes, murder, theft, and arson.