Published 31 July 2020, The Daily Tribune

Were you ever annoyed by a neighbor who sings “My Way” in his karaoke at the top of his lungs at two o’clock in the morning, with the intent of not putting you to sleep? Were you ever irritated by a classmate or an officemate who deliberately pulls embarrassing pranks on you, with gusto? Did you know that you can file a criminal case against them simply for annoying you? Well, yes, you can! This crime is called unjust vexation.

Under the Revised Penal Code, as amended, “(a)ny other coercions or unjust vexations shall be punished by arresto menor or a fine ranging from P1,000 to not more than P40,000, or both.”

One may ask, so what is unjust vexation? Response, EXACTLY! The Revised Penal Code failed to define the punishable act under unjust vexation.

Thus, we turn to the Supreme Court for guidance.

In Renato Baleros Jr. v People, the Supreme Court defined unjust vexation as any human conduct, without violence, that unjustly annoys an innocent person. The test is “whether the offender’s act causes annoyance, irritation, torment, distress or disturbance to the mind of the person to whom it is directed.” (Balesteros vs People, G.R. 138033, 22 February 2006) Thus, unjust vexation may exist without inflicting any physical or material harm, without any compulsion or restraint, without the physical presence of the offended party at the time the crime was being committed, (Maderazo vs People, G.R. 165065, 26 September 2006) or even through the use of information technology such as social media. (RA 10175, Cybercrime Prevention Act, Section 6, Chapter II)

Based on the above parameters, the elements of unjust vexation are: (1) there is a human conduct that unjustly annoys or irritates another person; (2) such human conduct was not attended with violence; (3) such human conduct caused annoyance, irritation, torment, distress or disturbance to the mind of the person to whom it is directed; and (4) the offender acted with criminal intent.

To better understand the crime of unjust vexation, let us look at case law. In the following cases, the Supreme Court found that the following acts constituted unjust vexation:

  • Cutting, without authority, the electric, water and telephone lines of the business of another person during the latter’s peak hours of operations even when said lines crossed his property line; (Ong Chiu Kwan v CA, G.R. 113006, 23 November 2000)
  • Conducting, without authority, an inventory of the properties of a lessee and transporting, also without authority, the same to the police station even when the lessee’s contract had already expired; (Maderazo vs People, ibid)
  • Forcefully covering the face of another person with a piece of cloth soaked in chemical with dizzying effects; (Ballesteros vs People, ibid)
  • Embracing, dragging and kissing another person in front of her friend; (People v Salvino Sumingwa, G.R. 183619, 13 October 2009)
  • Interrupting a religious ceremony by merely constructing a barbed wire fence in front of a chapel. (People v Procopio Reyes, et al., G.R. L-40577, 23 August 1934)

Further, we may look into the purpose of the law to determine whether an act constitutes unjust vexation. In Melchor G. Maderazo et al. v People citing People v Neberja, the Supreme Court stated that “the main purpose of the law penalizing x x x unjust vexation is precisely to enforce the principle that no person may take the law into his hands and that our government is one of law, not of men. It is unlawful for any person to take into his own hands the administration of justice.” Thus, in Melchor G. Maderazo, evicting a lessee without a court order is unjust vexation even when his lease contract had already expired.

Simply, the law on unjust vexation teaches us the value of respecting others. In whatever we do, we should always give everyone due respect, and deal with them with honesty and good faith.

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