‘Unjust vexation’: Philippines law punishes act of annoying another person

A law in the Philippines that punishes anyone who annoys another person has made to a website’s list of weirdest laws in the world.

A provision in the Philippines’ Revised Penal Code (RPC) punishing “unjust vexation” has been included in a list of “craziest laws in the world,” published by RVCJ Media, one of India’s leading websites on viral content.

Unjust vexation is a crime based on Article 287 of the RPC, which states that “any other coercion of unjust vexation shall be punished by arresto menor or a fine ranging from PHP5 (US$.10) to PHP200(US$4) , or both.”

Seizing the belongings of a debtor to pay for his or her debt is also punishable under Article 287: “Any person, who by means of violence shall seize anything belonging to his debtor for the purpose of applying the same to the payment of the debt, shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayor in its minimum period and a fine equivalent to the value of the thing, but in no case less than PHP75 (US$1.50).”

According to Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Atty. Persida Acosta, in her column, “Obnoxious neighbor can be charged with unjust vexation,” in The Manila Times in 2015, Article 287 can be used to file charges against an annoying neighbor, but the complaint must first be coursed through the local government or barangay before it can be filed at the Prosecutor’s Office.

“Did you know that the act of annoying someone is a crime? Yes, it is, and we certainly are not pulling your leg. The act of annoying someone is called unjust vexation and considered a form of light coercion,” says the Nicolas and De Vega Law Offices’ website.

“However, don’t get us wrong. Having an annoying face or annoying demeanor is not a crime by itself. There must be a positive act on the part of the perpetrator,” it added.

The late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, in 2009, filed Senate Bill No. 3327 to amend Article 287 of the Revised Penal Code. Santiago questioned Article 287 due to its inability to define “unjust vexation.”

“Unlike the crimes of theft, murder and rape that are specifically defined in the Revised Penal Code, the definition of the crime of unjust vexation is conspicuously absent,” Santiago said in her explanatory note.

“The state having the rights to declare what acts are criminal, within certain well defined limitations, has a right to specify what act or acts shall constitute a crimes, as well as what act or acts shall constitute a crime.

Hence, the instant bill seeks to provide a legal definition for the crime of “unjust vexation” and provide the corresponding penalty for its commission,” she added.

In the bill, Santiago defined unjust vexation as “any person who commits a course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such a person and serves no legitimate purpose shall suffer the penalty of arresto mayor in its minimum period or a fine ranging from PHP500 (US$10) to PHP5,000(US$100) or both.”

Re-published with edits from ABS-CBN News

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