Perhaps one of the most liberating activities of our age is driving a vehicle which enables us to go wherever we desire. In fact, many among us spend so much money on cars while others even maintain a fleet. Vehicles are essential for travel, transport of goods, and even for fun and recreation. A separate law was enacted in 1972 by Congress to penalize the theft of motor vehicles known as the “Anti- Carnapping Act of 1972” or R.A. 6539. In 2016, this was replaced by a new law: R.A. 10883 “New Anti-Carnapping Act of 2016”. Carnapping is defined as the “taking with intent to gain, of a motor vehicle belonging to another without the latter’s consent, or by means of violence against or intimidation of persons, or by using force upon things” (Section 3 of R.A. 10883). The definition seems clear but over the years the phrase “with intent to gain” has been the subject of misunderstanding. The Supreme Court in several cases also clarified this matter saying that even the seemingly innocent “borrowing” of a vehicle for a mere joyride can be considered carnapping.
People vs. Bustinera
This case was decided under the old carnapping law but the facts and issues are still relevant under the new law. Bustinera was driving one of the taxi units of Elias Cirpiano under the “boundary system”. As one of the drivers, Bustinera would take a unit and use it to transport passengers then return the unit at a particular time together with the “boundary”. On 25 December 1996, Bustinera took the taxi unit which he was supposed to return on the following day. He failed to do so because he was not able to raise the “boundary”. Cipriano then went to the residence of Bustinera to find out why the unit has not been returned yet but did not find the taxi there since according to Bustinera’s wife, the latter was still transporting passengers to raise the boundary. Cirpriano then proceeded to the police and reported his unit as missing. A case of qualified theft was then filed against Bustinera and after hearing, the Trial Court found him guilty of the crime. Bustinera appealed the case on the ground that there was no basis for the court’s conclusion that his failure to return the unit was with the intent to gain among others.
The Taxi was Carnapped
The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court’s finding of guilt but not of qualified theft under the Revised Penal Code but should be under the Anti-Carnapping Act. “Carnapping is essentially the robbery or theft of a motorized vehicle, the concept of unlawful taking in theft, robbery and carnapping being the same. In the 2000 case of People v. Tan where the accused took a Mitsubishi Gallant and in the later case of People v. Lobitania which involved the taking of a Yamaha motorized tricycle, this Court held that the unlawful taking of motor vehicles is now covered by the anti-carnapping law and not by the provisions on qualified theft or robbery” (G.R. 148233, June 8, 2004). In answering the main issue raised by Bustinera that there was not intent to gain, the Court said: “Actual gain is irrelevant as the important consideration is the intent to gain. The term gain is not merely limited to pecuniary benefit but also includes the benefit which in any other sense may be derived or expected from the act which is performed. Thus, the mere use of the thing which was taken without the owner’s consent constitutes gain”. Therefore, when a person takes a vehicle without the owner’s consent even for the purpose of just going for a “joyride”, he is guilty of carnapping because “his intent to gain is evident since he derives therefrom utility, satisfaction, enjoyment and pleasure.”