Saturday, May 30, 2009

Apathy as crime (Abandonment of helpless persons under the Revised Penal Code)

By Siesta-friendly

“The father, Ramon Eugenio, wept inconsolably in the small church room next to where the two small coffins lay containing the young bodies of his 3-year-old son Franco and his 2-year-old nephew Anton.

Their first family outing, on what turned out to be an overloaded boat that was to take them to Tamaraw Beach in Oriental Mindoro, had turned into a grim tragedy that saw the boat overwhelmed by waves.


What was equally rending to Ramon and his wife Monica who survived the accident was that as the boat was going down, two other vessels passed by—and did not help.

The vessels’ passengers, instead, just took pictures of the sinking outrigger motorboat carrying Ramon, his family and relatives, and scores of other people.

“I don’t know if they were afraid of being overloaded,” Ramon told the Philippine Daily Inquirer during the wake at a church in Makati City. “I was hoping they would give us help by throwing life vests but they took pictures, they took videos.”[1] [emphasis supplied]

It is hard to believe that there was something more tragic than the capsizing boat overloaded with screaming, shrieking and drowning adults and children. Yet the indifference of the passers-by is arguably more terrible.

Why wasn’t the need to help instinctive? Are we developing a culture of prioritizing bragging rights to obtaining videocam footage than to any sense of humanitarian responsibility?

We hope the apathetic passers-by can be investigated and prosecuted to curb any rising tendency to abandon the duty to help others in need. Yes, it is a duty otherwise it won’t be deemed a crime.

Abandonment of person in danger[2]

Under Art. 275 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), the penalty of arresto mayor shall be imposed upon:

1. Any one who shall fail to render assistance to any person whom he shall find in an uninhabited place wounded or in danger of dying, when he can render such assistance without detriment to himself, unless such omission shall constitute a more serious offence.

2. Anyone who shall fail to help or render assistance to another whom he has accidentally wounded or injured.

3. Anyone who, having found an abandoned child under seven years of age, shall fail to deliver said child to the authorities or to his family, or shall fail to take him to a safe place.

Sadly, despite criminalizing apathy in these instances, the penalty of arresto mayor – from only 1 month and 1 day to a maximum of 6 months - creates another tragedy.

Failure to lend help to injured persons[3]

In the realm of criminal negligence, when an offender who, by reckless imprudence commits any act which, had it been intentional, would constitute a grave felony, “fails to lend on the spot to the injured parties such help as may be in this hand to give” is also punished in varying degrees under Art. 365 of the RPC.

Art. 365 explains imprudence, to wit:

“Reckless imprudence consists in voluntary, but without malice, doing or falling to do an act from which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing of failing to perform such act, taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical condition and other circumstances regarding persons, time and place.

Simple imprudence consists in the lack of precaution displayed in those cases in which the damage impending to be caused is not immediate nor the danger clearly manifest.”

The failure to lend here is best exemplified by a hit and run accident.

But why let the fear of prosecution compel us to help others in need? Lack of compassion shouldn’t need to be made a crime. Punishment, or the fear of it, shouldn’t oblige someone to have a heart.

It should be enough to just imagine if the shoe were on the other foot. If those apathetic passers-by had instead been the ones drowning … if those who speed away from accident victims had instead been the victims … or those who fail to lend a helping hand to those in need are instead the ones suffering … well, it would not be hard to imagine what apathy would then mean to them.

[1] Lopez, Allison, Virola, Madonna (2009, May 25). ‘2 boats passed by, but did not help’. Retrieved May 25, 2009, from Web site:

[2] Art. 275 of the Revised Penal Code (Act No. 3815) , December 8, 1930.

[3] Art. 365, supra.


1 comment:

Severo Guevarra said...

A good example for this is the stabbing incident occurred in Taguig City which was seen in the CCTV wherein the victim while walking was approached by the two suspects and forcibly grabbed his personal belongings but when he resisted one of the suspect stabbed him several times then fled while SEVERAL vehicles a BYSTANDER saw him asking for HELP but they REFUSED which was also CAUGHT in the CCTV and eventually causing the death of the HELPLESS VICTIM. WTF are those people!!!