Notes on Moral Turpitude

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Notes on Moral Turpitude

Problem : Moral Turpitude

Black’s Law Dictionary definition of moral turpitude as

“an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes his fellow men, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man, or conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.

“Act or behavior that gravely violates moral sentiment or accepted moral standards of community and is a morally culpable quality held to be present in some criminal offenses as distinguished from others.”

“The quality of a crime involving grave infringement of the moral sentiment of the community as distinguished from statutory mala prohibita.”

What Causes the Problem?

Offenses involving Moral Turpitude

Base on the concurring opinion of former Philippine Supreme Court Justice Arturo D. Brion on the SC case on Edgar Y. Teves versus The Commission on Elections and Herminio G. Teves (April 28, 2009 G.R. No. 180363) there are crimes categorized as crimes involving Moral Turpitude such as:

1. Abduction with consent
2. Bigamy
3. Concubinage
4. Smuggling
5. Rape
6. Estafa through falsification of a document
7. Attempted Bribery
8. Profiteering
9. Robbery
10. Murder, whether consummated or attempted
11. Estafa
12. Theft
13. Illicit Sexual Relations with a Fellow Worker
14. Violation of BP Bldg. 22
15. Falsification of Document
16. Intriguing against Honor
17. Violation of the Anti-Fencing Law
18. Violation of Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 (Drug-pushing)
19. Perjury
20. Forgery
21. Direct Bribery
22. Frustrated Homicide

The key element in the understanding and application of the term moral turpitude “is the standard of depravity viewed from scale of right and wrong.”

There are 3 approaches/perspectives of the application of depravity standard:

1.Objective perspective of the act itself- irrespective of whether or not the act is a crime 2.perspective of the crime itself- as defined through its elements 3.subjective perspective that takes into account the perpetrators level of depravation when he committed the crime

In the case of Zari v. Flores, the former Supreme Court Associate Justice Ramon C. Fernandez, held that conviction for the libel alone “ is not suffice to warrant disciplinary action…” but the respondent’s “..propensity to speak ill of others...the tendency of the respondent to malign people.”

The case on Zari v. Flores illustrates the first approach indicates depravity “where an act is intrinsically immoral, regardless of whether it is punishable by law or not.”

The second approach is to look in the perspective of the elements of the crime. Some of the cited cases in Justice Brion’s concurring opinion illustrate this type of approach:

Dela Torre v. Commission on Elections is a case in point that uses the second approach and is one case where the Court even dispensed with the review of facts and circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime since Dela Torre did not assail his conviction. Dela Torre was disqualified by the Comelec from running as Mayor of Cavinti, Laguna on the basis of his conviction for violation of Presidential Decree No. 1612, otherwise known as the Anti-Fencing Law. Dela Torre appealed to this Court to overturn his disqualification on the ground that the crime of fencing is not a crime involving moral turpitude. The Court ruled that moral turpitude is deducible from the third element. Actual knowledge by the fence of the fact that property received is stolen displays the same degree of malicious deprivation of one’s rightful property as that which animated the robbery or theft which, by their very nature, are crimes of moral turpitude.

The third approach analyzes the offenders’ level of depravation in committing the crime to prove that this constitutes moral turpitude. The last perspective is best illustrated...
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