Sharing Secrets

LAW EACH WEEK

Is there a law that punishes sharing “secrets”?

Articles 290-292 of the Revised Penal Code specifically punishes different acts that involves sharing of “secrets”. To be specific, Article 290 punishes the crime of discovering secrets through seizure of correspondence. The elements of such crime are: a) offender is a private individual or even a public officer not in the exercise of his official function; b) He seizes the papers or letters of another; c) The purpose of which is to discover the secrets of such another person; and d) offender is informed of the contents of the papers or letters seized.

Article 291 punishes the revelation of secrets with abuse of office; while Article 292 criminalizes revelation of industrial secrets.

How is this crime different from estafa, damage to property and unjust vexation?

While it is true that the elements of the crime in Article 290 may also be punishable under estafa, damage to property and unjust vexation, the primary distinction primarily lies in the purpose for causing such act. For example, if the act had been executed with “intent to gain”, it would be estafa; however, if the purpose was not to defraud but only to cause damage to another’s property, then the crime may be damage to property. However, if the intention was merely to cause vexation and preventing another to do something which the law does not prohibit or compel him to execute what he does not want then the crime may be unjust vexation.

Are parents and guardians also punished for doing these to their children?

No, parents and guardians are few of the exemptions. The last paragraph of Article 290 expressly makes the provision of the first and second paragraph thereof inapplicable to parents, guardians, or persons entrusted with the custody of minors placed under their care or custody, and to the spouses with respect to the papers or letters of either of them. The teachers or other persons entrusted with the care and education of minors are included in the exceptions.

Are articles 290-292 similar with the anti-wiretapping law?

Republic Act No. 4200s or the Anti-Wiretapping Law is a special penal law, hence it is different from those crimes punished under the RPC. The Anti-Wiretapping Law specifically prohibits the tapping of any wire or cable or using other devices to record, intercept, or secretly overhear any private communication or spoken word when it is unauthorized by all parties in the conversation, except when it is done pursuant to a court order and complies with all conditions imposed by the law. In short, there are only particular acts or methods of retrieving information that are punished by this special law.