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RA 6539 (Anti-Carnapping Act of 1972); On Carnapping vs. Robbery vs. Theft:

People vs Tan                       GR No. 135904 (Jan. 21, 2000)


Tan was charged by See, his friend, for violation of RA 6539 (Anti-Carnapping Act of 1972). See alleged that he turned over the possession of a car to Tan for test driving but Tan never returned the same. After several months, See formally filed a complaint for carnapping alleging that See had withdrawn the consent initially given by him to Tan when the latter went beyond test driving and appropriated the car to his own use and benefit. The Trial Court, affirmed by the CA, ruled against Tan on the ground that Tan’s failure to return the car and his consequent appropriation thereof constituted unlawful taking – the gravamen of the crime charged. Tan asserts, however, that the CA in affirming the decision of the RTC, should not have employed as bases for his conviction the basic principles in theft.


WON the basic principles in theft (and robbery) are applicable in the crime of carnapping penalized under RA 6539.



There is no arguing that the anti-carnapping law is a special law, different from the crimes of robbery and theft included in the Revised Penal Code. But a careful comparison of this special law with the crimes of robbery and theft readily reveals their common features and characteristics, to wit: unlawful taking, intent to gain, and that personal property belonging to another is taken without the latter’s consent. However, the anti-carnapping law particularly deals with the theft and robbery of motor vehicles.Hence, a motor vehicle is said to have been carnapped when it has been taken, with intent to gain, without the owner’s consent, whether the taking was done with or without violence or intimidation of persons or with or without the use of force upon things. Without the anti-carnapping law, such unlawful taking of a motor vehicle would fall within the purview of either theft or robbery which was certainly the case before the enactment of said statute.

Thus, as an element common to theft, robbery and carnapping, unlawful taking — its import, intention and concept — should be considered as also common to these crimes.

It is therefore the finding of the SC that there was no unlawful taking in the case at bar. An unlawful taking takes place when the owner or juridical possessor does not give his consent to the taking; or, if the consent was given, it was vitiated. See neither withheld his consent nor withdrew the same during the seven month period the car was with Tan. At the very least, See tolerated TAN’s possession of the car. Hence, Tan cannot be convicted under RA 6539.


Case Digest Prepared by:


Mary B. Oreste

Law II-E

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