1. Simple arson under section 1 of PD1613 with a punishment of prision mayor.
  2. Destructive arson under the new Article 320 of RPC as restored by RA 7659 (Sourced from destructive arson under section 2 of PD 1613 and Section 3 (Other cases of arson). 
    • [Notable] Burning of inhabited house. Section 3 No. 2 of PD1613 and Art 320: “Inhabited house or dwelling,” all of which have the punishment of reclusion temporal to perpetua.

*If the information failed to allege that what was intentionally burned was an inhabited house or dwelling, it will be fatal. Accused cannot be charged with Destructive Arson (under Art 320 or PD1613 Section 3). Accused can only be charged with Section 1 of PD1613 which is simple arson. (Buebos v. People)

Simple Arson v. Destructive Arson (Buebos v. People)

The nature of Destructive Arson is distinguished from Simple Arson by the degree of perversity or viciousness of the criminal offender.

Simple ArsonDestructive Arson
Crimes with a lesser degree of perversity and viciousness that the law punishes with a lesser penalty.grievous, odious and hateful offenses and which, by reason of their inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity and perversity are repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society.”
crimes with less significant social, economic, political and national security implications than Destructive Arson.discourage and deter the commission of this dastardly crime, to prevent the destruction of properties and protect the lives of innocent people 
However, simple arson can be converted to destructive arson depending on qualifying circumstances present.x x x leaves only destruction and despair in its wake; hence, the State mandates greater retribution to authors of this heinous crime. x x x extreme danger to human lives x x x difficulty in pinpointing the perpetrators.


  • The original provision on arson, Articles 320 to 326B, were repealed by PD1613 in 1979.
  • In 1993, RA7659, was instituted to provide death penalty for certain heinous crimes, one of which is destructive arson. 
    • RA7659, inspired by PD1613, provided death penalty/reclusion perpetua to certain heinous forms of arson, thereby expanding Article 320. It now provides death penalty/reclusion perpetua to the following:
      • Destructive arson (See PD1613 and Article 320)
      • by conspiracy or a band
      • burning an inhabited place
      • if death resulted from arson
      • if robbery was accompanied by arson (Section 9 of RA 7659)

Two laws principally punishing arson of a house:

  1. Article 320 of RPC
  2. PD 1613
    • Section 1 – Simple arson (Prision Mayor) – (1) any person who sets a house or property of another (2) Or when a person sets his own property on fire which exposed the life or property of another to danger. 
    • Section 2 – Destructive arson (Reclusion Temporal to Perpetua)
      • Burning property with explosives
      • Cultural, educational, or social service building
      • Religious buildings
      • Transport vehicles
      • Buildings where evidence are kept
      • Medical treatment, dorm/lodge/shared housing, commercial, or entertainment theater, or similar
      • Any building situated in populated or congested area
    • Section 3 (Reclusion Temporal to Perpetua) – Other cases of arson > burning an inhabited house or dwelling
      • Government building
      • Inhabited house or dwelling
      • Industrial establishment
      • Agricultural asset
      • Mills
      • Transpo facility/warehouse
    • Section 4: Special Aggravating Circumstance (Imposed to maximum period)
      • with intent to gain
      • for the benefit of another
      • motivated by hatred or spite towards the owner/occupant
      • committed by a syndicate (3 or more persons)
    • Section 5: If death results due to arson, Reclusion Perpetua to Death
    • Section 6: Prima Facie evidence
      • Fire started simultaneously in more than one part of building
      • Substantial amount of flammables in the house
      • Flammable materials found in the burned property
      • Property was insured in substantially more than its actual value
      • In the lifetime of the insurance policy, more than two fires occurred in the property owned/controlled by the accused
      • Shortly before the fire, substantial portion of effects (belongings) have been withdrawn more than the ordinary course of business
      • Offender demanded money or threatened safety of victim before fire transpired
    • Section 7: Conspiracy to commit treason – Prision mayor in its minimum period
    • Section 8: Object of Arson subject to confiscation or to be escheatment to the State unless owner can prove he did not participate in arson despite due diligence
    • Section 9: Shall repeal Article 320 of RPC to 326-B of RPC

An Information stating that the accused “burned a house” without specifying it is inhabited or is located in a populated or congested area will only fall under Section 1 of PD 1613 or simple arson. Crime is lesser than burning an “inhabited house” under Section 3. 

Arson with Homicide(Death Resulted)

If the primary motive of the accused is to commit the crime arson, and death resulted as a consequence, the accused shall be liable of destructive arson with homicide under Article 320 (last paragraph), and the mandatory penalty of death shall be imposed. In People v. Jugueta, the Supreme Court described this as a special complex crime.

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by Bryan Villarosa

Bacolod City-based Marketing Services Provider | Licensed Financial Advisor

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