Economic Abuse Child Support Image Article NDV Law

This article talks about the liability of a father in case of failure to give child support. This may take the form of either economic abuse or psychological violence under RA 9262 or VAWC.

Republic Act No. 9262, otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women & Children Act of 2004 (“VAWC”) is a milestone legislation for women in the Philippines. It recognized that abuse is not limited merely to the traditional physical violence, but it can also take the form of sexual, economic and psychological maltreatment.

Failure to Give Child Support as a Form of Economic Abuse

A form of violence against women and their children is economic abuse, which includes deprivation or withdrawal of financial support to the common child. Specifically, failure to give support to one’s child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, is penalized as economic abuse under Sec. 5 (e) of VAWC, to wit:

“SECTION 5. Acts of Violence Against Women and Their Children.- The crime of violence against women and their children is committed through any of the following acts:

x x x

(e) Attempting to compel or compelling the woman or her child to engage in conduct which the woman or her child has the right to desist from or desist from conduct which the woman or her child has the right to engage in, or attempting to restrict or restricting the woman’s or her child’s freedom of movement or conduct by force or threat of force, physical or other harm or threat of physical or other harm, or intimidation directed against the woman or child. This shall include, but not limited to, the following acts committed with the purpose or effect of controlling or restricting the woman’s or her child’s movement or conduct:

x x x

(2) Depriving or threatening to deprive the woman or her children of financial support legally due her or her family, or deliberately providing the woman’s children insufficient financial support;

(3) Depriving or threatening to deprive the woman or her child of a legal right; x x x” [Emphasis and underscoring supplied]

As enunciated in the case of Socorro vs. Van Wilsem, G.R. No. 193707, 10 December 2014, the deprivation or denial of financial support to the child is considered as an act of violence against women and children. The Supreme Court added that such economic abuse is considered as a continuing offense.

Pursuant to Sec. 6 (c) of the VAWC, economic abuse under Sec. 5 (e) is punishable with imprisonment of prison correccional which ranges from 6 months and 1 day to 6 years imprisonment.

Failure to Give Child Support as a Form of Psychological Violence

Failure to give child support may also be considered as a form of psychological violence. Sec, 5(i) of the VAWC provides:

“SECTION 5. Acts of Violence Against Women and Their Children.- The crime of violence against women and their children is committed through any of the following acts:

x x x

(i) Causing mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation to the woman or her child, including, but not limited to, repeated verbal and emotional abuse, and denial of financial support or custody of minor children of access to the woman’s child/children.” [Emphasis and underscoring supplied]

As held in Dinamling vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 199522, 22 June 2015, the elements of such crime are:

(1) The offended party is a woman and/or her child or children;

(2) The woman is either the wife or former wife of the offender or is a woman with whom the offender has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or is a woman with whom such offender has a common child. As for the woman’s child or children, they may be legitimate or illegitimate, or living within or without the family abode;

(3) The offender causes on the woman and/or child mental or emotional anguish; and

(4) The anguish is caused through acts of public ridicule or humiliation, repeated verbal and emotional abuse, denial of financial support or custody of minor children or access to the children or similar such acts or omissions.

This act is different from economic abuse punishable under Art. 5(e) of the VAWC. Two indispensable requirements must be shown namely: psychological violence as the means employed by the perpetrator and emotional/mental anguish as the effect. Thus, in Melgar vs. People, G.R. No. 223477, 14 February 2018, the Supreme Court ruled:

“Section 5 (i) of RA 9262, a form of psychological violence, punishes the act of “causing mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule or humiliation to the woman or her child, including, but not limited to, repeated verbal and emotional abuse, and denial of financial support or custody of minor children or denial of access to the woman’s child/children.” Notably, “[p]sychological violence is an element of violation of Section 5 (i) just like the mental or emotional anguish caused on the victim. Psychological violence is the means employed by the perpetrator, while mental or emotional anguish is the effect caused to or the damage sustained by the offended party. To establish psychological violence as an element of the crime, it is necessary to show proof of commission of any of the acts enumerated in Section 5 (i) or similar acts. And to establish mental or emotional anguish, it is necessary to present the testimony of the victim as such experiences are personal to this party. Thus, in cases of support, it must be first shown that the accused’s denial thereof – which is, by itself, already a form of economic abuse – further caused mental or emotional anguish to the woman-victim and/or to their common child. ” [Emphasis and underscoring supplied]

This type of psychological violence is punished more severely with imprisonment of prison mayor [Sec. 6 (f) of the VAWC] with a range of 6 years and 1 day to 12 years imprisonment.

In the recent case of XXX vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 252087, 10 February 2021, the Supreme Court clarified that in order for deprivation of child support be considered as psychological violence, the failure to give support must be willful and that it was done to cause mental or emotional anguish to the woman and ruled in this wise:

“So, it appears that petitioner was not unwilling to provide support per se, but could not do so because the amount he could offer was not sufficient for AAA to realize the aspirations she had set for CCC, e.g., that the latter be schooled privately. While We cannot fault AAA for setting such aspirations for her child, it remains that petitioner was not in a position to meet such. That petitioner attempted to find a  way to provide support within his means indicates that he did not willfully set out to cause psychological violence upon AAA, even when the latter was constantly harassing him, which later on caused his PTSD. Consequently, We cannot conclude beyond reasonable doubt that he caused AAA’s emotional distress.

x x x

It is a  well-settled principle in criminal law that while criminal intent need not be proved in the prosecution of acts mala prohibita which are generally punished in such special penal laws as R.A. 9262, the prosecution still has the burden to prove that the prohibited act was intentional or voluntary. There is a  well-settled distinction between intent to commit the crime and intent to perpetrate the act. A person may not have consciously intended to commit a crime; but if he did intend to commit an act –  and that act is, by the very nature of things, the crime itself –  then he can be held liable for the malum prohibitum. Conversely, if a person did not intend to perpetrate an act which has been defined by law to be the crime itself, then he is not guilty of the act. Here, the evidence shows that petitioner could not provide support because: (1) AAA prevented him from doing so by refusing what he could offer; and (2) he was suffering from an incurable mental illness which, though not sufficient to be considered a form of insanity, was to a degree that effectively incapacitated him from earning.”

Note that if the mental or emotional anguish is not proven, as held in Melgar vs. People, G.R. No. 223477, 14 February 2018, taking into consideration the variance doctrine which allows the conviction of an accused for a crime proved which is different from but necessarily included in the crime charged – the accused may be convicted  of violation of Section 5 (e) of the VAWC as the deprivation or denial of support, by itself and even without the additional element of psychological violence, is already specifically penalized by the law. However, if similar to the factual circumstance in XXX vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 252087, 10 February 2021, whereby the failure to give financial support to the child was not willfully done, then the accused can be acquitted of the crime of economic abuse.

This is how failure to give child support is criminally punished in the Philippines under Republic Act No. 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women & Children Act.

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