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Spur of the moment

Under Republic Act 7610 passed on June 17, 1992, the laying of hands on a person below 18 years of age or those above 18 but are unable to fully take care of, or protect themselves because of  physical or mental disability or condition, may be liable for the crime of child abuse pursuant to Section 10 thereof. But is mere laying of hands considered child abuse? What must be proven in order to render a person laying his hands on a child liable for child abuse? This is explained in this case of Phil.

Phil is the loving and protective father of Jessica and Abby both still minors, begotten with his wife Maite. The family is residing at the city in the Bicol Region. Also residing in the city is Ivan who has two sons Gio and Tony. Apparently, they were not good neighbors.

One time during a procession in the city, Jessica and Abby were watching by the side of the street. Participating in the procession was Gio and his older brother Tony. As they passed by the place of Jessica and Abby, a confrontation ensued among the minors.

According to the prosecution, Jessica threw stones at Gio and called him “sissy” then Phil confronted Gio and Tony and called them names like “strangers” and “animals.” Afterwards Phil struck Gio at the back with his hand and slapped him on the face then proceeded to the brothers’ house and challenged Ivan their father to a fight. But Ivan did not come out and just brought Gio later to the police station to report the incident Subsequently Ivan brought his son to a hospital for medical examination showing contusions in the scapular and zygomatic area.

On the other hand, Phil denied having physically abused or maltreated Gio. He explained that he only talked to Gio and Tony after Jessica and Abby had told him about Gio and Tony’s throwing stones at his daughters and about Gio’s burning of Abby’s hair with the candle which was corroborated by Jessica. He said that he was merely concerned for the safety of his daughters.

After trial however, the RTC found Phil guilty of child abuse under R.A. 7610 and sentenced him to imprisonment of six years and one day to eight years. This ruling was affirmed by the Court of Appeals which however reduced his imprisonment to four years two months and one day to six years, eight months and one day.

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The Supreme Court, on further appeal by Phil, affirmed the findings of facts of the RTC and the CA that Phil struck Gio at the back with his hand and slapped him on the face. But the SC said that Phil’s acts do not constitute child abuse pursuant to Section 10 (a) of R.A. 7610. It has not been established beyond reasonable doubt that his laying of hands on Gio had been intended to debase the intrinsic worth and dignity of Gio as a human being or that he thereby intended to humiliate or embarrass him. His laying of hands on Gio was done on the spur of the moment and in anger, indicative of his being then overwhelmed by his fatherly concern for the personal safety of his own minor daughters who had just suffered harm at the hands of Gio and Tony. With the loss of his self-control, he lacked that specific intent to debase, degrade or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being that is very essential in the crime of child abuse.

Considering however that Gio suffered physical injury requiring five to seven days medical attention, Phil is still liable for slight physical injuries with a penalty of one to 30 days imprisonment. But since he committed the crime out of passion and obfuscation due to loss of reason and self-control that diminishes his exercise of will power, he shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment for 10 days only and to pay P5,000 moral damages (Bongalon vs. People, G.R. 169533, March 20, 2013).

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com

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