More serious offense
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - August 9, 2019 - 12:00am

Pursuant to Republic Act (RA) 7610, inflicting physical injuries on a minor child to maltreat or malign him/her in a manner that would debase, demean, or degrade his/her dignity constitutes child abuse with a heavier penalty than the crime of physical injuries under the Revised Penal Code. In this case, the accused involved is a school teacher who punishes one of her pupils. So the issue resolved here is whether the teacher who has disciplinary authority can be held liable of child abuse under RA 7610.

Rosa is an elementary school teacher. One morning before her class starts, Rosa was resting and sleeping on a bamboo sofa inside her classroom when one of her pupils, Ronnie hurriedly entered the classroom and accidentally bumped her knee. Roused from her sleep, Rosa asked Ronnie to apologize to her. But Ronnie did not obey and just proceeded to his seat. So Rosa went to Ronnie and pinched him on his thigh. Then she proceeded to pick up Ronnie by his armpits and pushed him to the floor. As Ronnie fell his body hit a desk causing him to lose consciousness. But Rosa still proceeded to pick him up by his ears and repeatedly slammed him down on the floor until Ronnie cried.

After the incident Rosa started to teach her class. During lunch break Ronnie and two of his classmates, Bela and Arlyn helped him home still crying and told his mother about the incident. His mother and Aunt thus brought him to the Barangay Captain who advised them to have Ronnie examined by a doctor. So Ronnie’s aunt and a Barangay councilman brought him to a hospital where he was examined by Dra. Millie. They likewise reported the incident to the police station.

The medical certificate issued by Dra. Millie shows that Ronnie had (1) discoloration of the skin and tenderness of the ears caused by pinching; (2) lumbar pains and tenderness caused by contact with a hard object; (3) contusions at the inner left thigh caused by pinching with pressure; and (4) tenderness and pain in the upper left thigh which caused Ronnie to limp as he walked.

So Rosa was criminally charged with child abuse in the Regional Trial Court of their province. At the trial Ronnie and the doctor testified for the prosecution while Rosa testified for and in her behalf and claimed that she did not deliberately inflict the physical injuries suffered by Ronnie to maltreat or malign him but only as a disciplinary act that, as a school teacher, she could reasonably do for the development of a child like Ronnie.

But the RTC convicted Rosa of child abuse under RA 7610 Section 10 (a), Article VI and sentenced her to imprisonment of four years, two months and one day as minimum to six years and one day as maximum. This ruling was affirmed by the Court of Appeals with the modification of the maximum sentence to  ten years and one day.

Rosa still appealed to the Supreme Court contending that her maltreatment of Ronnie was an act of discipline which she as a school teacher could reasonably do for the development of the child. She insisted that her act was done as a substitute parent in the school.

But the Supreme Court said that although as a teacher she could duly discipline Ronnie her student, her infliction of physical injuries on him was unnecessary, violent and excessive. Ronnie even fainted. She could not justifiably claim that it was only an act of disciplining the boy. Such maltreatment is precisely prohibited by the Family Code expressly banning corporal punishment by a person exercising substitute parental authority (Article 233).

The severe results of her punishment are shown by the medical report of the doctor who examined Ronnie. They clearly prove that Rosa’s maltreatment debases, degrades and demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of Ronnie as a human being and therefore constitute child abuse under Section 3 (b) (2) of RA 7610. In fact Rosa had also been previously convicted of maltreatment of another child which clearly shows that Rosa really has a propensity for violence (Rosaldes vs. People, G.R. 173988, October 8, 2014)

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