Criminal complaint for physical abuse has five-year prescription


Dear PAO,
Can I still file a complaint under Republic Act 9262 for physical abuse that happened in 2012, or almost three years ago?

Dear Mimie,
One of the acts punishable under Republic Act (RA) 9262, or the “Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004,” is physical abuse committed on a woman who is the respondent’s wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the respondent has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child, or against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate, within or without the family abode. The commission of physical abuse against a woman or her child is punishable under Section 5(a) of RA 9262. The penalty thereof is provided in Section 6 (a) of the law, which provides:

(a) Acts falling under Section 5(a) constituting attempted, frustrated or consummated parricide or murder or homicide shall be punished in accordance with the provisions of the Revised Penal Code.

If these acts resulted in mutilation, it shall be punishable in accordance with the Revised Penal Code; those constituting serious physical injuries shall have the penalty of prison mayor; those constituting less serious physical injuries shall be punished by prision correccional; and those constituting slight physical injuries shall be punished by arresto mayor.

Based on the foregoing, the slightest act that can be committed against a woman is physical abuse resulting in slight physical injuries. Pursuant to Section 6(a) of RA 9262, the penalty for slight physical injuries is arresto mayor or imprisonment of one (1) month to six (6) months. Under Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code, the crime where the penalty of arresto mayor is imposed prescribes in five (5) years, meaning a complaint for this act may only be pursued until the 5th year from its commission. This also means that the prescriptive period for physical injuries that are penalized with higher penalty has a longer prescriptive period. Thus, regardless of the severity of the physical abuse committed against you, it is our opinion that you may still file a criminal complaint for violation of RA 9262 even after the lapse of three (3) years considering that the slightest physical abuse may be filed within the prescriptive period of five (5) years.

We hope that we have answered your query. Our legal opinion may vary if other facts are stated or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to


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