• Grounds for removing parental authority over abused child

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    Can a parent’s authority over his child be legally removed? If so, what are the grounds for it? My cousin, who is a minor child, is being abused by his father. The child’s mother is dead and since then he has been living alone with his father. The rest of our family members are worried, but as much as we would like to intervene and take care and have custody over my cousin, the child’s father insists that he is the only one who has authority to control and do whatever he wants with his child. I hope you can advice us on this matter. Thanks!
    Dominic

    Dear Dominic,
    Under the Family Code of the Philippines, parental authority over a child is primarily vested in the father and mother of a child (Article 211). This, however, is not absolute since the law provides certain occasions where the parental authority of a parent can be removed or suspended, to wit:

    “Art. 231. The court in an action filed for the purpose in a related case may also suspend parental authority if the parent or the person exercising the same:

    (1) Treats the child with excessive harshness or cruelty;

    (2) Gives the child corrupting orders, counsel or example;

    (3) Compels the child to beg; or

    (4) Subjects the child or allows him to be subjected to acts of lasciviousness.

    The grounds enumerated above are deemed to include cases that have resulted from culpable negligence of the parent or the person exercising parental authority.

    If the degree of seriousness so warrants, or the welfare of the child so demands, the court shall deprive the guilty party of parental authority or adopt such other measures as may be proper under the circumstances.

    The suspension or deprivation may be revoked and the parental authority revived in a case filed for the purpose or in the same proceeding if the court finds that the cause therefore has ceased and will not be repeated. (33a)

    “Art. 232. If the person exercising parental authority has subjected the child or allowed him to be subjected to sexual abuse, such person shall be permanently deprived by the court of such authority.”

    The above-cited law enumerates the detailed grounds that can be used for removing a parental authority. In your cousin’s case, although you did not specifically mention the type of abuse that is being done by his father to him, if any of the abusive action is included in the above-cited law, then it can be used as a ground to file an action before the courts to terminate or suspend a parent’s parental authority over his abused child.

    It should be observed that in all of these enumerated grounds for the removal of parental authority, the common thread between them is the infliction of abusive actions that adversely affect the general welfare of a child. Furthermore, note that most of these cited grounds result in mere suspension of parental authority, not total removal of parental authority. If, however, a child suffers sexual abuse from his parents, then the parental authority will not just be suspended but permanently removed. This permanent deprivation of parental authority for cases of sexual abuse serves to emphasize the gravity of this kind of abuse compared to the other grounds provided by law (Melencio S. Sta. Maria, Jr., Persons and Family Relations Law, 2010).

    Once the parental authority of an abusive parent has been removed, then the designated custodian of the abused child shall exercise substitute parental authority and shall have the same authority over the person of the child as the parents (Art. 233, Sta. Maria, Persons and Family Relations Law).

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

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

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