• Physical injuries, not child abuse

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    When my younger brother came home from the playground, he told me that his playmate’s older brother went up to him and punched him in the face. I asked him why it would be done to him and he said that there had been a quarrel between him and his playmate and when the older brother saw what was happening, he just stormed in the middle of their squabble and punched him. I immediately went to the playground to see if they were still there and confront them, but I was told by those who saw the incident that the persons I was looking for already left.

    I just want to ask if I can file a case for R.A. 7610 against the person who punched my younger brother. I was told that he is already 19 years old. He should not be hitting a 9-year-old boy like my brother. Besides, it was a quarrel between two kids that he should have stayed out of. Please advise.
    Topher

    Dear Topher,
    Section 3 (b) of Republic Act No. 7610, otherwise known as the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, defines child abuse as “the maltreatment, whether habitual or not, of the child which includes any of the following: (1) Psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment; (2) Any act by deeds or words which debases, degrades or demeans the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being; (3) Unreasonable deprivation of his basic needs for survival, such as food and shelter; or
    (4) Failure to immediately give medical treatment to an injured child resulting in serious impairment of his growth and development or in his permanent incapacity or death.”
    Accordingly, the circumstance that transpired between your 9-year-old brother and the 19-year-old lad who punched him in the face must fall under any of those abovementioned in order for you to properly file a complaint for violation of R. A. No. 7610. Insofar as paragraph 1 of the above-stated definition, we cannot conclusively say that the act of punching your brother in the face took the form of “physical abuse” especially when it was an isolated situation or that it only happened in that particular instance. Insofar as the application of paragraph 2 of the same definition, the act complained of must be clearly shown to have debased, degraded or demeaned the intrinsic worth and dignity of your brother as a human being. Otherwise, a complaint for violation of R. A. No. 7610 will fail.
    We wish to impart the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Bongalon vs. People of the Philippines (G.R. No. 169533, March 20, 2013):

    “x x x Although we affirm the factual findings of fact by the RTC and the CA to the effect that the petitioner struck Jayson at the back with his hand and slapped Jayson on the face, we disagree with their holding that his acts constituted child abuse within the purview of the above-quoted provisions. The records did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that his laying of hands on Jayson had been intended to debase the “intrinsic worth and dignity” of Jayson as a human being, or that he had thereby intended to humiliate or embarrass Jayson. The records showed the laying of hands on Jayson to have been done at 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 Jayson and Roldan. 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 was so essential in the crime of child abuse. x x x”

    Should you be unable to prove that the act complained of constitutes as “child abuse” pursuant to R. A. No. 7610, you may still file a complaint for physical injuries if such has been sustained by your brother. It would be prudent for you to have your brother undergo medico-legal assessment so as to determine the extent of the injuries he sustained, which you may then be able to use in the filing of an appropriate complaint.

    We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed 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 dearpao@manilatimes.net

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