Criminal Law

Patulot v. People G.R. No. 235071, January 7, 2019 R.A. No. 7610, Child Abuse

FACTS:

On November 14, 2012, CCC gathered clothes from the clothesline outside her house. As she was about to enter the house, she was surprised to see Evangeline Patulot there, holding a casserole. Without warning, Patulot poured the contents of the casserole – hot cooking oil – on her. 

AAA , a three year old minor, and BBB, a two month old baby, who were nearby, suddenly cried because they were likewise hit by the hot cooking oil. CCC hurriedly brought AAA and BBB to her three neighbors who volunteered to bring the children to the Polyclinic for treatment. She then went to the barangay hall to report the incident. 

Dr. Vitales, who examined and treated CCC and her children, testified that the injuries suffered by AAA and BBB would heal for an average period of thirty (30) days. DDD, the father of the minors, testified that he incurred P7,440.00 in medical expenses for his wife and children.

In two (2) separate Informations, Patulot was charged with child abuse, defined and penalized under R.A. No. 7610.

Solely testifying in her defense, Patulot denied the allegations against her.

The RTC found Patulot guilty of child abuse.

The RTC found that while Patulot may not have intended to cause harm on AAA and BBB, her negligence nonetheless caused injury on them, which left visible scars that are most likely to stay on their faces and bodies for the rest of their lives. Besides, the trial court added that R.A. No. 7610 is a special law such that intent is not necessary for its violator to be liable.

On appeal, CA affirmed Patulot’s conviction.

Aggrieved by the CA’s denial of her Motion for Reconsideration, Patulot filed the instant petition.

According to Patulot, there was error in personae as the oil that was intended for CCC accidentally hit the children.

ISSUE:

Whether the CA gravely erred in affirming the petitioner’s conviction of violating SEC. 10(A) R.A. 7610 despite the fact that she had no intent to degrade and demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of the private complainant’s children.

RULING:

We deny the petition.

Under Section 3(b) of R.A. No. 7610, “child abuse” refers to 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.

In conjunction with this, Section 10(a) of the same Act provides:

SECTION 10. Other Acts of Neglect, Abuse, Cruelty or Exploitation and Other Conditions Prejudicial to the Child’s Development. –

(a) Any person who shall commit any other acts of child abuse, cruelty or exploitation or to be responsible for other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development including those covered by Article 59 of Presidential Decree No. 603, as amended, but not covered by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period.

Corollarily, Section 2 of the Rules and Regulations on the Reporting and Investigation of Child Abuse Cases defines the term “child abuse” as the infliction of physical or psychological injury, cruelty to, or neglect, sexual abuse or exploitation of a child. In turn, the same Section defines “physical injury” as those that include but are not limited to lacerations, fractured bones, burns, internal injuries, severe injury or serious bodily harm suffered by a child.

Patulot’s criminal intent is not wanting for as she expressly admitted, she intended on pouring hot cooking oil on CCC. As such, even granting that it was not her intention to harm AAA and BBB, she was performing an unlawful act when she threw the hot oil from her casserole on CCC. 

She cannot, therefore, escape liability from the same in view of the settled doctrine mentioned in Mabunot that a person incurs criminal liability although the wrongful act done be different from that which he intended. As defined in the law, child abuse charged against Patulot is physical abuse of the child, whether the same is habitual or not. 

To the Court, her act of pouring hot oil on AAA and BBB falls squarely within this definition. Thus, in view of the fact that her acts were proven to constitute child abuse under the pertinent provisions of the law, she must be held liable therefor.

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